Pointy elbows

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For some reason my husband has lately been drilling holes in the elbow of his dress shirts. Only on the right sleeve. He must be in the habit of leaning on that arm on his desk. So today I’m cutting up shirts because I can’t bear to waste all that cotton.

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It appears to be addicting because I’ve also got into my closet and found some shirts that I don’t wear anymore because of stains I couldn’t get out and started in on them as well. I really am going to have to start sewing again one of these days and actually use this fabric.

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Dressing up

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I rarely have a reason to wear a dress.  My job as a librarian meant  I was often crawling around on my knees to reach low book shelves, and we aren’t dress-up-and-go-out-on-the-town people.  But every once in a while, an occasion comes along that calls for a dress.

I have, unfortunately, “outgrown” all my dresses, as I discovered the last time I pulled one out to wear.  (Translation: I gained a lot of weight.) The neglected couple of dresses in the far end of the closet no longer fit.  As it was a last minute event, it was sort of a scramble to come up with something to wear.

So, I’ve made a dress: the Lara dress, from Style Arc.

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The pattern came as a downloadable pdf, which means a lot of pieces of printer paper have to be taped together to create the pattern.  A simple process, but time consuming.  My kitchen peninsula worked well as a taping surface.

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It is a fairly simple design, so not a lot of pattern parts.  I simplified it even more by making bias tape for the neckline facing. And I had the perfect color zipper in my stash which saved a trip to the store.

The directions were extremely minimal.  The guide for how to tape together the pattern pages was longer than the sewing directions.  Exhibit A:  the total instructions for putting in the zipper came in step 7: “Insert zip.”  That one took some Googling and a YouTube video.  But the pattern really doesn’t have much on the way of tricky bits, so minimal was enough for all the other parts of the process.

I made a couple other modifications.  I changed the neckline to deepen the scoop in the front (one reason for the bias tape switch as then I didn’t have to make matching changes to the interfacing pieces).  I also brought in the sides of the neckline a bit to avoid bra straps showing when I wear it.

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I used as much of the fabric length as possible, making it about 4 inches longer than the original called for.  I’m long waisted and didn’t want it to be above my knees. I’d have made it even longer but there wasn’t more fabric to add in without sacrificing the sleeves.  You can see in the pic below how little was left for the sleeve layout.

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The zipper gave me some trouble, not because of the process, but because I kept doing stupid things.  A bobbin ran out in the middle of the top stitching which interrupted the line.  At one point I’d turned off the machine and forgot to reset the needle position when I turned it back on, breaking a needle against the zipper foot.  My top stitching effort was wobbly and had to be redone on one side.  There was cursing.

It always amazing me how easy it is to make a simple thing hard.  I manage that a lot.  But in a couple of hours, I had a new dress.

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On the hanger, I have to admit that it looks a lot like my many tunics. But it is different, really!  A zipper!  Neck line darts!  Longer!  And . . . well, other than that, it is very similar.  But a dress!  Definitely not a tunic!  (Exclamation points add conviction, right?)

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See – clearly a dress, not a tunic.

As a review, I would say that I’d definitely make this pattern again.  I’d probably bring in the sides of the neckline yet another inch or so and add even more length.  The dress is comfortable and easy to move around in.  I love the weight of the cotton\linen blend.  It is from the Robert Kaufman company, the Forage collection.

I enjoyed this dress project enough that I ordered another pattern to download to make a second one.  The fabric is in the mail and I have already begun taping.

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I’m back in the classroom this upcoming school year, so dresses may be able to be a part of my wardrobe again.  No floor crawling required to teach history.  I hope.

 

Design wall, without design

After two years in this house, I finally got around to putting up a design wall.

I have been using the floor for the most part, but after laying out my blocks for the latest quilt top, I got a lot of pushback from my family who apparently felt that completely blocking access to the kitchen was “unreasonable.”  Not a quilter among them to sympathize with my need to make sure that the Xs in different shades of blue were distributed attractively across the top.

So at long last I got a 4’ x 8’sheet of foam board and put up a design way.

It isn’t a complicated process.  I cut off a foot as our ceilings are barely 8’ up, and with the trim I needed more wiggle room.

I had the flannel still from the last house’s design wall; I just sewed the two lengths together and then spent a minimal amount of time ironing it.  A lint roller cleared off all the threads from previous quilts.

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It was a quick task to trim and tape the flannel around the board.  I kept the writing side to the back so the words wouldn’t show through – the other side of this board is a reflective silver.  I pulled it taut, but didn’t worry about perfection.

What I should have worried about was the wall it was going to be hung on.  I forgot about the wall socket.  It is our only nearby electrical outlet for the room’s main lamps, so it couldn’t just be covered up.

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The solution involved a box knife and more duct tape.  Not attractive, but it worked.  I may get white tape and recover it in a more aesthetically minded way in the future.  Or, I may just not think about it ever again.

