Catch & Release: The Wisconsin Blingfish / 8

As this goes live, I'm winging my way to meet Kym in Nashville! We will hop into a rented car and drive to Florence, Alabama, for a long-anticipated 3-Day Workshop at Alabama Chanin! We've been planning this trip for well over a year, and... SO EXCITED!

I've been on my Alabama Chanin journey for a while now, and thought today would be a good time to share the story of one of my recent (unusual and crazy-fun) projects:

THE WISCONSIN BLINGFISH

Kay Gardiner, aka Mason-Dixon Kay, began working on her "newest oldest" sewing project, the Alabama Chanin Flag Quilt, on July 4th. It's a spectacular piece! It's also a bit overwhelming, even as a pre-cut and pre-stenciled kit.

After a week of immersion sewing, Kay was considering ideas to infuse her quilt with some personal style... by changing some of the thread & fabric colors, by adding embellishments, and by somehow involving friends.

I've "known" Kay for about as long as we've all been blogging. We met in person at Rhinebeck 2006, I think, and then again 10 years later. In between, we've chatted a little bit via Instagram & blog comments about knitting, of course, also about other projects & the kids & family & events, and quite a bit about Alabama Chanin projects these past few years. I was delighted when she asked if I'd be game to stitch a block of her quilt.

Um, YEAH!!

Bling-optional

She sent her "Wisconsin Fish," along with a spool of thread, and a small bag of iridescent semi-dimensional sequins marked "bling (optional)" -- which, HELLO, were never considered "optional" for even a second.

BRING THE BLING!

I immediately pulled out my own collection of sparkles to see how it all might work together -- adding a variety of seed beads, bugle beads, and more sequins to the mix!

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SEQUINS THIS WAY?

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SEQUINS THAT WAY?

Everything was kept quite secure with Wonder Clips, of course!

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THE PLAN FOR BUGLE BEADS WAS IMMEDIATELY CLEAR.

Eventually I did a little sewing. And some cutting... periodically laying out beads & sequins to see if I still liked them this way, that way, or another way.

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My daughter Kate was starting her new job at the time, but frequently stopping home, and every time I'd call out, "Come and see my fish!" I'd show her what I'd done and run through ideas...

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I started off with mostly reverse applique, running stitch, knots on the back; with some beading and a little bit of satin stitch with embroidery floss. (FYI: satin stitch is harder than it looks!)

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The sequins, though! It was obvious to me that they needed to be fish scales... but how? My only experience with sequins was on my Catamount Tunic, and the inspiration for that project made it pretty simple & straightforward.

Obviously, I needed to expand my sequins knowledge, and my treasure trove of sequins inspo for this project turned out to be "sewing for belly dancers."

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I used a combo of sequins and sewed them on in rows to make scales.

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Initially, the rows were too far apart, so I filled in, and continued in a more dense pattern. I'm sure that looks tedious to some, but I really had fun doing it! Perhaps, as Kay says, we "have a skewed sense of what is fun..."

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It was fun to figure out the little details as I went along... filling in bare "scale" spots with plain sequins; using red beads for the eye, outlining it with some metallic thread. I love the dimension and bit of sparkle and shine.

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I wanted some "lines" for the fish tail, so pulled out some more embroidery floss and sewed in some random sequins.

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I used only sequins -- fairly sparse -- for the belly (just beginning, above).

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I stitched "lines," too, for some of the other fins -- with and without sequins.

I had originally thought of using the metallic thread to work satin stitch the dorsal, pelvic & anal fins (*bling*)...

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... but holy cow, each of those things separately -- satin stitch & working with metallic thread -- is challenging enough! Instead, I used the metallic thread to back-stitch the outlines of the fins and sparsely fill in with running stitch.

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Finally, I signed my work.

Then I had to photograph it and send it back to Kay!

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Catch & Release... The One That Got Away... Some Fish... the Wisconsin Blingfish!!

I can't wait to see the whole quilt come together!!


Right Now: November - AC Style / 3

BREAKING NEWS...

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They were firing up equipment as I left for work this morning; Rusty sent this photo a little while later. (That's my house with the bunting still hanging.)

Anticipating... So much good stuff!

  1. New refrigerator delivery on Saturday (finally!) (y'all will be so happy when this is not.a.thing anymore)
  2. Hamilton on Sunday (matinee) with Maddy and her BFF Katy, followed by dinner at The Dearborn
  3. My 59th birthday on Monday (!!)
  4. A long-awaited vacation that begins on Wednesday:
    1. To Florence, AL, for a 3-Day Alabama Chanin Workshop
    2. Along with my first visit to Nashville, TN
    3. All with KYM!!!

Looking forward to... OMG. Alabama! The Factory! Muscle Shoals! Finally!!

I've long dreamed of attending an Alabama Chanin week-long workshop(s), but it just wasn't ever going to fit in financially or time-wise, so when the 3-day version was introduced last year... I pounced. I signed up practically the minute it was announced in September! Bonus: it was happening right around my birthday. Happy Birthday To Me!!

It wasn't long before Kym decided to join me... and the Airbnb booked by the first week of October! EXCITED MUCH?? I'd have booked travel then, too, but it was too early. I did put a reminder on my calendar about it, though.

