January 30, 2013

Stashbusting with the Sewasauruses

It's only been recently that I've started to take seriously the challenge of "sewing down" the fabric stash. Several of last year's projects have "use what you have" as part of their guidelines. I've used stash-fabric for many of my Sew.Quilt.Give. contributions. Throughout last year, I had the general goal of not buying lots of new fabric; I don't know that I succeeded at this, since I have a teetering pile of "potential" clothes.

Not buying more fabric is one thing. Using up the stuff on hand is another. I may have intentions to live lightly and not accumulate stuff, but accumulation seems to just happen. When I was quilting right out of college, I didn't have much of a fabric stash nor a lot of disposable income with which to build it. When I accidentally cut too many of something (or cut a shape out backwards), I kept the pieces. They went into a box with the idea that some day, I'd need a scrap of something or I'd make a something out of all the little bits.

The box has gotten a bit full in the last decade or so.

Last month, I opened up the box and went digging for things I could turn into 2.5 inch squares, for the Postage Stamp Block Swap. I started putting some odds and ends together, including making a postage-stamp-style block from a collection of mostly blue and white floral rectangles.

So, when Cation Designs and EmSewCrazy announced a year-long stash-busting project, I thought there might be some mission overlap. I've refrained from listing out specific stashbusting goals, but when I can make my own projects line up with their monthly themes, I'll play.

I've managed to finish this just in time for the end of January's Itty Bitty Challenge:
patchwork zipper pouch
Sometimes, I need a small, squishable purse substitute. Something to put the little things in (wallet, phone, lipbalm, sunglasses, etc) that I can drop into something else (project bag, bike pannier, backpack, etc).
patchwork zipper pouch
I won't claim that it's beautiful or stylish, but I expect that this post is the most the world will see of this pouch. I made it up as I went along, and it's got a most unconventionally installed zipper. But it's functional, uses up those mostly blue and white rectangles I wasn't ever going to use for anything else (they aren't really my style), and uses up a couple of pieces of a larger blue floral that's been in my stash since college (it covered the top of the wardrobe that was next to my top bunk).

And the next time I ride a bike to the grocery store, I won't have to worry about losing my keys or my phone under the milk on the way home.

January 28, 2013


Once upon a time, I thought I'd crochet myself some socks. I bought two balls of sock yarn and found a pattern to download.

And made exactly 1.4 of the ugliest socks ever. I don't know if it was me or the pattern but this was a sock designed for someone with a large growth protruding from the top of her foot.

I did the only sensible thing: tear it all out and pretend it hadn't happened.

Now, what to do with two balls of sock yarn? I started a shawl. It made sense at the time.

My shawl pattern was chosen in part by the weight and yardage of the yarn on hand. Next time I do something like this, I probably should pay more attention to the finished measurements of the item in question. Maybe I would have learned ahead of time that my two balls of sock yarn wouldn't possibly make a shawl my size.

Maybe not.

I ran out of yarn. The shawl wasn't finished.

Since getting more yarn (fortunately I was working with a standard item from Jo-Ann, nothing fancy, so getting more yarn was actually an option) wasn't going to happen immediately, I started poking about for some other yarn-y project. It made sense at the time.

I've got some odds and ends from other projects so scarves and hats are not entirely out of the question. But did I stick with what I already had? Nope, I discovered Sashay.

Which is how Caitlyn got this scarf.
Caitlyn and a new scarf
I wish I could take credit for the ruffles. The magic here is all in the "yarn". Which is really more like ribbon or lace. It ruffles itself as you crochet with it.

Which makes me wonder: can you do anything with this stuff besides make scarves or trim the edges of something? I did see a photo of a ruffled pillow, but it's total cat bait. Such a thing wouldn't survive overnight unsupervised in our house.
ruffle scarf in a tree
When I got the additional yarn I needed for my shawl project, I may or may not have picked up a couple balls of this Sashay stuff in a more restrained color combination for myself. After all, it made sense at the time.

January 24, 2013


The official Tiramisu sewalong is all done. And after three muslins for the the bodice, I'm saying it's time to do this thing for real.

