Saturday, December 6, 2014

Slash that stash

I was just reading some posts in a blog series called Stash Less, where craft blogger Felicia Semple describes attempting to use up her stash instead of buying more. I have been working at this for more than a year myself. Mostly I've done moderately well, though I recently had a small relapse (I bought a bunch of yarn).

It seems that both fabric and yarn are good media to build a stash that quickly gets out of control. Felicia Semple talks about fabric but her observations apply to yarn as well. I buy fabric too, but my primary craft addiction is yarn - I have five big plastic bins of yarn and spinning fiber. I like to buy sock yarn especially, because it's as beautiful as heavier weight yarn but you only need one or two skeins of it to have enough for a real project (as opposed to 10-15 skeins for a sweater), which keeps the cost of an individual purchase reasonably low.

When I moved from my apartment in the city to a house in the suburbs, one thing I was really looking forward to was my own craft room. Little did I realize this really meant a walk-in closet for my yarn. I also started spinning yarn after moving out here, and I started buying spinning fiber. So then I got a stash of spinning fiber, which even after you use it is still in your stash... it just moves to a different subsection awaiting its next use!

For me the biggest buying trigger is looking at pictures of gorgeous color work by yarn dyers. Every one of the following dyers is well-represented in my stash.

Celestial Skies fingering by Sundara Yarn
Dachshund by Madelinetosh*
Pallas Athena by Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Tremble by Hedgehog Fibres
Stormy Waves by Pigeonroof

In addiction circles they have a saying: "If you hang out at a barbershop, eventually you'll end up getting a haircut." (They mean, don't hang out in bars if you are trying not to drink alcohol.) For my yarn-buying compulsion, Pinterest is the barbershop. I loooooove Pinterest and I love taking 15-30 min at bedtime before sleep to look through my feed. Sometimes I come across an intensely compelling picture of a skein of yarn that has had dye applied to it with such skill, love, passion, and talent that I must follow the link. I go where the picture links and I look at all the other amazing colorways the dyer has created and I start to feel like I must HAVE some of this color.

One reason I decided to work on using up my stash: I observed how I wanted the yarn passionately when I was looking at the picture, often felt somewhat deflated when I received it, and then it spoke to me almost not at all after it had been sitting in the plastic bin for a while. I mean, I have some truly lovely yarn in my stash. I'm not that excited about most of it anymore; but I think that mainly is because it's not NEW. Felicia Semple says, "Sometimes if you don't touch something for a year then the sparkle slides right off it. It looks flat and kinda just okish." Aint it the truth! I thought about how the purchase didn't result in as good a feeling as looking at the picture, and I thought, I think I need to keep looking at the pictures, instead of buying the yarn. Before Pinterest I saved a ton of photos from dyers' sites. Now I can save the pictures to my Pinterest boards and come back and look at them and just feel how great the gorgeous colors make me feel.

Trying to use up your stash is a funny thing. All these feelings come up! And I'm so stingy and fearful! Felicia Semple says about some particularly lovely fabric, "There would be so many things I would want to use it for I wouldn't want to 'waste it' by using it on just one. So I wouldn't use it at all." I've had this experience a lot with fabric especially. Even with material that I wasn't especially in love with!

Recently I made some hand-stitched badges.

I started with a square of khaki twill and I stitched two badges on it. There was room for several more on the square, but frankly my fingers got all chewed up by doing the work and I didn't want to start another one right away. But in order to finish the ones I had done, I had to cut them out and blanket stitch around the edge. BUT if I cut out the two I finished, I would no longer be able to use the rest of the square in an embroidery hoop. I had to tell myself it was okay not to use up every inch of the twill square, it was better to finish the two badges I had stitched than to put them aside to await the day when I feel like working on more badges. Which, let's face it, may never come again! I am not primarily an embroiderer by any means; I just thought I'd like to make a couple. (I do love how they came out though.)

So, being stingy with materials is definitely a thing. And then when the fabric is especially precious (I too have a Liberty print fetish dating back to my teens) I have a REAL problem figuring out what project is sufficiently deserving for it.

More will be revealed. I don't have any real answers so far...

*That Madelinetosh Dachshund colorway is from the Fall/Winter 2014 color collection and I can't tell you how badly I want some.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Look ma, no thumbs!

I have a new knitting pattern on Ravelry! It's called Thumbless Baby Mittens. I made two sizes. Here you see the baby size:

And here you see the infant size:

With nothing in the photo for context - not even a measly quarter - these could be any size at all. I guess you'll just have to trust me.

This pattern is free on Ravelry. Enjoy!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bagging rights, or: The good, the bag, and the awesome!