Sewing... something EPIC as soon as I get to Alabama! I'm thinking Coat, but reserving final decision until we're actually there. We get to try on garments and see examples of finishing techniques. It's all certain to be incredibly inspiring... hopefully, not to overwhelming. I'm counting on experienced hands to guide us...

Listening... Hamilton soundtrack & and my "Alabama" playlists!

Wondering... What's up with you right now!?


When I'm not making arrows...

Well, hey. I'm going to think of that eclipse as a bit of a reset... focus, let some things go... ready, set, go!

Seriously, though, I didn't see much of the eclipse, but it was pretty cool!

I'm a little obsessed with Woman Must Make Her Own Arrows!

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This was Triangle #2 as of last Wednesday.

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I finished that and joined the triangles into an hourglass on Friday night, and then spent a lot of time over the weekend weaving in & trimming ends. Knitting resumed as of last night... I'm not sure I like what I did and may rip & re-do.

People do that sort of thing on occasion! I have done it, too, but every now and then I need a reminder. It's so freeing, and I can't say that I've ever regretted it!

The arrow-making is not portable knitting, so I did some sewing at knit night last week.

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That is a tunic-length Alabama Chanin Factory Dress! I finished sewing all the seams and couldn't wait to try it on. What a fabulous & flattering cut on this dress! I still have to press and then fell the shoulder & side seams, then finish the neck & arm openings, and probably some finishing at the hem, too. It's a single layer of printed knit fabric, quite stretchy -- and, yes, the same fabric design that I used to make a dress for Gin (hers woven, mine knit) (I really love that fabric design) (and I have more of both).

I finally re-did the seat of "my" kitchen chair last week. This is something that's needed to be done for quite while, but ... procrastinate ... also, where did I put that fabric? Well, I recently ran across the fabric, but the biggest motivator was when Gin started picking at the exposed cotton & foam.

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It's not perfect, but it's done. I could use a few more upholstery nails but there were casualties in the process, and I don't have any more of that design! I salvaged as many as I could.

Random thoughts:

  • Floor needs refinishing!
  • I need a pedi!

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I watched the kids for a while on Saturday while Ali had her hair done. We had fun with chalk + water. Kate had arrived home on Friday from a "reset" trip to Toronto/Grand Rapids, and stopped over for some kid time, too! (She started her new job at UWGB today!!)

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I captured this still from a Snapchat video that Ali shared on Sunday morning. Junah was super interested in what Grandpa was doing in the studio... pulled up a chair and had his first little art "lesson." This gives me all the feels, including the nostalgic ones when I remember all the artwork produced at that elbow by the girls over the years.

Potatoes

This isn't the first time I've cooked some of the potatoes that I grew, but it's the first time I photographed them. I think they are all represented here: Dark Red Norland, Oneida Gold, Blue Adirondack (purple), Superior, and French Fingerling. Man, are they ever good. The more I make them, the more I'm looking forward to upping my potato game next year!


Calling all sewists

...especially if you're interested in making/designing clothes to suit YOUR body.

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My Body Model is an amazing Kickstarter campaign with about 2 weeks to reach their goal.

LET'S DO THIS!

 


Sew, the weekend...

Actually, it's more like "Sew, the month..." as I haven't done anything but sew since I finished knitting my Colorwash Shawl!

First it was the Tom Petty Corset; all put together and awaiting binding (and the loss of a few pounds)!

I still wanted a Corset, though, and found some Batman t-shirts on clearance at Macy's. I love the fabric, but the design of these things is hiddy:

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I'd already chopped & sliced that one up, but yuck. I had an XL and an XXL, the backs gave me enough fabric for the body and there was more than enough on the fronts to cut binding.

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It's a little bit wonky. The fabric is 100% cotton, but much finer and lighter in weight than I'm used to -- medium weight is what I usually order from Alabama Chanin, often heavy weight in the thrifted t-shirts.

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I checked a couple of times to verify that it was 100% cotton and not some combo with bamboo or something. It was slippery, more difficult to control, and it took a while to get it all sewn up. I like it well enough, though!

Since then, I've been working on the Alabama Chanin Magdalena A-line that I'd begun a year ago, in the hopes that perhaps I'd finish in time to bring it along on vacation. But first...

I "fixed" some sleepwear that I also want to take.

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The heavy embroidered design was replaced with this:

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It's a little swatch from when I was contemplating ideas for Catamount. I'm so glad to have found a use for it! That one little sequin makes me inordinately happy.

And voila! I finished all the seaming of the A-line on Saturday night, so yesterday was all about binding.

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That dress form isn't anywhere near my size, but you get an idea.

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Cretin stitch... always a bit of a challenge for me, but I think I'm getting better!

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Originally, I'd stenciled pieces for the back, too, but I've left the back a single layer and plain for a number of reasons... besides time. One is that the technique used on the front is "lighter" than some. Another is that I'd placed the stencil on all four pieces in almost exactly the same manner, and have decided that I'd prefer some variation. I'm hoping to use those other pieces to make something for Gin!

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Anyway, here it is. I used a couple of different colors of thread for the sewing. The cutting (negative reverse applique) was CRAZY INTENSE with all those knots & tails on the outside, but I don't think I accidentally snipped short a single one of those tails!

It's crunch time now!! One more sleep at home, another sleep on the plane, and then our first stop: Dublin!


