Category Archives: sewing

Tutorial: Cheating hand-made buttonholes

Finished shirt, buttoned, with placket flap pulled back to show buttons and ribbon

Finished shirt, buttoned, with placket flap pulled back to show buttons and ribbon

Today I want to talk about buttonholes. Specifically, I want to talk about how painful and tedious it is to make buttonholes by hand, without a machine. I want to complain that although I have twice as many sewing machines as a reasonable amateur needs, neither of them has a buttonholing feature. Then, I want to talk about how to cheat—making buttonholes, by hand or machine, with only a simple, straight seam and a bit of ribbon.

I’ve been working on button-up blouses lately, so that will be the context for this tutorial; unfortunately the technique that I’ve come up with is pretty much exclusive to rows of buttons on plackets. It could work on fly buttons, cuff buttons, etc., but I leave that as an exercise to the reader. I recommend being familiar with the ordinary ways of making plackets before reading this tutorial: in general, plackets are folded-over areas of fabric that provide reinforcement and stiffness for the buttons. My technique is a form of hidden placket, meaning when the shirt is worn buttoned up, the buttons are hidden behind an extra flap of fabric.

You will need:

  • Fabric for a shirt (or any item with a placket/button closure)
  • A pattern you like, with allowance for ordinary (not hidden) plackets
  • Buttons; since they will be hidden it is okay if they are a poor match or ugly
  • Roughly 2 feet of ribbon, piping, or bias tape; anything narrower than 1/2″ and non-fraying, and preferably matching the color of the fabric. I used quarter-inch satin ribbon; I’ll refer to it as “ribbon” in the instructions but other options are fine.
Pattern piece (McCall's M6035) with allowance for ordinary plackets; note the fold lines and center-front line.

Pattern piece (McCall’s M6035) with allowance for ordinary plackets; note the fold lines and center-front line.

What I mean by “allowance for ordinary plackets” is this: starting from the center front of the garment (often marked on patterns with a dashed line with buttonhole and button positioning marks on it), extra fabric is added, two and a half times as wide as the intended placket; if the final placket will be 1″ wide, 2.5″ is added. The placket width must be wider than the buttons; typically shirts have half-inch buttons (plus or minus an eighth) and inch plackets, but skirts or coats may have larger buttons and correspondingly wider plackets. This added fabric has two folds in it, typically marked with fold lines on patterns: one at half-the-placket-width (1/2″ on shirts) from the center-front line, and another halfway between the first fold line and the edge.

Instructions:

  1. Make sure your pattern has allowance for ordinary plackets, not hidden plackets or a narrow hem or anything else.
  2. Cut fabric piece with center front line (including buttonhole positions) and first fold line marked with pins

    Cut fabric piece with center front line (including buttonhole positions) and first fold line marked with pins

    Cut fabric and transfer markings: mark the center-front line (and button/hole positions) and the first (closest to center-front) fold line. You can mark the second fold line as well, but I did not—it’s recoverable from the first fold line, and I was running low on pins. Make sure you mark the center-front line from top to bottom, not just where the buttonholes are; this will be a fold line on the buttonhole side. If you want to adjust the button/hole positions (I generally make mine closer together to avoid gapping), do it now. Note: I cut my pieces with the straight edge along the selvedge, which helps with construction, but if your fabric has a pucker or anything weird on the selvedge, don’t do this; make sure that the straight edge is as straight and clean as you can, though, as there is effectively less than a quarter-inch seam allowance on it (it’ll work out, I promise).

  3. On the button side (typically left side of the worn garment for women’s shirts, right for men’s), make the placket as normal: fold on both fold lines, creating basically a wide hem, and stitch close to the edge.
  4. On the button-hole side, lay the fabric piece flat with the wrong side facing you. Take your bit of ribbon and lay it right-side-down along the marked center-front line. You want to place just the very edge of the ribbon over the markings, with the rest of the ribbon extending out over the placket allowance (see photo). Pin it down, making sure the ribbon is as straight as possible. Make sure you’ve marked the top and bottom of each buttonhole.
  5. ribbon sewn down

    Ribbon sewn down; if you look closely (click for larger) you can find the tops and bottoms of buttonholes by the knots

    Start sewing the ribbon to the fabric, sewing as straight as you can right over the very edge of the ribbon and through the center-front line of the fabric. Sew from the top of the piece to the top of the first buttonhole, then stop and reinforce the seam. I found this easiest to do by hand, tying knots to reinforce, but it should still be less frustrating than hand-sewing buttonholes for all you machine-sewing folks out there. If you are machine-stitching, use a straight stitch with a fairly short stitch length, and take your time.

  6. Leave a gap for the length of the buttonhole, where the fabric and ribbon run parallel but aren’t connected. If you are hand-sewing, carry the thread across the buttonhole by inserting the needle into the fabric, running the thread loosely along the right side (far side) of the fabric, then coming up at the bottom of the buttonhole, and you’re good to tie a knot and start the next segment. If you’re machine-sewing, finish each segment as you normally finish top-stitching (this seam will be somewhat visible on the outside of the garment); I recommend leaving fairly long tails of thread, then using a hand-needle to hide them inside the finished placket sometime after step 12.
  7. Checking that the buttons go through the gaps I've made

    Checking that the buttons go through the gaps I’ve made

    Sew between the bottom of the first buttonhole and the top of the next, reinforcing at the beginning and end of the seam. Check at this point that your buttons will fit through the hole you just made; if they don’t, rip it out and do-over, and if they slide through too loosely, you can go back and make the gap a little shorter now or do it later.

  8. Work down the rest of the center-front line, leaving gaps for all the marked buttonholes, to the bottom of the piece. Check, as you work or afterwards, that all the holes will accommodate your buttons.
  9. Fold the fabric around the seam line you’ve just made (center front line), right-side to right-side, with the ribbon sticking out away from the folded fabric. Pin and/or press.
  10. Fold the placket allowance wrong-side to wrong-side, matching the cut edge of the fabric with the marked first fold line (if you marked the second fold line as well, just fold along it). Pin and/or press.
  11. Fold along the first fold line, wrong-side to wrong-side, enclosing the raw edge of the fabric. From the front of the piece, it should look like an ordinary hidden placket: an unblemished 1″ strip of right-side fabric at the center-front. From the back, it should look a little weirder; see photos below.
  12. Topstitch all these folds in place, working close to the inside edge of the placket but making sure to securely catch the folded-in raw edge of fabric. If necessary, make two passes. Make sure not to catch the ribbon/buttonholes in this seam; there should be more than half a button width between where the ribbon is attached and this seam.
  13. If you want, for decorative reasons or because you’re worried about the raw edge unfolding, topstitch just the front part of the placket close to the outside edge.
  14. Your placket is done! Still easier than hand-stitching buttonholes, right? Anyway, time to make the rest of the garment!

