Good vs. Bad

cocoon2A month ago I bought StyleArc Patterns’ Sunny Top. To me it looked cute, easy, and chic. At the time the pattern arrived, we were still knee-deep in snow, and a sweater knit I had bought from Gorgeous Fabrics several years ago was begging to be released from my stash. I could picture it as Sunny, paired with dark brown leggings as the perfect excuse for a pair of brown low-heeled booties.

Last week I was able to carve a couple of hours out of campaign work and sewed up Sunny in my brown and rust sweater knit.

cocoon6cocoon5Easy. Quick. Straightforward. Ugly. Butt-ugly. The Jazzman, who will never say to me, “You look nice today” (I assume this means I always look nice so there’s nothing out of the ordinary that requires commenting upon.), looked at me staring into the full-length mirror and said, “That’s not flattering.” He hit that nail on the head!

COCOON1I realized I need to pay more attention to the StyleArc fabric suggestions. When the pattern envelope back says “slinky knit,” I need to cut into a slinky knit. (I’m using “slinky” here as an adjective, not as a proper noun.) StyleArc thoughtfully attaches a switch of the original fabric with the fabric. I will henceforth and forevermore pay attention!

I still liked the pattern. I just didn’t like it in that too-heavy sweater knit. Doing a little late-night online fabric shopping, cocoonfabricI picked up a length of PRL (polyester/rayon/lycra) from Gorgeous Fabrics. Ann Steeves has a new website at GF—if you’re a fabriholic, it’s a must-see. This RPL is the same fabric I used for two tops I made for my November trip to Europe with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus (Top 1 and Top 2). It has a very cuddly-sweatery feeling without being winter-warm. The color of this new top means I’ll wear it all spring (which is almost here) and into the summer.

Here’s the review:

Pattern Description: SUNNY KNIT TOP: This is a new shape for a knit top. The oversized look becomes very flattering because of pattern drafting and the cocoon shape which is the new on trend look. Try it, you will love it!!

Pattern Sizing: 4-30. I get very nervous with patterns that are not multi-sized, but took the plunge for this cute top. I wear a 38DD bra; size 14 says 40.2″ bust. It fits fine.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, although it does not tell you when to sew the center back seam. Do it either before or after you sew the shoulder seams. (I think it should be step 4a.)

cocoon3What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I looked for reviews before cutting into the fabric and couldn’t find any. Now I find two – both saying the same thing: the sleeves are tight. Actually, I’m more bothered by the tightness of the armscye. That needs to be fixed – maybe cut the sleeve head wider and taper in. The arms actually fit like those of my favorite Eileen Fisher boxy cowl sweater. It’s just that the armscye seam feels kinda funky.

cocoon4I questioned the center back seam. It’s a straight seam, why is it necessary. I wrote StyleArc about it (and about the missing instruction for sewing that seam). I quickly received a nice email from “Chloe and the StyleArc team”, saying that the CB seam was there to give you more efficient pattern placement on the fabric – i.e. lower the yardage requirement for this top. It is a straight seam. If you’ve got enough fabric and don’t want the seam there, don’t do it.

Fabric Used: RPL from Gorgeous Fabrics

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I don’t have a serger. Okay, I have one, but I don’t know how to use it. It sewed 3/8″ seams rather than 1/4″, then double stitched them at 1/4″. On the center back seam, I just sewed at 3/8″, then pressed open and double-needle topstitched it. This is a technique that Katherine Tilton uses in Vogue 8691 and it makes a nice look and a secure seam.

My only change was to lengthen the top 2″. As the seams are straight at the bottom of the top piece, I simply drew these pattern pieces 2″ longer, rather than slashing and spreading. I love the length. If you look at my blog post and notice the “bad” version (which is cut to the pattern length) versus the “good” version (2″ longer), I think you’ll see the difference.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and Yes. Note to all: use a soft knit as Chloe suggests. Don’t go off on your own rocky road. For this top, softer and slinkier is better!

