Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Carousel Lap Quilt, Baby Sized

I recently found out that I'm going to be a great aunt in August. I'm so happy. My nephew is a doll and his wife is a sweetheart and they're going to make fabulous parents. Even better, they have just relocated right near my son and his family, which means I'll be able to swing by to visit them when I'm in town to see the grandkids. More babies to cuddle, yes!

I was so excited that I popped out a quick quilt for Baby Girl. I used my favorite quilt pattern book, Cozy Modern Quilts, by Kim Schaefer. She includes a lot of easy patterns that use big pieces; good for playing with cute kid prints. This pattern here is the Carousel Lap Quilt.

I thought I'd do an animal theme, so I went to Hart's with my advising aesthetician, Jessica, and together we tore apart the animal print section of the store. The nice Hart's ladies were probably glad to see the back of us that day.

We came up with some very cute options though; to wit:

Tigers on an orange background

Octopuses undersea

Skateboarding bears

and greedy gators.

This pattern is super quick and easy to put together. The finished block size is 8 by 8 and the offset corners mean that you don't have to actually match anything. Well, not precisely anyway.

I pieced the top in just a few days and, during a quick stop in Pacific Grove, I found a very cute animal print fabric for the backing.

I'm hoping Baby Girl Niece will spend happy hours pointing out all the little animals romping on her quilt.

Later, Gator!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

1990's Oregon Rain Pullover

Finished The Man's Christmas present. And it's still technically less than a month late, go me!

This is from a 1990's Stretch and Sew pattern that my friend, Jessica, scored at a fabric swap. She's brought home a couple of these vintage beauts and they work very well for my guy.

The pattern is designed for polar fleece, but we have a Great Pyrenees, so that was a non-starter. Her fur sticks to polar fleece like velcro. Instead I used a nice, toasty sweatshirt fabric I got from Cali Fabrics. I think got 3 yards and darn if I didn't use most all of it. I was hoping there would be enough left over to make a little something for me.

The envelope art gives you a hint that this is a true product of the 90's. The back of the envelope notes that it's intended to be worn with 13.5 inches of positive ease. That's a lotta ease.

My guy prefers a trimmer, GQ kind of a fit, so I cut him the size for a 34 chest. He'd normally be more like a 40. Then during the fitting (yes, we did a fitting for a sweatshirt) he suggested it could still be a tad tighter, so I took in the sides about another 1.5 inches.

It's still pretty roomy as modeled by me, but he looks mighty slim when he's wearing it.

He was after a pullover sweatshirt without a hood, and without a bunch of logos or team names or advertising on it. The pullover version of this pattern was a very nice beginning, but I made a few small changes to make it more sweatshirt-y.

I added cuffs and a hem band, and The Man said he'd prefer inseam pockets to the zippered welt pockets. Thank you, sewing gods! I didn't have to try to install a neat welt pocket in sweatshirt fleece.

The pattern would have you finish all of the edges with strips of nylon/lycra fabric. I didn't have anything suitable in stash, so I subbed in some black fold-over elastic. If I make this one again (and I just might) I'll rethink the collar and neckline finish to ditch the edge trim entirely. It was hella hard to apply neatly. I tried a couple of times and, even with some washout stabilizer in the mix, there are still some little wrinkles at the front. Otherwise, I like the pattern a lot. The yoke and sleeves are cut in one piece and there's a cool little cut-on gusset at the underarm. Overall, it's an easy sew and I like the results.

 My pattern review is on here.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Knitted Sebasco Vest

The story of this knitting project is very similar to the story of my Linden sweatshirt. Lately I've found myself wearing a ratty old knit vest that's too big for me. It's one of the first things I made when I took up knitting again after my kid left for college. That vest is pretty ugly and not very comfortable, on account of the yarn has mohair in it so it's scratchy on the neck. But, gee, a vest is a nice thing to wear around the house in those dark, chilly days of winter. Time to up my game.

I had a picture in my head of what I wanted for a new vest: open front, simple, and a collar that comes up the back of your neck. I'm someone who owns years of Interweave Knits magazines, plus a fair few books of knitting patterns. Seems like I'd see something that would fill the bill somewhere in that collection, right? But no. I ended up spending $8.00 for the Sebasco vest pattern, by Amy Herzog. I like Amy Herzog, though, and this pattern was just what I was looking for.

And then I tinkered with it while knitting anyway. But not much.

She uses something called the Daisy Stitch to trim the edges. I did a small swatch and decided that, though it's pretty, it was too much of a pain in the neck to do. So I just used good old seed stitch instead.

She also tells you to knit the vest in pieces and then seam them together before adding the neckband. I have never yet managed to seam a knit so that it doesn't look like a kindergartener did it, so I knit the vest all in one up to the arm holes, then divided for front and back to finish. I still had to seam the shoulders and that looks pretty crappy, but at least it's only a few inches.