Note on construction order: I generally make my side seams and bottom-edge hem before making my plackets, but for this construction, the hem really can’t happen before any part of the buttonhole-side placketing. It’s a little weird doing what I consider almost a finishing step, making the plackets, as the very first part of construction, but I think it’s the only way to work it.

Note on working with easily-frayed fabrics (linen blends, satins, silks? I am poor, I don’t know if silk frays): I would recommend trying this technique first on a cotton or cotton-poly blend so you grok the construction before trying it on any fabric that frays. Once you’ve done so, adapting to a fraying fabric is not too bad: the problem is that securely catching the raw edge of the fabric in step 12 is going to be difficult. This is solved by making the placket flap one layer thicker: add an extra placket-width (one inch, for most shirts), or a bit less, to the pattern before/when you cut, adding a fold line at the old edge of the pattern, and transferring all three fold lines. Around steps 10&11 make another fold, making the flap three layers thick instead of two. Then in step 12 you are catching a folded edge instead of a raw edge, which prevents fraying. I don’t recommend this extra thickness if you don’t need it, though, for two reasons: 1) altering patterns scares some people, and 2) the fancy placket is already thicker than most shirts; adding another layer of fabric will make it even stiffer and heavier and risks looking weird.

alt buttonhole

Variant method—the top buttonhole of my green shirt, with the ribbon folded around to hide the end and tacked down. For this one the ribbon was added after constructing the placket; if you follow the instructions above but end the ribbon this way it will be on the other side of the inner part of the placket.

Variant: I prefer the way given above, but if you don’t like having the ribbon run the full length of the placket (because there’s an open collar, for instance), cut the ribbon three-quarters inch above the top of the first buttonhole, before you start sewing; fold the tail of ribbon on a right angle above the buttonhole so it’s pointing towards the middle of the garment, fold the end under and sew it down to the fabric (see photo). In fact, you can construct steps 9-13 first, then mate the edge of the ribbon to the folded edge of the fabric, either with a whipstitch or a slight overlap and running stitch, folding under both ends of the ribbon; this is how I did my first attempt, allowing me to put off placing the buttonholes until the shirt was constructed enough to try on, but I still prefer the method given above overall.

green shirt 2

Green shirt with ribbon ended just above the top buttonhole: note that even with the collar folded down, no ribbon is visible, although the unusually-folded fabric is.

I suppose at some point I should address the question of, well, what happens when you finish the shirt? Is it wearable? Is it going to take hours to get in and out of? To which I answer, I was actually surprised by how well this works. I was expecting it to function, but be annoying to fasten/unfasten, and it is, but much less annoying than I expected; it’s only a tiny bit more annoying than ordinary buttonholes, and I think that even integrated over the lifetime of the shirt, the extra annoyance of using these buttonholes is completely compensated by the reduced annoyance of making them. On the other hand, I would not gift a garment with this kind of placket without checking with the recipient; I have unusually nimble fingers (as do you, if you do much fiber crafting), and I could see the unusual-ness by itself being a problem. As a final note, I used satin ribbon because I have it to hand in lots of colors, but I think the annoyance factor would go down if you use a thicker, less slippery material, like bias tape or piping or non-satin ribbon.

Journal: 12 July 2014

Since my last journal post, I have been a busy little bee—by which I think I actually mean, it has been a while since my last journal post, so I’ve gotten a fair bit done without getting any more done per time than usual. I’ve developed and posted a bunch of tatting patterns, done a bunch of utility/housewares sewing, chugged away a bit on my knitting, finished one of my blouses and started another. I’ve also done a bit of crochet that I can’t talk about just yet.

Housewares sewing:

apron_pocket

Forgive the blurry picture: apron with ruffle and with a potholder in the pocket.

The major piece of housewares sewing I did was to add a pocket and a ruffle to my frumpy apron. The photo at right shows the pocket, with a round potholder in it, and the ruffle. I am not entirely sure why I bothered with the ruffle—I think it took more work than the rest of the apron put together—but I just feel that if one is to make a frumpy floral apron, a ruffle around the skirt is required. Anyway, here’s a much better photo of the apron spread out on the floor:

apron_flat

 

tote_pocket

Card pocket for tote bag

While I was doing housewares sewing, I added a card pocket to one of the tote bags: my local grocery store has those rewards cards; I don’t want to waste wallet space on it, so it lives in the grocery bag, but having the tiny card floating in the great big bag is inconvenient. I solved this by making a small pocket and top-stitching it into the inside of the bag just below the hem. I used a scrap of quilting cotton, so managed to do the stitching by hand.

needle_case_side

Big needle case

Due to the influx of tatting thread I mentioned recently, I spent a while sorting out my yarn stash, which led to me deciding I really needed a better way to store my crochet hooks and knitting needles. In cutting out the apron, I cut considerably more narrow strips of fabric than I ended up needing, so I decided to make needle cases out of it. Out of a 32″x3″ strip I made a 15″x2″ rectangular case with a zip closure, and out of an 8″ strip I made a narrow little DPN case that fits inside the big one, and has a fold-over closure with drawstring and button:

The zipper for the main case was a salvage from an old laundry bag; it is bright blue and had a stupidly large tab/pull on it, making it impossible to set hidden. So I snipped off the tab and replaced it with macrame/friendship bracelet. The loop holding the tab was open at one end, so I was worried a soft tab would slide off; I closed it with a drop of super glue, which I am pleased with the results of. Photos, playing with the zoom settings on my camera:

I am a lot happier with this one than I am with the one on my wallet/coin purse, so I may put up a tutorial on replacing zipper pulls soon. My technique is still not quite there yet, though. I am proud of the color coordination; all of the floss was stuff I had on hand, too.

