Friday, July 01, 2016

FO: Jumper for Joy

Hello, blog.
I miss you.

Right now, I'm avoiding homework to show you this jumper I made for little Bu, which I made while I was avoiding homework.

Man, I get so much done when I'm avoiding homework.

This is McCall's M6983, but instead of doing a facing for the top, I went for a lining.

And there it is. The lining is a copy of the outer dress, making it almost reversible, but not quite. I had to really think about the construction, but I'm really pleased with the lining and think it'll wear better than just facing.

She picked out the polyester gingham to for the lining and I happened to have a pink zipper in exactly the right size. The pockets are faced in gingham, too. 
I'm very proud of this zipper. It zips all the way to the top and looks very tidy. 

It's machine sewn to the seam allowance, but hand finished. 

Remember the time I matched plaids? I managed to match this one up pretty tidily all around. The back seam matches up nicely and the yoke matches up nicely to the skirt. 

Heck yeah, skills!

(I didn't bother matching the lining, which is fine. No one will see it.)


She's pretty happy with it, too. I have another one planned in a heavier fabric which I hope is not too heavy and I want to do some cute little shirts for her, too, but haven't got a pattern for one yet. She's grown out of the shirt patterns I have. Next time I'm not doing homework, I'll probably be looking for kids' shirt patterns.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

What was June for Again?

Making garments is the answer and I'll be making several little things for Miss Bu this month. I've just finished washing and drying the fabric for a couple little jumpers and some shirts. Baby girl is growing and needs new clothes.

That's a lot of potential sewing right there (not counting the other two pieces of fabric not pictured because my undies are hanging up just to the right as well) and these are some darn ambitious goals, but I thrive on ambitious goals. Even if I fall a bit short of my intentions, I can still manage something awesome. DaVinci Disorder*, FTW. And, in addition to this, I'm planning on doing a shirt for the Outfit-a-long and, at some point later in the year, I want to do up a Suffragette costume.

This is the pattern I'm using for the Outfit-a-Long and I'm strongly considering the V-neck short sleeve for its versatility, though I really like the slash-front 3/4 sleeved one, too. Nothing saying I can't make both, but for the purposes of the OAL, the V-neck is the way to go. I'm considering a couple different yarns to use for the knitted portion of these adventures, namely Alisha Goes Around: Walk of Snipes in a gorgeous blue that would be awesome as a lightweight cardigan of some kind. I've also got some Quince & Co.: Finch that I really want to try and that would look really great as a cowl. I'm leaning cardigan in the blue, but I think I might have to go pet my yarn and find a pattern I like. I'm going to do Vitamin D eventually, but I think that's going to be an intentional project during the Hyperborean (basically winter) months.

Anyhow, between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, I've been busy and have been neglecting the ol' blog, but lots of knitting and other crafting is still going on in the background. In addition to the usual stuff, I'm working on an alternate teaching certification program and doing my best to help both kids be as awesome as they can be (which is pretty darned awesome). The former involves regular, concentrated work, the latter, well, gifted kids are a particular challenge. We just got the little one's IQ score back and the psychologist who showed us the number was nearly speechless. It was a really big number.

See? I'm knitting!
All that aside, I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things and to start posting regularly again. I miss blogging and I miss how it was helping me focus on my crafting life. I'm pretty regular on Instagram as DelphinianJess, so if you miss me here, I'll be over there with a fair amount of regularity.

*Not a real disorder

Thursday, May 12, 2016

FO: Cloth Napkin Hem Repair

 We use cloth napkins at our house because it reduces waste and I don't have to keep buying them. Some of them are starting to get a little worn as you saw from the last FO post and I've been putting off repairing them, but since they're just squares, the repairs are pretty straightforward.

The one on the top had been frayed on the edges, so I trimmed it up and added a new hem.The one on the bottom is what it originally looked like. The repaired napkin is a little smaller than the original, but that's no big deal.
Here's a closeup of the new hem on top of the old hem and not a bad little job of mitering the corner, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

FO: Darning on a cloth napkin

Not a bad bit of mending, if I do say so myself. The hems might need a little mending later on, but the holes darned up very nicely. I used a single strand of plain cotton embroidery floss in a plain ol' woven darn. 

The back doesn't look too shabby, either, and it should hold up in the wash alright.

It's not very obvious at arm's length, which is a sign of a darn good mend. (Eh? Eh? See what I did there?)

