Sewing: Being realistic about body shape

Today I finally did it!  I took the time to make a photographic dress form of myself wearing a t-shirt and leggings.  Measurements are one thing, but it’s seeing the actual shape I am that’s going to help me make good choices for the clothes I sew myself.

2014-06-28 Four views of body image

I’ve avoided doing this for years even though the “weight” folks believe this is one of the most motivating things to do for those who want to be a different size.  Now that I’ve seen my results, I get their point!

Sewing one’s own clothes takes a lot of time.  I want what I make to look good and look good on me too.  I know at midlife that I have fitting challenges.   Restricting myself to working on a dress form and flat pattern pieces isn’t going to work for me.  So I’m actually going to try to mockup my outfits on the real me — whether by using an online drawing tool or printing out the image working with that in some way.   I can use a drawing tool to convert the photo to outlines, print it and then colour that with pencil crayons.

I’ve also gone back to using Pinterest with fresh eyes.  I have boards set up for ideas for using knit fabric and another started with style ideas as well as some assorted tips and designer boards.

My 15 minutes a day (from my last post) have mostly been spent browsing Pinterest and test-driving a couple more fabric suppliers by buying small amounts.  I did pre-wash all my knit fabric (warm wash, cold rinse) last weekend and that did introduce some surprises which I will reveal in another post.

 

Posted in Clothing, Clothing patterns, fabric, Sewing | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sewing: What can I accomplish in 15 minutes a day?

I know a quilter who raises 4 children and works fulltime.  She makes fabulous large art quilts by squeezing 15 minutes a day out of her busy schedule.  I’m busy.  I want to sew some summer tops for myself and I want to play with knit fabric.  So I’m taking a page out of her book!  Let’s see what I can do in 15 minutes a day this week.

I’ve been collecting fabric and patterns.

Some fabric I bought locally, some I mail-ordered from a Canadian supplier who happened to be located in my home city and some was shipped internationally from Marcy Tilton’s online store.  Here’s the inventory:

Thirteen fabrics from Marcy Tilton.  Ten have four-way stretch and are all roughly the same weight.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - 4-way stretch - 2

 

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - 4-way stretch - 1

And then three fabrics that are a bit different:  a mesh and two fabrics with 2-way stretch.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - mesh and 2-way stretch

Here’s how the mesh looks when it’s doubled up (see the middle section) and laid over another fabric such as a stripe (at the bottom):

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - mesh combined with stripe

It’s an interesting way to make a favourite fabric go a little further and to create some texture.

I bought some fabric from a local store.  Some of it is lightweight and drapey.  I should have kept better records because I think some of this has bamboo in it.  The multicolour in the first photo is a slinky fabric.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from local store - all 4-way stretch slippery

2014-06-14 Knit fabric - combining 4-way stretch fabric

I also picked up some solids that are a bit heftier than the others and I think this might actually be ponte.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from local store - could be ponteFrom a Canadian mailorder place, I picked up some 1/2 yard pieces.  I was really looking for stripes but I also bought some solid white and a stripey-coloured remnant that I’m not sure how I’ll use.  I might dye the ivory/grey stripe as it’s quite plain.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric - rayon+cotton and cotton jersey2014-06-14 Repurposed knit fabric - cotton and synthetic

I have some fabric to play with.  I bought some solid-coloured cotton turtlenecks on sale a few years ago but the collars were too tight.  So I decided to chop off the collars and part of the sleeves so I could remake the neck area.  I haven’t done that yet and now I’m thinking some more slicing and stripes would be a good addition too!   I also bought a knit top on sale that had an uncomfortable twist in the sleeves due to how poorly it was sewn.  I’ve chopped that up and now have a neutral print I can use.

My next project will be to finish the green piece below. About 20 years ago, I bought a bunch of knit fabric in quite bright colours.  Some has been donated but I decided to see what I could do with this green.  I’m about to finish the neckline which doesn’t suit me at all and sew up the side seams. Before I do that, I think I’ll try to improve the look of the neckline and insert some striped fabric in various places. I’ll keep you posted!

