Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wise Friendship, plus tiny socks

I finished a wee little pair of socks this week, Bu's Short Socks in some leftover Crystal Palace Maizy Print. They were only a wee squidge over a hundred yards and it's likely she'll grow out of them before the month is out, but she loves them in other capacities as well. Here she demonstrates that they make superb mittens, but they might also serve as a hat for a monkey. She's a happy customer and really, that's about all I can hope for.

Nothing sweeter than a little hugging a sock
I've shifted from sewing back to knitting, mostly because it's recital week and my afternoons are occupied with hauling kids around and practices and whatnot. That leaves precious little sewing time, but I'm hoping I can pick it up again when the recital is done. 
The Apollo test is still underway, but I have discovered that I'd been knitting a ruffle instead of a neat dodecagon. The increases were too rapid. I suppose it would help if I'd ever knit a circular shawl before, but I'm going to put the learning in my pocket to use later and then move along to the next stage of design: rip the darn thing and start over. It wasn't very big to start with and I already have more, new, better ideas about how to shape it, so it's not really a loss at all. It's part of the process.

I am not sorry about any of this
I've been spinning, too, and I've finished half the black alpaca singles, which is a good thing because the Middle TN Fiber festival was last weekend and I may have come home with a pound of polworth that I intend to dye and a couple other things as well. The best part, though, was hanging with my friends from near and far and discovering that they are awesomer in person than they are online. The whole weekend was delightful and I really wish the far friends weren't so far.

After the black alpaca gets spun up and plied, my next two spinning projects are this:
And this:

The first one is 100% silk from Rain's Obsessive Stitchery, which I've never spun before, but it's a gorgeous coppery color that doesn't quite come through in pictures. The batt is a lovely gradient from Lunabud Knits and I have two similar in purple, turquoise, and black. The above two beauties aren't even mine (honest!), but I am afforded the joy of spinning them for my very dear Koren, who won a "spin some fiber for me" prize during our last round of stashdown. She picked out the fiber this weekend and it came home with me and my polworth (&etc.). 

This is what it looks like when I run
I've also been running and I'm stuck on week 5 of couch to 5k, but I'm hoping to conquer it this week. It's only a matter of time. I shall wear week 5 down with persistence and determination and then proceed to give week 6 the hairy eyeball. I'm comin' for you, week 6. You're next.
I do love a good flow chart
I decided to make a skill tree so that I can figure out some specific things to do toward my Project Make goals, namely "Produce excellence" and "Become skilled." Those goals are pretty vague, but learning to warp a loom is a specific skill I can acquire and/or improve. I've since added to this particular chart and will probably need separate charts for each craft, but this has been a good exercise in turning vague goals into specific actions. I can't remember why I wrote "wise friendship," but I feel like I've had a lot of that going on this week and that it's not irrelevant to achieving my Project Make goals, so it's timely and appropriate. Good friends are certainly supportive of your crazy ideas in ways that help you be better. 

No techniques this week. There's been a lot of switching back and forth between current projects, which I hope results in some more FOs during Stash Dash. I'm participating in a completely unofficial capacity, but there's a spreadsheet nonetheless. Dress rehearsal is today (Thursday) and the recitals are Friday and Saturday, so I'm hoping I can get some FOs by blogtime next week when things have calmed down a bit. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

So (Sew), Strawberries.

I love these. Five bags out of fabric stash in colors that remind me of my garden in springtime when the phlox are in full bloom. The strawberry one is my favorite, hands down, and while that's the last of that fabric, this bag was the perfect thing for it to be. There's a grosgrain ribbon attach me! loop on the side of each one and though they're pretty simple, they're sturdy and well-constructed. I did my best here to pay attention to the details, even though they're "just" project bags. This is the part of Project Make where it's about doing my best work.

I'm considering stash-diving for summer fabrics for a similar collection of project bags and I'm almost certain there are colors in my fabric stash that will speak to me of summer flowers and sunshine. My more immediate sewing concern will be two more shirts for Bu, but I need to be getting on with that pretty soon if I'm to finish before our trip to Florida (which still doesn't seem real and won't until we're there). The pink and blue fabric to the right is going to be something, but I haven't figured out what just yet. It's vintage silk sent to me from a far friend as an act of kindness and I can't even with how beautiful it is.

And then there's these.
Twenty-four hours ago, these little beauties were hanging out on a vine down the road a ways and now? Now they are jam. Jam season has officially begun.

