Monday, November 23, 2020

A Little Sewing but Mostly Pottery


Hello! Hope all is well in your world. As my blog title indicates, I've been doing lots of making but not so much sewing. I'll run through the sewing part first. 

Except for a few pairs of underwear, this is pretty much it. Notice a theme here? Working from home, there just isn't much point to dressing up or making new clothes.  All I ever wear is sweats anyway, and I've even been known to work in my pjs occasionally. As a result, those are the only clothes that are wearing out. The oven mitts were a thank you gift for a friend who helped me set up my ceramic studio. 

Here's a quick rundown (clockwise from top):

  1. First, we have the perennial favorite Bombazine Mitts. If you've never made these before, I recommend heading straight over to the Bombazine site and downloading this FREE pattern. It's such a great scrapbuster and opportunity to practice quilting. I love giving these as hostess gifts. Remember dinner parties? We're always thrashing our mitts around here, so I'm going to try to squeeze in another pair for myself before the major Thanksgiving cooking this week. 
  2. After six years, I finally made another pair of Hudson Pants by True Bias. I had to dig way back into the Duckndam archives to find my sewing notes. Basically, if you're short like me (5'2"), primarily in the legs, be prepared to wack off some length. I shortened the leg by 4.5 inches. Fabric is a WONDERFUL french terry from Stonemountain Fabrics. 
  3. Yet another pair of Carolyn PJs by Closet Core Patterns. Another SBC favorite. This is my 3rd set, and I always forget how involved this project is. The best tip ever: Someone on instagram said they made the top first to get the labor-intensive part out to the way. Why did I never think of that?  Here are my original sewing notes.  Adjustments are the same. The only difference is that I made my bias tape (not piping) from scraps instead of using store-bought and avoided the buttonholes entirely by sewing the buttons through since the top just slips over my head. Fabric is a swiss dot from Fabric Outlet that was already in my stash. 
  4. An improv quilted pillow top from lots of linen scraps. I really do love improv quilting, mostly because I hate any kind of math. It's just a simple envelope pillow cover. And even after making this pillow and my mitts, I STILL have a few bits of linen left. Crazy.
So that's my sewing for the past few months in a nutshell. Like I said, no place to go and no need for new clothes. Instead, I've spent a lot of time watching pottery videos on Youtube (lots of ceramics teachers on lockdown), learning new skills, and making pots. 

I took a couple of ceramics classes a few years back and always intended to take more, but then I would get busy with work. The timing was never quite right. Honestly, if we hadn't been quarantined, I probably wouldn't have set up a studio and taken the step of purchasing a kiln, although I'm glad I did. I've really needed something to take my mind off the pandemic. Also, the election was hell. So much ugliness and dishonesty. I don't get into politics very much here, but, yeah, I hate Trump. He's horrible. Anyway, working with clay has been very therapeutic in a way that sewing hasn't. Perhaps because of the type of sewer I am--i.e., not challenging myself too much--it's easier to sew on autopilot. With ceramics, there's so much to learn and seemingly limitless possibilities. It reminds me of when I first started sewing and wanted to learn how to do everything. I go to bed at night thinking about all the things I want to try to make with clay. 

Here are some of the things I've been making. I'm only handbuilding right now--not sure yet if I want to buy a wheel.  Lots of first-time efforts, lots of overly-heavy bowls and vases. ;)

Clockwise from top left:
  1. A wonky planter made for Beej and my first go at wax resist. Glaze is Amaco Umber float. I'm currently working on a couple more using this technique and pattern. 
  2. My first glaze fire was to test tiles. I decided to use shapes and turn them into a wall hanging. My idea is that I can easily swap out the shapes and change it up whenever I feel like it. 
  3. This bowl was formed at the base by pinching, followed by coils for height. Inside glaze is beautiful (Amaco Toasted Sage); outside, meh (Iron Luster, I think. quite transparent brown).
  4. These two vases were made by attaching two hump molds (an old Ikea bowl). I love their round, chubby shape. The little one is glazed with Amaco Turquoise Float, but it's a bit flat.  The larger version was underglazed in red, carved and textured with a bath scrubby, and glazed with Amaco Deep Firebrick. I'm actually not all that thrilled with the Amaco glazes, but I had bought a set and have been experimenting. 
Here are my favorites so far. 

