Thursday, July 12, 2018

Souvenir Knitting

While on our train trip to Chicago I found myself needing a soothing knitting project. Something that didn't have any complicated stitch patterns or confusing structural details. Something that would let me space out while the yarn slipped gently through my fingers. Something that wouldn't inspire the kind of language that would make a sailor blush.

And voila. This is Picovoli, by Grumperina. Top down, one piece, cap sleeved and straightforward.


I used a little bit more than two skeins of sport weight cotton (Berroco Pima 100) that I got at String Theory, a very cute yarn shop in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Picovoli is a free pattern, and it really does knit up quickly. Especially when you're chugging along on the train with lots of prime knitting time.

Hmm. Better concentrate on holding my shoulders back or that dowager's hump will take over.
The pattern includes instructions for a picot edging, but that felt too stressful for me at the time, so I made the un-hemmed version. Even though I knew that that cursed stockinette was going to roll up like a garden hose.

Back view, just the same as the front view on account of back and front are identical
Marina, one of my super-sweet LYS ladies, suggested I try doing an i-cord edging to flatten things out, and that worked a treat. It's my new favorite knitting thing. It's got a tidy, understated look and it tamed those edges nicely. At least they're tamed just now, right after blocking. We'll see how long it lasts.

i-cord edging
Now I'm just itching to knit something with a contrasting i-cord edge.

My project notes are on Revelry here. I'm becoming a big fan of keeping project notes on Revelry. I'm one of those sporadic knitters who will put a project down for months. OK, maybe years. Those notes are a godsend when I'm trying to remember what size I was making, or any little changes (intentional or unintentional) I might have made along the way.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Souvenir Sewing

Souvenir fabric is the best fabric. You have the fun of finding that gem of a store while traveling, and then you get to bask in the memories of your trip while you're sewing it up. And if you're lucky you can also enjoy some sewing chit-chat with the folks in the store. Just about the only thing that beats souvenir fabric is free fabric.

This summer we took our vacation trip via train; up to Portland on the Coast Starlight and then across country to Chicago via the Empire Builder. We made a stop along the way in Rochester, Minnesota to see some of my family.


That's where I found my fabric souvenir, at Ginny's Fine Fabrics.


It's not a huge place, but she has a really nice collection of garment fabric. There were beautiful wools for those frozen Minnesota winters and plenty of light, airy fabrics for those hot and humid Minnesota summers.

Ginny said someone just bought 1/3 yard of this to use as a ruffle on the hem of some pants. 
If you're anywhere in southern Minnesota, say, bombing along I-90 on your way across country, take that short detour up to Rochester to do a little fabric shopping. Ginny's Fine Fabrics is well worth it.

I spent a very enjoyable hour and a half admiring everything before I settled on a cotton linen blend that was just what I'd been looking for to make a pair of cool summer trousers.

BS 05-2103-117

I used an old favorite pattern, Trousers #117 from the May, 2015 issue of Burdastyle. They're supposed to be drawstring trousers, but I can never find a graceful way of arranging my tee shirt over the bow, so I substitute elastic instead. I've also taken the rise up about an inch so that they sit right at my natural waist.

This version feels very cool and flow-ey to wear on a hot day. I think the cotton keeps the wrinkles somewhat at bay, though I confess I hauled out the iron and had The Man shoot a second set of photos once I'd taken a gander at the first round.



The color is a cool grey, which works well as a neutral for me. About 80% of my tops are some shade of teal.


I've made up this pattern at least 5 times by now. It's so great to have a few patterns that you know you can just cut out and sew up and everything will work out fine.


I'm wearing it here with another old favorite, the Kirsten Kimono Tee from Maria Denmark. As I was pulling out my Visa at the fabric store Ginny pointed out a very nice, light grey knit that could make a matching top for my future pants. I popped for a yard, knowing that would be plenty to pump out a Kirsten.


Maria Denmark has come out with a slightly modified Kirsten pattern. I compared the new version to my battered original and I think they're pretty close. The line of the shoulder looks a bit different, but that's about it. I traced myself one size larger this time, partly because I wanted this particular fabric to have a skosh looser fit. I like it.

So I actually have an outfit! That was, like, planned to go together and everything!

My mini pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Baby Hats

I set up the sewing machine yesterday to make a couple of sun hats to take down to the kids in Manhattan Beach. I began with an Oliver + S bucket hat for The Grandson.

I made him the smallest version of this hat last winter and he's worn it a fair bit. He lives in a beach town, so a little sun protection for the old noggin is a good thing.


It's gotten a bit small for him now that he's one whole year old, so this time I sized up to the Small (12-24 months).


This is a free pattern, and a very nice one too. It includes sizes Extra Small (6-12 month) through Large (6-8 years), so it will keep your kid's head covered until they're halfway through primary school. Plus, it's a great project for using up scraps of fun fabric.


