new process and forward motion

It’s been almost two months now since I instituted my new approach to finding time for sewing. Because there are always lots of little decisions to make when sewing, and I’m generally tired and indecisive in the evening, I prefer to sew with “morning brain”. That means that weekday evenings are out. Also, I always feel like there’s something else I should be doing on a Saturday morning, like cleaning or provisioning. So I’ve assigned sewing to a three-hour slot on Sunday morning (I give myself 3 hours from whenever I get started, even if it’s after 10).

I’ve assigned other weekend tasks to other time slots, so not only do I allow myself to sew during sewing time, but I also don’t permit myself to do the other stuff. I don’t have to worry about spending too much time on sewing either, since I have a “budget”; if I want to come back sewing after I’ve done my other tasks, I can, though I haven’t yet.

This system has been working well for me so far. One thing I’ve noticed is that once I start sewing, I don’t want to stop. I originally assigned the slot to sewing and laundry, but I’ve been noticing that I haven’t wanted to count laundry time against the total. It’s is a bit of a surprise for me, since my prior routine was: think about sewing, decide I was too tired, don’t bother starting.

I’m also getting a better idea of how much time I spend on projects. (A lot.) Research often takes a lot of time, and I take my sweet time cutting too. I could speed up if I wanted to, but I don’t think I want to. This isn’t a race, and it isn’t an attempt to create a vast, teetering pile of stuff. I have no desire to transform the stash (which is by definition essentially unusable as is) into a pile of garments that I don’t like enough to actually use. Why waste my time? Sometimes my research crosses the line into agonizing, but as long as I’m learning and moving forward I think it’s all good. If I keep working on a particular fit or skill, eventually I’ll get there and I won’t agonise any more.

Actually, a nice side effect that I wasn’t anticipating is that when I have three hours to fill with sewing, I agonise a little bit then get bored with it, which seems to push me to make a decision faster than I would have if I’d completely changed gears. This is good.

I have two current projects. One doesn’t look like anything yet. The other one is almost there so I think I’ll wait for the big reveal. However, to pique your interest, here are the fabrics I’m working with.

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Top: medium weight linen in “wisteria”. Bottom: polyester knit, background is plum.

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mending: winter coat

My winter coat isn’t perfect, but I really like it. It’s wearing out but I would rather mend it than try to replace it. (Someday I’ll make myself a new winter coat, but that day is not today.) This is a Swiss army surplus coat, probably for a cadet.

The cuffs fold back deeply, which is one of the details I like about it.

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This puts a fold at the wrist, which is subject to a lot of wear. The left cuff had some holes but the right was worn all the way through along almost half of the cuff. I don’t usually continue to wear items that are this damaged, but it’s my only coat and in this climate I wear it daily about 5 months of the year, most of the time with mitts, which helps explain the wear pattern.

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I decided to put a long strip of fabric on the inside of the fold and stitch it to the cuff using a triple-zigzag stitch. I had two pieces of wool fabric that would work colour-wise. One was heavier – a melton I think. The other was a flannel. When I put the melton along the inside of the fold, it seemed too thick, so I used the flannel. Although the colour of the patch looks quite different, it’s actually very similar, just more saturated.

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The thread was a reasonable match for the coat (though still far from perfect), and it helps the patch blend in the places where it shows.

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(The dark grey visible inside the sleeve in this last photo is the evidence of the patch to the lining that was done in 2006 ago. I got someone to do this for me when I was overseas and away from my sewing machine. Must be polyester because there’s hardly any wear. The same can’t be said for the cotton lining that it’s patching.)

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(This is the best I can do for an action shot with my current photography situation.)

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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?

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So we decided to spice it up a bit.

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

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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.

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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.

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stash -2.3 m

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organic, free range, cruelty-free, artisanal mending

This mending project must be all those things to explain why I didn’t finish until more than two years after I started!

I had darning needles and cotton yarn that was a good colour match for the sweater, but I stalled because I couldn’t quite see what I was doing where the threads were thinnest. (Also, I didn’t really know what I was doing.) I tried to work on it during the sunlit hours in the winter, when the sun was shining straight in and onto my work. However, sunlit hours in the winter are few. (But not far between – they actually tend to rather clump up.) I eventually put it away and forgot about it.

Then Carolyn posted about darning with her darning mushroom. Someone commented that you could use a lightbulb in a pinch. These days, non-curly lightbulbs are becoming somewhat rare so it took me a while to procure one.

Then, on a trip to Oxford, I found a shop called Objects of Use, which is filled with retro-styled, practical items, mostly made of wood, glass, enamelled metal, horn, ceramic etc. Imagine my delight to spot what appeared to be a darning mushroom! They billed it as a sieving mushroom, but mentioned you could darn with it too. (The wood is a bit rough, unlike the proper darning mushrooms I’ve seen online.)

During a recent purge of my sewing space, I rediscovered (for about the 12th time) my sweater in need of mending on one elbow and gave it a go. The mushroom holds everything even and stable. It’s much easier to see the stitches, see where to put the needle and keep good tension. Once I got going, it probably only took me about 15 minutes to finish up. Woo! (My technique looks nothing like the darning I’ve seen by people who know what they’re doing. Rather than take sewing-type stitches, I just tried to follow the twisting path of the original knit stitches. I like how it looks and I think it will work just fine this time, so whatever. In future I might try it the right way. See Carolyn’s darning mushroom post for instructions.)

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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.

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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:

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Sweet!

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)

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sorry for all the crappy photos

Problem #1
Winter

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When I get home after work, it’s already dark. No outdoor photos. We can have snow for about 5 months of the year.

Problem #1a
No landscaping

Even in the summer, outdoor photos are a bit of a no go. The back yard is a bunch of dirt, a space where a deck used to be, and aged, falling-down fences on three sides. Not pretty. The front yard is small, just grass, with the only view being neighbours’ houses.

Problem #2
Dark interior

I like my house, but it’s quite dark inside. It’s pleasant for being in but crappy for photos.

Problem #3
Computer issues

My laptop isn’t working. (I’ve done precisely nothing about it, yet it’s still broken.) I’m stuck using the camera on the iPad.

Problem #4
Laziness

No comment.

So yes, I’m aware of the issue, but no, it’s not likely to change any time soon!

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