 The top is another hump mold with a stem added. Glaze is Amaco Blue Stone, which is my favorite of the Amaco Potter's Choice collection.  Bottom two are pinched dishes with a gorgeous Speckled Coral by Western. They turned out delicate but also surprisingly sturdy. I love pinching. I've actually started to keep a ball of clay next to my computer for when I get stressed with work (or bored in a meeting, lol). I find it really soothing. 

So there you go-- a little sewing but mostly pottery. There will be more ceramics posting. Funny, I haven't discovered an online potter community in the blogosphere quite yet. Lots on Instagram but mostly professionals. I'm looking forward to learning more. Right now, I'm just feeling my way around, trying new techniques like carving (scgraffito), underglazes, etc. I would like to find a direction and just pursue it instead of all the dabbling--my pots all look so different!--but maybe that will come in time. 

Are there any sewists out there who also make pots? I've been following Jasika's pottery journey with great interest. Anyone else out there I should know about? Or any recommended pottery blogs? Have you discovered any new interests during this strange and unique year?

Thanks so much for reading. (I know it was a lot!) I've got more to say about ceramics, but I think I'll hold off for another time. This was a long one. 

Stay healthy and safe, stay home, take care!        

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

2020 Summer Recap

Hey there. I just realized recently that I never blogged once this summer. Because I like to look back at my makes and memories, I'm going to post a catch-up of some things I made over the summer. There are a couple of items to be blogged later that I'd like to get modeling pics of because I know that's helpful, particularly for curvy/plus sewists like me. But I'm going to wait until after my cut and color on Oct. 3rd. Seriously, my hair looks like ass since it's grown out so much, and it was kinda the only thing that was making me feel cute. 

Like most, I spent the summer socially distancing and staying at home or very close to it. However, we did take a week off in August and rented a cabin at Lake Tahoe which was wonderfully peaceful. 

That's where I took this instagrammish (#quiltsinthewild) pic of my most recent improv quilt top. I loved working on this, the whole process of sorting through fabric colors, making sketches, and revising as I went along. I'm also really proud that it's made entirely out of linen scraps from various garment sewing projects. I still have to quilt this, but since my friends had to postpone their wedding plans, I have some time to procrastinate. By the way, Beej is the best insta-husband ever for getting up on that rock to hold up my quilt. 

Speaking of Beej, we celebrated our 12-year wedding anniversary this summer. To my utter delight, I discovered that year 12 is linen. Score! The pattern is the Men's Tropical Shirt by Wardrobe By Me, which I've blogged about here if you would like more details. I like this pattern because it fits him straight out of the envelope and suits his casual style. The fabric is 100% linen from Elizabeth Suzann. The pocket patch is the Eye of Agamotto--a Dr. Strange thing that he already had in his vast collection of comic book memorabilia. His geek-friends thought it was pretty cool. 

And to no one's surprise ever, I made myself some underpants. These are the Frankie Pants from Evie La Luve, which are my current fave. Not too big, not too small, and they don't ride up or migrate south. They also don't use very much fabric. I managed to get four pairs out of one decent-sized scrap (less than a yard) of bamboo rayon. Admittedly, that's a lot of stripy underwear for one person. I'm slowly chiseling away at the three bins of fabric scraps I blogged about here

And speaking of using up scraps, I made this denim apron from a couple of pairs of jeans and a scrap of dark denim in my bin. This was a lot of fun to make and solved the conundrum of what to do with stretch denim.  It's a cafe apron that doubles over in the back. I could almost get away with wearing it as a dress but wouldn't dare because...middle age. I made this for my latest obsession, ceramics. We got rid of our car earlier this year, which left lots of room in the garage to set up a pottery and enameling studio. Happy to say that this apron is already smeared with clay. 

