I’m in a Fashion Show at Flagstaff Photography Center

 

FPC Fashion show poster

Look, my name is on this poster!

 

I know what you’re thinking, I’m too short to be a model – but it’s not like that!  Actually, there’s an eclectic show at FPC this month, celebrating fashion, photography, and the intersection between art and what we wear, and featuring some of my work!

 

4 bags photo fashion

 

If you are in town, come by, I will be there this Thursday night for the fashion forum, and Friday during First Friday art walk.  I have a lovely selection of one of a kind purses, scarves, and wallets in the show, all made from recycled and handmade materials and totally unique!  Plus the work of four different photographers, and some totally wild and amazing macramé masks made by Sheree.

 

4 scraves photo fashion

 

If you’re not near Flagstaff, I’ve also been working feverishly on my latest project, which will be available worldwide, very soon if all goes well!

 

All’s Well That Ends Well, but Please, Don’t Put Your Wool in the Washine Machine

 

 

 

viola outfit 2

 

At one point, I considered not writing this post at all, because I’m pretty embarrassed about how this skirt got to the point where it needed remodeling in the first place.  But in the end, there was no way to not write about it, especially since I ended up wearing this once-shameful skirt to dressy Flagstaff event (maybe the only dressy Flagstaff event? We always joke that people here wear jeans to everything) . . .

I made this skirt, as near as I can figure, about 10 years ago!  This was a time before I knew much at all about wool, other than the basics; it comes from sheep, it’s been used since ancient times, people say it’s lovely, etc.  It may be worth pointing out that this was also years before I had felted anything, on purpose or otherwise.  You probably see where this is going.  I put a sample of the fabric though a normal cycle in the washing machine.  Nothing happened, the fabric looked just about the same as when it went in.  “Great!”  I thought.  I made up the skirt using the Folkwear Walking Skirt pattern, one I love and have used a lot.  And, I continued to wash it in the machine.  It never went in the dryer, thankfully, or what happened next probably would have been a much shorter process.  As it was, the fabric continued to look like nothing happened, for many years, for dozens and dozens of washes.  But eventually, all that agitation inevitably started the fibers felting together.  By last winter it was impossible to ignore.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 1

 

Since I now know quite a bit about felting, once I could look past my obvious horror since I had ruined some lovely fabric, I found it fascinating that the places on the skirt where small parts of the fabric were stitched to each other (the waistband, hem, and back placket) were still unfelted, while the big skirt pieces were noticeably felted, thicker and fuzzier.  Actually, it was the contrast between the two parts that made the skirt look weird, especially the unfelted hem, which looked almost gathered against the felted skirt.  My current theory is that since the hem and placket fibers couldn’t move as much, they couldn’t interlock to felt like the others did.

The skirt sat in my to-fix pile until I figured out a plan, actually a pretty simple one, which I think is essential to not spending inordinate amounts of time remodeling something.  I would cut off the not-as-felted hem, waistband, and placket, fit the remaining felted skirt to a wider and lower waistband facing, make a new placket, and re-hem it.  Above you can see my chalk lines for what to cut in the back, I continued the line of the wider side of the placket down to the hem, and cut a symmetrical amount from the other side of center back, to keep the back pieces the same size.  I got little pieces of felted fabric to use for my new placket from the extra cut off below the old placket.

 

viola outfit 3

 

While I working on this project, I was also trying to figure out what I would wear to the Viola awards.  They’re Flagstaff’s yearly art and science awards for teaching, exhibits, and community outreach, and they throw a big Oscar-like party to give them out.  Bryan was nominated for one this year, for the exhibit of his In a Big World Wandering work, for which we also made the giant silk cyanotype.  I’d never been before, and I wondered what would everyone wear, what should I wear, should I borrow something, is it more like a costume party, should I wear something shiny?

I am not a shiny person.  In the end, I decided not even to go to my friend’s and try on formals to borrow, but instead to wear something that reflects who I really am.  Not only that, but I realized I could actually wear the lovely tailored skirt I was working on – if I went ahead and finished it!  I took the photos of my outfit right before we left, and I think you can tell I was pretty thrilled with my decision.  If what we wear tells everyone we meet a lot about who we are and where we stand, shouldn’t it be even more important, at an event where people are actually paying attention to my clothes, for me to wear something that shows my values and my heart?

 

pinstripe skirt and top

 

So I wore the rescued skirt, in it’s newly tailored glory!  Note the buttery folds.  And a nubbly cream silk tank top I made to wear to a wedding last year (same copied pattern as this linen one) which has proved more useful than I thought it might.  The shawl is something I started knitting for our wedding, realized would never be done in time, and eventually finished later.  (It’s a longer and wider version of the Fiber Trends Cocoon Lace Wrap, in a wool/alpaca blend lace weight yarn.)  It’s drapey and surprisingly warm, enough to keep me comfortable outside while I took the photos.  The pin holding it closed was my grandmother’s.  I didn’t make the tights or shoes, but I still love them . . . topped off with my winter coat, and I felt like I had stepped back to the ’40’s.

