Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coffee Date Dress, finished

Are you ready for a few headless fashion photos in which I might look chubby-legged or even preggers (which I am emphatically not, good heavens!)  I just can’t wait to show you this dress I made.  Standing in dappled light and shade of the apple tree made this show up as an odd purple color—weird, since the fabric, a rayon/cotton blend, is black with a teeny red and white floral print.
This shot would’ve been okay except for the view of the wheelbarrow in the background…well, that’s life around here.  Enough about the bad photography, did you see this dress I made?  Can you stand how cute it is?   How ruffly-necked, and how aging-knee revealing it is?  Yes, I would’ve lengthened it about three or four inches for perfect comfort if I’d had the extra fabric, but this pattern used every scrap I had, and even then I had to piece some bits together to make the ruffle. 
This is the splendid and FREE! Coffee Date Dress, again by the Selfish Seamstress, who, I’m starting to feel, is most likely not all that selfish after all, who may in fact be quite generous.  Did I tell you this pattern is free?  She has several free patterns at that link, you might as well go make them all.  Selfish, you’re awesome. 
This is a simple little sheath dress with an invisible zipper in the back, and a super-clever method for attaching the bodice facings, but it’s this adoooooorable jabot ruffle at the neck that made me grab my needle.  Oh mercy, I love that. 
Wait, let me show you my hand-rolled hem—this is a new thing I learned, check it out:
This is how you’d do an edging on a little handkerchief, or on anything sewn in delicate floaty fabrics that you don’t want to have the usual 1/4” turned hem weighing down the edges.  How it’s done is this:  you machine stitch 1/4” from the unfinished edge of the fabric, then trim the fabric to 1/8” – 1/16” from the stitching.  Yikes, that’s close!  The closer you can trim it, the better.  Then you take up your hand sewing needle, flick on the tv to that channel that shows old gems like The Odd Couple and Mary Tyler Moore and get comfy.  You will then fold down the first inch or two of the (still unfinished) hem to just past the stitching, put your needle up through the fold and then back down, keeping the stitch perpendicular to the edge, and catching only a thread or two, wrapping the raw hem edge under the stitch.  Keep the stitch loose.  Work about four or five of these in a row, and then gently pull on the thread to tighten them all—the raw fabric edge gets rolled right up inside and hidden, and you have this awesome, teeny-weeny, barely-there hem.  Ta-dah!  This is my favorite new trick. 
This dress might have to ride out the winter unworn, what with the exposed knees and all, but it will surely see some play next spring.

edited:  The link is fixed now.  Thanks, Lynne!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Taking Time to Smell the Granny Squares: Not a Progress Report


There are a hundred of these right now, making a nice counterpoint to all the neutral knitting going on.   They’re so cheerful!  So amazingly technicolored!  It’s difficult not to keep a continuous tally of the total, though, to do the quick math to figure out how many I still have left to make, and then go out to buy new yarn for this project, and I’m really trying to avoid rushing it this time.  But it’s so hard!  For one thing, I love to work on these, love it like crazy!  These little squares are really where it’s at in my head right now.  And I’m rather in the habit of wanting to git ‘er done.  I always want to keep counting them, and planning and arranging and calculating.


But that’s not what I’m trying to do here.  I am in no hurry.  I don’t need any more blankets.  Nobody around here is cold.  I want these little squares to last me all winter, to gather colorfully in a basket beside my chair where I can quietly, and without any rushing, make one or two now and then, as my whims dictate--my whims are accustomed to cranking out as many as possible in a mad-dash effort to the finish line—to actually deplete the large store of teeny balls of worsted I have accumulated, and to have, eventually, eventually, something to show for it in the end, something lovely, thoughtfully and restfully made.  Not right now, but eventually.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Success or Failure? I can’t tell.


I am loving this look in a major way, and a quick analysis of my thrift-store/bargain bin/rudderless melange of clothes collection reveals that I am completely hopeless at dressing myself.  Not that I don’t know exactly what I want to wear—I do, believe me, and if I could find any of it, I would look incredible, every day.  Now, I’m thinking to myself, could I make my own cargo pants?  The answer to that, of course, is no way.  I can make a t-shirt, though! 