Not that I'm totally confident that I've got the fit "just right". But I'm not sure I'm being realistic any more. The last time I had the latest muslin on, I noticed some wrinkling around the armscye area. Has it always been there? Is it supposed to do that?

I might be starting to nit-pick, looking for flaws to adjust where there aren't any.

Besides, my muslin fabric is a bit different from the fabric I bought for the actual dress. It's light and a little slippery, with a slight tendency to run; the actual fabric is a bit heavier with a tendency to curl along the edges. I'm guessing the dress fabric might have better recovery, given its small Lycra content.

Then there's the fact that I've not bothered with the skirt at all, which I understand will influence how the bodice hangs.

Sometimes you have to stop practicing and do something for real. No matter how close to perfect I got the muslin (it's the white and red striped heap in the background below), working with the actual fabric is going to be a slightly different animal.
starting my Tiramisu, for real
So, I've cut out the dress pieces from the real thing and I'm going to give this a go.

Wish me luck!

January 18, 2013

Over-Estimation and Frustration

After at least 3 hours yesterday working on my Tiramisu, I have nothing to show.

I suppose I could post a photo of my abandoned muslins, but you can imagine a small pile of green fabric topped with some pieces of white-and-red stripe, both with lots of loose threads, right?

It'll have to do, since I don't have the guts to post pictures of myself in ill-fitting muslins.

Man, this has been frustrating. I've long thought of myself as a fairly solid intermediate when it comes to sewing. I've now come to the realization that drawstring bags, phone cozies, tangle pockets, and piles of quilts are not clothes. Shirts for Ian and clothes for Caitlyn are not wearable by me.

See, I've made a rubbed-off shirt for myself. It has no shaping beyond what the knit fabric provides. I've made several long, full skirts; two are elastic/drawstring at the waist and, one, if I'm going to be honest with myself, could stand to be taken in quite a bit. Beyond these, I haven't sewn clothes for me since, what, middle school? Certainly nothing that has curves.

Starting my Wardrobe Improvement Project with the Tiramisu may have been biting off a bit much. Bias cut, knit, semi-fitted in effect if not in actuality.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think the problem here is the pattern. And StephC has been more than generous with her time and knowledge over at the sewalong. This is all about me assuming that I knew more than I did, both about sewing clothes and about what fits me.

In case anyone is interested in the details:
For the green muslin, I started with size 35B for the bodice. As I mentioned earlier, I think that "B" was my first mistake. I moved the center so the overlap in the bodice was tighter, took inches off the sides, moved the midriff up, and raised (lowered?) the shoulder seams. After taking off so much, I cut a new bodice with size 35A. I'm pretty sure this is where I should have started, if I'd understood the guidelines for choosing A's vs. B's correctly.

The new size was better, but not right yet. The midriff seam was too low. So I pulled out the basting stitches, trimmed a half-inch off the bottom of the bodice and re-sewed the seam. It still seemed too big, with the shoulder seams slipping just a bit toward the back. So now I'm trying the 30D and crossing my fingers that there's enough ease in the pattern and my fabric that this will work, despite the finished bust measurement (according to the pattern piece) being two inches smaller than I am. Of course, I'm working with bits and pieces of fabric from my "knits" drawer, and what I'm using now is a slightly different weight than the green I started with or the burgundy I hope to finish with.

The good news here is that I'm learning things. Like the importance of having muslin-able fabric on hand. That I shouldn't start muslining thinking that I'll end up with a "bonus" wearable muslin. And that fit is trickier than I thought. With any luck, though, when I'm done, I'll know how to make all the Tiramisus I might want without any fuss, and I'll have some making-things-fit ideas I can translate to other patterns/projects.

Right now, though, I'm just frustrated.