 

bryan and tasha viola photo booth

 

Proof that we went and I wore this outfit!  If you are curious what others wore, or what the event looked like, there are lots and lots more photos on the Facebook page for the organization.   We didn’t win (Bryan’s photo exhibit was up against the opening of the Discovery Channel Telescope!  And the winner, a recycled art exhibition that’s been going strong for 10 years here) but it was a really fun party, and I got lots of compliments, especially on the shawl.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 2

 

But back to the skirt, and I might as well confess one more thing, I feel slightly guilty but I can’t help it; I like this fabric more now than I did in it’s new/intended state.  It’s so soft but with so much body, and it tailors like a dream.  In fact, making the new placket and waistband gave me the itch to sew with wool again, it’s just a pleasure to work with.  This has got to be the flattest-laying, easiest-pressed-in-place placket I’ve ever made.  And the buttonholes – I made them by hand with a single strand of waxed black cotton sewing thread, and it was as if I sealed the cut edges with a magic wand.  Not only can you not see the stitches here, I couldn’t see them in my studio while sewing in broad daylight.  Note the pockets!  Another benefit of me-made formal wear.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 3

 

I also thought about how much I’ve learned in the last ten years.  I was able to add several refinements to this second round of the skirt, including using rayon ribbon on a lot of the edges to reduce bulk, adding a contoured waistband that fits my figure, and using catch stitches to secure the hem and placket so they wouldn’t show from the outside.  Now that it’s on a strictly hand-wash-only plan, the new and improved version should last me another ten years at least!

 

viola outfit 1

 

Morals of the story: please wear your heart on your sleeve, especially to formal events.  Sometimes a silk purse is lurking inside the sow’s ear of your mistakes.  And people please, no wool in the washing machine!

 

 

Update: How to Fix a Small Hole in Knit Fabric

kitchener stitch 6

 

When I published this post about fixing small holes in sweaters and other knit clothes, I realized I didn’t really have pictures of repairing a hole in the middle of the fabric, not near a seam, and I said I’d add some if the opportunity came up.

Well, it did.  One of the lovely things when word gets out that you work with a certain material (in this case recycled cashmere garments) is that every now and then, someone just gives you some.  The best thing about this as far as I’m concerned, better than the free stuff, is that I have absolutely no obligation to use the donated items for business purposes unless I want to.  Therefore, when someone gives me not-yet-felted cashmere sleep pants (thank you thank you Lauren!) I get to yell “Cashmere SLEEP PANTS!” try them on immediately, and wear them myself!

They also had one small hole, a perfect example to fix.  It was perfect but, um, fuzzy and a little hard to see (who’d have thought, right, fuzzy cashmere?) so I also snipped a hole in my sample from the how to pick up a dropped stitch in knitting post, fixed it, and included those pictures as well.  Click on the link above to see the updated post.

Here’s to enjoying the materials life gives you!  And happy mending!

 

fix sleep pants 3

 

Me-Made Purple Corduroys—How Life is Like Fitting Pants

purple cords 1

 

Where to begin?  I think I could talk about these pants and all their glories and implications well past what you would read.  Well – I think I’ll begin with why they are purple, which will lead right into why they are fitted, which will lead right into why they are the best pants I’ve ever had.

So, a few years ago now, my aunt got this pair of purple corduroy pants, and for some strange reason I fell in love with them at first sight.  I’m not usually into purple, or brightly colored trousers, nevertheless I’ve wanted my own pair ever since.  I found 1 1/2 yards of, get this, lavender hemp and organic cotton corduroy on the NearSea Naturals clearance page!  (It had a “stain” on it, which washed right out.)  Update: although I love love love the idea of this fabric, the color of this fabric, and the resulting pants, the fabric is just not sturdy enough.  I got about a year of good-looking wear out of these before the corduroy pile started coming out, even with washing them inside out and not once putting them through the dryer, and that is just not enough for something I made.  If anyone knows of a source for sustainable, long-lasting fabric, please let me know!  The good news: all the work I did on fitting (keep reading) is already transferred to the pattern and waiting for me to find the next fabric! 

I thought this was the perfect amount of fabric.  I planned to make another pair just like my grey pants, even though I wasn’t sure that wide leg would be the best look for purple corduroys, I would figure out that fit first, and save more close-fitting pants for another day/next fall maybe.  Well – it turned out that all the wide leg pattern pieces would not fit on this much fabric.  To fit them in I had to narrow the legs quite a bit.  Well.  I just tapered the tops of the pattern pieces from the grey pants into the narrower legs, cut them out, and this is what I got.

