Friday, January 01, 2021

A new year

You can't reflect on this past year without talking about Covid. I have been very fortunate to be able to work from home and have the means to have groceries and other items delivered rather than go out to purchase them in person, so my exposure has been limited, and to the best of my knowledge I have not ever contracted the virus. However, a work colleague died from it just two days after Thanksgiving. He was due to retire at the end of the year and had a family. I was looking over some computer code he wrote for me just yesterday (very well written, too), and it saddens me greatly that he passed away too soon from his life. He was a really nice guy. 

Another sadness is that we lost our beloved furry buddy, Felix, in early December. He lived a good, long life and we so enjoyed having him in ours. 

Felix Shag-a-ferocious Tuggle-rumpkin
2003 - Dec 2, 2020

Moving on...

I had a very crafty-filled year, most of which I wrote about in this post, so I won't repeat it here. I splurged on a number of new "toys" - partly out of retail therapy because of feeling cooped up but mostly because I wanted them.

And believe it or not there were things I didn't own yet. This Cricut Maker was a Christmas gift that arrived this week. Not a great picture of the machine, but the picture was more meant to show off the snowflakes I made - my first project after cutting out the sample blue bear. It's fun! I think my next project will be to cut out some lettering to label some drawers that store sewing supplies. It'll dress them up a bit more than boring label-maker tags. I'm also excited to use this to cut small fabric pieces, either for quilting or machine embroidery applique.

The rest of my Christmas gifts were mostly either items to sew with, like bobbins, sewing machine feet, embroidery hoop, or books on knitting. Two books on Norwegian-style knitting!

And speaking of knitting, I finished one sock today:

Last week I finished sewing a Christmas-themed potholder. Another one just needs the binding. Maybe I'll get to it tomorrow.

I've always wanted to crochet snowflakes, so I gave it a go. I don't know that I'll ever make all 100! Haha! 

And on this New Year's Eve, I also spent some time spinning:

So what's in store for 2021? Well, one things for certain, I will do more knitting, sewing, embroidery, spinning, and weaving. And now that I have this new Cricut, I might do a little scrapbooking. I still have plans to do some fiber dying with natural materials - I received an indigo dye kit and some madder plant material at my spinning guild gift exchange. 

Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 11, 2020

More looms

I bought myself an early Christmas present: a Swedish band loom. I wanted one four years ago when I first heard of them, but I started small with an inkle loom to see if I'd like weaving bands. And I do! So when I saw one on a Thanksgiving-Black Friday-Early Christmas 10% off sale, I decided to go for it. 

It's kind of hard to see with my messy background, but it's a really simple loom. You sit in front of it, as it's pictured, with the warp running from left to right. The cloth beam is on the left and the warp beam is on the right - both have metal ratchets and pawls to advance the warp. There's a pulley on top of the tall post in the middle (just out of the picture) that is used with the foot treadles to raise and lower the two sets of heddles. You weave perpendicular to the warp, passing the warp from front to back and back to front, which takes a bit of getting used to since most other weaving you sit in front of and pass the weft from side to side. What makes this loom better, in my opinion, than an inkle loom is that you can have a much longer warp and you don't have to raise and lower the heddles by hand, leaving your hands free to keep weaving, which makes it go very fast. 

I started another Christmas ribbon to try it out. The warp is 6 or 7 yards, so it's going to take a while! The shiny knife at the bottom of the picture is a weaving knife - beveled but not sharp and used to beat the weft as I weave. 

I also recently acquired my tiniest looms: they're about 2 1/2 inches square. I bought them at Cost Plus World Market and thought they'd be a fun little loom to try out some color or texture combinations or make a little tiny weaving. The instruction book is actually pretty good - I flipped through it and it explains weaving in correct terms and shows how to do both tapestry and plain weave on this little loom. The box says "not intended for children", but I think it might be fine for a 10-12 year old, though a larger simple frame loom might be easier for a child to work with.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

In-the-hoop machine embroidery project

I finished a project. This was a kit I bought from after I watched one of their free webinar classes on an in-the-hoop project. I don't think the kit is available any more but you can still get the design from Pickle Pie Designs and use your own fabrics. 

I've been out of machine embroidery for a number of years so these kind of projects, where you do both the embroidery and the construction in the hoop, are new to me. I wouldn't have been able to do them on my 7570 because not only were the hoops too small, but I no longer had a way to get designs into the machine except through the special cards. My new machine is a Pfaff Creative 3.0 and it comes with a large 260x200 mm hoop, or roughly 8x10 inches. This was a fun little project. The first block took me a long time because I didn't want to mess it up, since I only had the fabrics from the kit and no extra. I think it turned out really cute. My kit also included a book, also from Pickle Pie Designs: Modern Machine Embroidery It contains helpful information about machine embroidery, step by step instructions for a number of projects and a CD with designs. 

