A Smocking Adventure

When you sew (or knit, or do any kind of craft) you inevitably accumulate some sort of a stash. Pretty and useful materials are fun to accumulate, and this has the added advantage that when inspiration strikes you can immediately make the thing. But a significant part of any maker’s stash ends up being scraps of this and bits of that – enough to do something small with, but not small enough to throw away. I had a scrap of linen just like that. I had made a bias-cut dress and my scraps were weird shapes. I rescued a rectangle about the length of my waist to knee and almost as long as my full waist measurement, and decided to make an apron. But not just any apron, oh no. I had to make it complicated interesting. I had seen several Smocking tutorials floating around Pinterest, and decided to give the honeycomb stitch a try.

I started out by hemming both sides and the bottom edge of the apron. Then I marked my smocking lines using a heat-sensitive pen and quilting ruler. You don’t have to run gathering stitches through your fabric before beginning Honeycomb stitch, so I started on the smocking immediately after this step. I used a blue ombré embroidery floss (3 strands) for the smocking, and worked both left to right and right to left. I found that it was easier to work left to right, but perfectly possible to work in both directions.

When the smocking was done I ironed the top edge flat and applied a bit of navy blue bias tape (also left over from a previous project) as a waist tie. The apron was done!

I’ve never thought about myself as an apron kind of gal, so the apron sat around for a while waiting to be used. One day I was harvesting peas from my garden and needed a receptacle. A bowl seemed annoying to wrangle, so I put on my apron and fell in love! This is the perfect use for an apron and the perfect way to harvest produce since it moves with you and keeps your hands free.

I do find that the bias ties are a bit slippery, so I might sew along the ties with some embroidery floss to add texture and hopefully a little more grab.

What is your favourite thing to make with fabric (or yarn) scraps?

Embroidery Sampler 1

Young girls used to make samplers to learn (and show off) new skills. In today’s day and age it is an exception rather than the rule for someone to know how to embroider and to make a sampler. My mom taught me some embroidery basics when I was young, but last year I decided I wanted to learn more stitches. Around the same time I came to this conclusion I created a Creativebug account and found Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery sampler tutorials. I went to her Etsy shop and ordered all 3 of the samplers she had Creativebug tutorials for.

I love how fresh and new these samplers look, especially compared to older designs that can feel stuffy and outdated.

In my head I thought I would work a new stitch every day for about 3 months and have 3 new samplers and a decent knowledge of embroidery stitches by the end of first quarter, 2021.

I started off well, and dutifully worked my stitch a day for about 10 days. Then I missed a day and made up for it the next. I would miss days and then work multiple stitches in one go. Invariably, I missed more days than I made up.

My first sampler took me from January to the end of April, so actually longer than I thought all 3 samplers would take me. But that’s alright. I enjoyed the first one, and I’m looking forward to the next two.

I used this collection of beautiful ombré embroidery floss. I’ve had this floss for years, and have always been afraid to use it because it is so beautiful and I don’t know where I got it and I don’t want it to be all used up. But what are beautiful materials for if not to be used?

Using a collection like this also helped me to keep my palette limited. When I needed to add a different material, such as yarn for a couching stitch, I tried to choose yarns that would coordinate with the colours in the floss. I also couched around the “hoop” part of the design with handspun alpaca, which felt like an extra special touch.

I had a lot of fun working this sampler, and I learned a lot! I have 2 more samplers to go and lots of embroidery floss left, so I will be embroidering on and off for a good long while.

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.

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.

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!

Words to Think On

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of selecting a word of the year instead of, or in concert with, new year’s resolutions. I like how this is rather less specific than, say, a resolution to lose 10 pounds or start exercising every day. It is harder to gauge progress using this method, but it is also harder to feel like a failure when you still weigh the same in December and stopped going to the gym in February.

In 2019 the word I chose for myself was Enough. I chose this word because it could mean a lot of things – good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, but also, rest because you’ve done enough. Reminding myself of these concepts helped me when I felt anxious about myself or like I was always behind or nothing I did was good. One afternoon I sat down and did a small embroidery of this word – something decorative to remind me of my goal. This embroidery should have been very simple by rights, but it turns out I don’t know when to stop. I thought about taking some of the colours out, but I decided that with all its imperfections, it was still good enough.

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This year, the word I chose was balance. I chose it before the Coronavirus pandemic took over the world, and while I didn’t have the pandemic in mind when I chose my word, I have found it to be very appropriate to what is going on. It’s hard to find balance when you’re not supposed to leave your house or see people. This word has been a reminder to me that even though right now I’m working at home, I don’t have to work all the time. And that getting some rest, or even relaxing and not working on a project, is part of the balance of life, too.