It just took a few weeks to knit, even at my usual leisurely pace. I put it on before blocking to check the size and ended up wearing it all evening. The collar comes up at the back just right. It's so cozy warm. I love it.

Just like the Linden sweatshirt, this is a nice basic that's worth the price for the pattern. I can see myself making a couple more in different colors. I have a pretty solid yarn stash hidden away upstairs. I'm guessing I have the materials for another half dozen vests snugged up in my yarn closet already. It's an easy, soothing, straightforward knit with a nice product.

My Ravelry notes are here, if you're interested in a bit of the knitty gritty (ha ha ha).

Monday, January 20, 2020

Linden Sweatshirt

I welcomed in 2020 with a sinus infection and bronchitis. I spent the first two weeks of January slumped on the couch, streaming schlocky TV and maybe knitting a row or two. Yesterday was really the first day I felt frisky enough to haul out my machine to try a little sewing. I needed a project that was gentle, straightforward and cozy.

The day before I had accompanied my friend Jessica to Hart's. I was supposed to be filling an advisory role, but I ended up buying the pattern for the Linden Sweatshirt along with 2 yards of a Telio sweater knit in a color you might call "grape." The perfect low-key sew to get me back in the saddle.

I had been dithering for a little while about buying this pattern. I hoped it might share the space in my wardrobe which is occupied by the Sewaholic Renfrew. I love my Renfrews and I wear them often, but 've been wanting something not quite so curve-hugging. It seems like styles have gotten a little looser over the past 10 years, and my curves have gotten a little looser right along with them.

At $16, the pattern seems a little pricy for what it is and I thought surely I had something almost identical in my years of Burda magazines. Then I flipped through my pattern stash and it looked like I really didn't, so I pulled the trigger.

I made the longer view, which has full-length sleeves, cuffs and a hem band.

The Linden is described as having a "relaxed" fit. As my bust is 35 inches, the size chart would put me in a size 6. The pattern envelope includes the finished garment measurements (thanks, Grainline!), and the size 6 measures 41.5 inches at the bust. That was a bit more relaxed than I was after, so I sized down to a 4. That still gives me a finished bust of 40.5 inches, which is plenty of ease for me.

I wanted my garment to fit more like a slouchy sweater than a sweatshirt, so I lengthened the neckband, the hem band and the cuffs. I didn't want them to pull in like your classic sweatshirt would. Plus, I was using self-fabric for my bands and not that super-stretchy ribbed jersey they make for sweatshirts.

I also shortened the sleeves by about 3 inches. Once I added the two inch cuffs the sleeve length is just about perfect.

It took me three times longer to figure out my sizing tweaks than it did to cut and sew my sweatshirt. I'll be able to knock the next one out in an hour, easy.

Overall, I like it! I can see myself using this pattern again and again, just like my old friend the Renfrew. If I go down one more size, the short-sleeve version will be a handy staple for summer tees. My verdict: the Linden was $16 well spent.

My pattern review is on here.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Toddler Tent

My grandkids are lucky in that they have dozens of cousins. Between the hand-me-downs and the loving relatives, they are not hurting for playthings. So I was having a bit of trouble thinking of the perfect holiday gift for them.

Fortunately, I am a devoted sewing blog reader. I came across this post from Queen of Darts, who had sewn a tent for her daughter. It was super cute, and she kindly included a tutorial. All righty then, my present problem was solved!

I did a little googling around for design ideas I could steal. The tents I perused ranged from 4 to 6 sides. My poor brain got real tired considering the pattern math. There was the whole isosceles triangle thing going on and it's been 55 years since I took any geometry. I decided to keep things as simple as possible and opted for 4 sides.

The Man is a physicist, so he kindly wrote up a formula to help me draft my tent pattern pieces. It had square roots and stuff, and it gave me a pretty good initial fit. I did a bit of draping to refine things.

Porthole window
I didn't get too crazy with embellishments. I put a porthole window in one wall, and added the kids' names on the front. I copied the door design from Queen of Darts. I think it gives the tent a kind of Arabian Nights vibe. She used toggles to hold her door open, which is very cute. Plus it seemed easy for toddler fingers to manipulate.

Hmm. It could use a good press, but I didn't have the time or the gumption to wrassle five yards of canvas around on my ironing board.

I picked up some battery operated fairy lights from the office supply store downtown, just to add a little sparkle.

The finished tent was big enough for a five foot two grandma, so I figured a couple of toddlers would fit just fine.

I drove it down with me to LA and we set it up by the tree on Christmas Eve, after the kids were finally asleep.

The kids noticed it right away when we brought them down for breakfast the next morning.

My friend Kent says all it needs is a sign that says "Adults Keep Out," but with the "K" backwards.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Minimalist Wallet

Are you like me? Do you have scores of young men for whom you must produce holiday gifts? Do you want to give them something lovingly hand-made but fear they will find such objects deeply un-cool?

