Spinning Sunshine

I have been in a yellow mood this summer. I see it in my spinning and my sewing (but not so much in my knitting). It started last year with this incredible batt made by my very skilled friend Dia of Twisted Urban. I began the spinning not long after (I use a short draw when spinning woolen), but I mostly spun at our group gatherings, so my progress was slow. As I spun I formulated a plan to stretch this sunshiny perfection as far as possible: I would combine it with more yellow.

This is a braid of Targhee top by Deep Dyed Yarns in the colour way: 5 Golden Rings. I bought it a few Christmases below when it was grey and cold out and I needed a dose of sunshine. I fluffed and then split the top into nests. This fiber will be spun worsted, but I will try to incorporate as much loft as I can for a semi-worsted singles.

All this yellow needed something to mellow it, so I dug around in my stash and found a bag of Southdown rolags that I had processed from Top a few years ago. The fiber is from Beesybee on Etsy. This will be spun woolen with a short draw like the yellow Batt.

I am enjoying taking this project slow. The yarn will be incredible when it is finished!

I Knit a Bracelet

I bought Laura Nelkin’s Ribband pattern some time ago. I started a project following the pattern, but found the knitting to be quite fiddly, so I frogged it and set it aside.

As I looked through the Ribband projects on Ravelry I saw one that appeared to be done in Stockinette that I liked the look of. So I knit my bracelet in Stockinette, and I love how it came out.

Sometimes you need to work smarter, not harder.

I Made Jeans!

As Me Made May approached this year, I was reminded of the deficit of options for my lower half that I noticed last year.

I bought fabric for two pairs of jeans over a year ago, but I’ve been intimidated by the complexity of jeans design so it took me a while to find the nerve to cut my pants out. The fabric is 11.5 oz stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics. I (once again) riffed on the Cigarette Pants pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual.

I started these jeans in December, got the fronts and backs assembled (including the zipper, which was intimidating and very puzzling), then realized that jeans need top-stitching, and put them away for a while.

A couple months later I pulled the jeans out of their hiding place and did all the top-stitching all at once, even though that was very much not the order it was supposed to be done in (and doing it out of order made it more difficult). Ideally I think you would want to sew jeans with two machines side by side: one to sew the seams with thread that matches your fabric, and one to top-stitch the seams with heavy jeans thread. That way you would save time and avoid the need to rethread your machine after every seam.

I am very pleased with the stitching on the pockets. I free-handed my design with chalk and was so pleased with the first pocket. Since it is a simple design I was able to replicate it on the second pocket pretty closely. Then I ironed the edges in and positioned them on the pants using the highly scientific method of holding the back up to myself, then putting my hand where I expected a pocket to be. I checked the position visually, made some adjustments, then did my best to mirror the position for the second pocket. I waited to sew the pockets on until I was convinced the position was correct for both.

With the fronts and backs assembled, it was time to sew the inseam. I sewed the seam and top-stitched it. Then I did a fitting to make sure the side seams fit well, and top-stitched the top 8 inches or so. This was a mostly uneventful process, but the lower leg is a little bit skewed because I needed to narrow the leg, but I didn’t want to undo my top-stitching. It is unnoticeable in the final garment unless you’re really looking for it.

Next I added the waistband. I cut a strip on the straight grain for a 1” waistband. As usual, I sewed the waistband onto the front of the pants, folded the raw edge under, and top-stitched around it with jeans thread. Then I did a machine buttonhole and added a jeans button. I accidentally snipped several of the buttonhole threads when I cut open the buttonhole, so I went over the buttonhole again by hand. I also had trouble with the jeans button and ended up needing to replace it. There is definitely some technique involved when securing a jeans buttonhole. Finally, I hemmed the pants to length, and they were done.

This was my first time making rigid pants, and the fit is very different than you get with a stretch denim or a ponte knit. But once I got past that difference, I found the pants to be pretty comfortable. I am so proud of myself for making these! There are definitely more me-made jeans in my future.

Finishing the Two-Year Baby Blanket

Two years ago I started knitting a blanket for my niece. I fell in love with the Vivid blanket by Tin Can Knits, knit 9 of 20 squares, then got bored and wandered off to sew something instead. The thing about baby blankets is that if you wait too long they’re not baby blankets anymore. They’re just really small.