Knitting:

cashmere_cables

Starting the cables

I’ve been working on a pair of mitts/arm warmers out of the cashmere lace-weight yarn from my birthday, and it is going slowly. I’m beginning to regret some of my choices, namely deciding that cabling a fluffy, tiny yarn on #2 needles was a good idea. I haven’t dropped any stitches that I couldn’t get back yet, but all the tight little stitches and keeping track of four DPNs and a cabling needle just make me so tense that I can do about five rows on a good day before needing to switch to something else. I don’t suppose anybody out there has tips for tiny cabling without losing one’s mind?

cashmere_onhandI do think that I will like these mitts and consider them worth all the pain when they’re done, though. I’ve finished the ribbing section, including the thumb hole, on both, working on a circular needle so I can try them on (see photo), and am happy with the fit. I’m a little concerned that the cabled section may be too tight to comfortably get my hand through, and since I moved to DPNs for the cabling I can’t check it, but I think it will be all right.

cashmere_thumb

Mitt showing thumb hole

Blouses:

blue_blouse

Navy blue blouse

Finally, I’ve made progress on the blouse-sewing mega-project I mentioned in my last journal post: making five new button-up blouses. Namely, I finished blouse #1 in navy blue and started in on blouse #2 in green. Both are using McCall’s M6035 pattern. The blue one has sleeve style C: straight elbow-length sleeves, and I decided to omit the sleeve-cuff tab and the collar band, making a simpler collar. I am very happy with this pattern so far; the princess-seamed base is completely solid and flattering, the sleeves sit well, and there’s a lot of customizability.

The first blouse did remind me just how much I hate sewing buttonholes by hand; I remembered that I hate it but figured it couldn’t be but so bad, then sat down to actually sew them and it was so much worse. And I signed up to do 30ish of them, entirely of my own volition: good job seesawyer. Still, now that they are a few days in the past, I am back in “how hard could it be?” mode, besides which I have an idea for making fancy concealed plackets which will not need buttonholes, which hopefully will work out. I do also really love how hand-made buttonholes look, to the point of being driven a little nuts by the sloppy buttonholes on some off-the-shelf machine-made garments, so the relationship is a love-hate one at worst.

green_blouse_pieces

Cut pieces for the green blouse

Next up is a green blouse; I’m planning to make the full banded collar this time, and the sleeves will be elbow-length bishop sleeves (style B). I’m also changing one of the fitting details; I am right on the line between two non-interpolatable sizes (cup size, which this pattern implements with separate pieces for the front and side front, for each of three options), so I’m going to see which of this one and the blue one I like better. I am planning to try my fancy plackets with this one, too, although I may chicken out and go with the recommended straightforward button plackets. If it does work out, I’ll post a tutorial here and consider my contribution to the human race to have been made :P. The pieces are cut, and I’ve started sewing the back and side back pieces together.

Tutorial: Hiding your stitching

Today I want to share some things I’ve learned over the years about making really professional-looking handmade items. In particular, I want to talk about making the stitches themselves less obtrusive, or even completely hidden, on a finished garment or other project. I will mostly be talking about hand sewing, but include a couple tips that are good for machine sewing too.

1. Get creative with construction

These techniques work with machine or hand-sewing, and I’m not going to go into a lot of depth, but just list for completeness’s sake. There are a lot of ways to slightly change the construction of your project to hide stitches:

  • Inside top back of my green tunic, showing facing/lining. The only stitching on the exterior of this garment is the bottom hem.

    Inside top back of my green tunic, showing facing/lining. The only stitching on the exterior of this garment is the bottom hem.

    Replace hems with facings: cut strips of fabric 1″ to 2″ wide that follow the contours of the edge, sew to the edge right side to right side, and turn to inside

  • Line some or all of the garment and work inside out and then turn
  • Sew yokes and straps inside out and then turn, rather than top-stitching, as much as possible

2. Work on making smaller stitches on the front

Seam stitching: same amount of thread on the front as on the back of the seam.

Seam stitching

One of the lovely things about hand-sewing is that you have more control over where the thread is—and isn’t. Sewing tutorials and stitch diagrams generally show all of the stitches the same length, but this ignores a wealth of customizability. For seams, I will generally do fairly even stitches, the same amount of thread in front of the fabric as behind (see photo at right; as always, click for larger photos). Even stitches are better for seams than uneven stitches, because no one can see the thread anyway and it distributes the stress more evenly.

Hem stitching

Hem stitching

For hems, however, I shift as much of the thread as possible to the back/inside of the piece, coming up only for one or two threads every eighth-inch or more (see photo). Still, although I am proud enough of my stitching to brag about it on the internet, it’s a work in progress—there’s no special trick to improving your stitching, just a little bit of paying attention and a lot of practice. Just to drive home the point, here are some photos of the inside and outside of hems I’ve made recently:

Another benefit of making your visible stitches smaller is that they look much neater, even if you can still clearly see the stitches; compare the apparent neatness of the inside and outside of the green tunic above.

3. Don’t sew all the way through

Skirt yoke with no visible stitching on outside

Skirt yoke with no visible stitching on outside

This last tip is going to be useful whenever you have a pattern tell you to “stitch in the ditch” or topstitch a multi-layer area. I use it for cuffs, collars, yokes, and straps. It’s similar to the “invisible stitch”, which is more used for stuffed animals and pillows than apparel sewing; think of it as a one-sided invisible stitch if that will help.

I’ll take the example of putting a waistband/yoke on a skirt, just for clarity: imagine you have the main part of your skirt all done and you have two waistband pieces: the outside/front and inside/lining. You’ve attached the outside piece by sewing a right-side-to-right-side seam, and pressed it flat. You’ve attached the two waistband pieces together by sewing their top edges, right-side-to-right-side, and then flipping the lining to be on the inside. Now you need to attach the bottom edge of the lining to the outside so it doesn’t flip or fold while you’re wearing it. If you’re machine sewing, you have two options: “stitching in the ditch”, which is a decent way of hiding machine stitches, or topstitching through the outer and inner layers of the waistband and a few seam allowances. If you’re hand-sewing, you can do either of the above, or you can sew the waistband lining to the seam allowances of the outer piece and the skirt panels without involving visible parts of the waistband at all.

Inside of same yoke, two rows of stitching visible

Inside of same yoke, two rows of stitching visible

Turn the piece so that the lining is facing you. Insert your needle as if to stitch, but simply don’t go through all of the layers—it helps to insert at a somewhat glancing angle, and use the fingers of your off hand to check that the needle doesn’t go through (no thimbles, sorry). If it does, pull out the needle and try again. While the needle is in the fabric—before pulling the thread through—give it a tug perpendicular to the fabric to make sure that you’re actually attaching what you want to be attaching. It’s a bit tedious, but with practice you get a feel for it, and can get three or four running stitches on the needle at once, so it’s not too much worse than basic seams.

If you are working with particularly loose-spun, loose-woven or thick materials, like a large houndstooth twill or a brocade satin, you may be able to pull off this technique with hems: work from the back/inside of the piece, as above, and catch only the back threads of the front layer of material. Note however that this can lead to puckering, fraying, etc., so make a test hem with a scrap before using it on the real thing.

