Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit, either. ~Elizabeth Zimmerman

Friday, September 16, 2011

Patchwork fleece blanket

This is what I've been working on for the past couple of days:

Just a quick-and-dirty photo to give an idea. Planning to get some better photos as soon as we get another sunny day.

These fleece fabrics have been in my stash for a while - several years, I guess. After reorganizing my craft room, and having the fleece grouped together on its shelf, I kept staring at it and thinking about how so much of it seemed like it should go together. It didn't take too much of a leap to decide to make it into a patchwork blankie.

I cut 35 11-inch squares, for a finished size of around 50x70. After fiddling with the layout for a while - and making a diagram, thank goodness - I sewed them together with a 1/2-inch seam, then topstitched on either side of each seam, catching the seam allowances in. I could have sewn butted seams, but I liked the look of the topstitched seams and I thought they'd probably hold up better. There was enough of the print left to cut 1 1/2-inch strips for binding. I sewed the binding to the right side of the blanket all the way around with a 3/8-inch seam allowance, then turned it over the seam allowances to the back, and stitched in the ditch all the way around, catching the edge of the binding in back. At least, that was the idea; in practice, I should have either sewn a narrower seam or trimmed the seam allowances, because it was a struggle catching in the binding edge. In some places it's stitched three times, and it looks a right mess in back. Oh, well; lesson learned!

Of course, this was after finishing the five one-piece outfits for my friend's little boy. I was able to deliver them this evening and I'm happy to say they are a big success. I'm told they fit perfectly with just enough room to grow, and he gave them a beautiful sweet smile when they put one on him this evening. I'm very content with that result!

Next up, another batch, this time for his little brother. Also, things are starting to move along just a little as far as getting organized with producing these on a wider basis. A friend of ours on the West Coast is a professional pattern designer, and she's willing to lend a hand with developing our ideas and drafting patterns! So exciting! Bit by bit, I'm moving closer to my goals.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I've been busy!

Not busy blogging, obviously. But busy shopping and sewing. Most importantly, I bought a new sewing machine! It's a Janome Memorycraft 4900QC, which is a computerized machine with a good variety of stitches, and it came with a few accessories geared for quilters - a 1/4-inch piecing foot and a walking foot, most notably. It also has an automatic buttonhole foot which is pretty nice, although I think it tends to make the buttonhole too big if I just put the button in the slot like I'm supposed to. But it's smooth and quiet and I really like it. Even the little flip-down automatic needle threader attachment has endeared itself to me. And my fabulous husband made a cut-out in my desktop so that it can sit with the workspace level with the desktop - giant extension table, woo!

I'm not even sure what I've completed since the last time I blogged. In all, in recent weeks I've made three different marine-themed Hawaiian shirts for my older son, including one of this really nice fabric:

And a really spiffy Hawaiian shirt for my husband, using this fabric:

I've also finished a very cute long-sleeved knit top and a couple of woven tops for Amelia, plus a pair of elastic-waist corduroy pants for both her and Owen, hers purple and his dark brown. I'll try to get some photos up one day soon. And currently I'm assembly line-sewing five one-piece suits for my friend's dear little boy, severely autistic like Amelia - using some of the 35 yards of cotton quilting fabrics I bought from Connecting Threads a while back. Some of the rest will become five more for her younger boy, also autistic, and four more for Amelia.
Sooo.... that's about it, I guess, at least for the sewing projects. Last weekend my husband and I tackled my sewing/craft room and got it pretty well whipped into shape. Here is my collection of crafting books - quilting, sewing, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet - it's all there! Oh, and that stack of plastic bins in the corner? Yeah, that's my yarn stash:

Here is my main work area:

That table on the left is my cutting table and overflow workspace. I still need to raise it up just a couple of inches to put it at the ideal height for me to stand and cut. And I need to get some blinds up in those windows so it's lighter in there at night, and less sunny in the afternoon. And here is the rest of my storage shelving:

The lower shelves are holding my two other sewing machines - an older, basic Kenmore and the Bernina 1080 - a few of my smaller knitting UFOs, small fabric scraps in plastic shoeboxes, my sewing patterns in the largest basket, and on the bottom my three unfinished quilts. The tall shelves are holding the rest of my fabric, plus batting, interfacing, and polyfill. Probably 80% of that fabric, by volume, is just from the last month or so of shopping. Um. I'm all done fabric shopping for a while. Mostly.....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Armchair window-shopping and not much else

