It’s been a long time since I posted anything about knitting…
Temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s, egregious humidity, dog days of summer…are a few reasons why knitting isn’t on my mind lately.
However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been knitting!
I’ve tried a few projects, but they just didn’t work out for me. So I decided I’d work on a hat, at my leisure. I have a feeling it’s going to fit a very big-headed person, since I didn’t consult any pattern but cast just a whole bunch of stitches on to a circular needle. Tired of starting patterns, goofing up, and not knowing where or how I went wrong. There’s pretty much no good TV on at night, so we’ve been binge-watching Netflix shows.
I came across a Netflix show that offers the best of both worlds for me: Slow TV National Knitting Night. It’s national for Norway, that is. Wonder how that would pan out with an American TV producer: hours and hours of knitting on TV? Apparently, when the knitting episode originally aired in 2013, it was a very popular program in Norway. See more here from the Craftsy blog.
I started watching it, and every time I got ready to get up and do something else, a new, interesting scene came up. [I haven’t finished it yet. For some reason, Skip didn’t find it as compelling as I did! Maybe the same reason I don’t thrill to watching hours of woodworking shows and listening to the soundtrack of a saw blade.] The TV stars of knitting got a project going (knitting a sweater for a tricked-out Harley), a contest going (beating the record for making a sweater from scratch; that is, from the sheep’s hide to the finished article), and all sorts of sidebar activities featuring historic knitting patterns, viewing the gorgeous seascapes the country offers, meeting enthusiastic knitters, touring a knitting museum. All with beautiful music and English subtitles. It’s a great show!
When we had lots of family members descend for the Beach Weekend, we were dragging out bed linens from the closet to accommodate folks sleeping on the beds, couches and floors. I found this quilt my grandmother had made. Part of the crazy-quilt patches had come unsewn, so after everyone left, I took it to the sewing machine to mend and repair it as best I could.
I’d forgotten that my grandmother wrote on the back of it. She had a whole set of these little tubes of “embroidery paint” similar to this modern-day product (click the link to see). For a time period, she was very prolific with the embroidery paint, making pillow cases, sheets, all sorts of things. She had been in the habit of stamping a design or motif onto a piece of fabric, then embroidering (or drawing with the tube paint) over the stamped designs.
This is what she put on the back of this quilt:
Here, on the backing (which looks like it probably was an old sheet, so thin here it is almost transparent) you can see the underside of some heirloom quilt stitching, all hand-sewn. In the next photo, you can see the top side of the feather-stitching, probably done in a few strands of contrasting-color embroidery floss.
The quilt top itself is remarkable too.
It’s made of patches of double-knit fabric, which was an innovative fabric type for those of my grandmother’s era (she was born in 1906). See this article at Seamwork about the differences between the double knit fabrics available then vs. now. John said, “I remember it [the quilt] was really scratchy, the sort of polyester material that leisure suits were made from.” Hence, the soft cotton sheeting on the back of the quilt, which side would go next to the tender skin of a little 4 or 5 year-old great-grandchild.
I’d like to say that I matched the embroidery thread and repaired the blanket in the style and manner of the original–but for me to do that would involve quite a learning curve. I picked a decorative stitch on the sewing machine and put the pedal to the metal. For any curious posterity, it will show obvious mending by machine.
Meanwhile, how enlightening to have this information!
The Family Beach Weekend of 2016 has come and gone; the flurry of activity in planning, purchasing, and preparing has now evaporated into the vivid orange, pink and purple Gulf of Mexico sunsets…but we have great memories of our creative pursuits.
Photography: it’s not hard to get a beautiful shot in this place! Everything is incredibly photogenic.
Sewing/quilting/knitting: We always try to scout out creative hubs when we travel around, and we happened upon a great little shop on Sanibel Island called Three Crafty Ladies. This unassuming little storefront opened into a treasure trove of art yarns (at very affordable prices!), a wide selection of fabric and notions, specialty patterns, artisan beads and jewelry-making supplies, paints, charcoal, pastels, brushes, lots of art supplies, shells, and all arranged in a very organized and gorgeous display. I picked some things for future projects.
This little kit is a cute reminder of sea turtle nesting at the beaches this time of year. A Row by Row Experience is something like a Shop Hop, where you can visit quilting shops in a circuit and get each shop’s kit, then assemble all of the kits into a quilt made up of each row. Or you can just make a wall hanging or table-top quilt from the single kit.
Three Crafty Ladies has many cute little designer kits, featuring beach and Florida wildlife motifs, all fabulous!
This little cotton sateen fabric plate, also from Row by Row Experience, can be incorporated into a quilting project or sewn onto the back of it.
Art: Creativity abounds in these beach towns (Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers). Everywhere we looked, we saw paintings, sculptures, all sorts of arts and crafts. The ceiling fan paddles were painted with tropical fish, and murals and wall art decorated the whole interior at Rosies’ Cafe. Every restroom had a whimsical seaside theme. Displays of shells and wildlife showed up in lobbies and hallways.
Creative Cuisine: Even the humblest of eating places had great, creative food selections!
We had our family dinner at the Doc Ford’s in Sanibel. Both had gourmet offerings, and the one at Captiva even had a book signing event going on, with the prolific author (and restaurant owner) who created the character Doc Ford, Randy Wayne White.
Improv: was a surprising highlight of the weekend — surprising because they pulled together a show on the last night without any planning prior to the trip! All the kids and grown-ups enjoyed this fun and hilarious stand-up show with plenty of audience input.
Family members who came from far and wide have gone back to their homes. Some are already starting the fall school semester or will start next week, while others have the whole month of August left of summer. We had a great, creative family beach weekend!
I like summer sewing projects to be quick, functional, colorful, and fun. These bags are for our family beach weekend this summer. For the past few years we’ve scheduled a beach (or, near-beach, or similar-to-a-beach) weekend for the kids and grandkids to all get together and have a party and relax before school starts up again.
We get motel rooms close to each other, so that the kids can go back and forth to be with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and us. We let them pick all their own activities except for one big family dinner during the weekend.
So far, it’s been fun and relaxing: no big expectations, they can go to nearby attractions if they want or just lounge, go from pool to beach and back, get grocery-store food and eat in their rooms or go to the restaurants they choose.
This year, we wanted to give them some little mementos and practical things for the stay, so we made up some simple beach bags for each child, couple, or family unit, so they can tote stuff around: pool toys, towels, wet bathing suits, groceries, or whatever.
I used up lots of stray bottom-weight fabrics from my fabric stash, as well as some wet-resistant fabrics that I’d bought to make diaper covers for some of the little grandkids (too little too late though, I think they’re all potty-trained now). Anyway, they are cute fabrics and came in handy for this project, to make lining for the bags. I was going to keep it simple and not line them, but I tried it on one and liked it a lot.
I had lots of remnants that could be used for straps: I bought a big roll of red, white and blue flag-motif (it looks like elastic but is not as stretchy as real elastic) at a close-out sale for about a buck. And got some other kinds, as each bag uses quite a length of strapping, like about 3 yards each.
They’re not the coolest but they are, at least, a functional souvenir of the 2016 family beach weekend.
After my successful jacket project with Craftsy I decided to do another jacket, this time on my own, with another pattern and no online instructions or lifeline to help me out, in case I got in over my head.
This was a remnant project in that I used mostly fabric remnants from JoAnn’s clearance bin. Since remnants at JoAnn’s are typically 1 yard or less, I counted myself lucky to find 3 matching remnant rolls, which added up to enough fabric to make a jacket. Incidentally, I was looking at the wrong side of the fabric and picturing that as the final finished article. When I opened the fabric rolls, I saw the right side of the fabric: it was shiny like satin and about twice as vivid in color as the underside! I used a synthetic suede remnant for the skirt, and a 4-way stretch remnant for the top.
In the end, I wasn’t 100% happy with the results, but I learned a lot.
I chose a Butterick suit pattern with the name Connie Crawford as the designer [B5336], thinking that the Sewing Personality Connie Crawford’s touch would make this a hot pro project. I was very impressed with the procedures and details, but also found some deep disappointments.
Good thing #1: The pattern comes in a plethora of sizes! You can even get it in a size 6X (that’s 42 – 44 W). It says on the front “Modern Fit with Ready-to-wear Sizing”–I guess that’s true, the size range I bought came in Xsm to Xlg.
