Category Archives: sewing

Undoings…

Apparently, I’ve got a history of pulling out long-suffering undone projects this time of year.

This braided rug was one of my early publicly declared UFOs – I thought I’d started it earlier than I said then, but I remember the hours I spent cutting and braiding and sneezing in my old work room, and where it sat in various-sized balls and braids gathering dust in an old, but not interesting old, plastic milk crate.

Then I vaguely remember evaluating it a few years ago, deciding I wanted a black center and it had to have green, but I have no memory of cutting and braiding even more – likely more than I’d done the first time around. I guess I finally felt like I had enough snake braid then, and started to sew it (slowly and painfully I recall).

And I got it out once more when I finally scored a zigzag sewing machine, but the distance between the zig and the zag is too narrow, so my thoughts of finally finishing it on a machine went poof. (Though if I’d found another machine with a wider swath of zigging and zagging I’d be back in business.)

Now, we no longer have a need for another rug, though there are a few spaces where one would fit better than a large plastic shopping bag with a heavy round object that is far bigger than a sport ball, but smaller than one of those sitting balls, and the removal of said unwieldy bag of pre-rug would free up space for folded batting or a wine-case sized box.

So once more, I hauled it out, determined to finish it for good.

But I have no desire to continue to sew it together, and I don’t really like it.

But I’d wanted some more tarn to make containers or something, and the new bath could use a rug, or at least a new absorbent black bathmat… so I started to unbraid it…

And now it’s back in its shopping bag – unbraiding apparently takes me about 73% as much time as braiding it, and it’s still sneezy.

I’m thinking that it’s possible I just might have a lifetime supply of tomato ties instead…

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Filed under home decor, recycling, sewing

Randomly, at the very end of the year

As usual, I stay away from too much reflection (remorse?) of the past year, and resolution-making for the new year.

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Yep, that just about sums things up… #2017bestnine

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I have a few things in mind with a fairly strong commitment to finish or frog, several small house projects that still need to be wrapped up (I’m still looking at you, you bastard threshold!), but things will start growing again, and it will all be a busy blur once more.

I haven’t been sewing much recently except for a few minor clothing repairs/alterations. For the past couple of years I’ve also been drawn to hand-pieced things, but the bigger reality is that up until yesterday all but one (the one I keep ready for repairs) of my sewing machines were on time-outs which usually magically fixes them, but my luck finally ran out on that practice. (I’ve also had the on again, off again issue of work space, but that’s usually my own messy fault, and/or access issues for home repair.)

So though I intended on working on the long-ignored quilt above yesterday, I set up one machine, sewed three inches, got a snarling bobbin tangle, got out another and got another thready mess, got out another and forgot it needed a serious greasing instead of a little oil and also couldn’t find the spool pin I just found again for it, thought about checking out another, but it was two floors up and in a closet, and didn’t bother getting out the other two that need to be re-wired.

So I took a nap.

But it was a quick one, and I spent the next hour or two cleaning, oiling, and futzing with the goddamn tension to get it to behave. It’s still not great, but it’s mostly holding two pieces of fabric together now.

I hope to finish the quilt? It has a few weird memories from the last time I spend a good chunk of time on it, I really hate the quilting part of quilts – at least big ones, and it doesn’t really go with our decor so to speak, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it (provided the machines behave) and as an amalgam of stuff, it will easier to store and of course use, as a finished thing. So we’ll see.

And I don’t really need to buy any yarn again this year – I’m still spinning the last of a big wad of Jacob – and perhaps finally got a good chain-plying action going on. The only new yarn I might shop around for is reflective stuff.

I knit up this hat out of Red Heart for N. It’s not warm enough, it felt gross (though soft) to knit, and I’m dubious the wear will make it worthwhile for hand work. But he walks the dog in the dawn dark and we walk on country roads, so we need things with a ramped up visibility factor. I also have a spool of the reflective filament that can be held with any yarn too, but it was a little pricey I think, and/or the yarn was cheaper- I can’t remember now, and I think I was concerned about yarn dominance and loosing the thread in something wooly, so then I need to experiment with using it in duplicate stitch or as embroidery… something along those lines. And I’m also playing with some ideas for using it on dog accessories.

Has anyone else worked with this stuff?

And then I’m still finding myself drawn to miniature stuff – I’m oddly mildly traumatized by home renovations/repairs these days, so maybe it’s a psychological thing in that I  actually want to feel in control and spend almost nothing (but time) on a renovation project, even if it is just my childhood dollhouse to get over it?

Eh, we’ll see on that one too –

Happy New Year!

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Filed under collecting, knitting, quilts, sewing, spinning

Can do vs want to

Last year’s spring was a bit rough – job woes, future angst, and a new dog who was a bigger challenge than I was ready for – and then to top it off, I did a cement-surface face plant and broke my glasses.

(The dog was somewhat involved in the accident, though it wasn’t his fault).

(I was so bummed at the time, I forgot to shoot the gnarliest stage of the black eye…)

I bought the glasses only a year or so before – they were a special-order, handmade in the USA, souped-up lenses (my vision is pretty bad) pair, and were a bit over my budget, but I figured on having them around at least 5 years. I’ve broken glasses before as a kid (when the glass was actually glass) but never to the extent I couldn’t repair myself as an adult. It was oddly devastating. And it was the only pair of glasses (apart from sunnies) that I had – in my better financial years I had two daily pairs to choose between, usually black frames and a brown or green – so it was the icing on the shitcake that my one and only was no more.

Wearing the broken pair was pathetic, and the second arm is really quite necessary for functionality, so I had to get a new pair immediately. I went to the local place figuring on needing to return at least once for a better fitting and not wanting to have to schlep to the crazy congested places if I didn’t need to. The local optometrist insisted on a different prescription than what the local ophthalmologist had given me – I’m sure it had to do with a small-town ocular feud of sorts because I still can’t see as well as I’d like, though it’s too vague to figure out. And then I wanted the boring black pair of frames but the sales guy insisted that I needed something more interesting and I hated that I couldn’t get both, because I like to be boring at times and wanted a choice, but out of fuck-it frustration, I got the colorful pair.

And in an attempt to cheer myself up over the whole deal, I bought a sewing kit for a dress that seemed simple enough and okay for my shape. It was on sale to the extent that the pattern and fabric were cheaper than if I’d bought the fabric alone.

And the fabric matched my new eyeglasses.

I’m not sure how I feel about kits and online classes and such – it’s good that they exist, but mostly not for me – YouTube has been my knitting tutor at times, but I need real people and things for real schoolin’. I’m also not a fan of trendy anything, so I was hesitant about getting a fabric pattern that had shown itself on social media a bit and was now “outdated.”

But of course, I didn’t get around to sewing it – last year was what, busy? My head and/or heart wasn’t up for it? (Not that I need “passion” to sew, I just needed to not have a coronary).

But this summer I wished I had a cottony dress or two, and I’ve got some other great fabric (that doesn’t match my glasses) in my stash that’s been waiting for years (decade?) to become a couple of dresses and skirts.

I had a weekend to myself mid-summer and spent an early morning tracing out this pattern and printing and cutting out a couple of skirt patterns. And I was lazy or stupid to do it on the living room floor rather than the freshly-cleared-for-this-purpose library table in the basement, so things might be a bit wonky from tracing on the plush rug and all tape has dog hair stuck to it – he was not helpful at all during the process…

And then I waffled passed golden to nearly burnt on whether to make a muslin out of well, muslin, or stash fabric I didn’t like, or the fabric that came in the kit that I decided I didn’t like that much after all (it’s pretty thin). I figured if it ended up fitting – in the sense that it wasn’t too small and covered my body, it could at least be a bathing suit cover up.

So I decided to go with the kit fabric as a wearable muslin and cut a size that seemed slightly more, but not too much, more than my actual measurements,* and gave myself another couple of inches of length at the bodice, then dutifully serged all of the raw edges.

Then I sewed the bust dart.

Then I ripped out the bust dart.**

Then it was a messy heap on my tiny fiber room floor for a couple of weeks.

I know I am a weird size, and I always have a hard time finding clothes – SO OF COURSE that means patterns will make clothes that don’t fit well either. And this is the reason I need to be able to make my own clothes, because everything in my closet could be near perfect-fitting if I made them with my own customizations, but on one hand I don’t know how to tweak stuff in the right way, and on the other I can’t be bothered to.

For me, making clothes is the equivalent (sorta) of tiling a bathroom – I can do it, but certain circumstances (the measuring) stresses me the fuck out, and then I don’t want to do it, and then I really don’t want to do it, then I loose sleep thinking about doing it, and then there is a trigger/siren/smack of utter necessity that makes me finally do it, and it’s fine – sometimes pretty good – but so far always good enough and well worth the few hundreds/thousands in savings.

But I don’t need that stress over a dress – I should go back to making a couple of skirts – from the pattern I’ve made before, not a new one.

(And the dress pieces are off the floor, and I’ve forgotten where I’ve stashed them already, and my now year and 1/2ish old glasses are pretty scratched up…)

*My usual mistake is to sew something way too big and then spend more time taking it in.

**I can probably still save it to a degree – the pattern is made for neat, top-shelf titties, and mine are bottom of the barrel, lying on the barroom floor – but the bodice is still too short – and yes, I read all about full bust adjustments online, but it just doesn’t stick…

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The mutt and the pebble

We’ve hit the one year anniversary with Rocco, and it’s likely he’s hit, or is about to, his 5th birthday. He’s just finished a class for reactive dogs in which he was a decent, if not excellent at times, pupil except for a pop quiz with a stuffed (obviously fake) king charles spaniel.

