Stanch the Bleeding

When last we left the pillow, it was in a rather precarious state, feathers open to the world, at the mercy of any of the Kitten Overlords.  I want this pillow to be an elongated tetrahedron (think a 4 sided die, stretched).  So basically I needed to close the open side up perpendicular to the original seam.

It quickly became apparent that this would be an iterative process.  First stanch the bleeding by whatever means necessary  (the feathers wanted to escape everywhere).  In this case, binder clips.

DSC_0684The next step was to get a seam – any seam – in there just to hold the explosion at bay.  Tidy was not the goal, keeping the feathers in was the goal.  Then I shook the feathers down as much as possible, folded my messy seam over into a slightly tidier bundle, and stitched it down again.  It looks like 8 shades of hell, but it will be forever trapped inside a pillow and never seen by anyone but me (and, well, I guess now also you, but you won’t tell).  I decided functional and finished was more important than perfect and never ever ever done.

DSC_0688So that’s the goal for the shape, now what about the cover.  I thought it was long enough, but alas no.

DSC_0685I had wanted the light part to be about half as long as the dark part.  If I keep going in the light, they’ll be close to the same size, and that won’t be what I was going for.  So I’m going to throw in one skinny dark stripe, then knit the rest of the length I need with the lightest shade.  I’m particular about stripes, but I think this will end up being just perfect.

Amoeba? Or Egg?

I am a firm believer in both sweaters and pajamas.  And sometimes, when a sweater has put in lots of hard service as a piece of ‘go out in the world’ clothing, it gets to retire and be relabeled as pajamas.  Such was the case for this snuggly, purple zip up sweater with a handy kangaroo pocket on the front.  It is too tatty to wear out in public (I do have some standards), but it works perfectly well as something to sleep in (ah my life is so glamorous).

Or at least it did, until today, when I noticed it had a big hole on the pocket.  This wasn’t one of those one popped stitch deals you can just catch with a bit of thread and stop in its tracks.  No, this was a stick your hole thumb through sort of deal.  I have no idea how it happened, but I suspect kittens.  I decided I’d see if I could mend it.  Worst case, I waste a few minutes and throw it away.  Best case, I get to keep my sweater a bit longer.

Now with a hole this size, and a sweater this color, I wasn’t going to be able to get an invisible mend.  So I decided I’d go with blatantly obvious instead.

_DSC9052I started by running a strand of thread up and down adjacent columns of knitting.  When I got to the missing bits, I just kept the fabric flat and let the thread to along on its own.

_DSC9060Then I turned and did the same thing going the other direction (going over and under my first set of strands), again being careful to keep the fabric flat when I went over the hole.

_DSC9062I suppose I could have stopped there.  That would have kept the hole from growing.  But it looks awful and I would have caught it with my thumb every time I put my hand in my pocket.  That won’t do.

So next I grabbed a scrap of gray wool felt and cut out a wobbly random shape.  I stitched it on over the missing bit with some yellow thread as a sort of patch.

_DSC9068This would have been perfectly functional, but I didn’t yet find it quite amusing enough.  Since subtle was clearly not what I was going for, I did a second, smaller patch out yellow wool felt and stitched it on with a bit of grey thread.

_DSC9072bI’m unreasonably amused.  Now, no, it is absolutely not a pretty/proper/fancy/sophisticated patch.  But this is an ancient sweater that is now used only as pajamas.  My goals were a) don’t have to throw the sweater away b) use whatever was on hand c) embrace the ahem…casual…nature of the project d) be amused.  Judging by those criteria, it’s a rousing success.

Printing…not on paper

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a very good chance that most everyone in your life has a birthday more or less every year.  I, personally, find this super irritating.  I’ve decided I’m just about as old as I need to be, and most folks I know (at least most over the age of 25 or so) feel the same.  Alas, it’s not in my power to change.

