Making Jeny’s Stretchy Slip Knot Cast On with Lumpy Yarns

Or, how to make it easier in any yarn.

I love this cast on*; how easily it stretches and bounces back right along with the knitting, how invisible it is (it’s like whatever pattern you’re knitting just appears fully formed, without a visually different edge), and the bonus that since it only uses one end, you don’t have to worry about starting with a long enough tail.

But it’s notoriously difficult to do with uneven or thick-and-thin yarns, since the yarn has to be able to slide easily past itself to make the required shape.  Or does it …  My knitting students were having a hard time with this cast-on, even in a relatively smooth yarn, which got me wondering if I could figure out a trick that would help keep the yarn moving.  I decided to try it with my first handspun project (a thick and thin yarn if there ever was one).  And I did figure it out!  It may have helped that I was stuck on an airplane at the time without too much else to do …  It turns out that there’s one place that the yarn gets hung up on itself, and if you can get past that, you can do this cast on in a lumpy yarn too!  I’ll show you how below.

First, a quick review of what makes a slip knot, since that’s the structure this whole cast on is based on—you’ll essentially make one slip knot after another.  First of all, you need a loop.

 

slipknot cast on 1I’m going to show you using a bit smoother yarn—otherwise it would be hard to see what’s going on.  This is “Sheridan” from Mountain Meadow Wool—yummy!

 

Next you need another loop, and to put that second loop through the first one.  Remember that the ends must cross each other for the loops to stay in place.  So, you can either make a second loop in the bottom strand of the first loop and bring it through the top, or make a loop in the top strand and push it up through the bottom, which is what I’ve done below.

 

slipknot cast on 2

 

Tighten it up by pulling the second loop through until the first loop closes around it.  If you’ve made a successful slip knot, it will go away if you pull on both ends of the yarn.

 

slipknot cast on 3

 

Put this first knot on a needle, and you’re ready for the cast on.  I like to put the working end of the yarn (not the short tail) around my thumb, and hold the end with the last two fingers of my hand, as shown below.  (There are other hand positions and motions that work perfectly well to make this cast on, these are the ones I use.)

 

slipknot cast on 4

 

To make the first loop, I use the needle to scoop up the strand nearest me around the thumb, moving from the bottom up.

 

slipknot cast on 5

 

Leaving this first loop on the thumb, I use the rest of my hand to bring a second strand of yarn over the needle, making the second loop.

I used to think that looping this strand one direction vs. the other over the needle might make it easier to pull the yarn through in the last step.  That might be true, but it also (of course, silly me) determines which way your first round of stitches sit on the needle.  Chances are you want them as shown below, so wrap the yarn starting at the front and moving to the back.  If you’re a “combination” knitter or you learned in a tradition that knits through the back of the stitch, you’ll find your stitches ready to go if you wrap the yarn the other way, starting at the back and moving to the front.

 

slipknot cast on 6

 

In either case, now we have two loops on the needle.  We want to move the first loop over the second one, so that it makes a collar around the base of the second loop, just like in the first slip knot we made without the needle.  To do this, I use my thumb to lift the first loop up and over the tip of needle, and then let it go.

 

slipknot cast on 7

 

In the instructions I’ve seen before, the next step is to hold the new loop against the top of the needle, and pull on the end of the yarn so the collar around it tightens up.  Sometimes this works great, but if your yarn has any resistance to sliding along itself, it will probably get caught up, stop short, and cause you to curse, tug on all the ends available, and try again.

The reason the yarn gets caught easily is that there’s one place in its path where it has to loop quickly around itself, making almost like a little knot (indicated by the arrow below).

 

slipknot cast on 8

 

What I found was that if I pull the yarn through this tight place first, I can then pull on the end and the stitch will tighten up smoothly, even in my lumpy handspun!

I take hold of the outside of that little loop-de-loop, and pull it out, so that the collar starts to form around the bottom of the new loop on the needle.

 

slipknot cast on 9

 

I’ve found that it works best if I get the new loop pretty snug, right up against the stitch before it on the needle, and the collar almost snug as well.  Then with it set up, I hold the new loop against the needle and pull on the yarn end to finish the new stitch.

 

slipknot cast on 10

 

Although this undoubtedly adds a step, to me it’s totally worth it, since I can now use a whole lot more yarns with one of my favorite cast ons.  And I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a slightly more complex but smooth process, rather than cursing and tugging on the yarn every few stitches because it keeps getting stuck.