So that's most of what I've been up to lately. Bummed about the state of the world but trying to keep my spirits up at home by making things and exploring interests. I hope you had a great or at least peaceful and interesting summer. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Calder Pants Party

Hello! I hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy. I've mostly emerged from my funk, although, of course, some days are easier than others. I know the situation is different for everyone, but it seems to me that it gets to everyone sooner or later. I try to remain positive and grateful.

So, Cashmerette Calder Pants. Yay! To begin with, I thought that offering the pdf with the purchase of the printed pattern during COVID was a brilliant marketing move. I'm kind of surprised more pattern designers didn't offer that. I almost always choose printed over pdf, but I definitely didn't want to wait indefinitely to sew up some pants.

I love a pair of wide-legged pants, particularly when the bottom really looks wide, as opposed to some other wide-legged styles that just go straight down like a long, wide rectangle.

They're super comfortable and, had I made them in a solid, they would get even more wear. I like the stripes, but I can't wait to make some in black and blue. I quickly sewed through my solids at the beginning of quarantine. Receiving packages at home is problematic, so this is forcing me to sew through the stash which is a good thing. This is a lightweight denim purchased at Fabric Outlet on a whim. Nice and easy to sew. 

Damn, my hair is getting long. My next haircut is scheduled for July 17th, which means I'm going to have to get creative with barrettes to avoid looking like a Beatle.

The second go at a pattern is always fun, isn't it? It goes so fast. Even faster here since I left off the pockets (not enough fabric). These are what I like to call lounge pants--for lounging around the house which is pretty much all I do these days. I made them in a rayon challis from Fabric Outlet. Another bottom-of-the-stash fabric that I had forgotten about.

Now, on to the deets:

  • Size 18. Mods: 2" off the hem. I may do an inch less next time just because I like the look of a deep hem. Shortened rise by 1/2" but need to shorten a bit more. The pockets hang a tiny bit low. The waist is a bit loose, but not enough to go down a size. I'll definitely shorten the elastic about 3/4" next time.
  • These are very similar to True Bias's Emerson pants, except the pockets are different. I think I like the Emerson pockets better, but I like the sizing and fit of the Calders better. 
  • I'm still not very good at sewing down elastic. And I'm also confused about the best way. The Calder instructions are very precise, even advising on the stitch length of a zigzag stitch. The Emersons don't have you sew the elastic down at all, which means it can twist up in the wash. The CCP Pietra pants have you stitch down the elastic with a straight stitch. What's the best way?  

So there you have it. A fun, easy pattern that yields a nice result. Perfect for a pants party.

Thank you for reading and stay healthy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Counting My Blessings...Most of the Time

Hey there. Hope everyone is hanging in there during this stressful and scary time. I was just re-reading my last post and noting how much more positive I was in mid-March. Things were fine for the first five weeks but then they got really difficult. With the abrupt transition of Beej and I both adjusting to working from home in a one-bedroom apartment, some health issues cropping up since my immune system was down, and just a general sense of malaise with all the death and sickness and economic hardship in the news... I won't lie; I had a few panic attacks. Fortunately, I'm starting to feel better. I realize now that my not wanting to complain because some have it so much worse off led me to an unhealthy form of comparison. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you have or don't have, we're all entitled to feel scared and anxious during times like these. 

So what does all this have to do with sewing? Not much, I guess. At first, I sewed like crazy to distract myself. By not commuting, I had gained an extra two hours a day, which seemed like a gift. I had all sorts of plans, but now I don't feel like sewing at all. It's okay. It will come back, and it's not like I'm in need of a lot of clothes--particularly since I can't go anywhere. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some sewing that I did work on, as well as some UFOs. 

To begin, there's the Fu Mask (seen above) by I'm super annoyed at the mixed messaging on masks at the onset of the pandemic and that's all I'm gonna say about that. Mainly I've just been making masks for close friends and family. I like the Fu mask because it's fitted at the sides and comfortable to wear. 

