Back in 2012 I declared 2013 the year of sewing clothing. I failed! I sewed 3 garments, all with quilting cotton so they’re not particularly stellar examples of handmade clothing. Even though I didn’t actually accomplish much in this area, I started subscribing to garment sewing blogs by the dozens, learning a lot about construction, fit, and even fabric choices. I started purchasing fabric with garments in mind, and I feel comfortable that 2014 is going to have some clothing!
Here are highlights from the year, and it’s definitely not everything that I made. Several here need blog posts still, a few still need photo shoots! And I have a few knits that I know I photographed but I have searched everywhere and cannot find the shots, so I’ll have to do new photo shoots for those.
I’m excited to report that after a consultation with a hand surgeon (who wrote this awesome book with his wife (affiliate link)) and some exercises with this (the red one), my hands have been in much better shape! If I were actually diligent about doing the exercises I think I could be actually cured by now. Instead it’s taking a bit longer to get back to 100%, but I can knit again! I actually bought a sweater’s quantity of yarn at Rhinebeck so hopefully I’ll feel ready to get started on that soon, plus finish up all the WIPs that have languished while I was on the DL.
So here’s to healthy hands and even more creating with them this year, and for many years to come.
When the online quilting bee that made this quilt started years ago, I had pretty much zero quilting experience, much less bee experience. In retrospect, I committed a huge quilting bee faux pas when I made my request! Luckily, this bee was formed with really good crafty friends who didn’t mind. And you know what? I don’t regret it in the slightest, because it made me a quilt that means so much more to me. So what gaffe did I commit?
I asked everyone to use fabric from their own stashes to produce the main motifs. I provided a generous amount of background fabric and asked them to sew a 12-inch wonky star that, from afar, you would identify as a star of a single color (even if individual fabrics were made up of many different colors). I made no limitations other than no neutrals/blacks. There was no requirement that they use lots of different fabrics in a given block—a single fabric star would’ve been fine.
But what I got was a treasure trove! The feedback was all positive—and because I erred on the side of far more background fabric than was really necessary, many made me more than the 3 blocks the bee specified. In the end I was given 27 amazing blocks in all colors from Maritza, Caro, Nova, Diana, Julie, Christy, and Pam. And I can look at any given star and know exactly who made it, which I love. I needed to make just 3 more myself to complete a 5×6 top. I played around with their placement, starting random and ending with the rainbow of goodness you see here:
I captioned that photo “swoon” at the time (back in 2010!!) and I still feel that way when I look at this picture. My love for this quilt in progress was huge! But making those last 3 blocks just . . . didn’t happen. Two years later, in the spring of 2012, I pulled the fabric out, filled in those gaps with stars in the right colors, cut sashing and made a backing and all that. (I made three wonky stars for the back, too.) The quilt was suddenly enormous—just shy of a true queen size. I decided it would be perfect for our bedding at beach week, so then I was racing to finish up. I ran into a wrinkle, literally, when the quilting started catching puckers on the straight lines, so I only machine quilted the sashing and decided to hand-quilt an echo around the stars. But I’d never hand-quilted before, so I was going to need to amass supplies. I went ahead and sewed on the binding and was hand-sewing it down in the car on the way to Jersey (the hand quilting wasn’t going to be near the edges, so I could bind it before finishing the actual quilting).
We stopped at a JoAnn Fabrics on the way, where I bought hand quilting thread, needles, etc. At the beach I went online and researched how to hand quilt. We were using the quilt on our bed, but every morning I scooped it up, brought it downstairs, and quilted in the living room before we went up to the beach for the day. I learned a lot about hand quilting in that week, and while I enjoyed doing it, I have lots of practice ahead of me to be actually good at it. I didn’t quite finish quilting all the stars while we were there, so there was no triumphant photo shoot like I’d intended.
After we got back, I finished, but by then we were using it on our bed and I just never got around to photographing it. I still love it to pieces: We keep it on the couch in winter and use it on our own bed in the summer. So we brought it to the beach again this year, and on our last day I finally had the photo shoot! Big thanks to Jason and my dad for holding it on what was, as you can see, a super windy day.
These pictures give you the overall sense of the quilt but sadly they can’t capture the awesome of each individual star. They’re endlessly interesting to look at, with choice fabrics used in small amounts and even some fun “I spy” elements that my boyfriend thinks are great, like the gnome, the bus, and the shaky dogs! I couldn’t resist taking pictures of each block so you could see them a little better. Click on a row below to see that row bigger.
It all started with a Thermos. I can’t exactly explain why I got it in my head that I needed to start bringing soup for lunch in a Thermos—there is, after all, a perfectly good microwave at the office—but I spontaneously bought a Thermos last week. Fall is definitely in the air and I knew I’d be making a big batch of soup. My Thermos is not an awkward shape (in fact it’s less bulky than I expected it to be), and it would probably fit in my purse no problem, but I got it in my head that I needed a bag to bring my lunch in, for the Thermos and any other lunches. More often than not I put my lunch in its container in a plastic bag and shove it in my purse, which is neither elegant nor environmentally sound. So on Sunday I made this (modified) reversible bag!
