Making My First Circle Skirt

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.

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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.

Pillowcase Renovation

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!

2019 Year in Review

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.

  • Knitting:
    • 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.
      • Cobbled Hat
      • Bounce Baby Blanket
      • Headset Hats for my work team
      • Secret Shawl (More details are coming later this year. Patience is a virtue.)
      • Various washcloths – this is an ongoing project as we wear through our existing stash of washcloths.
    • In Progress:
      • 3 shawls
      • 2 sweaters
      • A hat
      • Socks
      • Slippers

knitting in progress

  • Weaving:
    • Finished Items:
      • Hand towels – these were a log cabin colourwork pattern using worsted weight cotton, and I gave them to my mom before I got photos.
    • In Progress:
      • Handspun/mohair wrap

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  • Sewing:
    • Finished Items:
      • Checked Blouse
      • Sashiko Square
      • Plaid Circle Skirt (I have yet to blog about this, but rest assured, details and photos are coming.)
      • Regency era chemise
      • Small embroidery
    • In Progress:
      • English Paper Pieced Quilt
      • Burgundy Linen Dress – this is a mashup of a circle skirt, and a vest pattern that I adore.
      • Red Sleeveless Blouse – I started this before I got married. It’s time it was finished.
      • Converting a skirt to a tunic – I’m not sure if this project can be rescued, but I am determined to try!
      • Regency era short stays
  • Other Crafts:
    • Finished Items:
      • I have baked a lot of bread! My focus this year has been on sourdough.
      • My sister and I collaborated to make a Narnia-themed mobile for my nephew.

2019 has been a busy year! I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds!

Thanksgiving Roadtrip – 2019

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. 

South Carolina

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Georgia

Alabama

Mississippi (where I did a little sweater surgery)

Tennessee

Arkansas

Oklahoma

Texas

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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.

Texas

New Mexico

Arizona

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.

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My sister drew this picture of me as a Lord of the Rings character. We’re all nerdy and artistic in this 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.

Arizona

California

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).

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Day 10: Travel

Back to Phoenix for one last day with my family.

California

Arizona

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.

Arizona

New Mexico

Texas

Oklahoma (it was dark and we were tired)

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Day 13: Travel

Home again, home again, jiggedy jog.

Oklahoma

Arkansas

Tennessee

Mississippi

Alabama

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Georgia

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South Carolina

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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).

2019 Roadtrip

New Pattern: the Cobbled Hat

Pssst! Y’all, I’m sure you’ve already noticed, but Christmas is in 4 days! A lot of us are in panic knitting mode, desperately trying to get all our handmade gifts finished in time for Christmas morning. If you have a hat on your knitting list, might I suggest a pattern that I just published in Knotions Magazine?

This is the Cobbled Hat. It’s worked in worsted weight yarn on US 7 needles. Translation: this is a really quick knit. It only took me a few evenings to knit my samples. You can totally whip one (or a few) of these up in time for Christmas!

The pattern is written in 2 sizes, to fit adults and children. It’s a really stretchy stitch pattern, which makes it more likely to fit a larger variety of heads. I knit the sample to be slightly slouchy, but if you’re crunched for time you can make the body of the hat a bit shorter and it will be a fantastic beanie.

Check out the crown decreases. I am so proud of how pretty these are! The hat is shown on a lovely lady, but it looks great on men as well. The first version of this hat was for my Father-in-Law. He wears it incessantly in the colder months.

The stitch pattern is very simple and easy to memorize, but still looks like you worked hard on it. The only skills needed for this hat are casting on, knitting and purling in the round, a central double decrease, and weaving in the ends. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

I hope you love the Cobbled Hat as much as I do. I am immensely proud of this pattern. I can’t wait to see it worked up in stripes and gradients and all sorts of colours!

Merry knitting, friends, and Happy Christmas!

** All photos in this post are (c) Kellie Nuss for Knotions Magazine.

Sashiko!