 

slipknot cast on 11

 

*One of the many bonuses of going to a workshop with Cat Bordhi in person, is that she tells you all kinds of cool little tricks, and that’s where I first learned about this cast on.  The original post about it on Jeny’s blog is here, she links both to her own video of the steps, and to another one which uses different motions.  If you’d prefer not to hold the yarn around your thumb, there’s also a variation using two needles demonstrated by Tillybuddy on YouTube here.

 

Happy knitting!

Treadle Magic

 

I’ve been wanting to write about sewing on my mom’s antique treadle machine when I was a kid, and now on the one from Bryan’s family that I’ve been restoring, for what feels like forever.  Sewing on these machines is something like magic, and I kept dreaming about sharing that with more modern sewists.  As of today, it’s happened!  Any minute now, the August issue of Seamwork magazine should be up, and with it, this treadle article of mine, which I’m super excited about.

So excited, in fact, that I also made my first-ever YouTube video as a companion, to show you how the bobbin winder works in motion (it’s a thing of beauty):

 

 

Are you excited yet? Do you have a treadle sitting in your garage? Let’s get it out! I’d love to help answer any questions that might get some of these beauties back into service, so ask away and I’ll do my best.

Also, stay tuned, I have a couple more treadle extras in the works for the coming weeks.

Have a great weekend!

 

Fixing Store-Bought Socks

 

fixing blue stripe socks 3

Isn’t the phrase “store-bought” kind of funny when you think about it?  Maybe I should have said mending “factory-made” socks?  Maybe not, that sounds weird too.  Fixing “non-me-made” socks … never mind!

Anyway, I get a little depressed any time our society expects me to get rid of something which is mostly perfectly good, but has one flaw/broken part/hole/mold on just one corner.  Although I do accept that there’s a point at which socks are well and truly worn out and need to go, what happens to most of mine is that they develop one or two really worn places somewhere around the heel first, while the rest of the sock fabric still seems totally intact.

The really tiny gauge which commercial socks (I might like that phrase best so far) are knit in makes it hard to darn them in the traditional needle-and-yarn ways.  I’ve been experimenting with patching them, using compatible knit fabrics, and it’s been working well.  Experimenting over some time now, so please forgive the different lighting in the photos, I’ve been documenting the socks as I fix them.

As most of you reading probably already know, I love the idea of “visible mending”, of showing the world that I fixed something and I’m using it.

 

So, should you have the audacity to mend a store-bought sock, here are some things I’ve worked out:

The fabric for the patches should be similar to the socks: knitted (stretchy) and fairly sturdy.  I’ve been using wool knit fabric swatches, scraps from making these leggings, and parts of other socks.  Although I’ve been seeking out wool patches, I think cotton knits would work too, as long as they are fairly thick/tough.  Check that the care requirements for the patch fabric work with how you wash your socks (I usually machine wash & line dry mine, occasionally they go through the dryer, and the wool patches have worked fine for me).

 

patched purple hobo socks

 

sock under machine It’s totally possible to mend shorter socks with a sewing machine, any time that you can scrunch the rest of the sock out of the way (kind of as if you are turning it inside out), so that just the layers you want are under the foot of the machine. I used an overlock stitch for maximum stretchiness & sturdiness.  As with any knit project, you may need to experiment a bit to figure out which stitch and settings work best.  Expect to do a lot of lifting the foot with the needle down and repositioning things while sewing on the patches.  You can cut down on that somewhat by basting the patches on first (takes about 30 seconds).

 

When the patch is done, I finish by getting all the thread ends to the inside, and burying them before trimming, using a hand sewing needle.  You can also trim the edges of the patch outside the stitching if they come out funky looking.

 

thread ends fixing socks

 

For heels and toes of knee socks, and any time I can’t easily get the part of the sock I want under the machine, I find it just as easy to sew the patches on by hand.  (I like hand sewing, and I don’t like fighting with my machine.)  I’ve been using a catch stitch (explained in more detail here) around the edges, sewing through both the patch and the sock when possible.  An old-fashioned darning egg (or improvise with a small block of wood etc.) inside the sock is so useful here that it’s almost essential, making things much easier by assuring that you only sew through the layers you want.

 

fixing blue stripe socks 2

 

fixing blue stripe socks 1

 

For either method, cut the patch definitely bigger than the worn place/hole, otherwise it will quickly wear right along the edge of the patch.

  For cuffs, you can use a scrap of ribbing to cover worn places and/or make a new cuff.  Make sure the ribbing is long enough to stretch around the widest part of the leg which the sock will go around.  Mark and sew the ribbing together, then stretch it evenly around the sock.  I find it’s easier to sew two seams, one on the inside and the again around the outside edge of the ribbing, than to try to catch both edges perfectly in one seam.

 

fixing sock cuff

 

Both my hand- and machine-sewn patches have worn well, adding a year or more to sock life, and lasting until the rest of the sock fabric gives up the ghost.

