Archive | December, 2009

Crafting space update!

30 Dec

We had a nice low-key Christmas, I hope you all had the same!  I only had to do one Christmas service, and that was really nice – I don’t miss the crazy rush of being a music minister one bit!  We went to my husband’s parents’ house for the day, and we’re going back up for New Year’s eve (they always have a big party, and my husband is very keen to go.)  I did get some exciting crafting Chistmas gifts, including a gift certificate from a student to my LYS(who certainly knows the way to my heart!)  My Mom bought me a dress form, something I’ve been wanting for a long time, so I’m pretty excited about that, as well as several great books about sewing (I also got a new iron for sewing… can you tell my (and Marc’s) family members who sew are excited that I’m sewing now?)

Since the holiday we’ve been engaged in an epic battle with the attic.  First an explanation… our attic is nearly a full 3rd story on our late 1800s house.  It was originally unfinished, but someone did a very 1960s renovation at some point (I assume the 60s, but who can tell!)  They added dark wood paneling and a (no doubt) asbestos tiled floor, both of which still exist in some form today.  The people who we bought the house from decided to renovate the attic into a loft for the wife, who was an “artist” of sorts (artist in quotes because we actually found some of her art in the walls and oh Dear… but never you mind.)    They hired someone to cut holes in the roof for 3 large skylights, and installed all new triple windows at either end.  Perhaps at this point water was run to the attic, as well as a gas line (we suspect she was also welding up there, which I just don’t like to think about.)  They also installed a central air conditioning unit and duct work.  According to them they received a quote for drywalling the attic that was outrageously high, and they seem to have given up, with one of the walls removed and the ductwork working, but never actually hooked up to vents.  Here is a photo from earlier in the week of the end we are focusing on (well, everything is getting done, but this end is the worst.)

On the right you see the old wood paneling, and on the left (hard to see) the wall currently ends and we have had to frame out a corner. It’s very important to get all the ductwork sealed off, because the cats really want to be in the attic, but in its current state that just isn’t safe.  We caught Sarah Jane sleeping in some loose insulation under the rafters (she’s fine, and boy was she warm!)  You can see the new windows at the end which are nailed shut(!) and were never painted.  You will also notice the lovely floor (note my sarcasm.)  The black tube-like thing at the end is ductwork, which runs into the paneling and out of the only vent that was actually hooked up.   I’m going to have to find some way to hide it – it is not attractive.

Tonight I managed to get the paneling, windows, and beams all primed – it already looks better!

I am usually against painting wood (note that there is very little in our house, all painted by other people) but none of this was nice wood.  The beams in particular were never meant to be exposed, and they were covered with 6 or 7 inch long nails, sticking out at crazy angles.  No idea why, but literally hundreds of them.  The paneling on the right only is going to be this color, Veranda Iris from Behr, with white trim and beams.  I like the tinge of gray – since this room will have no wood trim, I can finally have some gray in a color!

We are in the process of installing the rest of the insulation board and plain white paneling on the ceiling and the places where there previously were no walls.  This is not a permanent solution, but it is the solution until we can afford to drywall (I decided I’m just not wanting to do that myself… my Dad is a contractor, and his experiences have swayed me.)  The floor will be covered with a vinyl floor that looks like wooden parquet tile… it’s inexpensive, but it meets my criteria – I won’t have to remove the asbestos tiles first.  It actually looks pretty nice, and this after all still an attic… going to be used as a craft room for Marc and I, and for occasional guests if the other rooms are full (by way of a futon… this should happen once every 5 years, so who knows if we will even need it!)  These photos look dark, but there is a ton of light up here in the day… I am excited to create (I’m even going to set myself up a cozy place to knit!)  Hopefully the rest will go well… I am generally very handy, but the problem with this project is that we have to decide where we are going to stop, as we do plan to drywall someday.

I actually have a philosophy about this – if something in your house is making you unhappy, do something to make yourself feel better now – you don’t have to spend a lot, but it will make you feel better until you can afford your dream room!  I know that painting my kitchen bright red has made it a totally different feeling spot – sure I want to renovate it someday (it is the same vintage as the attic) but for now the color makes me happy… and sometimes that is enough.