Everyone helps at our house.
Strawberries don't last long, but I sure enjoy the heck out of them while they're around. The great thing, though, is that just when they're gone, there's something else new and exciting coming into being. The boysenberries and raspberries won't be far behind them, I've planted grapes, and the blackberries are growing stronger. The tomatoes will bloom and fruit, and with some luck, I'll also have peppers and basil and other things from the garden.

Dat cuff, tho'
In non-strawberry news, I finished the alterations for the four boys' dance shirts, the last of which will soon be delivered and paid for (hooray!). I sort of wanted to spend a little more time to make them perfect, but perfect was not the end game for this particular project. Expedient and good enough for two shows and a rehearsal was the goal and I think I got there.

I wouldn't want to do this sort of work for a living, but it was a good side project and some good learning happened, too. I feel a lot more comfortable with knit fabrics now and that opens up possibilities for garments like swimsuits or t-shirts. The possibilities are endless!

There is knitting happening, too, and there may or may not be a spreadsheet stolen, copied, totally plagiarized, inspired by Bekah for purposes of Stash Dash. As it turns out, if I were to finish everything currently on the needles, I'd be about 183 meters short of 3k. Fortunately for me, spinning totally counts. I may also be starting a sock if the yarn would like to kindly tell me what sock it will to be.

Recital week is next week, so I hope that means a little knitting time when I'm not actually dancing. (You guys, I'm dancing in the thing!)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I just work here. (Fear is the mind-killer)

I like to post pictures of flowers from my garden, even when they really don't have anything to do with the rest of the post, but I don't really have a whole lot to show for this week except a pile of shirts to sew and a pile of mostly finished project bags that lack a few seams. I'm trying an assembly line approach with them and I'm about four or so hours into five bags, which works out to about $10/bag so far, if I were to use the average wage of a seamstress. There's all kinds of interesting data behind that link and it could be a rabbit-hole for a number nerd like me. It's useful, though, because those numbers can help you see what sort of value the market puts on your sewing time. In the grand scheme of things, it's not a lot. Ordinary sewists have, historically, never been valued very highly in a monetary sense, but it's a good starting point so that you don't undervalue yourself if you want to sell your services.
This year wasn't going to be focused on peddling my wares and I didn't really want to do any commission work, but the dance school was in a bind and I'm kind of okay with being paid to help them out. Apparently, they said "We'd like some shirts for little boys." and the vendor heard, "Please send circus tents under which they might perform." and were terribly rude about having been in the wrong about what size a young boy might wear. I tried on the "teen" size, which is meant to be larger than the child sizes, but smaller than adult sizes, so right about where I'm at on the size chart for boys' clothes. It was huge. Whoever did the size chart for these shirts should probably set aside the illicit substances from now on. Lord 'a' mercy.
This looks excitin'
Anyway, I've still got a lot of shirts to sew back up and not a lot of time before the recital. I'm not hugely confident with knit fabrics at the sewing machine, but Project Make doesn't care if I'm timid. Project Make decides that this week, I'm learning about knit fabrics, so I obey. Project Make is my beneficent overlord that requires nothing more than total devotion to learning. My biggest fear is that I'm going to screw them up beyond all repair, but fear is just an activity of the mind.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Where the fear has gone, only my seams will remain.

This week's technique is a two-fer as far as videos go and this week, I actually watched the video before trying the technique instead of my usual M.O. where I just do the thing and then watch a video about it.
Sewing with knit fabrics

Part One is an overview of knit fabrics and how they behave:

Part Two is the knitty-gritty on how to sew it (see what I did there?):

So, of course I really want a walking foot now, but I can make do with what I've got for this particular job and it won't look awful. 

In other stitching news, I don't really have that much to report. Legwarmers and Leto are continuing apace, but my focus has shifted mainly to sewing. I don't know if it's the weather or what, but that's where I'm at right now. I'd already decided on a couple more little shirts for Bu as next up in the queue, but now one of them will be red with white polka dots in honor of our trip to Disney this summer. 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

May Flowers

I can't even with how pretty she is.
This week has been pretty busy and intense as those of us at the House are leading into Thargelia and the end of the school year. Dance rehearsals are eating up much of our weekends right now and I've been working on Iris' dress for Spring Formal most of the week. It's finally finished and she's totally and completely in love with it. Even while I was mom-scowling at her to get her to take it off, I was secretly giggling with joy that she loves it so much.