FO: Starstepper Fitbit bracelet

 My Fitbit bracelet broke this morning, so I needed a replacement. I grabbed a scrap of fabric and some wide grosgrain ribbon, stitched them together, and turned the whole thing right side out. There's a slit in the side so I can take the sensor out to charge and one little pearly button. Embroidery keeps the sensor from shifting around. It's simple, comfy, and functional.

Me Made May: Stuff Around the House

I've been absent a couple of weeks, as you may have noticed, and for little other reason than because I'm having a bit of trouble getting my act together. The blocks I started when I left off are still sitting on my ironing board, waiting to be assembled. There's nothing for it but to start again as best as I can and see if I can't get back into the swing of things. I've also started an online teaching certification program, which has been taking a good chunk of my time and attention, but it's worth it.

So, officially, Me Made May is a challenge to wear the things you've made every day in May. I am, in fact, wearing a shirt that I'll talk about another week. Here at Lace Maze, I'm totally using it as an excuse to catch up with some of the things I started at the beginning of the year.

This week, I want to show you some of the household things  that get a lot of use around here. To the left is an action shot of Mr. Rippley, my coffee friend. Everyone loves a cuddle on, under, or near this one, and it was totally worth the time and effort. I chose the colors to match the couch and we picked the couch to match the art, which all seems to have worked out very well.

An older, funkier afghan was done up in scraps of Red Heart and lives on the rocking chair. It gets less use, not being on the couch most of the time, but it does lend a bit of homey cheerfulness to the living room.

We also have a large assortment of pot holders, washrags, and towels for kitchen use, as well as a fancypants cozy for my French press. There's a lot of crochet, but there's some knitting, weaving, and quilting in there, too. About half of what you see here was made by someone dear to me, which delights me to no end. There's more than what's pictured here because a lot of it is in the wash. Again, these get daily use and a lot are stained, worn, and/or faded from use-- which is not a bad thing! I'm not going to save these for a special occasion. Washing my dishes or scrubbing my counter is sufficiently special.

There are a few similar items in the bathroom, including a linen hand towel that I love, and one of my goals is to work up some more delicate towels and washcloths in finer cottons and linens. In fact, I've got a collection of such yarns for that purpose. The linen hand towel has gone dingy and has developed holes, but I still love it.

Some may eschew knitting/crochet/etc. for the home, but I like making things that everyone can share and I like seeing handmade things all around the house. It feels more like home when the house is dressed in things we made.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Piecing April: Quarter Square Triangles

So, our dryer broke. We have a clothesline, which is great! And I really enjoy hanging laundry up on the line because I get to be in the sunshine and feel productive at the same time. I like folding and putting away laundry somewhat less than I enjoy hanging it, but it's not a terrible thing. Unfortunately, because Husband is generally the one who takes care of the majority of the laundry duties and those have now fallen to me, that means a serious cut into my blogging and crafting time so that I can make sure everyone has clean shirts.

I did make time for a couple of blocks last week and worked on using the quarter square triangle. Like the HST, you do have to be aware of bias distortion and a walking foot would be very, very useful for avoiding it (alas, I still haven't one). Unlike the HST, the bias is on the right angle and not on the hypotenuse. Confused? Here's a diagram:

I hope that clears up the geometry a bit. This means that the triangles will be right triangles like the HST, but that they will also behave a little differently when you're sewing them.

This week, I did some Ohio Stars:

I'm hoping to do some Isosceles triangles this week, if I don't get buried under the laundry again.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Piecing April: Half Square Triangles

Aaaah, the good ol' HST. It's easy to put together into a variety of patterns either by itself or with other shapes. It's a quilting standby and rightly so, being that the right triangle is fine upstanding citizen of the Pythagorean realm. 

I'm doing a quilt for Miss Bu, since her elder sister's is closer to completion and if I don't get started, I won't finish hers before she goes off to college. 

Sure, it seems like I have a lot of time now, but I thought that about Iris' quilt, too. Best get busy on it. 
She's a shining star.
For Iris, I decided on a rainbow quilt. Iris means rainbow, hence rainbow quilt. For Phoebe, which means "bright and shining," I'm doing stars. There's a lot of potential for using different techniques using star-themed blocks and one of the simplest is the HST.

The simplest HST block is the pinwheel, which to me looks like the rays of a sun. It can also be used as a component in other blocks, so I thought I'd get a little practice in on this.

Before I show you the other ones, I feel it's necessary to pause for a public service announcement:

Bias distortion is real. If you or a friend has experienced bias distortion, don't despair. There is a solution. 

When you are cutting HSTs, the sides that form the right angle are often on the grain and the cross-grain. That is to say that those cuts run more or less parallel to the vertical and horizontal threads that compose the fabric. Therefore, the long side will be on the bias. The bias is stretchy and goes all wonky (that's a technical term) when you stitch it, meaning that your squares will go off-square.

What I want to have to solve this problem is a walking foot. I do not have a walking foot. I do, however, have junk mail. A bit of paper under the seam keeps the feed dogs from stretching the fabric out and tears away easily. It's not an ideal solution, but it's better than nothing. Tear-away stabilizer would work fine too, I imagine, but I didn't have any of that, either.

This is the friendship star, which is just a 9-patch using HSTs and plain ol' squares. It has a satisfying star shape and is easy to assemble. The whole square is mean to be 9", finished, so 9 1/2" unfinished. Each of the smaller squares, then, is 3" finished and 3 1/2" unfinished. For the HSTs, make a square that's the desired finished width plus 7/8, and cut it corner to corner to make a triangle the correct size.

You can fancy it up with fabric choice and by changing up what you're doing with the smaller squares. 
I'm fond of the wee little mini-9-patches. This brown one was a practice piece and will become something that is yet to be determined. They might be large potholders or a table runner or something else. The fabrics were a recent gift from a friend (Thanks, Robbie!) and I'm super tickled to start using them with some of my old stash. 

The last one (below) is my favorite of the whole batch and I'm infinitely pleased with how it turned out. 

There are more HST blocks to be had, but for next week, I'm going to do some more difficult geometry. There might even be trapezoids; you don't know what could happen!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Embroidery March: Bonus Wrap-up Post!

March has an extra Thursday in it, so I thought I'd look back on this month and see how some of my attitudes and perceptions have changed about embroidery in general and to show you some progress I've made on the various projects for the month.

Freestyle will be my first love as far as embroidery goes. I'm getting better at satin stitch, which I previously hadn't made much use of, and at doing more with fewer colors and stitches, such as with the snowdrops hanky from earlier this month.

I love the freedom of it and the ability to have all the tools of embroidery at my disposal. A++, would go again.

Blackwork is limiting, not only because it's entirely black, but also because it's a counted-stitch method. It's the opposite of my preferred freestyle embroidery, but limiting my toolbox, as it were, allows me to focus on how the weight of the thread and the density of the pattern affects the look of the design. Where freestyle is more like painting, this is pen and ink.

As an extra added bonus, I get to play with repeating geometric designs, for which I have an unnatural fondness.

A++, would go again.

Previously, I thought cross-stitch to be one of the, er... lower forms of embroidery. I sort of have a bias against the creepy large-eyed children and schmoopy sayings that tend to be done up in cross-stitch. Those and the Thomas Kinkade style pictures have never really been the sort of thing I like to do.

My own design based on illustrations from old books? That I can do. I will admit to liking the design process better than the actual stitching, but I like the stitching much more when it's a design that doesn't make me want to barf.
B+, won't ever be my favorite, but I'm enjoying what I'm doing.

Whitework is seriously hard to photograph, but looks pretty bitchin' in person. There's just something about white-on-white that gives me heart palpitations. Because, like blackwork, my embroidery toolbox is much more limited, I can focus on a different element of the whole embroidery picture. In this case, it's the way texture is affected by the structure of the stitch. I suppose this would be more like relief sculpture than anything else because whitework makes use of light and shadow playing off of the three-dimensional stitches. I've opted to go for something more like Mountmellick embroidery first because cutwork makes me feel woozy. When I can manage it without fainting, I'll be able to make use of negative space, too. I'm not there yet, though.
A++, would go again.

I like seed stitch. You could do a whole piece in seeding and it would be like some kind of embroidery version of pointillism.

This piece is giving me fits, though. These shapes between the flower petals and the petals themselves are very uneven. I still haven't decided if I'm just going to roll with it or take it out in a fit of pique. It's having a cool-off period for now.

And so we have come to the end of the first quarter. I'm going to keep working on these (except for the blue thing, which is in time out), but we're going to look at some new stuff in the second quarter as I continue to try to get the da Vinci Disorder under control.