 

The socks below I didn’t even mean to fix, but they ended up being some of my favorites.  They’re the ones I wear in the summer when we’re setting up the booth.  I was going to buy new ones, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to spend real money on new socks for such a humble purpose, and I knew cheap socks would wear out super quick under those conditions.

The new short length is perfect for when it’s hot but I still have to wear shoes, and I love seeing my little mended socks during what can be a stressful situation.

 

mending set-up socks 1

 

mending set-up socks 2

 

Finally, just in case you’re thinking that I have a magical house where socks are fixed as soon as they develop holes, let me tell you, it ain’t so.  I’ll admit that I tend to let them pile up until my sock drawer is looking sparse, and I’d forgotten about the very existence of some of these by the time I got around to mending them … when I start to run out of socks that don’t need fixing, then I settle down and do one or two pairs a day until they’re all fixed.

Happy mending!

 

 

A Big Vegetable Roast

 

 

roasted peeling beets

 

I think we first came up with this idea last fall.  Instead of roasting various winter foods as we need them, why not save oven power and kitchen time by roasting a whole bunch of things at once?  I love this idea, and it can save me a bunch of time later in the week.

I set the oven to bake at 400° F, and start prepping things.  I like to do garlic first, since it seems to take at least as long as anything else.  Slice just the tops from a head or two, and put in a small oven-proof container.  Pour in water to come about halfway up the sides of the garlic.  Drizzle olive oil right on top of the cloves.  Cover with foil or ideally, a lid.  I use the foil as many times as I can, but I’d love to have a container with a lid for roasting garlic, and beets.  It’s on my list but I haven’t found it yet.

Place the garlic container in a corner of the oven somewhere where it can roast along while you take other things in and out.

 

roasting garlic before

 

Ok, let’s talking about peeling veggies for a second.  Peeling a raw beet or squash is such a pain that I almost never do it.  But the roasted ones peel like magic.

In my oven, beets get a similar treatment to the garlic, except without the olive oil (probably no harm in adding it too …).  Cut off the tops and any long tails, then place them in a pan, add water, and cover.

Put the beets in the oven too.  No need to check on them for at least 20 minutes, big ones can take up to an hour or so.

 

roasting beets before

Believe it or not, this is the exact set of beets I got in a bag at our CSA store.  Who knew they would fit so precisely?

 

One of my favorite things to eat all winter long is butternut squash.  It’s good in so many things: soups, winter tacos, quiches, seasoned slices.  Search some of your favorite cookbooks or sites and you’ll get many more ideas.  It’s also much easier to peel when cooked!

Cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds.  Said seeds are delicious roasted with a little salt and any other spices you wish.  I usually put them in after the squash is done.

You can either cut the squash into slices, or roast the halves as they are, depending on your later squash plans.  I did some of each.  In either case, rub a little olive oil on the cut faces.

 

roasting butternut befoe

 

If you are roasting slices/seeds/small things, be sure to check on them after about 10 minutes, and then every 5 minutes or so.  It’s easy to lose track and burn them while the bigger things are still happily roasting.

I flip the slices over when they get brown on the bottom, so that both sides get nice and toasted.

 

roasted butternut slices

These slices are done, but the bigger chunks need to cook for a while yet.

 

Not pictured, but also great to roast are:

Sweet potatoes and/or regular potatoes in their skins, or as slices.

Nuts.  Sometimes it’s a lot cheaper/easier to find quality raw nuts and roast them yourself.  These are another thing that’s done quite quickly, so set a timer.

 

roasted butternut with potatoes

 

By the time the second round of slices (potato) are done, the big pieces of squash are too—easily pierced with a fork.

Beets are also done when fork-tender, and when the peel slides off with just a push from your thumb!

 

one peeling beet

 

And finally the garlic.  I’ve never overcooked it, but if it’s been in the oven for quite a while, check to see if the water has all evaporated.  If so, it’s probably done, and if not, add water so it doesn’t dry out.  To me, done roasted garlic = squishy and a little caramelized on top.  Yum!

 

roasted garlic

 

So there you have it, all the roasted veggies you need for the next week or so.

What are some of your favorite winter foods?

Me-Knit Blue Sweater with Lace

Plus some tips for finishing hand knits.

 

blue talamh sweater 2

 

First things first: stop press!  I finished the sweater which I started knitting in Me-Made-May this year!  Between times when I made a real effort to work on it at least an hour a day while on the road, and times when I was back at home and pretty much ignoring it completely, it averaged out to just about 6 months start to finish.  And I’m fine with that, I mean, it’s hand-knitting an entire sweater.