I had fun playing with my scraps to make these birthday gifts. Improv quilting is SO fun, and it feels special that they're one-of-a-kind.

I'm almost finished with this Rhett jacket by Seamwork. This is heavy cotton denim, so I'm a little nervous about how the buttonholes will go. I love the style and think it will be great to wear almost all year round. 

I'm also half-way finished with a Paper Theory Olya Shirt and Cashmerette Calder pants. I was super jazzed to work on all of these projects and I probably will be again. For now, they're just waiting for me to feel a little better, which is fine. 

I sincerely hope that everyone is staying healthy. Remember to take care of yourself! 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

WFH Wardrobe: Lane Raglan Caftan-Tunic Thingy

Hi Everyone. I hope you're all managing through the current global pandemic. It's been a long, weird week, and, at least here in the U.S., it's far from over. All week I've been feeling grateful for so many things--my health, being holed up with my wonderful husband and best friend in the world, the fact that I can easily and seamlessly work from home--but also specifically for the practice of sewing, which gives me something to focus on when I'm feeling anxious. And since I've been under a mandated shelter-in-place rule, I am doubly grateful that I'm already kind of an introvert with lots of creative, indoor hobbies and a very healthy fabric stash.  

We got the word last Friday at work about WFH before the shelter-in-place mandate, so I had already been dreaming about a hoodie sweatshirt dress and was thinking about different patterns. See my Procreate sketch below. 

I was considering the Seamwork Rudy, Seamwork Skipper member exclusive, or the Hey June Handmade Lane Raglan. They all had features I liked, but in the end laziness won out since I already owned a paper version of the Lane Raglan. No printing, no taping.  

As you can see from the finished version on Eva, I ended up with less of a cocoon shape, which was intentional. I decided that a giant hoodie might look too, well, giant  and sloppy if it was loose all over. My final version is semi-fitted with high slits up the sides for easy mobility AND comfort. I plan to wear with capris length leggings or bike shorts, so the high slits won't be a problem. 

My apartment can get pretty drafty, so I opted for thumbholes in the wristbands. 

Without further ado, here are the deets:
  • Fabric is Organic Cotton Spandex Knit II  in navy from Stonemountain and Daughter fabrics. It costs $20.50 per yard and is nice and thick and totally worth it. I have enough left over for a pair of leggings or bike shorts. 
  • Hey June Handmade gets bonus points for offering an optional larger cup size bodice. 
  • Size 1X with the following mods: lengthened at the straight hem line 12.75  inches; shortened sleeves by 2.5 inches, which turned out to be the perfect length--not too long and bunched, not too sort so that the sleeves stretch when I move. Dumb luck or an educated guess based on past mods.  
  • Going forward, I should always shorten my hoods. Just like I have shorter arms and legs, likewise I have a shorter neck. 
  • Just happened to have some leftover cording in my stash from making knitting project bags
  • The thumbhole wrist band instructions were comprehensive but still a brain bender. I found it easiest to just play with the bands until it made sense to me. 
  • The Lane raglan doesn't come with a kangaroo pocket, so I used the Seamwork Rudy. My printer's not working so I just eyeballed it based on the drawing of the pattern piece. 
  • I didn't plan to have the side slits. If I'd planned it, I would have extended out the slit part a bit so that I could fold it under.

I love that feeling when you have an idea to make something and it turns out even better than you imagined. I think this would be super cosy for international flights...whenever flying becomes an option again.

So that's the latest. I've been sewing like crazy because of all the anxiety-inducing news so I hope to have more completed projects to share soon. 

Please, please take care of yourself! Stay home and away from others as much as possible and wash those hands. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Using Procreate for My Sewing Projects

Hiya! Hope everyone is doing well and, most importantly, is healthy. I know things are scary right now, but I'm just trying to stay calm and wash my hands like a maniac.