Life with a reactive dog is challenging, limiting, expensive, and still far more stressful than I’d like, but he is improving.

We’re changing the shredded sheer curtains less often – and the last very mauled batch was last fall in the peak of fresh tomatoes ripening on the counter – he helped himself then became enraged at something outside the window and left evidence…

But the most distinct change is that he’s learned to, nay embraced with every last whisker, relax (at times).

He’s had full run of the house and sofa privileges for the last 8 months or so, so most days after his epic dawn hike with N until about 3:00 he rotates between naps on the sofa, his crate, a bit on the wood floors, and the cool stone hearth if he gets overheated. If he’s not too conked out, he’ll join me in whatever room I’m in and try to find the comfiest spot.

During my process of selling used/vintage clothes over the winter when I had things freshly cleaned, darned, and laid out to measure and whatnot, he selected a 90s jcrew rollneck as his spot.

(I let him have it – in the end it was mine I think – I know I thrifted one to sell too – I can’t find that one I think, or maybe mine is put away?)

His spot in my workroom is a 90s oversized sweater too.

I was hesitant to make another stuffed bed for him – the one in his crate has been mended and patched well over a dozen times…

But he leaves the pad beneath it alone, so I started browsing the clearance dog crate pads from time to time to add a few more comfy spots in the house and found one in his size for not too much. But he never used it, and seemed to go out of his way to avoid it. So I sat on it, laid on it, rolled around on it, and was mildly shocked over and over…

So that’s why a synthetic plush pad ends up at the remainder store and on clearance – and I should have known better.

But making a cover was easy enough, and I had leftover cotton fabric – the brown was the excess fabric I trimmed off of the office curtains, and the patterned one was a couple of yards I got to make the main sofa cushions before I decided I liked the yellow better (seen above – though the yellow isn’t such a good choice now with a partially black dog…).

And he took to it right away.

 

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Pants!*

Last Saturday was a rainy day – an entire day of persistent rain – not spitty, not a brief but dramatic downpour, not a start and stop kinda thing that tricks you into getting to work outdoors and then makes you pack it in just as you’ve started.

It was perfect timing – the garden was planted enough and I was tired of yard work and house work, and paint doesn’t dry well when it’s damp outside and I can’t open the windows to let out the fumes, right?

So I decided to fire up the sewing thing again in preparation for finally sewing a few simple summer garments this year.

But I forgot that all of the shit from the basement utility room waiting to be painted was piled up in front of my serger…

(The serger is way in the back behind the rooster towel – but luckily it’s pretty light, so it was easier to move it rather than the stuff.)

I thought I’d whip up a pair of pajama (pyjama?) pants.

In my youth, I’d made at least a half dozen or so pairs of jams-like shorts, so I figured muscle memory and deep brain reserves would take over and I’d end up with something at least functional, if not decent.

I sort of need pj pants too – my favorite couple of pairs from Ageing Army are getting a bit ragged, and I was thinking I’d rather sew a new pair than to fix the blown-out waistband on this one – amazingly the elastic is still fine though.

I didn’t have a pattern, but figured I’d trace my favorite pair that are loose but not too baggy with a perfect rise that isn’t too high or low. But then I discovered their construction is a bit odd – likely it was cut from the bottom of the pile at the sweatshop and had gotten a bit twisted, but the twist made them fit great, but made a quick pattern draft not.

So I grabbed an old silk pair that had also seen better days. (Around the turn of the last century I scored several sets of fancy silk PJs for a song at a fell-off-a-truck kind of store in my old city – they’ve all just about gone tits up now, but the tops are still largely okay since I don’t wear them as a set often, so I’ll likely sew those into something else… eventually.

I laid them out (yeah, I had to take them off first) on freezer paper to trace. I was a little dubious that the front and back crotch curves ended up a bit too similar, but I couldn’t figure out how go rogue enough to modify them.

I had some thick and soft flannel I bought a couple of years ago on impulse – it was the last of the bolt and on sale, so I think the piece was just under 2 yards and $3 – something like that – and I was planning on dyeing it and using it as a wearable (or failable) muslin.

I couldn’t remember if I’d traced it with enough of a seem allowance, or too much – I was going to mostly serge them, so I didn’t need too much. But then it was too much, and I took in the sides several times (and should have done so several more).

And I don’t really know how to use my serger yet – at least doing anything other than straightish lines – too much of a curve and I kept slicing the crotch.

I worked and worked on trying to make the fit better and the crotch correctly curved, and then stopped – I’d blown a few hours by then and PJ pants shouldn’t take more than an hour.

They fit enough and stay up, and add 75 pounds and shorten my legs to stumps and makes me into a blinding squat clown gnome stompy troll.

I was planning on leaving the bottoms un-hemmed and kept in their rough, selvage-edge state, but of course they didn’t end up quite lined up, so I had to hem them even though they were a bit shorter than I’d like already…

But I oiled up and played a bit with my zigzag machine that hasn’t sewn many miles (by me) yet for the finishing, and that was a bit of fun and should make my eventual other simple garments a little more functional (I’d like to eventually venture into some knits, but I don’t have much hope for success).

(These old socks are are also destined to become knitted washcloths after another season or two of wear.)

So in the end, are they functional? Yes.

Are they comfortable? Sort of – soft and warm, but they’re so wide they bunched up to short ruffly chicken thigh bloomer height by morning.

Are they ugly? Hell yes, but not worth the effort or the $3 or so to dye them.

Will I make another pair with the lessons learned from this? Maybe, but I’ll probably get a legitimate pattern first, and I won’t need more for another couple, three years or so.

Did I repair the black plaid ones seen above so I wouldn’t have to wear these too often? Yes.

If I ever get around to widening my patchwork flannel duvet cover will they become part of it? Probably.

And did I finally get some legitimate work done last weekend? Yes, the basement utility room got its fresh paint on Sunday.

And the freshly dyed rug.

And I can be safe in knowing I can lie on it and be camouflaged in my new fat gnome pants.

*UK variation.

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Ahoy, more scraps!

These days are busy.

The blizzard (was that just last week?) got things off track a bit.

I’ve been selling off a lot of my old stuff online – both vintage old and cool – and my old still-usable discards. It’s kind of a drag, but more is leaving the house than is coming in, and I’ve got a little more cash. It’s weird though, the more recent stuff is selling better than the vintage things – kinda sad.

Another thing that is slightly sad is the craft supply thrift store place in my town closed down – I learned just a day after they’d had the last weekend clear-out sale too. I certainly didn’t help keep them in business – I think I spent $18 there once, but mostly it was about $6 every couple of months on a wad of fabric scraps and old sewing notions.

I didn’t get this there, but it was the kind of thing I’d find – a bag full of someone’s potential quilt pieces, or quilt scraps.

I found this at one of our regular antique mall in the sticks haunts – a gallon sized bag of a decent stack of pieces/scraps.

The fabric could date to WWII, or maybe a bit later, but probably not much into the ’60s? I’m not sure, but it “feels” ’40s to me.

Some days I think they’re the negative space pieces cut away from something else.

Some days I think the two curved pieces are an undersized sail and jib for the striped boat.

Some days I think about selling them.

What little swelling of patriotism I’ve ever had is utterly deflated now, so the mere juxtaposition of red, white, and blue makes me shudder.

But I “feel” that they’re older and their other pieces were lovingly made to comfort someone going away, or being welcomed home, or for a baby who might never meet its father (or less possibly, mother). Or maybe these are the pieces and the project was futile – the person never came home?

Perhaps the next step is to search for WWII era patchwork patterns and see if something makes sense.

Or just sell them.

Probably for a least a little more than $2.50.

 

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Failures and fluff

I still haven’t gotten the hand-cranked Singer up to speed – I was waiting to order more cleaning/greasing supplies (and the blasted always forgotten spool pin) until I knew I didn’t need anything else…

Because another sewing machine came home with me.

There was a label on it that read: “works, needs new belt.”

I cleaned the case and the machine, picked out the motor belt and other belt that I thought I might need, and just before I placed my order, I figured I should plug it in…

The light works, the motor is blown.

But whatever – it was only $12, I didn’t need it, (and why didn’t I test it at the store like I usually do?) but I have it now, and perhaps I’ll try to replace the motor, or perhaps I’ll take it right back to ReStore – only with proper identification of its faults this time.  It’s also a bit young for my machine tastes, but it is the next version of my mom’s sewing machine, and it’s got a zigzag (I just have one machine that can do that now), and it actually dates to around the years of me, so there’s a bit of a nostalgia thing going – if I get it back up and running, perhaps I can go whole-hog authentic on my ’70s quilt (that I haven’t started yet).

*************

In a moment of frustration and brain failure a few weeks ago, I took a break to make a cheery pompom.

I thought I knew how to make pompoms, but like the sewing machine, some shit from the 70s doesn’t work anymore…

I’m not enamored/charmed/giggleful with them, and I certainly didn’t embrace their bombastic return a few years ago, but I have some thoughts on their usefulness now that may or may not come to fruition.

And I wouldn’t mind topping a hat with one, once in a while…

But a second try (and a video) brought success.

Now I just need to control myself from trimming them down to nothing…

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