WIP Wednesday: Out of the Woods

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Half an inch is really, really small, you guys.

(WIP = work in progress)

It felt like an eternity, but I finally got my exterior piece finished for my Sew Together Bag.  First time using that gridded interfacing (1″ squares)–using this tutorial and this one–and I have some thoughts about the process:

  1.  Most important point–think SMALL BLOCKS when using this stuff.  My finished piece here, at 13 1/2″ x 9 3/4″, was WAY too big.  Cutting and placing and fusing 600+ teeny tiny blocks, trimming all those zillions of seams, pressing them all open–there’s a tremendous amount of tedious, repetitive labor here.  Do yourself a big favor and at least make each tedious, repetitive step a bit less overwhelming.  I’ve wanted to try the grid interfacing for a while because of the potential to make a quilt like this, and that’s the perfect type of project for it–small, manageable blocks and frequent color changes.
  2.  That said, it doesn’t pay to spend too much time on the innards of a block like this.  I got out my mini-iron and labored over pressing all those tiny little seams open, only to mess all that up when I sewed the rows in the other direction.  I tried various methods to try to get those seam allowances to stay put with no success.  But then I realized that the seam allowances weren’t making the piece lumpy, and I decided to quit worrying about it.  Probably a better option (certainly quicker) would have been to skip the trimming and press the initial set of seam allowances to one side.
  3.  There are a couple of interesting advantages to using such small pieces.  As Scrap Quilt Goddess Bonnie Hunter says, If it’s still ugly, you just didn’t cut it small enough!  This is the place to use up ugly prints in the right colors, or in the wrong colors, but the right color family.  I’ve got some stuff in here that I really don’t like, but it totally works.  Also, there’s a hell of a lot of seam allowance in this–what you cut winds up half the size in the finished block–so it uses up a fair bit of fabric.  And, hey, any quilt technique that helps you burn through fabric you don’t much care for, and gives you something that you’ll love at the end, is a pretty handy thing.
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Reminds me of another bit of quilting wisdom:  done is better than perfect.

I took a break in the midst of this drama on Monday and cut out the rest of my bag pieces.  And my zippers from ZipperStop came today, so I’m ready to go.

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I know I’ve bought sage-green zippers from them before, but I couldn’t find any this time.  Hope that light tan color isn’t too distracting.  :/

Anyway, I’m hoping to make some progress on this tomorrow.  Off to bed now.

STH

FNWF and Sunday Sevens 04-09-17

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Happy floof.

I don’t have very many pictures this week–it just wasn’t a terribly photogenic week, I’m afraid–but I wanted to show you the progress on the Sew Together bag, which I worked on for Friday Night with Friends.

I decided to use the gridded interfacing that I won the other day to piece together my assortment of greens for the outside of the bag.  This turned out to be a bit more of a project than I expected.  I needed a finished size piece of 13 1/2″ by 9 3/4″; with a grid of 1″ squares and 1/4″ seam allowance, I’d have to start with a 27″ by 19 1/2″ piece of interfacing (plus a few inches of extra just to be safe).

So, I sat down to figure out how many squares of fabric I’d need . . . no, that can’t possibly be right . . . I’ll recalculate in the morning when I’m not tired, I’m sure I’m making a mistake . . . .  Nope, in the morning, the answer was still 609 1″ squares.

YIKES.

So that was Friday night.

Then, on Saturday, I mixed all my squares together and laid them out on the adhesive side of the grid.  My ironing board was too small, so I did this on a towel on my dining room table.

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And here it is with all the squares in place and pressed down.

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I’m working now on sewing all those long, looooonnnnggg seams.  This whole process is probably less tedious than sewing all those teeny, tiny squares together two by two, but it’s still plenty tedious.  Good for when you want something mindless to do, but it’s not going to be my favorite quilt technique, that’s for sure.

I am loving all those greens together, though.  These less-bright greens aren’t my favorite, so I have a lot of them sitting around that I haven’t found a way to use, and I love how they all look together.  The combination reminds me of a walk in the woods.

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However, that’s not the most exciting thing that happened last week.

