Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Return of the tutorial

About a year ago I wrote a tutorial for making these pincushion sewing kits and published it on this blog:

pincusion sewing kit

A few crafting blogs and bulletin boards linked to it and as a result lots of people came to check it out. I hope some pretty pincusions were made as a result. I still get traffic on my blog because of that tutorial. Anyway, I just received an email from someone who was unable to print the instructions from the blog and asked for a copy. So I made a pdf of the file and you can download it here: Sewing Kit Pincushion.pdf

While the design isn't my own, the words and pictures on the instructions are, so I just ask that you acknowledge that if you use it or publish it somewhere else. Thanks!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stitches 2008, part 1

I wrote this post Friday night but when I went to post it blogger appeared to be down. I've been so busy with Stitches since then, I haven't had the energy to repost it until now. So you're getting it a bit late!

I'm in the middle of a Stitches 2008 weekend (knitting convention extravaganza for those who don't knit) and I've loaded myself up with lots of classes and shopping. I even took a day off work this year so that I could take more classes. I must be nuts. But really, the classes are great, the shopping is great, the getting together with friends is great and I've been looking forward to this since I registered for it last September. Here's a quick recap and summary of what's to come:

I skipped out on work a little early on Thursday (shh, don't tell the boss!) so I could get to the Ravelry meetup. It was a great excuse to have a glass of wine and meet up with friends. After Ravelry I picked up my vendor badge - I'm helping out at the Fiber Fiend booth on Saturday after class - and this let me bypass the very long line of eager shoppers waiting for the doors to open. Woohoo! One of my first stops was Blue Moon Fiber for some "Socks That Rock" sock yarn and OH MY did that booth fill up with knitters in a hurry. It was packed! I spent the next three hours (!!!) wandering from booth to booth trying not to buy everything I saw and occasionally running into friends who always seemed to be headed where I just came from. So I did most of my shopping solo, which may have been a good thing. I love my friends but they can be terrible enablers, as I am to them of course. They don't even have to try. I see what they have purchased and ooh and aah over it and suddenly I want some too. I tried to stick to a plan to only buy yarn and fiber that are unique and not available at my LYS (that's local yarn store for you non-knitters), but Stitches is just overwhelming. There is so much yarn and fiber I'd love to own, but I know that I just don't have the time or space for all the projects. I still bought a lot. I was better behaved today and only made one purchase. I'll post a picture of my Stitches stash next week because even though I am mostly in class the rest of the weekend, there's still lunchtime and the last-minute Sunday afternoon, end of Stitches shopping. Yes, I still have lots of stuff from last year's Stitches, but it's not totally all stash - I'm almost done with the Debbie Bliss alpaca/silk cardigan and I've used the needles and spindle I bought. I'm almost done spinning all the fiber I bought from Stitches 2006, which is good because I bought more this year. Is it still stash if I spin the fiber but haven't knit it? Don't answer that.

This year I'm taking more classes than I've ever taken before, mostly because I actually took time off to go to them. Today I had a class with Sarah Peasley on making better sleeves by picking up the stitches along the armhole (the armscye to those of you who sew) and using short rows for shaping. It makes a really nice sleeve with no separate pieces and seaming. The second class was on cables, but beyond knitting basic cables and at first I thought I was in over my head. Eventually I got my bearings and was able to really benefit from the class, which was really just info and tips on how to make cables go where you want them too. I know the instructor (Fiona Ellis) had more to tell us than that but at the time I was still paralyzed with my inability to remember how to cable.

Tomorrow I have two classes on short rows. More short rows! Good grief! When I signed up for the classes last September, I had just finished a pretty intensive (for me) month or so of sewing and I guess fitting, which is one thing short rows do for you, was more on my mind. I'm taking one class on Sunday, which is on knitting a houndstooth pattern - again, I think I was influenced a bit by sewing and fabric for this one. But I do think all these classes will add a lot to my knitting skills.

In the meantime my Burda jacket sits and waits for me to make time to finish it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not that anyone would want to read it...

I was searching on, just looking up the titles of some books I have to see if they're worth anything and I about fell off my chair when I encountered my own (maiden) name on Amazon.

Yes folks, my masters degree thesis is listed on Amazon. Sadly (said sarcastically), you can not obtain a copy from Amazon. But if you really want to read it, the copy on my bookshelf has barely been touched. Oh and I have an electronic version too, spread out over a whole box of floppy disks.

Dry Clean Only

I goofed. I didn't pre-wash my fabric for the Burda jacket and will now have to dry clean it so it won't shrink. Why didn't I take the time to pre-wash? I don't know. I guess I was impatient and eager to start working on it. I also thought it was polyester, like most of the fabrics I've used lately and those didn't need pre-washing. But I've discovered that the fabric, shown in the picture, is rayon. It's a burnout rayon - the leaves are a black mesh and the rest is gray knit. And it does indeed shrink. I washed a 3 inch square sample ('cause that was the size of the quilter's ruler I grabbed) and it shrank 1/8 inch in both directions. Phooey. I hate dry cleaning.

I suspected the fabric wasn't polyester when I started working on the flounces. I want to use a serged 3-thread rolled-edge to finish the bottom edge but I'd never done that before, so I tried some samples. It's a good thing I practiced first because I discovered that the stitching comes off the edge, especially when it's stretchy. The flounces are curved pieces, like the letter "C", so the edge of the fabric has portions that range from straight of grain (stable) to bias (very stretchy) to cross grain (stretchy). I went to my sewing library and The Ultimate Serger Answer Guide by Baker, Brown and Kacynski suggested stabilizing the edge. No problem, I have lots of wash-away stabilizers on hand. So I tested a sample and it went perfectly - all the stitches stayed on the fabric. When I washed out the stabilizer and found that the fabric went very heavy and somewhat stiff, I realized that I wasn't working with polyester. A burn test was in order.

I'd never done a burn test so I consulted Sew Any Fabric by Claire Shaeffer, which has a nice table of the burn characteristics of many fabrics. I had my husband help me - he has an acute sense of smell and has done scientific experiments, so I knew he'd be up for the task. The verdict was clear and unmistakable: rayon. The piece of fabric went up in flames very quickly. Scarily fast in fact. I will remember to never, ever wear this flouncy-sleeved top near open flames. The sample smelled of burning paper or wood, and in fact rayon is made from wood pulp. It was patented in 1894 as an artificial silk. Most rayons shrink when washed and some shrink multiple times.

So now I will have to come up with another way of stabilizing the flounce edges so I can serge them with the rolled-edge. I'm leaning toward cutting strips of fusible interfacing or using the (more expensive) fusible straight tape. At any rate, the jacket is on hold until I try some more samples. The only thing left to do are the flounces and the snaps (instead of buttons). Here's a sneak peek: