2020 – a Year of Making

2020 is finally out the door and 2021 has arrived. What an odd year it has been! Last December I came home from a vacation with a sewing machine. Thus, 2020 has been a year of sewing, and I haven’t done as much knitting or spinning as I have in the past. Here are my makes:

January:

February:

  • We continued to settle into the house, and I started a mini raised-bed garden.
  • I wrote an article for Ply Magazine that came out in their Basics issue in the fall!
  • I knit a washcloth for a friend.

March:

  • I mended my slippers.
  • I made a chemisette for a Regency outfit I’ve been quietly working on in the background. 

April:

May:

  • I mocked up the bodice of my Regency dress pattern. 
  • I made a colourful pinafore
  • I bought a rose bush and planted more seeds in the garden. 
  • I finished weaving a handspun/mohair lace scarf

June:

  • I started brewing Kombucha and Kefir.
  • I finished spinning the wool samples from the spinning class I took in the Fall of 2018.
  • My husband made me a yarn display for my wall. 
  • We went on a massive hike.
  • I made a T-shirt

July:

August:

  • I made a second pair of shorts
  • I finished a sparkly tunic I had started several years ago, but stalled out on due to fitting issues. 
  • I made an 18th century-inspired petticoat skirt.
  • My article was published in Ply Magazine!!

September:

October:

  • I made a corset-style bodice and paired it with my petticoat skirt for a Hobbity Halloween look. 
  • We got a puppy!!

November:

  • We spent a lot of time playing with and training our puppy. He is adorable and is growing like a weed!
  • I baked Pumpkin Sourdough Bread in the shape of a pumpkin. 
  • I moved my garden indoors.
  • I knit a tasseled shawl!

December:

Throughout the year I have enjoyed making things, especially clothes. I always seem to think that a garment will come together in just a few hours, and I am rarely right. I need to work on factoring in a realistic amount of time when planning a project and not beat myself up when it takes longer than I initially thought it would. There is nothing like getting dressed in clothes you have made yourself. It’s like a sort of armor against the world. I am looking forward to continuing my garment-sewing journey in 2021 and (spoiler) I’m considering quilting. Because I don’t have enough hobbies yet.

A Hobbity Hallowe’en

I am posting this two months too late, but it is too good not to share. Enjoy my unseasonal makes! Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Every year I tell myself I’m going to make a a amazing Halloween costume. And every year I start too late or don’t start at all. This year I made myself a few pieces throughout the year that weren’t intended to go together, but turned out to be a pretty great Halloween costume.

First, I made a skirt based on an 18th century petticoat. The fabric is a striped herringbone rayon from Hobby Lobby. It’s totally the wrong fiber for 18th century, but I love the colours. I’ve come to the realization this year that I adore sewing with stripes and plaids. Something about the fussiness needed to match stripes and plaids really makes me happy.

The skirt, or petticoat, was simple enough to sew. I trimmed up my yardage so the ends were cut straight, then cut 2 lengths to the measurement from my waist to my ankles. I also cut a few strips to use as the waistband and tie, so the front and back panels weren’t quite the full 60” fabric width. From there I sewed up the side seams, leaving the top 8” open, and felled the seams by machine to finish them neatly. Since my fabric wasn’t right for the period, I had no qualms about using a machine construction. Once the side seams were completed I sewed a small double turn hem at the bottom of the skirt. Next, I made the waistband/tie. The front waistband is made of probably 2 yards of self-fabric 5 inches wide. I made this long enough to wrap around the back and back to the front and tie in a pretty bow. This is not historically accurate, but it made me happy. The back tie only wraps around to the front and ties, and it is made of twill tape.

I made a corset-y bodice from an upholstery fabric sample my bestie gave me using a McCalls pattern. I made View E. The upholstery fabric was so thick I couldn’t get two layers under my machine foot, so I sewed the fashion layer by hand.

The bodice is lined with white linen. I couldn’t find a bias binding or a fabric that matched my fashion fabric well, so I used a ribbon for the binding. It worked ok, but there is some bunching around the corners of the front neckline. This was my first time setting grommets, and oh my, it is so much fun to use a hammer! I finished it up by used a pretty red ribbon for the lacing.

