Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Blog Site!

I've moved! Come find me at
Thanks for following me there,

Monday, November 22, 2010

I've Been Bad

My sister comes to town and what do we do? We go shopping, of course! There's a new "green" yarn and fabric store that recently opened called Wooden Spools. It collects overages and unused stashes from stores and individuals and offers them for sale. There's a nice selection of mostly natural fiber yarn in the front of the store. The back half of the store is dedicated to quilting cottons, anything from fat quarters to entire bolts. They also have a long arm quilting machine set up and their website says they offer custom quilting services. Nice idea. Great prices! Could. not. resist. buying. something.

I found a book of knitting projects by Lucinda Guy with Rowan yarns. Every project is irresistibly adorable and I fell in love with the stuffed animals. As luck would have it, there was a nice colorful supply of Cascade cotton yarns at the shop for an unbelievable price, so I of course had to bring home an entire basket of them to knit up a bevy of imaginative creatures. Florian Fox is first on the list...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another Tunic

Just a quick pic today. Another tunic I made up using my basic t-shirt pattern. A double inset in the v-neck was a little interesting to figure out. Knits are so fun and quick. This was about 2 hours of stitching, most of which was spent on the neckline. But it took no time to cut out- just fold over the rounded neck pattern to create the v-neck, and fold and cut the stripe in the middle. I love cozy tunics and fast projects!

I played around with different shapes around the neckline, and here's what I came up with. The dark thin line is just a narrow strip of knit, cut crosswise, then folded in half and basted around the neck, right sides together.

The grey knit collar is cut in the shape of a long skinny football, then folded in half. I folded the collar again so the points matched up. I measured the circumference of the neckline, divided that in half, then used that measurement to measure from the fold in the neckline (that will be the center back) towards the points and pinned where the measurement ended. I sewed a sharply angled seam at the pin to become the center front line, pinned it around the neckline edge and stitched all the layers together. A v-collar! It sounds more complicated than it is. Try it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thankgiving Menu Planning

See those woods behind the bean field? Wild turkeys live there. This is my parents' farm. In July. It doesn't look like this now. Now it's cold and often windy. The beans have dried and long been harvested. The trees are mostly bare save for a few leaves vibrating in the breeze. The ground crunches with fallen nuts and dry leaves. But the turkeys are still there. They're settling in to wait out the winter. Safe. Yep, safe even this time of year. When Dad was still alive, he'd tell me about his turkey sightings whenever they'd venture out of the woods to forage. Sometimes on foggy days, they'd strut, Mick Jagger style, up to the lawn around the farmhouse looking for tasty morsels. He liked to count them and talk about them as if they were pets. Tom Turkey and his brood. I miss those conversations. The turkeys are still there, still elusive like quiet ghosts; they are there to remind me of Dad. Thanksgiving will cause them no harm. Safeway is just up the road.

I have 20 coming to Thanksgiving this year. The menu is planned, very midwest traditional, including Grandma's raisin stuffing and big bowls of jello. Today I pulled out napkins and tablecloths to wash and iron. This weekend my daughter and I will scour the weeds at some open space nearby in search of table decorations. I'm hoping for Martha-Stewart-worthy nature, but will probably wind up with, well, weeds. No matter. It's my table and I'm going to call it beautiful. So there.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Scalloped Edge Treatment

Here’s a super simple edge treatment using the blind hem stitch on your machine. It works best on light drapey fabrics. Be sure to experiment on a scrap of fabric first to get your settings right.
I used this treatment on a strip of cloth to trim a neckline, but you could also use is as an edge finish directly on a neckline or front edge.  Just remember it’s rather fragile, so don’t use it on a edge that’s going to be tugged and pulled on.

I started with a bias strip 1.25” wide. I didn’t need that much finished width, but that width gave my fingers enough fabric to hold on to it while ironing. Cutting on the bias helps reduce fraying.
Fold the fabric toward the wrong side 1/8” and press. For this polyester peachskin fabric, the effect worked best if I only turned the fabric to the wrong side once. With more sheer fabrics, it might work to turn the fabric twice so there’s no raw edge exposed, even though the edge gets encased in the zig-zag stitching. Experiment.
A blind hem stitch looks like this.
My upper thread tension wheel.

Set your machine for a blind hem stitch and increase your thread tension as high as it will go. Consult your manual if needed. Increasing the thread tension causes the top thread to pull in the fabric when it zig-zags out to the fabric edge, creating the scallop.

Align the folded edge of the fabric under the pressure foot, right side up, so the zig-zag stitch moves just beyond the fabric edge. Adjust the stitch length and width until you like the look. I used .5 mm length and 4 mm width. Go slow, and use your fingers to guide the fabric.
Here's the trim applied to the neck edge.

Here's the back side of the finished trim.
Notice the raw edge encased by the stitching.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Runway Inspiration

I don’t watch television much, but after reading some blog posts about Project Runway, I watched an episode online, and I was hooked! It’s now my Friday guilty pleasure to watch it when I’m supposed to be doing real work. A few weeks ago, the challenge was to design looks that fit into Heidi Klum’s (the show hostess) new active clothing line. I was inspired by the color blocked designs of Andy and Mondo, and decided to create a simple color blocked tunic for myself. 

It was a great way to use up some of my overflowing stash. I had an odd shaped piece of heavy grey knit that came off a remnant table, and some polyester peachskin that I bought because I fell in love with the dusty plum color, even though I don’t usually wear slinky synthetics. Combining the two fabrics was perfect- nice color, comfy stretch. Although it’s not runway ready, it is shopping-errand-day worthy!

