So after the granny-square blanket fiasco of last week, I came home and ruminated on why I want to collect other people's cast-offs. Why? Really?
Part of it is that whole craft-orphan thing - it doesn't seem right that something that had so much work put into it ends up turfed out in a bag destined for the Sallies. Who knows where these things have been? I mean that in both the "ick...who knows where this has been" sense and also the "wow...I really wonder where this has been" sense. Whose lap it has warmed at the end of a long life; who has it covered and comforted on the couch while watching daytime TV and pulling a sickie; what is the provenance of the scraps of yarn - what memories were evoked each time someone saw these little reminders of garments long since outgrown? I'm really drawn to the history of handmade stuff, since it is just that - handmade. It's spent so long in someone else's hands, being slowly and lovingly crafted, stitch by stitch.
Anyway, without wanting this post to end up overly sappy, it got me thinking. I particularly love the old crocheted blankets my grandmother and great aunts made, because they are imbued with meaning that is precious and specific to me, to our family. There's a bit of the fluffy pink jumper that Grandma made me when I was 6 or something, that ended up with moth holes through it. There's some ugly mustard coloured wool I remember from some 1970s crocheted monstrosity. There's fluoro wool...and if that ain't a memory of the 1980s, then I don't know what is.
So I decided to start my own little piece of history. The plan (a plan which resides on my very long list of "stuff I would like to do/have/be in a perfect world where I'm a domestic goddess and my tidy-but-not-OCD house is filled with lovingly handmade deliciousness and I bottle all my own fruit") is to make a simple, cheery, crocheted afghan to live on the couch, made from bits and pieces left over from garments I've made for the kids. I'm chipping away at it slowly, but that's ok. I've decided to embrace the slowness of creating it, since I hope it will have a long and fruitful life ahead of it.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
So after the granny-square blanket fiasco of last week, I came home and ruminated on why I want to collect other people's cast-offs. Why? Really?
Monday, March 30, 2009
I spent two full days without the kids this past weekend, which in itself was a rare and exciting treat, made even better for the fact that I spent it doing sewing-type stuff. Not actually sewing, but learning how to fit my patterns properly using the Palmer/Pletsch system. It was fantastic. It's such a straight-forward, intuitive way of doing things that makes so much sense, and doesn't require complicated use of body measurements - just a good eye for wrinkles (who hasn't got one of those at this time of life ;-) ?) and the very helpful text book. I was lucky enough to be the only one in the class, and so got one-to-one tutoring on how to fit first a basic fit pattern (McCall's) and then four fashion patterns which I had brought with me.
I'm absolutely itching to sit down at the machine and get sewing, but I have a small pile of jobs to get through before I can do that without guilt, so I'll have to wait, dammit. Not something I'm particularly good at, being an instant-gratification kinda gal.
Anyway, must sign off and get the small people into bed. 24 nappies are calling my name: I'm well and truly behind schedule and my nappy mule leaves for the UK tomorrow, so I see a late night ahead of me.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
A house full of people with dodgy tummies does not result in a lot of satisfying crafting taking place. A lot of laundry: yes. A lot of chicken noodle soup and dry toast: yup. But crafting...not so much.
Anyway, having survived the last few days, I had (courtesy of having a husband at home) some free op-shopping time today - meaning I got to shop unencumbered by kids and buggies, and I nearly, nearly scored big time. I found three granny-square blankets, and lugged them around the shop trying to decide if I really needed them or not. And...get this...I was stalked. A middle-aged woman followed me around the shop, fingering the blankets when I put them down to look at something else. Anyway, I decided on one out of the three, put the others back on the shelf (where they were immediately snaffled by my stalker) got to the counter and asked the price of the granny square blanket I had chosen. $25.00. Since when does anything cost $25.00 in an op-shop, let alone something with some slightly suspect staining on it? I mean, and I don't want to sound uncharitable, but that kinda thing totally takes the fun out of the bargain-hunting experience, doesn't it?
To be honest, the blanket was a tad on the ugly side, albeit in a homely, friendly kind of way. I really only wanted to buy it because it was sitting there, a lonely craft-orphan, begging me to take it home. Nothing that has that many hours of work put into it should be spending its retirement amidst the faded polyester sheet sets and dubious, hairy dog blankets in our local sallies. It's just not right. In the end I didn't buy it, though, because I really couldn't justify spending that much on it. Sigh. I guess the recession is getting us all.