This year has had a bit of a theme for me: experimentation. I’ve been experimenting with spinning methods, with sourdough baking, and with sewing everything in sight. One of my experiments was with Sashiko: Sashiko is a Japanese method of quilting/surface embroidery that uses (mostly) running stitches to create interesting designs. Traditionally Sashiko is used decoratively as embroidery as well as to mend or reinforce fabrics in a beautiful way.

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I had a bit of an ivory linen-blend fabric left over from a previous project, so I cut it into 2 squares, drew a grid, and started sewing. I love the Persimmon Flower stitch pattern, and I used this blog post from Sake Puppets as a tutorial.

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The first pass of stitching didn’t look like much, but then I turned the piece 90 degrees and started the second part of the pattern, and that’s when the magic happened! It was thrilling to see these beautiful persimmon flower shapes appear stitch by stitch.

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I found this project to be very meditative, and the finished project is quite beautiful. The front and back look different, and both are quite lovely.

persimmon

Once I had finished the decorative stitching, I folded the edges of the squares to the inside and whip-stitched the edges closed.

Hexagons

I was introduced to English Paper Piecing a little while ago. For those of you who are not familiar with it, English Paper Piecing (EPP) is a quilting method that uses pre-cut pieces of paper as a template to make sure your fabric pieces are sewn together perfectly. It helps you avoid wonky edges and crooked lines.

When I first ran into it, I thought it sounded like a lot of fuss and bother, but it was rather pretty. I followed the hashtag on Instagram so I could see more beautiful pictures of this art form.

Friends, if your goal is to avoid starting a new project or hobby, following a related hashtag is not the way to keep yourself out of trouble. I resisted the lure of a new, shiny craft for quite a while, but I finally crumbled after my birthday.

I went to JoAnn’s and bought some fabric and some templates. I fussy-cut out a bunch of hexagons. I basted each bit of fabric around a template, and whip stitched them together. I was hooked.

What started as a quick project to see if I liked the craft has now become a plan for a full-blown quilt. Send help. And more templates.

Spin Together

Early this month my spinning group joined a friendly competition called Spin Together. The goal was to spin throughout the week. Some people are very competetive about these things and spend gobs of time to spin loads of yarn. I was not in a situation where I could do that (even though I am a very competetive person), so I took a more laid back approach. My goal was to spin every day and to finish some projects I had started.

I spun 5 out of the 7 days, so I didn’t quite meet my goal to spin every day. But I did finish 2 projects, and ended up with some very lovely yarn.

The first project was a handful of Jacob rolags. Deb from Merciful Hearts Farm is part of our spinning group, and she generously shared some sample fleeces with the group. Jacob is a peculiar breed: their fleeces are mottled and splotched with different colours. I had never worked with Jacob or with unwashed wool before this spin. I separated the locks by colour and carded them up into rolags.

I spun the rolags in colour order from darkest to lightest. In order to preserve the colour order in the finished yarn I chain-plied it. I have a hard time getting enough twist in my woolen singles, so they quite often break. To combat this, I started the plying stage with a simple prep step: I chained the singles around a book without adding twist. This allowed me to control the chain length and twist better, and my handling of the delicate singles was much more careful.

You can see that I used my newest toy to spin this sample: it’s the Electric Eel Wheel Nano. The Nano did a great job spinning the yarn, but the fuzzy wool caught on the yarn guides quite frequently. Also, when plying after the bobbin was about halfway filled it stopped wanting to wind on. I will need to play with the Nano more to see how these issues can be worked out.

My second Spin Together project was a skein I started back in April. I used my Majacraft Pioneer for this spin. The fiber was a blend of Targhee, Rambouillet, and Columbia wools from Apothefaery Fibers that I bought at SAFF last year. The colours reminded me of fire and of a clear Autumn morning.