Wardrobe planning

20 Dec

I have friends who are have completely and utterly organized wardrobes.  Clothing is arranged around color schemes, with lots of pieces that mix and match.  They know exactly what they own, and on identifying a hole in their wardrobe they quickly purchase something to fill it.  My friends have enviable, organized closets.  Everything is pared down and streamlined.

Look… I’m never going to be that person.  For one thing I lead a strangely eclectic life, which requires both teaching clothing, nice dressy church clothing, and formal wear or evening styles for performances.  I essentially require 3 wardrobes, none of which even touch on the clothes I live in when I’m not working.  I love bright colors and many different styles.  Most of all, I prefer that my clothing evoke some sort of a reaction from me – in other words, if I don’t love it I’m not wearing it.   I’m not into matchy.  I’m not super trendy, but at the same time I do like interpreting what’s current in a way that (hopefully) doesn’t make me look like I’m trying too hard.  However, I want my wardrobe to be more organized.  I don’t want to end up with oodles of clothing that I never wear, but not a single button down shirt (a situation that I currently have going on.)  I want to fix this, but let’s face it.. I’m not going to the mall.

To that end, I’ve signed up to take the Wardrobe Refashion pledge.  Starting in January, I have pledged to thrift, create etc items for my wardrobe for 2 months.  My husband points out (quite rightly) that this is actually not a challenge for me, considering that I have only bought one item of clothing for myself from a real (ie non thrift/vintage) store in the past 6 months.  Bah humbug I say – I’m looking at this as an opportunity to get organized with my thrifting, knitting, and sewing.

There are some items that I find quite readily while thrifting.  There seem to be a plethora of sheer pretty blouses and nice basic skirts.  There are lots of knit tops, though often not ones that fit me (I find that while I am quite short waisted, I also have a long torso.  Store bought tops are almost always too short for me.)  I am always finding cute purses for under 5 dollars.  Jackets are pretty easy, and often good quality.  But there are something that I cannot find, and that I really am starting to need to be a part of my wardrobe.

I have a folder on my desktop called “inspiration.”  There I save pictures of items of clothing I would like to have in my wardrobe, and scheme ways to either make them, or refashion thrift store finds into something similar.  Many of the photos are probably from Anthropologie or Modcloth, my current favorites for this type of not shopping.   I also like to browse the runway shows at style.com – I like seeing what’s coming up, and often I get good ideas.   I also browse a lot of vintage shops, and have a few other haunts.  The first items that I cannot find are blouses.  Not sheer ones (remember when they were huge a few years ago?  Yeah, now they languish in thrift store hell.)   I need blouses and button down shirts that are: A. Long enough for me and B: Actually flattering.  This is harder than you might think.


I really love the return of plaid.  I’m all about trying to work some plaid into my wardrobe – I think I have at long last managed to brush off the taint of grunge.  The first shirt is made of flannel and I love it… I have been looking for a suitable plaid, but have found none locally, so I guess I will have to order one.  It’s also really similar to Simplicity 2501 (on the right.)

The next item I don’t have much of in my closet?  Dresses.  I experience severe sticker shock whenever I visit a department store, and end up leaving with some cheap item from the junior’s dept that I don’t care for anyway.  I really want to sew some of my own dresses.  I notice that lately I’m seeing many dresses that mimic a dress/skirt combo.  I like this idea, as tucking things in never looks so neat.

Other random dress styles that I like…

1. I like the effect of the straps in a different fabric.  Similar to Macaroon by Colette patterns.  2.  I like maxi dresses, but I hate how low cut some of them are.   Someday it will be warm again, and I will want a breezy long dress.  3.  I have a really similar fabric, and a vintage vogue reissue.  Perhaps an outfit for a summer wedding?  4.  Again with the plaid, plus denim!  5.  I’m obsessed with this sort of neckline.  Love the 60s vibe.

