Musings

Love for Local

January 18, 2019

Shortly after moving to Boston—it must have been the spring of 2012—I came across a little shop between Central and Inman Squares in Cambridge. It wasn’t just the name Gather Here that made me feel like I wanted to bust out my knitting and overstay my welcome (which probably would have been hard to do). It was also the warm and knowledgeable staff, the free snacks and drinks left out for folks, the comfy couches. The whole vibe of the place did a lot to make me start feeling at home in my new community.

In any case, I’ve been a big fan girl ever since. It was actually there that I picked up my first indie pattern and took a stab at garment sewing. I was delighted by the detailed instructions on how to construct this Colette sundress (with pockets because why else sew your own dress) and grateful to whomever it was working that day who recommended it as a starting place. Great advice!

In any case, Virginia Johnson (per postcard above, I think we’re official BFFs now…FTW!) has created something really special with Gather Here. And I am NOT just saying that because of the super generous frequent maker program that I just got this KILLER care package from! (My heart is SO FULL from all these delights that arrived in my mailbox the other day!) And it’s not just the divine selection of high fiber goodness. A lot of it comes from her going above and beyond to spread messages of acceptance and inclusivity. It’s important and inspiring and I so appreciate everything she and the good folks of Gather Here are out there doing.

<3

Sewing

Staycation Sew-tis-faction

January 3, 2019

I finally drafted a pattern from a skirt sloper I made (thanks to Joi Mahon & Craftsy) long enough ago that I’m embarrassed to fess up to just how long it’s taken me to get my act together enough to do something with all that newfangled knowledge. In any case, the goal is to make a black denim skirt to wear eight days a week. But first I needed to test out my self-drafted pattern and happened to have this fun Cotton + Steel 80’s inspired cotton kicking around which—while maybe not everyday-wear material—I think it will be good for playing gigs.

I was thinking of saving it for a special make but had a “oh-why-the-hell-not moment” and used it to whip up* a wearable muslin. Glad I did because when tracing my pattern from my sloper I forgot to add seam allowances.

Luckily the busy pattern makes it very forgiving so slim chances of non-sewists noticing the few extra strips of fabric added along the back seam. In any case, I won’t be making that mistake again.

Regrets include:

  1. Not having enough of this fabric leftover to make a matching BHL Victoria Blazer;
  2. Not having enough of this fabric leftover to make a pair of shorts…thinking these Simplicity shorts (sans bow) would do the trick;
  3. Not having enough of this fabric leftover to make a jumpsuit. My psyche is telling me Marilla Walker’s Roberts would be 👌.

I anticipated the fabric would feel kind of stiff and unpleasant as a garment— but I was wrong.

Next steps:

  1. Fix the self-drafted pattern (or at least mark it up) so when I finally get all my ducks in a row to sew up my denim I don’t get another pie to the face.
  2. Modify the pattern somewhat because the pockets I added are bulky in cotton so anticipated inner-tube level comfort when sewn up in denim.
  3. Hoard all the Cotton + Steel snap to grid I can get my mitts on.

*Who am I kidding. It took like 8 hours and a virtuosic string of expletives to crank out this sucker.

Knitting

Knitting with a Purpose

September 10, 2018

I spend a lot of time knitting on my own, with an audiobook or British mystery show as company. Occasionally, my friends and I get together for a knitting date, but it’s rare these days. About seven years ago we moved out to the country—a 20-minute drive to my LYS. At the time we built our house, we also built my studio. Because I work from there, I don’t feel compelled (or the need) to leave all that often and have been happily living the reclusive life.

A few weeks ago I was inspired to participate in a team project on the Mason-Dixon Knitting forums. We’re using the Mitered Crosses Pattern by Kay Gardiner. The generous leader of Team Blanket No. 5 will take all our squares and sew them together to create a blanket for victims of the devastating fires in Northern California.

There’s something so rewarding about creating a piece of a bigger whole. As I’ve been obsessively knitting my squares (I’ve become totally addicted to this pattern and have completed six squares that need to be blocked and then sent off), I feel I’m not knitting alone, that others from around the country are with me. And it’s reminded me of the effort to knit for soldiers during both world wars—so many pulling together to “knit for victory.” It’s similar, but we are knitting to provide comfort and warmth for those who have lost their homes.

I hope whoever receives the blanket will feel the love and support represented in each square we knit—a giant warm hug coming from an anonymous group of makers—one of whom is me.

 

Learning

Medomak Fiberarts Retreat 2018

August 7, 2018

I just returned from a week in Washington, Maine playing with all things fiber. This is the second year I’ve gone to the Medomak Fiberarts Retreat—essentially sleepover camp for adults—and I’m already dreaming about what next year will hold.