 

blue talamh sweater 5

 

An entire sweater which I’m pretty much totally in love with.  This is the Talamh pattern by Carol Feller.  I wanted a pattern with some lace, but also some edgyness, some modernity, and I thought the lace pattern she used really fit the bill.  I added the wide lace section to the center back (it looks awesome, right?) but otherwise actually made fewer changes than I normally do when I’m knitting someone else’s pattern.  If you’re interested, I decided to keep those notes on Ravelry this time, feel free to check them out!

 

blue talamh sweater 3

 

In this space, aside from how pleased I am with this project, I thought I’d share a bit about finishing, specifically sewing in a ribbon for stabilization around the neck (which totally saved this sweater!) and how I “weave in” yarn ends.

 

Adding grosgrain ribbon

As I was blocking this sweater (basically just getting it wet, stretching the lace out a bit, and smoothing out bumps before letting it dry) I decided to try putting it over my dress form (if it’s good enough for Kate Davies, it’s good enough for me!).  But the sweater kept slipping down, and, rather than pin it up every inch or so, I decided to let it dry flat.  Well, after it was dry and I tried it on in front of the mirror, the same thing happened.  The join between the body and the sleeves is a bit low anyway (my fault, and one of only two things I’d probably change if I make a sweater like this again).  As the neckline stretched wider, the underarms and the whole rest of the sweater sagged downward until it looked fairly ridiculous, at which point I’d tug the neck up again.  Clearly, the loose-ish ribbing at the top was not enough to hold the rest of the sweater in place.

 

blue talamh sweater ribbon 3

 

I had stabilized various parts of other sweaters with ribbon before, and it occurred to me that I could try it here.  I opened the drawer where I keep bits of ribbon, and there were two lovely grosgrain sections, probably salvaged from recycled sweaters, that both almost matched perfectly!  And each was a width to fit under part of the ribbing on the sweater.  Call it good karma for using up this yarn I’ve had for ages, or proof that if you save the good stuff, it does actually come in handy later.

Pinning the sweater inside out on my dress form to hold it in place, I shaped the ribbon around the curves and steamed it lightly to match them.

 

blue talamh sweater ribbon 1

 

Note that in order to curve nicely like this, you need authentic grosgrain ribbon, the kind with the bumpy edges, where the thick yarns in it are free to move a bit.  “Grosgrain” ribbon from your local big box store often has tight edges, which are fine for straight sections, but won’t curve worth a darn.

grosgrain ribbon

 

I bought sewing thread to match my yarn as closely as possible, and sewed the ribbon on with tiny whip stitches, at the edge where the ribbing meets the first plain knitting section.  After trying on the sweater to check that it was working, I put it back on the dress form inside out, and sewed around the top edge of the ribbon as well.  If you do this, don’t pull the sewing stitches too tight, just try to keep the ribbon softly snug to the sweater, and not to distort the knitting.

 

blue talamh sweater ribbon 2

 

This worked so well!  Like magic, my sweater now stays in place, just where I want it, and the ribbon is basically invisible from the outside.

 

Finishing yarn ends

There were quite a lot of ends in this sweater, mostly because I’ve had this yarn for over a decade (!).  Part of that time was before I knew how to deal with moths, and the outside of a few of the skeins got rather munched early on, leading to extra breaks in the yarn, and weak places that I decided to treat the same as breaks (ie, not use them, and leave the tails to work in later).  I usually tie the ends or the break/place I don’t want to use into a slipknot, just to keep a little tension on the yarn as I’m knitting around it.

 

finishing knitting 1

 

I’m sure there are other good methods for burying yarn ends, this is mine.  Keeping the tail going in the direction it was headed, I take a short stitch, then a tiny back stitch to anchor the thread, followed by a tunneling of the yarn along the back of the existing stitches.

Don’t pull tightly, or you’ll pucker the knitted fabric.  Leave enough yarn tail so that as the sweater stretches, the tail can move without catching or distorting anything.

Maybe my best tip is to use a needle with a big enough eye to hold the yarn, but a very sharp tip, making it easy to pierce just the backs of stitches, and keep the yarn tails out of sight.  My absolute favorite are “Chenille” needles from John James, available at fine sewing and embroidery stores.

With each end, take one short stitch, catching just the back of the knitting stitches:

 

finishing knitting 2

 

Followed by a tiny backstitch, which functions like a knot to keep the yarn in place.  I start just behind where the last stitch ended, and then continue skimming along the backs of the knitting stitches for the length of the needle. In a stockinette fabric like this, the purl “bumps” make handy diagonals, good directions to hide yarn without it showing on the outside.

