Fruits of the weekend, the foxy part

My second project from this past weekend is a Lined Drawstring Bag from In Color Order.

More fat quarters from Jo-Ann’s (the husband picked out the foxes); I didn’t like the two fabrics next to each other enough to use them both on the exterior fabric, so instead of a main fabric and accent on the exterior, I used two pieces of the same fabric, and folded over and topstitched bias tape to hide the seam. I realize that without an accent I didn’t need to cut the main fabric in two pieces, but doing so made it easier to orient myself in the pattern, and also to cut the interfacing to fit.

I used bias tape to make the ties, too – kind of a waste of bias tape, I realize, but I had it to hand and didn’t have any ribbon or enough fabric to make other ties, and I wanted to finish the bag. My first choice would have been orange grosgrain (or orange and green striped!), but white was fine as a runner up.

The nice thing about this pattern is that the raw seams are hidden in the lining.

Stripey the friendly local semiferal wanted to see what I was doing. He was disappointed not to find anything exciting.

It’s a decent size for knitting projects – here it is holding my baby blanket project (in its current state, at least; I’m only about 1.5 skeins in), and I think it would be great for lightweight sweaters.I was pretty pleased with how this turned out – especially that my bias-tape-turned-ribbon meets exactly at each side seam, because I’d been careful with my measuring, and it was nice to know I did it right. If (when) I make this again, I think I would run the channel for the drawstring along the top of the bag, rather than 1.5″ down – I don’t love the frilliness of the top of the bag when cinched shut, and it would make the bag a little bigger. I might also use a lighter weight interfacing? But this is a great project bag pattern, if you want one that closes completely. And you could easily add a pocket to the lining, if you wanted something for notions.

So, this was a fun way to kill a weekend, and I’m hooked. Unfortunately for my wallet, that means I’ve already bought more fabric, and have aspirations of clothing…

IMG_0422This is the yellow canvas from my previous post, which also took up a chunk of Saturday; if it gets done/turns out, I’ll post more about it another time.

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Fruits of the weekend, the pink part

So, the fabrics are completely different from the ones in my last post, but I spent my weekend making these:   For today, let me show you the pink box. It’s from a tutorial I found at Sew Like My Mom, and used a couple of fat quarters rescued from the remnants section at Jo-Ann’s. I didn’t laminate the lining, since I wanted it for knitting, not cosmetics, but I did use interfacing to give it some structure – the corduroy is very lightweight and floppy.

(excuse all the lint sticking to the corduroy)

I fudged the size a little, as the remnants section at Jo-Ann’s is not exactly a bastion of fine cutting, and neither piece was quite 21″ when squared. The zipper isn’t set exactly properly – it buckles a little – but it seems to work well enough. 

Lots of space for a shawl project! (Gudrun Johnston’s Mystery KAL.)

The one thing is that I had been looking at a gazillion lined cosmetic bag tutorials online, and I forgot until I was halfway finished that this one, while having some of the clearest instructions, has raw seams. I zigzag-stitched over the edges, but it’s not the prettiest thing in the world.

I also could not figure out where I was supposed to put the pulltab, so that didn’t turn out right and I had to fiddle with it it along the way, including adding a few stitches by hand. Super unattractive, I know, but for a first project I’m good with it.

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If I were to make another one of these, I’d use one of the patterns that hides the raw seams in the lining, but it’s a good size for non-sweater knitting projects, and for about $5 for the materials, I can’t complain.

The 3-D construction of this was interesting, because I have a terrible time visualizing how anything fits together (see: pulltab problems) until I actually have all the materials together in front of me. I can read a pattern a bunch of times, I can even have a photo tutorial walking me through the process, and it won’t make sense until I’m manipulating actual fabric – whether woven or knit. My hope in continuing to knit and sew is that I can learn to “see” these things better in the abstract, rather than having to have the physical object in front of me.

Next time I’ll show you the drawstring bag.

Not knitting, but still making things 

That is, I am still knitting, but this post is not about knitting, but about branching out.

A couple of months back, sort of on the spur of the moment, I bought a sewing machine.  IMG_0045I wasn’t absolutely sure what I would use it for or how often, but at the least I wanted to learn how to work it and be able to do basic repairs like hemming pants and shortening tops (do other people do this/want to do this? Almost every top I try on is too long to look good untucked and too short to be a tunic). And I harbored a secret hope that I could learn to make myself clothes that don’t just fit, but fit ME. The husband approved, even expressing interest in making shirts for himself. (He does tend to leap into the deep end of things.)

A couple of weeks later, I posted my first foray into machine sewing on Instagram. I figured out how to load the bobbin and thread the machine and use the various functions (it’s an amazing machine for what it cost, but it’s a pretty basic one because I’m not exactly engaged in complicated endeavors here). I doodled around a bit figuring out how to sew in reasonably straight lines and what the different stitches do.