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How do you find balance in these strange times we live in?

 

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.

Check that Box!

Hey Friends, February is almost over, but I have to show you one more thing I made before March hits us.

Will you just look at it? I am quite pleased with how it came out. Well, mostly….

The pattern is Very Easy Vogue V9151.v9151

According to my measurements (and my common sense) I made a size Medium. I don’t know why, but every time I measure myself for a commercial pattern the size I measure for ends up being quite a bit too big for me, so now I default to 1 size smaller. In this case I think I may have been able to go down another size. The fabric is a cotton/poly shirting I found at Hobby Lobby. I think it really makes the garment come alive.

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Since I was working with a check pattern I took extra care to line up the seams so everything flowed well together. In order to avoid a clunky look I cut the center front and upper back panels on the bias. Since cutting on the bias uses extra fabric I did have to piece the center front panel, but the check pattern does a fantastic job hiding the pieced bit. I have to feel for it to figure out where it is!

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I sewed most of the construction seams on my friend’s sewing machine, but the collar and the sleeves were sewn in by hand. I also finished all the seams and hems by hand, and I must say, I’m quite pleased with the low profile of the finishing work (even though it did take longer than serging or top stitching by machine)!

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The only change I made was to widen the hips a little bit. The pattern rather bizarrely tapered in toward the hips, and since I wanted to be able to actually wear the shirt, I cut the seam line straight down. Even so I wish there was a little more room in the hips or that there was a slit or a curved hem, or even that the shirt was a little shorter. It’s just not quite right. Also, the way the sleeves are set in cause the neck of the shirt to rise in front and fall in back – which is rather annoying, but just as well since the front slit is rather lower than I prefer to wear.

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All in all, it’s pretty good for a first draft, and it’s wearable and pretty. If I make this pattern again I think I’ll go down another size and possibly cut the front all as 1 piece. There’s really no reason to cut it as 3 pieces (other than visual interest). I’m also thinking about adding a little waist/hip/hem shaping, but that’s a discussion for another day. For now I leave you with my hand-finished seams. Enjoy.

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Make Do and Mend

Historically clothes were often remade. But somewhere along the way clothes became cheap and thus disposable and we stopped remaking them. Well, we also stopped making clothes (that’s a discussion for another day) and thus we lost the skills to make (or remake or mend) clothes.

The other day my husband ripped the elbow of his dress shirt. He has done this before and it always pains me to throw out an otherwise perfect shirt. This time I had an idea: why not use his shirt to make a shirt for me?

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I laid the shirt out, cut off the sleeves and up the side seams, laid my pattern out (I’m using the Wiksten tank), and cut out the pieces. I was in a bit of a conundrum about the bias binding until I remembered the perfectly good sleeves (well, one of them was perfectly good, and the other very nearly so). Using the sleeves as bias tape also reduced my waste. cut

I pinned and sewed and ironed and sewed some more, and here is what I came up with:

I made some modifications to the pattern because of what I had to work with:

  1. The shirt is a little less full at the bottom than the pattern (because my husband is a skinny man). It still fits very comfortably.
  2. The last time I made the Wiksten tank I really didn’t enjoy turning up the hem. Since I was working with a shirt that already had been hemmed I kept the existing hem (even though it was a little different in shape from the pattern).
  3. The neck is a little higher – partly because I feel more comfortable with a higher neck, partly because I wanted a button at the very top of the shirt.
  4. The neck and arm holes are simply sewn over with bias tape instead of being turned under.
  5. I moved the pocket to the right hip area (and it’s a man-sized pocket so it fits ALL THE THINGS).

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I feel so pretty and comfortable in this shirt! And I can wear it with jeans or coloured pants. And the pocket! Did I mention the pocket? I love pockets.

What would I do differently? Well, I somehow messed up the shoulder/back neck so it doesn’t hang well in the back. I need to raise the whole back panel. And I think I will end up putting in some bust darts because the arm holes are a little wide for my taste.

All in all I like it. Would I do it again? Maybe.

In Progress

My Fibonacci blanket is getting too big to cart around. Thusly, I have barely looked at it recently. This square is going to be done soon, though.

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My Crochet shawl continues apace. As a knitter this is surprisingly easy to work on and I am enchanted with the play of light and colour in these two yarns.

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My Pink Floyd socks are close to being finished. I have a few more inches left on the foot and then the toe and afterthought heel. I’m hoping to finish them this weekend.

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And here’s a sneak peek of a project I’m just about finished with! I can’t wait to tell you more about it next week! (Look, it has a pocket!!!)

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