If you’re particularly worried about this part of the knitting getting stress or pulling out, (or your yarn is slippery) you could take another short stitch and back stitch, then the long burying stitch. That should hold it!

 

finishing knitting 3

 

If at any point you’re unsure if a stitch might be showing on the public side, just check.  One good thing about stitches is that they’re reversible.

Note that the ends should go in opposite directions, at least with the first short stitch.  Take them in the direction they’d pull from if you kept knitting, so that the two ends cross, rather than pull away from each other.

 

finishing knitting 4

 

On garment edges, a good place to bury ends is often along columns of ribbing.

 

finishing knitting 6

 

When you’re finished, trim the ends so that enough remains on the back for the end to stay there, and not poke through to the front.

That’s about it for now.  Just in case you’re wondering, I did make those matching buttons, and I’ll post about them soon too.  I hope this is helpful, and just let me know if you have more knitting/finishing questions!

 

How to Add Pockets in Seams

finished pockets on

I used to joke about this, but I’ve decided it’s actually true: the lack of pockets is holding women back.  I mean, if our choices are either carry a purse everywhere and don’t let it out of sight, ask someone of the opposite gender to hold things for us, or attempt to stick our phones in our bras, of course we’re going to struggle to be taken seriously.

I do carry some kind of bag most places I go (with essential stuff like my notebook, and sometimes knitting in it), but there are lots of times when just pockets will do.  Everyone needs pockets, good pockets that are actually big enough to put your phone in, and sit down afterwards.

 

I was so exited about finishing this dress that I forgot to add the pockets, and had to go back and put them in! I’ll include a bit about the decorative edging I used at the end of the post.

 

This is why maker & fixer skills are important: instead of complaining about the lack of pockets, we can change it, and add some ourselves.  Guys who don’t have enough pockets in their lives are welcome too!

In this post I’ll go over adding pockets to a seam in your garment, commonly called “side-seam” or “in-seam” pockets.  You can do this as you’re sewing, or retrofit pockets into a garment that’s already finished.  In short, the steps are: 1. Plan your pocket, and prepare the pieces.  2. Sew the pocket pieces to the garment seams.  3. Sew the garment seams, including around the pocket.  If you have some beginner sewing skills, you can handle this.  (Ahem, get some skills here.)  Let’s get started!  As usual, click on any of the photos to enlarge for a closer look.

 

Plan & Prepare Your Pocket

measuring pocket patternFirst figure out how big and what shape you’d like your pocket to be.  You can use a pocket piece from a pattern you have, or trace the shape of an existing pocket that you like onto paper for a pattern.  (If you trace an existing pocket, remember to add extra space—seam allowance—all around it to account for the fabric that will be used up in the seams.)  I used the pattern piece at right, which is a common shape for side-seam pockets.

Figure out where along your seam you want your pocket to go, and mark it with pins.  Measure the length of the flat side of your pocket, the part that you’ll sew into the seam.  This is how much space you’ll need on your seam for the pocket.  If you’re sewing from scratch, you can just center the pocket on your pin marks, and sew it as explained below, before you sew the seam.  If you’re adding pockets to a garment that’s already finished, you’ll need to rip the seam where you want the pocket to go, taking out a space a bit bigger than the pocket piece, to give yourself room to work.  I really like using this method to rip seams.  Don’t worry about tying off the ends of the old seam here, because you’ll sew over them later.

 

adding ss pockets drawing 1

 

Fabric and Piecing

You’ll need two pocket pieces for each pocket you want to add.  Cut them so that they’re mirror images, i.e. so that you can sew the shape together and have the right (public/outside) sides of the fabric touching.

This kind of pocket doesn’t show much, but you’ll probably be able to see a bit of it peeking out.  If you have matching fabric, obviously cutting your pockets from that will make it blend in the most.  If not, choose something you like that you won’t mind seeing a bit of.  The pocket fabric should be fairly tightly woven/sturdy, especially if you plan to carry heavy objects in it.

If you have only a bit of matching fabric, you can cut each side of the pocket in two pieces, so that the matching part is at the top.  When planning this, don’t forget to add extra seam allowance where the pieces meet.  Sew the pieces together into the pocket shape before you attach them.

 

pieced pocketOn close inspection you can see that the two halves of this pocket are pieced in different places, and that’s fine.  The printed fabric matches the outside of this dress, and the white is scraps from the lining.

 

Note: You can also add to a skimpy existing pocket (I hate those!), by cutting off the bottom and adding more.  Rip a bit of the old pocket seams along the sides to give yourself room to work.  Sew each side of the new pocket bottoms to the old pocket tops, then sew around the pocket, overlapping the old seam.  The finished pocket may look something like the one above.