PS the photo has no real relevance to the post, except that it serves to remind me of the good old days when op shop bargains were found for single figure prices. I found this wooden recipe card box for $3, a couple of years ago.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Gotta love a skirt that fits even if you've eaten too many pies the day before, right? I made this half-circle wrap skirt from a cotton voile from Spotlight (a shop with which I have a love/hate relationship) and it's had heaps of wear this summer.
I started following the directions in the "Sew What: Skirts" book, then quickly abandoned that when I realised that the maths that they provided didn't work at all (or it did, if you were a person half the size of your measurements, IYKWIM.) So, good old pi and high school maths was dusted off from the far reaches of my brain (it was pretty dusty. I needed a lot of reminders of which equations to use, which was a little embarrassing) and the skirt came together really quickly. It's got a temporary overlocked hem, again because I couldn't find the manual for my overlocker to do a rolled hem. Will be definitely making another one...I'm trying to decide if it would work in a more winter-weight fabric, or if it wouldn't end up draping all that well. Thoughts?
Almost the best sort of success, isn't it, the surprising one? Y'know (in the immortal words of Dr Seuss) when you "practically, almost, had given up hope"...and then bam! Out of the blue, everything turns out ok. This was what ended up happening with my curtain skirt. Ok, so it's certainly not high fashion. But I like it- it's comfy, fits well (which was a real surprise) and I like the fact that by making it, some new life has emerged from a sad old pair of curtains that were languishing amidst the wee-stained blankets and drooled-on pillowcases at the Sallies.
The pattern is a very old and daggy Butterick (I can't remember the number, and I can't be bothered looking for it since it's probably OOP anyway). I did a centred zipper, rather than my usual invisible zip or lapped zip, and I think I'm a convert. It was so easy to put in, and doesn't have either the scratchy bit at the bottom that you tend to get with invisible zips, nor the issues with the upper edges not lining up properly that I get when I do a lapped zipper.
I'm particularly chuffed with how the trees line up across the back...it almost looks like I did it on purpose, when in fact it was just a happy accident. Probably shouldn't admit that.
On to the stinge-ometer: fabric: $4; zip: 70 cents from Geoff's Emporium; Binding & ric rac: $2 per roll from Kate Sylvester sale. Being a (cheap) surprising success: priceless.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I don't believe it. For the first time in goodness knows how long, I have the house to myself (well, by that I mean that I'm the only one awake and it's a respectable hour.) Kids in bed by 7:30, husband at work drinks. Hey...hang on...where are my work drinks? Sigh. Not only are us SAHMs unpaid but we're under-beveraged, as well.
I've got a fair few sewing plans afoot for this weekend, barring any disasters of the bread-knife variety. Mostly I have to sew nappies....a lot of nappies. 30, or thereabouts. While I'm very happy to be doing them (they're a gift for my brother & sister-in-law, who are expecting twins in a couple of months) I'll be pretty darn glad when they're all finished and shipped off to the UK, courtesy of a friendly relative with room in her suitcase. I like to call her my nappy mule. I suspect she wouldn't take too kindly to being labelled as such, so in the spirit of family congeniality I reckon I probably shouldn't 'fess up.
Anyhoo, said nappies have been hanging over me for a fair while, now (a slightly frightening image, isn't it; nappies hanging over you. Especially some of the nappies I was intimately acquainted with today...eewww.) Once they're done, I think I'll tackle a dress, something along the lines of the top in the picture above, but made to a slightly different pattern. The top is made from a teeny bit of the 6 or so metres of merino knit I got at the Kate Sylvester sale, $2 per metre. (You may be starting to think that I am a tight wad, since in every post I seem to refer to the bargain-ness of my fabric. You would be right.) It's a great pattern (Kiwk Sew 3593) - I really like how the front is gathered but the back isn't, so the overall look isn't too boofy, for want of a more technical term.
