Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Charm Bags

Even though I don't have a lot of crafting time at the moment, I still must admit to being on a sewing kick. The new sewing machine is one reason I'm sewing more and the other is quilting pre-cuts, particularly mini charm packs. It's amazing how quickly pre-cuts can be sewn up into something cute. I made two small bags (onetwo) in the springtime and just finished a few more.

"Color Me Happy" (top) and "Sweet Serenade" (bottom), both from Moda

From start to finish, I can whip up one of these little zippered pouches out in just over an hour, which is super gratifying. These two bags are made of a 4x5 grid of mini charm squares and lined with another 4x5 grid (see last photo), which uses up 40 of the 42 squares in the pack. The result is a lovely 5"x8" bag.

"Mirabelle" fabric from Moda

I also tried out a flap version of the bag, but I like it less than the zippered version (the zippered bags are bigger and the flap isn't  a nice smooth closure)). The good thing about this version is being comfortable enough with the concept of making bags that I know I can modify the design. Sewing skills, I have them!

I have one more mini charm pack on hand and I have a feeling that it too will end up as a bag. The bags are just too cute, I can't not make another!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Color Progression Progress

I bought a bunch of Fiber Optic gradient yarn at Wisconsin Sheep & Wool and just cast on a project that will use two of the gradient packs: a Sugar Maple sweater. I admit to falling in love with this pattern after seeing the Fiber Optic dyer wearing her version using a different gradient colorway. I think the sweater is going to look sharp in the onyx-to-crimson progression.

The pattern itself is pretty straightforward - it's a tweaked top-down raglan - but the hard part is dealing with the 30 mini-skeins that form the two gradient packs. I need to keep the skeins in the proper order, do joins, and take care of ends, but it will all be worth it to see a smooth and subtle color progression in the finished object.

I'm using a couple strategies to make the yarn wrangling easier. The first is joining by magic knot, as shown in the video above. I'm not usually one for joins using knots (they distort the fabric a bit), but this was the easiest way to waste as little yarn as possible and avoid the added density of woven-in ends.

The other thing I'm doing is joining as I go, as it seemed easier to deal with yarn from one mini-skein at a time. To keep everything in order, I strung all of the mini-skeins onto a spare bit of yarn (shown in the first photo) at the beginning of the project and secured the yarn with a slip knot. Now, it's really easy to grab a new skein whenever I need one.

I'm pretty happy with my systems for dealing with the mini-skeins and I can't wait to show you more of this sweater as it progresses!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

WI Sheep & Wool

Its September in Wisconsin, which can only mean it's time for Wisconsin Sheep & Wool! This year's trip was lovely as I again met up with some Ravenclaw friends from the Ravelry Harry Potter House Cup.

Row 1: stacymarie, NoNeinNyet, Piper, MariaCrafts
Row 2: jayannell, CathyCake
Row 3: isisonearth, OneNeedleKnitting, Xamonster
Row 4: BrineyDeep (me), semperfila, bandbabe
[Photo courtesy of CathyCake]

I honestly spent most of the time at the festival hanging out with these ladies and catching up. It's always wonderful to meet in person and I wish we could do it more than annually. At least we have Ravelry for the rest of the time.

Besides hanging out and knitting (or in my case spinning) we saw some of the sheep dog trials, which are always a favorite. We also caught the walk and knit competition which is a walking relay where teams get points for both speed and the number of stitches finished. Very fun.

On the shopping front, let's not talk about the damage I did at the Fiber Optic booth. I am still totally gradient obsessed.  We'll see if I can knit everything up before next year's Sheep and Wool, although I am ready to cast on one large gradient project.

And finally, as is customary, I end my post with a sheep photo. Sheep!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Actual Knitting

I was looking through the last few months of posts the other day and realized this blog has pretty much been all sewing all the time since I got my new sewing machine. You can't fault a girl for being excited about a new toy but, seeing as this blog is nominally a knitting blog, we're definitely due for some yarns goodness.

Happily, I finished and blocked two knitting projects this past month: an Orchid Thief shawl and a second pair of Twiglets mitts (first pair blogged here). The Orchid Thief shawl has been on my to-make list for about a year now. I specifically remember buying the MadTosh Merino Light for it at the 2013 Sheep and Wool festival. There's a nice symmetry in finishing this shawl just in time for this year's Sheep and Wool (but it may be more of an excuse to buy more yarn because I used up last year's haul).