Good thing #2: Two jacket views, one with lapels and one without. Both views look like a classic suit jacket. You can have patch pockets in front or not. Both jacket and skirt were lined, so they looked rather tailored.
Good thing #3: There’s a big section in the pattern for fit adjustments if your figure is in need of some; like fuller arms, larger or smaller bust cup, pear or apple shapes, or slanted shoulders.
Disappointment #1: There was a missing piece. I guess they decided at some point to combine the waistband piece instead of having it in 2 pieces, 21 and 21A as shown in the pattern. Or maybe the 21A is only included in the larger sizes? I tried to go online and look up the pattern to see if there was any explanation but couldn’t find a jot anywhere.
Disappointment #2: In step 15 it talks about the jacket front lining (piece 15) but labels it piece 3, which is the same size and shape, but nevertheless had me utterly confused.
Disappointment #3: In step 20, it says to under stitch to the break point of the jacket (what is the break point? I couldn’t find the term anywhere else in the directions.) And I had trouble with the previous under stitching from step 13. It was extremely awkward to under stitch the way the instructions described.
Disappointment #4: The whole lining was sewn to the jacket with right sides together, so that a seam had to be opened up in order to turn the jacket right-side out. So in step 22, when the sleeves were sewn to the sleeve linings, it said to match the back seams to avoid twisting. But it didn’t elucidate on just how to do that, so I ended up doing it the way it seemed to me to be logical to do, but it was wrong more than once, and I had to rip it out both times and sew it again. A hassle!
Disappointment #5: This was the skirt waistband. Other skirts I’ve made call for an elastic strip to be inserted into the waistband through an opening that is later slip-stitched closed after the elastic end is sewn to the beginning. Then you can stitch in the ditch on the side seams to anchor the elastic to the fabric. In this pattern, the waistband is sewn to the top of the skirt with the raw edges of one side of the waistband even with the top of the skirt, then the elastic is sewn onto the seam allowance of the waistband, then the waistband is folded over and stitched to the skirt. It was a bad move because the waistband and elastic were very bunchy and the fabric got rippled and puckered. It was just a bad look. Then I had to hand-tack the hem up, and the synthetic suede fabric (called sueded knit) was pretty hard to pierce with a hand needle. Now that the skirt was lined with a woven lining fabric, it had no “give” to it like a knit, and was actually a little tight-fitting. Looks like I’m going to have to lose about 5 or 10 lbs before I feel very good about wearing it.
Disappointment #6: There were mondo pattern pieces; 21 to be exact. However, quite a few of the 21 had to be cut not only from fabric, but also lining and interfacing as well. That was a lot of cutting to do! I had to rest for a week. Would you believe that for this project I used 6 different types of fabric? Two linings, 3 fashion fabrics (the top wasn’t included in the pattern; I used another pattern that only had 3 pieces), and one large amount of interfacing.
Disappointment #7 but Good thing #4 to save for later: The finished outfit has much more of a Fall vibe to it than a Spring one! My fault because I looked at the underside of the jacket fabric to begin with. And the outside temp was already up to 90 degrees this week. So I guess this outfit will be ready to wear in about 6-8 months…
People sometimes ooh and ahh over the featured sewing projects in the blog, and I have to laugh that they think I have superior talent and ability, or something. Truthfully, if I can do it, just about anyone (who has been sewing for decades and decades) can do it. Sewing never came naturally to me.
My mom was a Home Ec major in college. Even though she went into the medical field and also later taught public school, her college major included cooking, and sewing clothes, drapes, and slipcovers for furniture. Late in life, she made some fantastic Baltimore Album quilts which, in my mind, are very complex items to sew. She was somewhat ambidextrous and she was good at math, but claimed she had no artistic ability.
My brain was apparently wired very differently. She considered me pretty much unteachable.
My junior high school Home Ec teacher, Miz Thomas, was in a continuous state of teeth gritting whenever I (along with my equally good-for-nothing classroom work group) was in contact with her. I did manage to make a red A-line skirt in her class (I think my mom finished it). This launched a long career of me imagining great items of clothing, and falling short when it came to actually making them and being willing to show up in public wearing them.