Day off

Yesterday was my usual day off of work, and I decided to do a literal interpretation for a change. No dentist appointments, no banking or bill-paying, no grocery shopping, no dusting, no, nothing, nada.

I didn't get dressed until noon -- and, really, only then because there'd already been two delivery men at the door, and also because I'd be warmer. It was overcast and cool outside and... well, just not the kind of day that energizes me!

I never put on shoes and never left the house.

I never woke up my computer nor turned on the light in my workroom.

I watched TV and sewed.

Between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, I'd watched all of The Keepers on Netflix.

I basted the binding on the Alabama Chanin Corset over the weekend but that's not what I've been working on. What's been in-hand lately is the Magdalena A-Line Tunic that I stenciled about a year ago.

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This crazy thought popped into my head: Wouldn't it be fun to wear this in Spain?

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I doubt that I'll finish in time. This is the state of the front -- a bit of sewing yet to do, and a lot of cutting -- and I'll have to locate the back!

But... I'll never say "Never"!!


FO: Mignon

I can't even remember when I started knitting this little sweater. It's been finished -- except for the button -- for a long, long time.

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  • Ravelry Project Page: Mignon
  • Pattern: Mignon by Loop London
  • Yarn:
    • Make.Do Dream DK Superwash (I think)
  • Needles:  US 5 (I think)
  • Start to Finish:  March 26, 2015 - March 26, 2017 (that's a guess)

Whatever the yarn, it's incredibly soft and squishy! And I know I was looking for a one-skein project.

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Close up, the button isn't a perfect match, but it works from normal viewing distance!! Of course, Gin is great motivation for finishing a project like this -- and a little shrug is nice for spring! There's potential for years of wear with a garment like this.

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I promise there will be better photos at a future date, but here are the first that Ali sent me of Gin wearing her Geranium Dress.

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It's a perfect fit! I can't wait to make another. Li'l Gingeranium!!


Weekending: Happy Spring!!

I walked up to the coffee shop yesterday morning and spotted this on a sidewalk block out front.

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Spring is in the air! And oh so very WELCOME!!

And also to you... Whether you've been more or less reading since I began this blog on the First Day of Spring 13 years ago, or just landed here today... you are WELCOME and I THANK YOU!! I never imagined that blogging would bring so much to my life, but the friends I've made because of it are some of the best of my life. I've learned, grown, traveled, laughed, cried, quit smoking, and accomplished so much more because of it. I just can't imagine what my life would be like right now if I'd never begun typing...

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I took it pretty easy over the weekend, leaving the house only once for the afore-mentioned walk and late yesterday to the grocery store. I did a little bookkeeping, helped Kate finish her taxes...

My main project was a new dress for Gin!

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I just loved the little flower fabric to line the bodice, and decided to use it for contrasting patch pockets, too!

I went back and forth about snaps vs. buttons. It's been a while since I've done either, and was having a hard time remembering exactly how to do snaps... so decided on and chose some cute vintage buttons. Then I grabbed some fabric to make a few practice buttonholes and discovered that there's a problem -- some gears or cams are not quite right because it goes up on one side and down on the same side. I suppose I could have manually shifted the fabric, but that's just asking for trouble. I really wanted to finish this dress, though, so went back to the snaps and figured it out!

While there are a few sleeve variations included with the pattern, the cap sleeve is probably my favorite!

I've had the fabric for just over a year. I fell in love with it when I saw it in an Instagram post, tracked it down and located a source or two, and bought both woven and knit yardage -- this is the first thing I've made with it!

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The kids were over for a while on Sunday afternoon. Gin's hair is getting long!!  ;)

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Jun was a bundle of energy -- and imagination (with an assist from Aunt Kate)!!

How was your weekend??


And...

...it's WINTER.

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We had our first snowfall (not amounting to much) of the season in the wee hours of the morning. More significant is the 30-degree difference between yesterday's high temp (mid-60F) and today's. And wind... oh, brrrrr, that wind!

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Very late last winter, there was a small rip in one of the seams on the back of my jacket that I hadn't got around to fixing. One morning, on my way out of the coffee shop, the door handle got caught in that small rip and suddenly it was A HUGE GAPING HOLE! I finally got around to fixing it last weekend -- you know, before I actually needed to wear my winter jacket -- and I am very glad I did. Mending is not my favorite thing, but I've a new appreciation since I began hand-sewing some of my own clothing -- and some things are really worth fixing!

Jacket, earmuffs, and Squad Mitts are called for today!


Weekending: Again

What a weird week last week. I was supposed to have last Thursday & Friday off -- a nice long weekend.

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There was a much-hyped Tuesday & Wednesday snowstorm, though, and with Rusty being gone (he takes care of most snow removal), it was suggested that perhaps I'd rather have those days off to keep up. And, yeah... sort of, I guess, but other scheduling things came into play, too, so that I was ending up with most of Tuesday off and all of Wednesday and, well, that's not much different from a normal week.

I took Friday off, too, but it just wasn't the same, y'know? And, of course, the snowfall wasn't nearly as dramatic as predicted, either. Whatever.

I managed one session with the personal trainer last week, did lots of cooking, and also a fair bit of cutting, ironing, and sewing!

