A Special-Order Hat

When we were in Mount Gilead, Ohio, at the Jazzman’s eldest brother’s home for Thanksgiving, I was working on my Rainfall scarf. Riley, Jas’s great-nephew, was watching me knit, and—sweet, sweet child that he is—asked if I could knit something for him. I said yes, and asked what he might want me to knit. Jas’s niece and her family live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, so of course Riley suggested a hat. I told him I had never knit a hat before, but I thought I could do it. I asked what color he wanted, and he quickly replied “blue.” When pressed for the shade of blue, he said “bright blue.”

I told him knitting takes a long time, so it wouldn’t be very soon. But I finished it on Friday night two days ago, and will send it in time for his eighth birthday on January 6.

I chose the Antler Toque pattern from Tin Can Knits. It’s a free pattern on Craftsy. The sizing is Baby, Child, Adult Small, and Adult Large, for 16″/18″/21″/23″ heads. I chose the Child size and am very hopeful it will fit Riley and his full head of gorgeous naturally curly hair. If not, I’ll make the next size. It was that easy and enjoyable a project.

I chose Cascade Yarns 220 100% wool, worsted weight yarn in color “Blue Velvet.” (As in, “She wore blue vel-vet, blu-er than vel-vet were her eyes ….” Showing my age here.) The child size only requires one hank of yarn. I treated myself to new size 6 and size 8 circular needles and a new set of 8 double-point needles. After all, this was a very special client.

And before I knew it, I was done. I love the hat pattern, and I love the finished product. Here’s hoping our precious Riley will love it, too.

EDIT: The day after the hat arrived in Minnesota, I received a text and photo from Riley’s mama. She said he loves the hat and that it fits perfectly. Yippee!

P.S. And now I have to come up with a pink and purple scarf for four-year-old Finnley. When she heard Riley request a blue hat, she piped right up with her request for a pink and purple scarf. I told her it would take weeks and weeks and weeks. It may take me that long to find a pattern I like for a scarf for this sweetie baby girl.

Knitting Across New England (and Beyond)

I always like to have something to do with my hands while we’re driving long distances. We planned a September vacation to Maine and Massachusetts, so I picked up a knitting kit from my favorite LYS, Three Sheep Gallery and Workshop on Market Street in Youngstown. The pattern was Margaret Craig’s Heidi & Lana Rainfall shawl/scarf. I started the pattern a few days before we left, and finished it a few days after Thanksgiving.

The “and Beyond” to the title of this post is how long it took me to finish this scarf. The lace border is roughly 300 stitches wide, and there are 30 rows to that section. Do the math, People. And that was only the lace border. There were 236 rows to the body of the scarf, beginning with a 6-stitch cast-on and ending at 181 stitches, increasing one stitch every row. So that’s a whole lotta stitches.

Color captured under my Ott light. Yummy!

I love the squishy feel of the [YO, K2, pass YO over K2] stitch pattern. I love the “Homemade Jam” color of the deftly hand-dyed yarn. And I especially love all the compliments I get each time I wear this scarf.

This closeup picture shows you both the lace border and the squishy YO pattern, as well as the true color. Designer Margaret Craig is one smart knitter and dyer. The yarn is Heidi & Lana’s 100% Merino Homestead Fingering hand-dyed yarn. The pattern requires two 100g/420 yard skeins. The pattern comes free with the kit.

I recommend this pattern and this yarn. If you want a project that will take you through the long winter evenings, this is a good choice. (I mean the winter will be long, not necessarily the evenings!)

You can call Three Sheep gallery and ask Linda if she has any more kits, or check Etsy. I saw a couple featured there.

As for my scary face in the pictures, I took a bad fall on the 3rd of December. I had a fight with our city garbage can as I was rolling it back up from the curb. The can won, and I’m lucky I didn’t lose my two upper front teeth or break my nose or any body part that enables me to play the piano. Today—just short of three weeks from the fall—is the first day the bruises have not been visible without my pointing them out to onlookers. The effects of the fall could have been so much worse, and I’m grateful I’ve been able to get through this heavy music season easily.