Her Aunt Erin and Uncle Bob are planning to send drones to keep ne'er-do-wells away, and I would just about let them, but she's strong, opinionated, has no tolerance for BS, and can kick like a mule.

It's nice to have a big project done, though. This is a discontinued Simplicity pattern from ages ago, #9484, the one with the very cranky-looking model in maroon on the left. The pattern was sewn more or less as written with some alterations for size and a few deviations in technique. Rather than attempting to pull the entire bustier through a small hole in a lining seam to turn it right side out, I stitched the top, bottom, and one side seam and then turned it right side out through the other side seam.The final seam is hidden when the back is buttoned, but since the other seams are top-stitched, it really doesn't look all that different from the others.

Shawl designing continues apace and occasionally takes up more couch than I do. So far, I'm liking what's happening with the first little test knit, though I'm going to have to get some appropriately-sized circular needles if I'm going to go any further on the actual knitting.

So far, I'm liking the denser fabric that's coming off of the 2's and it's showing off some of the texture a little better than larger needles would do. I'm not sure what it's going to do with some of the lace elements, but I think it's going to be alright.

So far, so good!
With any luck, I'll have a pattern at least ready to be tested at the end of Project Make. Even though the learning curve is kinda high here, I'm enthusiastically taking it on because it's all about learning how to do something to the best of your ability. I don't know what my ability is in shawl design and writing a pattern, but it's going to be interesting to find out.

Brickless and Leto have gotten a fair bit of attention during morning coffee time and some occasional nocturnal knitting has garnered me some progress on my legwarmers, too. There are some things that have necessarily been put on the back burner because of time constraints and projects that have deadlines, but I have been very productive this week. On top of all this, I'm maintaining my exercise schedule, laundry is getting done and I even tidied up in my room, vacuumed, and made dinner every night. This may not last, but I'm going to enjoy it while it does.

This week's technique is all about boning. There are several types, but I used Rigilene boning in the bustier above, which can be sewn directly to the garment and doesn't require a casing. The video below shows what I used at 3:57, but it's worth it to watch the whole 15min.

There's a lot blooming, both figuratively and literally, here at the House and it's exhausting, but beautiful, but exhausting, and awesome.

Project bags and Bu shirts are up next in the queue. Have a happy Thargelia!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Something old, something new, and something cool on the other side of fear

Every time I go outside, I walk around my yard to look for flowers and it always seems to me as though there are never enough. It really is a whole lot greener out here, but what I really want is more purple, more yellow, more blue, more red, more everything. So every year, I plant more. Some things make it, some don't, some just kind of barely hang on to dear life until they either throw in the towel or until I figure out that they need more sun or better soil or something of that nature. Where am I going with this? I don't know. Flowers are pretty. There should be more.
And I have a thing about irises. These buttery yellow ones came from Bekah and the ones that came from Mom are about to bloom.

There are also muffins-- lots and lots of muffins. I found a basic recipe that uses a tablespoon of baking powder, which is really great if you're trying to get rid of baking powder. It's almost Thargelia and I think one more pass through the cabinets and the freezer and I can get rid of most everything that's more than a month old. I never can get quite everything, but I do seem to get a little closer each year.

This is the perfect time to cultivate new things growing and to transform old things into new things. That's where I am in Project Make as well. 
The project bags I'd started are still sitting draped over my sewing machine, waiting to be stitched, mainly because I've started on the eldest's Spring Formal dress. It feels like I'm training for prom because the dress, which is really a top and a skirt, is meant to be beautiful and elegant. The color is perfect for her and she will be the most beautiful princess at the ball.

My only concern is that it's sleeveless and to be held up by gravity, friction, prayers, and a little boning. It's not so much that I'm not sure I'm up to the task as far as technical skill, but really more that my baby is thirteen and I simultaneously have the urge to purchase a firearm and feel a little like a bad parent for making a bustier for her. 
Of course, that said, she's a confident young woman and I'm looking forward to the challenge of this particular design. The pattern is an old one from my pattern stash and I'm glad she found one from there that she liked. I'm looking forward to watching this transform as I work. 

