Works in Progress

This morning I managed to successfully talk myself out of attempting to sew two new dresses before next weekend. It was no small feat as it’s always in the last month or so of winter that I start dreaming pretty hard of spring and summer and I start shopping for a piece or two to add to my warm weather wardrobe. This year my goal is that instead of buying that new dress or two, that I sew them. You know, I want to actually do the thing I keep telling myself year after year that I’m going to do, but never get to. This year I have the patterns and I’ve already started printing and cutting out said patterns. I’ve got a stash of fabric I actually really, really like and most of the thread I’ll need. The sewing area in the basement was tidied during our staycation last week. All I have to do is figure out a chair and set up the ironing board. I’ve never been so ready.

All that said, after I’d printed out two new patterns this morning, I came to the cold, hard realization that I’ve got a number of works in progress and before I take on more projects and make a mess in a new area of the house, I really need to trim that WIP list down. Additionally, the original idea to make the deadline that I finish two dresses by next Saturday was a little outlandish. I’m not a very speedy sewist and the idea of setting a goal that pushes me time-wise seems wholly unwise. I’ve always made sewing projects something I need to rush through and the whole point of the sewing area is to alleviate that urgency in the process so it might be more enjoyable. Apply brakes… now.

So what am I working on? Well, remember this photo…

img_5655Yes, well, I have not yet started plying these. That needs to happen.

And before I can ply, I need to wrap up my last singles spin….

img_5672I’m about one-third of the way through the second 2oz of this project. It shouldn’t take too long on the Very Fast Flyer, but still it needs to happen so that I can start the plying extravaganza.

I’m also working on my second project for the Three Waters Farm Susan Ashcroft SAL+KAL…

img_5675This is a Yarn Optimizer knitted in my own Three Waters Farm handspun yarn. The photo is deceptive as it’ll eventually be blocked out into a rectangular cowl — you’ll see, it’s going to be very cool.

As we’ve been working on getting back on track with our menu planning and cooking from the pantry instead of the processed heat & eat meals we’d been defaulting to with the busy holidays, I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen and thus my kitchen spinning has come back into play.

img_5677My friend gave me this awesome little spindle basket that I’ve learned to keep stocked with a spindle project. She got it for me with the idea that I could use it on the trail or when I take the kiddos outside in nice weather to run around. I’m sure I will use it for that also, but it’s perfect for this purpose, too. Kitchen spindling might sound a little weird, but I’ve really come love it since taking up spindling more seriously last year. My hip makes transitioning from sitting to standing painful sometimes, so I often just choose to remain standing if I might have to be up & down a lot. Spindle spinning is the perfect solution for me as I wait for a tray of cookies to bake or the potatoes to boil. It’s quiet & meditative & passes the time and it’s easy to set down and pick up as timers go off and other things need attention. I don’t know if kitchen spindling is a thing out there that normal people do, but if you’re a spindle spinner I highly encourage you to keep a kit in your kitchen. I think you’ll love it!

But I digress.

And last, but not least, I have my re-imagined first pair of sock for the Sock with Sarah KAL going…

img_5673I picked this yarn up over the Thanksgiving holiday at Spin of Door County thinking I’d make some socks for my daughter. Instead, I’m using the yarn pour moi (shhh! don’t tell!). I can sense they will be very addictive. I’ve so been in that potato chip knitting kind of mood lately and these fit that perfectly.

When I write it all out, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. So maybe I can treat myself to one sewn dress? I suppose we should see how the day (and the coming week) shapes up. The good news is I’m poised to make a real go and that summer wardrobe and, as always, there’s not a shortage of works in progress around here.

(Mis)Adventures in Sewing: The Ruby Dress

A continuation in my (mis)adventures in sewing, today I want to start by taking a moment to give my highest praise to Made by Rae patterns. As someone who is admittedly not a great sewist, these patterns are the easiest I’ve found while not sacrificing style. Written so clearly that even I understand them (and that’s seriously saying something!), I especially love that there are lots of tutorials and support available, too. I’ve used the video tutorials for the lined yoke each time I’ve made the Ruby Dress that I’m sharing with you today. I don’t know what I’d do without them!

That said, I used the Ruby pattern last year to make myself some tops.all 3I really do love them and have worn the heck out of them the past year.