Earlier this year I decided I was going to finally learn to crochet properly. I watched a few classes on CreativeBug and learned a lot. One of the classes was on the classic granny square, and my passionate and unreasonable love for this simple square was rekindled. I say passionate and unreasonable because at an earlier time in my life when I disliked all crochet, I somehow still thought the classic granny was beautiful and interesting. Granny squares are my bridge into the world of crochet.

After completing a test square I didn’t want to stop, but I also didn’t want to start a whole new project, so I hatched a plan to knit half the squares for the blanket and crochet the other half. The knitted squares resemble flowers to my eyes, and I wanted the crochet squares to echo the floral design. Where the knitted design uses texture (lace) to create a flower, I needed to use colour the make flowers on the crochet squares. Each granny square consists of 8 rounds: the center in one colour, the following 5 rounds in another to make the petals of the flower, and 2 rounds of border in a third colour.

It only took me a few weeks to crochet my 10 squares. Then I knit the last square, and the quilt was ready for assembly!

Before sewing everything together I had to decide on a layout. This may have been the toughest part of the blanket, but I finally settled on a design I was happy with.

Once I had decided on a layout I sewed the squares together in strips, then sewed the strips together to form the blanket, using whip stitches throughout. The knit and crochet squares had very nearly the same number of stitches per side even though the granny squares appeared smaller. I clipped each pair of squares together in the middle and at the end, and sewed one stitch to one stitch as much as possible, skipping a stitch here and there as needed.

With the blanket in one piece I had to decide on a border. I swatched a few knit and crochet borders as you can see above. I was specifically looking for a chevron shape to echo the knitted lace. I decided on the crochet lace on the left. I liked it best, and I’m in a crochet mood right now, so it’s more likely to get done than knittted lace is at the moment.

I worked a round of single crochet around the blanket in preparation for the fancy border.

Then I worked the border in white. The border is worked in two steps: crochet shells, then single crochet over top of the shells to make them pointy rather than rounded. I used the border instructions from this blog post by Crochet 365, Knit too.

I love how the border and the blanket as a whole turned out! It took me much longer than I wanted, but the recipient is two, so she won’t know the difference.

Sewing a Book Quilt – Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

The second set of blocks for my book quilt weren’t books at all, but a set of 4 gnomes for the corners. I used the Nordic Gnome pattern from the 2021 Quiltmas Spectacular. This block is traditionally pieced, rather than Foundation Paper Pieced like the book blocks. I’ve actually never done traditional piecing, so this was a bit of a learning experience for me, and some of my seams are a bit wonky.

The blocks turned out 12 1/2” square, which set the size for the rest of the blocks in the quilt. I took a minute to look up the size of a twin quilt (70” x 90”) and realized I woefully miscalculated the number of blocks I would need(6×8 instead of 4×5). This brings my total number of blocks to 24 instead of the 14 I originally planned on. Which, in turn, means that I need to add 10 weeks to my making schedule for this quilt. An additional 10 weeks is quite a setback, but my original plan only took half the year to make the top, leaving 26 weeks for basting, quilting, and binding. I have never quilted anything before, but if I pick a simple, spaced design it should be doable to baste, quilt, and bind in 16 weeks.

The colour scheme of these blocks is very personal for me. I grew up with 3 brothers in a similar age range to me (my sisters came along about 10 years after us), and my parents used colour assignments to signify whose stuff was whose. My oldest brother was yellow (tan in the quilt), my next brother was green, I was red, and my last brother was blue. Now that we’re adults we’re spread across different states, but it feels good to have the four of us together again, at least symbolically, in this quilt.

Making a Quilted Plague Doctor Mask

It all started at a Renaissance Festival. I saw a woman wearing a quilted plague doctor mask, and I immediately knew I needed one. So I googled how to make a plague doctor mask and this is what popped up.

I was ecstatic that a pattern existed and it used a technique that I was already familiar with! I traced the pattern onto some interfacing and immediately made a mock-up.

I made a few minor fit adjustments, and then got started with the piecing. I used the English Paper Piecing technique to construct each panel, but I decided to skip the papers and cut my batting to shape instead.

I used a range of blue batiks to make the mask. I had already cut about a million 2″ squares for another project in the same fabrics, and unfortunately this size was a little small for many of the pieces, so I spent some time drawing new lines to make the shapes a better size for my pre-cut squares. I traced the new pattern onto some woven fusible interfacing, fused that to some quilt batting, and cut out my pieces one by one. Then it was on to the sewing.