Oh, jersey knit fabric.  Why are you so unruly?  Simple enough, this plain little design, just a few pieces to stitch together.  It got so hilarious.  Every seam I attempted—even with the sewing machine manual in one hand, the special stretchy jersey seam stitch machine setting activated, the special machine needle in place, and lots of careful pinning, I could not sew this fabric.  It just wouldn’t let me sew it!  I finally had to leave the edges raw.  I will probably not be wearing this perfectly adorable tee anywhere where people might see me.  It just looks totally homemade.  100_8602a

It turned out really well/awful.  It’s a great little pattern and it fits beautifully. But.  I want to topstitch that bodice join so badly, but…I can’t.  I want to turn under that neckline hem, but I can’t.  It’s a beautiful fit, but I’ll never wear it.  As an aside, what the heck is that print?  It looks animal-ish, but it also kind of looks like alphabet soup.  I feel like if I squint at it, I’ll decode a hidden message.

If you have better luck with jersey fabric and you want to make this tee, the free pattern is here

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Friday Night Cowl


As much as I’d rather be chilling on a beach somewhere, there’s no denying that the Cozy Season is upon us.  It is very English outside this morning; damp and gray, and atmospheric.  If I think of it that way, this weather feels charming and snug.  I feel a sudden need to put on some wellies and go for a long walk on the misty moors, then hang my woolens on the Aga and scrub a pine table until it gleams.  The British Isles are so cozy, with your pubs and your tea and your sheepdogs.  [Reverential sigh here.] 

I digress.


This is The Friday Night Cowl, pattern by me—as if you’d need a pattern.  The story behind it is this:  a few years ago, I knit a long piece of striped fabric using lots of different blues, reds, and browns because that’s the yarn I had at the time and because I was in desperate need of something, anything, to knit.  I thought to make several long strips like this and then stitch them together (much in the manner of this blanket, which came later) but before I got any further than 42 inches along on the first strip, I began pilfering the yarns for other projects (along with getting mighty bored) and the strip went into hibernation. 


Yesterday, I wanted the needle it was on for something else and so I extracted it again.  Too short for a scarf.  I thought, briefly, about ripping it all out.  Then it hit me…a cowl!  I mattress-stitched up the long side, joined the ends together, and it became something, finally.  So easy! 


Wrapped double around the neck like this, that’s four layers of warm, soft, wooly knitting, and of course the beauty of the cowl is that you don’t have those long scarf ends to bulk up the front of your coat, hang down into your mug of coffee, or get caught in the car door.  Where have cowls been all my life? 

If you’d like to make one, here’s the simple pattern:  Choose eight or ten different yarns in worsted weight.  I really believe you will want 100% wool for this project—the point of this cowl is it’s super-duper warmness—but choose yarns that will not be too scratchy.  I used Cascade 220.  Using a needle that will give you a gauge of 4.5-5 sts per inch (although gauge isn’t that important for this project) cast on 50 and work in stockinette stitch, changing colors as your whim dictates, until the piece is 42 inches (or so) in length.  Seam up the long side using mattress stitch, and then seam the two open ends to each other the same way.  (Don’t sew them shut first—seam them to each other.)  That’s all there is to it!  Give it a quick steam block and you’re all ready to bundle up.100_8589a

Now you’re ready for Friday night—a high school football game, a mug of cocoa, and maybe a spooky hayride through the woods.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Patchwork Pin Cushions


This is why I like to have a big basket of fabric scraps and half a bag of stuffing lying around the house at all times.  There’s been so much neutral knitting happening here lately and I just felt the need of some color in my crafty life, and this little project didn’t require any decision-making or trips to the store.  Perfect!  The buttons (I’m so glad I kept those) are from a bag of somebody’s castoffs, bought last fall for $1, which mostly contained those little replacement buttons that come in a teeny ziploc bag with your clothes and which will almost always outlast the garment itself.  I doubt she—whoever she is—still has that orange suit.  Usually I think, I don’t need these weird orange fabric-covered buttons, what am I going to do with those?  You.  Never.  Know. 