Then this spring I made myself this lovely yellow frock…

IMG_8647I meant for this to be a dress, but I hemmed it just enough to make it really not… ahem… decent as a dress. It’s made a lovely tunic over shorts and jeans instead.

This summer/fall I wanted to really attempt to make a couple dresses that I could actually wear as dresses. Putting the dresses together was pretty easy since I’ve become very practiced at this pattern, even the lined yoke, but I took extra time to try to make sure the hem was in my dress comfort zone.

both They turned out so cute! I just adore them!

blue detI made this blue one from a quilting cotton from Cotton + Steel from Alewives Fabrics. I’ve read a lot of reviews that quilting cotton doesn’t drape enough for this pattern, but personally I love it. It’s substantial without being heavy and I find it a really nice addition to my wardrobe.

ruby blue det2I even did the hem and attached the bias binding at the underarm in hot pink. Partly just for fun, partly because I was feeling confidant about sewing a straight line for once, and partly because it let me sew this dress and the second dress assembly-line style.

Speaking of the second dress…

pink detThis is also a Cotton + Steel print, but this time in a lawn also from Alewives Fabrics. It’s definitely lighter wear and drapes beautifully. The print, however, takes the cake. It’s just so funky and fun.

I gave myself a generous enough hemline that I’ll have some options for styling. I can wear either dress as-is or with tights or leggings and a sweater to layer. I can even add a belt if I want to dress the look up a bit. However I end up wearing them, I’m sure I’ll be wearing them a lot as they are just so comfortable and they turned out so cute. I’m making a dent in that fabric pile I’m trying to work through, but I think it’s time to try a new pattern. Perhaps Made by Rae’s Washi Dress or maybe her Bianca Dress or maybe the very simple Maya from Marilla Walker. Whatever the case, I’m sure me + sewing a new pattern will be a story to tell!

(Mis)Adventures in Sewing: The Tiny Pocket Tank

I’ve been dabbling in some sewing over the last month attempting to sew up a giant stack of fabric I picked up in spring. I had high hopes of sewing up a fresh new summer wardrobe, but one thing led to another and my summer wardrobe is now being sewn in September. C’est la vie. Thankfully tights, leggings, and sweaters can be layered so summery clothes can still be worn in the cooler months.

In any case, I started this little journey by printing out my copy of Grainline Studio’s Tiny Pocket Tank and proceeded to cut it out in a muslin fabric to give it a try. I was a little nervous about the pocket & doing the bias neckline since I’ve never tried either, but it’s a simple pattern that is very well written, easy to follow, and has great online tutorials and tips. I was optimistic that I could handle it.

 The muslin I’d purchased at a box store for fabric and although I thought I’d picked a higher quality fabric from their selection, it just was pretty terrible. If I even looked at it, it frayed instantly and a whole lot. I kept going, though, despite the fact that it was not fun work at all. When I got to the bias neckline, I discovered the bias binding piece I’d cut was at least 6″ short. Already frustrated this put me over the edge. Flabbergasted and beside myself, I set it aside for a time-out.

A couple days later I hauled my muslin Tiny Pocket Tank out and tore through the bin of supplies to try to figure out what on Earth caused that bias binding on the neck to be so short. Eventually I discovered that I’d managed to miss taping together the final piece of the bias binding when I was assembling the pattern. Doh! 6inches recovered and mystery solved, I tried it on for good measure. 

It. Was. Huge. 

I’d heard about sizing issues with this pattern so I’d measured myself very carefully, but it was still at least a size too big. I called my efforts to salvage the muslin and tossed that little disaster in the bin. I thought the best course of action was to start fresh. I sized down and tried again with one of the fabrics I’d purchased from Alewives Fabrics in spring.

The results? Meet my new favorite top.

blue det 2It’s far from perfect, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. I managed to sew the pocket on decently.

blue detAnd this time the bias binding on the neckline turned out great. Amazing what can happen when you have the pattern printed properly, isn’t it?

It’s still plenty big, but it’s more of a roomy fit than an ‘I’m drowing’ situation. I find it obscenely comfortable. The bust dart on the side opposite the pocket is a little wonky, too, but I think that’s due in part thanks to my small bust line and my never having seen a busy dart. The fact that I was managing without a proper tailor’s chalk didn’t help either. The rogue dart is still in the realm of things I’m comfortable wearing though, so mostly that’s just me being overly picky, I think. Overall I love the fit and walked away from this project feeling pretty confidant. That’s saying something because I’m really not much of a sewist and my confidence is really not all that in this realm of craft.