I hope you're not too creeped out by seeing my hat model in full frontal mode. Believe me, the hat looks a lot cuter on a cheeky baby.

I used a Cotton and Steel cotton lawn called "Owl and Cactus." He has a cactus theme going on in his nursery, so I pick up every piece of cactus paraphernalia I see.

Fabric print close up. Cute, yes?
The Grandson wears his current version with the brim turned up jauntily.


Like so. See, it does look a lot cuter on a cheeky baby.


My exciting news is that I am about to become the grandmother of a girl baby. She's due towards the end of September and I can hardly wait. It's been all boy babies in my family. This is my first shot at crafting things for a girl, so there will be some pink overload going on for the first few months.

Since she will also be basking in that Southern California sun, she will be requiring a sun hat year round. This is the Baby Sunbonnet from Purl Soho, another free pattern. It comes in sizes 0-24 months.

Side view
Prepare to be super creeped out by this next shot. I thought about drawing on some eyes and a smiley mouth, but that would probably be even worse.

Scariest hat model ever
I used a girly pink flowered cotton lawn for this one.

Rear view
Baby things can be a bit fiddly to sew because of all the little pieces and opposing curves. This hat was very easy to put together though.

Lining shot
I lined it with a light cotton lawn in ivory.

I highly recommend both these patterns. They go together easily and both sites include great instructions. Plus, free.

My pattern reviews are on PatternReview.com: Bucket Hat and Sunbonnet.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Summer Sweater

Here on the Central Coast it's generally cool enough to be sweater weather right through the summer, yet it's rarely cold enough to require wool. This sweater pretty much hits the sweet spot for our climate.


The pattern is Wasabi, by Wendy Bernard. This is a blank slate kind of pattern. Boat neck, drop shoulder sleeves. It's basically 4 rectangles joined together. It's knit seamlessly from the top down and it's good social knitting. Not much tricky stuff to distract from a good conversation.

side shot
I used a yarn called Bamboo Pop, which is a 50/50 cotton bamboo blend. It was nice to knit with and the fabric is soft and fluid. Which is a good thing, because a sweater this square could easily be a mite too boxy if the fabric had a lot of body.

back view
I see from my Ravelry notes that it took me about 6 month to knit this up. That's only because it spent quite some time resting in my knitting bag. If you kept plugging away at it you could finish this sweater in a week, I bet.


I bought the yarn at Stitches West because I liked the color. I might call it periwinkle blue. Or maybe cornflower? It's a pretty strong color. I used to be able to wear pastels, but since my hair turned grey I feel like I disappear unless I wear colors with some punch to them.

Color is very washed out here, but look at that diagonal ribbing
The pattern called for knit2-purl2 ribbing at the edges. I made my own little mark by doing a diagonal rib instead. There are some instructions for it on Craftsy here. Basically, you just shift the rib pattern one stitch to the left every other row.


We're getting ready to take a train trip to Chicago, stopping along the way to visit family in Minnesota. Nothing like a train trip for some prime knitting time! I'll be starting on Snapdragon, by Marie Wallin. That's if I can figure out the gauge by next Wednesday.

My Ravelry notes are here, if you're interested.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Bra-Making Extravaganza

I went on a bra making kick about a year ago. I pretty much filled my lingerie drawer with bras by Colette (Florence) and Ohhh Lulu (Jasmine). Those bras have served me well over the last 12 months, but after many washings and wearings they're looking pretty tired. I'm not a fancy laundry do-er. My dainties go into the washer and dryer along with everything else I own. Time has taken its toll.

So I was very happy when I saw that Ohhh Lulu has released a new bra that has to be the most straightforward lingerie pattern ever. She calls it Hyacinth, and it's free!


Here's my first attempt, made from scraps of a poly/cotton jersey left over from my Brassov top.

This bra is not just easy, it's super fun to make. There are only two pattern pieces; a front and a back, both cut on the fold. No fiddly curved seams to shape the cups. The bottom edge of the front piece has curves in the just right places so that, once you sew the bottom elastic band on, the cup shape magically appears.

Flowers and lace, what could make for better lingerie?
It was so easy and fun to make bra #1 that I immediately cut into some stretch lace to make bra #2. When I purchased this lace I'd earmarked it for lingerie of some sort, but I hesitated to make a bra. I worried about seams running up over my nipples. Not a problem with this bra! Your fabric pattern stays sleek and uninterrupted.

Edgy strap elastic application
Hyacinth comes with very clear instructions and there's also a nifty YouTube tutorial, in which Sarah Norwood (a.k.a. Ohhh Lulu) sews up a bra before your very eyes in less than 20 minutes. Although this isn't my first rodeo with lingerie elastics I learned some nice tricks from this video, including my new favorite way to attach straps to the back band. Very secure, distributes the pull very nicely and looks just a little bit edgy.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

While I was playing around with elastics I also made up a couple new versions of Florence. I've been wearing my original versions a lot lately and enjoying how comfortable they are.

