I’m into Squares

AQuilt_croppeddvanced quilters will have to refrain from laughing at my puny quilting efforts. Those who want to learn basic quilting, read on. Especially if you’re an experienced garment sewer like I am, eager to expand your horizons into new prints, colors and techniques. Here’s the story of my latest simple quilt.

I have been dutifully trying to use cottons from my acquired stash. It seems to me, though, that to finish projects one has to acquire yet more fabrics because you don’t have just the right patterns, stripes or solids in quantity. This time, I put out a plea to my local recycling Web site: Did anyone have fabric they were not using, so I could “finish up” projects or make lap quilts for charity? Why, yes they did. And they would be more than happy to have me pick it up from their porches or homes. In large bins. All of the fabrics you see in the pictured sample are the result. The bluish-looking solid is actually a spruce green. The red is a floral, the cream is a leafy lattice, and there’s a floral element to the dark green striped fabric. Despite the flora, and no holiday element whatsoever, my quilt looks like Christmas. Which makes it less useful, I’m afraid, as a lap quilt or to give away. I’m less enthused about it myself, in the early summertime, though the colors are lovely.

The real simplicity to this project is the squares. It’s impossible to miss if you’re a really creative quilter. My quilt has only squares! I use a “strip” quilting method, and over time I’ve perfected the quarter-inch (1/4″) seam allowance so that in the sample above, the corners match beautifully. Though I’ve read many techniques for creating triangles, especially ones that won’t distort on the bias, I’ve never tried to cut or sew triangles! There–it’s out now! I can’t be frightened of the technique, which is well explained, but I do fear combining colors and prints. After all, a triangle meets up with another triangle, and each should complement the other somehow. But soon, soon I hope to try a whole bunch of triangles. And maybe some off-set columns (strips). You see, I have a lot of fabric to practice with!

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Colorful Charity Sewing

SoundStitches sewing blog charity sewing Days for GirlsHere’s what I did last weekend: I stitched colorful fabrics to help girls stay in school! A co-worker alerted me to a sewing session to benefit a group that believes, “Every girl in the world deserves education, safety, and dignity.” Well, I decided I not only believe in that, but I could spend a few hours proving it! Here’s a bit more on Days for Girls International:

We help girls gain access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene and awareness, by direct distribution of sustainable feminine hygiene kits, by partnering with nonprofits, groups and organizations, by raising awareness, and by helping communities around the world start their own programs.

Practically-speaking, we stitched soft cotton covers and liners that will go into kits with washcloths, soap, and various plastic bags to make these necessary items easier to manage. We also consumed tasty soup, snacks, chatted, and enjoyed the great view afforded by our hostess’ hillside home! The goal of this program is to enable girls to continue attending school when they are often absent for one reason alone. More days in school leads to higher educational attainment and delayed motherhood, which leads to better maternal and infant health, and overall quality of life. Learn more or find a session near you: Days for Girls International

The organizer had assembled ready-to-sew kits. The fabrics were the delightful, high quality, and well-coordinated cottons you see in the picture, making it a pleasure to stitch together various combinations. I hope to attend the next session! This is actually the second session I’ve attended. The first was with school-aged girls, organized by a local mom, and held in a local crafts/sewing studio. Though puberty has not arrived for these girls yet, they were eager to either learn or practice their sewing skills to benefit other girls. And what a great, informal way to learn that the arrival of puberty is a challenge all girls can handle!

 

Gift Pillow

detail of knife edge pillowA guest room at my brother’s home has rust brown color sheets, so I decided on these colors for a simple pillow. I’m happy with the result, which is neither country cute nor too modern. I first had in mind a cover for a travel pillow that was resting on the bed. Silly me, I thought all travel pillows were the same size! So this square pillow is the result instead. It’s on its way in the mail, and I hope it will be enjoyed.