April will be for Quilt Piecing  and I wish it were more alliterative and clever, but hey, whaddya gonna do? We're going to make some quilt blocks is what. I have quilt-based aspirations that need a good swift kick in the pants.

After that, we'll be participating in Me-Made-May, sort of. Not officially. You can do that here. Mostly, I want to do a retrospective to see what I'm actually using of the things I make. It's also an excellent excuse to get caught up on some of the projects I've started in the first quarter. May also tends to be a little wackadoo for us, so I'll need a breather for sure.

Following Me-Made-May in June is the Outfit-a-long, hosted over here by Ms Lladybird. Again, I won't be officially alonging, but I'm going to sew something to wear that I'm actually going to wear, then I'm going to knit something to go with the something I sewed.

See you at Stitches!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FO: A bit of this, a bit of that

To be honest, I'm not sure what all went into this skein. There are bits of cashmere, a fair bit of unknown wool, some llama, a bit of merino, and probably a smidge of silk up in there. Beyond that, there could be unicorn fuzz for all I know. These batts had a bit of everything.

I've been reading up on the mechanics of spinning (of which there are many) and trying some different things with my wheel, so I wanted to use some fiber that wouldn't make me cry too much if I messed it up. Turns out I prefer double drive to Scotch tension, but my bobbins were backwards. I think I've got it sorted now.

So here's 3.6 ounces of about sport weight: A bit of this, a bit of that. I'm not sure of the yardage yet, but it's probably somewhere on the order of 250ish yards. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Embroidery March: Whitework

This is all of the whitework I have ever done in the world, so this is going to be a short post.

Using the very most basic definition, whitework is any embroidery where only white thread is used and usually on a white ground fabric. Generally, though not always, it's a surface embroidery rather than a counted thread technique. As it turns out, whitework could mean any number of techniques, many of which involve cutwork, which is just fancy-pants holes you put there on purpose. I'm not quite ready for cutwork, so I'm working this next hanky in what might be called Mountmellick embroidery, which generally doesn't have holes, but might have a knit edging. That I can do.

Since it's white-on-white, the key thing that I'm going to have to remember is texture. As a fine artist, I'm a painter and not a sculptor, so it's easier for me to think in terms of the relationships between colors than in the ways three dimensional shapes  or textures come together. I can do it, but it's not my strength. One of the reasons I've likely waited until now to try whitework is because it's monochromatic. My favorite color is all of them, so working with subtlety will be a little bit of a challenge.

But I have life goals and those life goals include a whitework tablecloth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

FO: Snowdrops Hanky

I do still need to wash and iron this hanky before I call it done and send it out into the world, but the embroidery is done, so I'm calling it good for the purposes of blogging.

This one is done on one of Husband's old work shirts, poly/cotton blend, with cotton embroidery floss in satin stitch, stem stitch, double running stitch, and a smidge of long-armed cross stitch and chain stitch.
This image, snerched from the British Library's Flickr. was the inspiration for this piece and is in the public domain.

Embroidery March: Cross Stitch

Image copyright Victoria and Albert Museum
Once again, my blog schedule is wonky. I'm hoping this cold will pass soon and that I can have my brains back. So, without further ado: Cross Stitch.

I've tried cross stitch before, but haven't ever been able to stick with it. Generally, I get bored and wander off and I'm not sure why. As a result of Embroidery March, I've been poking it with a stick to see what it's made of and why I didn't have the attention for it before. Now, it's perfectly alright not to like every single craft in existence, but after a little bit of effort, I've discovered what's fun about cross stitch. While I feel like the slowest dot matrix printer in existence (probably the source of my previous boredom), once the design begins to show, I get that giddy feeling that you get when you're working with a self-striping yarn and you come to a color change.

As a stitch, the cross stitch has been around since approximately forever, but designs done entirely or almost entirely in cross stitch are slightly more recent, about five hundred years or so. It's hard to say exactly when it happened, but it's probable that cross stitch designs were influenced by the rising popularity of blackwork, according to the Cross Stitch Guild's article Threads of History.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has the earliest example of a cross stitch sampler, produced by a Miss Jane Bostocke in 1598. That place has everything. I haven't found a reproduction of it yet, but I'd certainly love to see one.

I also found out that the most fun part for me was to create new designs, which is easy-peasy with Stitch Fiddle. The following image is from the British Library's Flickr account, which has been an endless source of amusement for me. I love me some public domain images.