For the final look I used my Regency shift as a base layer. Next I put on the bodice, and then the petticoat. Since I was going for a hobbity look I let my hair be naturally curly and long. I used a silk scarf to fill in my neckline, and went barefoot (as a self-respecting Hobbit would do).

I love this impromptu costume, but if I did it again there are a few items I would add:

1. I wish I had made an underpetticoat for this outfit. The skirt silhouette is ok, but another petticoat would make for a much better shape.

2. I also wish I had a better neckerchief made of white or cream cotton or linen.

3. Finally, I wish I had an apron – preferably in linen and smocked or embroidered.

As a teenager I always wanted to be an Elf. Now that I am an adult I still love the elves, but I am learning to embrace my inner Hobbit.

Let there be Tassels!

I have been sewing SO MUCH this year, but in October I chose a knitting project. I was browsing Ravelry (as one does) and came across the Babouchka Shawl by Les Casperides. It was love at first sight. I had to have that shawl! The designer was looking for test knitters, so I immediately signed up and raided my stash. Instead of going with a white background like the designer, I chose a mottled navy blue.

The tassels, or bubblons as they are called in the pattern, are so whimsical and are great for using up small amounts of yarn leftovers that otherwise accumulate in the stash. I chose 4 accent colours for my shawl, but another tester did them all in the same colour and it’s lovely!

The shawl is a standard triangle shape, and 95% of your time will be spent knitting stockinette. The other 5% of the time you will be adding your pops of colour. The tassels are fiddly, I won’t lie, but they’re a nice counterpoint to the otherwise simple shawl construction.

I am so excited to add this shawl to my wardrobe, especially since my last few shawls have been more pink and frothy. Winter is dark and somber enough. I say, let there be tassels!

Paper Bag Skirt

Do you ever do that thing where you find an irresistible fabric, so you buy just barely enough of it to make a hypothetical THING, and then when you go to make the thing you realize that you don’t really have enough fabric at all? Yeah, I do that a lot.

I had taken my sewing machine in to be serviced, when the most beautiful midnight blue and sunshine yellow floral batik captured me. I could not leave the store without it. I knew I wanted a garment in this fabric, but wasn’t sure what kind of garment. So I bought a yard. One. Single. Yard. Sigh. When will I ever learn that a single yard is not enough? My, er, artificial shortage of material made me think long and creatively about a solution, and I finally decided that I would make a paper bag style skirt. When I first saw paper bag skirts and pants I thought they were decidedly odd and unflattering, but evidently my opinion changed with time. And anyways, I wanted something a little more interesting than a run-of-the-mill A-line skirt.

I started (as always) with planning. This included measuring myself and my fabric and doing various calculations and layout sketches to make sure I could use every single inch of my precious fabric. I used this tutorial for general instructions, but decided to fully line the skirt and add an invisible zipper and an internal pocket. Because I like turning simple projects into not-so-simple projects. Oh, and since my sewing machine was in the shop, I would be sewing the skirt by hand. Because I’m impatient.

So I measured and cut my two layers of quilting cotton (the lining is a teal cotton I’ve had in my stash for ages), and ironed the seam allowances down. Apparently I’m at the point where if I’m going to sew a skirt by hand, I’m going to aim for interest rather than efficiency, and I’m going to use the most entertaining stitches I can. The pocket was constructed first, with running back stitches.

Next, the invisible zipper was sewn in with spaced back stitches (The only invisible zipper I had was brown. It doesn’t match, but it does coordinate, and I like the effect).

Then the side seams were sewn with an interesting variation on a whip stitch that I learned from the American Duchess book as the English stitch.

The top and bottom hems and the pocket openings were finished with whip stitches. The only parts of the skirt that were machine sewn were the pleats (I just didn’t want to sew these by hand, and my machine had come back from being serviced). Finally, I sewed in a waist tape so the strain of wearing would not be all on the pleats.

In my original sketch I had planned to make a self-fabric belt, but due to the busyness of the fabric this didn’t show up when worn. Instead I changed tactics and made a belt from a tie my husband no longer wore. It’s slightly the wrong shade of blue, but overall I think it’s a pretty good effect.

The skirt is wearable, but not technically done – I still need to add the belt loops!