I've been wanting to write this post for a while now. Partly, because I'm always so interested in process and thought it would be fun to share how I've been playing around with different designs because it's been blowing my own little creative world wide open. I'm not here to sell Procreate. There are a lot of different programs out there depending on your goals and preferences, not to mention a good old fashioned sketchbook which is always great to have when you're in an analog kind of mood. I'm just excited about what I've been doing and wanted to share.

When I sorted through my scraps last year and organized them into three bins of shame, I immediately started thinking of ideas for things to make with them. And then I fell in love...with quilting. It's a scrapbusting no-brainer, but it's also just so awesome! Putting the fabrics together, the different shapes and color combos, the overall composition, feels as natural and creative as painting and drawing. While working on one of my first projects, I kept saying to Beej, "This is just like painting. Except there's all this cool texture!" So here's a few projects that started with procreate sketches and evolved into tangible, useful objects.

Knitting Project Bags

I have a couple of friends who are hard-core knitters, so I made them project bags for Christmas. As you can see from my Procreate sketches, I didn't follow the sketch exactly; instead, I used it as a starting point. My favorite thing about working with the app, is that I can keep duplicating my initial sketch and try out as many variations as I want. The bags themselves are as simple as can be. Just a boxed bottom with a drawstring along the top. I added a fabric tab and a button to the inside as a yarn guide.


After making a quilt for my bed (shown on bottom left), I decided I needed a new pillow cover to match, but I didn't want it to be too matchy-matchy.  To achieve this I used the same colors as my quilt but a different design. I also wanted to try sewing curves, and the two triangle/mountains in my pillow mirror the two diamonds in my quilt. I love how this turned out and truly feel happy every time I make my bed. This design is a slight variation on a pillow project in the awesome quilting book Simple Geometric Quilting, by Laura Preston. I can't recommend this book enough if you want to try quilting but are feeling a bit intimidated. Laura's explanations are crystal clear, and her projects are modern and elegant.


I really like sewing curves and, weirdly, find it easier than half square triangles. I just folded this quilted piece in half and boxed the bottom to make an easy zip pouch. I'm already planning more zip pouches to give as gifts.

Tote Bag

I used the Nummi Tote pattern from the Named book, Breaking the Pattern. I added a small inside pocket and magnetic snaps to keep things more secure.  I love how this turned out, but if I make another one, I will tweak it a bit:
  • I like the look of the leather straps and rivets, but the rivets were cheap so they don't feel all that secure. Also, the leather straps are only finished on one side, so little bits of rawhide come off on my corduroy jacket. I may just use fabric or twill tape and sew it into the seam like most bags. 
  • I need to invest in some slightly heavier interfacing. All I had was lightweight fusible for garments, which just does not cut the mustard if you want to make a durable bag. 
  • This is quite a large tote. It would be very easy to reduce the size since it's only one pattern piece. 
  • There is a cool lapped seam technique along the bottom, which gives the bottom added strength, that I plan to incorporate into future totes. 
  • I think my procreate study would also make a cool wall quilt. I tried to add a break in the horizontal strip, but I'm not really loving how that part turned out. 

Color Blocking

And it's not just quilting projects! I had a lot of fun visualizing variations for the Collins top that I will eventually make.

Here's a quick list of my favorite features when planning projects with Procreate.