Last weekend, I actually tried making things. And it was SO much fun!

An “intro to sewing” book I’d bought had some patterns, so I started (over ambitiously) with a toy elephant. The results weren’t pretty:

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I mean, it’s recognizably elephantine (minus ears, tail, and stuffing), but the seams are…wonky, to be kind, and my whole pinning/sewing something that three-dimensional didn’t work very well.

So then I backed up, and decided to try making one of the Purl Bee‘s Easy Drawstring Bags.

IMG_0417currently lacking drawstring

That went MUCH better – but then, everything is square or rectangular or straight lined, so much much easier for me to handle. And even then I managed to sew the corners to each other the first time I tackled creating the little gusset (practice unpicking seams!).

What amazed me was how different sewing felt from knitting. On the one hand, that’s a duh! kind of statement – of course sewing cloth and knitting yarn are absolutely different. But I hadn’t realized how much my adult ideas about crafting had been shaped by knitting – primarily that you can do it in fits and spurts, in front of the TV, or while reading a book, or wherever you find yourself (assuming you’re not in the midst of really complicated lace or trying to seam a sweater or the like).

Sewing seems much more all-encompassing – I can’t imagine how you could really do anything else at the same time besides sew. I listened to some podcasts, but that (or having music/the TV/a movie on generally as background) is as far as I can see it going. Partly, this is because of the logistics of machine sewing. My machine is incredibly light (it’s advertised as suitable for taking to sewing classes), but using it requires a table top of certain dimensions, and I’m not going to haul it all over the house (which I do with my knitting), so it lives upstairs, in our loft. I would imagine that if I were hand-sewing, some of that might be more portable and easier to have in my lap and work on in front of the TV.

But mostly sewing just seemed to engage a different part of my mental processes than knitting. When knitting is going really well for me, when the yarn is flying off the needles (in fabric, not lost stitches), it’s almost mindless. It’s automatic. There’s a reason so many patterns talk about how easy their stitch pattern is to memorize. I enjoy the knitting process, but in a zen, meditative kind of way, in which the repetitive motion of the fingers allows the mind to wander in all kinds of directions (admittedly periodically jumping back from time to time to check whether the YOs are in the right place and so on).

On the other hand, sewing took up all my concentration. It was at once both physical, and mental. There was figuring out what I was supposed to do, and measuring and marking and cutting, and manipulating the fabric to be where I wanted it to be at the machine. Time flew in a way that it doesn’t when I knit (one of the things I like about knitting, actually, is that time doesn’t quite fly – if I knit when I’m sleepy I will start to fall asleep. If I’m reading I will stay up doing the “just one more chapter” thing until the book is gone, and not really realize I’m tired until the inevitably far-too-late end. Knitting disengages my mind enough to say, “self, you’re tired, go to bed” much more easily. I don’t see this happening with sewing).

What sewing reminded me of most, in this respect, is singing – which is also at once intensely physical and mental, but mental in a very concrete, material way, and which also demands your presence and focus in a way that can’t be ignored.

And like singing, sewing was really fun. And I want to do more.

So I’ve raided the remnants bin at Joann’s (aside – the local fabric store has to be a thing, right? Like the local yarn store? I’ve only encountered one what I’d call a genuine local fabric store, which is no longer local to me, and was actually a local yarn store as well. I’m sure there have to be better resources than Joann’s, but for the moment, that’s where I know I can go, and at least they’re generous with the coupons).

At the moment, my plans are pretty modest. Make a couple more drawstring bags – bigger ones, even, as project bags for my knitting, and line them (based on various online tutorials around the web). I’d like to make a Dopp kit-shaped project bag out of the yellow canvas. It’s supposed to be 111 degrees this weekend, so I’m sure as heck not going outside, and even though the loft is the hottest part of our apartment, I look forward to holing up there and cutting and marking and pressing and sewing.

What is very familiar from when I started knitting again as an adult is that yawning gap between my aspirations and abilities – and not even abilities, but just resources. Being an absolutely newbie beginner means that every time you want to make something, not only do you probably have to learn a new skill, you also pretty much have to go out and buy stuff. I started small (after the machine), with some nice shears, thread, marking pencils, a seam unpicker, and a ruler. But now I have interfacing (for structure for project bags) as well as zippers (for Dopp kit/project bags), and a denim needle for the cotton canvas (it’s pretty heavy). And yellow thread. And ribbons for drawstrings on the way. And more fabric. And I really want a rotary cutter and mat, but am trying to be frugal (since I have been failing miserably to accomplish that with knitting).