I first stumbled upon the retreat on Bristol Ivy’s IG feed, where she mentioned getting together with other instructors to plan the next year’s classes. I immediately googled it and registered. The retreat is located about a half hour inland from Camden and Rockland and is situated on Washington Pond (really a small lake). Last year I filled up all my time with classes and didn’t have much downtime.

So this year, I tried to back off a bit—giving myself one free day to relax and just knit.

I took:

• Writing for Makers and Ahead of the Curve—Further Explorations in Improvisational Patchwork with Katherine Ferrier;

• Techniques in Lichen Dyeing with Rachel Bingham-Kessler;

• Knitting to Last a Lifetime, Part 2 with Bristol Ivy (which was all about swatching—something I’ve often ignored because I didn’t want to “waste time”… but now I’ve seen the light!);

• Needle-Felted Loons with Casey Ryder;

• Surface Design and Composition with Eva Camacho.

There was also a field trip to Katharine Cobey’s studio in Cushing, Maine where we learned about stitch structure, i-cord variations, and Portuguese knitting. It was an honor to spend time with such an inspired fiber artist in her studio overlooking a beautiful estuary.

It was definitely a full week, and I came home on Saturday happily exhausted from hanging out with a group of other makers, who totally understand one another. No need to cringe or feel guilty about my voluminous yarn, fabric, and bead stashes with these women! The teachers wholeheartedly share their expertise in each of their workshops. Their generosity of spirit and knowledge amazes me. My brain is still in overdrive thinking of all the possibilities for the new techniques and information I came home with.

The retreat setting is magical. The cabins are nestled in the woods surrounding the main lodge where meals are served family style (the food is delicious), and some classes are taught. Re-entry to cooking is hard after a week of simply waiting for a bell to ring to signal that the dining hall is open. Attempting to fall asleep after a day brimming over with new ideas and creativity was a bit challenging, but the call of the loons on the lake soon carried me off most nights.

I kept thinking of how much Em would have liked the classes, and I’m hoping that next year she might be able to join me. For now, I’m going to finish up some of the projects I started and not-so-patiently wait for news of what’s on for next summer. After this year, it’s only three more years until I get my free Medomak sweatshirt!

 

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Learning

Block Printing with Jen Hewett

June 28, 2018

Last weekend we had the privilege to slow down, focus in, and learn the basics of block printing on fabric from the brilliant and talented Jen Hewett! Em’s favorite local spot (not local for Tina, but it’s now her favorite too) for all things creative, Drop Forge & Tool, hosted the class in their gorgeous space on Warren Street in Hudson, New York. The workshop was Auntie’s 30th birthday present to Em, and as a bonus (well for Auntie, at least) she decided to take it too.

An all-around much-needed opportunity to spend a day devoted to learning something new. We even caught a glimpse of the Hudson Pride Parade that passed right by our door. Eager to carve out (hehe) more time for making, we are scheming a retreat at Auntie Tina’s newly revamped studio in Vermont sometime this summer. Em hasn’t seen the redo yet — but there’s now a lot of open space, including a large tabletop surface, that would be great for printing yardage. Thanks to Auntie, Em now owns Jen Hewett’s new book, Print Pattern Sew and she’s excited to learn the official repeat technique, as the hasty short-cut she came up with during the workshop did not yield the most evenly-spaced pattern!

Em plans to attempt printing yardage more methodically and thinks the tooth image she carved would be a cool repeat pattern for garments. As for the utensil design, it may well find its way under a few Christmas trees this winter…shh, don’t tell! Tina plans to fine-tune her block design and re-carve it with the aid of her trusty magnifying specs—for a more refined outcome. Her brain has also been madly at work on other designs to test out.

Em now has one more delightful craft to daydream about on her commute to her day job. (Tina’s commute is a few steps across her courtyard, so not enough time for dreaming!) Maybe someday the hours we both spend thinking about making will be equal to or, dare we say, even less than the time we spend actually getting crafty! Hopefully we’ll get together soon to carve more blocks and try our hands at yardage. And making jeans. And giving new life to unworn garments by dying them in an indigo vat. Oh, and dying yarn! And smocking. And spinning. The cynical part of our brains says we may have makers ADD — but we prefer thinking that having so much you want to learn and make is a “good problem” to have!

 

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Sewing

I Only Wear Black?

May 27, 2018

Not only does black conceal the inevitable coffee or food stain, but after hitting snooze for an hour it requires much less mental energy to pull together a work-appropriate outfit. My mother’s theory (possibly purloined from some great 20th-century thinker who I don’t have the energy to Google) was that creative-types had more important aesthetic decisions to make than to be worrying about pulling together anything other than an all-black outfit. (She was an artist who, other than the occasional zebra-print robe, could most often be found dressed in a manner to lend credit to her theory.) I don’t consider myself part of that camp, rather I simply feel more confident, comfortable, and “at home”  in black, neutrals, and solids.

More often than not, the ready-to-wear garment I am scrutinizing in the fitting room has tragic fit issues, which black often camouflages. (I’d come to accept that not being able to reach my arms forward falls into this category, for a long time it did not.)

Then I saw this cactus-print quilting cotton on a recent foray into the wilds of Joann Fabric. I was on a mission for interfacing, got distracted, muttered to myself about never wearing something this bright while gently caressing the bolt, went home sans fabric, and looked up the cactus print online. It was sold out, which I took as a sign from the universe that the nameless, tasteful hoards of the World Wide Web had given it the rubber stamp of “So Cool.” I went back.

This cactus print version was my third stab at the Inari Tee pattern by Named. I hoped that the first muslin would be “wearable,” but there were too many fit issues. The easiest solution may have been to size up, but I’d been wanting to experiment with some fit adjustments I’d heard about on the Love to Sew podcast. A boxy tee is obviously less fitted by design, but I didn’t feel like swimming in it. I am really happy with the the final product, and I feel like it’s going to be a summer staple:

Not perfect, but it’s CLOSE ENOUGH!

Here’s what I had to fix to get here. The back felt too tight: I couldn’t move my arms completely forward; the bust felt too tight: there were little bunchy fabric lines fanning down from my armpits (I think these are referred to as “drag lines” in the biz); and the tops of the shoulders felt too narrow.

Helen’s Closet has a helpful, step-by-step, illustrated tutorial for the wide/broad shoulder adjustment and a full bust adjustment without darts. I followed Alexandra Morgan’s video tutorial for doing a broad (or narrow) back adjustment. The full bust adjustment (“FBA”) and the broad shoulder adjustment resulted in minor changes to the armcye that needed to be accounted for in the sleeve, but the neckline stayed the same. On the second draft, I didn’t revise the bottom hem to match the original pattern (the FBA had altered the line). However, I felt like a design element had been lost, so I retraced the bottom hem to match the original, only lower—there’d been too much belly button peek-a-boo! Here’s how the changes ended up looking on paper:

Left to right: Original, Altered, Original on top of altered.

For the final draft, I also took my sweet time setting in the sleeves. I didn’t give NEARLY enough attention to this step in the second draft and they turned out haphazardly puckered (didn’t have this issue on the first draft…#WhenBeginnersLuckGetsYouDown). I practiced a few techniques after the second and neurotically used them all for the final. I ran two rows of basting stitches on my machine, eased enough to match notches, pinned (per this Craftsy video), hand-basted, then machine stitched.

As much as I want to identify with the phrase “advanced beginner,” I think “intrepid beginner” more accurately reflects my sewing state. This tee will be the second made-by-me garment that I could wear in public. It is deeply satisfying to have this “aha” moment that other sewists have experienced for eons: If I can choose the print, color, pattern, and adjust the fit issues, there are so many possibilities for self-expression…outside the pallet of black.

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Musings

Slowing Down

May 20, 2018

Above: One of my current WIPs—a crocheted Granny Square Blanket from Purl Soho

The idea for this blog came about more than a year ago. It’s taken us time to figure it all out, but we’re excited about finally launching ourselves into the world.

I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. From knitting a black pencil skirt for my bouffant-headed Barbie to my summer job sewing costumes for the Shakespeare Festival, it seems I’m always happiest when I’m working with my hands. I’ll get into my “making” journey another time. However, I’ve realized that whatever I’m doing, I seem to be more focused on finishing than the process of the thing. This inclination became evident recently as I was knitting, unknitting, and then re-knitting a project using the brioche stitch. I was so obsessed with finishing it quickly, that I kept losing my place in the pattern and I’d find myself back where I started at the end of an evening. It made me wonder—what it would be like to shift my intent and to play more along the way? In my day job, I’m a graphic designer and, deadlines rule. I’ve spent my career focused on the end product being ready by a prescribed time. This approach seems to have filtered over to my other creative pursuits—and it’s not always enjoyable. So, I’m committed to slowing down and enjoying the process and taking detours when they come up. Allowing time for more exploration and creativity along the way could also be a big metaphor for a great way to live your life—but that’s another story!

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