Monday, November 23, 2020

Holiday Trolls

2020 has been one heck of a year. Normally, I'd be making little tchotchkes to wrap up for my loved ones, but it's probably going to be a big year for online gifting for me. Which some of my family and friends may be a bit relieved by, to be honest. 

But the kids are stuck with a handmade gift, whether they want one or not. 

I had an assortment of leftover Encore yarn, the remains of presents from holidays past. While meandering through Ravelry, I came upon a pretty darn cute free hat pattern called Troll. It uses worsted weight yarn, which Encore is. And trolls happen to be something that the grandkids will associate with me. 

One of my pandemic projects was to build a little fairy house in the yard. I didn't have any spare fairies to populate the house, but I did find a 10-pack of trolls on Amazon for $9.99. 

So there they are! The kids have seen them several times via FaceTime, and once in person, on the funnest weekend ever.

The layout even includes a troll gold mine, with a little ore cart and some gold nuggets. My neighbor is a very creative person. She got sucked into the project with me, so a lot of the cuter elements are thanks to her. Thanks, Mary!

The first hat is baby-sized, for my new great niece Jeanne. Jeanne is a girl who can really rock the gray.

The next three hats are toddler-sized. The red and black number is for my great nephew Zeke. 

The blue and gray is for my grandson, Miles. He's three.

And the sparkly blue is for my two-year-old granddaughter, Margot. 

It's anybody's guess if these hats will fit an actual kid. They're too small for me, which is probably a good sign.

The pattern was clearly written and very quick to work up. I'm trying to think of more toddlers who need a troll hat so I can make another. These four kids live in southern California, so they'll probably wear the hats once a year, when the temps drop into the low 60s.

If you need a quick gift for a kid, I recommend this pattern. My Ravelry notes are here.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Dog Quilt is Done

 When I finished my anvil quilt, I thought I might have one more silhouette quilt in me. Also, there's one bed in the house that does not yet have a foot-of-the-bed quilt, and it's the room that my grandchildren stay in when they come to visit. I am a dog fan, so I thought I'd try a dog silhouette quilt for the kids to snuggle under while they're here. Luckily for me, my friend Jessica had just made a dog silhouette quilt so she had already tracked down all the dog shapes on the internet and printed them out. All I needed was dog fabric and my sewing machine.


I used the down-and-dirty appliqué technique from the Craftsy class, Cute Quilt As You Go Monsters. It's a fun process, and pretty easy too. Kind of like coloring with bits of fabric. 

Back of quilt shot

The only part of the project that's kind of fiddly is stitching around the outside of the appliqué pieces. My tip, if you should try this (and I think you should because it's lots of fun) is to pick subjects that have smooth outlines. Line anvils. Things that are shaggy or spiky are kind of a pain to stitch around. The Scottie was a bit of a trial, and I just gave up on the Maltese.

Well, for fun, here are a few of my favorite dogs:

The Tea Cup Chihuahua, a tribute to Jessica's dog, Peabody. He weighs 3 pounds but his spirit is mighty.


The Giant Schnauzer. Not too bad to stitch around, except for his chin whiskers.


The Scottie. Enough said about his shagginess.


The Great Pyrenees. What a wonderful breed. We have had two; Zoe, the dog of my heart, and now Maeve, who is also a dear. Great Pyrenees are huge and hairy but they're super calm and they love everyone. Well, except for squirrels that are trying to get over the fence into the back yard.


The Dalmatian. It was finding this fabric that made me pull the trigger to make this quilt in the first place.


The Corgi. Because, the Queen Mum. Also because my friend Aaron has always wanted a Corgi. 


The Golden Retriever, for all the outstanding Golden's that I've known, including my beloved Brandy, who was the puppy who grew up with my son and nephews.


And, last but not least, the Black Labrador, for my friend Carole's ball-loving River. 


Actually, every dog I've ever met is a good dog. 


My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Peppermint Magazine Pocket Skirt

 We're having an unusually warm fall here on the Central Coast. It's been in the 80s, which is not so great for our wildfire situation. It does mean that I can continue to enjoy breezy skirts and tank tops for a bit longer though.


This example is the free Pocket Skirt from Peppermint Magazine, designed by Paper Theory.


Pretty cute design, right? And very straightforward to make up. 


I used a lightweight chambray. Probably too lightweight for a skirt; I'm just waiting for it to snag on a splinter. 