THAT would be THIS RIGHT HERE:

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You guys, I DID A THING.

Take a look at my new toy right there.

YEAH BABY.

Backstory:  The sewing machine I’ve been using is a basic White that I bought maybe 15 (?) years ago on sale at Joann’s.  I have worked it HARD and it has been dying piece by piece for some time–first the buttonhole function stopped working, then it stopped winding bobbins, and just recently the stitch selector froze up and the machine started having intermittent tension problems.  I’ve been hemming and hawing about what to do, then on Tuesday or Wednesday I made up my mind to start looking for a used machine.  Not ancient, as I wanted zig zag and reverse and the ability to do buttonholes, but something sturdy and reliable.

On Thursday afternoon, I sat down in front of my computer to check out Facebook while I had my coffee.  And there was a post from SCRAP about the two sewing machines they had put out on the floor to sell, an old Kenmore and a newish Singer.  I chugged my coffee, got in the car, and ran down there.  The Singer looked nice–it was still in its box and everything–but I’ve never heard a single good thing about the newer Singers.  And that Kenmore was all metal, sturdy, simple, and clean inside and out.  All for $30.

When I got home, I found a couple of YouTube videos showing how to use the machine–how I love the internet!–and I managed to fill a bobbin, thread it, and start sewing.  You guys, this thing is GREAT.  I used to sew on my grandmother’s old Kenmore (a similar, possibly newer, machine is here), and this has all the advantages of that machine without the disadvantages (I’m still a little amazed that I used to lug that 50-pound beast to quilt classes, then haul it up the stairs to my old third-floor apartment afterwards).  And the stitches are beautiful.

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As always, all credit goes to Natalie from Threads and Bobbins for getting us all going on this Sunday Sevens business.

I hope you all have a great week, and that your stitches are nice and even.

STH

 

WIP Wednesday: Pretty and Practical

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Today needs a lot of pretty colors, I’ve decided.

(WIP = work in progress)

I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m suddenly in the midst of about 12 projects here.   And my sewing room–even AFTER this morning’s clean-up–looks it.  I did actually finish a thing, though, so let’s take a look at that first.

This project was the result of a happy convergence between this situation . . .

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. . . and the new fat quarters that I won recently.

I’m a little bit picky about oven mitts (as you get about things that you use all the time) and this one was my favorite because it was wider than most (so it fit my weird wide hands) and it had that handy metal ring on it so that I could sling it back up on its hook with one hand.  So I decided to make a couple of new mitts with these same features.

I used the mitt pattern here, but widened it a bit.  For the padding, I used a layer of Insul-Bright and one of thin cotton batting, as the Insul-Bright instructions recommended.

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Are these fabrics fun or what?

These were a bit challenging to quilt, what with all the layers in there, but I do like how the extra batting makes the quilting show up.  Can’t vouch for their ability to protect my hands from heat, though, as I haven’t used them yet (poor planning on my part!)

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The blue fabric I used for the lining, binding, and loops came from the stash.

I didn’t have the patience to bind the raw seam allowances, but I’m thinking oven mitts don’t get washed all that often, anyway.  They’re wide enough that if I need to re-sew the seams later, I’ll be able to do it.

Let’s see, what else am I planning?

Well, there’s the Sew Together Bag, which I have been lusting after for a while (don’t judge).  I actually purchased the pattern at full price–such is the depth of my desire.  😉

I’ve got this long-term goal of paring down the amount of stuff I bring with me when I travel, and I’m thinking this bag might be a good way of organizing my toiletries.  I need it to coordinate with the three travel bags I use regularly–travel is no excuse for not being FABULOUS, my darlings–so I’m planning to make the exterior a patchwork of various olive-y, sage-y greens.

I’m having a hard time judging whether this bag will actually be big enough, so I want to try it out on our next weekend away in a couple of weeks.

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Just some of the green scraps I’ve pulled out of the stash for this.

There’s also the Cloudsplitter Summit Pack, which I bought back in November, also for travel.  This is going to have a Laurel Burch applique on the outside pocket and use various stash fabrics for the rest of it.  I have a feeling this is going to be very purple.