And I have new yarn. I saved my spending cash for quite a few weeks and managed to go to Stitches South with about three times my normal budget. This is the entirety of what I came out with, aside from a pear-scented Lo-lo bar from The Barmaids. The best part of the trip was hanging out with my besties, meeting the most delightful people that I'd only previously known online, and watching yarn vendors flirt with Bu. The yellow yarn on the far left was from such a vendor, A Hundred Ravens, and happens to be in a colorway named Apollo

When I started Project Make, I thought I might be tweaking my sewing skills a little, learning some more about weaving, or maybe trying a new heel or two on socks. I didn't think I'd be taking on something as daunting as planning a circular shawl. I've never done it before and have a great fear that it'll suck as a design, but I'm poking along anyway because there might be something cool on the other side of that fear. 

This week's technique is the cast on I'm using to start the shawl. If it has a name, please do tell. I just kind of made this up as I went. Because I wanted to work it from the center out, I started with just a few stitches and increased from there. The intended shape is twelve-sided, but you could make any number of increases with this method. For the dodecagon:

CO 3 sts
1. As though knitting I-cord, kfb in all three stitches (6 sts)
2. Continue as though you were knitting I-cord and knit all 6 sts
3. kfb in each stitch, transferring stitches to three DPNs as you go (12 sts: 4sts/needle)
4. And all even rounds Knit around
5. (k, yo, k) into each stitch (36 sts)
7. *k 1, (k, yo, k) into one st, k1* repeat around (60 sts) (If desired, transfer to four DPNs: 15sts/needle)
9. *k2, (k, yo, k) into one st, k2* repeat around (84 sts)
11. *k3, (k, yo, k) into one st, k3* repeat around (108 sts)

And so on, adding one to the number of stitches on each side of the increases.

I'm also working on transforming myself. Week 4 of couch to 5k hasn't killed me yet, so I'm going to keep on truckin'. I can't wait to see what blooms next.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Seams, Madam? I know not "seams."

I'm so excited about this that I can't even. I was taking unnecessary trips to the garage just to look at her. My loom has been in pieces since we moved and I've only just put it together this week. That's almost three years of not weaving and I can't wait to sink my teeth into learning how to make her sing and dance. I never really learned how to weave; I just started doing it to see if I could figure it out. Like with spinning, I managed, but I know I can do better. The garage is more organized than it's ever been and though the space is still not ideal, it is at least workable and that's good enough. Hopefully soon, we'll get to the part of Project Make where I start weaving again, but I'm having a Da Vinci Disorder flare right now and I don't know when I'll actually get to it. I want to do all the things all at once, including petting my loom.

I'm also making some little outfits for little Bu and I've been working from this pattern. Even though about half of the items are just variations in trim, I've decided that I want to make one of each anyway, partly to remember why it is I sew the way I do, if I skip parts that are necessary, or if my way really is better or more efficient. I finished the two shirts I'd cut out last week and the process has had the fortunate side-effect of helping me work out some of my awkward work flow issues.

My sewing space is not ideal, but it'll do, and if there's anything I'm good at, it's efficiency. If the space I have isn't the best, I'll do what I can within those limitations to be as efficient as possible.

Say "rocks!"

This is one of the two that were finished this week and when she tried them on, she decided they were comfy. The other one is virtually the same, but with no ties at the front and a bit of lace at the bottom instead of ric-rac.

Of course, if there's any use at all for ric-rac, it's for little girl clothes and Starfleet rank markings.

I love that it's comfy and a simple enough pattern that I could put it together without fighting with it. The only problem I had was that since the sleeves aren't separate pieces, there's a corner to turn at the underarm that's a pain in the butt. Other than that, it was quick, easy, and an excellent use of some funky but cute stash fabric.

After this, I'll be working on the skirt and top for the eldest's Spring Formal dance, which is going to be a fair bit more complicated. There's boning involved and it's been a bit since I put boning in anything.

This week's technique is an actual sewing technique that has little to do with philosophy unless you want to apply deep meaning to which side of the fabric you want the stitching to be.

Flat-Felled Seams

I always finish my seams in a garment, unless I have a good reason not to. If a seam is hidden, I'm not necessarily going to bother, but generally, a finished seam just looks a hundred percent more professional and wears better in the long run. By and large, I just zig-zag the edges of each side of the seam, but I wanted to try something new-to-me. The shoulders looked like a good place to put something like a flat-felled seam:

For the shoulders of Bu's little shirts, the stitching is reversed from what's shown in the video, mostly because I did them from a vague memory of a sewing show rather than watching the video before doing it, but I like how they turned out and it looks very neat. I'm having fantasies of sewing my own jeans and this is a skill that might come in handy.