A few finishing nails to hang it on the wall and now I have a design wall.  A little narrow, but it will keep the path to the kitchen clear – most of the time anyway.

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On vacation

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Summer vacation finally got here, and I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to arrange camping trips.  We recently bought a little tent trailer, and I’m discovering that it is very difficult to just spontaneously go camping on a weekend.  People apparently start booking the reservable camp spots months in advance, way before we realized we were going to be able to get a trailer.  My husband, sadly, doesn’t get summer off, so if we want him to come along, it has to be on the weekend.

But I’ve cobbled together a few reservations for various locations over the next couple months.  We may have to switch spots every night – and we will know better for next year to plan way in advance.  But we will be camping!

We did a couple of test runs in nearby parks to make sure we knew how everything works.  We’ve learned how to turn on the propane heater, attach the side mounted camp stove, and made lists of things we need to organize the very minimal storage.

And saw some pretty beautiful scenery.

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Our dog, Theo, who is rather a neurotic and barky mess, has proven better at camping than we thought he’d be.  He hates strangers and cars and bikes, but it turns out he is a big fan of woods and nature walks, and he’s been willing to keep a little quieter so other campers aren’t bothered.

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So I think this camping experiment is going to be a success once we work out all the kinks.

When not endlessly searching through the Washington and Oregon state park reservation systems, I’ve been sitting down at the sewing machine and am making more X and 16 patch blocks.  Nights in the forests get chilly – we are going to need a bunch of quilts!  It is motivating to get back to the fabric.

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(P.S.  That is Mt. St. Helens in the mountain photos above, our local volcano.  The visitors’ center at Johnston Ridge is wonderful – we’ve been going for years to see the recovery proceeding since the eruption. But it turns out no dogs are allowed in the national monument. Yet another thing we’ve newly learned about camping – check ahead where and when pets are allowed.)

Growing Up Odd – a finish

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A windy photo shoot in the backyard for the finally finished Growing Up Odd quilt, based on a tutorial from the Wedding Dress Blue blog.

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We were racing to take the pictures in the last of the afternoon sunshine, hampered not just by the wind but by the fact that even on a chair and stretching, my son is barely 100” tall.  My husband didn’t need the chair but then he is 6’ 4” tall, before stretching.

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This quilt is made up of 2 1/2” squares from my precut scrap bin, sashed in Kona cotton’s windsor blue.  Nine-patch, 21-patch and 49-patch sections combined into 16 giant blocks randomly rotated to make a top that after quilting and washing is almost exactly 100” x 100”.  Bigger than a queen size, not quite a king.  It will be perfect for our bed in summer when the down comforter is too warm.

This is the quilt that I spent hours pinning badly, an epic fail of tape and will.  It ended up at Quilting Longarm Magic, a local service.

This was the first time I’ve ever sent a top out for quilting by someone else.  It felt a little bit like cheating, but then there are no quilt police, and I could never have done as well on my home machine.  It isn’t something I can afford to do often, but I can see doing it again for something equally large or a quilt that deserves really special patterns.  I don’t mind quilting, but it isn’t the part I truly enjoy, so I could finish a lot more quilts with the longarm help.

I chose a meandering squares pattern goes well with the multitude of square blocks.  With all those seams, I also wanted to anchor as many of the squares as possible.  A bed quilt will go in the washing machine and needs to be sturdy.

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The pattern shows up better on this section of the backing.  The thread used is almost the same blue as this backing fabric.

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He got it back to me in less than two weeks, on Saturday, and I spent Sunday squaring it up and then using the sliced off edges to make the binding.

It gives plenty of coverage on our bed.

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This is the largest quilt top I’ve ever made, and I have ambitions to make more now that this was a success.

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P.S.  I just did the math and there are 1,552 little squares in this quilt.  And I still have even more than those left in the scrap bin.  The scraps can never be defeated!

 

Papercuts

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I’m really excited about the block of the month quilt that I signed up for.  It is called Papercuts, is designed by Amy Friend, and I love both the idea and the execution.

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I’ve always liked making paper snowflakes — my boys and I used to make them and tape them in the windows to help attract snow. And a blue and white quilt is on my to-do list.  This BOM runs all year, so it will be finished in time for the holidays next year.

I got a late start, only stumbling across the pattern in late January, and then my background fabric order only arrived yesterday.  Turns out I also didn’t have much white fabric either, so I had to run to the store to get lots more.  But finally on Sunday I was able to sit down and make the first snowflake,

This block is called Cloud.  (Each snowflake is named after a descriptive word for white.)

There is a second one for January, and the two patterns for February have also come out, so I need to increase my speed.  It takes me a while to get back in the paper piecing groove when I haven’t done it for awhile.  There’s always some sewing wrong sides together and misjudging scrap angles when I first start out again.

Next up is Squall.

And the paper snowflake magic may be working — we have a prediction of our first possible snow fall tonight.