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.

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.

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.

Handkerchief Musings

When I made my linen bedsheets I cut squares out of the corners for the corner boxes. Instead of wasting the linen scraps I decided to make handkerchiefs! Handkerchiefs have been around in some way, shape, or form for as long as people have needed to wipe their hands and faces. I was surprised to learn a few years ago that mens’ and womens’ hankies are not the same size (a standard man’s handkerchief is 12″ square, while womens’ hankies vary from 8″ to 10″ square). Was this yet another subtle sexist thing? Why weren’t women allowed to have hankies as big as those men used? One of the joys of being a maker is the ability to make things just as you want them. I resolved to make myself a 12″ hanky.

I had 4 offcuts from my sheets, and they were roughly 19″ square. But they weren’t actually cut square. I didn’t draw a thread when I cut the corner boxes out, and the pieces turned out pretty ragged. To make my first hanky I drew threads to create a true 12″ square, then cut my hanky out, and hemmed around all 4 sides with whip stitches. Easy peasy. But I was annoyed with the waste cutting a 12″ square caused. The remaining pieces were 6″ wide and 12-18″ long. I could piece them to create a second 12″ hankie, but it just wouldn’t be as pretty (or fold as nicely) as a piece with no seam.

For my second offcut I cleaned up the edges, and divided the piece in 4. I followed the same finishing steps as for the larger hankie: small double-fold hem secured with whip stitches. These hankies turned out between 8-9″ and almost square. The lack of waste (other than cleaning up the ragged edges) was very satisfying.

Then I started using the linen hankies instead of my regular Kleenex. I was surprised to find that I actually preferred the smaller size hankies instead of the larger. I guess this is one of those conventions that is actually due to personal preference instead of being a result of sexism.

I love my new hankies. I’m considering embroidering initials or flowers on the corners, but that is a project for another day. I learned an important lesson, though: sometimes I make assumptions about things, but once I learn more I find that my assumptions were wrong. There are a lot of things wrong with this world, but just because something seems unfair doesn’t always mean it is, or that it was meant to be. I don’t believe that people are inherently good, but if you let yourself see things in a positive light you can be amazed by the goodness of ordinary people.

Circle Skirt, Meet Petticoat

I have been obsessing over the Coquelicot Skirt by Wildflower designs since before the pattern was available. I waited for months as they posted teaser images. I knew this was the perfect garment for me. The pattern was published several months ago, but for some reason it’s taken me quite a while to get around to making it. But at long last the time has come. The Coquelicot skirt will be mine!

Each sewing project starts with pattern and fabric choices. The pattern suggests using very drapey fabrics for maximum swish factor, but I decided to go in a different direction: I wanted a quilted skirt. Last winter (Winter of 2020/2021) I saw the most beautiful quilted floral fabric at JoAnn’s. I kept convincing myself not to buy it because I didn’t have a project for it, and then when warmer weather came back it was taken off the shelves. I thought it was gone forever, and I was very sad. Then early this winter I saw it again! This time I wouldn’t let it pass me by. I bought 1 1/2 yards (I think?) along with a similar amount of a coordinating quilting cotton and started planning my garment.

I cut the main skirt panels out of the quilted fabric, and everything else out of the plain cotton. You can see in the photo above that I had several options for my seam finishes. I started by binding the pocket slit with 1″ bias made from a light batiste (it’s the same batiste I used for my 1920s slip). I then used the same batiste to finish the edges of the quilted panels using a Hong Kong finish. Then I seamed up the back panels (the front was cut on the fold). You’re supposed to sew the seams and then apply the Hong Kong binding, but these quilted pieces were heavy, and I didn’t want to wrangle them any more than I had to.

With the pocket slits finished I sewed the pockets onto the back skirt panel with the raw edges facing in, then overcast the raw edges. I should have bound this edge with batiste, but I forgot until the pocket was already sewn up. The pocket itself is bound with a remnant of tan bias I had from another project.