For the dress, I'm thinking something with some kind of pleats at the neck, rather than gathers; not too full, with 3/4 sleeves; in a heavyish charcoal/grey-marle type knit, maybe with some funky binding somewhere. And pockets. A girl's gotta have pockets (well, these days I do. Where else do you put your keys while you're buckling the baby into the car? If I try to do this without having pockets to put my keys in, I feel decidely discombobulated (love that word.) Almost like leaving the house having forgotten to put your knickers on or something.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Before children, I used to love having time to get totally absorbed in a project, sitting for hours at the machine, really getting into "the zone", y'know? Now, it's a good day if I get half an hour here or there, and I'm having to develop new ways of doing things. I find it exceptionally frustrating, but I'm slowly learning to be content with just doing a few rows of knitting, or perhaps cutting out a pattern one night, and the fabric the next. Last night, despite getting two children into bed by 7:20 (trust me, this is a major achievement in our house), I only managed to baste the pockets onto my curtain-skirt, before sitting brainless in front of the television for an hour. I kind of lost my sewing mojo a bit when I realised after basting the pockets on that: a) the curtain-skirt is in fact starting to resemble an old faded apron from someone's 1950s home-ec project; and b) the pattern I'm using, which is one that I used to make exceptionally poorly-constructed mini-skirts from when I was about 16 or 17 is just maybe a tad snug around the hips. I suppose I should have realised that 2 children later things wouldn't be in the same place as they were back then. Bah.
Anyway, it got me thinking about all those little things that are energy-sappers in the creative process. For me, the main one is when something goes wrong. Major craft-rage ensues. It's so demoralising, isn't it, when you've carefully worked for ages on something then have a senior moment and do something like getting the middle of the skirt caught up in the overlocker and chopping it off.
There are plenty of other things that aggravate me, too...things like ironing interfacing onto things, or re-threading the overlocker, or pressing and stitching the final hem. Projects can sit for months with one of these things needing to be done to them. So, (and I guess I'm asking this of the one and only person other than my husband who actually reads this thing ;-) )...what pushes your craft rage buttons?
PS the little woolly pants in the photo still need to have the ends woven in, which is yet another knitting aggravation. They're from this pattern, and are knit in Cleckheaton Vintage Hues.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I found this fabric in our local end-of-line-cheapy fabric shop, and despite its potential ugliness (there's a fine line, isn't there, between pleasantly bohemian and bad ugly 70s tie-dye throwback) I took it home. It's printed in half-circle panels, so all you need to do is buy two (in this case for the princely sum of something like $4 per panel), cut them out, figure out how big to make the waistline and bingo! You've got an instant circle skirt.
This project was the ultimate in lazy sewing. The waistband is overlocked, zig-zagged to a circle of elastic then folded in and top stitched. The bottom edge was just whipped through the overlocker - I had intended on doing a rolled hem but I couldn't find the manual to remind me which bits I needed to change on the machine so just did a temporary whiz through with a normal 4-thread, using a variegated brown thread in the loopers.
It's comfy, and I've worn it quite a lot, despite the fact that the hem is uneven (I didn't hang it to let the bias drop, because I couldn't face figuring out how to level the hem from the waistband edge to maintain the pattern around the base.)
Ah...off now to a fun day in a house full of two little boys with colds. Which may, of course, mean that some Bob the Builder is watched...and I get to knit quietly for a bit. Bliss.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
My sewing style is...relaxed, shall we say. Perhaps a little...lazy. Slapdash. Haphazard. Suffice to say, me and my unpicker aren't the best of friends. If I can wing it without unpicking anything, I'm a happy camper. So, I was pretty pleased with how this top turned out, considering I completely omitted the darts at the back and ended up inadvertently making myself a mumu. (I'm never sure how to spell that word...but you know what I mean, right?) Anyway, disaster was averted with the zig-zagging on of a few rows of clear elastic in order to pull the back in. That part worked fine, then since I didn't have a stretch needle handy to finish the hems, I chucked the top into a pile of random stuff, and I didn't see it again for a few months. (That sort of thing happens quite a lot in our house. Stuff just vanishes into piles of other stuff. I can't imagine why; it's surely nothing to do with my domestic-goddess skills.) When I unearthed it I was struck with a fervent sense of "I'm going to finish this no matter how rubbish it ends up looking" so I took to it, still without a ball point needle, and with kids under my feet (a recipe for disaster no matter which way you slice it). So, here it is, resplendent in its dodgy-hemmed glory, skipped stitches and all, courtesy of the wrong needle. It's still rather comfy, though, I must say, and has had a few outings. The pattern is Simplicity 3835, the fabric is a viscose/spandex knit from Centrepoint (the shop, rather than the commune) and it is lovely and cool, although a little too crushable for my liking, since I'm not all that well acquainted with the iron. Domestic goddess..yeah...nah.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Ahhh. I'm sitting here in a patch of afternoon sunlight, with a nice cold beer at my side. It's a Speights "Summer Harvest" and Oh. My. Goodness. It is delicious. Granted, the last 23-ish months have been a pretty dry spell beer-wise, for me; but nonetheless, it's a damn tasty beer. All apricoty and beery and mmmmm. I guess there has to be some plus side to the depressing reduction in cup-size post weaning Mr nearly 2, right?
