Monday, January 31, 2011

Stitching Knits

Sewing clothing has always been a frustrating experience for me, largely because of fit. I'm your basic straight-up-and-down gal without much of a waist. It's that way whether I'm sleek or slightly plump. But sewing patterns never seemed to work for that body type...if the things fit my hips then they were too tight in my waist and if they fit my waist they'd balloon around my hips. (Except for shifts...anyone remember shifts? They were perfect for my body type.) My mom had some complicated methods for altering patterns that my math-phobic mind never let me grasp. So I quit sewing for many years, until my friend Anne taught me to quilt. It was perfect for me. I got to play with color and pattern and never had to worry about darts, set-in sleeves, or zippers.

But as time has gone by I've been intrigued by lots of kinds of sewing. And this weekend, I was brave enough to try sewing clothing again. I took a Sewing with Knits class at Home Ec Workshop with Alissa. There were five of us and it was four hours we all cut out and finished a long-sleeved t-shirt (and many people finished in less time). It was so satisfying, and I wore my shirt all the next day. Sorry not to have pictures, but I used a knit from Moda—a very springy turquoise and white dot from the City Weekend line by Oliver and S. It is so soft and cozy the color makes me think winter may eventually come to an end, something I've been doubting of late. And best of all, Alissa altered the pattern (a Burda pattern, I believe) for each of us in the class, so our shirts actually fit.

All this was exciting enough, but the new Stitch magazine has a fantastic article about sewing with knits, as well as some truly adorable patterns. I'm itching to try the Spiral Skirt. Check it out here. (The instructions are in the magazine.) And if this pattern isn't for you, seriously check out the issue, anyway. It's a real keeper, with explanations of great sewing techniques and tons of fantastic projects and patterns. I'm also seriously thinking about using my stash of Woolylady fabrics to do the cover pillow. And there's a Malka Dubrovsky freebie pattern here. How I love her work!

In addition, there are a couple of short articles by yours truly in the issue. One about Collecion Luna, a wonderful endeavor that seeks to preserve Guatemalan  textile traditions while provide a living for families, and another about the New Dress a Day blog, where Marissa creates a new frock each day from an old one (and it can't cost more than one dollar).

Yes, my name is mispelled in the bylines for these pieces...they had a new proofreader and as a former editor I know that these things happen. But they did get it right on the back page, where staffers and contributors were asked about their 2011 sewing resolutions. I said that one of my goals was to take more classes in the new year, and I'm pleased to say I did just that at Home Ec on Saturday.

Share the love

Just found out about this project Etsy is undertaking (and not for the first year, either). They're asking folks to create Valentines that they'll then distribute with meals provided by Citymeals on Wheels.

For suggestions about getting together with friends to create Valentines, guidelines for the cards, mailing information and more, click here. The only catch is that the cards need to be to Etsy by February 9. So gather some friends and get a heart on (sorry, that was very, very bad).

For inspiration, visit Blah to Tada, who's already repurposed some bits and bobs to create a wonderfully diverse assortment of cheery cards.

And this would be a great project to take to your local Meals on Wheels program for Valentine's Day 2012! (Two years ago the Old Capitol Quilter's Guild stitched holiday placemats that were delivered with Meals on Wheels Christmas dinners—there are lots of potential variations on this theme.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Collaborative quilting

I've joined a small group of interested quilters at Home Ec Workshop (Codi calls us Prelude to a Quilt Guild) and we've met a few times now. The group is fairly free-form and our stitching abilities range from newbie to very experienced. Sometimes we just talk about what we've been doing and sometimes we all decide on a small project that we work on between meetings and share the next time. Thus far, I hadn't managed to get any of the projects completed, but this last time I was inspired.

Each of us cut 64 squares of 5.5" background material (I used a print I've had for ages, everyone else picked solids), and 128 half-squre triangles, cut from squares that measured anywhere from 2.5" to 4.5". Then we threw all the half-square triangles in a big pile and plucked out the number we needed. It gave each of us an opportunity to use someone else's fabrics, which were often fabrics we wouldn't have chosen ourselves.

I sewed each block intentionally not color-matching the triangles (although I did often sew a large one and a small one to each background piece). Then I deviated from the original pattern (it's loosely based on Corner Store by Lynn Harris in Pretty Little Mini Quilts) in which the background blocks all faced the same direction (above), forming a kind of flat Star of David.

In a future post I'll share the finished quilt tops. Can't wait to see what everyone's come up with!

Pearl helped, of course.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Okay, so maybe the headline is pushing it a bit. Calling bibs "bibelots" ( defines it as a small object of curiosity, beauty, or rarity) works on the "small" level, maybe not so much on the curiosity or rarity plane. But they can be beautiful, or at least fun and charming. And if the things we make don't add a bit of fun and pleasure to our day-to-day activities, then what the heck are we doing making them?
Sweet baby Sam

My good friend Sara had baby number three just before Christmas and I finally got to see (and hold) him yesterday. A total sweetie who obligingly made all his little baby faces, fussed and stretched, and then went to sleep on my shoulder.

Baby Sam's grandmother is a quilter extraordinaire, and a hand-quilter at that. I knew he was getting a very special quilt from her so my friend Sondra and I decided to sew some other items. Sadly, our schedules were such that we never managed to get together. So I made bibs.

Flannel backing on left and right bibs. (Pearl refused to stay out of the photo)
My favorites are the ones backed with flannel. (I made two like that earlier this fall, but gave them away before I got photos.) I figure flannel is softer when you want to wipe the baby's mouth off with the bib. I realize the rickrack will likely serve as a goo-catcher, but it's just too hard not to add a bit of embellishment. And I did put batting in these. I think the ones I made earlier didn't have batting. Not sure which is preferable. I have a friend who cuts up old towels and puts a layer in her bibs. I used Velcro for the fastener.

Any suggestions or tips on making bibs for babes? What's your favorite method or pattern?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stellar Quilts

Apparently I'm on a video roll, because here's another one. Yes, it's definitely on the far side of bizarre. But the quilts represent an entirely different kind of modern quilting—non-linear, embellished, hand quilted with big stitching. Even though he claims he's from outer space, don't give up too to the end to see the stellar quilt. His Etsy shop has more, if you're interested:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bull Cozy

If for no other reason, watch this for the music and Olek's victory jump. And think of it the next time you decide a textile task is too big to take on!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wow! It's 1-1-11!

Last night we had a lovely New Year's Eve dinner with our stranded daughter (in werewolf arms, at left). She was supposed to return to New York on the 26th, but as you likely have heard not too many flights made it that day. She was rescheduled for the 27th, went to the airport and was told to get on the plane to Chicago where her flight to Newark was promptly canceled. Rather than have her spend days on stand-by we brought her back home and she finally got a plane out at 7 a.m. this morning.

But back to our dinner last night.  I've never been a big fan of New Year's Eve—it often seems like a lot of forced conviviality—the last few years our bookgroup gathered and that was fun, but it didn't happen this year.

During our dinner conversation, Rebecca made the point that although New Year's celebrations can wreak of false gaiety, there is something enchanting about the idea of a clean slate and of getting to start all over. I had to agree. And to that end, I asked each of us to share some resolutions.

So here a three of my 2011 resolutions. Sometimes I think if you say them out loud you have to be a little more committed (or a little more wiling to be humiliated).

1. More exercise: Since I left my University editorial job for full time freelancing I've ceased my daily walk to work and back. It was just a bit over a mile each way, but it's quite apparent that the effect of that walk was significant. So I will be exercising more, whether it's on my treadmill in my basement (ick) or at a gym (ick to the time it takes to get there).

2. Sort writing priorities. This freelance life offers some challenges, trying to fit in various ongoing  projects while looking for more. I've got the potential for a couple of big ones on the horizon...the challenge will be figuring out what's worth doing and what's not.

3. Finding time to sew. I've had very few hours in my sewing room this fall and early winter. I miss it and I'm ready to return. First though, a little clean-up is required so that I can actually find my cutting table and sewing machine...they're both piled high with fabric, patterns, and magazines.

Okay, those are three of my big about you? Willing to share any in this semi-public forum?

Happy New Year!