January 17, 2013

Other things I made in December

Rather than drag out the "catching up with things I made last month" posts any more than I already have, here's a (incomplete and abbreviated) wrap up of some of the things I made on a whim.

woven stars
Like these woven stars. I used Betz White's tutorial, which is way easy to follow. I used tweezers instead of a bodkin ('cause I don't have one) to finish the weaving. The binder clip hint is essential.
woven stars
I am wondering if these stars would come out if I used sewn fabric tubes instead of quarter-fold strips. There's a lot of fabric folded away where no one will see it, and it seems that tubes would be more efficient, if you've got a good way of turning tubes. But the extra fabric may actually be necessary to keep things from getting too floppy. More things to experiment with!

I made a new phone cozy, more or less like the last one I made. Kevin needed something to keep his iPhone 5 safe(r), and I have the extra fabric to whip these up. Now that I've made two of them, I may have some ideas for some extra touches.
phone cozy
If you've got an iPhone 5 that needs a cozy, drop me a line or comment or something. It's always easier to work on something that has an audience and/or destination.

I also used Stitched in Color's tutorial at FreeSpirit to make a journal cover. This was going to be a Christmas gift but when it was all put together, I didn't think it "resonated" for the intended recipient. I may adopt it myself or hold on to it as an "emergency" gift. Everyone can use a pretty covered notebook, right?
journal cover
I decided at the last minute to line the cover. With the pieced zig-zags, there are lots of little seams in this cover. Lining it protects those seams a little, especially if it ever needs to be washed (or moved from book to book to book).
journal cover
I can see making more of these in the future. It's nice to be reminded that piecing projects don't have to be queen sized. And these are such a nice way to work through the accumulated stash!

Anyone want a journal cover? With a matching phone cozy?

January 15, 2013

Making a Tiramisu

StephC over at SewingCake.com is hosting a sewalong for her first pattern release, the Tiramisu dress. I'd like to say I'm participating, but I think I'm more officially lurking. Maybe it's different in Australia in early January, being all summery and so forth. Here, the second week of January is full already, since that's when all the things that have been ignored for the two weeks of Christmas/Winter break come due.

Or maybe I lack dedication and I'm looking for excuses.

Either way, I've been watching the Flickr pool and the assorted discussions for the sewalong, but I haven't uploaded anything or commented at all. So when I finally got some sewalong time last weekend, I was well and truly convinced that I needed to make a muslin first, at least for the bodice. And that I needed to take my time: new pattern from a new designer, new sizing system, knits (which I'm still feeling uncertain about), and a new serger.

Hey, did you catch that? I've got a new serger! Which is probably a whole separate post. But a quick thanks to Kelly and to Skooks for their serger thoughts back in October/November!

At the moment, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about my Tiramisu bodice muslin. I'm using a plain green interlock knit (I think it's an interlock, it's got two "fronts") left over from this shirt. I've got a couple of seams to baste and then another fit check.
Tiramisu bodice muslin
If my current theory is correct, I started out by using the wrong sized bodice front pattern piece. The pattern has 20 size options for the front bodice; you're supposed to use your "high bust" measurement and your "full bust" measurement to determine which to size is right for you. Silly of me to think the instruction to choose my second size variable (A, B, C, or D) based on my "cup size" was in any way related to knowledge I already had instead of the measurements conveniently provided in the handy table. After thinking that I needed to take a little off the bodice bottom and a bit more off the bodice sides, I thought to compare what I was intending to do with the next size down. It pretty well matched up. Now, I just need to baste up those seams and find out if I was right!

If I can get the green bodice to fit right, I may have to go in search of a fabric for the skirt. I got the green knit from JoAnn, so it's probably not too hard to find more of it. And then when I'm all done, I'll have two Tiramisus, the one in the burgundy fabric I bought specifically for it and a bonus one in left-over green and something else. And I will have actually made progress on my Wardrobe Improvement Project. Yay me!

January 09, 2013

Bees and Swaps

It's come to my attention that I forgot to post a photo of the blocks I made for the November installment of Sew.Quilt.Give. I'm really curious to see how this one is going to look all put together.
Sew.Quilt.Give. blocks for November
These are super simple to make and could be a bit of a stash-buster if you were feeling scrappy (or if you have a larger/more diverse scrap pile than I do). Would strips in spectrum-order end up too cutesy?