Anyways, alcohol aside. It's been a pretty slow weekend on the craft front. I've had a half hour or so to do stuff, and this little macro shot is from the pocket of a skirt I'm working on, made out of a faded pair of curtains I picked up at the Sallies. It was one of those purchases that feels good at the time, but has you wondering on the walk home "what on earth was I thinking? Why am I bringing yet more crap into the house to sit on the shelf and not be used?". I'm still not a hundred percent sure it won't end up looking like a dodgy apron or house coat from the 1950s, but we'll just have to see.
In a triumph for the slack sewists among us, I'm pleased to report that of the two techniques I used to apply the satin binding and ric-rac to the pocket edge, the "be careful and pin, trim seams and baste" one ended up disastrous and very sweary, while the "bugger it I'll just hold it on and sew it and hope for the best" worked a dream. I feel truly vindicated.
Friday, March 13, 2009
I'm no Martha Stewart, that's for sure. There are piles of stuff in my house that eat other things, like single shoes, and cellphones, and important bits of paper. Unfortunately, it seems that the rot has also set into the file structure on my computer...as in, I haven't the foggiest idea where some of my pictures have ended up. Since I couldn't find any crafty ones, I've had to resort to a little bit of pictorial randomness...a last little taste of NZ summer. I'm going to tell myself that it's vaguely related to craft, because as the weather here has been getting chillier, I've been thinking a lot about what I'm planning on sewing for autumn.
So...I really need some new clothes. Well, technically, I don't, since I can't currently close my drawers as it is; but you know how it is. I REALLY need some new clothes. For someone who professes a love of sewing I am embarrassed to say that I pretty much live in a wardrobe of clothes from Glassons. Give me a racerback singlet and a pair of jeans and I'm ....well, I'm looking the same as I did yesterday. And the day before that. But enough, I say! Time to get serious ;-)
One of the main reasons I wear so little of what I sew (apart from the fact that so little of what I sew actually gets finished) is that stuff tends not to fit. So, in order to remedy this, on the advice of the wise and expert Maryanna-from-across-the-road, I've booked myself into a Palmer Pletsch fit workshop at the end of the month. Woohoo! I can finally find out from an official source all the ways in which my figure is imperfect (oh joy) and start to factor in my big-bum-overly-wide-shoulders-no-boobs statistics into all my sewing endeavours.
This autumn, therefore, I am pledging to myself to make at least 4 things that I will actually wear. I'm mulling over patterns at the moment, but so far I'm thinking some kind of hoodie; some comfy jeans/cargo/mum-trousers type things; a couple of skirts to wear with boots; and some kind of funky-casual dress to wear with boots. Hopefully all stuff that will fit into my playdough-and-spaghetti encrusted lifestyle. Functionality...bah. I've never really been all that good at that part of sewing. Most of the stuff I made pre-kids was pretty, going-out type stuff. I even (partially) made a black, beaded corset as a kind of wearable muslin before making my wedding dress. Deluded? Me? I mean, I know life before kids did involve a much more exciting social life, but a beaded corset? WTF? Maybe I should dig it out of storage and wear it to make some cheese on toast for the kids, just for a laugh. Now that would be a sight indeed.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I have a looong list of stuff I want to make. Every time I visit a new blog, I add to my list. My list is starting to stress me out, which kind of defeats the purpose of "craft-as-meditation", right?