I didn’t want this bag to be flimsy but I didn’t have a lot of heavyweight fabrics to choose from, so I used canvas (for some reason I have a lot of yardage of canvas) for the interior and a quilting cotton that I added lightweight fusible interfacing to for the outside. I really don’t plan on reversing it at all but it was an interesting lesson in construction to make it that way. If I were to make another I’d just leave a hole in the middle of the lining fabric and turn it right side out that way instead of struggling to get it through one of the straps! It truly killed my hands to be tugging on it that way, flaring up the carpal tunnel that plagues me.
I didn’t make the straps as long as the pattern calls for, lopping off about 3 inches, because I wanted it to be a handheld bag rather than a shoulder one. (I only used the bottom two pages of the pdf template, to be precise.) It’s roomy—I ended up tucking my umbrella in it this morning, too, and a water bottle. Maybe it doesn’t need to be this large but it doesn’t feel unwieldy and some days I end up with homemade lunches of many elements, so this will fit all the little containers. My work on the topstitching is actually rather sloppy, and I’m debating picking it out and redoing it. At the seams it’s super thick and tricky to go around the curve so I’m not eager to do it again. As it is, the bag is plenty cheery and happy, and it got me through a Monday with a smile on my face! It definitely made the commute more fun.
Thanks to Jason for taking these photos on our way home tonight!
Making that first pillow has started me on a pillow obsession! Here’s my second one:
It was inspired by this block , which used this tutorial, I’m guessing. Obviously this could not be done as a quilt as you go though so it’s just a block that was quilted like a normal quilt top. I pulled a lot of old scraps and a few untouched but loved fat quarters in teals and mustards. It really came together pretty easily, though if you don’t plan out your angles at the beginning you end up with a lot of frustrating waste.
I specifically oriented the chevrons so the seams would all be parallel, so that I could do half-inch quilting lines and they’d match within each section. I picked a path near the middle and then just echoed from there, even though it didn’t always hit the apex of a chevron exactly. I backed it with Kona Coal just like the first one, making another deep pocket. The final dimensions of this one ended up closer to 14.5 square because of some loss when I squared the block up and then some shrinking from quilting it. You can tell it’s a more puffy pillow!
I’m trying to decide what to do for the two other pillows on the couch that I’d like to redo. Half-square triangles? Something else? This is such a fun way to play with new techniques.
Once I had my Washi Dress under my belt, I was keen on sewing something else, and I was also interested in finding out if I could get the Washi pattern to fit better for me—via a tunic.
For this, I actually did a muslin of the bodice at one size down from the size I used for the dress, and omgsotight; it was NOT an appropriate change! But it led me to focus on the dart; I made it deeper but kept it at the same location, to try to tuck the fabric under my bust more. (I could’ve done more on this, in retrospect.) I didn’t lengthen the bodice, which I’ll revisit if I do this pattern in the future. On the bottom I used only 2 pleats, one on each side, by cutting the Small size for the tunic bottom and making slightly larger folds just to make the pieces match. I wonder if this pattern could hold up to a no-pleats version well or not.
After trying it on, it just didn’t seem fitted enough. I know, I know, the Washi isn’t meant to be fitted, but that’s not my style! So I added waist shaping—in the most slap-dash way: I just drew some curves and sewed them atop the existing seams. A pass through the serger dealt with the excess fabric, and I’m a lot happier with the way it fits on the sides now. For this one, because the cotton was heavier, I didn’t bother interfacing the facings, and I didn’t even tack them down (I didn’t understand how to do that, anyway) but they stay put just fine.
As to the sleeves—there is no denying that the pattern gives a bit of a football shoulder pad effect. There’s a reason so many people are pictured wearing Washis with their arms akimbo! I wanted to mitigate that from the outset, and the only way I could figure out how was to increase the curve of the curved part of the sleeves. I could’ve gone even further, but I’m pleased enough with the result. I wore it to work (it’s the first of my sewn garments to be worn for real) and a coworker who is always stylishly dressed and has never once commented on my appearance (boring as it normally is) complimented me on my shirt, not knowing that I’d made it. Success! Farm dog Rex approves, too.
My final thoughts on this and all the garments I sewed in that week is that it’s time to graduate to “real” patterns. Though these are graded, they also are using design elements (like elastic and the gathering/pleating) to basically get around actually fitting the pieces. It’s time for me to get patterns that are truly more my style, learn to put in a zipper, and also explore some real fabrics. I’m ready.
Photos again by the amazing knitwear/handmade-wear photographer Caro Sheridan. I love our weekends away with knitting friends and yes, I made 3 garments in preparation!