The other project I just finished is a pair of Twiglets mitts. I really like these mitts because they are quick to make and the lace pattern is easy to memorize. This is my second pair and I can definitely see myself making more.

So there are the latest knitting adventures: beautiful gray lace. My next yarny adventure? Wisconsin Sheep and Wool!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bad Passwords Dress

When I'm not blogging about crafting, I actually run another blog for scientists on managing research data. Recently, I've written about anonymization, good null values, and backups, but it's passwords that I really want to talk about today. You see, I'm mildly obsessed with bad (read: all-to-common/easy-to-guess) passwords. It started this spring when I wrote a post on strong passwords but became a full out obsession when I saw this tweet:

The dress in question was made by security researcher and professor Lorrie Cranor. She's made both a dress and a quilt based on the most common passwords from a 2009 breach of the gaming site RockYou. More importantly, she made the fabric available via Spoonflower. You can probably guess where this is going next.

I made a bad password dress! I used the large, clean version of Lorrie's fabric and had it printed on cotton poplin. For the pattern, I went with a shift dress, Colette Laurel, to avoid breaking up the pattern with seam lines. The result is what you see here.

A couple notes on the project itself. First, I'm not too crazy about Spoonflower's cotton poplin. It will work fine for the dress but is a bit stiff overall. I doubt I'll order it again. Another note concerns Laurel. It's a great pattern from one of my favorite designers but, simply put, shift dresses aren't all that flattering on me. I still think it's the right style for this fabric, but the pattern will probably move to the "won't make again" pile. Finally, I want to state that my sewing machine's invisible zipper foot is officially awesome.

Overall, I am very happy with the dress for the sheer nerdiness of it all. It may not be the most flattering thing in my closet, but I have a feeling it's going to become a conference-wear staple.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Mending By Machine

I feel like all I've been doing on this blog since April is gushing over my new sewing machine, but seriously guys, my Janome is awesome! I played with another new-to-me feature recently - the mending stitch - and was again highly pleased with the results.

I experimented with machine mending on a dress with an L-shape rip in the button band. The mending process itself was really simple: iron a square of interfacing onto the back of the rip then run the mending stitch over the rip to stabilize the area. Honestly, the hardest part was sewing the button back on.

I'm excited to add machine mending to my make-do-and-mend repertoire - it's just another bonus of finally using 21st century sewing technology!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Passel of Patterns

I come from a family of makers, one of whom is my maternal grandmother. She's wonderful and a great maker. Not only have I been the lucky recipient of several of her knitting and sewing projects over the years but more recently she gifted me a pile of her old sewing patterns. Believe me, I was very excited to receive two boxes full of sewing patterns in a range of styles and sizes, baby to adult.

The hard part of this whole thing is figuring out where to start with all of this goodness! Thankfully, one pattern caught my eye: Simplicity 7449. Simplicity has put out several patterns with this number over the years and I believe that this particular one is from the 1980's.

I admit that part of my reason for choosing this pattern is because I stumbled upon this Sunnyside Twilight Buttercup fabric while shopping for fabric for another project. The Sunnyside fabric immediately jumped into my mind as something that would look lovely for the yoke of a shirt. I, at least, think it turned out well for this.

The top was pretty simple to put together, as it uses Dolman sleeves - meaning sleeves are done with the general shape of the front and back pieces instead of the normal procedure of setting in the sleeves. I also finished the neckline with bias tape which, besides being simple, is quickly becoming a favorite technique for finishing.

I did add a few other special touches to the top including psuedo-flat felled sleeves. I meant to make french seams but got my fabric pieces backwards. Oops. Making the seams look flat felled was the best compromise to this error. The other thing I did was use one of my sewing machine's decorative stitches to add a little heart to the bottom right hem. Between these small details and my mastery of the basics, my sewing is definitely improving and I'm certainly taking more pride in it!

Happily, I finished this project in time to pack it for my summer vacation - a family trip to Germany! It was a wonderful adventure for me, my husband and my in-laws, though I still have SO MANY photos to go through. One of them is this one below. I could not resist taking a photo of my new shirt next to one of Germany's most famous attractions, Neuschwanstein Castle.

So there you have it, a pile of patterns, a new handsewn top, and a family adventure. It's been a very exciting month.