It’s almost starting to look like a bag

Sewing continues. Here’s a peek:

IMG_1475This is – or will be, if all goes well – the Super Tote by noodlehead (Anna Graham), in progress. I kind of wanted a lightweight bag for when I’m schlepping things that don’t fit in my purse, and I fell in love with this cat patterned canvas, so thought this would be a fun project to combine the two. (I say “if all goes well” to cover both my fledging skills, and general randomness, since I already had something of a tragic incident involving some of this bag’s pieces and a puking cat.)

Planning this made clear how difficult it is to match colors and patterns – that is, putting together fabric colors and patterns, and figuring out if they’ll work for the project itself. Here, I originally thought I might make the Metro Hipster, but once I got the fabric I realized the scale was too large and I’d be cutting apart all the charming black cats.  So the Super Tote it was.

So far, I’m fairly happy with my choices, but looking at the photo, I’m not sure if I love the cream topstitching. That said, the lighting was terrible – the background is actually a deep blue, rather than charcoal – so I probably shouldn’t rely on the photo. And the white line down the center is just chalk, which will go away eventually, which I think will make the topstitching look better? I felt like black topstitching would be a little severe, and red would be a little too matchy-matchy.

(The funny thing is that noodlehead just posted a picture of a new Super Tote she made recently, and it’s clear that she made the strap a little differently from the directions in the pattern. The pattern directs you to topstitch the strap at 1/4″ and 3/8″, but the one she just posted is clearly edgestitched and then topstitched. Kind of wish I’d realized that before doing mine, as I like the look of the edgestitching better. But I am way too lazy to redo it, as that would require not only unpicking the seams to remove the strap, but either unpicking all. that. topstitching, or cutting and sewing new straps. Oh well.)

So. My great hope is to finish by the end of the weekend. We will see! And then we’ll see if it turns out well enough to carry in public.

Anticipaaaaaaaation, part II

The other day I wrote about going to yarn shops in Portland. But to be honest, I think in many ways I’m more excited about going to the fabric stores there. I’m still such a newbie to sewing, I have tons to learn, particularly about fabric.

With yarn, I have a pretty decent sense now of the different weights, and the qualities of the different fibers. I know merino is soft, that cashmere is softer, that nylon is good for strength in small quantities but not pleasant in large ones. I know that plant fibers are cool but inelastic and likely to stretch, that cotton in particular can get really heavy, and that alpaca (no, not a plant fiber) has a lovely drape but can get very heavy and hot. I know that there are a wide range of other, crispier, woolier wools that can be light, crispy, bouncy, springy, tightly spun or loosely spun. I’m not going to claim I know how to pick the best yarn for the every project, or that I know how every yarn out there knits up on every needle, the way that I knit. But I know enough to pick something fairly reasonable from a website, or to know where to look in a yarn store. At the very least, I’ve used enough different yarns that I know which ones I could repurchase happily.

In fabrics, I’m way more lost. The fiber basics of cotton, wool, linen, etc. I know from knitting. But there seems to be way more variation in how different fabrics are made, and if I’m online shopping I’m terrible at figuring out what I’m going to get.

Some wovens I feel okay about. Take quilting cottons. I pretty much basically know what I’m going to get with those (even though some are nicer quality than others). And I know that they tend to be a stiffer, firmer kind of fabric, which doesn’t work very well for drapey/flowy garments. I have some kind of a clue about, say, rayon challis or twill, or things like denim or velveteen or canvas. I don’t know how best to match weight and project, but I have a slight clue of where to start.

My real confusion comes with knits – there are so. many. different. kinds and weights. Each time I’ve ordered a knit online, I’ve ended up with something completely different from what I expected (once in a happy way, once in an unhappy way). I don’t know how to read their descriptions at all.

This is particularly depressing because I really really want to sew with knits. In part this is because I’m lazy about fitting, and a big knit t-shirt is way more forgiving than, say, a structured buttoned blouse. Heck, a big knit t-shirt is just much easier to sew than a structured buttoned blouse, and could be made with just two pieces. But I also just like wearing knits – they’re comfortable and forgiving and versatile. Forgiving might not be such a big thing if I could make a structured blouse that actually fit my measurements, but I also like wearing soft drapey fabrics better than crisp ones.

Also, I have a ponte knit dress from Target which I’m wearing to death – it’s starting to pill horribly – and I really really really want to reproduce it – if I could figure out which ponte fabric would be a suitable replacement.

So, I’m really hoping that when I go to Portland, I can hit up some fabric stores as well as yarn stores – and that I can get the chance to fondle all kinds of different knits, to get to know them better.

And I might have to take some of them home with me, as well.

Anticipaaaaaaaation

vorfreudeI am going to Portland for 5 days later this month, and have spent a bunch of time this evening checking out all the amazing yarn stores, like Knit Purl, Happy Knits, Twisted, and more – and I cannot even begin to say how excited I am. I feel like a little kid anticipating Christmas. Gorgeous yarn! In gorgeous stores! I’m all atwitter, I am.

I mean, it’s still true that I absolutely don’t need more yarn. But I so rarely get to see yarn in person before buying it these days, I know saying I’m not going to buy anything is completely unrealistic. I’m still working out my purchasing plan, but so far I’m thinking I’ll allow myself to buy

  • yarn that is local to the area and not super widely distributed/easy to get elsewhere (for instance, while I adore almost all Madelinetosh yarn, it’s easy to order Madtosh online from a bunch of places, especially when I don’t have a specific product in mind and am not trying to hunt down a specific colorway or something), with the exception of
  • yarn that’s on sale/better priced than I can find online (I know this could still lead me to spend more than I should, but I have such a weakness for a sale), as long as it is
  • yarn that I can wear reasonably often around here (ruling out things like bulky alpaca or Icelandic lopi, no matter how gorgeous) and
  • yarn for which I can identify 1-2 projects that I could complete and would actually wear (so trying to avoid the single “souvenir” skein that then sits lonely in my stash while I cast on sweater after sweater), and
  • comes in under some amorphous total “reasonable” cost I am reluctant to define (I know, bad sign) and hope I’ll know when I feel it.

I read an interesting post somewhere in the last few months – by a yarn shop owner? former owner? I can’t remember – which basically said that if everyone who came into a yarn shop and said “what a wonderful shop” actually bought something when they came in, even something small, more of these stores would be able to stay in business; that people don’t realize how close to the margins some stores operate. For some reason, this really made an impression on me – perhaps because I tend to think that if I’m not going to make a substantial purpose, I shouldn’t “bother” them. While I can’t afford to buy sweater quantities (or even less) of yarn from every store I visit, I’d like at least to buy little souvenirs from each one, like stitch markers or greeting cards or notions or the like. Because going through these stores on this trip is intended to be as much about the experience of being in places filled with items I love, run by people who also love those things, as it is about actually accumulating stuff to haul home. I admit that at heart it will be a shopping trip; but it’s also a kind of pilgrimage, and worth commemorating, in little ways.