Machine embroidery is not an inexpensive hobby, nor is it always simple. There are so many different kinds of stabilizers on the market now. Back when I started with my 7570 in the early 2000's, there seemed to be only cut away, tear away and water dissolving. Now they have mesh and woven, heat soluble, fusible and more. Which one to use for which application gets confusing fast, even though the manufacturers all have charts and color coding to help you. There are many different types and weights of threads too. And designs! Oh my, so many designs. 

And then there's the embroidery machine. A few years ago I intended to replace only the embroidery function of my 7570 by buying a standalone machine, but ultimately decided to stay with the Pfaff brand. Back when I bought my 7570, it was their top of the line and only sewing/embroidery machine. This time I went "middle of the road" with the Creative 3.0 - there's a less feature-full 1.5 model and a more feature-full 4.5 model and then the top of the line "Icon." Now my 7570 was expensive when I bought it and the Creative 3.0 was not cheap either but the Icon costs as much as a new car. It projects an image of what you're going to embroidery onto the fabric and has speech recognition. It's no longer a computerized sewing/embroidery machine, it's a computer that sews and embroiders.

It's fun to embellish a few things with embroidery and I plan to do more of it. It's a luxury to have such a machine and to afford the threads and materials to do this for fun. Now I just need to find some more time to devote to it!  

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Barbie patterns

I have a number of patterns for sewing clothes for Barbie dolls. I even have some Barbies - both the well-worn dolls I played with - and sewed a few clothes for while growing up - and some newer ones, bought to sew clothes for. I don't know why I want to do this, except to challenge myself and relive childhood perhaps. There are no children in my life who'd play with these dolls or the clothes I'd make.

These are just a few of the patterns I have. There are more.

I wonder too if anyone has actually made these clothes. I see these patterns for sale on eBay and they do have buyers, but I've searched and haven't found any evidence of anyone making them. If anyone has, please let me know!

The reason this topic came up is because I came across a new Barbie who'd actually be a more appropriate model for the historical clothes, should I actually make them, than the perky blonde Barbies of my youth, the vintage cat-eyed one of the 60's, or the new dolls that Mattel has come out with - they really do have a wide variety of looks, ethnicities now. But to me, this Florence Nightingale doll fits the look for me - not a lot of makeup and her hairstyle fits a broad range of periods. 

Photo from

So yeah, I bought it. I felt that I should make a decision with these patterns - either keep them with an intent to sew them one day or get rid of them because I'll never make them. If I decide to sew them then I'd want a doll that looked appropriate wearing them. But if I wait, this doll will eventually only be available from resellers or collectors, which means potentially more money than I will want to spend. And if I eventually decide I won't ever use the patterns, then I can sell them. Hey, maybe I'll sell the patterns with the doll for someone else who'd want a more appropriate doll to model the clothes. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Finished the Christmas band and made some yarn

Here's the finished Christmas band I wove on my inkle loom. It's 3 yards long and 5/8" wide. I'm not sure what I'll do with it. I might dress up some glass jars with candles in them - I made some candles last weekend but didn't have the right dye (gel food coloring does not work with soy was, despite what I read online) and my green candles look more like key lime pie. I have proper candle dye on order. But right now I just like looking at it. Maybe it's too soon after weaving it to think about cutting it up.

I also finished plying some fiber I spun last year. It's chain-plied Targhee/bamboo blend. I waited to ply it until I learned how to chain ply - if you ply two different colored fibers together you get a barber pole effect when the two colors combine. When you chain ply you are combining one long twisted fiber with itself serially, so the colors mix more evenly. That's the look I wanted for this yarn. 

The wheel didn't stay empty for long. I received the fiber at my spinning guild Christmas party gift exchange last year. It's very pink and not my color, but I thought I should spin it anyway and perhaps use it to knit up a baby item as a future gift for someone, or perhaps something else for a pink-loving friend.

Now I am faced with project paralysis. Which of my many, many projects to work on next? I think right now I'm going to do a bit of sewing. My husband asked me to make him some hops bags for his home beer brewing. Here's a picture of what costs $7 from a homebrew company (ok, the one that costs 7 bucks is 1 inch larger than this one, but still) Correction - he's since told me they actually cost $2 each. Yes, it's a muslin bag with a drawstring and the inside seam allowances aren't even finished. So glad I sew. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

A year of projects and a recently completed UFO

It's been almost a year since I posted on this blog. If you follow me on my Instagram account: lori_sews, then you have seen my projects over the last year. If not, then here's a round up of projects and some related crafty purchases, from most recent to oldest.

First, a finished UFO. I started these pumpkins probably 15 years ago (actually 2 pumpkins and 1 gourd). I got as far as stuffing them and had all the leaves and stems cut out and interfaced the leaves. I carefully had stored all the pieces with the pattern (McCalls 4189) in a ziplock bag. Why didn't I finish them sooner? I don't know. They sat on the top of my sewing bookcase for almost all those years and then went into storage while I was in Germany. After moving back and unpacking they again went to the top of a bookcase. I saw them the other day and thought it was time to finish them and enjoy them! 

I made the small and medium pumpkins - the large size must be huge!