I'm finding out how chaotic the fabric world seems to be, compared to the yarn world. I'm used to the yarn standards which clearly define the yarn weight, recommended needle size, and so on. It's harder shopping for fabric online since there appears to be no real standard for describing the fabric in those kinds of specific terms. The term "twill," for example, often seems to mean a medium weight fabric suitable for pants and skirts, but in fact, "twill" describes the way the fabric is woven and can be used to describe all sorts of fabric from light to heavy. I want descriptions like thread counts and weights per yard, and labels for what the fabric is suitable for. These can be found sporadically on some sites, but not all. I'm not complaining, exactly - I'm just remarking that this will take some getting used to!

Lately not much going on besides lots of websurfing, spreadsheet-making, and pattern-perusing. I'm hoping to sew most of the kids' fall and winter wardrobes. Too ambitious? Quite possibly. But it'll be fun trying. I've rounded up several patterns that should cover all the bases, and I'm gradually compiling a pattern and materials shopping list. Meanwhile, I've made up four new 'flightsuits' for Amelia from the new Kwik-Sew pattern I found. They're very roomy so as long as they don't disintegrate from the abuse she puts them through, they should last a while. It's so dreamy sewing on my new machine, even for the very basic sewing I've been doing. The little conveniences really add up.

Hopefully some actual finished projects will crop up soon. Further updates as events warrant.

PS. I can't seem to comment on my own posts (??) so.... thanks Madcap! I love the bag - it's the perfect size for me, it's lightweight, and it's bright inside so stuff doesn't get lost in the gloom. Yay!

PPS. Still having trouble posting comments! Will enlist E4's help to try and figure it out later. Meanwhile, Madcap - it's actually just a pattern for one-piece pajamas. We've been calling Amelia's pj's "flight-suits" for years, for some reason. The pattern is here. As it turns out, they have patterns for adult jumpsuits too, so we should be set for life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just needed a little inspiration

After that last post, I whipped into the craft room and finished up my Sweet Harmony bag. Here it is, in all its glory:

The interior (one zippered pocket shown; the other pocket is open, and split in half vertically):

Cell phone pocket in the exterior pocket:

It's not perfect, and wouldn't stand up to close inspection, but overall I'm pretty happy with it and I know I'll use it. (Who's going to want to closely inspect it, anyway?) Doubt if I'll be sewing any more handbags anytime soon, though!

Some updates, not much new

So it's been a busy few days, my dad being here for a visit, including a nice little day trip to the beach. Some snaps my husband took of the kids having a blast:

It's fantastic living in a place where it's possible to take a day trip to the beach!

On the crafting front, I redid my son's Hawaiian-style shirt in a size large and it fits so much nicer. I will get a photo of him wearing it when he gets back from his trip to south Florida with Grammy, visiting Uncle Brian and his family. They should be back sometime tomorrow. Meanwhile, I've just about finished my daughter's modified Hawaiian thingy:

All it needs now are the buttons sewn on. I thought about doing this with a back zip, but the thought of trying to make that work with the collar made my head hurt. I decided the buttons would be secure enough; I don't think she really "gets" buttons. Again, I'll get some photos of her wearing it soon! (I almost typo'd that as "swoon." Apropros, I think!)

Work also proceeds apace with my Sweet Harmony handbag:

It's been such a wildly different undertaking than anything I've tried before. There is a lot of interfacing, fleece, layers upon layers. I gnashed my teeth over the piping on the exterior pockets (pics of that later) but I think it came out okay with a lot of care and slow work. Now, I think, all that remains is to sew lining to exterior (the above photo shows the exterior inserted into the lining, ready to be pinned and sewn before being turned) and attach the handle (sort of visible in the background above).

I'm signing up for a sewing class at the local community college, a lot of which will probably be stuff I already know, but I hope to round out my skills and fill in some gaps. In the future, I'd love to "cherry-pick" some courses from a local college's Fashion Design undergraduate program, like Pattern Drafting and Advanced Tailoring, but I'm not sure how to work that. I'll have to call or write to the college Admissions office at some point. But the sewing class I'm taking doesn't wrap up until sometime in October, so there's no rush.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finally, photos

I was going to make another post with no photos, but then I decided enough was enough, so took a few minutes to snap some pics. Nothing breathtaking, but it's color!