I basted each fabric square onto its corresponding piece, trimming the fabric to size as I did so. Then I whipped each shape to the next one to form the four main panels of the mask. When all the piecing was done I ironed the panels – it was so satisfying to see all the fabrics and seams relax and flatten. Then I ironed the lining pieces to size and pinned them to each of the coordinating outer pieces in preparation for quilting. I used my muslin as the liner, and I am really pleased with how well the colours coordinate with the outside of the mask. It’s one of those tiny details that only I will know about, and it makes me happy.

I quilted each panel by sewing close to each seamline on my machine. I was amazed how the quilting made the panels so much more stiff and stable! I added a bit of bias to the eye-holes in yet another batik, then removed the basting threads and started sewing the panels together (using whip-stitches again).

The mask was finally in one piece, but it wasn’t quite done. I tried it on, just to make sure it fit. It turns out the mask fits my dog, too (he was not happy about this)! The last steps were to make some straps and to sew them on along with the binding. The straps close with a pair of D-rings.

My mask is complete, and I love wearing it! It’s definitely different than wearing a closer-fitting mask and it gets in my way a bit, but I firmly believe that great style is worth a little inconvenience.

How to Make Simple Sewing Pattern Weights

When I was a teenager my mom taught me how to sew. I always had the hardest time getting the pattern to line up with the straight of grain. I would lay it out, pin it, measure, unpin and adjust, measure again, etc. until the pattern piece was straight. Then the whole process was repeated for the next pattern piece. I hated the cutting process because it always seemed to take so much effort to get everything laid out properly.

After college once I was out on my own I started sewing again. For a while I used the pinning method, hating every second of it, then I read something online and realized I could weight my pattern pieces down instead of pinning them. The heavens opened at that moment, and the angels sang. My life would never be the same! Since that time I have been using a random assortment of items to weight my pattern pieces: books, figurines, my phone, an extra pair of scissors … you get the idea. It was frustrating to never have quite enough weights of the right size to hand. So in true DIY fashion, I decided to fix the problem.

In researching solutions to my weighty problem I found several blogs that used small ceramic tiles to make pattern weights. I went out to Home Depot and bought a package of hexagonal tiles (I like that they almost look like EPP shapes), then I bought a few sheets of cheap felt from Walmart. Some other materials I used that I already had were a hot glue gun, hot glue sticks, scissors, and chalk to mark the felt with. All told, I spent less than $20 on my project.

Step 1: Remove the tiles from the backing. I planned to cut through the mesh holding the tiles together, but they actually peeled off pretty easily. I used a pair of scissors to clean up any glue that marred the sides.

Step 2: Trace around the tiles onto felt, then cut the pieces out.

Step 3: Adhere the felt to the tiles. I put a circle of hot glue in the center of each tile to hold the felt in place, then glued down each side as close to the edge as I could manage.

Step 4: Clean up the edges. A quick snip on all sides leaves these pattern weights looking just about perfect.

My sister helped me make a dozen weights, and we spent about 20 minutes on the project. It was fun to make, and I’ve already started using them in my sewing projects. If you’re tired of pins, give pattern weights a try. They might just change your life!

Sewing a Book Quilt – Part 1

As the title suggests, this will be a new series of posts about a quilt I started late last year. I actually bought the pattern in July of 2020, and one of my 2021 goals was to sew the quilt. That didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, but I am determined to make the quilt happen this year.

One of the biggest reasons I didn’t make progress on the quilt in 2021 is because I didn’t have a plan. So this year I started with planning. I knew I wanted to use the Taller Tales Quilt Block Collection for my quilt, but I wanted it to be more than just a collection of books. I added in the Gnome pattern from the 2021 Quiltmas Spectacular, but I still wanted something else. I hit upon the idea of adding words to my quilt, and I remembered the Thomas Jefferson quote, “I cannot live without books.” Pithy and so very true. When I mashed all these elements together this is what I came up with:

I had never done Foundation Paper Piecing before this quilt, and the first block was frustrating and took longer than I expected. Even so, it only took me about an hour, so I decided I could spare an hour a week to make a block. I calculated that if I sewed a block every weekend they would be complete in 14 weeks. I then gave myself two weeks per row of text, making 8 weeks for the center block. Then I planned 4 weeks to assemble the top, for a total of 26 weeks. My timings were meant to be generous since there will inevitably be a few weekends where I don’t make as much progress as expected. If I am able to follow my plan for the quilt top, that leaves me a full half of the year left for quilting and binding. I don’t have that part planned yet – I will figure it out when I get to it.

For the books and the gnomes I am using my scraps from garment sewing as much as possible. These are all sewn onto a plain white ground for continuity. Not all garment materials are appropriate for a quilt, but I have a fair amount of cotton scraps, and even some from my mom that she used to sew me clothes when I was a kid! I love all the memories this quilt will house once it is done! I am avoiding any fabrics that are stretchy or have significant synthetic components. I am not too worried about colours – I trust that my own sense of colour guided my choices when I bought the fabrics, and thus my stash of scraps is already curated to my personal colour palette. This is also meant to be a scrappy quilt, so as long as nothing screams that it doesn’t coordinate anything is fair game.

The last bit of planning (at least for now): I printed off all my FPP papers for the books and the gnomes. I have selected the alphabet I will be using for the center, but I haven’t ordered the book yet.

With the planning out of the way, I got to sewing! So far I have completed 4 blocks (all the same pattern). I only need 4 of this block, so I will be moving on to the next kind of book this weekend. With each rendition of the block I have gotten faster and better at it. Now I can bang out a block in half an hour – and that includes ironing between each step!

I am so excited about this quilt! The small, quick wins every week are so motivating, and I am having a lot of fun with the FPP technique! I’ll update you once I’ve finished the next round of blocks.

Read Part 2 here.

Selfless Sewing: Christmas 2021

Christmas is over, which means now I can share my Christmas makes with you! I have done completely Handmade Christmases in the past. Mostly because I didn’t have money, but I did have time and yarn. As I started to earn more over the years I also started being more strategic about which gifts to buy and which to make. Some years I didn’t make any presents at all. This year I decided to sew gifts for my two sisters.

My middle sister does the most incredible Jack Sparrow cosplay. It seemed obvious that she needed a pirate shirt in her life and repertoire. I used the same basic pattern and instructions as for my own pirate shirt, but with a few modifications. My sister’s shirt is made in a mid-weight linen, where mine is made of handkerchief linen. I also made her shirt slightly narrower – the entire shirt circumference is one Width of Fabric. I did a lapped shoulder seam on her shirt, where mine has no shoulder seam at all. And I sewed her shirt on the machine with French Seams.

Most of the visible stitching, such as at the collar, hem, and cuffs, is done by hand. The buttonholes are done by machine. Doing so much of the work by machine made this shirt MUCH faster than mine, which I sewed completely by hand. My sister was beyond thrilled, and that made me happy.

For my youngest sister I made a pair of plaid pants. Truth be told, I started these for her birthday in August, but then I got bogged down with fitting, and gave her something else for her birthday. It was nice to pull these out a few days before Christmas and have them almost done already! I based her pants off my modified pants pattern (which is based off the Cigarette Pants from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual), and then adjusted them to her measurements. The fabric is from Hobby Lobby. I really wanted to make pants from this fabric for myself, but I had already made myself a pair of grey plaid pants earlier in the year, and two pairs of plaid pants in one year seemed like overkill. The pants turned out fantastic! I accidentally cut them too short for a double-fold hem, so I finished them with black fold-over elastic instead.

Do you make Christmas gifts or do you prefer to buy presents?

A Tale of Two Scarves

This is the story of two scarves that lived very different lives.

In September of 2019 I bought two balls of Cascade Paradigm Shift in the Seattle colourway. I loved the bold colour shifts throughout the yarn. I warped my loom for a scarf, started weaving, and then stopped.

A year later, in September of 2020 I pulled my loom out and wove the rest of the scarf in a day. I initially thought the scarf would be too wide and bulky to wear comfortably due to the heavy cotton yarn in both warp and weft, but the looser weave structure makes it very fluid and nice to wear.

A few months later in December of 2020 I needed a last-minute Christmas gift. The cotton scarf was the wrong colour for the recipient, but I remembered how it wove up in a single day and decided to weave another scarf.

The warp was a variety of fingering weight wools in white, with a stripe of pink on one side. The weft was half a skein of Less Traveled Yarn’s Creosote Collection on their Lafayette base. It was mesmerizing to watch the colours shift with every throw of my shuttle.

It took longer than a day to weave, but it was such a lovely experience. The fabric is much finer than its cotton cousin, and it turned out the perfect width.

I twisted and knotted the fringe and then sent it off to its new owner.

I’ve been trying to use up my stash yarn (and avoid buying more), and I forgot how quickly a skein of yarn weaves up! I have the other half-ball of this variegated yarn and a skein of Eggplant to use as a warp. Now I just need to figure out who in my life needs a purple scarf.