There are a few picky things I would change if I made this again. First of all, I would not line it with quilting cotton. The two layers together make the skirt quite stiff, and the cotton grabs at my tights a little and wants to work it’s way up. Not a great look. Secondly, I would move the pocket down. Currently the top inch or two of the pocket opening are underneath the belt, which makes pocket access a little more difficult than it needs to be. The pocket will just barely fit my phone (length and width) so I would also make the pocket a little larger in both directions. The final change I would make is to lower the waist tape. The tape sits at the very top of the waist section, so if I look down at my skirt I can see the white tape peeking up at me. I’m the only one who will notice this, but it does bother me.

This is a fun skirt to wear! I paired it here with a black shirt and tights. It would go equally well with a chocolate brown top, and I’m dying to make a blouse in mustard yellow just to wear with this! I purposely made the waist to my sitting down waist measurement, so it’s comfortable to wear all day at work while looking extra glamorous. Overall, I’m pretty happy with this make, and I look forward to it becoming a regular part of my wardrobe.

Mohair and Lace

This is apparently a year of completing abandoned projects. I finished both my Red tunic and purple tunic (I guess I was going through a tunic phase when I started these a few years ago), and now I have another finished object that has been saved from the obscurity of the UFO pile. Early last September I warped my loom with some handspun and started weaving with a ball of Kidsilk Haze from my stash.

I had never worked with mohair before, and wanted to see what would happen when I wove with it. I also had never worked with different colours in the warp and weft, and was curious to see what colour the finished fabric would read as.

I started with plain weave, then worked 3 rows of Brooks Bouquet lace about 6 inches from each end. The rest of the scarf is plain weave.

Initially the ends were finished with overhand knots, as I didn’t have a fringe twister and didn’t want to twist all those ends by hand.

I recently got a fringe twister from Fiber Artist’s Supply, so the ends have finally been twisted into a neat and tidy fringe.

Overall I’m pleased with how this experiment turned out. It’s light as air, and the lace is very pleasing. I am a bit worried about the prickle factor, but I find that fabrics seems less prickly when I am cold, so I am hoping this will not be a problem.

Trying New Things

My mom and my Nana are both expert Crocheters. One summer when I was maybe 10 my mom made this incredible afghan with textured roses on a tan and white background. She taught me the basics of crochet, but for some reason I wasn’t very interested. I preferred sewing/embroidery, reading, and playing outside with my brothers.

Now that I am an adult I have a renewed interest in learning ALL THE HANDCRAFTS, so I’m dabbling in crochet again. Through my public library I have access to CreativeBug, and I’m working my way through a Crochet Stitch Sampler class with Twinkie Chan. So far I’ve practiced single crochet, half-double, double, and treble stitches (US terminology). Increasing and decreasing seem straightforward (though I haven’t practiced them yet) and I am excited to learn the proper way to work in the round (I’m pretty sure I messed that up last time I tried it).

Learning new crochet stitches has reminded me how much I love the simple Granny stitch. I’ve been browsing crochet patterns on Ravelry (as one does) and found a simple chevron Granny stitch cowl pattern. After a bit of dithering on what yarn to use, I settled on an autumnal handspun skein I finished around this time last year. There is nothing like a beautiful handspun yarn to elevate a simple project.

I seem to be incapable of simply following a pattern: Instead of using the suggested yarn and hook, I used a much smaller yarn (DK vs. Bulky) and thus, a different hook than called for. I worked the pattern for a few rows before deciding the fabric was a little more stiff than I wanted it to be. So I ripped it out and started again with a bigger hook and slightly smaller stitch count.

I very much like the fabric I am getting with the larger hook, so I’m hoping it will be smooth sailing from here.

Finally Finished: Purple and Sparkly

I have done more sewing this spring and summer than I have in any other period of my life. I tend to go through phases with how I spend my time: I’ll spend 6 months knitting, then I’ll do nothing but read for a month. The next 3 months will be dedicated to spinning, followed by a month of dabbling in crochet or tatting. I love learning new things and experimenting in an environment where a mistake only costs me a skein of yarn and a few hours of my time.