I love the pockets, of course, and I also like the high waist. The pattern calls for 1.5 inch wide elastic, which (miracle!) I had in my findings stash. The waist is stable enough that I can actually carry my phone in one of those pockets without the skirt riding down my hips. 


I also love the midi length. Well, it's really more like tea length on me. The skirt is slightly A-line, so you get some fullness at the hem, but it's not so full that it trips me up when I'm vacuuming or walking up stairs while carrying something. Altogether very nice, and just the thing to be wearing while eating a popsicle on the back porch on a hot October afternoon.


My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Grow Pots Galore

I've dipped my toe into the world of vegetable gardening. Now that we live in pandemic times we've tried to limit our grocery shopping to once a week. This has been a big change, since we were used to stopping by the store once a day. We've been thrust into the world of meal planning and larder stocking.

The thing we miss the most from the before times is quick access to fresh vegetables. So I fired up the old raised bed that The Man and I built probably 15 years ago. We were doing quite well in the salad department until the gophers figured a way past our wire containment system. 



This is a sad little kale plant being sucked down into a gopher hole. They started out taking a plant or two every so often. Then their appetites seemed to ramp up and now they're polishing off more than we are.


So here's my answer: the fabric grow pot. 

I've sewn up two of them now, both sized broad but shallow. They're intended for lettuces and they seem to be working well. I baby them with water and fertilizer so I can fit a lot of lettuces into one bag. We get the cut-and-come-again types so we can harvest a side salad pretty much every day, once they find their legs.

They're super quick and easy to sew up. I used some cheap synthetic felt I got off Amazon. I've discovered you can also use weed blocking landscape fabric, which is cheap and easy to pick up at your hardware or garden store. The felt is kind of cheerful though.


But the felt is also a little stretchy, so I thought I'd try sewing something along the top edge to help the bag hold its shape. Twine might have been nice, only we didn't have any twine. So I cut a strip off an old curtain that I'd been saving in my toile stash. And since I was sewing the edging on anyway I figured, why not handles? 

I don't think my extra finishing details made much difference, to be honest. The improved version doesn't seem much squarer than my prototype, but the lettuces don't seem to care. 

My tip would be, don't get any fancier than you want to. It's basically a bag of dirt, after all.

But if you did want to get a little fancy, you could make some pretty cute felt pots for little succulents, or maybe herbs to give to a friend. Then it would make sense to do a neat top edging with some bright cotton scraps.

In the background is my prototype pot with some leggy lettuce. I harvested all this and planted a new crop right after taking these photos. 

These two grow bags will probably keep us in salads for a while, considering there are only two of us. In the meantime I'll figure out what to do with our raised bed. I'm thinking rebuild with galvanized steel and cement blocks. Take that, gophers!

My pattern review, such as it is, is on PatternReview.com here.

StyleArc Bob Pants

This is only the second StyleArc pattern I've made, which surprises me a little. I've made the Barb stretch pants a bunch of times and like wearing them a lot. It could be that my closet full of BurdaStyle magazines uses up most of my pattern juice.

A few weeks ago my friend Martha came over for some socially distanced bubbly water and showed me a couple of cuts of linen she'd picked up at Hart's on the way. She planned to use them for the Bob Woven Pant pattern.  Which she did. She reported that the pattern was easy to work with and the pants were insanely comfortable. I was sold.

She spoke truth on both those points.


I used 2 yards of black Brussels washer linen and I am very pleased with my new pants.

Black is a risky choice for me because I have a Great Pyrenees. They are great dogs, but they shed like you can't believe and their hair sticks to everything. Here she is getting de-thatched. We have that done professionally once a month.

Below is the line drawing of the Bobs from StyleArc. On their size chart they list the finished measurements of the pattern for each size instead of the measurements of the sewist. It was nice to have the finished measurements so easily available, but this was going to be a new style effort for me and I dithered a bit about how much ease I wanted when all was said and done. 



I ended up picking my size based on the smallest finished waistband that would fit over my hips, so I'd be able get the things on. That was a size 8, which has a waistband of 36.25 inches (without elastic). 

However, the size 8 winds up with a finished hip measurement of 44.5 inches, which worried me a bit, but I decided if I was into this new silhouette for a penny I was in for a pound. I did a quick pin fitting with the paper pattern and they didn't look comically humongous, so I went for it.

And I like! The linen drapes a lot nicer than the exam table paper I use for pattern tracing. The balloon shape on the legs doesn't feel over the top, and they are, indeed, insanely comfortable.

Back view and side view for you.



The line drawing on the pattern envelope shows the pants hitting a bit above the ankle. I tend to like my pants on the long side. Might be a holdover from my formative years, when we wore our pants so long they touched the ground even while we were wearing enormous platform shoes. 

I'm 5 foot 2ish, so you might want to lengthen or shorten to suit your desires, especially if you're taller than me. Not too many are shorter, it seems.


As an added bonus, the inseam pockets are very nice indeed; deep and shaped so that anything you stash in there is going to stay put. 

I'm glad I gave this new shape a try. I have a chocolate brown piece of mystery fabric up in the stash closet that I may tee up for another pair.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Celeste in Linen

 My Ocean blue Brussels washer linen came in the mail, huzzah! I washed it, laid it out and cut my second Celeste, by Itch to Stitch

Then I took an unscheduled break while we evacuated for five days because of a wildfire in the Santa Cruz mountains. This fire came much too close for comfort. Luckily, we have friends in Marina who offered to put us up. "Us" includes an 80 pound Great Pyrenees, so not everyone would be so generous. And we are more fortunate than many in that our house is still standing and as good as new, except for a cover of ash.


It felt a little funny to come back and find my sewing machine and pattern pieces all ready to go. Funny, but good.

Here's the line drawing for this lovely pattern. The fit is loose enough so that I can slip it on over my head, but the princess seams give it some shape. The pockets are stellar, and the V-neck is just the right depth for my preferences. 

The only change I made was to sub out a couple pleats for the gathering below the bust and to omit the sleeves. I bound the arm scythe with self-fabric bias tape instead.

This was my first time working with linen. Though this is actually a linen/rayon blend. It frayed like there was no tomorrow, but otherwise it was a treat to work with. It pressed very nicely too. And the finished dress has a great fluid drape. It should be cool and easy to wear during our expected Indian summer at the end of September. I could probably even pop a tee underneath and wear it like a jumper if the weather is too chilly to go sleeveless. Hmm, must give that a try.


Here are a side view and a back view for you.


And another front view showing the pockets in action.

I've already made myself one Celeste this summer, and I might just make another. I'm pretty sure this will be my favorite warm weather dress for the foreseeable future.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.


Friday, August 7, 2020

Celeste Dress in Ikat

 I've been in a sewing funk the last few months. Well, an everything funk, really. 

That's why it was so nice to run across the new Celeste dress pattern from Itch to Stitch. Cool, breezy and slip-on-over-the-head. Just what I needed at this point in the hot mess that is 2020.

The last time I bought a PDF dress pattern I had it printed for me by PDF Plotting. I figured it was worth some extra bucks and some waiting time to avoid pasting together 50-some pages of pattern. 

This time, though, I was in a hurry. And as it turns out, the designer gives very clear instructions on which pages you need to print for which sizes, so the printing and pasting was not nearly as bad as you might think. 

I've been slogging my way through the nether reaches of the fabric stash while the COVID quarantine is in place. At the back of one of my shelves I found about 3 yards of an ikat fabric that my friend Molly's mother had brought back from Indonesia many many moons ago. 

Like the other vintage fabric that Molly gifted to me, this ikat was very nice to work with. Everything so smooth and on grain; a girl could get spoiled. It did have a wonky striped pattern going on, so I tried to be thoughtful about placing my pieces. I was just able to get everything for this dress out of my yardage. 

The pattern calls for a side zip, but the designer says many folks are able to omit it. She suggests you baste the side seams and try to slide the dress on over your head before inserting the zip, which I did. Huzzah! No zip necessary for me. 

As a brick body type, I was worried about the gathers below the bust on the center front. I played around and took up the fullness with a few small pleats instead. 

The princess seams both front and back give some nice, subtle shaping, which is especially nice in a slip-on summer dress. Boxy is cool but it's also, well, boxy.

Here's a back view, so you can see the princess seams there.

The cherry on top is the pockets, which are a very useful size and cleverly inserted between the princess seam and side seam. I shouldn't have jammed my hands in there quite so hard, or you'd be able to see that the top edges fall at a subtle slant towards the hips. Just another detail that adds to the flattering lines in this pattern.

When I tried the dress on for the zipper test it looked so cute without the sleeves that I've ordered some Brussels washer linen in a color called Ocean so that I can make a sleeveless version. And I can't promise that I won't make another version out of some gawd-awful novelty print sometime before the end of summer.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.