I went ahead and attempted to make another Tiny Pocket Tank in a seersucker I also got from Alewives Fabrics. This was kind of an experiment for me since I’d never used seersucker before. I didn’t quite anticipate how stretchy this fabric would be so – I won’t sugar coat it – I found it to be kind of a struggle.

plaidThe stretchy-ness of the fabric really tested both my patience and my skills, but it turned out just fine. It’s definitely not as nice as its blue cousin above, but it’s still every bit as wearable. Looking at the photo, I could have ironed the underarms a bit better there -they aren’t as lumpy in reality as they appear, but I’ve been waiting days to get photos with decent light so we’re going with it. That’s what I get for making my summer wardrobe in September!

blueSomeday I’ll get some photos of these on my person, but for today I’ll just be showing you by way of my handy clothesline. A little bit of trial and error, but I’ve got two new tops to show for it that I really love. I’ll get this sewing thing down yet!

Knitting Sarah Sews a Bento Bag

It’s no secret that I’m a really lazy sewist. Sewing is something I’ve been exposed to and done for almost as long as I can remember, but for whatever reason I do not have the patience for sewing that I do for knitting. These days, I also have two big obstacles. First, I haven’t properly magically tidied up my sewing area yet. Second, the only space for my sewing machine is in the basement. The lighting isn’t great and my beautiful sewing table needs a minor repair (for which I keep forget to purchase the proper piece). My iron and ironing board are stored upstairs.  I have a lot of excuses, as you can see. That being said, every now and then I pull up my big girl panties and get to work and I enjoy the fruits of my sewing labors.

Last Friday, by complete randomness, I decided it would be fantastic to sew myself a little one-skein bento bag. Finally. A few months ago when I bought fabric from Alewives Fabrics for my ‘summer’ (whoops!) wardrobe, I threw in a fat quarter pack from Leah Duncan’s collection, “Gramercy,” for Art Gallery Fabrics because I really wanted to try my hand at some sort of bento bag and I thought the prints included would be fun. Well, *mumble, mumble, mumble* later, I’ve finally done it!

IMG_0448I adore the results!

I used this blog post as a guide — it has a nice and easy to follow photo tutorial which I followed by sight. I admittedly glanced over it, but did not actually read it (lazy sewist, remember?), I just followed the pictures. It turned out well though despite my best efforts to ignore instructions!

The only thing that I did that was unique to this guide was that I used two fat quarters to make my bag. For each half of the bag, I folded the fat quarter into a right triangle right sides together, sewed the sides, and turned them inside out. This allowed me to have the right side of the fabric on both the inside and the outside.  The down side of this pretty aesthetic is that it makes a rather small bag.

Perfect, however, for a single skein project…

IMG_0449This is the bag tied with a full 400yard skein of sport weight handspun inside. It’ll be just about perfect for any hat or sock project, I think.

 Of course, the allure of the sewing machine and all of its magical buttons is strong for the youngsters in my house and I was quickly talked into making another with my daughter using some fabric she’d picked out a little while ago. I was very happy that I’m able to unplug the pedal from my sewing machine and use the start/stop button and speed control so that she could focus on the basics, like sewing a straight line and keeping track of her fingers.

IMG_0452She did great and was very proud of her accomplishment. I’ll admit that I’m pretty proud of her, too.

There was some additional sewing over the weekend that did not pan out. I was trying out a new pattern with a cheap muslin and despite my best efforts there were some pretty major sizing issues. I’m hoping to give that one another try soon as I like the style and even though it’s a summer top, it’ll make a great layering piece over the cooler months. It may be taking months longer than I’d hoped, but slowly and surely I’m going to work my way through my (thankfully pretty minimal) fabric stash. All the patience and good luck you can send my way will be much appreciated!

Teasing Spring Out of Hiding

Earlier this week, the family & I decided to take advantage of what might be one of the last true wintry days and go for a hike in the snow.

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We ventured to Indian Lake and made the journey up a hill through about 6inches of fresh snow to this idyllic little spot. The thing about hiking in 6inches of fresh snow is that usually you get to do so alone as was the case this day and, really, there aren’t many places quite as special to enjoy such a peaceful walk.