Speaking of Sew.Quilt.Give., Marian has finished the quilt from July's blocks. My blocks are still more saturated than everyone else's but at least they aren't yelling quite as loudly as some of the previous blocks.

Sew.Quilt.Give. took the month off in December. Instead, I made up a small stack of postage stamp blocks for a swap.
postage stamp blocks for swapping

This is a scrappy postage block set, unlike the last one. Scrappy postage stamps are also good scrap-busting; I just don't know that I'm totally sold on the scrappy part. I really like the light/dark checkerboard of my other postage stamp quilt, although if you took the time and did the planning, you could do that with scraps. Just not sure it appeals to me.
postage stamp blocks for swapping
Given that, I'm not sure yet what I'll do with the 16 blocks I'll be getting back, probably in a couple of months. At the moment, I'm amused by the idea of pairing them with the siggy blocks from the summer's swaps. Guess I'll just have to wait until the blocks show up!

January 07, 2013

All wrapped up

Remember this project? Want to see what it became?

Christmas bags of 2012

These bags are officially tradition now. I made about a dozen (some of last year's bags were returned for refills) of the tutorial size of Jeni's Drawstring Bags, which is the perfect size for several bundles of homemade candy.
Christmas candy of 2012

This year, the fabric bags contained the required caramels and English toffee (from Grandpa's recipes), as well as salted caramels (which might become a staple), peanut brittle and chocolate dipped marshmallows. I was hoping to also include opera cremes, but that didn't work out so well. And I ran out of time before I got to the sea foams. Oh, well. Thus far, no one has complained. :)
Christmas bags of 2012

In making this year's bags, I used up all the "seasonally appropriate" fabric I had left in my stash. Which resulted in this bag, which is my favorite of the bunch.
Christmas candy of 2012
I "improv pieced" the exterior of this bag from assorted remaining too-small bits. This improv experience was much nicer than the last time I gave it a try, possibly because I was using a smaller set of (coordinating) fabrics on a project that was much smaller. Next time I try something like this I should pay a bit more attention to where different parts end up; my favorite bit (a 2 inch tall strip of alternating solids) ended up on the bottom of the bag!
Christmas candy of 2012

I love that I'm carrying on with the family candy tradition. Maybe one year, I'll keep track of the pounds of things I use, although I'm really hoping I don't get anywhere near Grandpa's high-water mark of 80 pounds (although I can't remember now if that was 80 pounds of finished candy, just 80 pounds of caramels, or 80 pounds of sugar used). Grandpa put his candy in red paper bags, and you always knew there'd be caramels and English toffee in that bag, sometimes something more. We'd give the empty paper bags back to Grandpa, "for refills".

I like to think that some of my fabric bags get an extra life as cosmetic bags or project bags or toy bags or gift bags. Although if some of them come back to me for refills, that'll make me happy, too!

January 03, 2013

Happy New Year!

Ok, so I'm late. It's just so I can be sure that you hear my New Year's greetings over everyone else's.

I've got a stack of posts to write to share the last minute creating from December. My sewing corner is a big pile of stuff since I was making things (and coming up with more ideas for more things) and then abruptly stopped to focus on actual Christmas prep. I always feel that my version of Christmas dinner is a lot less complicated than the traditional turkey feast, but somehow I still spend two days before Christmas in the kitchen making it happen.

And I've just realized I never posted my November blocks for the Sew.Quilt.Give. bee.

I probably won't write any sort of recap for 2012, and I don't really have any sort of great plans to reveal for 2013. I've got lots of projects in various stages and there's my pile of wardrobe improvement fabric. So, my only grand (sewing) plan for this new year is to finish things.

Of course, there will be garden things to start thinking of soon. (It's seed catalog time!) And I'm the giddy recipient of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, with ambitions of cooking everything in the book. There are candies I didn't get to last month that might still happen. And there will be random updates from Caitlyn, who has spent a large part of her winter break reading Erin Hunter's Warriors series: staying up late reading, getting up early to read some more, finishing books in a couple of days. The English major and bibliophile in me is so pleased!

May 2013 be blessed for us all.