February 27, 2013

Little Sister

Earlier this month in the midst of an East Coast blizzard, my friend Kristin gave birth to her second, beautiful daughter. I imagine that they have spent this last month hunkered down at home, staying warm and getting to know each other as a family of four.

I wanted to welcome baby Harper with a tiny Flutter Sweater. This is the same pattern that I used for my niece Freya's sweater, but much tinier. It's made from a finger weight yarn from Turkey (Ice Yarns) gifted from my mother. I'm really pleased with how the variegated yarn resulted in such nice striping. It's very soft and lightweight - hopefully Harper looks good in earth tones!

I added a little pair of crocheted socks to the package as well - just like the ones I made for my niece, Elle, but again with a lighter weight yarn. These still have a little stretch to them, so I hope they'll fit Harper in the next couple of months.

For Annie, Harper's big sister, I included the book BIG SISTER and LITTLE SISTER.

This book was written by Charlotte Zolotow in 1966, and my big sister Susanna received a copy of it in 1979 when I was born, from our cousins, also a big sister and little sister duo!

It tells a story of how difficult life can be for the big sister who has to look out for little sister, and how trying it can be for a little sister always being looked after! 

As both a big sister and a little sister, I can really relate to the story. In the end of the book, the sisters learn how to take care of each other - and realize how much better off they are for it. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have sisters for my best friends, and I hope that Annie & Harper will be similarly blessed.

February 19, 2013

Sallie Ford, Finally!

Earlier this month Mike and I went to Eugene for the weekend to catch a duck's basketball game. The team has been iffy this season, but they managed to eek out a win at the last minute. We left with about a minute left on the clock and high-tailed it over to the Lane County Fairgrounds to finally catch Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, playing at the Eugene Microbrew Festival.


We've been trying to catch the Portland band for the last year, but they seem to rarely play in Portland. We almost saw them in Seattle last spring, but were overcome with exhaustion at the thought of a start time of 11 pm. Sara and Bobby even saw them in Ohio before us! They must cater to the young, hipster crowd, because there is no way that I'm staying up to catch a concert that starts that late. This time she was scheduled at 8:30 pm - much more my style.
We had to pay to get into the beer festival to see her, which was not a bad deal ($21), but their organization of getting people into the festival was horrid! They've been doing this for 14 years or so, and they had only one computer for credit card purchases and the ATM was broken. We waited in line for 30 minutes, and there were only a dozen people in front of us. I was pretty irritated by the time we got inside (patience is not my virtue), but at least there was beer when we arrived.

We had a little time before Sallie took the stage to sample some excellent beers:
Georgetown's Lucille IPA
Firestone Walker's Union Jack IPA 
Crazy Mountain Amber Ale

My favorite was the Union Jack and Mike preferred the Lucille.

The concert was great, but the best part was watching the UO students get drunk and dance. It was fabulous entertainment, and wonderful reassurance that being in one's thirties isn't so bad after all.

February 16, 2013

Renfrew #3: Red Cowl

Per my logic on pattern prices, this third Renfrew means that the pattern was free!

After seeing several more Renfrews online, I noticed that some people have been using sweatshirt fleece – and they look comfy!  I went to Rose City Textiles looking for sweatshirt knit but their selection was not great. I perused their sale room and came across this awesome fabric 50% off! It's a performance fleece, and very warm.

It doesn't have as much stretch as jersey so I had to fiddle with the pattern sizing once again. I basically went bigger all around, but tried to keep the shoulders narrower.

Since I liked the look of the wrong side of the fabric (maybe a little more than the right side even), I opted to turn the inside layer of the cowl wrong side out, along with the sleeve bands.

This is the closest I've come to making a winter appropriate top. I only wish that I had added pockets.

February 14, 2013

Share the Love: Canine Companions for Independence

Last week my company held our fourth annual "share the love" party/fundraiser. This year it was to benefit the Canine Companions for Independence. We had a great turnout - which included 7 dogs!

CCI raises and trains dogs to provide a variety of services (pretty much everything except seeing-eye dogs). Check out their website for lots of information and ways to get involved. At the party we had puppy raisers and program graduates (the people who get the dogs after they are trained). One dog helped assist a man in a wheelchair, another assisted a deaf woman, and a third worked with young children in a school. Seeing the dogs and hearing the stories had me considering raising a puppy!