Fast forward a generous number of decades, to me taking a Craftsy Class online, about Garment Industry Secrets with Janet Pray. The real object of the class was to make a jacket that is rather like a classic Jean Jacket, but with a couple of different details. The pattern features some design elements that are a bit complex for my humble little repertoire: interfaced collar and cuffs, topstitching, curved seams, front button placket, topstitched breast pockets with flaps, and welt pockets in the lower front, and they want you to sew without using pins.
I chose a fabric that was not at all recommended. Why did I do this? If I was going to go through all the motions of conformity, and had traced the pattern and painstakingly cut it out, why would I use a fabric that wouldn’t provided happy results? One, I had this fabric in the stash for at least 10 years. Two, although I have a large fabric stash, it has lots of 1-yard pieces, but not too many 3 1/2 yard pieces of anything. And I didn’t want to buy a nice big expensive pile of yardage to make a mess out of. And three, I thought it might look good with a purple department-store-bought dress I already own and am not ashamed to wear in public.
So although my project wasn’t glitch-free, I was ok with the result, I had a good time doing the class, and as the pattern and the tutorial are still good, I look forward to trying another take on the jacket some time.
True Confessions! Some of the problems I caused in the project that I had to overcome:
Thought the cuffs were 2 collar pieces and sewed them together, and trimmed and clipped the seam allowance before I realized they were cuffs, not collar. Had to pick all out with seam ripper.
Chose a sheer, burn-out fabric that was actually see-through in some places, showing serging on the underside of the seam allowances. It didn’t take long pressure with a hot iron very well, to adhere the interfacing, and the texture was somewhat crinkly, and it got scorched in a number of places. Because of the sheerness, I decided not to make the welt pockets because I thought it would look too busy in the torso area. Using the recommended jacket-weight fabric, all you’d see on the outside would be the small diagonal neatly-trimmed and topstitched slash pocket openings in the torso area.
Ripped out an imperfect seam in the sleeve, and re-sewed it only to notice later that the burn-out roses in the fabric were shredded by the seam-ripping and also burned by the iron. Had to cut out and re-sew a new 3-piece sleeve.
Had to re-sew the front facing twice, because it was crooked and puckered.
Pillows have been around for centuries. Here’s a web site that displays some gorgeous antique pillows, and includes prices, many of which are in the thousands of dollars!
I’ve been making some pillow covers, with much leaner price tags. The secret to saving money is in playing the retail shopping game with sales, coupons, and shopping the remnant rack.
The 2 back pillows have tops that were pieced from little squares of flannel left over from the Cowboy Rag Quilt. So, in effect, they’re remnants of remnants. All the rest of the fabrics are just remnants.
Using remnants helps me to be more adventurous in the projects I decide to do. If I mess it all up, it’s no great loss, but sometimes I end up making some exciting little gems, that really look like they cost a lot more!
I made these two sets of pillows for some favorite folks I know. A Creativebug campaign going around, called #make2share challenge, is asking people to give handmade things to 2 people, then challenge them to do the same. Sort of like “pay-it-forward’ but leaving the choice of currency up to the creative mind!
Click here to read about the #Make2Share Challenge
My grandmother used to say “We lived in ‘the tropics’…” which included Guam and Hawaii, during the time period leading up to World War II. When they retired, they moved to Florida, which she considered to also have a tropical climate. And she wasn’t always happy about the heat and humidity in Florida. Being a practical quilter, she wanted to make quilts that would be useful to the prospective owners. One of my favorite quilts she made for us had a pieced top made of scraps leftover from when she made us flannel pajamas, and the backing was cotton sheeting. There was no batting in between. It was just the right weight, and kept us toasty warm but not suffocated like a heavy blanket would. The cotton backing was cool and almost slippery.
I kept those attributes in mind when I set out to make some quilts for our favorite non-profit organization, Plenitud PR. They do workshops in sustainable living practices, organic gardening, rainwater management, and much more. Although the temperature is always around 70 to 85 degrees F, some of the workshop participants would appreciate sleeping with a light blanket.
