Monthly Archives: August 2011

Return from Stitches


What a wonderful trip…and how good to be home again. Isn’t that always the way with travel?


I’ve been to Stitches Midwest three times, but this is the first time I took classes, and the first time I stayed overnight. It is SO much easier to shop the marketplace when you have more than one day. There are eight aisles, packed to the brim. And staying overnight meant I had time to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack — super yummy — and shop at IKEA.

As soon as we walked into IKEA, my traveling companion kept repeating, “Oh no! Oh no!” She was overjoyed and overwhelmed. I made it out of there spending just $16, which includes some spice shakers, several kitchen utensils, and a yard of Cecelia fabric. I could not resist, especially when I found out they trust you to cut your own fabric! I was tickled pink.

Cecilia $5.99/yard

But back to the point: Stitches. I bought yarn from just two vendors. First I got three skeins of Universal Yarn in “Spanish Moss” from Yarn Mountain. They showed a display with an entrelac shawl made from the yarn, which was stunning. I have been interested in learning entrelac for a few months now, so it seemed like a perfect project.

Spanish Moss

Then I got six skeins of “Eden” from Sunday Knits. Wow. So soft, so luxurious, so pretty, such great colors. I chose the color “Curry” with a summery sweater in mind. After sleeping on it, I went back for six more skeins in the color “Pickle”. I really want to make the Dahlia cardigan in the latest issue of Interweave Knits. I think Pickle is the one. At $8.50 a skein for 225 yards, I was pretty excited.

Pickle & Curry

One of the most interesting things I saw was a booth that had made up dozens of muslins of how their sweater patterns fit, from Jean Frost’s new book Custom Knit Jackets. I tried one on and found that I should really be knitting different sizes for the front and the back. Jean Frost is a tiny little lady, and she took to making her own knits because she couldn’t get any ready-to-wear things to fit her. I did end up buying her book. It has a large section on fitting, which is helpful to me as a seamstress as well. (And I had a 28% off coupon. Who makes a coupon for 28% off?) As luck would have it, as I was on my way out, I saw Jean Frost sitting at a booth signing books, and nobody was in line, so I got my book signed as well.

I took two classes, and they just so happened to be taught by the same woman, Brooke Nico. She was wearing some amazing jackets of her own design, but sadly they are not up on Ravelry (yet). The first class was Designing a Triangle Shawl. I learned a lot, and when I got home I went directly to my computer to start playing. Well, first I kissed my husband and boy. I can see I am going to have a lot of fun with designing.

I also took Fixing Mistakes in Lace. One of the things we had to do was drop 12 stitches off the needles, pull the work down 10 rows, and reknit the entire section. Useful for if you realize you messed up in one section of your lace. You don’t have to tear out all the rows back down to the mistake, you just drop down one motif. After taking these classes, I have been daydreaming about knitting more lace. I don’t know where to wear it or what to do with it, but it is fun to make.

My Loot

Perhaps I need to make a shawl to match each of the new dresses I have sewn this summer!

One final thought: I loved the carpet at the hotel, and I kept thinking I want to sew a quilt like this. What do you think?


Stitches Midwest


I’m about to leave for my weekend to Stitches Midwest. I have searched through the patterns I want to knit this fall, and I have noted the yarn requirements for each, so I’m ready to shop!

As if I don’t have yarn leftover from last year. And from the Michigan Fiber Festival.

Yes, that's my stash.

I am hoping to find some great fingering weight yarn to make some summery cardis to go over dresses.

I’m taking two classes, Designing Triangle Shawls and Fixing Mistakes in Lace. And I’m hoping to get over to IKEA to buy a bookcase for my craft room.

I must dash — I think that’s my ride. Happy stitching everyone!

Peasant Tops


Three years ago in July, I left my job. Suddenly I no longer had a need for suit jackets and nice blouses. I realized I had pretty much nothing for casual tops, so I went to the mall, tried on about 20 things, and came home with three new blouses — all peasant tops. I like the style on me, and I like woven, loose tops for comfort in hot weather.

