Several years ago I started saving my swatches. At the time I had some notion of how this could be a tangible record of past projects, especially items that were given away as gifts.
But as I accumulated more and more swatches I started to wonder if there was something I could do with them other than keep them in a shoebox. I pondered the conundrum and gradually an idea began to form: I could sew my swatches together into a patchwork blanket.
Obviously this won’t be an ideal solution for every swatch since some are oddly shaped or 3-dimensional, but I love the idea of taking something that would normally be discarded and making a memory blanket of sorts from it.
The upside of this plan is that the knitting is already completed, and all I have to do is the finishing. It also turns swatching into a part of an existing project, and not just a hurdle to clear before starting something new. The downside of the plan is that all the fun knitting is already done, leaving me with a million ends to deal with, and just as many seams to sew.
There is so much going on in the world these days, and almost all of it seems out of my control. I find it easy to get sucked into a quagmire of negative thoughts and fear, so when I feel like this I try to find something I can do with my hands. My sewing or knitting or gardening is something I can control, and that helps me to feel a little better.
A year and a half ago I made myself some slippers. They were cozy and kept my feet warm. I wore them all that winter, and all this winter.
And then a few weeks ago I realized both slippers were developing holes on the outside/bottom of the foot.
So I mended them.
I started off with some non-superwash wool, some snips, and a darning needle.
I cut a length of yarn, and sewed it in a regtangle-ish shape that went a little past the edges of the hole on all sides.
Then I turned the whole thing 90 degrees and needle-wove the patch – over, under, over under. While doing this, I made sure to catch a stitch in the slipper at the end of every row so the patch would be firmly attached to the slipper on all sides.
I followed the same steps on the 2nd slipper. This closed the holes on both slippers, but the yarn I used for the repair was very softly spun, and I knew I would have another hole soon if I didn’t put a tougher material on the outside.
I still had some of the leather I used when I originally made the slippers, so I made a template for a piece that would fit over the holes on both slippers, and cut the pieces out. When I made the slippers a year and a half ago I cut the leather with scissors and an X-acto knife. It was a PAIN! This time borrowed a chisel and mallet from my husband. What a difference! This was quick and easy and painless. Anytime I work with leather in the future, I will absolutely use a chisel and mallet!
After cutting the pieces out I stabbed some sewing holes into them at regular intervals. Most people would use a proper awl for this. I don’t have one, so I appropriated another one of my husband’s tools for this purpose (I think this is some sort of electrical tool?). Pro tip: it helps to have a spouse that is handy! (Also, if you are borrowing tools, make sure you ask first!)
With my pieces cut out and holes stabbed, I sewed the leather pieces into place. When I made the slippers I sewed the leather on with nylon cord, which was a royal pain. This time I used a doubled strand of upholstery thread. Much easier to work with, and almost as durable.
And here the slippers are, good as new, and ready for another winter.
On December 30, 2019 my husband and I bought a house!
But that’s not when the story started. Right after I got home from my trip to Manila last summer we started looking at houses. We trolled the internet and drove all over. We finally decided we wanted to build a house, so we found a nice neighborhood that was being developed, signed the papers, and scheduled our appointment to choose the finishes we wanted.
Then the wait began. After a month of nothing (while the architect finalized the drawings) our foundation was poured!
From there the house progressed quite quickly. Within a few days of the foundation being poured, the walls went vertical, and things started falling into place.
At times it seemed like nothing was being done, and at other times progress was much quicker than expected. But finally the day came when we signed the papers and got the keys.
There are so many things I love about my house, but my favourites are the kitchen, my craft room, and my tiny backyard garden.
We went a little overboard on the kitchen, but it was absolutely the right decision since we both enjoy cooking.
My craft room is largely unfurnished right now, but it’s so lovely to have a space where I can leave things out and not worry about my husband stepping on pins in the middle of the night.
I have been dreaming about creating a garden for at least a year now. My husband helped me build a raised bed for a vegetable garden. I am also thinking about digging up the bushes in my front bed and replacing them with roses and all sorts of bulbed flowers.
I feel so fortunate to live in a beautiful house and a beautiful neighborhood. Owning a home is something my husband and I have been working toward for a very long time.