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I had the majority of my Color Dive Quilt (in-progress) laid out on the front room floor for a few days... until Junah was due for a visit and I realized what a disaster that could be! I have three rows sewn together so far... it's very colorful!

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Some of my seams line up pretty good and some not-so-good! I'm learning. I also found that some of my fabric combos worked better than others, and have done more fat-quarter shopping in the past week than I've done ever! I think I can live with it now... I will live with it, because no more shopping!

Annie came on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend. The plan was to introduce her to hand sewing, Alabama Chanin style, in preparation for some skirt kits that are on order. We used some stenciled fat-eighths that I'd ordered a while ago for our swatches.

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Within minutes, she was couching! She really likes the look of it and it's probably the technique she's going to use on her skirt.

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She tried some other techniques, too!

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The beads & sequins also came out, and I sent her home with a selection of all, along with some jersey rope in a contrasting color for couching.

The possibilities are endless!

I worked "negative reverse applique" on my swatch, with both layers of fabric in the same color.

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I will likely use this technique on my skirt, but the layers will be different shades of gray.

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It was a super fun and relaxing weekend -- not as long as originally hoped, but fine!

Ann is smitten with the stitching! It's going to be several weeks before our skirt kits arrive, so in the meantime (next time we get together), we'll be cutting out and sewing an interim project. She reminded me before she left that she made it as far Advanced Tailoring in high school home ec class (I remember the "muslin" suit she made from some amazing floral bedsheets)... she's going to LOVE working on a garment!


Quilt

 Once upon a time, Ali had a brilliant idea about making quilts together!

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March 2013

Ali: I think we should have a double wedding ring quilt challenge. But it has to be a secret because mine will be for Abbey and Kevin. {A wedding present for their August 2013 wedding.} But you can report your progress, and at the end surprise the masses with TWO beautiful finished products. Eh? Eh? smile emoticon

We have 5 months! We should make a guide of some kind showing what we have to get done in one week. Pace ourselves. I have no idea how to begin. smile emoticon

Vicki: I've never made more than a quilted square!  Will have to do some research... and, first, you need to get a handle on colors for Abbey & Kevin! I want to go to a good quilt shop!!! Am excited now!

Ali: Me tooooo! We'll have to make a date!

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With a 3-month-old baby only 6 months until her best friend's wedding day, it was quickly decided that we'd be making only Ali's (king-size) quilt, and that I would be her helper! She wanted to use the "Easy! Fast! Smart!" Quiltsmart method, which involves no tedious piecing and, instead, utilizes fusible interfacing to make the arcs and assemble square blocks.

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So instead of tedious piecing, we tediously cut, sewed, trimmed, turned, finger pressed, ironed, sewed again, pressed again, sewed again, pressed again...

As far as I'm concerned, and having never made a traditional pieced double-wedding ring anything, the jury's still out on the ease, swiftness, and/or intelligence of making a quilt this way (your mileage may vary).

May 2013

Vicki: We need to carve out some production time... a quilting bee!

Ali: Whooo! I'm having a very difficult time finding time!

Vicki: I have turned all that were trimmed and am now trimming more so that I can turn!

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August 16, 2013:  WEDDING DAY!

 

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Some parts of this quilt traveled across the pond and I worked on turning and finger pressing in Scotland -- on the train, playing Scrabble in the evening, etc.

June 2014

Vicki: I did some sewing & trimming for quilt yesterday and thought I was caught up... but then saw a whole 'nother pile! Haha. Hope you're having fun up north. XOXO

Ali: This thing is a nightmare!! Haha. Xoxo

Vicki: WE CAN DO IT with this quilt thing!!! smile emoticon

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March 2015

Vicki: {Random sewing talk.} Also, we have a quilt to finish.

Ali: And yes. Quilt. I know I still need some more white fabric, but it's coming along. I can maybe give you what I have..it's ready for the clear thread.

June 2015

Vicki: Re: Quilt... we need 90 total + 38 halves, right?

Ali: Yep. So 128x4?

Vicki: Hm. Quilt. Suggested dimensions for a King size quilt, INCLUDING a 15" drop at each side and the bottom, is 106 x 94... which would be 9x8 (assuming our squares are 12"?) So that would be 72 complete squares and 34 halves to go all the way around, give or take. I'm getting confused. We can't need 70 more arcs, can we???

Ali: I suppose I haven't sat down and done the math since the way beginning, and I'm sure it was hasty.

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August 2015

Ali: I know this is on the back burner... but I wanted to touch base with an idea! We sew the squares into 1'x9' panels, so maybe we cut 9 1'x9' panels of white fabric and use that as the second layer before the batting. Then it's all connected and sturdier and we don't have an extra actual fabric layer to send along. Yes? I haven't sewn these together lengthwise yet but... smile heart-eyes emoticon

I can't remember exactly, but it was sometime in late summer/early fall that we delivered the finished quilt top to the quilter. We had it done at a shop because that was just WAY beyond either of us. (Ali: I have no idea how to begin. Vicki: I've never made more than a quilted square!) We've learned some things!

January 2016

Vicki: I just watched a GREAT tutorial for binding a quilt. WE CAN DO IT! Do you have fabric for binding? smile emoticon

Ali: I have some packaged white quilt binding but we can use something different if you'd like!

Vicki: I actually think it would be easier to do it with fabric strips instead of packaged binding! I discovered all the old backing yesterday, too, so have plenty. Making the strips won't be difficult at all. I forgot the dimensions of the quilt, though, so that was my next step! Do you remember? If you want to do packaged binding, I can pick it up. I watched 2 tutorials on YouTube -- on one Fat Quarter Shop and the other by Missouri Quilt Co. I actually think the FQS method would be best (simple finish on the front).

Ali: Alright! Let me know how you'd like me to help!

Vicki: I need to measure the perimeter of the quilt; cut, sew & press the 2.5" strips. I can do that part if you want to sew it on... or I can do the first step of sewing and you can finish. I'll measure & cut tonight!

I picked it up less than two weeks ago, and made the binding.

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Not only did it take me THREE TIMES to sew the miters making this long strip of fabric, I also made almost twice the length required for the task because... I don't even know why!! But I did a good job and it looks nice and now I have extra.

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I made the binding one evening, and Ali came over the next and sewed it all on in just a few hours! After the blocks were assembled, it all went pretty quick! She washed it within a day or two.

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It's done and delivered, appreciated and loved!

I still can't quite believe it!


Slow Fashion Week 1: You (and Me)

I'm off to a tardy start in Karen Templer's "Slow Fashion October"... but it's a start!

First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month?

The most important people in my life are family and almost all of them -- to some degree -- are/were also makers.

  • Textiles, fiber and reed
  • Rocks, gems and metal
  • Wood, clay, and glass
  • Paper, graphite and paint
  • Seeds, dirt and water

Resulting goods (and motivation) range from utilitarian to decorative, executed by novice makers to highly skilled artists... but there's always been making and doing.

My mother taught me to knit when I was six. I knit on and off in high school and as a young adult in the world (I found knitting needles, yarn, and a slightly challenging pattern to be a great antidote to loneliness), but it's been in the last 15 years or so that I became a truly avid knitter. Thankfully, about 10 years ago, knitting blogs were a Really Big Thing and I became part of that community where people actually thought about knitting and thoughtfully wrote about knitting, yarn, tools, technique (and life), and I learned so much.

Dresses

Dresses sewn by Mom (including her own).

Though my mother was an excellent sewist, she was also a very busy single mother & student, and I didn't learn to sew (more than a button) until I took Home Ec. in high school! My stepmother actually owned a fabric & craft store when she met my dad, and I made a couple of skirts under her tutelage -- but mostly I knit angora hats and made macrame plant hangers for her to sell at the store; she gave me the sturdy used Husqvarna sewing machine that I've used for the past 35-40 years.

I've written a little about sewing and fashion -- and slow fashion -- and quality last April. I am not a crusader, but I am aware and quietly help to make others aware.

Mostly, I just do. I make and do because that's what I've always done -- it's one of the ways I know I'm alive! The day I stop making and doing, I'll be dead.

I became interested in/aware of slow fashion when I began learning about Natalie Chanin and her company, Alabama Chanin in 2012. One of the things I admire about Alabama Chanin is the open source concept. Because as much as I'd like to own, wear, and love a $4,000 handmade dress, it is just never going to happen; but there are resources and tools available for me to make one myself.

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Or something.

Anyway, I'm participating in Slow Fashion October because I love seeing what others are doing. Just as I learned so much about knitting from the knit-blog community, I am inspired and in awe of what's happening in the larger "maker" community. And I will learn things.

Mending

I actually have a couple of goals for the month. One of them is to mend an already mended tunic. Shown above is a visible (embellished!) repair made a few months ago near the hem. Now, there are two small holes in the tummy region. I do not want to give up this garment just yet!! So I need to figure out a way... and am open to suggestions!


Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt

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I finally finished my "muslin" of the Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt! I used three thrifted t-shirts for the main skirt pieces (one black and two mismatched-but-close green), stenciled the fabric using my airbrush and compressor set-up for the first time, and used a variety of techniques to finish.

A skirt is a tricky garment for me to wear, and I'd make mods* next time, but I was comfortable enough to wear it out to lunch yesterday!

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Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt

  • (1) Black T-shirt
  • (2) Green T-shirts (mismatched but close in color)
  • Angie's Fall stencil, gray fabric paint (I mixed the color)
  • Button Craft Thread - double strand of Black throughout
  • Running stitch for construction & embellishment
  • Back Panel: Black outer layer, Green inner layer; large motifs stitched, no cutting, knots inside
  • Inner Front Panel: Green for both layers (same t-shirt); large & medium motifs inked & stitched inside, large motifs cut, knots outside
  • Outer Front Panel: Black outer layer, Green inner layer; large motifs stitched & cut, knots inside
  • All seams inside felled
  • Waistband and ties using Alabama Chanin 100% organic cotton jersey fabric - Blue Slate
  • Unfinished hem

*Because of my body shape, and this is whether or not I'm packing 30 extra pounds -- it's just structure/posture -- I would make an adjustment to the front (shorten) or to the back (lengthen), and probably play around with the darts a little. Some people make a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) when they sew... mine would be a Full Belly Adjustment. Haha.

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In other news, the image above was included with permission in a recent Alabama Chanin Journal post about The School of Making (#theschoolofmaking)! I am rubbing Instagram shoulders with some very fine company there. Check it out... it's an inspiring community.