Conclusion: Love it! Will definitely be making this again.


Personal note 1: This is the first post I’ve written since I got a new MacBook Pro. I got my first one, used, in March of 2010. Since that date I’ve been writing without an external keyboard or a mouse. With the new purchase, I broke down and got both keyboard and mouse. HAPPYHAPPYHAPPY! They’re not that expensive. Why did I put it off for so long?

Personal note 2: You like that scarf in the first picture, don’t you. That’s the Safety Scarf. I’m absolutely loving it, and will write a full post about it in a couple of days.

WIP-Safety Scarf

safetyscarf3The Jazzman is on his annual golf outing to Florida with four of his best golfing buddies. I both look forward to and dread this week every year. “Look forward to” because it’s a time I answer to no one but the cats. I can stay in my jammies all day. I can eat breakfast for all three meals. I can spend the entire time in my sewing room. Or in bed, for that matter. “Dread” because—wait for it—I’m afraid of the dark. Yep. Me. Sixty-something woman who has covered a lot of ground in her life. Afraid of the dark.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always thought some badguy was standing outside the window watching me, wanting to harm me. I don’t know where this came from. I pride myself on being a logical-thinking, rational human being. But I’m not. I’m afraid of things that go bump in the night.

I live in an 87-year-old house. Lots of things go bump every night.

When the Jazzman is here with me, I’m not afraid. But when I’m alone, I’m prone to stay upstairs in one room with all the shades drawn.

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Short story time: Twelve-or-so years ago, I lived with a fiancé and his 14yo daughter in a very lovely but very large house in Tucson. He and I went out one night to a party, leaving the daughter at home alone. When we arrived back home two hours later, every light in the house was on. Every single light! When we walked into her bedroom, she had the largest skillet from the kitchen on the bed with her. Yep, afraid of the dark. It didn’t matter that we lived in a gated community and the house had a security system that was armed while we were away. She was pumped and primed to bash any badguy over the head with the skillet.
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This week however, I’ve been sick. I picked up a sore throat on Thursday morning. By Friday night it had developed into an upper respiratory whatever, and yesterday the doctor pronounced Upper Respiratory Infection and gave me a Z-Pak. All I’ve wanted to do all week is to sit on the couch with knitting needles in hand.

A couple of weeks ago I had visited The Flaming Ice Cube in Boardman. They were offering a class on brioche knitting. My schedule wouldn’t allow me to take the class, but I like exploring, so I bought some suitable yarn and the pattern. (With the help of my friend Melinda, I chose HiKoo SimpliWorsted in a gray sparkle and a light and dark gray variegated. This yarn is washable and soft—a great combination.) That night I sat down to start the cowl.

Twelve rows into it, I realized I wasn’t having fun. There was nothing about this cowl that was bringing me any joy. Without a backward glance, I pulled the whole twelve rows apart and rolled the yarn balls back up. Then I turned to Ravelry where, after a lot of searching and flipping through pages, I found Stephen West’s “Safety Scarf.” It looked like much more fun, and only required two more skeins of this reasonably priced yarn.

Now, after three days alone and about 30 episodes of “Breaking Bad,” I’m finished with the fourth section and midway through the fifth. And I love this scarf.

My Canadian cyberfriend Jeannie asked for more photos, so I wanted to give you a WIP post. (Work in Progress, if you’re unfamiliar with that acronym.)

safetyscarfsafetyscarf2I greatly enjoyed Section 3 of this scarf, which is shown in the photos on this post. But it’s not for the distractible. Four rows form the pattern. Rows 1&2 are in the main color; rows 3&4 are in the contrast color. The odd-numbered rows are the right side (photo on left) and a modified cable pattern gives that stitch that spans a couple of rows. The even-numbered rows are the wrong side (photo on right) and are basically knit 3, purl/slip 1. That purl/slip is what gets the distracted knitter, though. Attention must be paid! Row 2 is K3/P1. Row 4 is K3/Sl1. And if you reverse those, your pattern is blown.