Anyway, many moons ago, I admired the whole pencil roll/needle roll thing that seems to appear on every second blog. I added "Pencil roll" and "needle roll" to my list. And, astoundingly for me, I actually did something about it and made one of each. Sadly, not for myself (my knitting needles reside in a kid's shoe box and a holey snap lock bag); but for a friend who'd just had her second baby. I figured since she'd done all the work, she should get the best present ;-) In the spirit of not-making-anyone-feel-stink, though, I also made something for the older brother. Oh, and the baby. But cos I'm a slow crafter, I'm saving the needle roll and baby clothes for another slow news day ;-)
Here's the pencil roll, at any rate. Pretty much another instant gratification project, and all from stash, which adds a nice virtuous shine to the crafting experience. I also made him a little drawstring bag for all his boy stuff. A trainee "man-bag", if you will.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I have a jumper for myself that's been on the needles for nearly a year now, and shows no sign of being finished anytime soon. Maybe I'll plan for it to be a bedjacket in my retirement ;-) Small things, on the other hand, like this jumper from "Simple knits for cherished babies" by Erika Knight, are like the knitting equivalent of chocolate biscuits. Instant(ish) gratification. I like that. I clearly like chocolate biscuits, too, since for the past three days that's all I've had for lunch, followed by a chaser of jelly snakes. What a stunning nutritional example I'm setting for my children.
Anyway, I'm off for an evening of stitchin' and bitchin' tonight - I can't wait. And the best thing of all is that I don't even need to get organised...since it's just over the road, I can just sneak out the door at the last possible minute, and leave the bedtime battles to my lovely husband. Ahhh...
Monday, March 9, 2009
Ok, so, technically speaking, I guess at 31 I'm not really an old bag...but many days, I certainly feel that way. Especially since Mr nearly 2 has decided that sleep is for the weak and that he'd rather party at all hours and no longer nap during the day.
So, this bag is unfinished, but since I didn't have anything else to write about today I thought I'd just put it up anyway. The plan is to finish the blanket stitching around both the circles on the front, which are currently steam-a-seamed on and won't last being thrown into the car and sat on, amongst the many other indignities that the bag of a harried mother has to endure.
The pattern is based on this one, but I added a few inches to the depth of the bag and also added heaps more pockets to house all the gadgets I find myself lugging around. Muesli bar pocket? Check. Place for snotty tissues? Check. Home for random Lego men and dried up crusty bits of playdough? No worries.
I angled the sides of the bag and the strap a bit to make it less boxy. Good old op-shop grey blanket provides a cheap and sturdy outer; it's lined with some Amy Butler stuff from our local sewing shop; and the little embroidered fantail on linen is based on an image from an old NZ postage stamp. (who? me? a sheep? ...isn't it compulsory to have at least one backstitched-bird-on-beige-linen in a craft blog? ;-)
It's yet to pass the acid test, though, of life with two small children. I'm always on the lookout for the absolute, all-time, bag-of-perfection that will solve all my crap-carrying problems. I'm just loathe to admit that probably what I really need is a suitcase on wheels. Or a porter.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Guess who won?
Slicing your finger with the breadknife isn’t ideal at the best of times, but it’s particularly crap when you’ve just arranged to have an entire morning sans children, in order to get stuck in to some sewing. Kids are dressed, teeth cleaned, ready to head out the door. I’ve got that nice warm anticipatory feeling in my stomach, looking forward to uninterrupted me-time at the sewing machine. Feeling benevolent, I figure I’ll just slice a couple of passionfruit open for the kids before they go. And there you have it. The breadknife won. Damn wobbly slippery fruit.
The kids still went out, but I ended up spending the morning on the computer, eating chocolate and feeling sorry for myself, with my stoopid stoopid sore finger held at shoulder height to stop it throbbing. Bah.
Anyway, I did manage a few handsewn projects, after the chocolate and panadol kicked in. And on a brighter note, I’m fully planning on using said munted finger as an excuse not to do any dishes tonight…thus freeing up more time for craft. See, always thinking ;-) (except while cutting passionfruit, evidently.)
Saturday, March 7, 2009
One of the things I really missed about NZ when we were living overseas was the Pacific influence that is so evident here, particularly in Auckland.