I then created the front and back waistbands and the lacing panel. I didn’t interface any of these pieces, since the quilting cotton is stiff enough on its own. I let the garment hang overnight just in case it decided to stretch out (it didn’t).

with all the pre-construction work out of the way, all that was left was to sew up the side seams and do the finishing. The hem is bound with bias made from the same fabric used for the waistband and pockets to provide additional continuity to the skirt.

With that the skirt was done! Hooray!

It is a lot of fun to wear, even though the heavy fabric made it a bit of a pain to make. It is quite warm when sitting down, although it stands out from the body when standing up, so it’s not especially warm when I am upright.

I made View A (half-circle skirt) with the waistband from View B. I do not recommend this, and especially not with heavy fabrics. The waist lines are drafted on very different curves, and that made it rather difficult to get the back waistband onto the skirt. But that is a problem stemming from my decisions, not from the pattern itself.

One change I would make (because there’s always at least one change I would make): I find that the internal lacing panel folds up on the right side when tension is put on it. This makes total sense since there is nothing keeping it flat. I would fix this by inserting a small bone just inside the lacing tape on just the right side.

Have you ever worked with quilted fabric? What is your favourite kind of garment to make?

Tackling the Mending Pile

This week I am tackling my mending pile. If you, like me, have a pile of mending to do, why don’t you join me? Let’s see how much we can get done.

  • Tops
    • Bees shirt – fix gaping neckline
    • Burnt Orange shirt – sew up side slits
    • Blue Adrienne – adjust sleeve elastic (possibly replace sleeves with linen)
    • Green Adrienne – add strap guards, remove small stain
    • Edwardian Blouse – add peplum and closures
    • Bruyere Shirt – adjust waist
    • Embroidered linen top – fix loose embroidery
    • Black Long-Sleeved shirt – fix hole in front
    • Cream Lace Top – hem thread is coming out
  • Bottoms
    • Cream Shorts – finish internal seams, add waistband OR hook and eye closure
    • Herringbone pants – add waistband
    • Floral Plaid pants – adjust waistband
  • Other
    • Patch quilt

The first item I worked on was a burnt orange t-shirt. This was a recent thrift store acquisition and I fell in love with the colour and the interesting cut of the back. Unfortunately, the sides were slit all the way up to the natural waist. I’m not sure if this was where the slit was meant to be, or if it was so high because I’m long-waisted. I sewed the slits up with a whip stitch leaving just under 2″ open at the bottom. This took 10-15 minutes before I started work one morning.

Item number 2 was my Edwardian blouse. I only got to wear it once before it was shrunk in the wash. I unpicked the closures and cut off the neckband and hem. I cut out a peplum using a half-circle skirt pattern, and pleated the bodice to fit. Then I sewed the closures back on and hemmed the new neckline. I won’t say this was an easy fix, but I think it turned out quite nicely. This fix took 3-4 hours.

Item number 3 was my Plaid Floral Pants. I was a few pounds lighter when I made these pants earlier this year, and they were tight in the waist even then. I unpicked the stitching holding the waistband closed on the inside, unpicked the zig-zagging holding the elastic waistband down, then cut the waistband and inserted 2 more inches of elastic. Then I reversed the process: I zig-zagged the waistband elastic onto the waistband, then folded this down and stitched the waistband down on the inside. The pants are still fitted, but are much more comfortable to wear. Bonus: I like where the stitching holding the inside of the waistband down is located better now than where it was before. It’s less visible, and thus provides a slightly cleaner finish. This alteration took 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Item 5 was my Bruyere shirt. I meant this to be a wearable toile, so I went with the size listed on the pattern envelope and didn’t make any major alterations. The shirt turned out a bit tight at the waist. I think this is partially because the waistband sits too high on me – it sits on top of my rib cage rather than just under it at the true waist. I let the side seams out by 1/4 inch each, resulting in a gain of around an inch at the waistband. This took maybe 15 minutes.

Item 6: My black long-sleeved Alabama Chanin shirt had developed a few small holes in the front. I closed these up with a few whip stitches on the inside. I was able to sew these vertically to align with the ribs in the fabric, so the fix is nearly invisible from the front (The small mark you can see is a mending job for a horizontal hole. It’s amazing the difference in visibility!). This was a simple mending job that took 5 minutes or less.