No more handle shopping bags to carry my knitting! But for me, that's long been the perfect size and shape for a knitting project. 8" x 5" x 10", heavy paper, with those twisted-paper handles. You get great ones from Anthropologie and slightly larger ones from Chipotle. They work great for portable projects. But they do get worn out over time. They wear at the top edge from the yarn running over it, and they tear when you stuff something in too hastily. And they start to look ratty after some time has passed even if they still have no holes in them, or sometimes they just have something on them that is from another season, like the one I pulled out that I had from last Christmas with a Santa on it, which I used well into the summer. Or the one I used in a pinch that said "Happy Birthday" in big multicolored letters and sparkle and people thought it was my birthday.

So I have long intended to sew a longer-lasting replacement for all the paper bags, and this weekend I finally got around to doing it. Here is my laminated-cloth, lined, might-just-last-forever project bag. It would also work well as a lunch bag.

In contrast to the gift bottle carrier, this is a very easy project to sew. It doesn't even take a pattern. It's all rectangles that are sewed together in steps. The rectangles are:

  • 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 - bottom: cut 1 each of outer fabric, lining fabric, and interfacing
  • 9 1/4 x 11 1/4 - wide sides: cut 2 each of outer fabric, lining fabric, and interfacing
  • 6 1/4 x 11 1/4 - narrow sides: cut 2 each of outer fabric, lining fabric, and interfacing
  • 2 1/4 x 15 1/4 - handles: cut 4 of outer fabric (or 2 each of outer fabric and lining)

These measurements include a 5/8" seam allowance all around (except at the top). When completed, the bag should measure about 8" x 5" x 10" with handles that are about 1" x 14".

Once again I used this pretty Prince Charming laminate by Tula Pink (because apparently I am trying for a matched set of everything in that fabric. I do actually have other laminated fabrics, including a cool wood-grain one, so I swear I will use those to sew with eventually. Once I do that I will post a few pictures of them to prove I am not a one-note wonder over here).

Steps to make:

1. Attach the interfacing to the lining pieces. I used double-sided iron-on interfacing, which was kind of a pain in the neck because I had to be careful not to stick it to another surface on the opposite side. From top down, I had iron, lining piece, interfacing, and ironing cloth. It turned out that not enough heat got through all the way to the bottom side of the interfacing so it didn't stick much to the ironing cloth. In the future I would choose interfacing with only one ironable side. For the bottom, in addition to the interfacing, I added a piece of plastic canvas sheeting (it has holes in it like needlepoint canvas but it's heavier; I don't know what it's used for but you can get it at any hobby/craft shop). I whip stitched it onto the lining.

2. Sew the handles along the long edges, right sides together. Turn right-side out and press a sharp edge to the seams.

3. Sew together the outer fabric pieces. I sewed the four sides to the bottom (making a big plus-shape, as at left) and then sewed the edges together one by one. I started and ended each seam on the bottom about 5/8" in from the ends. I also sewed the side edges all the way up to the top but ended them about 5/8" up from the bottom. This allows the corners ease to turn. If you like, you can use a 1/2" seam allowance to give a little extra room to fit the lining section inside the outer.

Note: If you have a specific directionality in the pattern of the fabric (e.g., the frog should be sitting up and not upside down), make sure you order the pieces in the right direction before you sew them together. This fabric is not forgiving if you have to rip out a seam and re-sew.

4. Sew the lining pieces together the same way as the outer fabric pieces. My seam allowance for this was probably even a little wider than 5/8"; I sewed right next to the plastic canvas on the bottom but through the very edges of the interfacing on all other pieces.

5. Clip all sewn seams to 1/4" or so, preferably with pinking shears.

6. Turn the outer section out so the right side is outside, and top-stitch along the very edge of each seam. I found it wasn't easy to get the top-stitching right up to the corners, so I just got as close as I could get.

7. Place the handles where you would like them; I placed them so there was 2" from the outer edge of the handle to the side seam. Stay-stitch them at 1/4" from edge. This will make it a lot easier when you are sewing the top edges together.

8. Insert the lining section inside the outer section. Fold the linings over the interfacing (inside the outer section). You will probably get a 5/8" or at least 1/2" seam allowance turned over. Fold the outer fabric edges in, trying to keep them a tiny bit longer than the lining edges so you can't see the lining from the outside. I found the best way to hold things together, instead of straight pins, was large paper clips or binder clips. The paper clips got in the way less than binder clips when I was sewing it together.

9. Whipstitch the inner and outer top edges together all around.

10. If you have a personalized label, attach it somewhere, as if anybody could ever confuse their brown twisted handle bag with your fantastic creation!

You might also add a snap or a tie at the top to close it, if you wanted to use it as a handbag.

Here is my finished project bag. You could also use it as a gift bag (for somebody you really like!), or bring your lunch to work in it.