oh god, more squares

polar bear quilting cotton
polar bear quilting cotton

I got a bee in my bonnet about making furoshiki out of seasonal prints so I could match the print to the contents of the bundle. I started looking for appropriate prints and had difficulty finding anything that I particularly liked. I eventually ran across a polar bear print at the quilt shop that is walking distance from my house. (So much better than running the gauntlet out to big-box/excessive-traffic land.) I’m now putting away my winter gear, so it all came together nicely.

You know that saying “idle hands are the devil’s tools”? Well, another tool in that box is the rolled hem foot. I’m doing well if I can maintain the same number of curses per hour as regular sewing – it’s usually at least double.

sometimes the rolled hem foot works nicely...
sometimes the rolled hem foot works nicely…

It’s tricky to keep the proper amount (width) of fabric feeding through. Too much, and there’s no room in the hem for the raw edge, which peeks out the side. Too little, and all you get is a single fold with the raw edge sticking out, or it looks good and the raw edge is folded under but it didn’t get caught in the stitching.

... and sometimes, not so much
… and sometimes, not so much (but the really egregious bits, I redo)

My neighbourhood’s annual arts festival took place last week, culminating with the street fair – arts and crafts shopping – on Saturday. For about 10 seconds, I thought about having a booth and making furoshiki to sell, but that way madness lies. For one thing, I get so bored with hemming squares that it’s hard to do more than one in a row.

so instead of vending, I went dancing
so instead of vending, I went dancing

it’s curtains for you!

My husband asked me to make him some sheer curtains for his south-facing dorm room in the UK. He has black-out curtains, but nothing to both allow light in and block direct sun. (Yes, they do get direct sun occasionally.)

He brought me some measurements and I made two curtains out of thin linen-cotton that’s been in the stash for ages (the same stuff that I used for the garment bags). I figured that two selvage-to-selvage pieces would be wide enough, and that way there’s no finishing required on the sides. Top and bottom were folded twice and stitched.

He doesn’t want to tie the sheers directly to the existing curtain rod, because he’d have to untie them every time he wanted to close the black-out curtains. Instead, he wants to attach the sheers to the brackets supporting the rod, so hopefully he can continue to open and close the curtains as usual. I made ties using my tape maker and placed them where we figure the brackets are.

Here’s the pair of curtains. Super boring photo, right?


So we decided to spice it up a bit.


By the way, that one item in the foreground is NOT REAL! Cannot stress this enough!

stash -3.0 m

garment bags, round 2: for long, full skirts

I have two very full, ankle-length tiered skirts for dance. In my current group, black is verboten, so my black skirt gets very little use and has been starting literally to collect dust. My red skirt gets used regularly, but that still means a maximum of about once a month. I rarely wash them: I always have an under layer, which keeps the skirt away from skin; they’re linen and washing changes the finish; and they’re rather a bother to dry (definitely not going in the dryer!). Also, packing them in my trunk with my other (cotton) costume skirts would leave me with a wrinkled mess.

A garment bag like the ones I made recently (edges straight down from the ends of the hanger) wouldn’t work because of the fullness at the bottom of the skirt. They’re both 12m around the hem. I wanted the minimum of fabric around the hanger, but I needed more at the bottom so as not to squash the hem. I measured loosely around the hem of the skirt as it hangs on the hanger and came up with a measurement of roughly 45″/115cm. Around the top of the hanger plus a bit of ease worked out to 30″/76cm.

How then should I go about widening from 30″ to 45″? I took inspiration from my own skirts. I did a yoke piece with the smaller measurement and sewed on the bottom piece, controlling the (limited) fullness with pleats. Although I used knife pleats in these skirts, my non-costume skirts use inverted box pleats. I pinned the pieces and found that the fullness was easily controlled by a single set of inverted box pleats.


The length of the bag was again dictated by the width of the fabric. I put one selvage at the hem. Because of the yoke piece, I had a choice of whether to put the other selvage at the top edge or the yoke seam. I chose the latter, then used the selvage to self-bind the yoke seam.


stash -2.3 m

boot bag

Last Christmas, I gave my sister a pair of shoe bags. She mentioned that a bag that would fit a pair of boots would not go amiss.

I dug out the remaining scraps of the fabric I had used for the shoe bags last year. There wasn’t much, so I considered using some other fabric that wouldn’t require piecing. Nothing jumped out at me though, so I went with plan A.

I figured that the biggest piece (Luna Moth in turquoise) would make a bag that was too short and probably too wide, but I had a strip of Hive in raspberry that would make up the required length. There was a strip of Luna Moth in raspberry that would do for the drawstring. The colours all go together nicely as they’re all from the same manufacturer (Michael Miller) in complementary colour schemes.




I have a pair of boots that I guessed were about the height of the ones meant to go in the bag, so I measured them up to figure out good dimensions for the bag. As it turned out, the numbers I came up with pretty much matched the dimensions of the scraps I had. Here’s what was left after all was said and done:



Final dimension of the bag: 15.5″ x 23.75″ / 40 cm x 60 cm
Final dimensions of drawstring: 3/8″ x 37″ / 1 cm x 94 cm (I used an 18 mm tape maker)

garment bags

I have a few items in my closet that don’t get much use, so I thought I’d make some garment bags to keep the dust off.

I traced a hanger, straightened the lines, and added “ease” and seam allowance. (Note for next time – could have used a bit more ease.) for fabric, I used a white linen-cotton blend from the stash. I had bought quite a quantity of this, thinking that it would be perfect for SCA undertunics; I made 2 and then started working with 100% linen, leaving me with metres of the linen-cotton to get through.


Selvage to selvage makes a good length. Having a selvage at the bottom means no hemming.


stash -2.0 m


… is about the last word I’d use to describe this project.

Fringe belt, front view.
Fringe belt, rear view. What is up with the colour? Yes, the walls are yellow, but jeez…

So it’s obvious that I won’t be wearing this to work or to lounge around at home. As dance costume, it’s automatically “special occasion wear”.

With an ordinary costume piece, I could maybe eke out 2 wears per month at performances – unless I want to wear it to class, in which case that adds about 4 wears per month.

I do American Tribal Style belly dance, and while ATS costume is unusual, this item is a different brand of odd: it’s actually more of a tribal fusion item. (Never heard of tribal fusion? Go and google “Rachel Brice” – I’ll wait…)

The thing is, I don’t actually do tribal fusion. I’ve just started doing solos, which is technically considered “fusion” because ATS is a group improv style. It was only after I committed to doing my first solo that I twigged to the fact that, hey, I can wear whatever I want and I don’t have to match anyone in terms of style or colour, which is kinda nice. I figure I’ll try this fringe in class and see how I like it, then see if I need to figure out excuses to wear it.

So why, if this is not my style, did I make this in the first place? Well, I saw the photos from a recent performance. I’m 5’2″, and the two other people in my trio were about 5’7″ and 6′. In one shot, there’s also a bit of forced perspective going on so Ms. 6′ looked like Gandalf and I was Frodo. Or I was dancing in a hole, I haven’t made up my mind. Anyway, I decided I needed some vertical  lines.

Although this thing is wearable, it’s likely far from done. However, as it’s more a piece of art than a practical garment, I think I need to keep adding and keep assessing its progress.

What I’ve done so far:

  • made the front and back panels out of scraps of canvas and very thin electric blue cotton (doubled)
  • made strips of tape using my (bias) tape maker and attached on the backs of the panels as a mount for the yarn
  • added strands of yarn (mostly Colinette Point 5 “lagoon”, with a little deep electric blue single ply and bright teal single ply, all 100% wool), and some strips of torn electric blue cotton, some teal ribbon, and a few cowrie shells
  • torn blue cotton as ties on the sides
  • two bright teal tassels, a cream tassel (CB) (all wool), and two cream tassels (silk)
  • and all of this was from the stash! (bonus points!)

What may lie ahead:

  • bling up the top panels: they’re completely plain, which won’t do at all
  • replace the ties: one idea was to make ties in a colour to match whatever I have on underneath so they wouldn’t be visible; alternatively, I could make (more substantial) ties in blue (or maybe white) and have a succession of hip drapes (chains or strings of beads) in the same colour below
  • add tassels to the front: I wasn’t sure about the tassels before I put them on, but now I like them; the back looks more finished than the front, and this is likely why
  • all white tassels: the teal seem to blend a little, while the white shows up well (in these photos anyway)
  • add a couple of strands of white to the fringe

stash: -1 big skein of yarn, and sundry little bits

how not to use yarn

I am not a knitter but I’ve had a couple of projects using different sorts of yarn. My experience is very limited and quite sporadic, which is probably why I’ve made inappropriate choices and had more failures than successes.

Euroflax, 100% linen, sport weight, 4-ply

Exhibit A: some undyed, greyish linen yarn with a utilitarian, minimalist feeling. I’m a sucker for linen and bought this without a purpose in mind. I had a medieval clothing project and, thinking the yarn looked handspun, decided to separate the plies and use it as sewing thread.

The lesson: Don’t. Having never handspun thread, my idea of the appearance of handspun thread was not helpful, in the same way that some costume designer’s idea of the look of medieval clothing is not necessarily useful for building actual medieval clothing. The resulting thread was nowhere near strong enough and I had to restitch everything (I chose to use cotton quilting thread the second time around).

Briggs & Little Sport, 100% pure wool, 1-ply in "red heather" (orangey-red), "bleached white" (ivory) and "seafoam" (heathered slatey-green). Not quite so yellow in real life.

Exhibit B: some nicely coordinating sport-weight, 1-ply wool. I had tried my hand at tablet-weaving on a short length of crochet cotton, which worked well and inspired me to make another piece. I wanted a long woollen belt, which would be more appropriate for medieval Europe than cotton. I worked out a pattern, cut the yarn into 4m lengths, threaded it all up, and began to try to weave, at which point it fought back vigorously. (Actually, it probably started fighting back at the threading stage or earlier.) I left it for years, because what can you do with a pile of cut yarn? I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting it, and I wasn’t going to throw it out because waste like that drives me nuts. So it sat in the basement, quietly mocking me.

The lessons: The texture of the wool is grabby, so it didn’t want to do anything but tangle. If one strand can tangle by itself by simply being dropped on the floor, imagine what mischief 100 or so strands can do. This suggests some kind of a “one-strand tangle test” before blithely cutting yarn for the entire project.

The wool is single ply, which I suspect makes it want to ply with (i.e. twist around) its neighbours. The different colours are all the same brand and type, but the off-white seemed to have a little more stretch than the other colours, which made it impossible to keep even tension.

The colours, although beautiful, are warm rather than cool and so they don’t even really suit me.

The other day, some of the folks from dance got together to discuss tassel belts and make some tassels. Aha! Tassels would be a good way to use pre-cut (i.e. otherwise useless) yarn, and if I don’t want to use what I make, someone else may be able to put the tassels to good use. I’ve finally disassemblemd the failed weaving project, which turns a UFO into materials, and that pleases me. It happens that I have another skein of the same yarn in a colour (mulberry) that works with a current project. My aversion to waste sometimes gets in the way of necessary experimentation, but I can use the pre-cut yarn to work out the kinks (so to speak) and still feel like I’m ahead of the game.

DMC Tapestry Wool, 100% pure virgin wool, 4-ply

Exhibit C: black tapestry wool. I was looking for some yarn to repair a thin spot on the elbow of a black sweater, so I went to the yarn shop and asked for advice. I wanted cotton because the sweater is cotton-like (secondhand, no label), but the cotton yarn available was rather thin. The clerk suggested wool because it was a better weight. My careful stitching on the elbow has become a felt patch. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not what I was going for!

The lesson: even a little bit of wool needs to be laundered in a wool-appropriate manner. Better yet, use the same fibre to patch – which is what I intended to do in the first place. In other words, trust my instincts.

bread bags

Dusting out the drafts folder today. I knew I hadn’t posted in a while, but yikes – 3 months! Christmastime, prepping for a trip, going on the trip, tediously blogging about the trip, etc etc etc, all of this prevented me from posting here. So without further ado…

Having seen this project on the Fabrics-store.com website, I thought I’d give it a try for Christmas. The idea is that a linen bag regulates the humidity of the bread inside more effectively than paper or plastic. I haven’t actually made myself one yet, so I don’t know for sure how well they work. I suppose if they don’t work, you could always just put shoes in them!

bread bag 1

Bag finished dimensions 11″ x 17″, side fold, french seams, medium weight sky-blue linen. Drawstring made using 18mm tape maker, light weight orange linen.

bread bag 2

Bag finished dimensions 10″ x 16″, bottom fold, french seams, medium unbleached linen (rough texture). Drawstring made using 18mm tape maker, muslin (cotton).

Ideally I suppose the dimensions of the bag would depend on the size of the bread you want to put in it. So far, I’m just letting the dimensions of the scraps dictate the final size and whether the fold (if applicable) is on the bottom or side. Likewise, I’m not fussy about the length of the drawstring as long as it’s at least about 8″/20cm longer than the casing.

shoe bags

I made some shoe bags for Christmas, which is a nice way to use up scraps.

shoe bag

I like to press the casing while everything is still flat. I folded the top edge over at 1¼” and pressed, then folded the raw edge in to the fold and pressed.

One side is on the fold. The other side and the bottom are french seamed. Finished dimensions are 10″ x 14″.

I cut the drawstring 36mm wide to fit through an 18mm tape maker; final width is 9mm/ 3/8″.

Fabric is Michael Miller Luna Moth in turquoise (bag) and raspberry (drawstring).

tip: comforter cover ties

How to make putting your comforter in its cover easy, the Japanese way:

  • sew ties to the corners and midpoints of the comforter itself (I used 8″ lengths of ½” wide twill tape, folded in half – I wouldn’t go any shorter than this – an inch or two longer would be better)
  • sew loops to the corners and midpoints of the comforter cover (I used 3″ lengths of the same twill tape, folded in half, with about a ½” SA from the raw edges making the loop about 1″ long)
  • with cover inside out and with loops facing up, put the comforter on top and tie all the ties
  • flip cover right side out
  • the comforter is in its cover without a half-hour of fussing to get everything where it belongs – yay!
Loop on the cover and ties on the comforter. I used the same twill tape for loops and ties, but the ties are older and the loops are new, hence the different appearance.

What makes this Japanese? On the basis of the items that my place in Japan was stocked with, it was my impression that all comforters and covers came standard with ties and loops there.