The pattern is from Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson—such a gorgeous and inspiring book—and I can tell you it’s easy peasy, except you may wish you had a hemostat to get that embroidery needle pulled through the center.  I have a few of them and who knew medical supplies could be so handy for sewing?  Yeah, if you ever find yourself in the emergency room getting your chin stitched up following an inelegant but still spectacular half-gainer at the ice rink, ask if you can keep the hemostats they used on you.  You really never know!  Armed with the extra grippy-ness of a blood vessel clamp, you can haul a big needle through almost anything.  (That’s not very cozy, is it?)


Ooooh, pretty!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mister Rogers’ Bathrobe


Thank you all for your very kind comments on my fab new coat!  While I was stitching away on that and tasting the sweet nectar of victory, this sweater was sprawled on the living room floor, taking three days to dry. 


Somehow I keep ending up with this color yarn in my stash—it’s Ella Rae Classic 124, which I think they are optimistically calling “coffee” (if my coffee were this color, I would throw it down the sink) but which I will more accurately call “Mice”, or maybe “Old Wigs”.  It is, actually, pretty much the exact color of my own hair as it turns from brown to gray, so could be I decide subconsciously that it will match me or something.  Anyway, it’s sort of a taupe.  (I am getting desperate for some color—must medicinally crochet a couple granny squares.) 


You might be able to see here that it’s hanging off the dressmaker’s dummy like a bathrobe—note to self:  always, always make the XS, even though self is not XS in any way.  This is doubtless (as usual) my own fault, though I did make a gauge swatch, and I always think I need to lengthen the arms but then end up with built-in mittens when it’s way too huge.  Most people would live and learn…anyway, even though it is the color of dishwater and has sort of a pipe-smoking grandpa vibe, I love it anyway.  It completely covers my backside (hooray for small miracles!) and will go with everything I own.  The pattern is Snowbird by Heidi Kirrmaier (look how nicely hers fits!  Maybe I can do another one of these in oatmeal?  Because I don’t have enough brownish cardigans!)

I also made the shirt:


This is The Minimalist Cowl by The Selfish Seamstress (see, I told you I was hooked!)  I made it using a leftover piece of jersey—the other shirt I made using the rest of it met an early demise after tangling with some olive oil.

Look, it’s a nice, simple cowl top, rendered as though it came from Old Navy!


Obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing with sewing t-shirt fabric.  Well, practice and learn, right?  I don’t even want to tell you that it only has three pieces to sew together, but I still had to pick out the same seam twice to get it right.  It’s a simple pattern, but I am just that way. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Elton Coat, finished


Score!  I love the sweet smell of success.  Look what I made!

As I’ve said before, I am not so big on following a pattern, and most of the time I get away with it because either I’m knitting (which I have pretty well figured out) or because whatever it is I’m cobbling together doesn’t really have to fit somebody when I’m finished.  Not so, of course, with sewing clothes, so when the time came to turn a piece of satiny furniture upholstery fabric into something I could wear, I went and got McCalls 5525, on the advice of MaryMargaret, who had seen a beautiful coat made from that pattern by The Selfish Seamstress (that blog is my new favorite thing.  I keep laughing right out loud, making my family keep saying, “What is so funny over there?”) and thank you all for your fantastic suggestions!  I kind of want to make one of each of them now.  Well, I just might, you know me.


I decided on this pattern because it looked like the one I would need to do the least amount of tinkering with.  My seamstress tinkering skills are not really up to code.  I’m thinking of the difference between a cook who always uses a recipe and follows it to the letter, and someone who just knows what will work and just tosses stuff in the pot, with lots of sniffing and tasting and adjusting.  The recipe cook will probably make a nice dinner, and it’ll taste pretty good, no complaints.  But the cook who really knows her ingredients and techniques, and can use a recipe as a jumping-off place—she just might end up with something wonderful.  Of course, it could also end in some kind of huge mushroom cloud, but she takes the chance, right?  Well, with sewing clothes, I’m still pretty much a recipe cook, but I have aspirations to the next level of mastery. 