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I’ve also cut out the blue McCall’s 7571 blouse I mentioned earlier.  And some progress has been made on Mending Mountain–the things that just needed quick repairs are done, and now I need to take a couple of “before” pictures and get to work on my refashioning projects.

That’s not actually all of the things in the works here, but it’s probably enough for one post.  😉  I hope you have an excellent Wednesday with plenty of color.

STH

Sunday Sevens 04-02-17

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Shelby is very serious about her cuddle time.

Hi, everybody, and I hope you’re all having (or had) a great weekend!

I missed Sunday Sevens last week, as I was knee-deep in baby quilting, so let’s see what’s been happening over here.

Some fun stuff has been showing up in the mail!  I won these fat quarters from Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation . . .

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. . . and these charm squares, some gridded interfacing, and a Craftsy class from Caroline at Sew Can She!

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Two of those fat quarters have already gone into a small project that I’m hoping to finish tonight.

Now that the weather’s a bit better, I’m taking my mother out for walks again.  The grass is greening up nicely, with the trees close behind; the forsythia is already glowing, as are the willow trees (yep, willow trees in the desert . . . I don’t get it, either).

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But what’s that stuff on the right side of the picture there?

Tasting it didn’t seem like a super-great idea, but this ground cover looks and smells just like a wild type of parsley.

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All sorts of flora and fauna down here by the river . . . .

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Asparagus is starting to show up in stores here, though I don’t think the local crop is in yet.  This made a nice side dish for my bacon-spinach-tomato-avocado sandwich.

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And one more shot of Shelby, just because she’s so cute with her lopsided exclamation point markings.  I was cradling her with my left arm, shooting like mad with my right hand, and trying not to move and make her run away.  She’s been through some rough times with humans, and she’s still working on that whole trust thing.

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As always, the ever-fabulous Natalie at Threads and Bobbins gets credit for starting Sunday Sevens.

Have a wonderful week and I hope there’s some cuddle time in there for ya.

STH

WIP Wednesday: Nesting

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(WIP = Work in Progress)

Happy Wednesday, all, and it’s especially happy for me because I have finished the baby quilt!

If you recall, this was a commission for a co-worker of my sister’s.  It was a simple quilt–big blueberries on one side, small on the other, blue border on both sides, cross-hatching for the quilting, ruffle around the edge–but there was a fair bit of hand-stitching, so it took me a while.

Things I learned doing this project:

  • There is a reason that people don’t put a narrow border on both sides of a quilt, which is that the quilting you do will inevitably shift the border a bit, and then any quilting you do on or near the border will be wonky.  The only way I know to make sure that doesn’t happen is to carefully line up and hand baste the two sides of the border together so that there won’t be shifting.  Slow and laborious, but it did the trick.
  • I still really, really hate making gathers.
  • I really, really, profoundly suck at estimating the time needed for sewing projects.  I mean, I knew this, but yeah, it’s bad.  When I was a grad student, I was told about the Rule of Threes for research:  studies will always take three times as long as you expect, cost three times as much, and require three times as many experimental subjects.  I suspect the formula is similar for sewing projects.

I had set a goal for myself of finishing the quilt by Sunday night, but I finally finished at 2:00 Tuesday morning (and my fingers are still sore from that marathon binding session).  I’m afraid I don’t have any pics of the whole quilt, as it had just come out of the dryer, and I was desperate to keep it cat-hair-free until I could deliver it.  The only place my cats don’t sit is this little table next to my sewing machine, so that’s where I put the quilt for photos.

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Will you just look at that (almost) perfectly-lined-up border quilting?!?

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The good news:  I have some scraps of this super-cute fabric to use in future quilts.  The bad news:  I still haven’t learned how to keep the damn camera strap out of my pictures.

Anyway, now that this project is done and delivered (YAY), I think it may be time to do something about Mending Mountain.

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All the ugh.

My sewing room is my own little comfy nest and I’m feeling these days like I want to take better care of it.  In addition to dealing with the Mountain, there’s the fabric inventory in Evernote, the project/fabric use spreadsheet (which I took a first whack at the other day), and using up some stash so that everything fits better into its assigned space.  I’m also making a pile of fabric to donate.  If I don’t love it, and it’s not long enough to be useful for muslins, out it goes.

I’ve got a couple of summer tops in mind to help use up some of these weird little 1 to 1 1/2 yard pieces of fabric I have.  These two, for example, are going to be combined to make view D here.

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So hard to take pictures in this harsh white light we have here these days.  😦

That blue on the left has been in the stash for years and may be from Wal-Mart, I’m not sure.  The navy eyelet on the right (SO CUTE) is from SCRAP.

Off to start my way up the Mountain.  Wish me luck.

STH

 

WIP Wednesday: Preppy Plaid Pillow

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(WIP=work in progress)

Brand new!  Hot off the pr . . . uh, sewing machine!

I just finished this late this afternoon, and I’m feeling all ready for summer now.

I’ve been a little bit grumpy about how gray and wet it’s been here lately, so I pulled out a bunch of my most summer-y fabrics and patterns and pondered what I could make that would remind me of sunny, hot days.

I started with this fabric, a remnant that I picked up at SCRAP a while ago–great colors, nice, crisp feel to it, but only 7/8 of a yard (53″ wide), which isn’t much.  It’s actually a Waverly home decor fabric and “dry clean only” (HA), but it came through the wash fine, wasn’t stiff like most home decor, and Google told me it was 100% cotton.  I’m not at all a plaid sort of person, but I love the fresh look of this print.  It was probably meant to be pillows for a chair on the deck of a beach house in the Hamptons, but, hey, I can do soft and pillowy, no problem.

Here’s the pattern I came up with–dated 2001, but actually still in print.

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View B on the far left only requires 7/8 of a yard for 60″ fabric, so that was what I made.

I was worried it was going to be boring, though, with such a simple design, so I used the pocket included in the pattern and bound the neck edge with a bias binding.

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Arm holes are finished with some bias tape that I made some time ago and accidentally cut too narrow.

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This fabric had a huge selvage on it and I just barely had enough width for the two pattern pieces.  I wound up having to sew one side seam with a little bit bigger seam allowance, just so the selvage wouldn’t show.

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Doing French seams doesn’t work well with vents, so I finished the side seams by turning the seam allowances under and stitching.

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Sewing this got me thinking about preppy style, which I’ve always liked.  Not the pastels or the polo shirts, but the straight skirts, button-down shirts, and little cardigans.  There’s just something so neat and tidy about that stuff, you know?  It was a socially-acceptable way for girls to dress that wasn’t frilly or fussy (in other words, I could get away with wearing it while still living with my mother, even though it edges a bit closer to androgyny). It occurs to me that if clothing is a language, we sewing people can use our hobby to explore the facets of what we’re trying to communicate, why, and to whom.  Like lots of things, a simple little tank top can be the start of an interesting meditation.  🙂

This was a quick and easy project–not the 2 hours promised, but are they ever?–and a nice basic pattern to have around.  It’s sized for wovens, but I might try this in a knit just to see how it works.  I spent the winter replacing my oldest fleece tops, but I could stand to do the same with my tee shirts.

I hope you’re seeing signs of spring where you are and having lots of sunny summer dreams.  Here’s some sweet summer music for you to listen to.  (I really like this band–try this and this, too!)

STH

FNSI and Sunday Sevens 3-19-17

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Welcome to spring in the western U.S.

This week has been full of signs of spring!  Like the tumbleweed above, because spring in eastern Washington is WINDY, and this fine specimen blew onto our back patio the other day.

Did I ever tell you about the former co-worker of mine who went out driving in his pick-up on a windy day?  Just for fun, he tried to see how many tumbleweeds he could hit with his vehicle (if you hit them just right, they kind of explode).  The problem is, he wasn’t wearing his glasses at the time, and he wound up having to spend the rest of the day underneath his truck, picking porcupine spines out of the engine with pliers.  Hmmm . . . .

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Spring also means Pi Day, and since my partner is trying to avoid sugar at the moment, I went for a ground beef pie with lots of vegetables and a puff pastry crust.  A bit soupy–too many mushrooms and too little patience to cook off the excess liquid–but delicious.

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I have all these cool black and white fabrics, and I was so happy to get to use them here.

My sister’s birthday is today, so I made her this zipper bag using all stash materials.  The bag is supposed to have a bee applique on this side, but I fell in love with my patchwork here and couldn’t cover it up.  So the bee went on the other side.

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Here’s the inside:

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The nights are a bit warmer these days, so it was time to shift to the spring bedding.  The cats bid a fond farewell to the comforter with its red flannel cover.

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And hello to the new green flannel sheets I bought during the January white sales.

BEST SHEETS EVER.

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Friday was the monthly Friday Night Sew-In and I worked on this.  You may notice that this is not the baby quilt I was supposed to be sewing this weekend.  My only excuse is that the gray, soggy weather made me want to sew something summery.

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And today, I went to Joann’s to take advantage of the pattern sale and came away with this:

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Yep, fleece remnants again.  But that green!  And the two together were about $4 for 1 1/2 yards.  I think these are going to get washed and put away for fall sewing.  Or maybe I’ll just leave them out where I can admire them.

As always, all credit to Natalie at Threads and Bobbins for getting Sunday Sevens started.  Have a great week, everybody!

STH

ETA:  A little tumbleweed context–probably the only place that most people have ever seen one:

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WIP Wednesday: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

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Using up those scraps, one 2 1/2″ square at a time.

(WIP=work in progress)

Various projects in various states today.  Because I am that sort of person, let’s start with the end first.  Picture above is of my sister’s birthday present, which I’ve been finishing up today.  Just a sneak peek until I give it to her tomorrow.  This color palette is a little bit unusual for me, but I feel like it really worked.

Next up is finishing this, which is the baby quilt commission for a co-worker of my sister’s.  I got about halfway through it, then got distracted by about 12 other shiny objects, but I need to get it finished.  It’s got the big blueberries on one side, small blueberries on the other, and a blue border on both.  This will have cross hatch quilting and a ruffle when done.

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And this one is still in its beginning state; this is the flannel I bought for my niece’s baby quilt.  The pattern is here and I think it will be really cute with a couple of borders as a baby quilt.  The white with green spots will be the background for the applique, and the elephant fabric will be the backing (may very well be the elephant on the front as well).  My mother was with me when I bought this and did NOT approve, but I think it’s adorable.

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I think the baby is due in July, so I might put this off a bit . . . I think I may need a fun project after I finish the blueberry quilt.  I’ve got my fabric cataloguing to do (why yes, this does qualify as a fun project, doesn’t everybody get excited about databases and spreadsheets?), but there may also be some springy sewing for me.  It’s been a stressful couple of weeks, I’ve been fighting the jerkbrain like crazy, so maybe it’s time.   I have this really cool plaid I’ve been thinking about . . . .

Anyway, here’s a song to listen to in case you’re also in a battle with the jerkbrain.  “Leave what’s heavy behind,” feels very much like what I’m working on these days.

STH

 

 

Sunday Sevens 3-12-17

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Very soggy Hoover Park in Newberg, OR.

Still catching up on my pictures in this edition of Sunday Sevens; some of these are actually from last weekend, which was spent in Oregon.  As always, all credit to Natalie from Threads and Bobbins for coming up with the Sunday Sevens idea and giving us something to do with all those random pictures we take.

On Friday, my honey and I headed down to Newberg, Oregon, so that he could do a 200k bike ride with the Oregon Randonneurs (that website is terribly unhelpful, but randonneuring is a type of long-distance, non-competitive, self-supported cycling; a basic introduction is here and a slightly odd–why the marching music?–look at what it’s like to do one of these rides is here).  He’s signed up to do the London-Edinburgh-London ride this summer and a LOT of training needs to happen between now and July.

While he was off doing that on Saturday, I took a walk around and stopped at Hoover Park  (Newberg has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the birthplace of President Herbert Hoover).  This part of Oregon is still firmly in monsoon season and the park is sort of bowl-shaped, so the ground was muddy, saturated, and slippery with leaves.

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I was just happy to see some green, though.

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Did not manage to get a picture of the hobbits that surely live here.

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I also stopped at the Goodwill there, which for some reason has GREAT fabric; last summer, I picked up this fabulous flannel there.  Look at the summery goodies I found this time!  White gauze tablecloth, white eyelet curtain, and this amazing flowered cotton knit!

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Total luck–opened the hotel room curtains and caught this guy snacking on the berries in the tree outside.

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Back in eastern Washington, I joined a couple hundred other folks in Richland for an International Women’s Day rally.  Best moment:  a toddler in a red dress wandered up to the stage, picked up one of those signs, and walked off with it.  When she turned around, we could see that it read “Children Before Corporations.”  Big cheer from the crowd.

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Another Goodwill find:  a new home for the stash!  I have had ENOUGH of moving bins to get to the one on the bottom.

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And, finally, dinner:  I have introduced the Resident Englishman to another venerable American food tradition, the Tater Tot Hotdish (albeit an unusual version).  #Murica

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Busy week ahead.  Among other things, I’m working on a birthday present for my sister and need to also finish up the commissioned baby quilt ASAP.  I hope you all have an excellent week, get the important things done, and also make room for the fun things.

STH

WIP Wednesday: Spring Showers

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SO FREAKING CUTE

Spring is the time for doing something silly, right?

I freely admit that I get a little nutty (well, nuttier) when the weather starts to warm up and things start greening up.  The sun comes out and they start to put out all that pastel springy stuff in stores and I get overwhelmed by the thought of soft yellow chicks and little fluffy bunnies and lavender Easter eggs and green grass and warm sun and daffodils and irises and . . . I wind up buying something ridiculous and pink that I will never wear.

I’d like to think this project is a slightly more sensible and grown-up version of that.  ALL the colors, but also the colors I love to wear (i.e., not pastels), plus it’s warm, which is a good thing, as it’s not even really spring here.

I bought this fleece the other day when I was at Joann’s to get flannel on sale for my niece’s new baby quilt.  (I brought my mother with me, just so she could get out of the house, and OY please remind me to never do that again.  She’s like the chorus in a Greek play that tells you how everything you’re doing is going to go horribly wrong.)  The fleece was also on sale, and I got a further discount for buying the last of the bolt, so it wound up being about five bucks for 1 1/2 yards.  My big spring splurge.  😉

I wanted a simple sweatshirt-y sort of shape to show off the fabric, and found this pattern:

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The pattern is actually for wovens, but my fleece doesn’t have a ton of stretch, so I cut the size that gave me a couple of inches of ease at the waist and hips.

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Hard to see here, but this has bust darts.

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This is view B–a bit longer in the back and a curved hem.

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I was 1/4 of a yard short on fabric, so the back is about 1″ shorter than the pattern, which was fine with me.

I don’t like bottom bands or sleeve bands on tops, so I didn’t use them on this.  I didn’t really need the extra hip space, but I added vents on the sides, just because I wanted a boxy sort of look.

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This rib knit is from the stash, and it’s the only part of the project I’m not happy with–it got sort of crinkly in the wash, and I’m not crazy about the way it sticks out.  I think I’m going to wait until fleece season is over and redo it. A smooth knit and half the width, I’m thinking . . . .

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Cap’n, she’s starting to list!  We’re taking on water!

So, definitely happy with this one, and I’ve been wearing it pretty much constantly since I finished it.  I’m also thinking, though, that this pattern has a lot of potential.  It’s basically a tee shirt, and it fits better than any other tee pattern I’ve tried; with changes to the neckline and sleeve length, you could get a lot of different looks from this.  The other thing I like about the pattern is that it only requires 1 1/2 yards of (60″ wide) fabric for my size (even less if I do short sleeves), so I’m hoping it will help me use up some stash.

Fair warning:  spring also tends to bring on an organizing and stash-busting frenzy around here.  I’ve got some new plastic bins and I feel a spreadsheet coming on . . . .

STH