I had spun the singles quite fine, and plied them end to end with a lot of extra twist. This took me about 2 months, then I went to Manila, and didn’t return to my project for over 4 months. My goal was to make a crepe yarn, so at this point I was about 2/3 of the way through the project. In late September I started spinning another singles, this time in an undyed BFL/silk blend. During the week of Spin together I finished spinning these singles, and plied the singles with the 2-ply to finish the crepe.

I knew I was pushing the boundaries of how much yarn my bobbin would hold. The original 2-ply was 4 oz, and the crepe ply was at least another 2 oz (most bobbins hold 4oz or less). In the end the yarn was finished in a very dramatic way. I had gone to our spinning group meetup, and was plying away, hoping against hope that the yarn would all fit. I got to the very end of the bobbin, and my wheel wouldn’t wind any more on. So I enlisted some help: I treadled while another friend walked the plying yarn out behind me, and another friend watched to make sure the yarn didn’t come off my bobbin and get wrapped around the drive shaft!

We worked together to finish this yarn, it all miraculously fit on the bobbin, and I was rewarded with 580 yds of a beautiful sport-weight crepe yarn. Just look at it!

If you need me in the future, I will be spinning all the crepe yarn. I love the roundness of the yarn and the very visible, unusual construction.

Baking Up a Storm!

I’m one of those people that gets interested in something, and then that’s all I do for the next month or two. Eventually a semblance of normalcy will return, but not too much (being too normal is boring). My most recent addiction is baking. Now that my sourdough starter is behaving I have been baking almost every weekend.

Last time we talked about bread, I had just made my first sourdough loaf. I loved it, but my husband wanted something less assertive, so I’ve been trying other recipes that use sourdough starter and commercial yeast together.

My first experiment was with Brioche. As in the last post, I used the recipe from Tartine Bread. If you are following along at home, I recommend that you use a half recipe when making this brioche. I made the full recipe, and it barely all fit in my Kitchenaid mixer! I had so much dough that I made 1 giant loaf, a dozen dinner rolls, and a whole passel of doughnuts!

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That’s right, I made doughnuts from scratch. Let me tell you: They were delicious!

I do need to brush up on my frying technique, though. I think the oil was not hot enough, so the doughnuts ended up slightly greasy. Still fantastc, but definitely something to improve on.

The bread has great flavor and texture with a nice, even crumb. It’s great for sandwiches and French Toast, or really anything you might use bread for.

The only thing I might change about the bread is the baking time. The bread seems a touch on the dry side, which makes me think I might have over-baked it slightly.

I am always amazed at how much there is to learn about such a seemingly simple topic as bread. Bon appetit!

Sourdough Update

Last time I talked to you about Sourdough I was having trouble with my starter. I found a lot of conflicting information online, and I was getting confused. I bought Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson to learn more about sourdough baking (I have learned so much from books. It’s my favourite way to learn new things!).

Tartine Bread

Chad runs a bakery in California, and he is a master at sourdough bread and variations thereon. He focuses on expending minimal effort to create the best bread possible. He does this by working with the nature of the dough, and by not skipping steps. The book has quite a few variations on several basic bread recipes, and also has recipes for what to do with your bread once it’s baked. Spoiler alert: it’s more than just sandwiches! Once I started following a single method my starter began behaving well – rising very high on a predictable schedule.

20190822_205546Just after mixing the jar was only 1/3 full.

I had a small misstep where I tried to bake a loaf the day before my starter really started to rise. The loaf looked nice, but hardly rose at all and was very dense. This was a good learning opportunity for me, since now I understand better how my starter looks when it is and is not ready. I always use the float test now.

Once my starter was behaving I had to bake some bread! I used the basic sourdough recipe from Tartine Bread. I followed the recipe and the suggested timings as closely as possible, and was rewarded with 2 absolutely beautiful loaves!

I also teamed up with my husband to make a pizza with a sourdough crust. Delicious, but next time I’d like to make the crust thinner, or perhaps bake it before I add the toppings.

I never knew how rewarding it would be to bake bread. There is nothing like enjoying the delicious bread you made yourself, or sharing it with friends. In that way, it’s kind of like knitting.