A circle skirt is irresistible. I have always loved “twirly” skirts, but I never remember owning a circle skirt. I’ve been making more of my own clothes recently, which constantly leads me down pattern rabbit holes. When I found the Sense and Sensibility circle skirt tutorial I knew the time had finally come to make a circle skirt of my own. I bought 3 yards of a lovely plaid wool flannel on sale from Denver Fabrics and got started.
The first part of any project is planning. I had a vision of wearing this deliciously warm skirt with a cream long-sleeved T-shirt, my bomber jacket, and my wedding boots. In addition to buying the fabric for the skirt, I also needed to by a cream long-sleeved shirt and some leggings for a bit of extra warmth.
That done, I focused on fabric care. Since my fabric was wool I wasn’t sure how friendly it would be to laundering. I wanted a skirt that was easy to care for, since that makes it more likely that I will wear and enjoy it more. I followed in Morgan Donner’s steps, and tested my laundering methods on several swatches.
Swatch number 1 was my control – it didn’t get laundered at all. Swatch 2 was handwashed with Eucalan wool wash. Swatch 3 was washed in the washer on my normal cool water setting. Swatch 4 was washed with swatch 3 and dried in the dryer on my normal low heat setting. Each swatch shrunk a little more than the last, but the difference between swatch 1 and swatch 4 was minimal, so held my breath and laundered my whole length of fabric. The fabric came out of the dryer fluffy and wonderful, not the ruined felted mass I secretly expected. That bit of suspense over, it was time to draft my pattern and cut everything out.
I used wrapping paper as my pattern paper. It’s pretty and whimsical on one side, and has a very helpful grid on the other.
Once I had my pattern drafted and cut out it was time to cut out my fabric. In Jennie’s tutorial she mentions that the width of your fabric will determine the length of your skirt. I wanted a mid-calf length skirt, rather than just below the knee as my fabric would have allowed me. Since I am the boss of my sewing I chose to piece the bottom of both the front and back of my skirt. I made sure to piece along the plaid lines as much as possible. This is an excellent way to disguise piecing, but it can be a bit tricky to sew just right.
Because of this decision I had barely enough fabric. Another departure I made from Jennie’s tutorial was to cut my fabric on the selvedge. I did this because I wanted openings on both sides of my skirt – one for the zipper, and the second for a large pocket. Using the selvedge meant that I had to sew both seams (Jennie recommends sewing the full seam anyway), but that I didn’t have to finish the seams since there is little chance of the fabric fraying.
On to the construction! I started by piecing my front and back panels. I wanted this to be very exact, so I basted before sewing the panels with a running back stitch. Once the panels were complete I cut out my pocket and sewed that in with the corresponding side seam.
Then I mustered my courage, pinned, pinned again, and sewed the invisible zipper in with a back stitch. If I can sew an invisible zipper in by hand, I can do anything!
At this point I put the skirt away for a few weeks while we went to Phoenix for Thanksgiving. I came home with a sewing machine, so finishing the 2nd side seam and attaching the waistband were a breeze. I used a whip-stitch to attach the inside of the waistband to the skirt because I didn’t want any visible top-stitching on the outside. Then I began the long process of hemming the skirt. I started by making sure my hem was even when worn, which actually means that if you measure the length of the skirt it’s longer in the back than in front. My fabric doesn’t fray much, so I turned the hem up once by about half an inch and whip-stitched it into place over the course of several evenings.
The last thing I did was sew a button hole and button on by hand. The skirt was now complete.
Now that I’ve worn the skirt there are a few changes I want to make.
The waistband seems a bit big. I need to figure out how to shorten it without causing gathers in the skirt at the waist. When I do this I may add some interfacing for additional stability.
I have not yet finished any of the interior seams. I plan to do this like the hem by simply whipping the seam allowances into place.
The pocket is gloriously large, but about an inch too low. I plan to take this out and raise it.
I may want to take another stab at leveling the skirt.
I love how warm this skirt is. It’s like wearing a blanket! And I love twirling in it. I will forever love twirling. I definitely see more circle skirts in my future.
Quite a while ago I bought a pair of pillows for our living room. They weren’t very expensive, and at the time they were exactly what we needed.
Recently we decided to change the colour scheme of our decorations, and realized these pillows didn’t go with our new colours. Armed with scissors, a sewing machine, and a couple of those fancy pillowcases that came with a comforter but never got used, I decided to make new cases for our pillows.
I was lucky that the existing pillow cases were the right width for my pillows. They were, however, quite a bit too long.
I started by measuring the width of the cases, and using that measurement to mark a cutting line along the length.
Next I used my seam ripper to detach the binding from the edge that would be cut off.
I bought zippers to make it easy to get the new cases off and on, so now it was time to install them. My first attempt didn’t go so well. I sewed the zipper to the front piece first, which made it impossible to sew it to the back piece. I ripped this out and started again.
Zipper attempt number 2 went much more smoohly. First I turned the raw edge of the back piece under and sewed it down. Then I turned the edge under again and sewed the hem over the edge of the zipper. This made a nice, neat inside with no raw edges. Once that was done I sewed the other side of the zipper down to the front piece.
My zipper was longer than my pillowcase, so I sewed a tack where I wanted the zipper to stop and clipped both ends.
Finally it was time to sew the binding over the edges. I won’t say my stitching is perfect, but it gets the job done.
The pillowcases fit perfectly, and work beautifully with our decor. This was a relatively simple project that was made almost entirely from stash. I’ve kept the pillow forms and pillowcases from the landfill, and saved money since I didn’t have to go out and buy new pillows. I call that a win!
This is the time of year when so many of us take time to look back on what we did last year and plan ahead for the coming year. Here is what I made in 2019.
Finished Items: I finished 4 knitting projects in 2019, which is significantly lower than in past years. I’ve had a lot going on with work last year, which has cut into my crafting time. Also I’ve been doing a lot more non-knitting crafts and making a larger variety of items.
I haven’t been with my family for Thanksgiving for over 10 years. Most of the family lives in sunny Arizona, while I’m in South Carolina. That’s a big trip, especially at the holidays. This year I started planning early, and I planned big. I let all my siblings know I was coming and I hoped that we could all be together at Thanksgiving. I talked dates with my husband, and we both requested time off from work. We planned and packed, and finally the day came: time to leave for 2 whole weeks with my family!
Day 1: Travel
We got up at the crack of dawn and drove 18 hours our first day. It was exhausting, but worth it. We hit 8 states that day, and spent the night in Amarillo, Texas. I brought a sweater with me as travel knitting.
Mississippi (where I did a little sweater surgery)
Day 2: Travel
On day 2 we spent about 10 hours on the road. We were wiped out from the previous day, so we stayed the night in Flagstaff, Arizona. As we went further and further west we started seeing red rock and cacti. It felt like home.
Day 3: Travel + Family Time
We drove the 2 hours from Flagstaff to Phoenix, and spent the rest of the day resting and enjoying being with my family.
Days 4-5: Family Time
We laughed a lot and made Christmas cookies. We were also able to spend some time with friends. My husband made us all eggnog (pro tip: homemade eggnog is way better than store bought).
Day 6: Thanksgiving Day
We made even more cookies, and cooked Thanksgiving dinner as a family. We decorated my mom’s house with Christmas lights. All my siblings and even some adopted siblings were able to make it. This was such a pleasant, homey day. It was everything I wanted it to be.
Day 7: Travel
My grandma lives in California, so we headed over to see her, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousins.
Day 8: Sightseeing
My husband and I went to the San Diego Zoo, then watched the sunset at the beach. 10/10, would recommend!
Day 9: Family Time + Thanksgiving 2.0
We spent the morning with my grandma, then had a second Thanksgiving dinner with the California branch of the family. This was the first time my husband got to meet this side of the family.
I had brought my sourdough starter to make bread for the family, and expose it to some different yeasts/conditions, and this is the day I made sourdough bread (for the record, I don’t think my sourdough bread tastes any different now that I’m home).
Day 10: Travel
Back to Phoenix for one last day with my family.
Day 11: Family Time + Packing
Getting ready to leave is always bittersweet.
Day 12: Travel
No matter where you’ve been or who you’ve been with, there’s something satisfying about heading home.
Oklahoma (it was dark and we were tired)
Day 13: Travel
Home again, home again, jiggedy jog.
This was the best Thanksgiving I can remember. Thanksgiving is a hard time of year for my family, and it was so good to make some truly spectacular memories of this holiday. I am so glad we went, and very thankful to my husband for driving us 5,000 miles/60 hours across the country (I tried to drive, but he wouldn’t let me).