I used cotton flannel remnants for the quilt tops. Remnants are usually what is left over on the bolt of fabric after most of the yardage has been sold. They are typically less than a yard in length, and packaged as remnants and sold at less than the usual price. At JoAnn Fabric, they are normally 1/2 the regular price, and sometimes go on sale for even less. Some cheaply made cotton flannel is wound onto the bolt so that the fabric grain is skewed. I always wash lengths of cotton flannel before cutting, then make sure the cut edges are straight, by cutting a little notch near the cut edge and ripping the fabric along the straight grain until I reach the end of the cut edge. Sometimes I have to cut and rip more than once to be able to rip straight to the other edge.
For these blankets, I embroidered plenitud.pr on the lower front. Now that I have looked up the web site, I see that it is Plenitud PR (without the ., but technically it is now PlenitudPR.org. Placement of the dot can be crucially important in our high-tech world). But since it is just a blanket now, and currently has no power to connect to the Internet (now, but how about in the future?) I will leave as is.
The backing is extra-wide cotton, made for the special purpose of backing quilts, so that it doesn’t have to be pieced. I spotted these bolts of extra-wide material at JoAnn’s, and was able to find several that only had a small amount left on the bolt. Another $core: I was given the “end of bolt” discount price for the yardage. The backings were cut just a few inches larger than the quilt tops, so that the larger edges could be folded over and stitched down for binding the edges. I used several of the machine’s designated quilting stitches for channel-quilting the tops to the backings, and for top-stitching the bound edges. Some of the stitches I wasn’t so happy with. For all the stitching, I used the walking foot, AKA Interchangeable dual-feed foot with the zig-zag attachment. I used the automatic stitching setting so I wouldn’t be cramming my foot on the pedal for a long time, but the tension and stitching looks very uneven on some of them. It’s not the prettiest stitching I’ve ever seen but ripping it out at this point seems unsustainable….
For historical information about quilting in the tropics from older generations, Hart Cottage Quilts site is fascinating to read.
Continuing from the first Christmas Quilt post, in which we compared using an Accuquilt Go! Cutter vs cutting and snipping rag-edge blocks by hand like quilters had to do in the 19th Century, I may have mentioned that Accuquilt has a new electric cutter on the market.
I got one of those new-fangled cutters for Christmas, from Skip, so I’ve been using the heck out of it, naturally!
The thing is, I’ve got a bad habit of buying flannel remnants at JoAnn Fabric. I try to keep them organized into 5 boxes: 1) boyish pieces at least a yard in length, 2) girlish pieces at least a yard in length, 3) smaller boyish pieces, 4) smaller girlish pieces, and 5) remnants that are not of a baby-blanket-like color or theme.
I tend to use the yard-long pieces for receiving blankets and the smaller pieces to cut up for quilts.
The 8 1/2″ square rag block cutting template with the cutting mat probably takes more of a beating in use than most of the other templates and mats. There are lots more cutting blades, due to the fringed edges, and the quilter needs to pick out the threads from the template with the pick tool. I’ve tried using other implements with the pick tool: tweezers, needle-nose pliers, shop-vac with various attachments, and not all of them work that great. I’ve read many comments from users who’ve said, “It’s not worth it, all the work you have to do to pick out the threads…” ” the cutting edge doesn’t cut all the way through…” “you can only cut one layer of fabric at a time”….
I’ve found a few uncut edges, but mostly the cutter works pretty well. It has a few little glitches now and then, but mostly it’s a breeze. With flannel, I cut 2, sometimes 3 layers of fabric at a time.
The automated Go! Big is so much easier to use than the regular manual Go! Cutter. It does cost about double the price, but Accuquilt cutters sometimes go on sale at JoAnn’s or the Accuquilt website, or some Quilting Personalities’ web sites like Eleanor Burns, for good price cuts.
I like making furniture, generally Mission style and Arts and Crafts, where form is as important as function. As a mechanical engineer, I struggle with form and the artistic aspects of woodworking. Just give me a set of plans, and I’m happy.
For this project, I threw form out the door and focused on function. My wife generally doesn’t invite me into her sewing room. It has something to do with the electrical capacitance of my posterior and how it drives her computerized sewing machines into bird-nesting and stitch-skipping. But the other day, I was invited to come into the hallowed space and observe a woodworking request she made.