2014-06-14 Green t-shirt needing some zing - sewing in progress

I also ordered some plain cotton jersey to dye.  It’s quite a different-feeling fabric from everything else I have that I’m not sure exactly how I’ll use it.  More on that later.

Posted in Clothing, Clothing patterns, fabric, Sewing | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Fabric Adventures: Another year re-stashing with the Ujamaa Grandmas

I have been thinking about sewing clothing a lot lately.  The Ujamaa Grandmas spring yarn and fabric sale really gets me going.  First I cull through my fabric and yarn stash looking for donations.  Actually I did this around Christmas.  Closer to the dropoff date, I go through the possible donations and confirm I’m truly ready to let go of the selected yarn and fabric. Destashing decades of accumulated fabric and yarn is an emotional undertaking. I’ve learned to let go in stages!

When I dropped off my stuff on Wednesday, I saw all the stuff others have donated.  The volunteers as they’re sorting are holding up things and exclaiming “gosh, look at this — how wonderful!” I can’t wait! Note to self:  one year, I have to volunteer to help set up! By Saturday I’m ready with cash and bags — all set for fun.  I go later in the day when it’s quieter and the sale is only a couple of hours from finishing.

By the way, I’m not going to do currency conversions for everything.  Know that today the Canadian dollar (my dollar), is worth $0.90 US, 0.65 Euros and 0.54 GB Pounds.

I had a lot of fun last year but restrained myself by only spending $20.00.  So this year, I brought more cash and had a specific strategy.  I decided to focus on wool.  Last year I noticed there were a number of embroidery and tapestry kits — some unopened but most were unfinished.  This year, I decided I would use those as a source of yarn and/or framing equipment.  For around $12, I picked up 9 kits of varying sizes.  The deconstructed result was 330 g (12 oz) of 3-ply Persian tapestry yarn, some embroidery floss and some needlepoint wool.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - tapestry yarn and embroidery floss

I chose selectively and in the same set of kits, picked up pieces for two 12″ x 14″ needlepoint stretcher frames and one 20 cm x 25 cm (8″ x 10″).  In the stores, these sell for about $1.50 to $2 per side.  There was also a rotating roller tapestry frame and a very sturdy 35 cm (14″) hoop.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - needlework frames and hoop

As I deconstructed the kits, I amassed quite a few needles and some tapestry canvas (left in photo below). None of the fabric in the kits was worth saving.  Actually I think that’s why people had barely started the kits and never finished them.  From what I could see, the kit fabric wasn’t doing the sewer’s stitches any favours.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - wool yardage + tapestry canvas + needles

I also wanted to get some wool fabric in keeping with my interest in sewing and embroidering felted fabric.  I was fortunate to find a medium weight light blue wool that appeared to have been slightly felted when the seamstress pre-washed it (centre, above photo).  It’s perfect for me and, at $5.00 total for 4 meters (~4 yards), I grabbed it.  I also picked up some drab never-washed white and brown wool yardarge ($5.00 for 5 meters) — right side of the above photo. Its weight is on the light side of medium and my plan is to felt and dye before using it.

Someone donated Cherrywood cotton — that luscious fabric with the rich colours and sueded look. They were selling this for $5/meter so I spent a little extra and bought 5 meters in total.  That’s the light brown, rust and gold fabric on the right in the photo below. I also picked up some dark grey suit-weight wool and a little heavier black twill weave wool yardage — both under 2 meters and $4 in total — left in the photo below.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - Cherrywood quilting cotton + wool yardage

I picked up some short lengths of cotton and a lightweight woven microfiber fabric for $4. I still need to do a burn test to figure out exactly what the microfiber is made from.

I got a couple of grab-bags for $2 of knit fabric remnants and knit cuffs that I can use for trim on jersey knit T-shirts.

My big investment was in three knitting machines — each for $10.  The Ujamaa Grandmas is a good cause and I figured if they were unusable then I had just made a donation!  One machine was a Brother KH-910 with all kinds of manuals and mylar pattern sheets. However, after some research, I discovered it was missing so many parts (carriage, power cord, etc.) that I’m not going to keep it.  I also grabbed a Brother KH-400 which seems to be in reasonable condition despite appearing to have been stored in a garage for some time –the dead bug collection in the box was my evidence for this conclusion!  I hope I don’t end up with an infestation.  Finally, there was a Bond Elite with a broken plastic bit where yarn feeds from the cone to the carriage.  It had been repaired with duct tape.  Nothing else seemed broken but it did seem to be made from a lot of plastic.

I don’t have time to play with these machines right now but I’m looking forward to making knit yardage that I can dye and felt.  My mother had a hand-me-down knitting machine when I was younger and I remember how painful it was for her to use.  I don’t need to try any fancy things and I’m certainly not going through the pain of trying to make a garment!

As for the volume of fabric, what I brought home was slightly less than what I donated. However, the wool yarn is considerably less than what I donated so I figure I’m ahead space-wise!

Posted in Acid dyes, Embroidery, fabric, Felting, Sewing, Stash-busting, Stitching, Wool yarn | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Felting: At a Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

I know, I know…not the best blogger lately.  I’ve been busy and hopefully, when I look back, I’ll say it was busy in a good way as I juggle recently-started full-time work and my work-related studies.  I’ve had very little time for creative endeavours.  Worse, shortly after Christmas I found myself completely derailed in my quest to complete my 21 UFOs before early March and one year after starting on this.  Know though that I have been being kind to myself!

On the creative front, with a week to spare, a space opened up and I did manage to move off the waiting list and into the actual workshop for a 3-day course in early March on nuno felting with Judith Dios.  It really helped that it was held in my hometown.  I loved the results from this course so much that, as soon as I got home, I immediately ordered a dozen yards of each of the silks she commonly uses in her work.  Judith has clearly done a lot of experimentation as she creates her beautiful garments and she freely shared all she had learned in this course.  Her handouts were terrific!  She also brought lots of her own work for inspiraton.  I was amazed at how beginner and experienced felters were able to produce some truly lovely pieces.  I played it safe making a couple of scarves but others were fearlessly tackling vests, tops and enormous wraps.

Three things made the results of the course different from a what I often associate with felted garments.  One was the colour — Judith has a technique for adding colour that produces subtle pastels.  The other is the lightness — her techniques produce a really lightweight garment or accessory that is quite mold-able to the wearer.  Finally, I found her embellishment ideas to be unique.  She shared quite a bit about how to make those embellishments work (e.g. not fall off and not be too heavy for the item).  She also paid attention to decorating both sides of a scarf so it looked great no matter which side was facing up when wearing it.  Her “no roll” method was pretty neat too and the result of considerable trial and error from what I could tell.

I started with a simple scarf and tried all the basic ideas.  This first one is close to 2 meters (nearly 7′) long by 15 – 18 cm (6″ – 7″) wide — shrinkage was around 30%.  I hope the photo conveys how lightweight it is.

2014-03-30 Narrow scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshopShe has a technique for creating a ruffle effect and here’s a closeup of my interpretation. She is much better than I but I’m still impressed that I could get this sort of working too!

2014-03-30 Closeup of ruffle on narrow scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

Then I moved up to a wider scarf.  Unfortunately I was a bit heavy-handed laying down the wool and this one, although still lightweight, is a bit thicker than the blue one.  Too much wool meant it also shrank more — it’s about 1.5 meters (about 5′) long by 36 – 38 cm (14″ – 15″) wide.

2014-03-30 Wide scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

Judith showed us how to work effectively on the short 1.8 meter (6′) tables in the classroom.  However, the next time I do this, I want to work on a long table where I can see all the work at once and what I’m doing embellishment-wise.  Come summer, I’ll have access to studio space again and I’m now ready to do more of this type of felting.

For anyone interested, Judith lives on the west coast of Canada and I think she’s an excellent workshop leader.  She had 12 people in her workshop and she was able to help everyone get something useful out of the experience.  She came prepared to work with supplies that students brought to class as per her supply list or to sell small amounts from her own supply to provide only what people needed for their projects.  I found the cost of the workshop supplies for my two silk and fine merino scarves to be quite reasonable.  I liked that she provided handouts with estimates of the cost of different projects and gave measurements so students could choose projects that fit within their budget.  All in all, a wonderful experience.

Also, big thanks to Karin Millson, who took a workshop from Judith last fall out on the West coast and realized that we all could benefit from having her come to our area. Karen managed all the administrivia and millions of tiny details including securing loans of such items as microwaves and kettles as well as hosting Judith.

Posted in Acid dyes, Clothing, Felting, In Person, Learning, Wool | Tagged | 12 Comments

Best wishes to all

There are so many celebrations taking place this time of year that I’m not going to single out any one in particular — just extend my best wishes to all.  I like to raise my spirits this time of year with the oh-so-cold and oh-so-short days in my part of the northern hemisphere by being thankful for so many aspects of my life and tackling things that I’ve been putting off.

2013-12-24 Machine-quilting prismatic quilt made with hand-dyed fabric

The machine-quilting “sweatshop” on the island counter in the kitchen continues.  I’ve decided to machine-quilt a number of stashed tops while I have the counter mostly cleared of junk.

I admired Wanda Hanson’s Prismatic Garden series of quilts for such a long time that finally, at the end of 2007, I made a top of my own using hand-dyed fabric made in a workshop led by Heide Stoll-Weber back in summer 2007.  Now, I’m getting around to machine-quilting it.  Another one I really like and am looking forward to getting finished and hung on the wall.

My process:

  • Changing threads to roughly match the strip colour.
  • Stitching close to the seam using Bottom Line thread in the top and the bobbin.
  • Using Machingers™ as my gloves to keep a good grip on my work.  These really reduce how sore my upper back gets while machine-quilting.
  • Not getting too concerned about whether or not I stitch every strip and which side of the seam the stitching is on.
  • No basting as the countertop is large enough that I can keep smoothing the quilt after I do a small set of stitching.
  • Taking lots of breaks and stretching every so often.
  • Started machine-quilting in the middle.
  • Using a walking foot which means a lot of quilt-wrestling because I only stitch forward — so lots of quilt-turning.
  • Using a very thin polyester batting that was designed to be a batting in quilted clothing — means less bulk.

Take care everyone and, if you have to drive, drive safe!

Posted in Dyeing, Fiber reactive dyes, Quilting, Wall hanging | Tagged | 6 Comments

Quilting: Indulging in a bit of finish-it-itis!

I have finished machine quilting my flying goose chase quilt with binding as the next step.  Yesterday, for some reason, I got in a finishing mood and pulled out all my pieced quilt tops that still needed machine quilting.

2013-12-16 Diagonals quilt - after machine quilting + before binding

That meant yesterday I worked at the sewing machine for about four hours and was able to finish all the machine quilting on this small top.  It’s folded up in the photo.  I pieced this small 70 cm square quilt (28” square) at Christmastime six years ago.  At the time, I wanted to see if I could take traditional quilt blocks and use hand-dyed fabric to make contemporary versions.  This one is a strip-pieced half square triangle.  For years, I’ve been stymied as to how to finish it up.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, coming up with designs for machine quilting is a real struggle for me.  I like the results from the close-to-but-not-quite-in-the-ditch quilting I did on this play piece a few months ago.  I decided to try something similar for this one. I’m avoiding stitch-in-the-ditch because I’m just not good enough at it to be happy with the results.

I dyed the fabric for this quilt at a workshop led by Heide Stoll-Weber in summer 2007 and made three quilt tops from narrow strips I cut from the fabrics.  I used my unloved fabric from the workshop for quilt backs.  I did have this quilt top rolled up with its batting and a pieced back using some of that fabric.  But when I pulled it all out of the cupboard, I decided the back was too gorgeous to use as a back (see photo at end of post) and so I substituted some fabric I had unevenly dyed light purple.

With machine-quilting, I’ve also had the challenge of thread colour.  For this quilt, I kept changing the thread and ended up using dark blue, medium green, taupe, rust brown and dusty pink.  I found changing the thread colours meant the quilting blended better with the pieced fabrics.  I didn’t baste this one.  I just started in the middle and kept laying it out flat and rearranging the layers every time I finished a small 10 – 20 cm (4″- 8″) portion of a diagonal strip.

All the threads (top and bobbin) were Bottom Line by Libby Lehman from Superior Threads.  There isn’t a source for these in Calgary, so when I’m out in the Banff area, I stop at the Sugar Pine Company in Canmore to buy some.  They have offered to ship, but I like browsing the store!

The Sugar Pine also ran a two day course in machine quilting by Ann Johnston that I took in early 2009.  As well as getting my machine set up properly for free-motion quilting, I learned a variety of ideas for machine quilting hand-dyed fabrics and some good what-not-to-do tips. During the course she introduced us to all kinds of different threads.  Thanks to her, I discovered finer threads and their effect. I now have enough of a collection that I can mix things up a little more and branch out from my former machine-quilting standby, medium grey!

2013-12-16 Diagonals quilt - after piecing + before machine quilting

It’s been nice having the kitchen island counter cleaned off enough that I can do my machine-quilting on it.  It’s slippery so it’s a little easier to wrestle the fabric sandwich when quilting.

As for the original quilt back, who knows what I was thinking when I relegated this luscious collection of fabrics to the back of a quilt?  I must have been going through a solids-and-geometrics phase.  But now, I could use them in many ways!  Consider them reclaimed!

2013-12-16 Rescued some hand-dyed fabric from becoming a quilt back

Posted in Dyeing, Fiber reactive dyes, Quilting, Wall hanging | Tagged | 10 Comments

Knitting: Wristwarmers finished and not a moment too soon

With temperatures reaching highs of -14°C (7°F) yesterday, I was driven to finally seam these lovely fuzzy wristwarmers.  I used 65 meters (71 yards) of the alpaca/merino blend I spun at the end of October.  

2013-11-20 Wristwarmers finished

So comfy.  Warm hands at last!

2013-11-20 Hand model of wristwarmers

Nice long cuffs.  I’m also wearing the shawl I finished in October.  A girl can never have too many purple things!

2013-11-20 Hand model of wristwarmer

Here they are blocking on my improvised blocking setup:  1″ styrofoam insulation (2′ x 4′ sheet) with one of my dyeing towels (aka very inexpensive car washing towel from Costco) and T-pins.2013-11-20 Wristwarmers blocking

Lace is not my thing but I do keep trying.  I use a rustic spinning technique to produce a “textured” yarn so the mistakes are not too glaring!  The horizontal streaks are from uneven dyeing. I didn’t drum card the dyed roving — I just spun from the dyed roving without worrying about the lighter and darker areas.  I find the results interesting.

I knit the wristwarmer on the left first.  The lace pattern is from Miriam Felton’s Lace Shawl Design class on Craftsy.  I inserted the thumb part of the pattern Generic Mittens Knit Flat on Ravelry and cast the stitches off with a single crochet.  Miriam’s pattern is an odd number of stitches and I didn’t realize how tough it would be to insert the thumb in the middle while still maintaining the pattern.  Of course, that didn’t work well for me at all and the strange, straight line of holes on the upper left edge of the wristwarmer on the left proves it!

I added a stitch in the middle of the pattern for the second wristwarmer with better results although there are still some knitting errors.  I’m not comfortable ripping back lace so I’m just choosing to live with the mistakes.

I’m finding my thumbs are just a teeny tiny bit cold and I might crochet about 1 cm (1/2″) more onto the thumbs to make that part a little longer.  Otherwise, they’re fine!

I didn’t keep track of my knitting time but I don’t feel like this project took more than 5 hours of knitting and finishing added to the 4 hours of dyeing and yarn-making.  It turned out to not be a good TV-watching project for me and so I had to fit in into other spare hours.

More project details on Ravelry.

Posted in Alpaca, Clothing, Knitting, Spinning, Wool | Tagged , | 6 Comments