I thought this would make a fine design for one of those kitchen towels with the band of cross stitch across the bottom, so I colored it:

And then imported this image into Stitch Fiddle. I'm working the design now, making edits here and there as I go. When I'm done, I'll have a workable chart and a fancy towel. I can't think of anything better than that.
I love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Embroidery March: Blackwork (reprise)

I've alternately been under the weather and distracted by nice weather. Last Thursday's blog post just escaped me entirely. I had meant to do a reprise of the blackwork post from back in January, so here it is, albeit a few days late.

Back in January, I talked about blackwork as a means of repairing weak fabric, but not really as a decorative art and that's what I want to talk about today. There are some really great pieces at the Victoria and Albert Museum, such as this woman's waistcoat that show the decorative potential of blackwork.

Image copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 
If I had a higher resolution image, I'd be copying the heck outta that. I have been working on a small sampler and trying out  some different techniques.

The top left and bottom right designs came from my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework and the top right and bottom left designs are from my own brain. I'm pleased with how it turned out and I kind of want to do some more samplers just to see if I can't figure out some designs that are both in the Spanish style (reversible designs in Holbein stitch) and in the English style (non-reversible, organic designs like the waistcoat above).

I'm about as pleased with the back of it as I am with the front. The hexagon design did very well on the reverse, as did the picot on the top and bottom. I'm still working on starting and finishing threads more neatly, but I'm pleased overall.

My next challenge is going to be to figuring out how to use the density of the pattern to produce values of dark and light over a larger design. I'll let you know how it goes and if it all goes well, I'm considering writing up the little bird as a pattern.

I'm loving the simplicity of blackwork, though it's just about the opposite of my usual free style stuff. I'm used to working without counted stitches and in all the colors, but using only black reminds me a lot of pen-and-ink drawing. In the 17th century, they used woodcuts for inspiration.

The only thing that changed is that I grabbed this image from four thousand miles away and never had to leave my living room. This coming Thursday, I'll talk about cross stitch, which I have yet to successfully do. It'll be an adventure!

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Embroidery March: Freestyle

Happy March, everyone! February is over, but I'm still plugging away at the quilt and I have a spinning FO that I haven't done a post for yet, but will when I get a couple pictures. I wanted to start March off with my go-to embroidery. Freestyle is pretty much how it sounds. There are no rules really, except you might want to have a needle, some thread, and some fabric. Embroidery is about as old as civilization and the oldest examples are done in the same stitches that I use. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has a collection that includes silk fragments from China that may be as old as the 3rd century C.E. to a pink machine-embroidered tracksuit from 2004.

Most of my work is done by hand and I use lots of different kinds of stitches, depending on what strikes my fancy at the time. I could probably spend a whole month on freestyle, explaining my process and the different kinds of stitches I use, but I'd rather show you some of what I've done. The one on the right is mainly in chain stitch. which is quick and easy and can cover a large area in a short amount of time.

The one above uses satin stitch. I was going for a Hungarian sort of design, which makes use of satin stitch quite a bit. The hardest part is making the edges of satin stitch look nice and if you do some sort of outline, that neatens things up pretty well. 

This sashiko-inspired design is nothing more than running stitch with a few little French knots. The stitching itself is as easy as it gets, though the design can get pretty complicated.
This one uses a combination of several different kinds of stitches, including a double herringbone that was done so small that I realized that I either needed to either make bigger stitches or get some reading glasses. It makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it. To get the feathered effect, I mainly did feather stitches and cross stitches

There are lots more, but those are enough to get you started. My go-to reference has always been The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework and if you don't have one, I highly recommend this one as essential to your needlework library.

Using a marking pen or pencil that washes out, you can free-draw whatever design pleases you and it doesn't have to be super complicated. Sometimes a simple design is all you need. Barring that, there are patterns that can be traced or ironed-on. Lately, I've taken to perusing the British Library's Flickr account. Those images are in the public domain and there are lots of interesting things that can be found there.

I found this one while looking for floral designs. My newest freestyle design will be based on this illustration, done in silver on blue silk (the same as the blue hanky above).

I've done a little in chain stitch and running stitch so far.

I could go on, but we'd be here forever. This is probably my favorite of the needle arts and one that's pretty easy to do if you start with a simple design and one or two basic stitches.