Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mishmash: Summer vacation edition

So I've been busy thrifting. The cashmere sweater supply in the area is nearly depleted, so I'm going after the vintage linens now. Look at these lovely sheets:

They made up into a fabulous duvet cover, tutorial found here:

And it's reversible! I couldn't get a good picture of the other side with my cheapie camera, but you can sort of see it under the photo of the wool messenger bag from Akiko Mano's Linen, Wool, Cotton that I made.
I'm not at all sure how I feel about this one. I made it out of an old (felted) wool blanket, and it was very hard to do. The wool was thick and awkward, and it fought with the needle and wouldn't fit under the presser foot very well when there were more than two layers, which there often were. The lining fabric that I chose was just -- well, wrong. It was a quilting weight cotton and was just entirely too light for the bag. I made up at least three different linings (good thing I bought extra material) and got frustrated and took it out on the bag and had to do some creative zig-zagging. I ended up using no lining altogether.

It was an interesting project, but the end result is just weird. I'm going to try it again with a lighter weight, more normal colored wool and see what happens.

Other projects I've been working on: another pair of pajama pants and a top, which I'm not going to show you because they're completely insane. I made them out of a pair of polyester/cotton sheets (note to self: do not do that again) and they are sweltering and ugly, with giant blue roses all over. I don't know what I was thinking. I also made a top from a lovely vintage pillowcase, which I'm not going to post a photo of because you can see the exact same thing on Betz White's blog. I felted some soft creamy wool to make patchwork-bound baby blankets with. And I've started to work on a grown-up version of the cashmere blanket -- look for it soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer Pajamas

Success at making summer pajamas!
Success at making them in a size to fit me!
Success at making the pants from a pattern!

The top comes from Betz White's Amazon Blog and is an adaptation of her amazing Shirred Pillowcase Summer Top. I made it a bit longer than she specified, about 21 inches after hemming to be exact, and I'm a little sorry I did. I thought it would give me extra room to move around but it actually just makes me feel a little like a flowered tank; I may hem it further yet. I made it from yardage rather than from a pillowcase because I had 7 3/4 yards of pretty lightweight cotton hanging around that I'd bought for $7 at the thrift store and crying "wear me," so I still felt good that I was rehoming something. I also left the rick-rack off because who needs all that frou-frou when you're trying to sleep?

The pants come from Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing, which I've mentioned enough in here that you know how I love it. They're her "Pajama Pants for Everyone," and they certainly fit the bill. The adult sizes were clearly made to fit both men and women because they came up to my ribcage, which would have bothered D not a whit but which made me roll the waistband down several times before I was comfortable. Fortuntately after I had done that they were both comfy and presentable, and I was quite pleased with the results. I think when I am braver I will tweak the pattern a bit so that the waistband is lower and the legs are a hair less baggy in the crotch/inner thigh area -- but that's for another time. For now, I have jammies!

I had enough scraps to make a "Jane's Head Scarf" (another project from Weekend Sewing for myself and one for K, and K has expressed a desire to be "Pajama Buddies," so it's good that I had 7 3/4 yards of that thrift store material! I see more PJ sewing in the near future!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Retro Ruffle Tote Bag

I needed a big bag, and I'd had an idea cooking for some time about these curtains that I'd found in the Lumberton Goodwill. The sight of them had taken me back to my early childhood in the mid-1970's and I'd snatched them up. The other day I took them out of my "vintage" box and made up this fabulously large carryall.

What about the ruffle part? That comes in with the lining, which I made from a second pair of curtains, a nicely coordinating calico where I used the ruffled hem to fancy up the pockets a little bit. It's hard to see in the picture below, but the ruffles are there!

The fun part about making this bag was the ease and speed of the ready-made hems and finished edges in the curtains. I had it done, even with adding pockets and reinforcing the handles, in just about an hour and a half. (Hand-stitching the lining into place took some time, but I was sorry I did that and ended up top-stitching it by machine anyway for durability.)

I have two valances and some remnants of the doll-patterned fabric left, so if anyone can think of another use for it or wants a smaller tote bag made from it, let me know.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Something old, something new

K cuddles on the couch with the completed cashmere baby blanket:

It may be kind of tricky getting her to give this one away!

The blanket is far from perfect but it is done as neatly and carefully as I know how and it is made with much love, and I am going to try to keep those things in mind and hold my head high when I present it to the recipient's mother.

Things I learned while working on this project:
  • If you take a picture of your layout to help you remember it when you're sewing your blocks together, refer to it when sewing your blocks together. Observant readers will see that my finished blanket does not quite look like the one in the previous post. Oops!
  • When working with stretchy fabrics, be careful not to let them stretch out of shape as you sew. Lowering the tension and extending the stitch length can help, but going slowly and carefully is most important.
  • It's okay to start over. My work got stretched beyond recognition and I ended up cutting cutting around the outer edges and re-sewing the top to the backing. I'm glad I did, because now the edges have a much cleaner finish.
  • Using a walking foot seems like a good idea to feed multiple layers of stretchy fabric through the machine, but it is not; things just get too slippery. Use a regular foot and see above.
  • Fusible web is nothing short of a miracle. If you have ever been afraid of applique, this stuff will get you over your fear in the 10-15 seconds it takes to fuse your first piece of fabric. I always told myself that I preferred not to embellish, that I liked my work plain, but let's be honest, who was I kidding?
I can't think of a project that I've enjoyed working on as much as this one. There will definitely be more to follow.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Note to myself

I've finally found the time to start working on the cashmere baby blanket. I love, love, love these colors and am pleased with this arrangement, so here's a picture to remind me of how I want the blanket to look, just in case things get turned around in production. Stay tuned for further stages (maybe) and a photo of the final project (definitely.)