Our local emporium sells a lot of very bright pacific prints, which are great for lots of things but a bit loud for clothes for me. This slightly more subtle print made its way home with me, for the princely sum of $2/metre, and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. The pattern is Burda 8090.
I had my usual fitting issues...if something fits me around the hips, it always gapes at the waist. My friend (who has the same issue) likes to call it "bucket factor" – as in, it makes the top of the garment sit away from the body like a bucket. Kinda the antithesis of "the muffin", which is a fit issue I don't (yet) have.
Anyway, in my usual lazy, half-arsed sewing style, I couldn't be bothered unpicking the facings and fixing the fit properly, so I stitched a channel for a bit of elastic between the two pleats at the back. Works fine and I've actually got quite a lot of wear out of this over the summer.
Bucket vs. Muffin. Hmm...it's kind of like that old saying: "if only Mama Cass and Karen Carpenter had shared the ham sandwich." Wouldn't that be a great way to solve all our fitting dilemmas? "Hi there. I have an excess of bucket-factor that I'm keen to trade for an inch or so of muffin. Please call on *****"
Friday, March 6, 2009
While we're on the subject of craft that makes your eyes ache, I thought I'd share this pair of longies that I knit for my youngest son a few months ago. They're from this pattern, and are knit in the older (and far nicer) version of Tekapo Summertime. I used 4.5mm needles, rather than my usual 4mm, purely out of laziness as I thought that a looser gauge would make them knit up faster. Yeah....like most things, lazy isn't really the answer, since they're now baggy and saggy. Anyway, they do the job, which is of course the most glamorous task of stopping night-time cloth nappies from asphyxiating all humans and animals in the vicinity with the noxious smell of ammonia. And also saving me from making his bed so often, thus freeing up more time for craft. See, always thinking. ;-)
ETA....eek! Not sure why that photo is so big - I'm just sorting out the flickr thing. Ah well, at least you can see in glorious detail the dodgy bit between the stitches where my magic loop technique leaves a lot to be desired ;-)
Thursday, March 5, 2009
To make it look like I actually make more than one thing every 6 months or so, I thought I'd kick off this blog with a few things I made ages ago. Tricky, huh.
Anyway, this is a quilt I made for my eldest; the second quilt I've made (might post the other one later if I run out of other things to talk about ;-) . I learned a lot making this quilt, and while it's bright and cheerful and my son loves it, it's not a fabric combo I'd choose again in a hurry. I had to sew muted colours for quite a while after this just to give my eyes a bit of a break.
So...the quilting in the ditch is wonky (aka not in the ditch but just vaguely in the vicinitiy of it); Mr nearly 2 has drawn on it in places with felt pen; some of the binding is coming undone and I may or may not ever get around to fixing it. Also: note to self: tighten the screw on the measuring bit that you poke into the presser foot when you're grid quilting or else it'll move, give you wonky lines and you'll have to unpick a really long line of stitching. Immense sewing rage will ensue.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
So...I have succumbed and finally started a blog. Not that I necessarily think I have a whole lot to put in it, to be fair; it's just one of those things that's been lurking around in the back of my mind for a while. Since my brain ceased proper functioning 4 years ago with the birth of Mr 4 years old, I also figure that it can't hurt to have some online repository for ideas and inspiration I find during blog-trawling escapism.
Anyway...(and this feels kinda weird and narcissistic, since I don't actually think anyone's reading this ;-) I'll introduce myself. Ahem...to, um, myself. Mum of two little boys, aged 4 and nearly 2, who crafts for the sake of making something that isn't a pile of laundry or dishes. An eternal starter-of-projects. Endlessly over-ambitious about how many things I can do with the limited craft-time available. Stash hoarder extraordinaire. Likes to fondle fabrics and yarn. Potentially gets greater joy from having fabric than using it. Am working on fixing that last one; hence the blog.
And since I only tend to go back to blogs with pictures, I'll end this with one. Of a cushion, that I would dearly love to be curled up against right now with a cup of tea and a magazine - Ha!
Made from a couple of good old op-shop blankets (sorry...I refuse to call it thrifting. It'll always be op-shopping for me) and some orchid-print linen from an upholstery shop. Buttons courtesy of an excess of purchasing at the Karen Walker fabric sale.