Last October, I browsed the halls of Rhinebeck with nothing in particular in mind. I wasn’t really knitting too much, so I mostly went to spend a day with friends and see some sheep. But then we passed through Oasis Farm Fiber Mill‘s booth and petted their yarn and came to a screeching halt. It was so so soft, despite its rustic appearance, and we all wanted it. I decided it would make a lovely gift for Dad for Christmas. So I called my mom and asked her if Dad is allergic to angora and what color she thought he’d like in a scarf. I debated among their colors for a time before settling on a pretty heathered blue. The yarn doesn’t have labels so I truly have no idea which yarn I bought, but I think it’s the “Classic Bunny” (because I don’t recall picking one with silk content, but who knows).
There was no way I would knit something up in time, nor could I be sure my hands could handle it, so I brought out my little 10-inch Cricket and got to work the week before the holiday. I worried about warping it with this yarn, as it felt delicate, but I didn’t know how to resolve that issue so I just barreled ahead and crossed my fingers—I realize that I’m lucky it held up just fine. I know just enough about yarn to be concerned, but not enough about how weaving works best nor what my personal preferences are to know what kind of fix would be right. (Obviously, choose a stronger yarn for the warp, but how would I find one in just the right color? Would I want warp and weft in different colors? There were just too many variables.) I know confidence and knowledge will come with time, so for now each foray into weaving is another experiment, and blind luck and a hopeful attitude makes up for actual planning. (I could never imagine approaching knitting this way! Egads.)
As I say, my weaving experience is very limited so of course my skills are, well, in need of practice, but I think I did okay. I tried not to beat the weft down too hard (which is my instinct) in order to keep the gauge relatively even in both directions. Truth is, a different-dent reed was probably in order but I only have the one. The edges are not exact but they’re not drastically bad, either! I think dad liked it a lot, and he immediately donned it when we exchanged Christmas presents a few weeks ago. I only wish I’d bought more of this yarn to weave a scarf for myself, too.
Last year I made my awesome tree skirt. This year, I decided I wanted all the Christmas fabric out of the apartment, so I set about using it up. Those were lofty intentions (aren’t they always?), and of course I didn’t actually use up all the fabric in the end, but I made a significant dent! One major investment of fabric was in this pillow. I didn’t mean to deliberately mimic the tree skirt with the triangles, but the matchiness doesn’t matter, because this pillow was not destined to live in our house; I gave it to my mom for Christmas. I forgot to take a shot of the back but I did it in solid green with a single strip of some of the green with snowflakes. It looks like it’s a pocket pillowcase but it’s not—I seamed the entire thing shut after stuffing it with fiberfill. (A sewing teacher once told us that when stuffing a pillow, you should stuff it as much as you think is super stuffed… and then add more stuffing. I’m a strong adherent to this policy when I’m not using a pillow form!)
What I learned in making this is that sewing equilateral triangles takes more precision than I’m really interested in maintaining for an entire project! I knew this after making Meaghan & Josh’s quilt, but I guess I forgot or I decided that I like the look enough that it wouldn’t be an issue. But it was. Oh, it was. I was so frustrated, and that is why there is that large white border around the piecing! I love the look so much though,and it takes so well to simple quilting lines. You know I’ll selectively forget this in the coming year and end up sewing more equilateral triangles. Because damn they look cool!
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.
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!
Now that I’ve started sewing my own clothing (ha, look at me, talking like I’m making a whole new wardrobe already) I’ve been thinking a lot about fit. When I shop for clothing in retail stores, I try items on to see how they look, but I don’t think about how they fit. I realized, in making a Washi Dress, that I don’t know how to really assess how something fits yet. But I like to think this one looks pretty good on! (All photos by Caro Sheridan; the last photo by our host, Phil!)
I didn’t make a muslin of the Washi—my bust measurement went fine with one of the existing sizes, and I knew the skirt was forgiving enough to not matter. It came together fast once I got the shirring to work (which, upon further reading, I’ve learned I did not do correctly, but it functions fine, so I’ll just be improving my technique for the future. In case you are wondering, the problem is that the elastic is wobbly on the back, which means I didn’t have it properly under tension. I’ll be playing with that once I get more elastic.). I went with a tank instead of sleeves and made white bias binding out of Kona Snow for the armholes. (Now I wonder if I should’ve used that for the neckline too, but I’m not doing it now.) I tried it on once it was all assembled, modeled it for my boyfriend and a friend, and asked if I needed to change anything. They said it looked fine.
But does it FIT fine? I’m not convinced it does. The bodice should probably come lower. The bust darts don’t make the bodice shape to me in any real way. The neckline gaps just a bit (maybe partly because my “featherweight” interfacing was too heavy in combination with the cotton, lightweight though it is, or maybe because I forgot to clip the curves). I know there’s room for improvement if I take this one on again.
Wearing it while tromping around Star Valley Flowers‘ farm in Wisconsin, however, I discovered it is a great garment for wearing. It’s comfortable, breezy, and the fullness of the skirt means it requires absolutely zero effort at all. If I add a white cardigan, I’ll happily wear this to work and show off my handiwork. But I won’t make this dress again without significant revisions. This field of sunflowers are actually part of Driftless Organics‘ farm, across the street—we couldn’t resist them!