(Below is another arrangement I played with for a while. In a way it's more balanced but I just don't find the look as pleasing as the one above. Feel free to weigh in -- I have lots more blankets like this one to make so I'm coveting advice -- but I think I'm going to start sewing the blanket as shown in the first picture.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Soft and fluffy

Meet the newest additions to the cashmere collection!

These fluffy bunnies are courtesy of Betz White's tutorial, and they are even more fun and satisfying to make than the baby hats. I especially like the cables that give the white bunny a bit of extra character, and the zingy Amy Butler fabric on the pink bunny's ears. More bunnies will certainly follow, and I imagine there could be other critters made from cashmere as well. What would you like to see?

I'm thinking that this red hat with the big stretchy cuff will make a cozy Christmas present for some little one's melon come December. So unbelievably soft!
I have so many projects in the works -- including a quilt that must be finished immediately, the recipient has been waiting months for it -- but I want to get started on the luxe cashmere throws right away. My stash of pink, blue, purple and green sweaters is screaming to be made into a heavenly baby blanket. I really need to focus and get some work done on the old so I can move on to the new. Patience! Diligence! Onward and upward!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Menu-planning Monday

It's that time again! With K home from school and camp for the next 2 weeks, I'm thinking that I'd better add some structure to our days. At the very least, I want to plan what I'm cooking for dinner so the end of the day isn't a crazy scramble. Here's what I've got in mind for this week:

Monday: Ham, green beans, scalloped potatoes -- strawberry shortcake for dessert with strawberries picked by K herself!

Tuesday: Spaghetti, meatballs, jarred marinara sauce, applesauce

Wednesday: Hot dogs, macaroni & cheese, corn on the cob

Thursday: Chicken breasts with pesto, couscous, cooked carrots

Friday: Amy's Organic Pizza, Raw veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, snap peas), dip

Saturday: Garlic Pork Roast, mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes

Sunday: Pancakes, sausage, fruit salad

I took K and did the grocery shopping this afternoon so all the ingredients are on hand except the fresh fruit for Sunday -- I'm hoping for a Saturday trip to the farmer's market to take care of that.

I have mapped out a fair amount of the time this week for activities K and I can do together, but she has requested some special craft projects and I will need to do some rethinking. I hope to put an outline here later tonight or tomorrow of the creative work we'll be up to, and then with any luck we'll accomplish one or more things on our list!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sitting pretty

Lately I've been needing to cover up my sewing machine when it's not in use because I have a naughty cat who eats thread. It's easy to toss the nearest remnant over the top, but that looks kind of sloppy and it tends to fall off. Here's my solution: a sewing-machine cover made from half of a pillowcase.

I had this pretty pillowcase sitting in my "thrifted" stash, waiting for just the right project. The pattern is pleasingly reminiscent of some sheets and towels my grandmother used when I was little, so I wanted to make sure that whatever I made with it would be highly visible and heavily used. The "sewing machine cozy" project was perfect!

This was so simple to make! I like the design a lot, so after I've ironed out a few kinks in the creative process, I'll post a tutorial for the "cozy" -- my first (albeit simple) original creation!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


What could be more perfect to warm a brand new baby head than a cashmere sweater, washed and dried until it's extra soft and fuzzy, sewn into a tiny tasseled hat?

The pattern comes from Sewing Green by Betz White, and I modified it a bit by hand-sewing the tassels on (way easier for me than the machine-sewing method she outlines), folding up a double cuff and hand-stitching it in place.

I was so lucky to find this fine-gauge sweater with the baby cables, providing enough material to make two sweet little hats. I've been thrifting avidly for the last few weeks, scavenging unbelievably cheap cashmere sweaters (the kind that go for $100+ in retail stores and catalogs) -- sometimes paying as little as $1 apiece. I have about 30 sweaters now, dismantled and ready to become luxurious cashmere throws -- another Sewing Green project. What a joy to work with, and what a joy to give!

Posted by Picasa


Here's the quilt I made as an end-of-the-year gift for K's teacher. I love it!

It was simple to make using a charm pack from American Jane's "Recess" line by Moda -- with the squares pre-cut all I had to do was arrange them, sew the rows and columns together, baste, bind and tie -- it took maybe six hours to complete.

The bright colors and lively patterns remind me of my daughter and her Pre-Kindergarten classmates, and the backing with its line drawings and primer words seems appropriate. I have in mind that Mrs. H will use the quilt as a spare "rest time" blanket, but maybe she will find a more creative use. I hope she likes it!

(Isn't the red-white-and-blue binding print sweet? I bought enough to make a skirt or maybe a sundress for K with it.)