My wife has an old [but magnificent] teak desk, handed down from her grandmother, with a cutout for recessing a sewing machine. The proposed project was to enlarge the cavity to fit one of her machines. The project was fraught with uncertainties. To cut into the desk top, it looked like I would get into some of the table’s structural elements, which could be a real problem. In addition, she wanted to switch this table with another table sitting next to it. This other table probably weighs a zillion tons. So I made a suggestion to come up with another approach to solving her problem.She has been working at a pop-up plastic table which she oriented perpendicular to the aforementioned tables.She found this to be really convenient, but she had to move a machine over to this table each time she used it.
What might have been an easy project with a little bit of risk, ended up with me committing myself to a major sewing room overhaul. Fortunately I didn’t have to pull a building permit or bring in a survey crew. I grabbed a scrap of paper and drew up a plan.
First: covering the two existing tables with a sheet of melamine would seal up the hole in the sewing machine table and hide a charred pit in the other table. [Side note explanation: when I had two snake-loving children at home, the sewing room was a snake room. A heater under the bottom of one of the snake cages overheated and burned a fist-sized crater in the formica desk top.]
Next, I would construct a table on wheels which could be moved back and forth, perpendicular to the newly-covered tables. My wife could easily slide a machine onto it as she changed sewing functions from machine embroidery to quilting to other sewing. I also designed a trough in the rolling table, similar to the recessed cavity in the teak desk, for a sewing machine to slide into, allowing its throat plate to be level with the table. An insert would be made to cover the trough when a level surface was needed.Can you now see how I moved from the prospect of enlarging a small hole to a major construction project?Fortunately my wonderful wife was more interested in function than form, so I began visualizing how all this could be accomplished using construction lumber from a big box store, Heaven help me if I would have to dig into my umpteen thousand board feet of wood I have stored in my shop or air drying in my back yard! And I wasn’t even going to elevate myself to the use of domino loose tenons or pocket hole screws! This was going to be held together with a butt joint, glue and screws.
I made a materials list:
6 @8 Ft. 2×4’s,
4 @8 Ft. 1×6’s,
a 2 Ft. X 4 Ft. sheet of ½ inch plywood
2 sheets of 4 Ft. X 8 Ft. melamine particle board.
Then call a friend with a pick up truck and head out to a big box store.
Earlier I had taken my wife to Harbor Freight to pick out two furniture movers to provide the rolling base for the table. My wife was very impressed how I could walk into a store, go right to the location of the furniture movers, pay and be out the door in less than 5 minutes. Contrast this with the hour it takes her to complete the transaction of buying a zipper at Jo Ann’s.
Then the fun part of the project, chopping wood! After building the support structures and mounting them on the furniture movers, I decided to add a minute bit of form…I pulled out the rattle cans and painted the structures white to match the melamine surfaces.You will note that the structures were built in different configurations. The reason for this was to allow a cutout on one end of the sewing table to house the box (trough) required to drop in a machine for free-motion quilting, allowing the throat plate of the machine to be level with the table top.
I rolled the two structures into the sewing room prior to adding the superstructure to tie the two together. I used the 1×6 boards to construct this framework. My wife and I then horsed the table top into the sewing room and placed it on top of the structures.I was going to fasten the top with screws so that it could be removed easily in the future. However, since I didn’t spend a lot of money on the wood, I decided to pull out the nail gun and nail the top on.
The box for recessing the machines was constructed with ½ inch Baltic plywood. I placed a ramp on one end of the box to aid in sliding the machines into the box from an adjacent table. Measuring this box was a trick, one that I couldn’t master, as it turned out. The object was to make the box deep enough that when installed in the table, the sewing machine throat plate would be even with the top of the table.
BUT WAIT, there were two machines of different sizes with different throat plate heights.So the solution was to design for the machine requiring the deepest box and then use a thin insert to elevate the other machine to the proper level. The plan was to suspend this box on the cutout in the table top, to hold the choice of sewing machine. A piece of melamine could cover the opening when the box wasn’t needed, say for a non-sewing activity like pattern layout or quilt basting, or when a machine was in use but the throat plate didn’t need to be flush with the table top.
When all was said and done, minor tweaking was required to level each machine in the box. Small wood inserts were made and labeled to use with each machine.
I have made a lot of furniture for the house, but this was not my finest hour. Function definitely overcame form! But my wife was happy. She liked the new set-up, and because the rolling structures that made up the two ends of the table had places for shelves, she also acquired more storage space.
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts