Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Lure of the Poppies Dress

Some months ago I was browsing in Fabriclands when I came across this poppy print jersey, on sale. I loved those vivid, impressionistic splashes of colour on the fabric, and the dress was going to be quite inexpensive to make -- about $25. I'm trying to get away from buying things because they're nice and a good deal, and stick to buying things that I actually need, but this was one of those times that I was tempted and gave in. In my defense, I will say I find jersey dresses to be incredibly useful, as they're comfortable, easy to wear, and appropriate for many places and occasions, and that I didn't have a winter jersey dress.

The pattern I chose for the dress was Vogue Pattern's V1314, which Vogue Patterns' website aptly describes as: "Pullover, close-fitting, lined dress has ruched sides, long sleeves and narrow hem." It's one of those dresses that are supposed to suit every figure.

And here's the finished dress. I made the usual fit adjustments that I always have to make for my dresses: the top is a size larger than the bottom, I added four inches of length to the bodice because flowing over my chest takes up so much of the fabric vertically, and I shortened the skirt by six inches: four to compensate for the extra bodice length, and an additional two because I wished the skirt to sit just above my knees rather than just below them. I also moved the ruching down four inches, but I think I should have only lowered it two inches. It looks okay, though.

The dress didn't photograph terribly well. On the form, the ruches collapse into folds, making the dress look like what my sister might call an "old lady dress", but it doesn't look like an old lady's dress when I get it on, because it is rather form-fitting. I'm going to wear it with my caramel brown leather pumps and handbag.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Piecing Together Memories Pincushions

When I was a little girl, I learned two crafts from my grandmother. One was the craft of making juice can footstools, and the other was the craft of English paper piecing. Though I doubt Grandma Swan ever knew that she was teaching me English paper piecing. She didn't call it that, and she may never have heard the term. For us, the craft was simply a way to make a patchwork pincushion out of scraps of fabric. I've made many of these pincushions. I made one for my mother for Mother's Day the year I was ten. She still uses it 33 years later. When I was eleven and my mother was making a bridal gown for my brother's fiancée, I made a pincushion from scraps of the white satin of her dress and my mother's old rose mother-of-the-groom dress and gave it to my new sister-in-law for a wedding present. Twenty-one years after that, when my brother and sister-in-law's daughter was getting married in her turn, I made my niece a pincushion from scraps of the only two dresses that were made for her wedding: her younger sister's pink junior bridesmaid dress which my mother made, and my own spring green silk dress, which I made myself. I've also made quite a few pincushions over the years as gifts for friends of mine who sew and craft.

It wasn't until I was in my thirties and I posted some pictures of pincushions I had made to Facebook that a friend of mine told me the craft's proper name. Then a few months ago, I read Tracy Chevalier's The Last Runaway, in which the English-born female protagonist, Honor Bright, is a skilled, disciplined, and artistic seamstress and quilter, and I recognized her style of quilting as English paper piecing.

Before I began work on this post, I took forty minutes or so to search Pinterest and the internet at large for English paper piecing, and as I had come to suspect, there was much more to the craft than the very limited form of it I learned from my grandmother. Though the hexagon shapes we used were indeed the most common building block, English paper piecers use all sorts of shapes and fit them together to make quilts, cushions, tote bags, placemats, art work and more with an incredible variety of visual effects. I doubt very much that I will ever go so far as to make a quilt with this craft -- I'm not a quilter, and don't even particularly like quilts -- though I think at some point I might use the craft to make some other, smaller items.

But let's look at the latest two pincushions I've made. I wanted to make one for a friend of mine who is just getting into knitting and crafting, and I also decided to make a second one for me, since the one I was using was about 25 years old and rather the worse for the wear. The first step in making these pincushions is to cut out 37 little paper hexagons from any old scrap paper, then 37 larger cloth hexagons from whatever fabric you want to use. I like to make my pincushions from two coordinating colours of fabric, which means I cut out 13 hexagons from one fabric and 24 from the second fabric, but of course you can use as many fabrics as you want in whatever configuration you like.

Next, baste the fabric hexagons over the paper hexagons as I've done from the basted hexagons on the right in the picture above. To do this, you'll fold the fabric over the paper and stitch one corner at a time with one stitch each.

Then sew all the hexagons together by hand. To do this hold two hexagons flat together, right sides in, and stitch one side of the two together. Unfold the two joined hexagons, and stitch a third hexagon to the two of them, holding it flat against each of the first two in turn, and working one little seam at a time. I start with the centre hexagon and work my way out in circles, re-threadng my needle with the appropriate colour thread as necessary. Make your stitches small enough that they can't be seen from the right side, and sew through the fabric only, not the paper.

Next, cut out the backing of your cushion, using the top as a template for it. Then remove the basting stitches and the paper pieces from your patchwork cushion top.

Pin the top of your cushion to its backing, with right sides together. Machine stitch the top and the bottom pieces together, leaving the middle two hexagons of one side open so that you can turn the cushion right side out. You'll need to situate your stitching line just below the end of the hexagon seams on the outside layer.

Once the cushion pieces are sewn together, turn them right side out. Stuff them firmly. Slipstitch the opening together. And then... you're done. I'm looking forward to giving my friend her cushion -- hers being the tartan and white one on the left -- and I even bought a little box of pins to go with it. I wanted her to start out her crafting life with some suitable accessories.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Darn Good Birthday Present

Back in 2014, the good people at Darn Good Yarn sent me the free sample of their product that you see pictured above. The skein of DK weight Roving Silk Yarn (for which there seems to be no Ravelry page) sat in my stash for two and a half years while I mulled over ideas for how best to use it. While I thought the yarn attractive, I don't wear (or look good in) pink, purple, yellow, or light blue, so that ruled out any projects for me. My grandniece Cauliflower does like and look pretty in those colours, so I first settled on her as the intended recipient, and then decided last year that this yarn would work well as a contrast colour in a sweater for her eighth birthday present.

I searched Ravelry's pattern database for a little girl's sweater pattern that required two colours of DK, and found the Color Me Pretty Sweater pattern, designed by Elena Nodel. It's really quite pretty, the shaping is good, and the cute floral fair isle pattern would showcase the variegated silk yarn nicely. Next, it was off to Romni Wools with the skein of silk roving, where I tried to find a coordinating main colour for the sweater. I settled on 350 grams of Loyal DK in pale blue.

And here's the resulting sweater, in a size 8. This was a an exceptionally well-written pattern -- very detailed and clear and easy to follow. I'm pleased with my version of the sweater on the whole, though I do wish I could have gone with a paler blue for the main colour, as some of the stitch definition was lost because the blue of the silk roving and the blue of the Loyal were too similar. Other than that minor complaint, the colours proved to be an attractive combination that will look well on Cauliflower, who has fair skin, blue eyes, and light brown hair.

With yarn to spare, I made a matching hat as well. The sweater, cap, and the dollar store colouring book, notebook, and box of crayons I bought to go with them should prove quite a satisfactory eighth birthday present.

I had 10 grams of the new Loyal left, and had used half of the 100 gram skein of Silk Roving DK, which means this project resulted in a net stash decrease of 40 grams.