 

purple cords fitting

 

Clearly those fabric saddle bag areas on the sides had to go straight away, that was the easy part.  Getting a better fit through the seat/inner thigh area took a lot more work.  Every day for weeks, my sewing time consisted of: ripping out and re-basting in a slightly different position some part of the crotch seam and/or inseam and/or side seam, trying the pants on, deciding what to rip out next (often the same part).  Although I worked on these only a little bit each day (partly to keep myself from getting frustrated and doing something hasty/stupid), I thought a lot about how life is like fitting pants.  The baking equivalent might be yeast bread, or even macarons.  There are a lot of variables, and each one seems to affect all the others, so that a small tweak in one area can change all kinds of things I would not expect.  But, if I just keep plugging away, trying things, seeing what happens, I will eventually reach a place where I am very happy with the results.

 

purple cords side

 

Well – I really could not be happier with this result!  Although I have tweaks to make in the next version (pants are clearly a journey, not a destination) they are the first pair I’ve ever had that really fit and flattered my figure, they’re incredibly comfortable, and I’m ridiculously satisfied with myself when I wear them.

If it wasn’t for the fact that things need washing, (Ok, and I do love skirts, and some days are for grubby clothes, etc.) I might conceivably wear these straight through until they wore out.

 

purple cords sewing table

 

Some sewing and fitting things I figured out while making them:

I took out all that extra I added to the back inseam of the grey ones, and then some.  Clearly a different fit requires a different shape.

See that diagonal wrinkle across the back hip in the first fitting?  I tried all kinds of things to get rid of that; letting out the side seam, unpicking the waistband and pulling the pants up, but nothing worked, until I saw something in Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong (which is one of my all-time favorite sewing books, expensive but worth it, I asked for it for Christmas one year).  It was one of my cousin’s textbooks at FIT in San Fransisco, and it shows you how to draft a pattern for just about anything you could ever want to make, plus all kinds of construction techniques.  It’s designed more for the fashion industry that for home sewers, and there’s not a lot about fitting, so I guess it says something that there is a section on pants fitting, where I found an illustration of a similar wrinkle with this note, “insufficient dart intake for dominant buttocks.”  That’s not how I’d like to think about my derriere, but the part about the dart totally worked!  I had been leaving that dart alone since I fit it in the last pants, but clearly it’s not a good idea to start think of any part of the fit as “finished” when I am changing the rest.

 

purple cords back

 

purple cords edgestitching

 

I used my edge stitching foot for the first line of top stitching (with a size 100 topstitching needle, moving the needle slightly to the left), and it worked great!  It was much easier to get an even stitching line with that little guide riding right on the edge.  I am now trying to figure out how I can use a similar guide for for the second line of topstitching, further to the inside..  Anyone know of a foot like that?  I used two colors topstitching and I really like it, one pair of Bryan’s jeans has that look and I decided to try it out.

 

purple cords inside

 

I trimmed a bit of the waistband lining before applying the rayon ribbon to the bottom edge, next time I’ll trim a bit more, but I like this finish.

If the legs look a bit long, I left them that way on purpose.  I keep noticing that the hems of cotton pants tend to creep up just a bit over time with washing, usually after I fix them just how I want them.  I’m not sure what the shrinkage of hemp is, but if these don’t get any shorter after a while I can always hem them up a bit more.

By the way, the above shot of the inside waist is probably the closest I got to the actual color, for some reason this purple seems to be hard to capture.

That’s about it, I guess, unless of course you want to talk some more about sewing, body image, and the power of DIY, etc. . . . if you see me around, I’ll be wearing these pants, and feeling happy!

 

tasha in purple cord pants

 

 

How to Fix a Small Hole in a Knit – Glorious Mending

fix sleep pants 1

 

Before I lose anyone who doesn’t currently have a sweater to fix, I’d like to mention a couple of really interesting things about mending and repair I’ve come across while working on this post.  The first one is Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending Programme, which is based on darning knits and on the idea that mending is something to be proud of.  Pretty much needless to say, I love this idea and it’s implications.  The second one is about fixing all kinds of other things, I saw it just yesterday (via Boing Boing via Root Simple) it’s a project by Paulo Goldstein called Repair is Beautiful in which he repairs all kinds of things (like a lamp, a chair, headphones) in unusual and beautiful ways.  I love the aesthetic of his project, it says all kinds of provocative things about repair, not just that it can be lovely and unusual to look at, but also he’s calling attention to the repairs, asking you to think about what it means to fix something.  Check it out, the pictures are way better than my description.

