Tag Archives: sewing

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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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.

This one just followed me home… #vintagesewingmachine #singersewingmachine #sewingmachine #ihavetoomanysewingmachines

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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.

Absolutely failed pompom; pompom, eviscerated #craftfail #pompom #ithoughtiknewwhatiwasdoing #yarn #recycledyarn

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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…

Unfashionably late to the pom pom party… #pompom #wool #recycledyarn #shadows

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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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Cranked

Just thinking I was nearing the finish line with a few long term projects by the end of January jinxed it… but I haven’t cast on anything new in the knitting department so at least my focus on finishing should carry over into February.

But I also started to act on a few other long term projects (and yes, that’s how I don’t get things done for ages).

I’ve been wanting to convert one of my old sewing machines (seen here and here) into a hand cranked one and finally acquired the supplies.

About to have a cranky sewing machine… #handcranksewingmachine #sewing

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Now to chose which machine…

This Singer 66 hasn’t gotten much love or use even though it’s a beaut. It’s the one machine I think about selling or giving to a new sewer sometimes but when I get it out, I love it and want to keep it and I always forget about the huge set of attachments I’ve never used for it and oh boy will I have a ball with those attachments one day when I remember them and have time on my hands…

sewingmachines-singer

I thought this 99 was toast since it was missing a few things and I was afraid to plug it in, but it was my initial candidate since it is a bit lighter and smaller than the others and I have a fantasy about taking it with me on cabin vacations or out in the yard on a picnic table we don’t have, but it’s still no featherweight, and the crank adds on another pound or so… But it turns out, this machine just needed a good cleaning and a new bobbin slide plate, so it’s pretty sweet on its own and is currently in use in the basement near the serger.

machines3

And this lovely old red-eye already has the spoked wheel that makes the hand crank possible (and dammit I forgot to order a new spool pin for it again!) but I’ve wanted to convert it back to a treadle for ages, but I still could eventually – the crank should be easy enough to install/deinstall.

machines2

So I need to spend some quality time with the two 66s and chose the one with the worst motor I think, or perhaps I’m deciding on the red-eye as I type this…

Either way, there’s other work to be done at the moment…

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Randomly in autumn

It’s been a wonky autumn.

erratic-autumn-moon

Last week’s laundry basket held corduroy pants, thick wool socks, shorts, and a bathing suit.

I didn’t go to Rhinebeck this year and I didn’t really miss it…

My schedule has been a bit erratic, and my making stuff time has been as well, (not to mention my brain), so I’m still sticking to easy mindless things for the moment.

I helped design a functional c. 1959 living room for a museum exhibit and whipped up some pillows with a nice vintage European fabric to match a new but vintage-inspired sofa.

erratic-autumn-vintage-fabric

(I forgot to take pics of the finished pillows…)

And made another pillow for myself out of little upholstery samples.

erratic-autumn-scrappy-pillow

(I don’t give a damn about matching seams – the samples were oddly not quite the same size too – and it’s for one of the various chairs in my work room.)

I’m unraveling as fast as I can since it will soon be too cold to do it outside, though I keep doing it inside, and none of that really makes any sense, but I consider it a cool, not cold, weather activity.

erratic-autumn-perfect-brown

I thought I wanted to use this perfect purply brown for one of my current work-in-progress scarf/shawls, but I’m glad I went with the green – this ended up being more lace than light fingering.

Sweater parts waiting to get their kink on… #yarn #recycledyarn #thriftstoreclothes #unraveling #withsparkles

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And I’m still oddly attracted to metallic yarn.

erratic-autumn-unraveling

This was a short-sleeved sweater that I almost kept as-is, but I still can’t find the correct atmospheric conditions to wear heavier-weight wool short sleeve sweaters (and it didn’t look right with a long-sleeved shirt underneath). So I don’t know what this will be yet – it’s a sport-ish/light worsted weight and I like the muddy pink/sometimes dirty lavender color – I’m a little tempted to hold it with the brown above and make a loose-gauge drapey sweater, but I’m also seeing too many other scarf/shawls I’d like to make.

I’m back to spinning again now that the heat and humidity have gone – trying for at least 15 minutes or so a day – and now I’m getting even more good yarn for scarf/shawl things, but I seem to be unraveling and spinning far more than knitting these days…

 

 

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Mutt warmer

This is a common shape of a sleeping pet:

dogsweater-dogball

But this is the first dogball Rocco has made since he’s been with us since May.

I figured he’s getting chilly – he’s from South Carolina and perhaps has never seen snow, or been through the annoying shoulder seasons when it’s colder indoors than out.

dogsweater-trying-on

So I tossed on a felted/fulled thrift sweater on him for shits and he seemed to really like it. So I half-assedly started to make a dog sweater thinking he’d likely try to eviscerate it as soon as it was finished and I didn’t want to pour too much time and energy into it.

dogsweater-before

The sweater must have been a more recent (yes, from April or early May as seen here) acquisition since it was at the top of the wad on the floor and I know I liked the zipper and its reharvestable potential, and while the color isn’t my favorite, it goes well with greens and whatnot, so I think I was planning to make mittens and fingerless gloves out of the rest (I didn’t want to touch felted wool for most of the summer, so I haven’t thought about it much or dug out the rest of the felted stash to check for coordinates).

Rocco continues to be very difficult for us at times – I used to solidly stand by the statement that “there’s no such thing as a bad dog, just bad owners,” and while I still believe that is sometimes true, reactive “bad” dogs are very challenging and oh-so-slow to become “good” despite good constant and consistent training, expensive behaviorists, and medication.

But he’s made remarkable progress with obedience and communication and general fond companionship in the house (let’s not talk about the counter surfing though). I’ve just allowed him in my tiny upstairs workroom on supervised visits and he’s the dog friend I’d hoped to have – calmly lying in the only open space on the floor as I spin or dick around with fibery things. He also doesn’t mind the noise of the sewing machine (though the food processor and blender are still monsterly).

dogsweater-fitting

The back piece of the sweater seemed to be just about the same size as his back, so I cut it along the seams, and then cut a few pieces to use as straps. He was being unusually patient and non-wiggly throughout the whole fitting process so I risked safety-pinning it together and having him wear it for a few minutes and he seemed game and the fit was good enough.

dogsweater-velcro

I trimmed up the pieces to fit his contours a bit better, sewed both ends of the chest strap so it could go over his head, and sewed a piece of the grabby side of velcro to the body strap – it attaches to the felt easily so there was no need to use the other velcro half. (I also made sure there weren’t any pokey edges on the stiff velcro.)

dogsweater-model

And in a few minutes, he was happily wearing his new sweater.

dogsweater-long

And I think it’s got a bit of a thundershirt effect on him as well – he was noticeably a bit more relaxed wearing it – though it could have just been the novelty and coziness factor. I’ll wait and see how this one holds up or doesn’t get chewed before I knit one or sew something with better fit and coverage – he’s going to need it if we have a repeat of last year

(We got his DNA results back recently and found as we expected, he’s a Heinz mutt, but he’s got a Husky grandparent, so hopefully he can tap into that when the cold comes – and it’s likely the source of his markings, or else his black and tan came from a Cocker Spaniel grandparent… Definitely not the “Shepherd mix” the rescue claimed, nor the “Rottie mix” his original shelter claimed and the rescue whitewashed… so we’ll just settle on “Spaniel mix” since he’s got the most of it.)

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