When I started sewing clothing again the following Spring, I naturally selected a peasant blouse pattern for my first top. I wasn’t sure what pattern size I wore then, because it had been quite a while since I had made a shirt for myself, and I figured a peasant blouse would be simple to fit. (It was.) And I didn’t want to have to worry about buttonholes, darts, or anything hard. I came home with New Look 6179.

I made a size 14 right out of the envelope with no modifications. It fits pretty good, but it pools up a little bit around my hips in the back. I am short-waisted, so I think the problem is the pattern narrows just as I am widening out.

First version

I made the top again this summer, this time cutting a size 12, raising the waist 1″ and cutting the total length by about 3″. I wanted the blouse to match a few patchwork skirts, and I wanted it short enough to show off the pocket details on my Sew Serendipity skirt.

Shortened version

Other suggestions:

1. I made a strip of bias tape from the fabric instead of buying packaged bias tape for the neckline.

2. You can omit the elastic part at the neck and make the whole drawstring out of fabric.

3. You can omit the placket entirely and just use elastic in the neck. Or you can use a drawstring, but place buttonholes in the neckline instead of the placket.

4. I have thin arms, and I find the elastic on the sleeves to be just a touch tight and annoying. Check the length of your elastic first.

5. Try using lawn or a thin cotton for a more drapey, less stiff look.

I like this top, and think it’s very comfortable. I’m not sure it looks great with skirts, but I like it with capris. I plan to make a long-sleeve version for fall.

Fun with the self-timer

With a skirt

Simple Skirt Pattern


I have a bad habit that dates back to when I was very thin and didn’t have much money. If I see a fabric that I love, I buy only one yard, thinking, “Oh, surely I can make a blouse from this.” Um, no. I can’t.

I’m learning, but in the meantime, I had one yard of patchwork fabric to use up. I bought it with a skirt in mind, but not a pattern. One yard sure is not much fabric! After playing for a little bit, I decided to break the rules, cut the fabric on the crossgrain, and see what happened. The result was the Yellow Patchwork Skirt. It is very easy to make, but it takes a little time to plan.

Design issues:

I expected to make a trapezoid shape, with the front and back pieces identical, so I had to figure out how wide to cut the skirt at the bottom and at the waist, and I needed to figure out how long to make the skirt. As it turned out, the bottom width and the length were determined by the amount of fabric I had.

  • Bottom width:  A yard of fabric meant cutting 36″ for the front piece and 36″ for the back piece. Pretty straightforward. I used 1/2″ seams, which meant 2″ total. Therefore, the total finished width at the hem was going to be 70″.
  • Top width: I wanted a simple pull-on skirt with an elastic waist, so I needed enough ease to slip over my hips. I chose 6″ of ease + hip measurement (I’m glad, since my hips are no longer that size). I also added 2″ for the seam allowances. 38″ + 6″ + 2″ =46″ total width. Of course, half of this needs to go on the front of the skirt, and half on the back, so I divided the number by 2. I would need to cut the top 23″ wide.
  • Length: The fabric was only 42″ wide, or 21″ when folded with selvedges matching. I wrapped it around myself with the fold at my waist and observed:  21″ is too short for a skirt on me. It would need a band on the bottom. I wanted it to be ruffled, so I made it 84″ long and gathered it to meet the 70″-wide hem edge.
  • I figured out in making the skirt that I should have flared the top for 1.5″ so when I folded over the top, the fabric was wide enough to make the casing.

I had my dimensions, so all I needed to do was center them on the piece of fabric. I subtracted the top width (23″) from the bottom width (36″) to get 13″. I split that amount evenly on either side of the edge and marked it on my fabric with a pencil. I carefully lined up my ruler to make sure it was square, and marked the top of the fabric with a pencil.* Then I just used my ruler to connect the mark for the waist with the bottom corner of the fabric, and I cut it with my rotary cutter.

*I should have made this mark 1.5″ from the top, to leave room for the flare, but I didn’t and I managed.