Two More Sidewinders

I wasn’t completely sold on the Sidewinder pattern that I made up for the Sew Sweetness Secret Santa exchange, but I had already cut the pattern out in another fabric, so went ahead and made it up, then made it up again. The third make was in a music-themed fabric, as I am a working musician. I thought I’d give it to one of the music professors I work with at Youngstown State University.

But when it was all finished, on the morning I was taking my new half-sister (whom I discovered two-and-a-half years ago via Ancestry.com) to the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus Christmas concert, I knew I would carry it as a clutch bag to the concert and that I wasn’t giving it to anybody! It would be mine.mine.mine.

So here are the two Sidewinders I made, both in size Large.

The Sidewinder pattern is part of the package of patterns called Minikins that designer Sara Lawson has created.

Sew Sweetness Sidewinder Bag in three sizes

Here’s how Sara describes the Minikins on her website: “Sew Sweetness Minikins 12 pattern+video bundle is a great place to build on your bag-making skills through making quick and easy accessories that everyone will love!”

I have a confession to make: I did not watch the video for the Sidewinder. I just dove in. I’m an experienced bagmaker, having made dozens of bags from a small change purse to a large carry-on tote bag. How hard could this small bag be, right? Egotistical me! The challenge with this bag is the straight edges that have to meet up with curved edges. I had problems with bag #1. I still had problems with bag #2. By the time I got to #3, I realized I needed to make little ⅛” snips all along both the straight and curved edges where they would meet. Voila! My seam ripper received very little attention on bag #3.

Bag #2, in Tula Pink Pom Poms and Stripes, color Foxglove. This was made pretty much straight to the pattern. I used foam with the exterior stripe fabric, and did not quilt the foam interfacing to the exterior fabric. I believe this foam was fusible, but I don’t think it fused very well to the fabric. I would say that was probably my error in the fusing process. The more I turned the bag inside and out while sewing, the less it stuck to the fabric. I used the Pom Pom print for the exterior end panels and the handle/strap. I love the interplay of the stripes and poms. The lining was the Pom Pom fabric. Next week this bag will go on consignment to Three Sheep Gallery and Workshop on Market Street in Youngstown, where I hope it will find a new home with someone who thinks it’s wonderful. (Let the record show I do think it’s wonderful, I just don’t need to add it to my extensive collection of me-made bags. I need to pull in a little money to help pay for the twenty-seven new windows I just had installed on the 2nd and 3rd floors of my circa 1927 home.)

Now #3, the music fabric bag. Both the exterior and the lining fabrics are from Exclusively Quilters’ “That Funky Jazz” fabric line. I can’t find either of these fabrics in stock anywhere that is searchable online. So sad.

What did I do right with this bag?

First, I took my time. I realized (after cutting the exterior side panel piece) that I was using a directional print. I cut another piece of the fabric and created a center bottom seam so I would have both sides directionally correct. (If you look closely at the picture accompanying this paragraph, you can see the center bottom seam.) 🙂 Happy sewist.

I carefully outline-quilted the foam to the exterior. I had as much fun looking at the wrong side of that quilting as I did the right side. How cool is that photo? Happy sewist to the 2nd degree.

As I was creating the zipper panel, I realized that I had inadvertently cut these panels so the keyboard made a continuous line spanning the zipper. Super cool. Happy sewist to the 3rd degree.

I snipped all around the zipper panel and the side panels and carefully secured the two sides together with pins and clips before sewing. I only had to rip two 1″ areas and I was very happy with how it came out—no puckers.

I do think I need to add a zipper pull onto the zipper tab. It’s a #3 zipper—the size zipper you would put into a dress or slacks. The tab isn’t easy to grab when you have to reach under the handle/strap to grab it. If I wire-wrap a bead or charm to the tab, it will be easier to unzip.

Both bags are treated with Scotchgard™ inside and out. Both are beautifully finished. The stripe/dot bag makes me happy, but the music bag makes me positively giddy.

If you decided to buy the Minikins pack of patterns and make the Sidewinder (or any of the bags in the pack), do make the time to watch the videos. I’ll be doing that on all the other bags I make from the Minikins and Minikins 2 packs.

Last night when I got home from Cleveland, my partner and I headed to our favorite local restaurant to sit at the bar and eat pasta. I kept pulling my bag onto my lap and looking at it. He said, “When you’re gone, who shall I give it to?” I laughed out loud, then told him exactly with whom it should live next. 😉

Thanks for visiting. Thanks for admiring. I wish you and yours very happy holidays. 🎄

Santa Sews!

A lovely young woman named Sara Lawson creates sewing patterns for bags under the name Sew Sweetness. She has a Facebook group that 31,000 sewists have joined. We talk about her patterns, we ask each other’s advice, and we dispense encouragement. Liberally!

This year a member named Michelle Graham organized the first Global Sew Sweetness Secret Santa event, which almost 400 sewists joined. To join, interested participant-wannabes had to send an email to Michelle with their name and mailing address and agree to have their bag finished and in the mail/on the FedEx or UPS truck no later than December 1. In addition, if a person was willing to ship internationally or willing to sew an extra bag if something happened and one of the participants was unable to finish their bag, that fact would also be stated in the email.

One of Michelle’s emails to the group included the list of patterns from which we were to choose. Many required little more than two “fat quarters” of fabric, some interfacing and foam, and a zipper and thread. They were all easy, quick sews.

<Sidenote On>
Most quilting-weight cottons come in 44″ widths. Fabric is sold in yard measurements, or fractions thereof. Quilters and bagmakers frequently purchase a quarter-yard or 9″ of fabric. A fat quarter is a half-yard of fabric, cut horizontally on the center fold line of the fabric. So instead of having a piece of fabric that’s 9″ long and 44″ wide, you have a piece 18″ long and 22″ wide. Same area; same number of square inches. But you might have a pattern piece that’s a little taller than 9″ and the fat quarter lets you cut that pattern without having to buy a half yard of fabric. (Frequently a savings of about $3.00 and less waste or fewer pieces added to your scrap stash.)
<Sidenote Off>

I’ve only recently begun sewing with Sew Sweetness Patterns. I think I’ve made one of Sara’s bags before I joined the group. But it sounded like fun. I love making and giving bags, but I’ve slowed down on giving bags to my friends, as I think they’re probably all drowning in my bags. So this was the perfect opportunity to make a bag for someone who was implicitly saying, “I’d love to receive one of your bags.”

Of course, as soon as I sent my email to Michelle, I started wondering what I had gotten myself into. But I was committed, so kept finding 30-minute chunks of time to steal away from practicing to give to this project.

I dug into my bagmaking stash and found a bit of Alison Glass’s Chroma collection in the color “Citrus,” along with a piece of Bali batik in the same colors. Oh, how I love these two fabrics together. I went through my zipper stash and found a zipper that was a perfect match, and I was in business.

I purchased a group of patterns called Minikins from Sara about six months ago. The original Minikins set is twelve patterns, with accompanying videos to help you make the bag and be successful the first time around. Brilliant! When you first look at the set, you question the price ($80), but that’s only $6.66 per pattern. (Sara recently released Minikins 2, a set of 13 patterns. I’m saving my nickles to invest in this new set.) From the Minikins patterns, I chose the medium-sized Sidewinder bag (many of the patterns are designed with several sizes in the pattern), printed it out (these are all PDF patterns), and prepared the fabric.

Sew Sweetness Sidewinder Bag

Once the fabric and the interfacings were cut out, the interfacings fused to the fabric, and some quilting done on the exterior fabric and foam, the sewing began. I think the sewing time may have been not much more than two hours—if that. Before I knew it, the bag was done and I was taking pictures.

Problems? Okay, you know there’s going to be something I might have done differently.

The quilting. The next time I make a bag with quilting, I must remember to cut the pieces of fabric and foam or interfacing larger than the pattern piece, do the quilting, and only then attach the pattern piece and cut it out. The quilting draws the fabric piece up so it’s smaller than the pattern. I was able to make the quilted exterior piece work once I began sewing, but I had some anxious moments. (Note: Quilting is not required for this bag; it’s just what how I wanted it to look.)

The stainproofing. I keep telling myself to spray the pieces with Scotchgard™ before sewing anything, but I get so excited about digging into the project, I forget.

The zipper. The pattern calls for a #3 zipper (typical narrow dress zipper), and I used a #5 (a wider bag or sportswear zipper) because that’s what I had. I was a little concerned the extra width, however little, was also going to cause a problem with all the pieces fitting together, but it came out fine. Whew!

Minimal problems this time. And one plus for me—I love handstitching. The lining instructions say to topstitch the lining in place around the zipper. I turned the bag inside out and hand-stitched it in place. Very happy me.

I love this bag! Oh, the uses—sewing clips; all the little bits and bobs rolling around at the bottom of one’s purse; pens and pencils. Limitless uses. And the large-size bag looks like the perfect clutch purse to me. Maybe some of the great vinyl my neighbor shares with me. I see quite a few more Sidewinders in my future.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful my mom enrolled me in a Singer sewing class back in 1963. I’ve found so much pleasure through the years with my sewing. May you find pleasure with your family today.

A New Bag. For Me?

I’ve made a number of Swoon bags. (Explore my Swoon posts.) And I’ve purchased four Blue Calla bag patterns, that haven’t made it to the top of my to-do list yet. In early August, I learned that Alicia Miller, who is the designer behind Swoon Patterns, and Celine Allaert, who designs the Blue Calla bag patterns, had put their heads together and formed the Carried Away Pattern Collective.

They’ve had a brilliant idea. These bags are available by subscription only. The designers, Alicia and Celine, take turns designing a bag each month for six months—three bags each in six months. And they release the pattern early to a number of bagmakers whom they trust. These bagmakers, pattern testers, will make the bags, interpreting them with their own choices of fabric and hardware, and will have their bags ready before the pattern is released at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, on the 15th of the month. So we, the subscribers, have many bags to drool over on the day we download our patterns in PDF format. There’s a Facebook group with more than 5,000 members where we can share photos of our bags and encourage each other when we’re stumped by a new technique, or offer opinions on zipper color, lining fabric choice, and so on. There are also Instagram tags—#carriedawaypatterncollective, #swoonsierra, #bluecallaconeflower, #swooncarter—where we can share photos of our bags with our social media world.

And lest you’re thinking when the six months are over, the bags will no longer be available, don’t worry. The three bags Alicia designed will be available on the Swoon site, and Celine’s designs will be available on the Blue Calla site. Brilliant.

I started my Sierra the day before the second bag, the Coneflower Cross Body Bag, was released. And while I’ve been trying to bring Sierra to life, the third bag, the Carter Messenger Handbag, was released. So now I’m two bags behind, but I’m sure pleased with my Sierra. And I’ll be even happier tomorrow when I finish the shoulder strap.

Sierra is designed to use leather, faux leather/vinyl, or cork for the contrast straps and accents. I have used cork in bags several times, and have added some leather accents to some bags, but I’ve never used vinyl. My next-door neighbor designs upholstery textiles for a living, and when she has leftovers, she’s generous in sharing them with me. When I was selecting the fabrics for Sierra, I had just received a box of fabric from my benefactor, and saw several beautiful metallic-toned vinyls. I dug through my stash of bag fabrics and came up with a print the combined French writing and music notation and musical instruments and butterflies. Delightful and covered with elements I love. I tried all the vinyls in the box against it and loved this soft gold. Then I dug for lining fabric. And what did I find in my stash of musical-themed fabrics? Why, music notation and Eiffel Towers. Done.

So here’s how the project went.

  • Ordered the hardware kit in silver on the day the pattern was released;
  • Chose the fabrics. Realized the silver hardware wasn’t right for the fabric;
  • Ordered bag feet, rectangle rings, D rings, and swivel clips from Sew Deja Vu (SDV) in Stow, OH;
  • Almost as soon as I clicked “Submit” on my PayPal account, I remembered I wanted to order a tassel cap to be able to attached to my exterior zipper, so ordered a set of three (minimum amount) and emailed the store owner asking if she could combine the two orders so I could save on shipping;
  • Waited three days or so for the hardware to travel the 47 miles from Stow to Youngstown;
  • Opened the package and learned I had accidentally ordered 1½” rectangle rings rather than 1″; went online and placed order for the 1″ rectangle rings
  • Waited four days this time (thanks, Columbus Day) for the 1″ rings to arrive. Worked on as much of the bag as I could without the necessary hardware.
  • Opened the package when it arrived on Thursday and found the staff at SDV had only sent me one pack of two rectangle rings, not two two-packs. Called the store and explained the problem. They said they’d mail it right out. Thanks to the SDV owner for tucking in a new seam ripper as an apology for the earlier error. Oh, if she only knew how much I used that ripper on this project.
  • On Saturday morning I needed to drive 60 miles to Akron to pick up my sister at Panera and take her to Cleveland to see “Hello, Dolly” at Playhouse Square. I decided that I would leave an hour early and run by SDV on my way to Akron to grab the extra 1″ rectangle I needed. But I had to follow Jas to the mechanic’s shop to drop off his car, so I got started a half hour later than I needed to. I had exactly the amount of time I needed to get from Youngstown to Akron and arrive at the time I told my sister I’d be there, which left us just enough time to eat lunch and get to the theatre on time. Let the record show I parked my car in front of the store, ran in, grabbed the two-pack of rectangle rings, paid, and was back in my car in two minutes. Two minutes! I’m a champion shopper, but that’s a new personal best!

And I didn’t even tell you the number of zippers I purchased in trying to complement the exterior fabric while not distracting from the gold vinyl. Lots. I consulted with my neighbor and my sewing pal who lives in Oregon. We all agreed on the ivory.

Now with enough hardware, I spent Sunday trying to see how far I could get. But there was another challenge inherent in using vinyl for the straps, handles, and bag base. First, when sewing vinyl or other similar fabric, you have to remember to change the stitch length on the sewing machine. Second, you can’t pin it, because the pinhole is permanent in leather, vinyl, or cork. The straps and handles were 2″ wide and 24″ long. The instructions are to draw a lengthwise line down the center of the piece. Then fold the long side edges to the center and glue them in place. This was my first attempt at manipulating vinyl. You can’t iron the straps as they’ll be permanently damaged. I already had a couple of tubes of glue in my sewing room, but none of them worked to hold the two layers of vinyl together. The next couple of days found me doing a lot of internet searching and visiting JoAnn’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and Pat Catan’s to find every possible glue that might adhere the two sides together. I tried them all. One worked okay, but now I can’t remember which one it was. Oy. I ruined a couple of straps, the first one by clipping it with quilt clips for it to dry and another by forgetting to increase the stitch length. It ended up with lots of marks and dents on it and was unusable. Now when I glue a strap, I hold it in place until it’s tacky enough to hold for five seconds while I grab my 6″ x 24″ quilting ruler, laying it on top of the strap and then holding it in place with every heavy thing I can find on my cutting table.

So, finally, with much of yesterday and today dedicated to this bag, I finished it, except for the 4″ x 48″ shoulder strap. I folded and glued it tonight. As Jas was working in the basement when I was glueing, I was able to get him to come over and place the two quilting rulers on top of the strap while I held it down. He even looked at me placing every jarful of scissors and weights and sewing whatnot on top of the rulers and found two heavy 2″ x 4″ pieces of wood and two heavy bags of drills and placed those on the rulers to do the job right.

Tomorrow I will finish the shoulder strap and take one more set of pictures of the bag. (Edited 10/22/2018 – Here are photos of the finished bag with shoulder strap.)

I’m not sure if I’ll keep it or sell it. The perfectionist in me is not satisfied with the finishing on the bag base. I’m thinking I’ll show it to the owner of a local yarn shop/gallery. If someone buys it online, they won’t see the base until they’ve paid for it. But if I place it for sale someplace where potential buyers can look at it from all angles and know what they’re getting, then I would feel good about that purchase.

Sometimes perfectionism is a heavy burden.

What’s in that bag?

  • The vinyl is from Richloom Fabrics. The pattern name is Lorusi, but it’s not available in retail outlets. I would suggest you try some of the Richloom vinyls available at Fabric.com or Joann’s. This vinyl is a dream to sew with, and I’d be willing to bet some of their other vinyls are just as nice.
  • Exterior: Eclectic Elements “Melange” (Color: Neutral) designed by Tim Holtz for FreeSpirit.
  • Lining: Timeless Treasures Collection “Bonjour Mon Amour”, designed by Jessica Mundo. A search on “Paris Eiffel Tower Music Notes” will find this fabric for you.
  • The hardware kit for this bag is available at 2 Minutes 2 Stitch.