But the skills gap is real, too. The things I want to make are the things I don’t yet have the skills to make. The same thing happened when I started knitting, too, but I’d forgotten. And there’s some uncritical part of you that thinks, I can do one craft, I should be able to do the second as well! Nope, still have to learn. It’s a good thing to be reminded of, but I still want to run before I can walk.            

I will endeavor not to whine. But it will take some effort.

The summer here has been pretty mild so far, with one of the latest “first day over 100 degree” dates in years. But we’re paying for it this coming week, which is forecast to be full of triple-digit temperatures, reaching perilously close to the hundred-and-teens (Wednesday’s high is supposed to be 109°.) We will be facing an awful lot of this:

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This doesn’t even look so bad, because of all the green and because the tree casts welcome shade. Shade is key in the desert; when the heat is dry, stepping into the shade knocks the temperature down some noticeable amount. Shade in a humid climate doesn’t really do anything – the moisture in the air conducts heat wherever you try to hide. In a dry climate, though, shade protects you from your enemy, the sun.

Cool becomes relative. Right now, it’s 11:00 at night, and it’s 88 degrees. Stepping out the front door still feels like draping yourself in a warm blanket, even after dark. (But a dry blanket.)

The locals are used to this, of course. Their summer is like winter where I grew up: you hole up indoors and spend as little time as possible outside. But I still suffer from cognitive dissonance, because I think of summer as the season of free time and outdoor activities and picnics and relaxation and all those things that don’t really work with the weather here.

At least the sunsets are awfully pretty.

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It just feels wrong to wish the days away, but: is it September yet?

Fickle

I used to feel sort of strongly about finishing a project before starting a new one.

But somewhere along the line I lost that discipline.

And now…oh dear. I have way too many different things on the needles.

The funny thing is that there’s an arbitrary dividing line in my head between “recent enough projects that I should feel bad for not working on them,” and “old enough projects that (for no particularly good reason) I don’t count them as works in progress any more.” When projects cross that imaginary line and fall into the abyss of “really old projects,” for some reason they no longer count against my total, so casting on something new is entirely justified, right?

Going back in reverse chronological order, here’s what I currently have going:

The Harvest Moon Blanket (which is getting frogged, but will get restarted when the new yarn arrives, so I think counts as a current project)IMG_0075

Frost at Midnight

Stratum

Relax 

Worsted Boxy

Gray Goose CardiIMG_0196

Adrift

(For the record: the photo-bombing cat is Harvey. He loves to sleep on that table, which is conveniently placed for me to get natural light so is a good place for me to take pictures, although it’s definitely seen better days… let’s just say it has a patina, shall we? His tail is like that naturally – he’s a Japanese Bobtail. Here’s a better picture:)

I would say that the arbitrary, imaginary dividing line between projects that count as WIPs and projects that don’t falls right around the Relax. Adrift and the Worsted Boxy are both patterns I cast on sort of as placeholders while I was between other projects, to be dropped when something better came along. I never had a clear goal for when I’d finish them. I like both yarns but don’t love them, so was easily lured away by other, shinier projects, and they’ve languished long enough in my work basket that I don’t really count them as current WIPs. (Not that this makes any sense, but there you go.)

I actually really like the way the Gray Goose Cardigan is turning out. The yarn is Nashua Handknits Summer Garden, bought ages ago, and I’ve had a hard time finding the right pattern for it, but this fabric is a lovely weight and drape. It’s also a great summer project, but when I put it down I never thought it would be for long, and now I seriously have no idea where I am in the pattern. (Lesson: take notes!) Knitting something new has always seemed easier than figuring out where I am, so it’s fallen out of rotation.

Relax hovers on the edge of my knitting consciousness, nagging me to knit it. The back is done and the piece pictured is the front – then it will just be the not-very-big sleeves. It would also be a great summer project. I don’t really have any excuse for not working on this one, except that while I like the fabric it makes, I don’t find the yarn the easiest; it’s KnitPicks Lindy Chain, and while I love that it’s fingering weight in linen-cotton (great for a hot climate), it’s chainette construction, and I keep snagging it. It does have the loveliest drape, though.

Stratum is on hold mostly because I won’t be able to wear it for another 5-6 months, so there’s no rush to work on it.

Then we get to projects that (in my head) I am currently working on: I’ve been making good progress on Frost at Midnight, and am close to starting the sleeves. I’m not convinced it’s going to look very good on me, but I’ve been enjoying plowing through the body. And, of course, once the new yarn comes in, the Harvest Moon Blanket.

So, I have plenty of projects in the works right now, even if you don’t count the ones that aren’t right in front of me, and so (in my head) don’t exist.

And yet… I find myself swatching. For new projects. As if I need any.

More on that to come.