To add a little texture, I created some scalloped trim from a bias strip of the plum fabric and stitched it to the neckline. (Ignore the tomato colored t-shirt; it's the standard uniform of my dressform Stella.) Soon I’ll write a small tutorial on how to make your own trim.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lotta's Garden Tote

Let me end the week with one of my latest projects: a Garden Tote from Lotta Jansdotter's book Simple Sewing.

The tote went together very easily. Lotta's instructions were very clear, yet concise so I wasn't bogged down in a lot of words. I love her simple graphic style.

It was a present for my nephew and his wife who just moved into a new house with a yard filled with literally hundreds of botanical specimens of all types. For instance, the front yard contains no grass, but has instead strawberry plants for ground cover. It's an amazing yard, and I hope my little tote can help them in some small way to manage the gardens! Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Experimental Monday: Biscuits

I've always wanted to make really good biscuits. Most of the time, I'm in a time crunch and just do the Bisquick thing, but they always turn out crumbly and they're not my family's favorite. I want to make a biscuit that people remember-- in a good way.

Hence my recent fascination with Alton Brown's book, I'm Just Here for More Food.

In that geeky, science-y way that only Alton Brown can pull off, a whole section of the book is dedicated to learning about the biscuit method. Then he gives us his favorite recipe, a recipe that is four pages long. Very detailed. Just what I need. Here's what I thought of my first try at his recipe:

Alton warns that his recipe produces a very soft gooey dough, and he's right. My dough was soft enough to run right through my fingers, and although I could cut a circle with my biscuit cutter, there was no way it was going to lift off the wax paper without a fight and several contortions. In the end, instead of trying to first cut circles, I just heaped a mound of dough on the baking sheet and smooshed it into a circle using wax paper on top so my fingers wouldn't get glued to the stuff.

Despite all the gloppiness, the biscuits turned out great! Warm, buttery, soft, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Just tiny crumbs. They were gone in a flash. It was an involved process which made me think they need to be the main course and not just a side dish, but I'm willing to try it again. They were that good. Next time, I think I might try adding just a touch more flour, and a little more adjusting for high altitude, since I live at 5000 feet. Other than that, I think I can finally get rave reviews at dinnertime. So worth it!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mud Bath

I think the clouds over my house decided to do their spring cleaning two days ago because, well, it rained mud. Icky brown, sticky, runny mud, all over my car that was parked in the street. It rained for no more than 5 minutes this morning. My car did not look like that last night. Really. The evening news said the mud rain was caused by some dirty upper air turbulence something-or-other, but I like my story better. At least somebody is doing spring cleaning...

Inside the house it's like slogging through mud as well. Now that I'm back to work (my day job is designing and managing print publications) projects and requests are coming at me faster than I can keep track of them. I feel like I can't get done with one simple project before three emails and two phone calls have distracted me into six different directions. It's like those dreams where you're trying to run but your legs won't move and you don't go anywhere. There now, I have used two analogies in one paragraph. Stunning.

Sorry for my long absence from this blog. I was suddenly hit with some unexpected health issues that kept my body and mind focused elsewhere. They're not over yet, but I'm recovering well, and back at the sewing machine, thank you. Updates on projects soon. Promise.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top Ten Favorites of 2009, a blog I love to follow, is asking readers to give them a list of favorite fabrics and designers of 2009. Here's my Top 10 noteworthy entries:

• Favorite Quilting Weight Cotton Collection: Amy Butler "Midwest Modern II." I think the majority of the  accessories I've sewn for myself this past year have had some of her fabric in them.

• Favorite Home Decor Weight Fabric: Jessica Jones "Modern Flora." Beautiful prints that are easy to work with.

• Favorite Juvenile Print: Michael Miller "Orange Mono Bot." I came across a small remnant of it somewhere and I want more. I don't even have kids to sew for at the moment, but never mind that...

• Favorite Color Trend: I can't believe I'm saying this, but ORANGE. I grew up in the 60's and 70's and hated orange then (along with avocado green), but these sherbet oranges I see now are adorable.

• Favorite New Fabric I Worked With in 2009: My favorite fabric is actually an ancient fiber: silk. In all these years, I had never worked with it till this past year. Now I don't know why I waited so long. It was a dream to sew and the projects turned out beautiful. I used China silk, raw silk, silk kimono fabric, it was all good. Try some, really!

• Favorite Handprinted Fabric: Lotta Jansdotter. When I grow up, I want to be her. I love her aesthetic.

• Favorite Solid/Nonprinted: What else- Kona Cotton. I discovered Robert Kaufman makes a Color Card for their Kona Cotton line, so I invested in one. I love being able to match up prints I've picked up here and there with solid colors on the card, then ordering the solids online, since I can't find many of them locally.

• Favorite Overall Designer: Denyse Schmidt. I'm not much of a quilter, but if I were, I'd want to be like Denyse. I'd love to "get in her head" and experience her creative process while working out a project. Amazing.

• Favorite Local Fabric Store: Denver Fabrics. No, this has no relation to the online store. This is local only, no website. I like Denver Fabrics because I'm never sure what I'm going to find there. About half of their fabrics are ordered from manufacturers, but the other half come from various sources- end bolts from the garment district, left over fabric from design houses, imports, you never know. On my last trip there I discovered some rolls of silk kimono fabric, a bolt of cashmere wool that was as fluffy and soft as a cloud (think snuggly cardigan), and a tiny houndstooth check wool in soft pink and grey that came from a New York design house. I love the thrill.

• Wildcard Category: I love it when I find product packaging that I can sew with. This past year, Purina started making its dog food bags out of a plastic coated mesh material that's very easy to sew. It would be great if others followed suit, like the big bags of flour and sugar at Costco. Then there's the big bags of rice packaged in burlap. Those are great too. Here's to more reusable packaging in 2010.

To see all the Favorite Lists on True Up, click here. To read about the Favorite Fabrics event, and even participate by January 15, click here.