I used a “knife edge” technique that makes the corners tuck in instead of sticking out — with no stuffing to give them definition. The photo below shows the detail, and it’s easy to do. Wrong side out, select a short distance in from the corners. One-half inch might do, or one inch. Draw a dot or an “X” using chalk or a disappearing fabric marker. Then use a large dinner plate or some other round flat object to taper a line towards both edges. Those lines, along with a regular seam allowance, are the lines you’ll stitch along. Proceed with trimming and turning inside out as usual.

When this type of pillow is turned to the right side and filled, the corners have a nice shape — worthy of gift giving. Of course there are many other pillow creation techniques, but it’s the one I chose for this pillow. And with that, I say “Happy Holidays”!

 

 

soundstitches sewing blog gift pillow

Vogue 8742

Vogue sewing patterns SoundStitches sewing blog fashion knit Pacific FabricsI’m making this Vogue look from a rust color ponte knit. I didn’t have enough to make the dress, so I’m making a tunic length top to wear with leggings. So far the look is flattering — another waist/bust/hip enhancing look for most of us.

I searched for other ladies’ results online and the pictures bring home to me the importance of choosing a substantial knit. That means a relatively heavy knit, such as ones you would wear for leggings or pants. Think winter instead of summer weight, and to test in the fabric store, squeeze a good handful of fabric, and see how it regains shape and whether it releases wrinkles soon. The right knit weight glides over your body without clinging (though of course wearing a slip or smooth undergarments further reduces “panty lines”).

In today’s standard patterns that contain both a sleeved and sleeveless look in the same package, the bodice pattern piece is identical. But ready-made sleeveless aren’t like this: looks don’t end at the sleeve cap but rather finish closer to the neck. Imagine you were feeling punk-ish and decided to take an old sleeved sweater from your closet to hack off and make a sleeveless sweater from. You could simply draw a line from the armpit to the top of the sleeve and cut it off. But, it would not result in a flattering look. Ready-made sleeveless looks cup in a bit to flatter the neck, arm and body. The sleeved look on Vogue 8742 works fine, but for the sleeveless look you’ll want to cut out another seam allowance-width of fabric.

Rusty red ponte knit
Rusty red ponte knit

In addition to changing the top’s length, I haven’t used the prescribed single-fold binding. Binding, sold in packages by Wrights, is stiff because it contains polyester along with cotton, and this stiffness just isn’t compatible with knits. Instead I purchased rayon seam binding for the neck and sleeveless armholes. (Pacific Fabrics carries many colors of seam binding in its stores. See if it’s available online too.) While rayon seam binding isn’t stretchy, it’s narrow, lightweight and both edges are finished. You can sew it to the dress fabric, right sides together. Attach it before you sew the shoulder seams, and you can eliminate backstitching. (I take time to suggest this because delicate rayon seam binding easily develops holes after the sewing needle goes over the same spot twice.) The rayon gives a worthwhile professional finish and eliminates the bulk created by twice turning over thick knit.

Early on, I accidentally ruched all the way down to the hem, as designed for the full-length dress. As I work on other details, I wonder what I will do with the hem. I may take out the gathering stitches so it will lie flat at the hem.

Finally, I’ve got to make an alteration where the back of the dress meets the neck. The last time I worked on other aspects of the top, I wondered if I even need a button closure. Most women’s heads measure about 21-22 inches (53-55 cm) around, and if the knit stretches this amount around the neckline, that’s all that’s needed. I’ll need to baste to test that out, and after Thanksgiving, I hope to finish up this rust-colored gem and wear it out of the house!

What’s Your Team?

Seattle Seahawks fleeceIn the United States, football season is off to a roaring start. American football season, that is. The season coincides with cooler weather in most of our climes. All that’s for the international folks — now Statesiders, what’s your favorite team, and what’s your favorite thing to make out of NFL team fleece? It’s a great gift for anyone who is a fan. The sewing is simple — no need to finish the raw edges, and fleece is forgiving of imperfect seams.

Single or married, young or old, little or large, a blanket is a great cozy thing to wrap up in while watching the game. Our house has a great wood fireplace and we are most often found in front of it during a game. (So are the cats, unfortunately: Cats + fleece = fur-lined blanket!)

I found NFL Fleece Fabric on Amazon.com and wonder what I could make from it this year…

Clothespin Bag as Harbinger of Spring

ClothespinBagIt’s no way near warm enough or dry enough where I live to hang the laundry out on a clothesline yet. But it’s one of the most enjoyable — and energy-saving — things to do in summer because the laundry dries so quickly and smells lovely. Last year, we really got into it and rarely used the clothes dryer from July to October. (The “smalls” or undies dry in the clothes dryer, if you’re wondering; we do have neighbors!) But one inconvenience is having to, with just one hand free, clip the clothespins back onto the line for next time.

A clothespin bag will do the trick, and for this simple project (called a “peg bag” overseas), I consulted my stash and some guidance from the book Sewing in No Time, a great book by Emma Hardy with lots of projects for the house.

I did not want mine to be frilly (read, discouraging ALL the members of my family from handling the laundry!), so I chose a plaid with warm reds and greens and a bit of blue, and a solid blue backing. There’s a half moon-shaped opening for tossing in the clothespins. The ribbon is a scrap, perhaps from a gift wrapping. Looking at the photo, the ribbon seems to need a little embellishing, which I might do, but it didn’t occur to me looking at the real thing, perhaps because the grosgrain pattern shows on the ribbon but not in the photo. Sewing in No Time uses a child’s wooden clothes hanger, but there aren’t many of those anymore, so I used the last remaining little-kid size hanger I could find. Pressing and top-stitching make the seams look crisp.

Maybe it’s simply that I can’t wait for warmer weather, but having a new clothespin bag on hand will make the dry season sweeter.

Knits Without Fear

SoundStitches copyright 2014 Renfrew TopI had fun making the Renfrew Top from Sewaholic Patterns. My friend Claire, so much more in the know about sewing trends than I, led me to this t-shirt pattern. I’m convinced that it’s not the fitting or sewing that makes sewers avoid knits, but rather mastering the neckline.

Not wanting to use the very nice fabric Claire gave me (“But Claire, you keep it — you like stripes.” “But I have more!”), I resorted to colorblocking from smaller pieces of sweatshirt terry fabric left over from past projects. My colorblocking was partially inspired by a list of Renfrew creations blogged by Making It Well. This warm orange-red is the red that my Spring complexion can wear, and the cream is a warm contrast. It’s rather sporty combo, I think.

Regardless of whether the color combo is your thing, the real success in this top is that I chose a very substantial knit. The cream is terry with Lycra. The orange-red is all-cotton terry.

The length of the pattern’s neckband was 24″. After several stitch-ins and removals, I settled on 22″. This is simply a painful process, but thankfully the fabric was thick enough to identify the stitching to pull, and one is not always so lucky with thinner knits. Go for a long basting stitch, then if the band is right, use a shorter stitch with a bit of zigzag to allow stretch (or a serger). For the hems of all knits, I interface with a 1″ strip. This gives the top-stitched hem a crispness and keeps the hem shape over many washings.

Really, this pattern is not very different from those that the commercial pattern companies issue (such as Simplicity, McCall’s, Kwik Sew). But the great photos of Sewaholic’s top — and all the blogs with cute photos of real women wearing them — are likely inspiring the knit-phobic to give it a try. All knit T’s all have the same components: A bodice, sleeves, and neck style. So you won’t avoid the pitfalls of knit necklines if you buy a commercial pattern — there is always fitting and the challenging neckline. But after you complete a few you’ll become convinced that you need not fear the knit. My next version will be in a thinner knit, and with warmer weather ahead, I look forward to wearing it without the usual fleece or sweater over top.

Renfrew Top by Sewaholic Patterns SoundStitches 2014