Sew, the weekend

All of my knitting was in the dog house over the weekend. I may have been suffering a post-project slump after a) "Catamount," my Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic, and b) those busy and productive few days off with the boys.

A slump is the perfect time for hexagons, and that's exactly what happened on Saturday morning at the farmer market.

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Later on Saturday, I actually made an attempt at laying out and assembling a strip quilt that I've had cut for ages. That ended up in the dog house, too! I think I'm forcing it and need to do some editing (I think there's more than one quilt happening there).

Needing some craftual satisfaction, I turned to my potato chip project du jour, a romper for Junah! I'd recently picked up a Green Bay Packers t-shirt at the thrift store (new, with tags) for just that purpose, following the same method as for Baby Captain America!

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Drawing lines.

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Three hours later, I'd finished everything but snaps, and added those on Sunday morning. I was able to get all but the front facing from one t-shirt (size XXL, I believe). There's still plenty of room for a diaper butt, but I left off the snaps at the crotch this time.

Sunday was the first day in a while that I didn't have to be somewhere or take care of someone, and it seemed like a good day to play around finally try airbrushing. It was windy outside, so made part of the garage floor my work space (the part that isn't taken over by the indigo operation, art gallery displays, and bicycles) (also known as where I normally park my car but haven't in months) (and all that stuff will relocate by the time the snow flies!).

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I chose two old mismatched green t-shirts and one new black one to provide the fabric for my "muslin" of the Wrap Skirt and to test the airbrush/compressor set up.

I mixed paint, fitted everything together with our little air compressor, laid out some old towel-rags on the garage floor, and had at it. I painted one piece at a time, the stencil being large enough to cover each piece without having to reposition. Some time ago, I'd purchased the large all-over mylar stencil in the Angie's Fall design -- it's one of my favorites, and I'm not sick of it yet!

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Inside front, Back, Outside front

All the while I was thinking that it would be really great to learn the finer points of stenciling (from start to finish) and, thanks to my $5 for Florence campaign, that might will happen someday.

The design is a little soft in the middle of the back piece (where the stencil was not adhered to the fabric very well), and it was while spraying the outside front piece that I was running out of paint, so it's splotchy in places and sparse in others.

I had barely enough paint, having first mixed my color concoction (a little black, a little white, a little silver) in a small 2-oz. jar. Turns out that the mouth of that jar is too small for the airbrush fitting, so had to dump it all into a 4-oz. jar and there was a fair bit of waste.

Clean up was interesting...

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That's the towel upon which I did the first scrubbing of paint off the stencil. I win for fanciest rag bag contents! I finished cleaning up in the bathtub and "sticking it" on the tile wall. Clean up sure takes a while.

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I've already begun stitching. I'm not sure how far I'll go with that... it would be nice to have a wearable piece, even just for running around, but it is just a "muslin" and my time might be better spent. We'll see. I'm content for now.

Thoughts & things: I made a slight cutting mistake on the inside front piece (it should have been mirrored with the outside front, and was not). I might try a button (something other than a tie) on the inside. One of the old green shirts is so soft and worn that it feels like velvet against my skin (it also has a few holes - the straight pins show where not to cut!).


Alabama Chanin Tunic: Catamount

I travel on occasion, and when I do I like to fly. One of the things I like most about flying is viewing the landscape below, which is why I always choose a window seat (and sometimes arrive at my destination with a sore neck). Wisconsin, and much of the USA, divides land using the geometric Public Land Survey System and I am endlessly entertained by the patterns and design of our land, both natural and man-made.

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Somewhere between Wisconsin and Mexico, February 2015.

The aerial view of Wisconsin in the warm months can be stunning, reminiscent of a giant quilt -- with every shade of green you can imagine, sometimes striped or blocked with brown or yellow, full of texture, contrast, and pattern. It gives me a thrill every time I see it. In autumn, add the reds, golds, and oranges of turning leaves. In winter... not quite as thrilling. There is still geometry, texture, interest, and it can be quite tranquil and lovely; it can also be bleak, raw, and desolate (not to mention cold).

I often view the landscape below me and think about it in terms of textiles: how could a particular design be used in quilting, knitting, or lately sewing (mainly surface design/embroidery).

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My main inspiration came from Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013

When I decided to make an Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic/Dress using the lovely gift of organic cotton jersey from Margene a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted something special to honor the gift. I'm not sure when I first saw Sonja Hinrichsen's snow drawings -- sometime in the past year, a photo or article shared via social media, no doubt; I was immediately struck by her work, and I swear to god, the choir began to sing! The concept of her snow drawings blows my mind, and even after some intimacy with her work, I continue to be utterly amazed... the vision, the design, the execution, the perfection.

Mosaic1My  normal mode of operation is to dive right in, but I did do some testing to figure out some particulars.

The first step was to choose the particular areas/motifs I wanted to document on the fabric and then manipulate the images to correct the angle (so that circles were circular instead of elliptical).

Mosaic2Wow, that stuff really works!

Chosen design motifs were printed on an adhesive-backed wash-away fabric stabilizer (such as Sulky or Pellon), then cut out and arranged on the fabric. I was interested in a deep design at the hem... at first, I was going to do the entire dress, but quickly decided to do only the front.

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Some of the motifs are very labyrinth-like, peaceful and meditative, contrasting with the high-energy, whimsy, and unabashed fun of other parts -- and I felt all of those things while stitching, but mostly excitement! It was so much fun to do and I looked forward to sewing time everyday!

A million progress/process photos were taken along the way.

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The dress was assembled after embroidery was complete. (Construction details below.) I modified the neckline a bit, then bound my first V-neck. The Wonder Clips are amazing, of course, for holding things without piercing the fabric, but it occurred to me that basting the neckline might even be better. I had recollection of the neck gaping a bit on Maddy's Hootie shirt and it occurred to me that there would be a better chance at correcting that if I basted first; it would also eliminate weight from the clips that might stretch the fabric a bit more than I'd like while sewing up. I did, in fact, make an adjustment at the back neck before finishing, and the basting lines made perfect guidelines for sewing the beaded binding.

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Front and back - finished!

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That's my name in Morse Code beaded into the hem on one side; the year is beaded on the other side.

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I finished the dress on Sunday, and decided on Tuesday that I wanted a Bolero to go with it. I really want to make a gray & red version to go with the dress, but some "quick" slow fashion was called for, as I wanted to wear it on Thursday evening. I made a single-layer cap-sleeve version using a thrifted men's XL t-shirt. The fabric is off-white, I used Slate thread, binding the neck edge with parallel stitch and finishing the sleeves with a random ruffle -- a nod to and coordinating with the tunic, but no beads.

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Alabama Chanin A-line Dress: CATAMOUNT

  • Alabama Chanin 100% organic cotton jersey fabric - Blue Slate
  • Button craft thread - double strand of Black for construction, single strand of Slate for embroidery & beading
  • Backstitch embroidery
  • All knots inside
  • All seams inside felled
  • Customized length to between tunic & dress length (hits just above the knee)
  • Customized neckline to make slightly deeper V
  • Parallel binding stitch at armholes
  • Beaded parallel binding stitch at neckline
  • Beaded random ruffle at hemline
  • Seed beads: clear and red
  • Bugle beads: dark gray, satin gray, and red
  • Chop beads: dark gray and red
  • Sequins: silver and dark gray

I've shared my project with Sonja Hinrichsen, whose work inspired the embellishment, and I'm happy to report that she loves it!

There are a few more photos (if you can believe it) in a Flickr Collection/Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic: Catamount.


Baby Captain America (Romper #2)

There was a lot of sewing during my at-home mini vacation... a lot! Mending, seaming, hemming, embroidery, applique... both by machine and by hand.

I've had another attempt at a romper for Junah on my list (here's the first), and that happened on Monday.

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This time, I used the same old Simplicity pattern (#5049... which I've since acquired in 2 more sizes) mashed up with a modified & upsized Simply Summer Romper, a free pattern (12-mo size) on Craftsy.

The things I love most about that Simplicity pattern are the facings (possibly my most favorite thing), the shoulder snaps, and the 2-piece back.

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The free pattern offered a little guidance with shaping for the one-piece front, and I was excited to try the snap crotch.

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Seven snaps total, top & bottom, are possibly a bit of overkill... haha!

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The fabric came from a thrifted t-shirt.

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Centering the design on the front meant that I was a little short of fabric for the straps. That happened with the giraffe romper, too, but my fix then was quite rushed and haphazard.

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This time, I took the few extra minutes needed to do it symmetrically... and nicely. Top stitching even.

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I also did just a bit of top stitching under the each arm to secure the facings. And, this time, I also hemmed the legs.

Forgetting to make corresponding adjustments to the facing pattern pieces, but not discovering that fault until after cutting, meant that I didn't have enough t-shirt fabric. I dug through my scraps and found some fabrics that corresponded well enough. I quite love how that worked out.

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I'm so happy with how it turned out. It's at least a hundred times better than the last. There's still room for little tweaks & improvement, but I feel like I'm on track.

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Baby Captain America doesn't do windows (unless you like fingerprints!), but he's happy to help sweep the deck!

Also, I'm dying over those shoes...


Why wait?

The summer bucket-filling commences today with the start of an Alabama Chanin A-line Dress!

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I'm making a custom length between tunic and the shorter dress, using a single layer of Alabama Chanin medium-weight organic cotton jersey in a color called "Blue Slate."

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I'll be using black thread to sew it all together.

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If there's one step I'm likely to skip in this process, it's basting the neckline and armholes... but not this time.

I've plans to embellish with embroidery and beading, inspired by some photos that I ran across on the WWW last winter.

Drip, drip, drip...


Giraffe Romper for Junebug

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Stop! Stay back, yoga mat!

Every once in a while a company called Artsonia sends me a notification that one of my nephews has had new artwork from school uploaded on their site. It's always fun to see the boys' projects and I am able to order their artwork printed on all sorts of items, from mouse pads and coffee mugs to tote bags and t-shirts.

Until now, I've appreciated their creations but never ordered anything. Then, a few weeks ago, I received notice of this:

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...and my heart skipped a beat. First of all, ADDISON! Second of all, GIRAFFE!! And third of all, HAVE YOU EVER IN YOUR LIFE???

I immediately ordered as large a t-shirt as I could, with the idea of refashioning it and making something romper for Junah. Unfortunately, I was so excited that I didn't read the full description of the shirts and ended up with a shirt made of 100% polyester instead of 100% cotton.