So, after all that, just an invisible mend for today – kind of disappointing I know, sorry!  I do have some ideas for visible mending of a couple of things now in my to-fix pile, and I’ll share them as they are done, but sometimes, you just need to repair a little hole.  The idea for his post started a month or so ago, when I realized that two of my favorite light sweaters/tops were sprouting holes under the arms.  Not big enough holes to need filling in/darning, but still enough to need fixing before they got out of hand.  Sometimes I even happen to catch a problem when it’s still a thread that’s about to break, like the one near the arrow below.  Most of the time, I don’t notice until it’s more like the hole on the left.

 

knit fabric fix 1

 

If you do find a weak thread that’s still intact, you can “trace” along it, following its path with a new stronger thread.  This is a fine gauge sweater, and I had sewing thread almost exactly the same color, so I used that.  You can also try embroidery floss or yarn of various types and thicknesses to get something close to your garment yarn, or something you like as a contrast.  There will probably be at least one stitch that is only made up of the mending thread, so if you want it to be invisible, choose something as close as possible to the original yarn of the garment.

 

knit fabric fix 2

 

We’re now looking at the sweater from the inside.  I like to start a repair like this by anchoring the thread somewhere where you won’t see it, like in the seam or in the back of a nearby intact knit stitch, with a couple of back stitches.  Then I start picking up the parts of the sweater that are coming apart.  Can you see how the thread and needle are following the path of the weak stitch?  In this case, that’s all I need, so I’ll go back to the seam, take two more back stitches, bury and clip the thread, and I’m done.

Ok, how about a hole that’s progressed a little further?  Also illustrated further down is a small hole with one broken thread, keep scrolling down for that one.

 

knit fabric fix 3

 

The first step here is to pick up the fallen stitches as much as possible.  Remember when I said that knowing how to pick up a dropped stitch in knitting would help you figure out how to fix things?  (Incidentally, I learned I new tip from my resident photography expert to make the photos from that post clearer, so I went back and edited them, it should be easier than ever to see what’s going on.  You can click on those photos, and the ones in this post to enlarge them as well.)

 

knit fabric fix 4

 

I’m not going to lie, it helps to have a really small crochet hook, or another tool with a tiny hook on the end.

 

knit fabric fix 5

 

It may also help to use a safety pin to hold any stitches that may pop loose while you work on the rest.

 

knit fabric fix 6

 

When you have picked up as many of the stitches as you can, it’s time to stitch the hole closed.  Start by anchoring the thread with backstitches again, in this case in the nearby seam.

 

knit fabric fix 7

 

For a small hole right near the seam like the one in this pink sweater, I basically stitch the sides of the hole to the seam, making a couple of passes and trying to keep my sewing stitches looking as much like the knitting as possible, which often involves going back and forth and going though each knitting stitch more than once.  Again resist the temptation to pull the thread very tight, or you’ll pucker the fabric.

 

knit fabric fix 8

 

If the hole is in the middle of an area with no seams, still start by picking up any dropped stitches that you can.  Take the anchoring backstitches through only the wrong side part of a nearby stitch, so that they don’t show from the outside.  Bury the thread between backstitches by moving diagonally, again piercing the stitches and not going all the way through to the front side.  In a garment with thicker yarns, you can fix the hole first and bury the yarn ends later, the body and friction of the thicker yarn will usually keep them from unraveling, although of course you can also do backstitches if you wish.  In any case, avoid pulling the mending yarn too tight or the fabric will pucker.

If the hole is too big to look good when pulled almost closed, it’s time to darn it, which will make a more visible patch.  (Look up “darn a sock” if you aren’t sure how.  You could start with Zoe’s post about it, which is where I first found out about Tom of Holland as well).

 

kitchener stitch 1

 

The mend will be most invisible if you can mimic the structure of the knitting.  The knitting term for this is Kitchener Stitch.  If you search for it, you’ll find all kinds of diagrams and instructions, but the only way it ever makes sense to me is just to look at the knitting and follow the path of the yarn.  Start a couple stitches away from the hole to make sure that you catch all the threads around it, and to practice moving the needle the way that the yarn goes.  When you get to the missing area, try to keep the pattern going.  This will involve going through a stitch above and a stitch below the hole, then the next stitch below with the same stitch above, or a similar pattern.  I’ll say it one more time, the mending yarn needs to replace some of the yarn that broke, so let it be there and don’t pull too tight.

 

kitchener stitch 2

 

kitchener stitch 3

 

fix sleep pants 2

 

I fixed the sample from the right side, and the cream knit pants from the wrong side.  You can do either one, whatever works best for you.  Just check the public side if you are working from the inside, and make sure no stitches that you don’t want to show are showing.

 

kitchener stitch 5

 

fix sleep pants 3

 

For a little hole like these, we’re just about done!  If you are tracing the knitting stitches with mending thread, keep going past the hole to make sure that you catch all the stitches which the broken one was connected to.  End with a couple of backstitches to make sure that everything will stay in place, and leave a short tail of the mending thread or yarn on the wrong side so that they don’t pull out.  With thicker yarns, you can use a sharp needle to bury the mending yarn, and any leftover ends of the original yarn, by piercing the back side of the nearby stitches.

 

fix sleep pants 4

 

kitchener stitch 7

 

The finished repairs.  Believe it or not, the arrow points to the replaced stitch in the cream knit.  The green sample still has two ends to bury in the back.

 

knit fabric fix 9

 

fix sleep pants 5

 

kitchener stitch 6

 

If you have questions about mending something, or an unusual repair you made to share, I’d love to hear about it, do share!

 

How to Pick Up a Dropped Stitch in Knitting

 

dropped stitch drawing 1

 

I wanted to show you how to fix hole in a sweater (or other knitted article) and as I started putting words and pictures with how I do it, it became more and more obvious that knowing this first would be extremely helpful.  So, even if you don’t knit, keep reading . . .

A “dropped” stitch is one that falls off a knitting needle, or the thread above it breaks (like a run in stockings) so that it becomes disentangled from the stitch above it.

Knitting is just pulling loops through loops.  When one loop pops out of the loop below it, it releases into a long loose bar, and can easily cause a chain reaction.  But please do not panic, it’s almost as easy to pick those loops up again as it was for them to pop out in first place.

 

dropped stitches 1

  

If more than one column of stitches is coming undone, first find the last/uppermost intact loop of each column and stick something (like a safety pin or a piece of yarn) though it, to keep that column from unraveling any further while you work on the others.

 

dropped stitch drawing 2

 

To pick up a stitch, get a crochet hook (mine is tiny – I found it in a heat vent in an apartment we rented in Madison, and it’s been in my knitting bag ever since – a little bigger one will probably be easier to work with).  Stick the hook through the last intact loop, grab the bar above that loop with the hook, and pull the bar through the loop.  It will form a new loop.  Ta da!  I think it’s easiest (and doesn’t cause twisted stitches) to have the hook facing down, grab each bar from above and pull it straight through.  This does mean you’ll need to take the hook out and stick it straight through the new loop to pick up another bar, if your stitch has dropped more than one row.

 

dropped stitch drawing 3

 

One refinement; knit stitches are loops pulled toward you, and purl stitches are loops pulled away from you.  So, to pick up a knit stitch, have the bar behind the old loop, and pull it toward you.  To pick up a purl, put the bar in front of the old loop, insert the hook from the back, and pull the bar away from you to make a new loop, as shown above.  That’s it!  Not only can you now pick up stitches, if you’re paying attention you’ll understand the fundamental structure of knitting, and the difference between knit and purl stitches.  Pretty cool, eh?

 

dropped stitches 3

dropped stitches 4

 

If you’re working with a bigger area of dropped stitches, pick up one column at a time by making a new loop from each bar, making sure to pick up the bars in their natural order.  Move them around with your finger and check which ones connect to the adjacent stitches where to make sure.  The two pictures above show picking up one column of purl stitches.  When you get to the top of a column, put the last loop back on whichever needle is convenient to continue working, you can rearrange them when you’re done.  Make sure that the loop is sitting on the needle the same way as the other ones which did not fall off – flip it the other way and check if you aren’t sure.

  

dropped stitches 2

 

Move to the next column if there is one, and pick up the bars in order again, until all the top loops are sitting on the needles again.  Look to see where the yarn you are working with is coming from, this is always the last stitch you knit.  You may need to pass stitches which haven’t been knit on this row yet back to the left needle to get them ready to work.  Remember to pass them with the needles tip to tip, which won’t twist the stitches.  And we’re done!

  

dropped stitches 6

 

Now that dropping stitches and picking them up is not so scary, we come to the second great thing about knowing this: you can do it on purpose to fix other mistakes.  Say you look back and realize that three or four rows previous to where you are now, you knit a stitch when you should have purled it in your pattern.  Instead of ripping out all the stitches you’ve done since then, you can just drop the stitch directly above the mistake, and let it ladder down as far as you need.  Then, you can pick up each stitch as a knit or a purl, whatever you need to make your pattern right – and your mistake is fixed!

 

dropped stitches 5

  

I was mostly done with the photos for this post, and wondering if they were clear enough, when I remembered that I already had drawings, scanned in and ready to go, from the handouts I make for in-person classes – a good thing!

If you have questions about this, or another topic you’d like to see featured here, just let me know.  Happy making!

 

Carving a Handmade Rubber Stamp

This will be the first post of a couple about making stamps and using handmade stamps and objects to print on fabric.  For some reason, once you add the words “on fabric” to any art technique, I am suddenly interested . . . but of course you can also use hand carved stamps on paper, and even clay!  My aunt Barb taught me to make stamps, she uses hers to make beautiful collage-type art, in her handmade books (where I found this design which she let me use in an earlier post), and in her pottery work.  We talked about a feature of her art to go along with this how-to, but it’s a busy season for both of us, so we’ll save that to look forward to later.

 

 
For today, how to carve a stamp!  You will need a tool called a linoleum cutter (seen in the second picture), which you can get at most art stores, and some kind of block to carve.  Lately I’ve used two kinds, pink stuff called “Speedy-Carve” from Speedball, which I got at the chain art and crap store here, and brown “Eco Karve Printing Plate” from Inovart (made of recycled material!), which I ordered from Blick along with the paint.  The pink kind is a little softer, slightly easier to carve, and much easier to see to see your pencil designs on because of the lighter color.  It’s a little thin for bigger stamps, which can get floppy if you don’t attach them to anything.  I liked carving and printing with the brown stuff, and it’s thicker, and easier to see what you have carved out than the pink, but it can be hard to see your transfer design on the darker surface.  When I started making stamps we used a whitish carving block, which as far as I can tell from the scraps was also made by Speedball.  It’s not my favorite, little bits of it can crumble away while you’re carving, where you’d rather they didn’t (you can kind of see this in the inside corners of the star stamp).  In any case, you can probably find a material near you to try it out.

Now that you have your materials, you need a design.  I have been into five-petaled flower designs lately, and I liked the artwork on the posters for the cherry blossom festival we saw in DC earlier this year, so I decided on a cherry blossom stamp.  You can draw on the rubber carving stuff, but I find it easier to draw on paper and transfer the design.  It’s easier to erase your mistakes or start over, and the design when you stamp it will be the same as you drew it, instead of a mirror image (because it’s flipped once when you transfer it and again when you stamp).

It helps to use a soft pencil and make thick lines.  You can get a fair amount of detail in your stamps, but don’t go crazy with fine lines for the first one you make!  Once you have a design you like, flip the paper over onto the carving block, hold it still, and rub it with something hard and flattish, like a spoon or a bone folder, to transfer the design onto the rubber.  You’ll get more out of your carving blocks if you place the design on a corner instead of right in the middle.

 

 

Time to carve it out!  I think it’s easier to cut out the section of rubber around your design with a razor knife before you carve it.

The idea is to cut out everything that you don’t want to print, from around the design that you do.

Loosen the head of the linoleum cutter and put the smallest carving tip (sharp side goes out – watch out, it’s sharp!) in the curved slot that opens on one side of the ball as you loosen.  The previous sentence probably makes zero sense unless you are looking at the tool, but that’s Ok.  Start carving; each one of the tips for this tool acts like a sharp scoop, use them point or scoop down to carve out pieces of rubber that you don’t want.  I like to start with the smallest tip and go carefully around the edges of the design, it helps keep me from accidentally slicing through it with the bigger cutters.

Cut away from inside corners to both sides.  It’s helpful to turn the block, as well as the tool, while carving around curves.

Once you get the design outlined, switch to the larger V shape tip, and use it to cut around your outlines, making a deeper channel.  Then, use the scoop to carve out large sections that you don’t need.  Cut away from your design at a steep slope on the edges of your stamp, to keep them from printing.  Then go back with the smallest V tip and clean up any leftovers.  You can see this process progressing clockwise around my flower stamp above.

Try out your stamp with an ink pad and paper, you’ll get to see how it’s coming out, and any areas you don’t like will be helpfully colored with ink, so you can see where to carve them off.  Some little bits of messiness are part of the charm of a handmade stamp, but you can decide how much of that you want.

 

You can carve just about anything into a stamp!  I made the one above while hanging out with a friend, to stamp on the re-used boxes and envelopes that I send orders in (it also appeared on KP’s blog as part of her recycle package challenge).

 

If you’d like to jump- start your handmade stamp collection, talktothesun on Etsy sells some great-looking ones (not my shop, I just like it)!

Have a question?  A stamp carving tip? A material you like?  Leave it in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think!

 

Next time: use your stamps (and other stuff) to print on fabric.

 

 

 

Half My Wardrobe in Detroit, and What I Did About It

Not as much as I would have liked.  But, contrary to the impression you may have gotten from this space, I did squeeze in a little sewing for myself the last time we were home.  When we leave the truck somewhere in art show land (otherwise known as the Midwest) and fly back home to get some r&r (or maybe embark on some crazy giant new project) I leave a bunch of my summer wardrobe out there.  This last time, I kind of did it to myself on purpose, packing even fewer of my summer tops than I reasonably could have fit in my luggage, hoping that it would motivate me to sew some new ones.

First, I finished a top I had been working on during the visit home before this one.  I wear a lot of tank tops in the summer, and I have been thinking about how to make some woven ones as well as the usual knits.  This one is a copy of a silk top, the cups of which I found flattering and comfortable.  During Me Made May, I fell in love with linen all over again, specifically this one mm green linen skirt, which is getting to the super soft and drapey stage of life.  I had this natural linen leftover from a long-ago project and thought I would try it out.

 

 

I lined only the cups, with thin soft cotton, catching them in the midriff seam and folding under and hand sewing the other sides, I like how it came out.  The original top has a scalloped satin stitch on the edges, and I decided to try something similar.  I also had some thick linen thread which I loved with the fabric, but no amount of coaxing and bigger needles would convince my machine this was a reasonable thing to work with, so I ended up using a narrow zigzag to hold in on the surface.  Both of the edge treatments are softer and more subtle after a few washings.  I made the straps using a thin piece of fabric from the selvage edge, wrapping it around a thin ribbon.

 

 

I wanted to make sure it came out long enough, and I may have overdone it, but the tunic length is working alright so far.  Funny how I don’t notice things in the original (like the back riding up) until I copy it.  Sigh.  I’ll also check out the front wrinkles before I make another one.

Next, I pulled out some pink knit leftover from another top to make a tank for yoga, of which I desperately needed more.  I had some narrow fold over elastic in my stash which should have been perfect, but for some reason every step of this project fought me tooth and nail and used up WAY more of my precious sewing time than was reasonable for something so simple and small!  I ripped a lot of seams.  I tried adding a self-fabric section for the hem which absolutely refused to look decent with any type of stitching.  Plus, when I tried the top on it seemed too tight and clingy, and I already have one round of tops made from this pattern (a heavily modified Kwik Sew 3524) which are NOT too tight and clingy!  Finally I realized that if I ripped the stitching from the little bit of elastic I had used as a test, I would have just enough to put around the bottom as well.  Which I did, and without even trying it on again, put it in my closet and wore it to yoga the next day (keep reading for a picture).  The top stitching on the elastic is beyond wonky.  But I needed it, I made it, and I was wearing it, and some days that just has to be enough.

After that, I made a pair of dainties, partly because I didn’t have much time left and they were cut out already, and partly to prove that my beloved Bernina and I do actually have a good relationship with knits.  Which in fact we do.

 

 

On our “real” return home for the fall a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make one more tank top before moving on to fall/winter sewing. I had a tee shirt with a hole in it that I had been meaning to convert into a wearable top for ages.  Unfortunately, it was cut so far off the grain of the knit that I couldn’t just use the the original hem, as Zoe suggests, and I had to cut the back and front shelf liner in two pieces each to get them to fit.  But I did use white top stitching, which I liked on the original shirt.

 

 

I liked this picot edge elastic, but it was not exactly soft, so I sandwiched it between the layers, sewing it to the liner first with a zigzag, and then the top layer with a twin needle.  For the straps I used a similar idea to the ribbon wrapping, but using plain elastic, zigzag, and the twin needle again.  This time everything went smoother, and start to finish, including experiments, took less than three hours.  That’s more like it!

 

 

See me being all zen about the pink top.  See how much clingier AND drapier it is than the blue one?  Crazy fabric difference.  I checked and the previous versions have stretched out with wear as well.  I might make the next one just slightly wider to start with.

Next up for my sewing, pants!  What are you making for the coming season? How do you figure out what fabric will do before you sew it?  I’m, um, still figuring that part out apparently. . .

 

Kent State Museum and Ohio Food Finds

I feel like it took me a while to figure out that if I saw, for example, a cool exhibit was happening at a museum somewhere, especially in the Midwest, chances are we could go there at some point during the year. That’s how we ended up at the Kent State Museum. What I didn’t realize was that in addition to the resist dye exhibit I read about, the whole museum (ok it’s small, but still) is costume and textiles, and they have a permanent hall of historical fashion!! For any of you who don’t already know, I’ve been obsessed with historical clothing for the longest time.

Everything is presented in the best possible way for close-up viewing, with no glass between you and the textiles. My feet were demurely (ok barely) outside the barriers, but my head was basically in the exhibits, soaking up tiny hand stitching. Things made before the sewing machine I find extra fascinating, I’m always wondering how my stitching would stack up in those days. And how did they make those tiny perfect gathers?

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As you may have guessed from the lack of detailed images of all this amazing clothing so far, this museum has a strict no photography policy. And I have a “do unto others” policy when it comes to photos and copyright. And any iPhone photos I could have snuck in on the sly would in no way capture the level of detail that you can really see. If we’re going to the area next year I may try to get advance permission to take some photos, or bring a sketchbook. But really, the only way to see this is for yourself.

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We stumbled on a couple of notable food finds in Ohio as well, namely Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Splendid is the right word! We tried four flavors, all of which were spectacular – tart cherry sorbet made with lambic, pear sorbet with Riesling, blackberry and sweet corn, and brown butter almond brittle, and there were about 50 more that looked amazing. Well worth going out of your way for, in Columbus, Cleveland and Nashville TN, plus available in groceries around the area.

That’s actually how we found out about it, while shopping for bread and cheese to go with a free tomato. One of my goals for this trip was to snag some maple syrup local to somewhere we passed through, since we’re all out at home. On a byroad we passed a maple syrup sign at a place that mostly sells small storage buildings (I am not making this up) and stopped to get some. The man working there kindly also gave us a large tomato. So anyway, as we were picking out cognac fig goat cheese (from Mackenzie Creamery) Bryan spotted a sign, “Did you know that cognac fig is also a flavor of Jeni’s Ice Cream?”

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This picnic will make you feel decadent, even at a highway rest area. Just as good with apple as with the tomato the night before!

Enjoy your travels this week, wherever they take you.

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Summer Spark Batik Dress

 

I finished this dress on time!  Just barely.  I know that sewing on a deadline is not my friend, but in this case I had backed myself into corner, since I really wanted to finish in time for my annual family and friends women’s craft retreat.  You see, last year at the same event we batiked fabric (which was ridiculously fun) and I dyed this panel with this sundress in mind.  I should at least be able to sew one dress in one year, right?  Well, sure, but a whole lot of other projects of various types jumped ahead of it in line throughout the year, until I found myself headed to retreat 2012 with the mostly-finished dress and my hand sewing kit.  I finished the hem in the car on the way over.

 

 

When I got there I tried it on again.  Although I had carefully tested out this pattern in a previous version, I decided that the darts from that version were a little out of hand.  Although I liked the fit, the darts just took up a lot of the bodice, and I thought that they might not look so good with the sparser print of my batik fabric.  So I decided to convert the darts to gathers.  Lesson 1 from this project: darts and gathers are not the same thing!  Although they both take up excess fabric and fit it into a smaller area, darts control the release of the excess up to a certain point, while gathers release it all right away.  Although I liked the gathers at center front, the ones under the bust were clearly not working, they created a big poof of fabric right under (definitely not at) the fullest point of my bust.  There’s no picture of this, it looked ridiculous.

 

 

Since I had already sewn the gathers, and my sewing machine was hundreds of miles away by this time, my idea was to hand sew a few of the gathers closed, essentially creating a few small darts to release the extra fabric where I wanted it, which hopefully would not look too jarring.  I tried it out by basting the darts in place.  Have I mentioned I love basting?  It’s just a collection of fairly loose, impermanent stitches, but it’s one of the sewing world’s most perfect tools.  I truly don’t understand why anyone complains about it, it’s so wonderfully precise and useful, and you can see exactly how something is going to come out before you commit to sew it, without the distortion of pins or clips.

 

 

Anyway, I basted my new tiny darts in place, using the places where the gathers naturally wanted to make a deeper fold.  I tried on again, then hand sewed them in place.  I used all tiny backstitches, which was probably overkill, but for such a small seam it didn’t slow me down very much, and I wanted a similar look to the rest of the machine-sewn seams on the dress.  If I was at home with my machine, I could also have taken out the gathers, planned and measured for the darts, sewed them in place and stitched the bodice down again.  To be honest I’m not sure it would look much better, although it would look more precise and even on each side.  However, I have been comfortable with this dress having a handmade, not-so-perfect look ever since the very first flower I drew in wax (note the splotches/wax drips).

 

 

Checking out the final result, I am overall thrilled.  Probably what makes me the happiest is that I was able to plan the print on the fabric in a way that worked how I envisioned when I went to sew the dress!  It also makes me happy to look at the little bits of hand stitching on the inside, for some reason I can’t explain I love that look, when I worked at a museum I used to spend much longer than necessary checking out hand stitching on antique garments.  I will tweak the bodice a little more in further versions of this dress, it still has a funny wrinkle or two, but as I said this project was not meant to be a showpiece and I think it looks cute.  I wore it all day, on a retreat field trip to the fiber festival at El Rancho de las Golodrinas and then out to dinner with the whole group.  One of my favorite things about custom-fit clothing is how comfortable it is – I could easily have also worn this dress to sleep in, but restrained myself, after all it was pretty dusty out, and the dress doesn’t need that wear and tear.

 

 

 

I realize as I’m working on this post that some of these pictures have quite a different color cast, some are from my iPhone on the trip which may explain it.  If you are curious, the laundry line picture is probably the closest to the real colors.

Although I don’t have a specific project like this to be ready for next summer, I am so hoping I have learned my lesson about timing and leaving things until the last minute.  We shall see.