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A few years ago I went through another period of intense sewing. At the time I didn’t have a sewing machine so I used the sewing machine I was born with – my hands. It turns out that sewing by hand is slower than by machine, but that you can be much more precise. Sewing by hand is also much more soothing than sewing with a machine will ever be. In college my best friend had a deep purple sparkly skirt she had made. I loved that skirt and wore it as often as she would let me borrow it. Eventually she gave it to me and I continued to wear it as often as I dared. Only, after college I found myself gravitating less and less toward skirts and more and more toward pants. It broke my heart that this beautiful skirt wasn’t being worn and loved. So I hatched a daring plan to refashion the skirt into a tunic. I used my trusty Alabama Chanin T-Shirt/dress pattern, and very carefully laid my pattern out. I was just barely able to eke out the shirt and 2 elbow length sleeves. Proud of myself, I quickly sewed up the shoulder and side seams and felled them down. Then I tried it on. The tunic did not fit at all how I had expected it to. In hindsight I know that I hadn’t payed attention to the grain of the knit fabric, so instead of the direction with the most stretch going around my body, it went vertically. The tunic was skintight and wanted to stretch in length. Frustrated, I put all my supplies into a bag and put that bag into my stash and out of sight.

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Over the years I’ve brought the bag out several times, turned out the contents, thought a bit, and put everything away again. I came to the conclusion that I needed to add gores to the side seams, but there was not enough of the original fabric to make this work. Black seemed like a good alternative, given the dark purple of my fabric, and I had already intended to use a black binding for the neckline and hem. But when I shopped around for black knit fabric I could never find anything that I was really happy with. Recently I bought some 100% cotton knit in black and white just to have around. You never know when a lightweight cotton knit will come in handy. As I yet again considered this project a light bulb went on. I pulled my quarter yard of black cotton knit out of my stash, measured the length from the underarm to the hem and marked this on my fabric twice, then I cut the lengths diagonally from corner to corner, leaving 1 inch of seam allowance on each piece. I then sewed the straight edges to the side seams of my tunic, and sewed the angled sides together.

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When I tried it on this time, the angels sang! It was so comfortable and flattering! I sewed the sleeves on, then started the finishing work. Since I was working with Jersey it wasn’t strictly necessary to finish the edges, so the inside seams are a mixture of left raw and felled down. The hems and neckline were finished with double-fold elastic. 

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All in all, I am so pleased with how this make turned out. It is comfortable to wear, and I feel so pretty in it! There are several elements that echo Regency fashion, namely the squared neckline, the close fit through the bust and looser fit in the skirt, and the fitted elbow-length sleeves. This pleases me immensely! I am still working on upping my binding skills. The sleeve and skirt hems are pretty decent, but the neckline hem wants to curve outward ever so slightly. I noticed this same problem with the striped T-shirt I recently made as well. I think the solution is to stretch the binding a little more around the curves, but this is easier to say than to do. I will keep practicing.

It’s tempting to keep this top in reserve for a special event or date night, but it’s so comfortable and beautiful that I think it deserves to become part of my “normal” wardrobe – sparkles and all.

Simple, Soothing Squares

I am at a stage in life now when friends and family members are starting to have babies. Last year I made a baby blanket for my new nephew (the pattern is Bounce by TinCanKnits and I used 5 shades of Anchor Bay).

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This year I am making a blanket for my new niece. I am using another TinCanKnits pattern, Vivid, and I am using Anchor Bay yarn again (partly because it’s wonderful, and partly because I had a fair amount of yarn left over from my nephew’s blanket). Whereas Bounce is knit in rows, Vivid is comprised of many separate squares that are seamed together at the end. I’m using grey, purple, cream, and the two yellows from my nephew’s blanket. This is my planned layout:

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The blanket squares only take a few hours each and are super satisfying to knit: the centers have just enough lace to be interesting without being overwhelming, and the borders of each square are calming garter knit in the round. By weighing my squares and doing some quick math I calculate that I should be able to get all 5 squares of each colour out of 1 skein. 

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I’ve just finished my fourth square: 1 each in grey, purple, cream, and light yellow. Do you think I can get this done by Christmas?

Building My Summer Wardrobe: More Shorts

In April I made my first pair of shorts. I took the time to adjust the pattern to myself, but even so there were some fit issues I wanted to tweak a little more. For my second pair of shorts I used the same pattern, originally from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, and another stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics. The fabric is a dark-wash denim with woven-in silver pinstripes. I already had a perfectly matching thread in my stash, and I used a silver zipper.