I sewed the side seams together, and then I turned the top over and stitched it 1.25″ from the edge, leaving a space open to insert the 1″-wide elastic. I recommend stitching the elastic in place (at center back and both side seams) once the gathers are where you like them. Otherwise the fabric likes to find its way to the edges, leaving the center of the skirt flat and the sides looking w-i-d-e.

To make the ruffle at the hem, I pieced two 5″-wide strips of fabric to make a really long band. Then I folded the strip in half right side out, and pressed it so it was 2.5″ wide. I ran a gathering line along the cut edge, then sewed the edge to the bottom of the skirt. No hemming required.

I like the skirt, but it is youthful in style, fabric, and design. Although I am currently not working, I feel like maybe my style is a little too young for my age. Not sure I will make another one of these.

Self-Stitched September Pre-game Analysis


I was thinking I had plenty to wear for Self-Stitched September. I looked through the photos of all my handmade items (posted recently); I sorted through my knitted scarves and shrugs.  I figured I could easily make it 30 days, even if I had a few repeats. But the weather has been subtly changing. It’s still 86 during the day, but the mornings are cool, and the evenings are getting chilly. Fall is approaching! I hope the weather is warm enough to wear short-sleeved blouses and summery skirts throughout the month. I don’t want to cover up all my cute blouses with store-bought sweaters.

I’m also going to Wheatland for my second time. It’s a really fun weekend-long concert. I’ll be camping in a tent, so skirts are really not going to work. Last year it was freezing for most of the trip. And pouring. The only handmade thing I wore was mittens, no kidding. I will have to choose wisely to make sure I meet the SSS challenge during the trip.

(I was worried the first time I went to Wheatland, because I don’t particularly like bluegrass music. I went anyway, because I thought, “Well, it could be ‘Dueling Banjos’ from Deliverance, or it could be Bob Dylan.” There was so much variety, I was not disappointed. To be clear, I was looking for Bob Dylan. If you like music, or booze, or sleeping in a tent, come on along! The sleeping in a tent is much more palatable after the booze.)

Michigan Fiber Fest


It’s an all-fiber weekend, here is sunny Michigan. Yesterday was the Fiber Fest, today one of my knitting group meets, and tomorrow my sewing group comes over.

Fiber Fest was great fun, with lots of vendors, loads of animals, and plenty of food booths. My son had custody of the camera where he shot a million photos of the animals. He spent about 2 hours in the barn just visiting the various pens. This gave me plenty of time to browse all the fabulous yarns. Sadly, I only got to work the camera once we got home, so no shots of the sales booths.

Vendors had yarn, sewn bags, knitting and crocheting gadgets, weaving supplies, roving, books, you name it. I walked away with 6 balls of wool for $5 each (half price!), a skein of beautiful burnt orange lace yarn, and a skein of variegated yellow fingering yarn from Studio June. Mmmm. Jill June is completely charming and friendly. Her yarns are amazing!

When I got home, my husband asked me if I bought anything (Ha!) and then said, “Oh, I see, a bag full of fall-colored yarn.”

My Loot

Here are some animals shots, courtesy of my son.


Yep, it's a camel.

If you have the chance, go to the Michigan Fiber Fest or a festival where you live.

Learning New Things


Starting a blog is a new, exciting adventure. I love adventures! Learning is fun, as long as it’s not too frustrating. What I didn’t realize about this journey was that in order to write what I want, show what I want, and make it look like I want, I am also going to have to learn ancillary things. Like using Gimp and Photoshop to create and modify artwork. So much learning, so fast. I feel as though I am trying to drink from a firehose.

I see some bloggers writing about Pinterest or Evernote, and I see others creating palettes and storyboards and swatch sheets.  I love the visuals! I want to try it too!

Green Apples has a great tutorial about layering photos of her fabrics with line drawings of her patterns. Super cool and helpful.

I am playing around with some things today, namely drawing a skirt pattern in Gimp. I can see I will need to spend more time in order to take advantage of the tools offered there.

Do you have favorite software or help/tutorial sites you like to use? How did you learn how to make a Beautiful Blog?