Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hat Fail

For all I love sewing hats, they can sometimes be frustrating projects. Often it's an issue of sewing an awkward seam or getting the sizing correct (I have a big head), but my latest hat was an annoyance trifecta: awkward, mis-sized, with a tricky fabric to boot. I haven't entirely given up on laminated cotton, but I'm not particularly happy with my first trial run.

The hat in question is the Raindrop Hat from the book Sewn Hats. While it's a fine pattern, part of my problem with the finished hat was that I decided to get "smart" and modify the pattern to fit my large head. While this mostly turned out okay, the finished hat is too tall in the crown. Bugger.

The challenge of fixing the hat (and honestly sewing the hat) comes down to the properties of laminated cotton. Any holes you make in the fabric stay, meaning limited to no pinning and avoiding ripping out seams whenever possible. Additionally, you have to be careful with seams, as they can actually weaken the fabric and make it more likely to tear. And did I mention that the sewing machine feet like to stick to the laminated cotton?

So yeah, this was a bit of a pain to sew and I need to be a little strategic in how I fix the hat so I don't weaken the fabric. Until that happens, this little hat will be set aside while I can work on happier projects.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Meet The New Machine

The one good thing to come out of the death of my sewing machine is having an excuse to buy a modern sewing machine. And holy wow have sewing machines changed A LOT since my old machine was built almost 50 years ago. It was quite overwhelming to see all of the possible features beyond just the straight and zigzag stitches I had before.

In shopping for a new machine, I spent a lot of time visiting my 3 local sewing machine shops and trying out some of their machines (for all I'm not impressed with Milwaukee's lack of fabric stores, we have some great sewing machine shops!). I tried out Berninas, Brothers, Vikings, Janomes, and a Babylock. If you ever buy a new machine, I highly recommend trying out as many machines as you can get yours hands on - it really helped.

In the end, I settled on a Janome DC2013. I liked this machine for a lot of reasons: it sews beautifully, it's easy to thread and use, it has a nice collection of stitches, it has memory for defaulting to needle down/up, it can automatically stop at a complete repeat of the decorative stitches, and it comes with a large number of feet (though I did also spring for an invisible zipper foot). The DC2013 is just a nice solid, middle of the road machine. Plus, it didn't hurt that I heard a lot of good things about Janomes in the course of my research.

So now I have a new sewing machine! I'm very excited and have already been doing a little sewing on my new machine. One of my first projects has been a royal pain in my behind (fault of the fabric, not the machine) so I'm sure I will have lots more sewing things to talk about in my next post.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

My Beloved Singer

It can be hard to blog when there aren't happy things to write about. And today, I have a particularly sad thing to report: my beloved Singer sewing machine (a Singer Fashionmate 237) died during my recent move.

Not only did the motor break off the machine but the crankshaft that runs the length of the machine broke at the hand wheel. This later damage makes my machine officially unrepairable.

Let's not discuss how upset I was to discover that my sewing machine - purchased new by my mother in the 1960's - had extensive damage. One month later, I'm finally to the point where I have accepted its death and am moving forward with other sewing endeavors.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Craft Room

Since I last posted here, DH and I have come significantly further along in unpacking and settling into our new home. While unpacking is by no means complete, most all of the everyday living spaces are looking really great. Happily, this includes the craft room!

I really love my new crafting space, especially the built in shelves. They are perfect for my many assorted craft supplies. The other thing I love about my new space is that I finally have room for some much needed sewing upgrades. Namely, a full-sized ironing board and a long folding table for cutting fabric.

Unfortunately, all sewing is on hold for the moment, for reasons that will be explained in a future post. In the meantime, however, it's a great room for writing, knitting, and generally plotting my next crafty adventure!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On The Move

I am so excited to tell you that my husband and I bought a house! As first-time homeowners, we could not be more thrilled. Okay, we will be more thrilled once we finish unpacking all of these boxes and get settled in.

I'm very lucky to again to have a great space for crafting (I got it in return for giving husband a wood shop). It's not much to look at at the moment, but I know it's going to be wonderful when I liberate everything from these boxes. More pictures to come.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Being a DIYer, I love the mentality of 'make do and mend'. Why discard something that I love, simply because it has a hole in it? Since adopting this philosophy, I've gotten pretty handy at darning knits. Darning is my go-to solution for holes, but I admit that darning can sometimes be unsightly. That's when I fall back on my second favorite strategy: patches.

Patches are great for covering up a darn and for adding more fabric to a high-stress area. For me, this is often the elbows of a much-loved sweater. I've patched one sweater with 2-mm felt, but this time I am trying something different: using woven squares from my handloom.

It turns out that a 4"x4" handloom is the perfect size for elbow patches. To patch the sweater, I simply darned the holes in the elbows and then used a blunt darning needle to sew a square directly over top. As the squares don't take to long to make, I was able to freshen up my sweater rather quickly.

I will note--for anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps--that you should pay attention to the yarn weight. I used KnitPicks Palette for my patches, as that was what I had on hand that coordinated best, but most handlooms aren't designed for fingering weight. I tried the yarn held single and double (above) and, while the doubled yarn matches better with the loom gauge, I decided I liked the drape of the single yarn. In the end, I wove with a single yarn held taught, so the squares pulled together when I took them off the loom and the weave was not too loose.

I'm very happy to have finally hidden the unsightly darns on this sweater, though I wasn't entirely satisfied with the patches at first. It looked too much like a mend instead of an intentional style. To this end, I decided to add a front breast pocket to tie everything together. It was simple to make one more square and I love how the sweater now leans more to "colorblock" than "mended". So hooray for weaving and adding new life to an old sweater!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yarn Regret

Have you ever admired a skein of yarn, not bought it, and then kicked yourself later for making that decision? I don't have yarn regret hardly ever, but I've been sighing wistfully since Wisconsin Sheep & Wool when I saw Fiber Optic's gradient yarns and fibers. Her gradients are beautiful and subtle and have the most amazing color transitions from one color to another, often through a third.

Needless to say, I was thinking about the gradients for several weeks after the festival and finally decided to track Fiber Optic down on the web. After a bit of website stalking, I managed to snare a gradient pack--no mean feat seeing as she posts one colorway at a time every couple weeks in limited quantities (FYI, the release schedule is posted in the Ravelry group).

After all of the effort to get my hands on this yarn, I knew it had to be made into something special. And that something special is this Stripe Study Shawl.

Goodness me do I love this shawl. The "blackbird" gradient is subtly paired with a black Cascade sock yarn and result is simple yet beautiful. I can't get over the smooth transition from one color to the next; these photos cannot do the colors justice. It's pretty amazing and amazingly pretty.

Knitting this shawl seems to have stemmed the yarn regret, but I'm still looking forward to next year's Sheep & Wool festival when I can peruse all of the colorways at once. In the meantime, I'm dreaming up new uses for gradient yarn.

I should end by fessing up to my new obsession with Fiber Optic, seeing as I'm devoting a whole blog post to this yarn and, nominally, this shawl. Consider me firmly in the Fiber Optic fan club.