I've been frenetically jumping from project to project, not because I'm bored with any of them but because they're all so interesting! It's driving me nuts how many projects I want to do NOW and how impossible it is to get them all done. I haven't gotten much done on the Miami Beach shawl yet but its time will come. I did get all the pattern pieces and interfacing (many, many pieces of interfacing) for the Sweet Harmony bag. I mistakenly got sew-in Thermolam instead of fusible, so it's set aside until I can get some bonding material of some kind.

Here's the knitted handbag I mentioned before. I'm about halfway done with the perpendicular join at the bottom. Still thinking about the best way to block this once it's done:

At any rate, I do have a few finishes to show. First, a brachiosaurus (a PlanetJune pattern):

Isn't he cute? I need to go back and beef up the embroidered smile - it sort of disappears, a bit. I'm working on the stegosaurus next, but it's not photo ready yet.

Next, a poseable poison dart frog:

My older son loves frogs and toads. Here he is holding an adorable little toad he found in our backyard a couple of weeks ago:

He was thrilled with the Hawaiian-style shirt I made him, too. I finally got a photo of it, though not modeled:

I must admit I'm pretty pleased with this. Some of the techniques were pretty advanced for my experience level, and I think it turned out pretty well. In fact, I had a brainstorm and I'm really challenging myself for my next sewing project. Previously, I mentioned the need for one-piece outfits for my autistic daughter, and that I have been sewing some simple pajama-type things for her. She loved this Hawaiian shirt so much that I decided she needed an outfit made from that fabric, so back to Hobby Lobby I went to buy a couple more yards. Then I thought, why not make an outfit with a Hawaiian shirt on top and shorts on the bottom? Except for the minor problem that I don't have such a pattern. Guess I'll just have to make it up! So I'm drawing up my own pattern, combining elements from the shirt pattern and the PJs pattern. It's been a challenge. I'm really glad I thought to use some muslin I had to test my pattern, because the first try was not going to work. I redrew the pattern and I think it should work this time, so I'm planning to test it out again tomorrow. It took me all day to get to this point. Here's a candid shot of part of my workspace after today's efforts:

I think this is going to be freaking adorable on her. If it turns out nice, it'll be another great option for my plans... for world domination of the market for specialized clothing for autistic children! Muahahahaaaa!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

And just like that, I'm knitting again

I go where my crafting whims take me. Hence, I'm currently back to knitting. The older son is traveling to south Florida with his Grammy in a couple of weeks, to visit with my brother's family. I had already planned on making a shawl for my sister-in-law, so I decided I'd try to finish it in time for them to take it with them.

The shawl I'm making, appropriately enough, is the Miami Beach Shawl (Ravelry link here), a free pattern available through the Cascade Yarns website (here, center third row). I'm using Knit Picks Comfy Sport, color Marlin - a pretty, soft teal.

Also received my order this morning. I'm a bit disappointed in the Amy Butler fabric I chose for the exterior of my handbag. The background turns out to be a lighter, greenish brown, not the dark chocolate it appears in the photo. Oh, well. That's a hazard of buying online, I suppose. I'll give it a couple of days to consider whether I still like it enough to make it, or whether I'd rather order a different print.

I still haven't done the buttonholes on the Hawaiian shirt. I tried one but I was having trouble and threw up my hands. I'll try again sometime soon, when I'm feeling more confident.

Monday, July 4, 2011

(Almost) Finished Object

The other day I took the boys to Hobby Lobby with me to pick up a few odds and ends. I was poking through the sale fabric when the 8-year-old (I'll call him EV, for now) saw a bright coral reef print and went crazy over it. "Can you get this and make me a shirt, Mom??" Well, DUH. Any time one of my children requests me to make something for them, odds are very good I will jump at the opportunity. The print seemed appropriately loud and tropical to be a Hawaiian shirt, so I grabbed a pattern (this one).

This was a more technical, complex project than I'm used to. I've gotten pretty good at putting zippers in because of the jumpsuits, but aside from that, those are pretty simple. This had facings, collar, pocket, and side vents, not to mention set-in sleeves. The collar and facings took a lot of fiddling, and the sleeves not much less, but I finished it this afternoon, all but the buttonholes and buttons. I'm really pleased with it! There are one or two little glitches, but nothing major. EV likes it, which is the main thing. The funny thing was, his autistic sister LOVES it, which I was not expecting! I had brought it out of my craft room and hung it from the corner of a chair, waiting for EV to finish what he was doing and try it on, and when she saw it she grabbed it and brought it to me to put on her. She got a big kick out of it - laughing, spinning, hugging me and all the other ways she expresses her delight. So now I guess I'm going to have to make another one!

I had so much fun making this that I might have to make a few more. The romper looks pretty dang cute, and wouldn't take much fabric. Too bad I don't know any babies to make it for....

I'm also in the middle of working out a knitted handbag pattern. It's a cabled bag that uses one of the Celtic-style cable motifs from Alice Starmore's St. Ciaran throw. I knitted the body in the round, with smallish cables at either side that will continue past the top of the bag to become the strap; I'm planning to work the bottom in the same cable, using the perpendicular shoulder strap technique (found in Knitting Ganseys and Knitting in the Old Way), so that the same cable travels around the bag in an unbroken line. I've toyed with the idea of trying to submit it to Knitty, but I will probably just publish it on Ravelry for free.

Speaking of handbags, I've ordered the materials to make Amy Butler's Sweet Harmony Handbag, using these fabrics:

For the exterior:

For the interior:

It was really hard to choose just two. There were half a dozen combinations I loved.

I got the fabric and all the notions (including a heck of a lot of interfacing) from, which has a great selection and free shipping for orders over $35. They also e-mailed me a coupon for 15% off my next order, yay!

Hopefully by next time I post I will stop being lazy and actually post some photos of my stuff....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Busy day of retail therapy!

Not only do I have quite a full knitting queue on Ravelry - plus plenty of requests from my boys for crocheted amigurumi - I now have enough sewing to keep me busy for quite some time. I visited the nearest Jo-Ann Fabrics (one of the smaller, less impressive ones) and then trekked a further five miles or so to the Hancock Fabrics in Durham - my first visit there. I don't think I've ever looked through a Kwik-Sew catalog, but I got quite a bit of craft-geek excitement out of it. Lots of simple, basic wardrobe items for kids, which is an aspect of Simplicity, McCalls, and all the rest that I've found lacking. I picked up several patterns, plus a few yards of a lightweight cotton multicolored stripe that was on clearance for $1 a yard.

As if that weren't enough, I got home to find a hefty package from Connecting Threads, full of clearance cottons to the tune of over 35 yards. These fabrics aren't destined - at least primarily - for quilts, but for outfits for my daughter and two boys, sons of a friend of mine. All three children are autistic, nonverbal and not potty-trained, which all has translated to some soul-searing poo-related episodes in the lives of their parents. A year or two back I started making jumpsuits for my daughter to at least prevent easy access to the onboard waste receptacle, and after moving down here last fall, I've made a few for the boys as well. I've been using a Simplicity pattern that they apparently don't have anymore (at least, it's not on their website), but it's almost identical to this one by McCall's. I've been fretting because the pattern only goes up to a size 6. I was able to tweak it enough to make it fit my 8-year-old without much difficulty, but I wasn't looking forward to further upsizing. Fortunately, I found a replacement that goes all the way up to size 12-14. It will make things a lot easier. I'd like to hope I never have to modify this one....

I have lots of ideas percolating in my head for expanding my repertoire to include similar outfits that don't look so pajama-like and hence could be worn in public. While it should be pretty easy to tweak the pattern to make cute little aviator's flight suits and so forth, that's pretty limiting. Today I bought this pattern for a girl's tank top and capris which I hope to convert to a one-piece, back-zip outfit; I'm also planning to try making what will basically be pants/capris/leggings with an attached undershirt that fastens in the back, to be worn under a shirt or top. If I work out the details to my satisfaction, I'm hoping to actually start selling them. But that will have to wait a while.

Meanwhile, I have 35 yards of fabric to wash and press. Tomorrow, sewing!

A little about me

I'm a 38-year-old crafting fool. My crafts of choice are knitting, crochet, sewing, quilting, spinning, and cross-stitch. Who knows what I'll try next!

I'm a mom of three. With my husband of 11 years, I have 8-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and a 3-year-old son. Last fall we transplanted ourselves from central Ohio to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We live on a lovely wooded lot of about 4 acres, along with a goofy golden retriever (who happens to be a very talented service dog even if he is afraid of thunderstorms), a self-possessed tabby cat who adopted us several years ago, and a flourishing flock of chickens.

This blog will be about my craft projects of all kinds, with probably a few snippets of non-crafty stuff thrown in. Let the foolery begin!