I've also been working on:

  • Leto in Knit Picks' Shadow and Misti Alpaca Lace 
  • EZ's Seamless Saddle Shoulder Pullover in Knit Picks' Wool of the Andes superwash
  • Several rectangles that are meant to be project bags in the nearish future, though the Police Box got no love this week.

My violas and pansies are doing well  and the roses are leafing out nicely. The berry bushes look like they intend to flower and I'm aching to plant about a million more things. I wish I were as enthusiastic about running and housework, but you can't have everything. Also, I signed up for the mother-daughter dance for Iris' recital. She's the oldest kid there and taller than me. This should be interesting and challenging for both of us. In other news, her pointe qualification is this afternoon and she's both excited and nervous about it. Break a leg, kiddo.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

If you start singing, I'll understand.

Now seeds, start growing!
My sleep schedule has been a little off-kilter lately and I'm going to bed early and tired, but it's all for the best reasons. I'm taking this excellent energy that comes with springtime and turning it into a cleaner house, more projects, a tidy lawn and garden, and a healthier me. I started Couch to 5k again with Bekah (contemporaneously, not colocationally, as she would say) and I've made it halfway through week two. I'm not to the place where I love running and want to do more just yet, but right now, it's about moving my body and trying to meet the challenge. I do love a good challenge and if I stick with it, I might even start enjoying running again.

I'm poking away at the TARDIS project bag and it's slow-going because the fabric doesn't want to sit still and there are a lot of parts to it. I've already got five hours in it and there are some kinks in the design that need to be worked out, but when I lay it out on the table, it looks like I imagined.

The rest of the blue silk finally made its way onto an embroidery hoop to become a sampler, of sorts. I'd started to design something, but it ended up being overdone and too many elements in one design, so I tossed it. Sometimes the challenge of Project Make is not about planning something to the nth degree, as with the TARDIS bag, but about knowing when to let go and let the art just happen.

If you were to start singing "Let it Go" right now, I'd understand.

In other sewing news, I've been riffling through my fabric stash and came up with a stack of pinks and blues.

Some of these are in very small amounts and I don't yet know what they will be, some are in large enough amounts to become project bags, and a few of them are in sufficient quantity to make some little shirts for my littlest person.

I'm starting with the funky floral pink in the center of the second picture. I've already cut two little shirts and the outsides of two quickie project bags that I want to do up assembly-line style later.

Also in my stash was a nice bright purple ribbon and a matching purple ric-rac. I may pick up some eyelet lace, too.

Bekah pointed out earlier this week that two years old is a fine time to receive handsewn garments and I've been planning to both improve my skill with patterns and to start really learning how to make things without a purchased pattern. Making small things for small people or even doll clothes is an excellent way to learn without investing a whole lot of time and fabric into an adult garment.

In spite of all this sewing, I've been knitting, too. I'm at the point where there's enough progress that new pictures are necessary, but I haven't taken them yet. I've been working on:

  • Leto in Knit Picks' Shadow and Misti Alpaca Lace 

So it's been a little bit of everything. 

This week's technique is more philosophy, I'm afraid, but came to me as I was cutting Bu's shirts:
Do not stop for thrift. 
This is one of the Delphic Maxims, #122 to be exact. As religious texts go, it's more of a list of pretty good ideas rather than a set of hard and fast rules. Calling them commandments overstates it a bit and they're meant to make you think about your life choices instead of making those choices for you. Anyhoo, for years, I have been marking the pattern, removing the paper pattern, and cutting the fabric, just in case I wanted to use the pattern again in a different size. That's how I was taught to do it, so that's how I did it. 

It took me thirty years of sewing to figure out that I can replace a pattern for a dollar when they go on sale and my time is far more valuable than that. Yesterday, with this in mind, I let go and cut the paper pattern.

If you were to start singing "Let it Go" again, I would still understand.

Dear Bekah suggested this one means "If you see a Goodwill, keep driving," which I thought was pretty great, even though that's not how we roll here at the House. The TARDIS blue silk is actually a Goodwill find. Hers was not a serious suggestion, but it did give me a chuckle. I think I would rephrase this as "Evaluate your return on investment." If something like couponing is fun for you and you're saving a significant amount of scratch, great! If your duds come from Goodwill or if patching worn clothes makes you happy, that's perfectly okay. But if those things don't make you happy and aren't worth the time, thrift is not a good enough reason to continue.