 

Sew the Pocket to the Seam

Once you have your pocket ready and know where it will go, pin one pocket piece onto one side of the garment seam.  Line up the seam allowances, and make sure you place the right side of the pocket touching the right side of the garment piece.  Sew the pocket on, using the same seam allowance as the garment seam, or just slightly narrower.  Start and stop a little bit outside the pocket.  You don’t need to back-tack your seams, they’ll be held in place by other stitches later.

adding ss pockets drawing 2This illustration shows attaching the pocket to a seam you’ve ripped, which is still in place above and below the pocket.  It’s the same if you’re starting from scratch, except that the other piece of the garment won’t be attached yet.

 

Repeat this procedure with the other pocket pieces, making sure that any two sides which will be one pocket are aligned at the same place on the garment seam.

Using your iron, press the pockets open, away from the garment.  Don’t skip this step!  It will make all the difference in a clean finish.

 

adding ss pockets drawing 3Here’s what it looks like in real life, with one side of the pocket sewn on and pressed open, although it’s a little hard to see in the tiny print:

pocket seams one side done

 

 Sew the Seam with a New Pocket

To finish, sew the garment seam, including around the pocket.  When you get to the top of the pocket, sew just inside of the pocket stitching and fabric, to avoid catching anything in the seam that will show.  Stop with the needle down, and pivot at the point where the seam allowance matches on the garment and the pocket.  Keep sewing, around the pocket, and pivot again when you reach a point just inside (towards the garment, not the pocket) the first seam at the bottom of the pocket.  If you’re sewing from scratch, you’ll sew the whole seam above and below the pocket in this step as well.  If you’re refashioning a pocket, you’ll start and stop just enough away from the pocket to overlap the old seam stitching.

 

adding ss pockets drawing 4The stitching for this step is shown in the darkest color, overlapping the old seam, and just outside of the seam that attaches the pocket pieces.

 

Look, brand new wonderful pockets!

If your garment has a lining, you now have two choices.  You can leave it alone, meaning the pocket will sit between the garment and the lining, which is usually good.  On my lightweight dresses, I decided to make an opening in the lining seam, so that the pocket would be inside the lining too, and show less from the outside.  All you need to do for this option is to rip the lining seam at the pocket opening, or leave a gap when you are sewing the seam.  Knot the thread ends, or back-tack your stitching, to hold the edges of the gap in place.

finished pocket inside

 

And Finally, Optional Decorative Pocket Strips

Since I was thinking about celebrating pockets, I decided to make the ones on my latest sundress a little more visible by adding fabric strips that matched the binding and straps on the dress.  Just in case you like this look, here’s how I did it:

1. Cut strips 1/2″ wider and longer (for 1/4″ SA) than you want them to appear when finished.  I made them 1/2″ wide finished, (cut 1″ wide) and slightly longer than the pocket opening.

2. Press the strips in half to mark the center, then press the SA under all around.

pocket decorative strip 1

 

3. Topstitch each strip in place, close to the edge of the strips.

pocket decorative strip 2

 

4. Sew the seam, and around the pocket, as you normally would.

finished pocket outside

 

Have you ever added or improved pockets?  What do you think about how the pockets in ready-to-wear relate to our society’s image of women?  Any other relevant thoughts?

 

New DIY Kits on Etsy, Plus the Hats are Back …

 

Hello all!  I’ve been using my computer time for the last week or so working on brand new stuff … if you can call ideas that have been rattling around in my head for a year or more “brand new” … but they now exist, in real life!  Or at least on the internet.

 

SRCR title page blog

 

Brand new: instructions and materials so that you can make the some of the scarves and blankets I’ve been making the last couple of seasons from cashmere ribbing!  I’ve laid it out for you, with lots of tips on sewing the ribbings, plus directions for three projects.  Make one of these, or make a totally new design of your own!

The color combos I found in the ribbing box are pretty great.  Get these now if you love them—there’s more good stuff in there, but the next batch will be different.

 

4 ribbing colors 1014

 

Plus, Fiddleheads hats are back for fall.  There are some new, incredibly cute pictures of children who shall remain nameless modeling them.  It’s worth a click just to see them all.  And—sigh—I think I said I wasn’t going to do this, but then I suddenly needed to, so I did—I modeled the adult size myself.  The kids are SO much cuter!

 

two friends

 

I’ll be back soon, with more cool stuff!