This thing just gripped me in its jaws and would not let me loose!  For the past two days, I have done hardly a thing besides pin, baste, iron, and stitch this jacket.  I missed a couple meals, and may have lost a couple pounds, too, although some of that may have been water weight, due to the flop-sweats I suffered while putting in the buttonholes.  Buttonholes intimidate me.  This tutorial was a huge help.   Full disclosure:  two things kind of went wrong with it, both of which were my own fault and which I had coming to me (see discourse above, re: me not following the pattern) and which happened mainly because, looking at Elaine’s coat, I made the early decision that I wanted mine to have, like hers, a slim fit, and that to make that happen, I should “take it in at all the seams.” 

I mentioned I’m a recipe cook? 

It’s too small for me.  I know!  My own fault.  There was plenty of fabric, and if I had just made it in the size I am, which is the size I cut out anyway, before I sewed it together with an astounding seam allowance, it would have fit and been great.  So that’s the first thing that went awry, the second being that knowing it was going to be too small, I failed to make the lining as small as the outside part of the coat.  I know!  What an idiot!  I knew it was wrong, as I was sewing the lining with a more realistic seam allowance, and I could visualize the bunching, and also the wailing and rending that would follow after I painstakingly hand-hemmed everything and tried to put it on, but I just couldn’t stick to my guns.  So the lining is a little bunchy at the hem and the sleeves and back are tight. 


It’s so tight, I can’t wear it to the symphony (like I was ever going to do that!) because I can’t clap my hands.  I probably couldn’t even turn the pages of my program.  If I wear it too long, my arms will fall asleep!  I can’t even put it on in the first place without performing a couple advanced yoga postures, and I’ll need the help of a lady’s maid…I tried to put it on by myself and pulled a muscle in my neck…


I exaggerate.  Actually, I think it really looks pretty great.  I said I wanted a fitted back, and boy, did I ever get one.  Look at that!  Oh man, I love that.  It looks just like I wanted it to look.


This thing fits me like a glove.  This is a garment with structure.  This is a coat that makes me feel like I hang out with Lord Byron.  This is a coat a girl wears if she doesn’t mind suffering a little for the sake of looking fabulous.  If only I didn’t need to move my arms. 


Don’t forget to look at the lining!  Whoo, that’s so pretty.  So here’s what I did:  I started with McCalls 5525, intending to make the long version, minus all the flaps and tabs and epaulets (for heaven’s sake!) and so I cut it all out and sewed some of it together.  Then I decided I’d rather have the hip-length version, so I chopped the ends off all the body pieces—which, surprisingly, didn’t come back to haunt me at all.  And then I pretty much left my family to fend for themselves while I put the entire coat together in a two-day marathon of sewing.  Dishes piled up, they ordered pizza, and now I have this. 


I feel like a rock star.  I think Elton would be impressed.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Last of the Earflap Hats


This photo shoot was so riddled with angst and egregiousness that I invested two bucks in a styrofoam head.  The face is a little bit alien-looking, and the neck is almost as skinny as my wrist, but at least I don’t have to hunt around for somebody to take my picture every time I knit another hat. 

This is another of my favorite earflap hats from Tiennie Knits, in KnitPicks Wool of the Andes “Dill Heather”, worked on US 5 needles.   I have lost track of how many earflap hats I’ve made; I think it’s safe to say I’m all done with them now. There was one last person who wanted to feel the wind on his face but not in his ears, so this hat is for him, and I just have to tell you, this guy can run fifteen miles an hour (I dare you to try that) and at those speeds, the earflaps on this thing will be sorely tested.  But it does look mighty cozy.

Friday, September 16, 2011



I am so easily distracted!  This stuffed beach ball (why?) is so adorable and patchworky, and I have no power in the face of such things.  The pattern is at the always seductive Purl Bee.   I have three sweater/sweatery things this close to being done, but I see something clever and simple like this little ball (it comes in three sizes!  Eeeeee!) and it only takes an hour, and I just can’t help it.  Although, until a baby somehow wanders in the door (and none are imminent, are you kidding me?) this will sit on the shelf looking cute, and someday probably the dog will get ahold of it and that will be it.  In other news, I have bought the pattern (Mary Margaret!  That’s the one!) for the Elton coat, and today is the day.  In fact, I’m chomping at the bit to get at it.  See ya!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coat Thinking, and Wool