My colleague Mike and I

We had all sorts of decorations to represent both valentines day and the organization. My personal contribution this year was to needle-felt three dogs.

Since CCI uses labradors, it made my life a little easier. The first animal I ever needlefelted was the brown dog above, so at least I already had one done. I did change his eyes to black beads since I think the beads give them a little more "life". The other two dogs came together very quickly since I didn't give them moveable limbs.

My favorite is the yellow lab below - patiently sitting and awaiting instruction.

This dog was the most like the CCI program graduates. All seven dogs just sat so patiently at the party.

I also love the little black puppy, but it's just impossible for me to photograph it well and show off any detail. In real life, it does indeed have detail, and very much looks like an eager puppy.

For scale: about 2" high

February 11, 2013

Renfrew #2: Turquoise Striped Cowl

I love pattern books and I always think that it's such a good deal to buy a book full of patterns for $20 rather than one pattern for $20. However, I rarely make anything from my sewing books. I use them for reference and inspiration, but I find more and more that I purchase the single patterns for actually making things.

Sadly the single patterns, particularly from the independent designers, are significantly more expensive than the books/magazines. I prefer to wait until lots of sewing bloggers use the pattern so that I can peruse the internet to ensure that I like it enough to make multiple versions from it. After my experience with the Colette Parfait dress (expensive pattern and total fail dress) I realized that it’s not always easier/cheaper to make your own clothes if you’re only going to make one. I decided that if I make at least three items from the pattern then I can forget about the cost of it.

This was my intention when purchasing the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern (@ $22!). Luckily I'm nearly at the point where I can erase the cost from my mind, because here is Renfrew #2.

Learning from a few of my mistakes making Renfrew #1, I cut out a new pattern with size 4 around the shoulders and chest, but keeping the grading to a size 10 around the hips. This time I used a sweater knit from the Mill End store. This was my first experience sewing with sweater knit and this was a weird one. The two colors are knit with very different thread types. The teal is thin and very stretchy, and after one washing looks like it might pill. The white is stiffer, doesn’t stretch much, but looks very crisp. We’ll see if this one makes it through more than one season.
Sticking to my goal of having more winter clothing, I used the long sleeve pattern piece for this one instead of the ¾. I like the fit of the narrow shoulders better and I like the long sleeve length much better. The torso length is still too long, but most likely I'll just live with it.

Renfrew #1 here

February 8, 2013

Renfrew #1: Plum Cowl

Living in the pacific northwest I tend to populate my closet with “layering” items. My intention is to be able to wear most of my clothing items all year long, just layering on more when needed. In reality, it doesn't really work for me. I'm always so cold that to be warm enough in the winter I'd have to wear 3 or 4 layers. Instead I tend to wear 2 layers, find that I'm still cold, and proceed to wear my down jacket all day while I sit at my desk.

So this winter I’m attempting to make myself some clothing that could be considered “winter” appropriate.

I started by picking up the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern that has been on my wishlist since summer. I love cowl necks and I really wanted to start sewing more knit items. I picked up a plum jersey over the summer at Joann Fabrics before I had any project in mind. It's a great winter/fall color, so I used it for my inaugural attempt at the pattern.

Based on my measurements I cut the pattern for a size 6 top and graded it up to a size 10 around the hips. As you can see, it's much too big. The shoulder seam is a couple inches down my arm, it's baggy in the armpit and it's a several inches too long. The designer must have a long torso because in all of her photos the shirt looks much shorter.

I followed the pattern exactly for view C, which resulted in some cursing at step 6 when I encountered a typo and had to sew the cowl three times (I did it correctly once; reread the directions and thought, "oh crap it’s backward"; resewed it; realized that the direction was a typo and the way I did it first was correct. Finally, I went back and did it a third time to get it back to how I originally had it). Luckily I didn’t have to cut the fabric more than once, but as a result the cowl is slightly shorter than intended.

I clearly need a smaller size at the shoulders and arms and to shorten the overall length. I also need to use the long sleeves, since as I've mentioned before, I really dislike this sleeve length.