Then this post is pretty much a public service announcement. Take a look at the Elastic Wallet pattern at Thread Theory. It's not a free pattern, but it's the next best thing: only $1.50. I read about this pattern in Barbara Emodi's newsletter and it's like an answer to this Aunt's holiday prayer.

With 15 inches of knitted elastic and a scrap of leather you can sew up a cute little wallet which, at least in my eyes, is stylish enough to be acceptable to my 30-something nephews.

Here's a shot of the wallet in action. The little tab of elastic on the end is to allow you to attach the wallet to a lanyard, or to add a split ring so you can hook on your house key.

I used 2-inch wide black knitted elastic and some scraps of leather. The black leather turned out best because the cut edges of the fawn and gray leather were a different color, so my raggedy cuts looked extra messy. 

My sewing machine did not love this project. I think it objected to the layers of elastic more than to the leather. I did use a leather needle, but a few stitches were skipped. Even so, these little guys seem pretty sturdy.

I turned out eight little wallets yesterday morning. I got faster and neater with each one. Do I have eight nephews? No, I don't. But I'll be happy to have a little stash of these puppies ready for future gift-giving emergencies.

My pattern review is on here.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Another Quilt As You Go

Yes, it's another quilt. I actually do have a couple of garments teed up to sew, but I went to a quilt class with my friend Jessica the weekend before last so this project jumped the queue. The class covered a new-to-me quilt-as-you-go technique, and this quilt is the result.

The pattern is based on the Tic-Tak Wall Quilt from Cozy Modern Quilts, by Kim Schaefer. Each of the squares is 10 by 10 inches, so the finished quilt is 50 inches by 60 inches, or what I think of as a foot-of-the-bed quilt. Its mission is to sit folded at the foot of the bed so you can pull it up as a second cover on those especially chilly fall nights.

I used mainly Kaffe Fassett shot cottons for the big squares with a contrasting batik for the little inner squares. It's bright and cheerful, and it came together in about a week. I am a big fan of the quilt-as-you-go stye of quilting. It's quick and it feels less industrial than the more traditional quilting I've done. Instead of cutting out hundreds of little, fiddly pieces and then sewing them together with an accurate 1/4 inch seam, you work with one square at a time. You can change things on the fly; it feels a lot more improvisational. Plus, it's way easier to quilt a 10 inch square than it is to pull 6 feet of quilt through your machine.

We took the class at Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove. This is a great fabric store, if you're ever in the area. They're focused on quilting cottons and they have a very nicely curated selection. They generally have an inspiring gallery of quilts hanging on the walls in the back of the store, which is where the classroom space is.

Here's the design wall with some of our first squares hung to view. Folks were working on just a few styles of blocks; it was fascinating to see how the same design could look so different depending on the fabrics and design choices each person made.

So, here's a down-and-dirty tutorial for those who may be interested in this technique.....

You start by cutting your batting to the size you want your finished blocks to be. For me, that was 10 inches square.

Then you whack your fabrics into roughly sized strips and start to sew your fabric pieces down to the the batting. Above is my central batik square quilted down to one of my batting squares.

Next I laid the first piece of the outer square atop the central square and seamed the pieces together to the batting. Then you flip the new piece to the outside and finger press.

You lay the next piece atop the prior two, sew the seam and flip to the outside again. You keep on going until your square is complete and your piece of batting is totally covered, with at least a one inch overlap of fabric on all sides. This is Greek to me, but one of my classmates said it was like doing English paper piecing, but you were piecing the fabric directly onto the batting.

Once the square is assembled, you press it and do any quilting you want to do, then trim the quilted square to size.

Here's the difference with the technique we learned in this class:

We trimmed the finished squares so that there was a 1/2 inch of fabric showing beyond the batting on all sides. When you sew the squares together, you use that 1/2 inch as seam allowance so you're sewing fabric to fabric and (ideally) the edges of the batting are butted up against each other without being caught in the seams. The idea is to avoid the additional bulk of two layers of batting in the seams.

With the method I've used before, your batting is cut to include a 1/4 inch seam allowance, so that your squares are sewn together with the batting sandwiched into the seam along with the fabric.

With either method, once your quilt top is completed you lay it out smoothly on the quilt backing and just stitch-in-the-ditch to tack the backing to the already-quilted top. Et fins!

So what's the verdict? I think I prefer the method that includes the batting in the seams. I used that method for my anvil quilt. I really don't notice the seams feeling bulky and I like the idea that the each batting piece is sewn down securely all around the edges. Just so things don't shift around when the quilt is washed and dried.

I have one more foot-of-the-bed quilt in mind, and then our house will be fully covered. I'm planning a dog themed quilt to amuse my grandson.

Next up, though, is a birthday dress for me.