Journal: 15 June 2014

I feel a little silly making two journal posts in a row, not sure why; at any rate I have not been feeling especially creative (although still craftsy as ever) so what’s to do? Since my last post, I finished the patchwork shirt mentioned there, made some things out of embroidery floss, and made a frumpy floral apron so I stop grease-spotting all my trousers when cooking. I also made it out to the store and picked up fabric for my next five projects: button-up blouses, in hopes that I will soon have a job that wants them (wish me luck!).

blue_patchwork

Blue patchwork shirt, made from stash scraps

First up, the patchwork blouse, Simplicity 1462 in shades of blue. I’m not as pleased with how the colors worked out as I was with the brown one I did, but I think this time around my construction was better than either previous attempt. That is, the collar lies a lot flatter than either the brown or red shirts’ collars, and the seams and hems are all very neat. blue_detailWe’ll see if it grows on me.

 

 

apron_full

Apron with bib up

Next up, the Frumpiest Apron Of All Time. Seriously. I made it for purely utilitarian reasons—after a couple years being frustrated with getting grease spots on my clothes when I make fajitas or chicken tikka masala or basically anything in my big frypan, and simultaneously thinking of aprons as a rather silly frippery, I suddenly put two and two together and had to have one. I don’t always learn fast, but I learn well. apron_detailAnyway I had some floral fabric on hand that I was never, ever going to use for serious clothing, which I think I actually got from my grandmother’s stash (she basically ordered me to go through it one Christmas and take as much as I could pack). I cobbled together a pattern from the front panel of an A-line skirt, a trapezoid for the bib, and a bunch of strips.

apron_skirt2

Apron skirt with bib folded down behind

The skirt is hemmed, the bib is hemmed on top and bound with the neck straps on the sides, and they are joined by a broad waistband that ties in back. I will probably mostly wear it skirt-fashion, with the top part folded down, but I like having the option of a bib for cooking e.g. bacon. When I was cutting fabric, I planned to put a ruffle around the skirt, but basically wussed out while sewing—I calculated that the ruffle alone would take at least twice as long to sew as the rest of the apron put together, and I wanted it ready to use ASAP—but since I have the strips all cut, I may gradually hem and gather them when I am between projects and attach them at some later date. I also plan to add a pocket or pockets at some point in the future. Despite making fun of how frumpy it is, I am actually rather proud of the construction—the sides of the skirt and bib actually line up well, even though I didn’t do any Serious Drafting With Math or even much measuring, the straps are good lengths and solidly constructed, and the coverage is good.

apron_floor

Apron laid out on floor, showing construction

hearts_braceletWhile the apron and blouse were in progress, I made my way to the fabric store, mostly to get embroidery floss, but also because I was completely out of project-sized fabric (!). The embroidery floss was for a deadline—at the end of this past week, my SO departed to counsel a multi-week residential summer camp, so I made matching friendship bracelets for him and me. The pattern is a slight modification of this one, in a color scheme that he likes and that’s camp themed. headbandsWhile in the embroidery floss aisle, I picked up some floss for headbands—one to match my brown patchwork shirt especially, or brown clothing more generally, and another to match the bright red shirt with off-white flowers and basically nothing else in my wardrobe. The brown one follows the tutorial I’ve posted, while the red one uses my Atlantis edging pattern, slightly modified to make it taper to the ends.

blousesFinally, a glance ahead at my next few sewing projects: I meant to pick up fabric for three or four plain, workaday button-up blouses, just because I am trying to transition from grad school’s jeans and t-shirts to the respectable world and don’t have enough blouses. The store happened to be on a particularly good sale, so I bought five pieces in the end, figuring I’d want that many eventually anyway. I’m particularly excited about the white fabric—I can’t get it to show in a picture, but the fabric has a subtle but lovely paisley design in white-on-white paint, and I love me some paisley. The gray fabric is a fairly subtle floral print, and very soft; the rest are inexpensive cotton-poly broadcloth. I also picked up a new blouse pattern with sleeve and collar variations, McCall’s M6035, which I plan to make some blouses straight from and then use as a jumping-off point for more variations.

Journal: 7 June 2014

Since my last journal post I feel like I’ve gotten a lot done—mostly in that I finished the knit lace shawl that I’ve been working on. Also, wonder of wonders, I’ve completely cleared my backlog of sewing projects, although there’s plenty of yarn around and I manufactured a new sewing project out of thin air (read: my several cubic feet of scrap fabric).

First, the shawl. I have to give kudos to this pattern; it was a delight to work from start to finish. I did end up modifying a little: I am too much of a coward to work nupps on a shawl that’s already been in progress for a month, and I had enough yarn left as I was approaching the end that I added a few rows (repeated rows 3-10 of the “Lace Border” section). I mentioned on here that based on the yardage estimates I didn’t think two skeins would be enough, but I came in comfortably under and didn’t have to use the white yarn I bought. I’m a little tempted, actually, to rip it out and make something bigger that will use all three skeins—not very tempted, mind you, but a little. At any rate, I took a bunch of pictures of the finishing process and the finished shawl:

purple_front

Purple mandarin-collar shirt

Meanwhile I was also working on a Mandarin-collar blouse, which I finished shortly before the shawl. This is Simplicity 5098 style D. I’ve had this pattern for a while, and in the meantime went up a size, so I freehand increased the size and moved the marks while I was cutting; I’m rather proud that it all came together so well. Not much to say about this one, other than that this style of shirt does well with busy prints that would be overwhelming on a button-down or something—at least in my opinion. Perhaps I should mention, I took out the zipper that the pattern calls for and made the shoulder buttons functional, which is a pretty easy alteration to make.

purple_detail

Button detail

I finally pulled out the sewing machine again and finished my second tote bag; I don’t have any pictures because it looks just like the other one, but I’m happy to finally bust this months-old WIP. I had stalled out because my sewing machine was throwing a fit over stitching so many layers of canvas, and just didn’t want to deal with it any more—but when I got it back out after a long break, it was surprisingly well-behaved (read: I only had to rip out and re-do about half the stitching due to tension issues or thread breakage; I seriously need a better machine).

gray_capris

Flannel capris. Seriously I cannot emphasize enough how comfy these are.

