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!

Spur-of-the-Moment Sewing

You know how sometimes you see a fabric and it just grabs you? That’s what happened to me with this.

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It’s a wide-stripe cotton seersucker I found at Hobby Lobby, and there was less than a yard left on the bolt. I’ve never seen a seersucker with such a wide stripe! It hurts my brain when I try to figure out how to weave it.

Like much of the world right now, I’ve been working from home a lot recently. One of the up sides of this is that if I decide to cut out a new shirt in the middle of the day I can do it on my lunch break. That’s totally normal behaviour, right?

I used a Dolman Sleeve shirt I currently own and love as a pattern template. The front and back are the exact same pattern piece except for the neckline. I used the full length and width of the fabric, and only have a few square inches of fabric leftover! For the construction I used a mixture of machine and hand sewing. The seams were done with the machine, and the finishing was done by hand. I do love a tidy felled seam!

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When the construction was done I tweaked the sleeves and neckline, then finished the edges with bias tape. The bias tape was sewn onto the right side of the garment by machine, then felled down on the inside by hand. The shirt hem didn’t need any finishing since it is the fabric selvage.

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Tadah! This was a super quick project! I made it over 3 days, working on it for odd minutes here and an hour there. It was a pleasant mixture of hand and machine sewing. The fabric is delightful – I love the colours and the texture. The only thing I’m not sure about is the boxy silhouette.

P.S. This is yet another make that pairs so nicely with my cream jean shorts. I swear they go with everything, and I wear them all the time! Wearing clothes I’ve made myself is the best!

Sewing Basics

I’ve been sewing a lot this year. This is in large part because I now have a sewing machine, which allows me to complete projects more quickly. As I looked at my wardrobe recently I realized I was missing some basics, and was quite unhappy with my t-shirt collection. I’ve found myself avoiding wearing the t-shirts I have because I just don’t like them. So I pulled out my trusty Alabama Chanin t-shirt pattern, bought some printed cotton knit from Hobby Lobby, and got to work.

I’ve used this pattern before, but last time I used a rib knit, which is much more stretchy than the Stockinette fabric I was using this time. I did not realize this until I had already cut out the whole shirt. It turned out to be too small and too short. I was lucky that I had just enough fabric to cut out another shirt in a larger size. I made sure I was using a Jersey needle in my sewing machine, but it started making a funny noise, so I sewed almost the whole shirt by hand with a running backstitch. I figured out later it was not a problem with the machine. The needle was slightly bowed, which caused it to rub up against part of the machine.

The last piece of the puzzle was hems and the neckband. I chose a Herringbone stitch that I worked around the shirt hem, the sleeve hems, and the neckband. I debated doing a second round of herringbone in either white or a soft green, but ended up liking the single Herringbone better. The shirt was now finished.

One of these days I’d love to add more details, like additional embroidery, appliqué or reverse appliqué, or even beading! These are the techniques Alabama Chanin is best known for, and I’ve never given it a proper try.

**You’ll notice I’m wearing my new shirt with my me-made shorts, making this an entirely me-made outfit! I love wearing clothes I’ve made for myself, and these shorts are super comfortable!

Hiking

My husband and I recently decided to start hiking again. There are so many beautiful trails within a few hours drive from us, and with Coronavirus being a fact of life now, hiking is a good way to get outside and exercise while staying away from people. Our eventual goal is to hike the entirety of the Foothills Trail in northern South Carolina.

The last weekend of June we hiked a section of the Foothills trail from Highway 107 to the trailhead at Oconee State Park. The hike was 4.6 miles each way, and we planned to camp overnight somewhere in the middle.

We started out with heavy packs and light hearts, and walked our way slowly to the trailhead. This section of trail is very beautiful. Green, somewhat hilly, and there are even a few sections of temperate rainforest with the most lovely flowering trees!

About a mile before we reached the trailhead we saw a sign for some hidden falls. We completed the first half of our hike, then retraced our steps for a mile and hiked the additional mile and a half to the falls.

What a beautiful place to rest! Our feet and legs were tired and sore, having walked over 7 miles that day, and it felt so good to soak them in the cool water.

My husband built me a small fire, and even though there wasn’t an official campsite, we set our tent up on the small patch of level ground we could find.

In the morning I knitted to the sound of the falling water.

Then it was time to pack up our gear and hike out. The 4.5 miles back to our car wasn’t bad, but we were both exhausted from our long hike the day before and from not sleeping well. We were glad to get off our feet and go home. Over the course of 2 days we had hiked just over 11 miles.

Note to Self

Note to self: when picking up a project that you haven’t worked on in 6 months, read the directions.

Exhibit A: I pulled my husband’s sweater out of the UFO pile this week. I last worked on this in December in hopes of it being ready in time for Christmas. Both fronts, the back, and one sleeve are finished. I would have finished it before the end of 2019 if I hadn’t injured my shoulder by working on it so much (note to self: when knitting a lot, I have to get some exercise to keep from getting injured). I wrote the pattern for this sweater, and I remember knitting the first sleeve, so I jumped right in, figuring I knew what I was doing.

WRONG! I worked six inches past the cuff, merrily increasing every 6th row. When I looked at the directions for how many increases to do, I saw that I was supposed to start out the sleeve by increasing every 4th row.

Riiiiiiiip. It’s amazing how quickly a sweater can be reduced back to yarn. What’s the old saying, the second time is the charm?