While the coat idea simmers away (and it is, oh, it is!  I have lounged away almost an entire day scrolling through a whole new world of sewing blogs, penned by some extremely talented and superhilarious people who would surely scorn me and my slapdash ways—wait, it takes more than a day to finish a sewn garment?  Huh…) and please don’t stop with the suggestions, if you still have them; I love to hear from you, and if this coat is a success (it could happen; it’s theoretically possible) then of course I will want to make ten more, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…anyway, while that whole thing has been percolating in my mind, I made this:


That’s 360 yards of handspun, from a few batts gifted to me by the always fabulous Debbie, giver of the Cody’s Lambswool.  This is the hair of Liam, a charcoal ram of unknown parentage—Debbie adopted Liam from the Humane Society, and she doesn’t know what the heck he is.  His wool is looooooong, though, and was a bunch of fun to spin.  I think I’m getting the hang of the spinning!  Debbie, you’re awesome.  She gave me five more bags of wool, too, one bag of each of her flock.  It’s getting wooly around here. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Big Idea


The Great Ideas just bubble over, but this time I have not the skillz to make it happen on my own, so now I turn hopefully to you lovelies for some guidance.  I have found this succulent piece of upholstery fabric, and it looks exactly like some weird, slippery chairs I saw years ago in the ladies’ room at a Chinese restaurant, so of course I bought it and brought it home.  And I’m thinking it would make such a fantastic coat.  Right?  With some excellent pink floral cotton lining?  I know!  I’m jumping out of my skin right now, wanting to start cutting and sewing so I can wear the coat I have in my mind—I even know exactly which boots I’ll need to go out and buy somewhere, and the lacy knit scarf I can loop around my neck, and when my hair gets a bit longer, I will look. So. Fabulous!  But I need a pattern for this one.  (Aargh, if only I could knit a coat out of this fabric!)  I scoured the archives at Angry Chicken, maker of all fantastic, vintagey children’s coats, but hers aren’t quite what I’m after.  I want something along the lines of this, with no belt, all fitted in the back, in this gorgeous shiny gold brocade chair fabric.  Actually, this is pretty close.  (Tom Hulce, what have you been up to, anyway?  I miss you…) I want to make Elton John turn and look at me with envy next time I see him.  I want it to be the kind of coat that makes a girl want to throw out her entire wardrobe and start over, you know what I mean?  The kind of coat that just spells out exactly who you are? 

Of course, I’ll go over to the fabric shop, where I’ll sit hopefully with the pattern books, amidst the moms looking for Spongebob Squarepants Halloween costumes (why do I always want a new pattern right at Halloween time?) and I will search the books and maybe find something close.  More likely, I’ll end up here, and that, my friends, is a daunting prospect. 

If any of you amazing crafty peeps out there have seen such a coat pattern in your travels, would you please please leave me a comment?  Thank you, I love you all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Granny Circle


Lately, I am loving the white doily, but I have such a creeping dread of ending up in a dusty house (full of cats, of course) with plastic flowers everywhere, a gigantic bottle of orange mouthwash beside the sink, and a doily on every flat surface. 


No worries here; this simple and modern take on granny’s doily collection is so perfect.  The worsted yarn makes it much less fussy, and though I admit to being gobsmacked by the delicate handwork in those teeny crochet doilies and I can’t imagine being able to see well enough anymore to accomplish one, it just isn’t my thing.  This pattern is from Whit at The Purl Bee (oh my, I do love that place) and actually, it’s a placemat, which means I can make another—but only one more, because my table is so small that even three will overlap each other.  Cozy living! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Folded Flower Bowls


This was a very easy, very quick little sewing project.  These are the Folded Flower Bowls from the book Sewing in a Straight Line by Brett Bara—in fact, check this out.  These cute bowls were brought to my attention by my (blogless) friend Michelle, who has the best taste of anybody.  These little things are so cute and so simple; they’re just a variation on the fabric trays made by tacking up the corners of a rectangle.  It’s that, and then just one more step!  Don’t even tell me you can’t do it, because you totally can. 


There are three sizes, and they nestle together.  I mean, come on!  Isn’t that great?  I bit the bullet and used some of my treasured Loulouthi fabrics for this set.  Delish.