Finally, I made myself a new pair of wear-around-the-house flannel flare capris. They are so comfortable; I am a little sad that I need to be presentable this evening, or I’d’ve worn them today after finishing them off last night. These are made from the same pattern as I used for slacks recently, but cut with each leg being one piece (front and back panels connected) so they have no inseam to rub and annoy. They’re also flared on the outside leg seams, have a side zipper and two-button closure, and an in-seam pocket on the other side, all made of soft flannel. If anybody’s interested I can put up a real tutorial on these, but it requires having a pants pattern that fits you already, and I guess not many people have made their own pants before? Anyway, register interest in the comments.

blue_patchwork

Pieces for blue patchwork shirt; front on the left and back on the right.

Finally, because I can’t sit still for long, I cut fabric and started in on a new patchwork blouse, this time in shades of light blue. Again I am using Simplicity 1462, the same pattern I used for the brown patchwork shirt which is currently my favorite item of clothing. Hopefully I will like this one just as much—it’s entirely from stash scraps, like the other, although with a less pronounced color gradient and overall fewer different fabrics. The sleeves came from a single quarter flat, so, note to future self: that is doable, although it required some creative pattern placement and I cut into the seam allowances in places to make it fit.

Pattern: Easy halter top

halter_side four_halters

Today I want to share a quick and easy sewing project: a halter top made of quarter flats. If you’re not familiar, quarter flats (or fat quarters) are 22″ by 18″ sheets of quilting cotton, available for fairly cheap in a wide range of patterns, and sometimes available in packs of coordinating colors. You’ll need two, or if your bust or waist is more than about 40″, three; if you prefer, get a half-yard of fabric whose width is greater than your bust and waist measurements. One quarter flat will be the front and the other the back; they can be the same or different; if you need extra, get extra of the one you’re using for the back. You’ll also need straps of some sort; I use this project as a way of showing off my macrame/friendship bracelet making skills, but ribbon or any kind of cord will also work; you’ll need 2-8 skeins of embroidery floss or at least one yard of ribbon or cord. If your cord is very thick or fancy, you’ll also need about 8″ of floss, plain 1/8″ ribbon, or similar. You will also need a needle or a sewing machine, thread, and a tapestry needle.

Sewing:

  1. Sew the two quarter flats together, right side to right side, along both short edges, to form a tube 40-ish inches in circumference and 18 high. If you’re using three pieces, sew the two back pieces to either side of the front piece, making a strip about 60″ long; cut fabric evenly off both ends to make the strip about 6″ longer than your bust measurement, and sew the two ends together to make a center-back seam. If you’re using one piece, sew the short ends together to make a tube. A 3/8″ seam is plenty; finish your seams however you like.
  2. Sew a narrow hem around the bottom of the tube.
  3. Sew a quarter-inch or so hem around the top—don’t make it too narrow, and don’t use zig-zag stitch or serging, just an ordinary straight stitch, to make this hem. This hem will also serve as casing for the gather in the front, is why I’m specifying.
  4. Try the tube on; it helps to wear it over a bra with straps or a camisole for this. Center the back panel or back seam. Grab the top hem on both sides and pull it forward, pulling the hem snug but not tight across your back and bunching up material in the front. Take a fairly deep breath to expand your ribcage, and hold it. Mark the top hem on both sides where it crosses your bra straps (2″ from the side seams is a good starting guess if you are shaped like me). Measure between the two marks; write this length down and call it L. If you have a flexible tape, it will be helpful also to measure from one mark, up and around behind your neck, and down to the other mark (while holding the shirt at the height you’d like it to sit); call this measurement M.
  5. Make and attach your straps according to one of the methods below.

Method 1: Friendship bracelet (macrame) with tie back

Shirt with macrame ties

Shirt with macrame ties

This method is the first I did; it requires some patience but on the other hand is entirely portable. I’m not going to teach you how to do friendship bracelets today, as there are plenty of tutorials out there on the internet; this and this look like decent places to start. Any pattern will do, although I would not go above 8 strands or below 4. I recommend this method over the rest I will mention, for two reasons: macrame has some natural stretch to it, which makes it very good for straps that won’t cut into your flesh, and the tie back lets you adjust how tight the straps are on an ongoing basis.

Steps:

  1. halter_frontChoose a bracelet pattern and some floss. Unwind all the floss you will use and find the midpoint of each strand.
  2. Holding all the strands together, matching midpoints, tie a single overhand knot at distance L/2 from the midpoints—that’s half the distance you measured between the two marks when you were trying the shirt on. So if it’s 8″ between your bra straps in front, put the knot 4″ from the midpoints. You can wind the shorter ends—the ends of floss on the far side of the knot from the midpoint—onto bobbins now to keep them out of the way.
  3. Take your tapestry needle and thread as many of the strands of floss on as possible at once, on the long side relative to the knot you just made. I do this by dampening the ends and threading one at a time, holding the ones that I’ve already threaded flat against the needle while I thread the next. Get at least two on the needle before you proceed, and if you can get it all on that’s better.
  4. Insert the tapestry needle into the top of the hem at one of the marks. Snake it through the hem/casing to the other mark and pull it out through the top of the hem at the mark. This will be difficult and need a fair bit of wiggling and persistence, especially if you have lots of strands; if you are having too much difficulty, make and widen a hole at each mark using tapestry needles, knitting needles, chopsticks, or pens and then try again. Be careful not to make the hole larger than the knot you made in step 2, though.
  5. Bunch up the fabric, holding the floss taut, until it is length L between the two marks. If you couldn’t get all the floss on the needle in step 3, gather the leftover ends of floss too, and hold them parallel to the ones that went through the fabric. Holding all your strands of floss together, tie another single overhand knot, placing it close to where the floss emerges from the fabric to maintain that length L.
  6. Work your friendship bracelet pattern on each side, starting at the knot and working until you have a good 16″ (or, if it’s very different, M/2 plus 5″) length or more. You can tape the knot down to a table for stability, as is common with friendship bracelets; I generally pin the knot to the knee of my pants while working. You can test the length by holding the shirt up to your chest and seeing if you can tie the two pieces behind your neck.
  7. When each strap is long enough, tie an overhand knot in all the strands at once to finish, and cut the strands off 1/4″ past the knot. If in step 3 you didn’t get all the strands onto the needle, go back and cut the extraneous strands close to the knots at the top of the shirt. You’re done!

Method 2: Friendship bracelet (macrame) single strap with front button

white_halter

Halter top with single strap and button

A slight alteration of the above, instead of two straps that tie behind your neck, you can make a single strap that goes from one mark up, around your neck, and attaches to the other mark. This still has the advantage of stretchy, fancy macrame (and the disadvantage that making it takes a while). However, you need considerably less total length than in the previous method, which helps. You also only need half the floss, so get 2-3 strands (for a 4 or 6 strand pattern) and a button you like.