SafetyScarfBadThe first time through, I was 29 rows into the 60-row section when I realized something was very wrong. I looked at the directions again and realized that when I slip a stitch on the wrong side of the “fabric”, I was to hold the yarn in front. I was holding it in back, which gave these little lockstitches. (See the horizontal cream-colored bars in the photo? Those don’t belong there!) Now those lockstitches could be kinda cool in the right environment, but this wasn’t that environment! So I pulled out 29 rows and started again.

The next time I was only about 15 rows in when I discovered a problem.

After my third restart and unknit, I went to the computer and created a spreadsheet. I can always follow a spreadsheet.

So after four starts (which, coincidentally, is the same number of Kleenex boxes I’ve emptied in the past two days&jdash;from nose-blowing, not from crying), I have now finished Section 3 and all the remaining episodes of “Breaking Bad.”

Finished Section 4 (only 4 rows) and now on Section 5, I’m searching for something to watch that will get me through the rest of this scarf.

The only problem: I can’t remember what happened in the last scene of BB. This is the way I am with all books and movies. I can remember everything that leads up to the end, but I can’t remember the exact end. Now I need to fast forward through Season 5, Episode 16, so I can remember how it ended with Jesse and Walt.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go swig some DayQuil and find that last episode of “Breaking Bad.”

Preteen Playdate

B1Last Sunday when my son popped by for a minute with my grandkids in tow, my grandson said, “Grandma, can I come over next weekend and sew a wallet? I made a wallet for myself out of paper but it’s falling apart.”

The most special thing to me about this exchange is that he didn’t say—to his mom or his dad or his grandma—”can you buy me a wallet?” He said, “I want to make a wallet.” Such an activity was within his realm of possibilities!

In preparation, I started searching the internet and came upon Allisa Jacobs’ blog and her tutorial for “Father’s Day Men’s Wallet.” It looked like it might just meet Boston’s needs.

I had the pleasure of hosting the grands tonight. Their mom texted me this afternoon to remind me, to tell me what time she’d drop them off, and to let me know that Boston wanted to make a wallet tonight. I told her I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get it all done tonight, as there were many steps in the project. Not only did we get it done, but we also had time to cook some supper in the middle there.

CoatingThe first order of business was to find fabric. I had some leftover soft wool flannel from my Marcy Tilton coat (whose construction, I just realized, I never blogged – oops). He thought that would be nice. BThen I took him to a stash container that I knew held some good 100% cotton quilting fabrics that would be a good weight for the inside. I knew there were prints of bricks and abstracts and other things I thought a 12½-year-old boy might like. But the thing that caught his eye was a salmon polka dot. That was what he had to have. Next we looked a threads. He found a soft orange that went well with the salmon. For the topstitching on the outside, he saw several variegated Sulky threads that he liked. I showed him a single row of stitching, then I showed him a double-needle topstitching treatment, and he loved it.

B2On to cutting and construction. The boy has been using a rotary cutter since he was six. I held the ruler, he operated the cutter. No fingers were sacrificed. We cut the flannel, then started to lay out the cotton, which had been folded for about five years. “Grandma, can I iron that? I like to iron.” A man after my own heart! He meticulously removed all the folds, then we cut the inside and the pocket. I showed him how the pockets would work, we counted his gift cards—from Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, iTunes, and Handel’s Ice Cream, the local favorite—and I showed him how we could add an extra pocket that wasn’t in the pattern. We cut, then he folded and pressed the pockets. He did the edgestitching on the pocket folds, machine-basted the pockets together, sewed the seam down the middle to create the card pockets. He fused the interfacing, figured out how to lay the right sides together (and why), and sewed around the edge, leaving the opening for turning.

B3“Where’s the chopstick,” he asked, when it was time to turn the wallet. The boy knows how I do things and what my favorite tools are.