I had to do a little tinkering, because the written instructions produce results that don’t match the project photo, and the project photo is what makes you want to make these in the first place, so if you do a set of them, study the photo and then go ahead and make the easy adjustments. 


I also made a couple using upholstery remnants.  If you do this, you won’t need to bother with the interfacing. 


These are all kinds of useful, or they’re simply pretty just sitting there empty. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

La Boheme Chair, with Monogram Pillow


This is a photo of my imaginary atelier in Paris.  You have to mentally add the floor-to-ceiling windows yourself, but that’s easy enough.  I think it’s mostly that La Boheme-ish chair that puts me in mind of being a French starving artist—it was a $5 junk shop find; the shop sold mostly VHS tapes and outdated sports equipment, so the potential for finding the perfect chair wasn’t very high, and I think we only stopped in there on a whim anyway, since the guy who runs that shop tends to sit around inside on an old couch chain-smoking and watching TV, which doesn’t make the stuff he’s selling very appealing, and I wasn’t even shopping for a chair—but we went in anyway (I once found the perfect coffeemaker in that shop) and there was the La Boheme chair, standing alone in the middle of a room, kind of up on this slowly revolving dais, with a spotlight on it, but the chainsmoking guy had marked it $50, and as I was leaving, casting one last longing backward glance at it, he said, “I’ll make you a deal on that chair.” 


What kind of deal?  I said.

I’ll give you that chair, plus those two drawings of the Argentinian dancers you were looking at, for twenty bucks. 


It took a lot of Febreeze, and a whole lot of the deep kind of vacuuming I usually reserve for places where the cat sleeps, and even then, for awhile, there was a certain reluctance to sit in it, but I have overcome that now, because this chair is a delicious and comfy place to tuck up my feet and knit for awhile, oh I love it so, an now it sort of has our own family dirt on it, you know? 


I made this pillow yesterday, and as soon as I’d finished it and tossed it on the chair, I knew it was a perfect match.  That gold upholstery loves the hot pink, and the hot pink loves it right back.  This cushion is made from a thrifted linen L.L. Bean dress and a scrap of hot pink velvet appliqued on with fusible web, then embroidered.   Ooh la la! 

edit:  I forgot to tell you, the “J” is from a font called “Snidely.”  Isn’t that just the best? 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Raspberry Crush Handbag


This is the Red Cross Bag from the lovely book Modern Log Cabin Quilting by Susan Beal.  There are a lot of really tempting projects in that book, but this one really grabbed me.  I love its simplicity, and I love how it looks like…well, like a real bag.  I’m always fighting with this worry that my crafting will fall into that murky hole of craftiness, you know what I mean?  Once, years ago, I bought a picture frame at a craft fair; one of those puffy padded fabric frames with the glued-on, scratchy plastic lace edging, where I lovingly placed my boyfriend’s school picture, and now I keep a scary visual of that thing right up in the front of my mind, so I never forget what not to do.  Anyway, I think this beautiful and modern handbag is very far away from the padded picture frame of my nightmares—it is fantastic. 


The log cabin blocks are made in corduroy, and the light/dark contrast is achieved by using the back side of the fabric for the first few courses of the block, and then switching over to the textured side to finish.  Isn’t that just so clever?   It’s all the same fabric, you just use the reverse side too.  Wow, I love that.   And, rather than go and buy new fabric, I went out and bought a (it must be said, tragically terrible) corduroy shirt at the thrift store. 


It was an XL, so there was plenty of fabric.  I cut the shirt apart and trimmed away the zipper and all the seams, then pressed the pieces.


Then I chopped them into strips, making sure to align the edge of the ruler with the wales of the corduroy, and pieced the log cabin blocks, using the teeny pieces first and adding the longer ones as the block got bigger. 


The bag is lined with calico, and the button is covered with the same fabric.  As usual, I had the most trouble with the strap (during which time the sewing machine actually had an opinion about the thread I was using!  The audacity!) and at one point, I hollered in frustration and threw it across the room, prompting Dean to ask me if I was still having fun, but eventually, I conceded that I was going to have to stitch that part by hand, and the ship righted itself.  Curling up in a comfy chair with a spot of handstitching and a creamy vanilla iced coffee is very soothing.