I tried out some tapestry weaving. This is sort of a sampler, designed as I wove, just to try out some different shapes and techniques. I used a Hokett loom - handmade looms by Jim Hokett, who unfortunately no longer makes them. I have a small (7x8) and medium (9x10) size; I used the small one for this project. 

Small and medium Hokett looms

I finished knitting some socks. These were my "work" socks because I knit them during Tuesday lunchtime knitting meetups with other knitting employees at work. But since the pandemic, I've been working from home, so these became my Webex socks - I knit them during reviews and other meetings I attend remotely when I need to listen but don't need to present or take notes. As other knitters may find, knitting actually helps me focus and listen to meetings and keeps me from wandering off to check email or do other work. As long as it's easy knitting and not lace or complicated patterns. Now these will become my work-from-home-socks during the winter.

Regia sock yarn, just a simple stockinette

I've started on a new pair of work-socks, which I am also calling "Webex Socks" I'm knitting these for my husband.

More Regia sock yarn. I have a lot, but it's the best for socks in my opinion.

Weaving in progress - I'm working on a Christmas-themed band on my inkle loom.

I bought a new spinning wheel last summer. It's a Daedalus Starling XL electric wheel, made of carbon fiber and 3D printed plastic. I absolutely love it!

Wool/silk blend 

First yarn made on the new wheel - it was a freebie fiber they sent with the wheel

I also bought two new looms this summer! My weaving guild was thinning out their rental looms and selling them to members at a great price. I couldn't resist. They're table looms from the Mountain loom company (now since closed). The large one is a 28" 12-shaft and the small one is an 18" 8-shaft. I cleaned them up and now they're ready to be warped. 

A thorough cleaning!

Fleece prep. I'd resisted buying a whole fleece for a while because of the work involved in washing and combing, but I gave in and started with a 1 lb fleece from the Deboulliet breed. I washed half of it and then combed it and discovered that it's actually quite fun - well, the combing part at least. When you comb, you pull align the longest fibers and then use a "dizz" to pull them into a long roving. The shorter fibers that are left behind can then be carded into batts.

Drying the washed fleece

A big decorative button I bought in Latvia came in handy

A basket of roving and batts of the shorter staples

I did a lot of spinning in July when we had "Tour de Fleece" - it's when spinners around the world get together to spin during the Tour de France bicycle race (usually virtually and this year definitely virtually). The race was postponed but we spun anyway. Here's what I spun:

Merino/silk blend on my drop spindle

I liked this action shot!

Alpaca - I actually just finished spinning this today

Some finished wool yarn.

Machine embroidery. I finally tried out the embroidery on my Pfaff Creative 3.0 by embroidering a muslin bag to store some of my Blue Face Leicester fiber.

Sewing! I made some pajamas. And some more pajamas. I do hope to make something other than pajamas but I needed them.

My "go-to" pattern for pajamas: KwikSew 2811 

My other "go-to" pattern for pajamas: KwikSew 2821

A new serger! This is the Babylock Triumph - a combo coverstitch/overlock. I have used my Evolve coverstitch/overlock for 18 years and it's still great but showing its age. I'm keeping both though.

So much bigger...and whiter. 

I'm knitting a sweater. It does have sleeves and they are done. I "just" have to pick up and knit the border along the front and neck edge, then block the pieces and sew everything up. My least favorite parts of knitting! But I do need to finish so I can wear it this winter. 

More spinning. I tried to make thicker yarn than I usually spin. 

More sewing. His and hers NASA-themed sleep pants. Yes, more pajamas!

I sewed the pajamas because I wanted to use the fabric remnants to make masks:

Some sock knitting:

Regia sock yarn

Outdoor chair covers. The last sewing project I showed on this blog was the large cover I made for our outdoor couch. I finished the chair covers a few months later - yay. 

I almost forgot my other big purchase last year (I did make a few, didn't I?). I bought a Sailrite sewing machine. I didn't take any photos of it though, and it's put away in its storage case and very heavy, so I'm not going to get it out now to take a picture. It's a great heavy duty sewing machine. I bought it because sewing the cover for the couch pushed my Pfaff Creative 3.0 to its max - at one point it stopped and I got a message saying it had to rest! Now if I have anything heavy weight, I'm using the Sailrite. Here's a picture from the Sailrite company website:

And finally, here's a weaving project I completed during a course I took at Stitches SoCal last year. It's called "clasped warp" weaving.

That's it! Just a few projects this last year. I have so many more project lined up, of course. I had to make a list because my head spins when I think about what to work on next. Do I warp the loom to weave some towels? Sew a top (NOT pajamas!!)? Finish my mini quilt? I did work more on it, but I haven't sewn on the binding yet. I have a Christmas-themed embroidery project queued up. I want to finish prepping the other 1/2 pound of fleece because I bought two full fleeces this summer (yup, I did). I have some singles to ply into yarn. I'd like to make some Christmas candles using some empty yogurt pots and maybe use the band I'm weaving to decorate them.