Item 7: My green Adrienne blouse was too loose in the shoulder elastic. I could have unpicked the seam that joins the sleeve to the body and shortened the elastic, but that seemed way more complicated than it needed to be. Instead I added strap guards using twill tape and a few sew-on snaps. This was a fiddly fix that took about an hour and a half (but only 4 needles-full of thread).

Item 8 was another new (to me) top. The hemstitching on the lace shell had come loose. I did a quick running stitch to tack this back into place. This took 5 minutes or less.

I imposed a time limit of a week to work on my mending, knowing that I would not make it through my whole list. I am really happy with the 7 garments I mended or altered (or edited, as my husband termed it), though there are one or two more that I wish I had gotten to. The time limit was helpful in keeping me from obsessing over mending to the point where I lost all the joy in it, especially since I have quite a few new projects in my mental queue for this Winter. I would highly recommend tackling your mending or alterations pile. I now have 7 garments that are more wearable and that I will not pass over when getting dressed.

Happy Birthday to Me!

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday!

On Saturday I went trail-riding with my husband and sister. I swear humans were meant to travel on horseback. I love the smell of the horses and the swaying of the horse as it walks. Cars go fast, but horses nurture my soul.

On Sunday my husband took me out for breakfast, and then we went shopping for a cake plate. We returned home with this beauty and I set to making a cake.

My sister joined us after lunch and she and I worked all afternoon on a deliciously creamy lasagna and on my birthday cake. I had chosen to make an Ube cake to remind me of my travels in the Philippines a few years ago. First I used powdered Ube to make Halaya, or Ube jam, then I used that jam to make a delightfully purple cake. The cooking took all afternoon, but we had the most wonderful meal.

My youngest sister (who went riding with us) knitted me a teapot cozy, and my middle sister made me a Lord of the Rings journal! What a piece of art!!

It was a delightful birthday, and I thoroughly enjoyed snacking on cake and giving slices away to friends and neighbors.

Making a 1920s Slip

Ideally you would make the undergarment first and the outer garment second. But the lure of pretty fabric was too much for me, so I made my 1920s One Hour Dress first. Having made the dress I recognized the need for an appropriate undergarment to smith any wrinkles and reinforce the correct silhouette. This is, after all, the 1920s, and the garçon look is all the rage.

I started with the same 1 hour dress pattern I made using the tutorials from The Closet Historian and a few yards of white cotton batiste. The cotton batiste is more stiff and less drapey than the rayon used in the outer garment, though still very lightweight. I did a quick fitting and took the side seams in by 3/4 inch each side (this makes the final garment 3 inches smaller in total compared to the outer dress). I sewed up the side seams using French seams and sewed the pleats in place. My batiste was 45″ wide (vs. the 60″ wide Rayon I used for the dress), so I used the full width of the fabric for both front and back of the slip.

Time for another fitting: I angled the neckline to be 1 1/2 inches higher in front than in back. This also makes the garment more comfortable around the underarm. Finally, I created 1” wide straps from the batiste.

The last thing to do on my slip was apply lace. I had bought 5 yards of cotton lace several months ago with the vague idea of making a blouse or a petticoat or something. I used the lace to finish the neckline and hem and to cover the raw edges of the side pleats (the lace is on the outside of the slip, whereas the lace finishing is on the inside of the dress). In the end I had about 2 inches of lace left, which was super satisfying.

I am quite pleased with the finished garment. It’s simple but effective, and the lace is so lovely. If I was making this again I would stack the side pleats so they weren’t quite as wide (it would look like a knife pleat on either side of the seam with a box pleat stacked on top).

The fabric of the slip is rather sheer so I won’t post full photos, but here is a side by side of the outer dress without a slip (left) and with the slip (right). It doesn’t make a huge difference, but does help control wrinkling. And since the dress is made of a delicate rayon, the cotton slip will help to minimize contact between my body and the dress, keeping the dress clean longer and extending its life.