Steps:

  1. Unwind your floss and find the midpoints. Holding all the floss together, fold in half at the midpoints and tie a single overhand knot in the doubled-over strands, making a loop that is big enough to get over your button. If you want to be fancy, you can braid this loop as/before you make it, but I will leave that as an exercise to the reader.
  2. Work your pattern on the 4 or 6 strands of floss until it is length M long, measuring from the center of the loop. Tie an overhand knot in all the strands held together.
  3. Thread as many of the ends of the floss as you can onto your tapestry needle at once, and cut the leftover strands close to the knot. Follow steps 3-5 above, more or less: insert the needle into the top of the hem at one mark, wiggle it through, and pull out the top at the other mark; bunch up the fabric to length L and tie an overhand knot in the floss to keep it at that length.
  4. Cut the strands of floss 1/4″ from the knot.
  5. Sew your button on over the mark, on the side that the strap doesn’t come out of.
purple_halter

Halter top with variant straps

Variant: instead of a button, make a bow: skip steps 4&5, instead dividing the floss that emerges from the shirt into two even groups, then braiding or knotting each group into a narrow strap about 6″ long. To wear, put the main strap around your neck, put one of the short straps through the loop of the main strap, and tie the two short straps together and make a bow with them.

Method 3: Ribbon or pre-made strapping with tie back

If you can get your ribbon/strapping onto a tapestry needle and through the fabric:

  1. Cut your strap material to a yard length (or, M+10″ or so). Find the midpoint and tie a knot length L/2 from the midpoint.
  2. On the long side, thread the strapping onto your tapestry needle.
  3. Insert the tapestry needle at one mark, wiggle it through, and bring it up at the other mark (see method 1 steps 3-4 above for tips).
  4. Bunch the fabric onto the strap to length L and tie another knot in the strap to keep it that way.
  5. Finish the loose ends of the straps as necessary (knot or fold over and sew ribbon, cauterize nylon cord, etc).

If you can’t:

  1. Cut a 20″ length of embroidery floss or 1/8″ ribbon, thread it on the tapestry needle, match the ends, and tie an overhand knot in the two ends held together (double-threading the needle).
  2. Insert the needle on the inside of the garment, into the hem at one mark. Pull it through and out at the other mark, again on the inside of the garment (rather than the top of the hem as in other methods.
  3. Bunch the fabric onto the floss/ribbon to length L and tie another knot in the floss/ribbon to keep it that way. Trim close to the knot.
  4. Cut your strapping material into two lengths of 16″, M/2+5″, or longer.
  5. Sew one end of one piece to the shirt at one mark, and one end of the other piece to the other mark.
  6. Finish the loose ends of the strapping as desired.

Method 4: Do what pleases you best

There are plenty more options for straps; I hope you will use my suggestions as a jumping-off point and make tatted straps, braided straps, knit straps, beaded straps…the sky’s the limit, and the construction of the shirt is so simple it makes a good showcase for fancy details.

Tutorial: Adding an in-seam pocket

In-seam pocket

In-seam pocket

Today I want to show you how to modify a sewing pattern by adding the easiest possible pocket, a set-in-seam pocket. This tutorial will work for hand- and machine-sewing alike; I will assume you have a pants or skirt or tunic or coat sewing pattern that you like except for the vexing lack of pockets, and show you how to go on from there. For reference, the pants shown are made from Simplicity 2860, a pattern I can heartily recommend due to multiple fitting options and solid design, despite indeed the vexing lack of pockets.

Well-behaved in-seam pocket: no bulge, even with my wallet and keyring inside

Well-behaved in-seam pocket: no bulge, even with my wallet and keys inside

In addition to being dead easy to make, in-seam pockets are very professional-looking, since they basically disappear into the existing seams of a garment. The downside is that they can gap open, creating an unflattering bulge at your hip or belly, but if you a) choose a seam that is not going to be strained (so, don’t do this in tight clothes) and b) limit how much stuff you put in them, it’s not a big deal—see photo at right for a well-behaved in-seam pocket. It helps, also, to take your time over the construction, and make sure everything is really lined up and pressed flat. Stiffer fabrics will do better, too.

Because my most recent project was a pair of slacks, the photos will be for setting a pocket just below the waistband of pants, but it’s mostly the same procedure for other garments and the instructions are all-inclusive. Regarding interpreting the photos, my main fabric is matte black twill, and the pocket lining is dark gray with a curlicue pattern on the right side and much lighter (kind of a black and white hash where the printing is only sometimes bleeding through) on the wrong side. As always, click for larger photos. If you have questions, please ask in the comments.

Cutting fabric:

  1. sizingChoose what size to make your pocket. You can judge a good size by splaying your hand out over a piece of fabric; make sure to allow for seams all around your hand. I recommend at least 8″ tall and 6″ wide for a pants pocket; shirt pockets can be shorter. Mine is nearly a foot tall and 8″ wide, including seam allowances.
  2. Choose a piece of fabric at least as tall as you want and double the width; fold it in half, and if necessary cut a flat edge perpendicular to the fold for the bottom edge. You can use scraps of the main project fabric, or a complementary fabric; for the most part this fabric won’t be visible but it may peek out, so don’t use anything hideous.lineup
  3. Place the pattern piece that you want the pocket to rest against (usually the front or center-front piece) over your fabric such that the overlap is the size you want. Line the fold up with the vertical line of the pants—parallel to the grain line, unless it’s bias-cut, or perpendicular to the hip line or hem. This is not super important, just a good guideline.
  4. Cut wherever the fabric emerges from under the pattern piece, transferring markings on the side that the pocket opens on.
  5. If you are making a tunic/coat pocket, or anything where the upper edge will not be made by the waistband, cut a straight or downward-sloping line for the top.

Sewing:

  1. pocket_labelStitch the bottom edge of the pocket closed, right-side to right-side, leaving a seam allowance width unstitched at the loose edge. Don’t turn it; right-side will face right-side in the finished piece. Finish the seam however you like.
  2. If you are making a tunic/coat, do the same for the top edge; if you are making pants/a skirt, leave it for now.
  3. Baste the section of seam that you are setting the pocket into, and stitch the rest of the seam, reinforcing the ends of the seam. Make the basted section at least 5″ long, more if you have big hands—measure the circumference of your hand at the widest part and divide by two to get the minimum length. If you are making pants/a skirt, remember that the top half-inch or so of the side seam is seam allowance for attaching the waistband, so add length accordingly. Press the basted section open (for now).
  4. seams_annotatedOn the inside of the basted seam, put the pocket and the seam allowance fabric right-side to right-side, matching edges and lining up markings.
  5. Sew each side of the pocket to the corresponding side of the garment seam, about 1/8″ inside the basted seam; sew the entire height of the pocket (not just the basted section). Finish your seams however you like.
  6. Press each of these seams towards the pocket and press the whole mess flat against the main-garment piece that you want the pocket to lie under. Note that the 1/8″ offset in the previous step means the top line of the pocket and garment won’t quite line up any more, but they should be close enough together that you can proceed.
  7. If you are making pants/a skirt, attach the waistband, holding (or pinning) the pocket together with the garment panel.
  8. Unpick the basted seam, opening the pocket.

Note: the 1/8″ offset means that the lining doesn’t come right up to the pocket opening (photos above). I recommend it because it gives a much more professional look, and it allows contrast linings to be suitably hidden. On the other hand, it makes it more difficult to match weirdly shaped garments or to make kangaroo pockets, and I love me a kangaroo pocket, so feel free to disregard and sew as close to the basted seam as you can without picking up the other fabric. If you are committed to the 1/8″ offset and want to make something complicated or a kangaroo pocket, just cut 1/4″ off the sides of the pocket lining before sewing it on, and measure both the cut and the offset carefully to avoid wrinkles or puckers.

Journal: 23 May 2014

Beautiful lace-weight yarn

Beautiful lace-weight yarn

Today I get to celebrate both my birthday and some long-overdue UFO [UnFinished Object] busting. First, for my birthday I finally convinced my folks that a) I really want and b) they are completely capable of picking out crafting supplies such as yarn. As a result, I got some really beautiful lace-weight wool, shown at right; the dark blue is a silk/cashmere blend that I am having trouble stopping myself from handling constantly, and the multi is 100% wool that will be lovely to work with. If any of you are trying to train your folks to buy you yarn, try a) pointing out that it’s no different than buying off-the-shelf clothes, in terms of taste in colors and feels, and b) specifying fibers and weights. I actually did not specify weights, so I kinda lucked out that they got me lightweight yarns while I am on a lace-knitting kick.

Gypsy skirt as of a year ago

Gypsy skirt as of a year ago

Second, I finally got around to mending (read: replacing the entire top half) of a gypsy skirt that I made at least a half-dozen years ago. The top tier of the skirt tore badly about a year ago, and it’s been sitting in my mending queue since then, waiting for me to find a matching fabric and then waiting even longer for me to actually get around to it. Well, some of my friends convinced me to join a website called habitrpg the other day, which is basically a to-do list with amusing RPG trappings, and it gave me just enough extra motivation to bust my mending queue and get this skirt back into commission.

Mended skirt

Mended skirt

I’m very pleased with how it came out—while I was at it, I replaced the yoke, which was starting to wear out and had been climbing my expanding midsection for a while; I added two huge pockets; and because the yoke sat lower I removed the awkward extra tier (matte black in first photo) which I had had to add a few years ago to make it reach the floor. For the curious, this skirt is based on Simplicity 4549, but over the years I’ve made a bunch of alterations—adding a tier (or two!) so it’s floor-length, replacing the closure with a laced closure, adding various forms of pockets…I’ve made a grand total of six of them and helped a friend with a seventh, and replaced the top tier and yoke of two of them now, so it’s fair to say this is one of my favorites. The huge pockets are made by cutting the fabric for the top section about 24″ longer than the pattern calls for (larger diameter, not height), then folding two (on

Skirt flared around me picnic-blanket fashion

Skirt flared out on the floor

opposite sides of the skirt) 12″ sections into 6″ folds right-side to right-side and stitching halfway up. Then, press the two pockets forward, and work the pockets together with the top layer of fabric for the rest of the seams. I’m a bit worried at the state of the fabric—I have committed the Biblical sin of mending old fabric with new, and suspect the second tier is going to give out ere too long. When it does, maybe I will replace the bottom half and have a my-grandfather’s-axe situation with this skirt, which would amuse me more than a little.

I’ve been chugging away on my new shawl, and hit to halfway mark (by stitches, unless I’m doing the math wrong) the other day. I’m still happy with how the colorway is knitting up, and the pattern continues to be both lovely in effect and pleasant to work with. I did choose to omit the nupps, because they are a little scary and don’t appear until late enough in the pattern that it would be seriously traumatic to screw them up and have to rip out my work; I replaced them with k1’s and am hoping for the best. And yes, I know I could practice on scrap yarn and then come back to the shawl, but that sounds like work. Anyway, photos:

Finally, I finally finished the slacks I’ve been working on for the last few months. Note to self: never again with the super-heavy-weight almost-canvas material, at least not by hand. I’m surprised I didn’t break any needles in this endeavor. Anyway, all’s well that ends well, and the slacks did indeed end well. I made an invisible (and also hidden) zipper closure with two buttons in the waistband, slightly extended the waistband vertically, added a deep in-seam pocket, and fully cased all my seams and tacked down the inseams and crotch seams for greater durability. Because of how heavy the fabric is, I made the pocket and waistband linings out of patterned black/dark gray cotton scraps I had laying around, which I think I am even more pleased with on aesthetic grounds (even though it’s hidden from everyone but me) than I am on not-having-to-sew-six-layers-of-canvas grounds. Photos:

Journal: 12 May 2014

Since my last post, I finished two sewing projects, made another potholder, and made a little bit of progress on my new knitting project. I also did a fair bit of tatting design/drafting, most of which has shown up as pattern posts here, and a bunch of fruitless drafting for another knitting project.