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Going in head-first, I pulled out this old pattern that was Mom's... I'm not sure why I have it (and just a couple of others), but I do. I knew I was in for it right away because the pattern has two pieces for both front and back, with shaping for the legs, and I wanted the front to be all one piece. Without thinking too hard, I made some adjustments that I thought would compensate.

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I muddled my way through and posted the "finished" photo above to Instagram.

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The original photo shows that I hilariously cropped both the messy top part and the terribly wonky bottom/crotch area in that photo. I wasn't too broken up... because polyester shirt. I was (and continue to be) all about THAT AMAZING GIRAFFE! If the romper didn't work out, I'd reclaim the giraffe and put it in a frame.

Experimental as it was, it would still be nice if Junah could wear it! I did a little after-the-fact research and concluded that some sort of gusset was in order. The seam ripper appeared & fixing commenced:

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I had done some weird cutting and couldn't come back from that. I also had no idea how it was even going to fit him so I just did some stitching instead of hemming. The whole thing was sewn on the machine using a stretch stitch and Maxi-Lock thread.

It's not going to win any prizes, but it turned out pretty cute overall. I know what to do to fix it next time (and also found some patterns more in line with what I'm trying to do)...

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And seriously, how cute is he?

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Ali said that he had a big cloth diaper & cover on and there was still plenty of room; it bunched up a little around his diaper from sitting/standing, but it wasn't pulling anywhere.

It was a great learning exercise. The next one will be a bit more refined, and there will likely be a few more after that!!


New threads

On Memorial Day, another men's 4X t-shirt was on the block (aka, my new worktable). I used a favorite Eileen Fisher tunic to make a pattern template, drew some chalk lines, and started cutting!

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The length was perfect, so I kept the already finished t-shirt hem.

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I sewed the new side and shoulder seams by machine, using a regular presser foot (since my walking foot blew apart) and Maxi-Lock thread. The thread cone doesn't fit on the machine's spool holder, but it worked just fine to set it on the table right below; I think I knocked it over only once. I felled the machine-sewn seams by hand, a la Alabama Chanin.

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It's a "pretty simple" tunic -- square neck, two main pieces, front and back exactly the same.

I finished the cap-sleeve armhole edges with binding attached using a plain parallel stitch.

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Then, there was that "simple" square neck to finish. I probably spent twice as much time working on that neckline as I did on everything else! I decided to finish it with a mitered edge and used the instructions given by Nancy Snell, "Miter Corners for a Smooth Finish," included in A Primer on Sewing Knits on the Threads magazine site.

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I sewed the corners and attached the binding to the body by machine

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Mitered corner neckline detail.

Then I smoothed and basted -- very loosely, because I was flying by the seat of my pants and the possibility of a re-do was looming large -- on the right side, about 1/4" or maybe 3/8" from the edge, hoping for it to nicely curl. And it did.

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Very loose basting!

My eldest (rather fashionable and stylish) daughter has coveted my new tunic, so I know it's a good one! It's been washed and worn a few times already (we did not depart for NC until the dryer buzzed)! I love it and will definitely make another one or two.

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It's black, so terrible to photograph -- I doctored every single one of the photos above in order to actually be able to see something!Blackmountainself
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Trust that I'm wearing it here, last Friday, at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset.

I am still working on my Endless Summer Tunic! I brought it along to NC, and even worked on it... it won't be long. I love that thing!


Baby pants

It felt so good to spend some much-needed KonMari time in my workroom on Saturday. That nice new worktable is wasted if I can't even move around the room!

Over a year ago, when we cleared all of our stuff from the upstairs apartment, I came across some old t-shirts that Kate & Al painted when they were little. I put them aside. Never intending to keep them (the paint is thick, cracked, brittle), I did want to photograph them, though, before I tossed them out.

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The date is right there on the sleeve of Kate's shirt -- Sept. 2, 1990! Almost 25 years ago (don't judge)! Kate was 5.5 and Ali was 3.5 and I was pregnant with Maddy, though I don't think I actually knew that at the time. We did this as a group in the back yard at Karen's house and Sharon was there, too; now and then, I run across a few photos of the weekend. Fun.

There were also these:

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A year or two later, the last two were done at the cabin with paint and glitter (not glitter paint), and the sparkles were everywhere -- in the grass, the cabin, the outhouse, at the shoreline, on the bridge!

I photographed all of them, salvaged or tossed, then cut and traced and cut some more, celebrating the day's accomplishments by making a pair of Big Butt Baby Pants for Junebug.

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It's my second pair of BBBP, and the first in jersey, so I also used my walking foot for the first time (and I am in LOVE with it!).

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Everything's humming on the old Husqvarna, except that the stitch selector knob won't budge. This little workhorse will do knits even better when I can change the stitch!

As is... I made a little right-side/wrong-side error in cutting, so one leg is inside-out, but oh well; and fold-over elastic would have worked and looked better, but I don't have any. The stretch made it easier to ease in the "big butt" expansion panel without puckering, but didn't do the waistband any favors.

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They were a bit of an experiment and I'm calling it a successful one! I learned a lot and Junah's got a (quirky) new pairs of pants.

Ali sent me some action shots:

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They fit perfectly, and I think he likes them!!