 

A Cabarita Top Variation, with Tips for Matching Stripes

 

The first picture I saw of the Cabarita Top from Cake patterns must have been one where Steph is wearing the “back” as the front. I’m hardly ever struck by the sudden need to make a pattern exactly as shown, but in this case I knew I needed this top … even though it turns out that’s not exactly what the pattern intended. I also hardly ever make anything trendy … but I love how many chevrons and clever stripe matching I’ve seen in the last couple of years, so I guess it’s a trend I don’t mind being part of. (Fair warning: I’m going to wear this top until it falls apart, whether or not it starts to look dated.)

 

cabarita front

 

Anyway, how about some tips for stripe matching first, and then a couple notes on changes I made to the pattern?

The first step of stripe matching is careful cutting & planning. I cut striped fabric in a single layer, so I can see exactly where the stripes on each piece go.

Lay your first pattern piece, the one you most want to match, on the fabric, and trace the stripes onto that pattern piece with a pencil, so you can see exactly where they line up, and then cut them the same, or in a mirror image, on the next piece. I could swear that I took a picture of this step during this project, but apparently I was mistaken.  I’ll have to get one next time I’m in the studio. The point is to carefully draw the stripe placement along the seam lines of the pattern piece.  Draw both edges of key stripes, so you can see how wide they are and where each edge goes.  It may help to use colored pencils that match your stripe colors.  For a fairly simple stripe, you can go ahead and cut, and then move the pattern piece as necessary (don’t forget to flip if needed), align the stripes with the ones you drew, and cut again.  If you want to match along a seam where two pattern pieces meet (like a side seam between a front and back) you’ll need to transfer your drawn stripes from the first piece you cut to the second one, making sure they are aligned at the bottom.  This project was a straightforward one for this part, since there are just four copies of the same piece.

 

cabarita side

 

Sometimes, especially with plaid fabrics, or more complex garments with lots of seams, you may have to pick your battles, choosing the most visible/important seams to match stripes on as you’re planning and cutting the fabric. Also keep in mind that if a seam runs in the same direction as a stripe, it’s much much easier to make it look good if the seam runs through a wide area of the same color, than if it’s along the border between two colors or a narrow stripe, where it’s likely to look wobbly.

When you get ready to sew the stripes, my all-time best step for perfect matching is: baste! Don’t worry about exactly matching the seam allowance edges, worry about exactly lining up the stripes. Peel back the fabric and look. As you stitch, check to make sure that the needle goes in and out in the exact same place on the stripe in both layers, and adjust if necessary. You can check, and even try on your project, after basting to see how it’s coming out. You can bet that if your stripes are matched as you baste, they’ll be matched after you sew the seam.

I also use my walking foot for stripes, as a little extra insurance against the layers shifting.

 

basting stripes

It works:

 

finished matched stripes

 

Just in case you want to make Cabarita hack like this, here’s how I did it:

I compared the v-neck on the pattern to another me-made shirt I like, which suggested I should use the marked neckline for the group of sizes bigger than mine. I forgot that having a V in the back as well (instead of a plain round neck) would give the top more leeway to slip off my shoulders. I ended up adding thin clear elastic, barely stretched as I sewed, all around the neckline in the seam allowance of the binding seam, to keep it hugging in a bit. I like it, but if I cut this again I would use the V suggested for my size for both front and back.

 

cabarita left

 

To make the bands at the shoulders, I took an inch off the shoulder from the top down, minus seam allowance, and cut a separate piece 2” wide plus SA, across the stripes. I sewed the extra shoulder piece between the front and back on each side, and then the binding around the neck and sleeves.

I sewed the binding once on the seam, and again near the edge to keep everything flat as it’s washed and worn. Then I flipped the binding around and sewed one last time just along the edge, from the right side. Have I mentioned I’m really liking zigzag as topstitching lately?

 

cabarita stripe bands

 

This fabric is an organic cotton & hemp blend from The Fabric Fairy. It’s yummy, and I’m looking forward to it getting even softer and drapier as the hemp ages. I decided to use the “wrong” side as the public side, because I love how you can tell that the stripes are knitted in, and how the little rows of purls (for you knitters out there) soften the transitions between the stripes just a bit.

 

cabarita back

 

I’m really liking wearing this over tank tops, maybe even more than on its own. I think I like how another layer showing below it breaks up the pattern a bit, but it also could be just because this summer has been generally cool enough that light layers have been a good option.

 

What about you, what have you been sewing? Any more tips for stripes?

 

Basting: Thread Magic

 

new backstitch 1

 

I kind of feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t like basting, or thinks they don’t.  It’s a like a magic wand for your sewing.  It keeps things exactly in place for exactly as long as you need it, doesn’t distort your final sewing, doesn’t need to be removed as you go, and can be pulled out when you’re done, leaving no mark behind.