I wore this top for the first time layered under a green cardigan, so while it’s a step in the right direction, I suppose I haven’t really achieved my goal.

Especially since I was still cold.

February 6, 2013

Planning for the Future: Sewing Projects, that is

Well, I am a project manager by trade, so occasionally I try to apply those skills to my personal projects. Most of the time I see a pattern I like, or fabric, and I drop everything to make it. I get a bit obsessed actually. But when I happen to acquire several patterns and yards of fabric at once, I get a tad overwhelmed and I must plan to stay sane.

Thanks to my recent purchases from Joanns, Mill End and Fabric.com, I now have 6 new cuts of knit fabric in my stash.

The Teal Striped fabric is very drapey and heavy, so I'm thinking a wrap dress would work.

The Charcoal Ponte would be perfect for a tunic. It's thick and doesn't wrinkle. I wish I had more of this because it's the perfect fabric for my lifestyle.

The Purple Space-Dyed is very thin and I got it specifically to make leggings.

The Black Ripply was too cool to pass up (plus it was on clearance). It's got medium stretch and I think it would also make a cool pair of leggings. Especially to go with the Charcoal tunic.

The Gray & Pink is a light-weight sweatshirt french terry. The inside is bubblegum pink! This will be used for a gift.

The Brown Sweater knit is thin and drapey. I have a lot of it, so I thought I'd try a couple different cardigan styles. I'm thinking of drafting some patterns off some of my favorite sweaters.
In addition to the fabric, I picked up a few new patterns as well. And I've already put a couple to good use:

I've been wanting the Minoru for a long time. It looks perfectly my style. I've been hesitant to start because it doesn't look like a quick project and I know I'll have to create a muslin first - which is not appealing. I keep seeing great fabrics for this jacket at Rose City Textiles, so at some point I'll bite the bullet and start the project.
 For a more instantly-gratifying project, I also picked up the Renfrew pattern. I've already made three! I'll be sharing them soon.
 I got this one at Joanns on sale for $1.99. This will be my first "non-independent" pattern. I got it because I'd like to make Mike something and this is the only handmade thing that I think he'll wear.

I saw a few bloggers recently make this dress so I slapped down the $13 for the digital pattern from Craftsy. I made a version of this last weekend and I've got quite a few comments on it...

I feel better now that I've planned. I'll be curious to see if the projects actualize correctly.

February 4, 2013

Malt Bags

My friend Alan is a brewer and we're happy to be his taste testers.
He also is a great source for materials and recipes for Mike's home brewing adventures.

Last fall he gave Mike some malt to brew with and the empty malt bag laid around the house for months. I told Alan that I really liked the bag and wanted to come up with something to do with it -  he proceeded to give me 5 more.

So, in the interest of checking off  an item on my "to make" list, I turned two of them into shopping bags.

It's a pretty standard bag with a boxed bottom.
The bag material is woven from plastic strips that fray (making quite a mess) so I finished the bottom seam with some white bias tape.
The handles are white cotton webbing.

Here's another one filled with fabric scraps.

I've got a few more of these bags and could turn them all into shopping bags, but I'm overloaded with shopping bags right now.  I'd love to come up with something more creative. If not, it looks like several people are getting Malt Bags next Christmas.

February 1, 2013

Fabric Planning: a retrospective

I’ve recently acquired a stack of new fabric and several new patterns (ie, I recently purchased it all).

As a planner, I’m busy creating lists of how I’m going to use it all, and it prompted me to look back at the last time I stockpiled fabric and patterns to see how all my planning worked out.

Why do I even bother to plan?

I did make the Colette Parfait dress from the Batik, and I used the Minkie for backing Elle's quilt.

I'm really happy with how the Coated Cotton looks in our kitchen, and I didn't really need outdoor pillows anyway.

The Heathered Cotton looks good as a sleeveless blouse, and I found another source for the toddler skirt.

The Flannel and the Dotted Cotton are still in the stash and I probably will use them for baby clothes.

The Floral Cotton and the red Jersey were used, but they did not work out at all so they are now scraps.

The white/purple/orange Jersey went to a very comfy nightgown and two infinity scarves.

At least I used most of the fabric even if it didn't go where I thought it would. 
Let's see if I do better this next time...

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