ruffle_detail

Ruffly shirt detail

First, sewing: I finished the blue shirt I mentioned last time. I followed McCall’s M5929 with Mandarin collar and single ruffle options. I ended up having to modify the sleeves on the fly, changing from a banded sleeve to a hemmed sleeve with a pleat, because my arms have gotten a bit chubby in the last year and the bands wouldn’t fit. I was extremely short on fabric—I fit a 3 yard pattern into 2 yards, with the ruffle and plackets cut diagonally—and had thrown out the tiny scraps by the time I noticed this, so I couldn’t go back and extend or cut new bands. I’m reasonably pleased with what I ended up doing, which was to pleat the sleeves at the center of the hem and sew a button over the pleat. I was lucky with the buttons; they’re black with bits of blue in the middle, matching the shade of the fabric well, and I found 9 for a dollar, meaning I could space them closer together on the plackets and still have leftovers. More pictures (click for larger):ruffle_front ruffle_floor2 ruffle_floor

drape_front

Drape-neck shirt

More sewing: This was a ludicrously quick project; I believe it took me only two days including a bit of pattern drafting/alteration, cutting, and seaming and hemming by hand. It also didn’t take much fabric—I had about a yard and a half of this gray flecked stuff hanging around, and it fit the pattern easily. The pattern started as New Look 6483, which is one of my old standbys, and I made considerable alterations. I’ve been thinking about making a knit, drape-neck shell out of my Harlequin colorway sock yarn (teal, green, purple and gold stripes), so I’d already traced the front and sleeve of the pattern onto newsprint, removed the seam allowances, and slashed and extended the neckband and drape_shouldersleeves. drape_neckThe pattern has no main darts, only a bust dart to the side seam, which I flipped into the neckline, and then I put two more slashes from the neckline to the armhole. drape_backAnyway, when I decided to put the knitting on hold and do a sewing project instead, I taped these pieces to more newsprint, added the seam allowance back in, cut them out, and cut my fabric. Six seams and four hems later, it was done, and I’m pretty pleased—not my favorite shirt ever, and the fabric was not the best choice for drapeyness, but it’s certainly wearable and even a little dare-I-say glamorous.

I’m glad I made this shirt primarily because I spent an entire day just drafting and doing arithmetic for a knit shirt, only to decide my first idea was impossible and my first fallback looked terrible. At least the manual part—tracing the pattern, rearranging the darts and slashing the sleeves—were good for something, as it wasn’t much work to add the seam allowances back on and turn it back into a sewing project. The idea, for the curious, was to attempt a fitted, drape-neck shell worked diagonally. I still think it should work, but I can’t keep everything in my head to work out the details. My first fallback was to switch from knit to crochet, which I’ve been doing longer and thus find easier, but it looked absolutely terrible so I just got disheartened. I think at some point soon I will pull out the drafting and work out a worked-horizontally version, which should be a lot easier, and leave the diagonals for when I am a much better drafter.

potholder_finishedCrochet: I made another square potholder; ’nuff said really, but I have a pretty picture. This one I put a hanging loop on, just because I had some extra yarn left. I enjoy the fact that the colorway lined up to make nearly vertical/horizontal stripes, in a diagonally-worked piece, without my having to put too much effort into making it happen.

Knit shawl: Again, not much to say, but I’ve added a few rows to my new knit shawl project. It’s now got a full repeat of the colorway, so here are some pictures:

surf_1 surf_2

I never thought I’d be a fan of pink mixed in with pale blues and greens, but I think it works quite well in this yarn. I also, while I was at the store for buttons for the blue blouse and some other odds and ends, picked up a skein of the “soft white” color of the same yarn, with which I plan to edge the shawl.

 

Journal: 24 April 2014

Since my last journal post, I finished my green dress and my knitting, and then spent a while blocked and not really wanting to start anything new. Now I’ve recovered, partly thanks to getting a big box o’ yarn in the mail, and have way too many things on needles again, just the way I like it.

SerenityThing 1: During the dead period, I did still want to do some crafting, so I got out my needlepoint. Some backstory: around April of last year, I got myself a printed needlepoint kit from the store because I felt like learning a new craft. I rather enjoyed it, and finished the 5″x5″ piece in good time. I wanted to get a new kit and continue needlepointing, but I had a problem: the needlepoint kits you can buy in your average craft store are desperately twee—much too cute and often more religious than I am happy with. So I thought to myself, self, how hard can it be to design my own? Just take a photo, tweak it a
little bit, and……and many, many hours later I had a couple hundred lines of image-100_1437 (1024x768)processing Matlab code, a map for a counted needlepoint project, and a printout of the colors of floss I would need. Because I am a giant dork, my starting image was the thing painted on the side of the ship in the movie Serenity, pictured above at right. As of today, most of a year after this project began, it looks like the photo at left; the whitish areas are still to be filled in. This project has been agonizing. Largely in a way that is a source of lessons learned, and I’ve already tweaked my Matlab (actually, Octave, as I lost access to my matlab license in August) program to make the next project much, much easier. Still, I hate to waste all the effort I’ve put in so far and start a new needlepoint before finishing this one, so on I slog.

100_1445 (1024x768)Thing 2: I did a bunch of experimental tatting. This has already resulted in four pattern posts, so ’nuff said, but here’s a picture of a bunch of tatted scraps. There’s Cluny leaves, one nested ring, a bunch of Josephine rings, hearts, split rings, spiral chains, and some plain old ring and chain drafting in there.

100_1439 (913x1024)Thing 3: I started on a pair of slacks that I’ve been planning since before I started this blog. They’re in a heavy black material that is the best match I could find to the suit jacket I have, but the material is heavier than I really bargained for so it’s slow going. I’m even contemplating breaking out the sewing machine to finish it. Anyway, I’m using Simplicity 2860, modified to have a side zipper and in-seam pocket.

100_1443 (1024x768)Thing 4: I decided what to do with some of the pretty fabric I got last time I went to the store: I’m making a ruffle-front blouse from McCall’s M5929. I’ve used this pattern before to make a linen blouse that is roughly the dressiest thing I own, as well as reasonably comfortable, so I am rather fond of the pattern. We’ll see how it does in the floppier cotton. I’ve done the major seams, but have yet to do all the fiddly bits, which is the majority of this pattern.

100_1435 (1024x768)Thing 4: My huge box o’ yarn arrived, and I immediately set to work: the majority of the yarn is worsted-weight cotton with which I intend to make a number of potholders/trivets/dishcloths, as well as to use for skill-share parties to teach my friends to knit and crochet. The pattern I have for potholders does well with multiple, coordinated colors, so I’ve separated the yarn into bunches:100_1425 (1024x768) 100_1428 (1024x768) 100_1430 (1024x768) 100_1432 (1024x768)with some left over skeins that don’t really go with anything else.

100_1421 (1024x769)Thing 5: Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to cast on a new shawl in sock yarn. I got a bag of 10 skeins of random colors of the Serenity sock weight yarn that I love so much, and am still thinking about what to do with all of it, but two of the skeins in the same colorway are just begging to be a shawl. It’s the “surf” colorway, and I am making Evelyn Clark’s Swallowtail Shawl rather than drafting my own pattern this time. I am a little short from the amount of yarn it calls for, and don’t see an easy way to reduce the pattern, so I am planning to do the edging in white sock yarn, depending where I run out. Right now I am about 15 rows in and liking the pattern pretty well.