I fell in love with basting many moons ago, while sewing a collar onto a button-down shirt.  I had all the layers of shirt and collar scrunched together ready to sew, and no matter how many pins I put in, the fabric kept shifting under the sewing machine as I went and getting terribly uneven, and/or folding over and catching pieces of the shirt I didn’t want in the seam.  After ripping it all out and starting over two or three times, I decided to baste it in by hand and see if that was any better.  Held by the basting, the shirt and collar seam went through the machine without a hitch, as nice as I could ask for, on the first try.

 

basting stripes

 

Basting just means any kind of temporary stitching, meant to hold fabric in place until you can get the final stitching done.  The advantage is that the basting doesn’t have to be neat and even, or strong enough to hold up with wear, so you can concentrate just on the fabric while you’re basting, and then just on stitching when you’re sewing the final seam.

If I’m in a situation where I want basting, usually it’s because I need more precise control over the fabric, so I baste by hand.  To baste, simply sew running stitches (illustrated at the top).  The stitches can be pretty big and uneven—concentrate on the placement of the fabric layers with each stitch, rather than the stitches themselves.  I like to begin and end with a backstitch, just to keep the basting from pulling apart until I’m done.

Some good places to use basting are: when you want things to align exactly (like matching stripes), when there are a lot of shifty layers (like the collar seam), or any other time when you want to make sure some part of your project will stay in place while you sew it.  For the soft bra below, I knew there was no way the lace would stay in the folds I wanted against the fabric if it was held only by pins.  Plus, basting allowed me to put everything together on my dress form, seeing exactly how the lace would work on a body, and then take the whole thing off the form and sew it.

 

basting lace on form

 

finished soft bra lace

 

It worked great!  When you’re done with the final seam, you can remove the basting easily.  Pick out the backstitches at the ends and grab one thread tail, then you can often pull out a long basting thread with one pull.  Unless of course you sewed over it in the final stitching, but no worries, that happens.  Just pull out what you can at once, you may have to cut and pick out a few small thread bits.

Although it may sound like a technique for more advanced sewing, I definitely recommend basting for beginners too.  When you’re just starting out, learning how your machine handles fabric, especially in tricky situations, isn’t easy.  You can baste practically anything that you just can not get to stay in place while sewing on the machine, get much better results, and save yourself a lot of frustration.  According to The Mary Frances Sewing Book, back when most garments were sewn by hand, it was more efficient to baste a seam first, and then sew it, than to sew the final stitches while trying to keep the fabric layers in place.

Best of luck with your sewing!

 

An Efficient Way to Chop Fruit

 

 

chopping fruit 1

 

I’d like this blog to be, at least in part, a primer for those didn’t have a mom or grandpa who could show them the basics of a handmade life.  A lot of the tricks that really help are about efficiency.  This post is pretty much an extension of the one about chopping vegetables, and most of my thoughts about efficiency and hobbies are there.  But I wanted to add a bit about fruit.

I cut up fruit, using exactly this method, every single morning that I can, and have it for breakfast.  I’ve found that if I don’t cut it up and put it in a bowl, I won’t eat it, it just seems too messy or something, but I really like eating it out of a bowl with yogurt, raisins, and nuts.  In the summer, I’ll use ripe melons, berries, whatever is fresh, but in the winter, it’s all about pears and apples.  I love this breakfast any time!

It’s also true that guests will devour fruit that is cut up and ready to eat, but tend to leave whole fruit in a bowl alone.

So, let’s get started.  Just like for veggies, one of the keys is having a big knife, so you can cut whole sections at once.  Using a small knife makes it take forever, and at least for me, anything that takes forever is not going to be a daily occurrence.

It’s pretty much all about the photos from here on down.

Cut the fruit into quarters.  Then cut out the cores.

 

chopping fruit 2

In the pear crisp recipe, I mentioned that I love it when pears are ripe enough to cut the core out in one smooth stroke.  This is what I mean, this one barely is ripe enough, you can feel where to slide the knife along the edge of the hard core, from the top to the bottom.

Then slice the fruit quarters.  Cut the slices thick or thin, depending on if you’re going to chop the slices or leave them as is, if they’re for presentation or for a pie, etc.

 

chopping fruit 3

 

If you want chunks of fruit, hold the slices together and chop them again.

 

chopping fruit 4

 

So, that’s pretty much it …  There’s only one difference for apples, you can’t slide the knife around the core, so cut it out from each side on the diagonal.  Once you cut one side, you can give the apple quarter a little flick and it will spin on its round base to the other side.

 

chopping fruit 5

 

chopping fruit 8

 

chopping fruit 6

 

There you go, three minutes later, breakfast.  Did I mention I love breakfast?

 

chopping fruit 7