Sadly, I need some pants.  This is that hardest part (isn’t it always?)  I’m not proportional – I am a bit pear shaped, and I have a hard time finding pants that I like at all.  I am not at all up to making my own pants yet, but I’m confident that determined thrift shopping will score me some finds.   I never buy pants because I find shopping for them depressing, what with never ever knowing what size to try on, and nothing ever fitting the way I want it to.  And to be honest?  I’d usually rather wear a skirt anyway.  I used to wear skirts/dresses every single day, and I miss it!

And finally… I require a fabulous faux leopard jacket.  I don’t need one.  Just want one.  I have been stalking them on Etsy for ages, so despite the fact that I have half a closet full of coats, I am determined that one will be mine.

If you’ve made it this far, your reward is a terrible photo of me modeling the muslin for the Vogue cowl neck.

For a test run this is surprisingly wearable – and I thought I hated the color peach!  Well, it’s not my favorite, but I look less dead than I expected (I bought this on the clearance rack at Joannes… I was not being picky for muslin fabrics.)   I really love how this came out, so I’m hoping it looks as good in the actual fabric!

I’m so pleased to be off this week… I plan to get in plenty of sewing and knitting.  Salina will be finished.  It’s actually almost getting there, and I seem to have found my temporarily misplaced mojo!

In which I pretend that Christmas is not, in fact, almost here

14 Dec

My powers of denial are great.  This afternoon it occurred to me that Christmas is next week.  Have I bought any presents?  Nope.  Decorated the house?  Nope, except for the Advent train my sister-in-law gave us, which Marc put out only because, well, it’s a train.  Sent any Christmas cards?  Nope. And I probably won’t.

Over the many years that  worked for churches I developed a dread for the holiday season.  Apparently the fact that I’m no longer in that line of work has not lessened my scrooge-y-ness, nor has my recent reading of Scroogenomics helped (I do recommend the book!)  I just don’t like all the emphasis on buying stuff, and the heightened expectations of family togetherness inevitably lead to disappointment or conflict (not always in my family specifically, I’m just saying…) I’m singing one Christmas eve mass, which is not stressful (and I don’t have to plan it!)  But there is no avoiding it… I’m going to have to shop.  I try to stick to the local shops, as even thinking about the mall gives me headaches.

Above: how I feel after any type of shopping excursion.

I’ve got to finish baby socks for my niece.  Baby socks are like all the annoying parts of sock knitting with none of the nice boring straight parts (unless you enjoy turning a heel, in which case more power to you!)  Other than that I do not knit presents.   It just adds stress to knitting for me.

I’m finding Salina oddly stressful as well.  I think it’s all the stockinette, combined with a really fragile yarn that keeps breaking.  I’m carrying on, but I do not feel inspired, so I avoid knitting and then feel stressed out about not knitting (issues, I has them.)  I wish my knitting machine could handle sport weight yarns, because this would be a prime candidate!

The new knitty is out, and I find Spoke to be interesting.

The directions say you could leave it a cardigan, which I think I might prefer.  I almost never make anything from Knitty – I think it’s just not my style.  Occasionally there is a lovely sweater (see: Amelia) but often I find the designs puzzling – at least once every issue I think “well yeah, you could knit that, but why? ”  But anyway, Spoke is really pretty, if a bit more unusual than I usually go for.  I’ll be curious to see some finished versions, since I know I won’t get to this for awhile.

I have been teaching myself to sew knit fabrics on the Bernina (who, thanks to you all, is now named Audrey!)  I may get a serger someday, but that’s not in the cards right now.  I bought some leopard print matte jersey.

Here’s something that’s probably not apparent from my knitting: I love animal prints.  Seriously, I bought a pair of zebra print ballet flats a few months ago, and they are nearly all that I have worn since.  I was thinking of attempting this top:

But I’m not for sure on that yet.  I have more of the leopard than I thought (it was an exceptionally generous cut) and it may want to be a dress.  At any rate, I’m pretty sure that I want a leopard dress.  I’m picturing this top in something a little softer.

After my experience with the vintage shift, I’ve decided that it’s going to be important for me to learn how to grade patterns.  Modern patterns are multi-sized (though occasionally not multi-sized in my size) but vintage patterns are one to a package.  In addition, I’ve been buying Burda magazine (Burda is put out by the same people who put out Verena knitting magazine) and their patterns often stop larger than I need.  I have at least 2 right now that will need to be traced and resized.   I’ve found some good tutorials online (Threads magazine has one) and there are instructions in my “Vogue sewing book” as well.

Sewing is not helping to curb my pattern addiction, but hey – it’s been ages since I really took a good look at my non-knitted wardrobe, and it needs help!

FO: Simplicity 3835

11 Dec

Pattern: Simplicity 3835, Built by Wendy minidress, view B

Fabric: Amy Butler cotton, 2.5 yards

Size made: 8

Notes: You’ve probably seen this one before – it seems like every blogger who makes their own clothes has given this pattern a go.  I can certainly see why – the pattern is very versatile, and contains 3 nice versions – version A is a dress with elbow length sleeves and pockets, Version B is a minidress with sleeve ties, and version C is a top with a gathered neckline rather than a collar.  I made version b, the minidress.  You will notice that my version does not have the cuffs or sleeve ties.  I actually made them, but I felt really uncomfortable wearing them.

I don’t know if you can tell in the photo above (which is from before I hemmed the dress) but the ties are really huge.  It also seemed like they would come untied all the time, the length was awkward (elbow length) and (dealbreaker!) they make it impossible to wear a sweater over the dress.  So I took them off and made a small hem.  I’m much happier now – the length is perfect for me, just above the elbow.  Keep in mind that I have freakishly long arms, and on most people this might hit lower.

I might tend to call this a tunic rather than a minidress – it’s  really short.  I don’t like to wear any skirt I can’t raise my arms in, but since i was planning to wear this with leggings anyway it is fine.  I would probably make the longer length if I made it again.  The sleeves and collar fit me perfectly, which probably means they are rather small (according to the other reviews I’ve seen they do run small.)

I thought I was choosing a size that was too small for me – the recommended size for my bust was a 12, but I thought it looked big so I made the 8.  However, as it turns out, it’s not the pattern – it’s me.  I had my measurements taken yesterday and found out that in fact I do not have a 33.5″ bust – I have a 31.5″ bust(lucky me, right?)  I have no idea if I shrank or if my last set of measurements was inaccurate, but I insisted on retaking that measurement about 12 times before I just accepted it.  That does explain my puzzlement when trying to figure out why patterns fit me the way they do – I had worked up a muslin of the dress I showed in my last post and it was enormous – of course, it was a 34.  3 inches smaller and it might have fit.  It also explained why I have such trouble with knitting patterns that start at a 34.  I thought I had small shoulders – guess not (or maybe so, but that’s not the whole reason.)  I then went through my closet and measured all my dresses – every single one that is not stretchy measures a max 34″ in the bust, and the knit ones are even smaller.

New things learned with this pattern: gathering, hemming small diameter objects like sleeves, sewing on a collar.  I used a trick I read online for the gathering.  I did a zigzag stitch over a length of crochet thread and used that to draw up the fabric – much sturdier than threads, and faster too.

I actually like the print, although there is a lot of it.  I try to be careful with the scale of prints, so I hope this isn’t too overwhelming.  Cotton is easy to work with, although I must confess that this sort of fabric isn’t my favorite to wear – I generally avoid cotton shirts and dresses, both because of wrinkling and because I don’t enjoy the crisp feeling.  I doubt I’ll be making more dresses out of this, but I love it for quilts!

So to sum up… many things learned, and a cute tunic – even my husband liked it!

New friend

8 Dec

What’s this in the box?