Two new Florences
I'm planning another Jasmine or two as well. Jasmine has a two piece cup. I'm thinking maybe lace on the inner piece and a solid on the outer piece.

If you are one of the many ladies who is better endowed than moi, these bras probably won't provide the support you prefer. But if you are on the smaller side, or if you want to have fun running up some quick and easy lounge wear, don't be shy, give it a try!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Madison Square

If it's March, it must be Sewing Camp. I had such a good time last year that I signed up for another three days of yakking and creative fervor in the Sewing Shack.

Most of the Sewing Shack crew are quilters, many of them very accomplished indeed (like Karen, a.k.a. the Capitola Quilter). I figured I'd bring a quilting project to work on so I could take advantage of their willingness to share their expertise with a noob like me.

Plus, I had promised The Man that I'd make him a "foot of the bed" quilt as a Christmas present. Yes, that would be last Christmas. So it was time for me to get to piecing. One of The Man's favorite artists is Hundertwasser. My aim was to come up with a quilt that was Hundertwasser-ish, which I think this kind of is.
The Man modeling the quilt
I used a pattern called Madison Square that I bought at The Stitching' Post in Sisters, Oregon while we were on vacation last summer. It wasn't until I started copying links for this post that I realized the pattern designer, Jean Wells, is the owner of the store. If you find yourself anywhere within a 50 mile radius of Sisters, stop by The Stitching' Post for a dose of inspiration. They have a yarn side and a fabric side.

I really enjoyed working with the pattern for this quilt. You end up getting a bunch of information about working with color, modern quilting and generally just loosening up and having fun with fabric.


I'm normally timid when combining colors or patterns. Improvisation is not my forte. I tend to like clear direction. This pattern was ideal for someone like me. It's kind of hilarious, really, the way she gently nudges you into loosening up. Before I knew it, I was just grabbing strips from a pile of fabric and going to town. Too long? Whack it shorter. Too short? Slap another piece on the end. It's all good!

She starts the instructions by talking you through choosing your fabrics, including a nice dose of color theory.

Then she has you cut long strips in three widths. I started out with my strips organized by color and width, but after 15 minutes of grabbing and sewing it looked like a rainbow snake had given birth on my work table.

Many, many fabric snakes
You can be happy-go-lucky for most of this project but precision still counts. Jean Wells urges you to hack your starting strips into parallelograms and join them up all catty-wumpus, but she has you true things up a key points so that you can join everything together in the end without driving yourself crazy.


I started the quilt on March 9 and finished it yesterday, March 24. It would have been quicker but I took a 10 day time out for a hellish sinus infection someplace in the middle there. Considering the last quilt I gifted to The Man took 5 years to complete, this was hella quick.

A very nice quilting lady at sewing camp showed me how to attach my walking foot (thanks, Michelle!), so I tried doing some machine quilting. It went surprisingly well! It was also surprisingly quick. I was all done with that part in a couple of hours, including a lunch break.

I did a little bit of hand quilting inside the colored squares. My hand quilting skills could use some major help. The machine quilting looks a thousand times better.

Binding shot
The pattern had you use scraps of your piecing fabric for the binding. That meant I didn't join the binding strips with bias seams, but it worked out just fine. I really like that narrow slice of color at the edge.

I used a fabric that looked like a topographical map for the backing. Nothing fancy there.

Peek of the backing
This quilt is supposed to sit at the foot of the bed, waiting to be pulled up as needed on especially chilly nights. We gave it a trial run last night and it worked out great.


I think I might have one more quilt in me. We could use a queen size one for the guest bedroom upstairs. I need a cooling-off period first though.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here

Monday, February 26, 2018

Cactus Shorts

My grandson has a cactus theme going on in his life. His bedroom features cactus lamps, cactus murals, cactus fairy lights and cactus pillows. Plus, his loving grandma has sewn him a cactus-rich wardrobe. Here's the latest item:


Cactus Shorts!
I kept it a bit more subtle than my usual. The shorts are a neutral navy twill with a tasteful saguaro patch on the left leg.


The pattern is the free Sunny Day Shorts from Oliver & S. I highly recommend the pattern. You can download a huge size range in two pdfs, one from 6 months to 4, the other from 5 to 12. I figure I've got the kid's shorts needs covered until he enters high school. It's a very straightforward pattern. If you're after pockets or ruffles or other bells and whistles, you'd be on your own. But this is a nice blank slate; you could do a lot of fun things with it. Plus: free!

Cactus closeup
I was lucky enough to find a packet of 6 cactus patches at a local gardening store. I plan to trickle them into his wardrobe one by one.

The Man has suggested that the kid may not like cacti. It's hard to know until he starts talking. Until then, it'll be all cactus, all the time!

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.