  • As I mentioned previously, being able to copy/duplicate drawings or even just a specific layer is HUGE. 
  • Also, layers. Being able to use this feature, but in a way that feels more like drawing is awesome. I work at a desk computer all day, so it's nice to work on a tablet, using my stylus (apple pencil), while curled up on the couch. It's also way easier on my hands than using a mouse with PSD and Illustrator. 
  • The stacks feature helps me organize multiple projects, which helps tremendously since I'm a multiple-projects-kind-of-gal. 
  • Color palettes. You can create custom palettes for all your projects. For my scraps, I like to take pictures and sample the colors so that my sketches and color combining are based on the reality of what I have on hand. I'm also working on a couple of quilts that are not scrap-based. For these, I like to take a screen shot of the color on the Kona website and sample it. 
  • Resources: I'm by no means an expert on Procreate, and this post isn't really meant to be comprehensive. There are tons of resources on youtube, though. Bardot Brush is probably my favorite. Her tutorials are fun AND informative. Her intro to Procreate video really helped me get started. 
  • Downside: So far I've been waxing enthusiastic, but the major downside is that this program creates raster images. If you need vector for hi-res printing purposes, Procreate isn't there yet. But if you're working with vector images, you already know that. :)
So thanks for indulging me in this rather long post about process. There are still times when I want to break out my colored pencils and/or watercolors, but the convenience and added features of this and other drawing programs have really opened up my creativity. I'm always looking for ways to build a daily drawing/art-making process, and, so far, this is really working for me. 

Would love to know how you channel your creativity and come up with ideas for projects. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

PJs for Beej: Free Pattern

Hey there! I'm popping on here for a quick minute to share my experience with a free pattern by 5 out of 4 Patterns. I credit free patterns with helping me venture more quickly into sewing by providing a low-risk learning experience. I'm always so appreciative, so I like to give a grateful shout out to those companies that provide the occasional freebie.

A few weeks ago, Beej requested a pair of pajama pants. It's been cold, and he'd been sleeping in his sweats. I looked at buying a pattern from Wardrobe by Me that looked like a one-piece per leg wonder, but they didn't include pockets. Beej had requested pockets, and can you blame him? Who doesn't want pockets? He also made some smart ass comment about needing pockets for his earplugs when I start snoring, but that's another story...

A quick google search for pajama patterns landed me at 5 out of 4 Patterns, a new-to-me pattern company. The pattern is a standard pj pant, unisex, with a good size range and can be found here in the freebie section.

 As I've mentioned in the past, while I don't sew for Beej often, when I do I like to look for ways to customize his garments. He's a huge SF Giants fan, so I went for his team colors of orange and black. (Not my favorite combo, personally, but I'm not the one wearing them.) I used a scrap from a Thread Theory hoodie I made him a while back for the trim at the bottom. You know, after 6+ years of sewing, this is the first time I've made or used trim. It seems kind of like something I would see in a beginner sewing book, like rikrak or something. At any rate, it was actually kind of fun. I think a cuff with piping would be more elevated, but I really wanted to use what I had on hand. Here's how I made the trim:

  • Cut two 1.5" pieces of fabric that were long enough to encircle the stitched hemline.
  • Because my orange fabric was a knit, albeit fairly stable, I used some hem tape (AKA Steam a Seam) as a stabilizer. 
  • Turned the fabric over to the wrong side and folded fabric on either side to meet in the middle (like bias tape). 
  • While folding in, I threaded the hem tape in the middle and ironed as I went. 
  • Then I sewed the trim down along the top and bottom to secure it. That's it!
Excuse the folded laundry in the corner!
Some sizing/modification/pattern details. 
  • I made a size medium based on Beej's hip measurement. 
  • Beej is 5'9" so I removed 2" at the "shorten here" line. This worked out perfectly. 
  • The instructions were pretty good. I appreciated the reminder to sew down the inseam pockets so that they don't migrate towards the back. They also explained two different methods for sewing the elastic. Since I serged the top, I chose to stretch and sew my elastic directly on, flip down, and sew down again rather than the casing method. 
  • Per the instructions, I made two button holes for feeding the drawstring through. The drawstring ended up a bit too short and will be replaced. 
This project was was super easy, and now Beej has  pajama pants that perfectly match the hoodie I made for him. He also looks pretty dang cute, IMO. 

The best part about sewing for Beej, though, is how much he appreciates the things I make for him. Even a simple pair of pjs! You would think he'd never owned pajamas before. The other day when we were getting ready for work, I noticed him carefully folding them and placing them under his pillow. It made me feel so good!

That's all for now. Thank you for reading and have a great week!