Oh dear… it seems that someone followed me home from the store…

I suppose I will have to keep her!  Yes… I ended up buying a Bernina.  The Aurora 430, to be exact.  I tried Janomes, Vikings, and Brothers also, as those are the other lines I have easy access to, but this is the model I fell in love with!  It helps that it was on sale for St. Nicholas day (seriously, who has a sale for that? Bernina apparently. )  I got it for a price that was identical to what I was offered on the Janome I was looking at.  The Janome didn’t have a free arm (for sewing sleeves etc) and looking online I found some amount of complaints about them, but almost none about the Auroras.   I did not get the Bernina Stitch Regulator, because I already know how to free motion without one, and I think it’s a crazy expensive add-on.  This isn’t the quilting edition (the 440) but all it lacks is the BSR and a few stitches I will never use.  Otherwise it’s nearly identical (and 900 dollars cheaper.)  Technically, this is my Christmas present from my husband, who showed a remarkable lack of sticker shock at the price of sewing machines, merely pointing out “You would spend more on a new computer, and since I build them that will never happen, so why not get one?”  How lucky was I to end up with someone who understands my need to craft so very well?  Well… I guess it helps that I let him construct a lego train track running around the top of my new (shared) craft room in the attic.

Sewing with the Aurora (who needs a new name… any ideas?) is a completely different experience.  On my old machine you had absolutely no real ability to control the speed.  It sewed fast, sure, but that was it.  You couldn’t set the needle to finish up or down.  It had only 2 needle positions.  The fabric tended to veer off to the left, lord knows why.  On this machine you barely have to touch the fabric to get a nice straight line every time, which is nice because it lets me know it really wasn’t my fault on the old machine.   It’s so quiet that even with laryngitis (still going on)  I can hold a conversation while sewing (not a good idea, but I can do it!)  The buttonholes are beautiful, and it has an extension table (not shown above) that gives you a nice big area to sew on, nice because I am not getting a table that the machine recesses into – it has a front loading bobbin, and seems like that would get old pretty quick.  The front bobbin is easier to load than I thought, and definitely seems to have less issues than my old top loader.  It has a knee lift, which means you lift the presser foot without using your hands – much appreciated for quilt piecing.  I love it, and I’m already dreaming of the wonderful things I will be able to sew!

I finished up the “Built by Wendy” dress as soon as I took it out of the box, then redid half the seams with the new machine because it sews so much straighter.  I made some other alterations, but I will have the FO post on Friday – I have no photographer until then, as Marc works until after dark!

I already have planned my next sewing project:

Vintage McCalls 9071, this is one of the patterns my Grandma left me.  I love that her notes are on the front!  I actually have photos of her wearing this dress (the middle version, the one I am making) and I will try to find them for comparison purposes.  The fabric (seen underneath) is a beautiful emerald green wool crepe, nothing like the color it looks in the photo.  I have already pre-shrunk the fabric, and I am planning to add the optional lining (though I will need to buy some lining fabric.)

I’m going to be using my simplicity guide with this, as it is my first vintage pattern (albeit one that seems pretty straightforward, reading through the directions.)  I am making a muslin first.  The Simplicity guide has chapters on making different items:

I’m pretty sure I will need to shorten the dress, but otherwise the size looks ok.  I measured the pieces against a dress I own, and it is close.

I’m off to enjoy my new machine – maybe I will finally finish that quilt binding!


expensive habits

5 Dec

One thing I find amusing is when people tell me “Oh, you must save so much money knitting your own sweaters and making your own clothes.”  Well… not so much.  I think I get better quality things (certainly sweaters are terribly overpriced in stores) but none of my hobbies are really very thrifty.  I mean really… you don’t even want to know what I’m willing to spend on a lustworthy yarn, and adding a new lust for fabric into the mix… well, it ain’t pretty.

But I will say… knitting has nothing on sewing, at least not when it comes to basic equipment.  I bought a set of Knitpicks Options needles when they first came out, and they are still all that I use.  Occasionally I get a new set of cords or something, but that’s about it.  I do have a knitting machine, but I consider that a totally different animal.   Sewing, on the other hand, requires actual machinery.    A decent machine with accessories, a table to put it on, and perhaps a serger, if you want to sew knits often.

After 2 months or so of sewing nearly every day on my Viking Huskystar 219, I’ve decided to buy a new machine.  This was prompted by sewing on my nearly completed Mod Sampler quilt, and the Simplicity dress I’m making.