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The tweaks I made were:

  1. Take in the waist 1/2 inch on the side of the front pieces (I did not adjust the back pieces)
  2. Adjust the curve of the center back seam to account for my slight swayback. This reduced bubbling in this area.
  3. Add extra length so I would be able to do a double-fold hem.
  4. Lengthen the pocket pieces by 2 inches. Because big pockets are the best thing ever.
  5. Finish all the interior seams.

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I am SO HAPPY with these shorts! The fitting adjustments I made really make these perfect for me. The original shorts are just a touch too big in the waist, and they end up sagging down as I move around, which leads to me having to pull them back up throughout the day.

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The insides of the first pair of shorts are super shreddy. I finished the edges by pinking them, but that doesn’t seem to be a very good finish for stretch denim. This time I felled all my seams, which make these so clean and beautiful on the inside as well as the outside! And the pockets! The pockets are so big and deep and beautiful. All of my pockets need to be this size!

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There are one or two more tweaks I’d like to do for a future pair of shorts (because you can never have enough shorts):

  1. When I adjusted the side front pieces this caused the pocket openings to be really close to the side seams, and almost too small to get my hands into. I opened up the  bottom of the pocket area where I attached the zipper and felled the side seam and reworked the top stitching to be closer to the seam. Next time I would adjust the angle of the pocket to combat this.
  2. The lower leg portion of the shorts is quite fitted to my legs. This is intentional based on the original pattern, but for the next pair of shorts I’d like to increase the width of the leg pieces to make for a more relaxed fit.
  3. If I make these in a striped fabric again I would adjust the grain of the front side piece so the stripes match up with the main front piece. It’s a small thing, but I love it when stripes match up perfectly.

 

Can you Paint with all the Colours of the Wind?

When I was growing up Pocahontas was my favourite Disney princess. It seems she made a lasting impression on me, because a while ago I bought a few yards of this viscose blend jersey to make a dress.

My pattern was New Look A6122, and I used view A. 

After washing my fabrics, I laid everything out and cut it, doing my best to keep my fabrics on the straight of grain. It’s hard enough to cut on the straight of grain with a more stable knit like I used in my basic t-shirt recently, but this viscose blend was all kinds of shifty! As mentioned before, my sewing machine won’t do a zig-zag stitch right now, which would have been the best way to sew this dress up. I used a twin needle instead since the zig-zagging bobbin thread allows seams sewn this way to have a small amount of stretch. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than a normal straight stitch.

I worked up the bodice, then tried it on for a fitting before attaching the skirt. It’s a good thing I did this, because I ended up taking 6 inches of width out of the top of the neckline, raising the bottom edge of the bodice, and removing the lower bust darts. With that done, I reattached the armsceye and waist pieces, and started work on the skirt. The pattern instructs you to make gathers with the extra fabric in both front and back, but I didn’t want to create any more bulk around my midsection. Instead I put two pleats in the front and back pieces – much more slimming.

I sewed the front pieces and the back pieces together, then sewed up the side seams. Then I attached the straps to the back piece by hand in an effort to keep the garment outer as clean and seamless as possible. I let the dress hang before hemming it. I was afraid the slippery, stretchy fabric might grow in length with time. Once it had hung on my dress form for a day or so I cut the hem, and hemmed it. 

This dress is very fun to wear! It is swooshy and feels so flattering! Every time I wear it I start singing the Pocahontas sound track! I would absolutely consider making another one, however there are some changes I would make: the waist and armscye pieces are interfaced with fusible interfacing. As you can see, the outer layer is pulling away from the interfacing in places, leading to a messy looking front. This is mainly caused by the fabric being so much stretchier than the stretch interfacing. If I did this again I would choose a fabric with much less stretch for the interfaced pieces, maybe a 100% cotton knit, and depending on the strength of that fabric I might skip the interfacing altogether. If I made this again, I would do the majority of the stitching with a zig zag stitch, possibly supplemented by some top-stitching. The twin needle works well enough, but it’s not quite stretchy enough for this fabric. Ah, the fabric. If I made this again, I would probably go for a less stretchy/slinky fabric. It’s so fun to wear, but so hard to sew!