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Built in 1857, the St Mary of the Oaks Shrine sits upon a hill that overlooks the hilly ‘driftless area’ (the area not scraped flat by glaciers) of Southwestern Wisconsin. To this day, it is maintained and contains a few idols of Mary, a notebook to jot a thought or prayer, and a candle which you can light.

If you carry on a bit further down the trail, you are rewarded with a beautiful view of Indian Lake and the surrounding hills.

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I don’t have photographic proof, but from this spot we hiked back down to the car and proceeded to have what might possibly be the coldest cookout in the history of cookouts (ok, probably not, but the wind was extremely cold). We ate our burgers in haste and made our way to coffee and a bookstore. It was a beautiful morning, but it was definitely colder than it looked.

And this is pretty much what this week was like here: Colder than it looked. We are all antsy to get outside and play in spring-like weather and as soon as the sun is shining we are like moths to the flame. We bound out the door — to playgrounds with the kids, playing catch in the yard, taking the dog for his walk — and inevitably within 15 or 20minutes my fingers are icicles and I’m attempting to make a quick retreat for the warmth of the house.

I’ve been combating the cabin fever with the likes of this…

IMG_8648My utterly crazy batt project. It’s been a while since I mentioned, so I will re-share that this consists of three drum carded batts from Spun Right Round. It is the most wild hodge-podge of colors, fibers, and sparkles I’ve ever worked with and I for one am getting pretty darn excited to see how this 10oz of madness turns out. The bright colors are definitely welcome on these cold days.

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I also turned the heel on the second sock of my Petty Harbours. I wrapped up the gusset decreases this morning and I’m in the home-stretch now. The weather report is definitely promising for me to get the opportunity to wear these a few times before the summer arrives.

And then today, I awoke to it raining ice outside and I decided the only way to deal with that was to sew up a yellow summer dress.

IMG_8647It’s not the best sewing job I’ve ever done, but it fits great and… well, how do you not love a yellow dress on a grey March day?! This is the Ruby Dress by Made by Rae, the same pattern which I used to make a few tops last summer. I ordered the fabric — a basic cotton from a Cotton + Steel — from Alewives Fabrics in Maine (which I LOVE. So much!) and luckily I remembered to order a little extra fabric on each cut to do the lined yoke. Rae did a series of incredibly clear tutorial videos for this very finished look. I did try a few new things this time including a flat felled seam and a little short-cut on the yoke to avoid having to handsew the lining at the end.  The hem looks a little funny in the photos, but I swear it lays flat. That is an final ironing fail, not a sewing fail. All in all, I’m ecstatic with my new mini-dress.  It will be perfect when summer arrives.

I had planned to be a bit more ambitious on the sewing front today, but instead I opted to take it slow. I have another three or four dresses I hope to sew up as well as a couple tank tops, but as the wind howls and the ice flies outside I don’t have a lot of worry that I have plenty of time to get them done before summer. Perhaps our little hike to up the hill in the fresh snow won’t be our last wintry adventure before spring finds us. Indeed, a glance out the window confirms that thought. Thankfully I’m flexible. I’ll just get back to my woolen adventures for the evening. I’ll tease spring out of hiding one summer dress at a time.

Handmade Project Bags Revisited.

You know how you hear about how a mother can block the pain of childbirth in order to undertake it a second (or third or fourth) time? Focus turns solely to our beloved, adorable babies and *poof* we do it all over again. A couple weeks ago I included some not so great photos and a less than enthusiastic review of my first stab at handmade project bags. In the light of another day, I wanted to share them again because I think they aren’t as bad as I originally thought. In fact, I actually like them. And I am thinking about making more.

KSProject BagThis fabric was leftover from a quilt for my daughter. I can dig it.

KSProject Bag2I actually really like this folk-arty fabric, especially in knitting bag form.

KS Project BagAnd this one… I really love the delicate vintage-y fabric. Part of me thinks it should be oriented the other direction. Most of me isn’t that concerned because I think it looks a little softer this way anyways.

I will say that I will probably spring for nicer cotton or maybe even silk cord for the drawstring the next time I do this. The cheapish cotton I used frays more easily than I would like. Other than that, I’m actually quite happy with the simple design. Somehow the frustration of actually figuring out how to make these is wiped clean from my brains and I am almost ready to haul up my serger & sewing machine and do it all over again. Mothers, crafters — such mysterious creatures!