This is my Mod Sampler quilt.  You will note that while I did finish the free motion quilting, it does not yet have a binding (the outside edge that holds everything together.)  Free motion quilting on the Huskystar was a bear – it doesn’t have much room between the needle and the machine body, so it was hard getting the whole thing done, but I did it – and I loved the process!  It’s like drawing with thread, and oddly zen.  I also have some bobbin tension issues with the machine, and kept getting strange stitches underneath that I would have to pick out.   I’m not even going to try to do the binding yet – the machine does not handle thick amounts of fabric well – anything over 2 pieces tends to cause major problems. The binding will wait for the new machine.

I’m currently making simplicity 3835, and it’s nearly done, but I cannot deal with this machine anymore.  I have been waiting, wanting to see if my enthusiasm for sewing was a temporary fling, but it seems that there is room for two true crafting loves in my life.   I love quilting – it speaks to my love of color.  In fact, my next quilting project is going to be the color wheel quilt, from Last Minute Patchwork gifts (yes, by the same author as Last Minute Knitted gifts.)

Isn’t it beautiful?  I ordered the kit from Purl, because I don’t even want to think about how long it would take me to accumulate all the colors for it.  Mine has different fabrics from the book sample of course, but it’s going to be so beautiful!

I love making clothes, because I have a hard time finding clothes I love that fit me in stores.  I fit into junior sizes, however I already have issues with people thinking I’m way younger than I actually am (culminating in at least one adult student quitting because “I’m too young to teach her anything” when in fact I was older than her.) Junior clothing is also very poorly made in general, and uses materials that I don’t love (nothing like having to buy prom dresses to go out to the opera because none of the adult formal dresses fit, buying the one you think looks least like a prom dress, feeling self-conscious, and then having the dress rip apart after one wearing.)  The idea of making my own vintage clothes appeals to me as well, as I love vintage but sometimes feel guilty wearing the often fragile items.  After reading knitting patterns, sewing patterns seem remarkably clear to me now, unlike my previous attempts.  Plus, I have my trusty simplicity guide (from the 60s or 70s) to help me out!

I love this book so much… I’m glad I thought to buy it several years ago at an estate sale (well, the fact that it came with a bunch of vintage knitting patterns helped!)  Sewing patterns haven’t changed so much, but I will say this is extra helpful trying to interpret some of the vintage patterns I have.

I find that I go in cycles – several times a year I have a frenzy of knitting and turn out most of my sweaters, and at other times I knit much less and want to work on other hobbies.  Oddly, this time of year is always a down time for me – I think I can’t concentrate on knitting when I have so many holiday things to attend to!    I’m usually lucky if I finish a single sock between Thanksgiving and New Years.  I have tried to reassure my knitting that I am not cheating on it (“really, that wool crepe meant nothing to me, and of course you didn’t see a stack of Amy Butler fabrics sneaking out of the closet the other day.  ‘Twas the cat.”)  My knitting is not convinced, but I am making progress on all my projects.  Currently I am slowed down by making baby socks – my sister-in-law requested some for my niece, as they live in snowy Wisconsin and her poor little feet are cold!  If anyone has a favorite baby sock pattern do let me know… she’s 6 months old, and I want them to fit for awhile, so newborn patterns won’t work.

I’m also lusting after Kelmscott, from the new Twist Collective.  Honestly, I think it’s one of the prettiest designs I’ve seen this year.  The new IK is all right but not exciting, so I’m really glad I found something to love in Twist this time!

I have laryngitis pretty bad right now, which as you can imagine is  tough for someone who needs her voice for a living.  I think it’s a minor cold that seems to have settled in my throat.  I get sick rarely, but when I do it’s a doozy!    I am going to take Marc to the sewing machine store tomorrow to see what he thinks (hopefully that I need one!)  Then he’s helping a friend move house, and I will stay home to try and feel better!  Luckily I don’t have any gigs this weekend.  If I had gotten sick last weekend it would have been pretty tragic, so I’m very grateful that the cold held off this long!

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