We pressed, I hand-sewed the opening closed, he pressed some more. All that was left was the topstitching. The way he was sitting on the easy chair, I sensed he might be feeling a little uneasy about the topstitching. “Would you like me to do it, or do you want to?”, I asked. “Maybe you could do it, Grandma.” So I did. Then he pressed some more. (Look at that cutie pie. Look at those dimples and that sweet face. Can you understand how he has me wrapped around his heart?!)

B9When he went to load it with all his gift cards, I realized the second pocket that we had added was too deep for the cards. They would get lost. I said, “Next time we make this …” and showed him how we could topstitch across the pocket before basting them all together so the card pockets would be identical depths. B6Then I realized I could probably hand-sew it after the fact so they’d be equal depths. We measured the first pocket, then measured down the same distance on the second pocket. While he pulled the first pocket down, I grabbed a needle and thread and sewed a line across as much of the pocket as I could. I held my hand down inside so I wouldn’t go through to the outside. Gotta be able to get those bills into the money pocket! (No, it doesn’t stick up out of his back pocket like that. But we wanted you to be able to see it.)

B7B8

And, about two hours after we started, we were finished. He carefully put the cards in place, then lined up his bills and tucked them in. He tucked it into his hip pocket and, as a last step in the process, took his old paper wallet and threw it in the trashcan.

I’m still smiling!

P.S. Pics of the original wallet. That’s an engineer-in-training, if I ever saw one!

walletp2walletp3walletp1

Gift + Gift = Treasure

Bracelet2Anytime I gift someone with one of my handcrafted treasures, Bracelet1I try to communicate to her that regifting is okay. I know not everyone has the same love or use as I for the things I make. And I project that theory onto gifts I receive. A gift can become a gift, in my world.

If you’re mindful of that theory, you’ll understand how thrilled I was to receive my friend Marilyn’s Christmas gift to me. Marilyn is one of the most creative people I know.

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Let me give you a couple examples of Marilyn’s creativity and generosity:

When the Jazzman and one of his best buds turned 60 within 11 days of each other, Marilyn gathered all her pictures from our 4th of July week at Lake Erie and turned it into a fabulous keepsake book to remind us of all the love and laughter our group of friends generates. Four years later, we still pick up and pore over the book, reliving that summer.

After we returned from a 10-day trip to Italy with a group of 15 friends, Marilyn created a scrapbook, in which each of our heads was carefully transposed onto a figure from history to make a precious and hysterical pictorial memory of our vacation. Our group still talks about the magic she worked with those photos.

A friend recently retired after a long and successful career with IBM. Marilyn prepared a memory book for the party. Each attendee had a dedicated page in the book where he or she wrote a wish to the honoree. During the evening, Marilyn took pictures of everyone in ones or twos or threes or tables. Afterward, she chose a picture to go with each page in the book. It’s an absolute work of art. What a wonderful memory for the honoree, who must have been overwhelmed by the surprise of the party her loving husband planned.

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Marilyn’s brother is as creative as she is, in his own medium. Several years ago he began making glass beads—an art form referred to as lampworking. (If you know me well, you’ll know I became infatuated with lampworking in 2000, and spent several years attempting to make beads until I decided there were many other people who could do well what I was puttering along with.) (If this is the first you’ve heard about lampworking, here’s a video to give you a little education.) Marilyn frequently makes bracelets, strung on elastic beading cord, of her brother’s beads for her friends, and they are always a treasure to receive and to wear.

Her Christmas gift to me? Some of her brother’s beads! She had rescued a gift box of chocolate, sans the chocolate, and placed one bead in each of the little miniature cupcake papers (what are they really called?!). The box was then finished off with a soft satin ribbon in bright red. She couldn’t have chosen anything that would please me more.

I’ve been following her brother’s work for several years, and he just keeps growing and developing and blossoming as an artist. His work is quite wonderful. He appears to enjoy experimenting with different types of glass and techniques, and I love that. Who else does that with her medium? Oh yeah, me. Love it!

Bracelet3So I thought I would turn her gift to me around and make a glass “charm” bracelet. I’ve been making these bracelets for probably twelve or thirteen years, and I just love them. I love mixing various small beads together with the larger lampwork beads and creating something that jingles and clanks softly as I move.

Bracelet4I ordered two Parellelo chain charm bracelets from Beadaholique, along with some pretty special ball head pins for attaching the beads to the chain. I dug into my extensive stash of beads and found various sizes of seed beads in shades of bronze, turquoise, and blue-purple. Then I wire-wrapped the beads, evenly spaced, onto the bracelet. But—to my eye—it just wasn’t done.

A couple of years ago my friend, Mary Lou, a supertalented fabric dyer and quilter, had destashed her sewing room and sent some things my way. Included in that gift were lots of unique beads, including some I suspect came back from Africa on one of her trips there. One strand of the African trade beads blended perfectly with the lampwork beads.

Bracelet6So I made smaller bead accents with the trade beads and seed beads and some fire-polished beads. As I added each new accent to the bracelet, I liked it a little more. But I wasn’t in love with it. Then I took a dinner break. When I came back downstairs after being away from the piece for half an hour, my breath caught as I walked into my sewing room. Wow! This is a cool bracelet! I kept tweaking it until I had to run over to the boss’s house (the candidate for whom I am serving as campaign treasurer gets most of my time lately). Bracelet5She’s even more of a clotheshorse than I am, so I just had to wear the bracelet over there to show here. We both examined it, and I decided the silver was too bright. I know I had some Liver of Sulfur (info) somewhere in the basement. If luck was on my side, I’d find it in the morning and oxidize the silver.

Luck was my friend. I found the Liver of Sulfur in the second place I looked. It was old, but once I reheated the water in the microwave, we were good for a lovely brass tone to soften the brightness of the silver bracelet.Once I pulled the bracelet out of the solution, dried it, and polished it a little with a towel, I put it on and grinned from ear to ear!

Success!

Bracelet2-1Bracelet2-2But I wasn’t done. I ordered two silver bracelets, remember? So I again dug through my stash, found a set of nine beads that I had bought from Marilyn’s brother a while back, along with a strand of natural stone discs that resemble turquoise. I wire-wrapped them onto the chain, swapped the difficult-to-handle lobster clasp for one of the honkin’ big lobsters that I like, and Marilyn’s gift-for-gift was born.

I tucked the bracelet into an envelope, ran down the block, and slipped the envelope into her mail slot. Ever the perfectionist, I came back home and wrote her a long note about the bracelet. (You can have more beads or just this amount, and you can have it silver or oxidized, and if you want it oxidized, it can be sort of purple or almost black or merely bronzey…. You get the idea.) She texted me as soon as she got home from her evening’s activities and said, “Love the bracelet!!!!!!” Yes, six exclamation marks.

She doesn’t want any extra beads or any oxidation. She loves it just as it is. Wow!

So my jewelry-making adventures of yesterday and today yielded two successes!

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Creativity Involves Taking Chances

wolfieOkay, creativity involves more than just taking chances. It involves learning. Lots of learning!

I still am not finding time to get to my sewing room. I ran in there for 2 minutes yesterday while the dryer was running to mend a popped-out sleeve seam. But I’m not pulling out patterns and pinning them to fabric, and I’m not sure I’m going to find time to do that before the primary elections in early May.

I did find time to create a website for my neighbor’s non-profit organization. But I’ve been having a hard time with enabling the comment function. Frustrating! I read. I try. I test. I change. Nothing works. Still no comments.

I remembered how DS Tyler had a test site set up with we were in the business of building lots of websites, and I started wondering how he did it. I googled. I read. I tried.

And I did it! After hours of reading and trying, I have created a subdomain and installed WordPress on that subdomain. Now I will install the same WordPress theme that I’m using on TreezPlease and attempt to figure out what I’m doing wrong on the main site. Yep—should have started out with the subdomain scheme in the first place. But now that I’ve got it down, I can make a practice of doing all development on the subdomain before migrating to the live site.

Feeling pretty darned proud of myself, I am.