So given that pesky reality, I occasionally find myself in need of birthday presents.  I ran out of ideas for these things long long ago, so I’ve taken to blatantly stealing ideas from other people.  This time, the idea was using spoonflower to print old family recipes and make dishcloths.  My mom had the birthday, and my sister was pressed into super secret squirrel service to dig up old recipes of my grandmother’s.  I did the mucking about with images and sewing parts.

Now, these sewing parts were done last minute (shipping took rather longer than expected), which means these pictures were taken rather late at night in my dark dining room.  You’ll have to forgive me.  It was that, or no pics.  And it’s way too good for blog fodder to go the no pics route.

1The process starts by creating the image you want to use.  That meant some quality time with the scanner (my sister’s job) and indesign (my job) to get all the images in a file of the right size and resolution for spoonflower’s system.

2When the fabric comes, it’s got a good bit of selvage around the outside, so all of the image you provided is printed on useable fabric.

3It does mean a fair bit of trimming though.  I’m usually a fabric ripper, rather than a cutter, if I’m dealing with long, straight lines.  Something about the weave of this fabric (I used the linen cotton canvas) meant it would tear one way, but not the other, so I had to cut that direction.

4After the trimming came the ironing, first to make the fabric flat, then to turn the edges under.  We all know how I feel about ironing.  I’m still petitioning to have ‘sewing’ renamed ‘ironing with extra stabbing.’  Barry kept the ironed pieces safe.

5Very safe.  He may, in fact, have insisted he be left to guard them all night.

6After that, it was just a matter of sewing them up.  You will all graciously pretend I am able to sew a straight line.  Failing that, you’ll not mention it unless you’re also coming over here to do it for me.

I like how they came out.  I’m impressed with the print quality, and I think the fabric will just get softer with washing.  I will never come to revel in ironing, but I think this has great potential to either preserve a sentimental image in a useful form (I’m a terrible bear of a person and have a hard time hanging onto things for purely sentimental reasons…they need to be useful for me to want to keep them) or make exactly what you want if you have a specific vision in mind.  Anybody else see some potential in custom printed fabric?


I’m not the sort to make the bed.  I really have a hard time seeing the point.  My bed is not a decorative object, it is an object of use.  Making the bed makes it prettier, but less useful.  I’m opposed to this on philosophical grounds (it’s the same objection I have to many of the world’s more ludicrous shoes…they may make me prettier, but they also make me less useful).  I’m also deeply lazy.  So I more or less never make the bed.  I did, shockingly, make an exception for the new duvet covers.  Just this once mind you.

It was more or less instantly claimed by Kitten Overlord Barry.

Completely gratuitous cute kitten shot.

But lest you get any unfounded notions about the general state of my housekeeping, this is what it will usually look like.


Iron Age

I stand by my position that sewing is poorly named.  The activity we call sewing is mostly ironing with occasional spurts of other activities to leaven the tedium.  I spent about 10 hours putting together two duvet covers and two pillowcases this weekend, and I’d say about 2 hours were spent actually sewing.  The rest were spent ironing, measuring, ironing, pinning, ironing, cutting, and ironing.

Given the scale of the project (huge), the complexity of the sewing (low), and the intended final result (rumply wrinkly bedding), I determined I would do the absolute minimum necessary amount of ironing (a good general life guideline actually).  The edges of the fabric looked like this, though, so some ironing was inevitable.

Sewing on that would just be asking for swearing, no matter how simple the project.  So I took the reasonable approach and ironed the 4 inches or so closest to the bit I’d actually be sewing on.

I started out trying to iron it perfectly, but no amount of pressing, steaming, tugging, and scowling would get all the wrinkles out (it’s linen, wrinkles are its nature…if you don’t iron it damp from the dryer, it’s never going to be perfect).  I elected to embrace imperfection and just get on with it.  And the truth is, it worked just fine.

After the ironing came the pinning, stitching, trimming, more ironing, more stitching, more ironing, more stitching, and more ironing.  Do you sense the theme?  The time actually at the sewing machine was limited.

I’m not actually going to tell you much about the putting together bits.  I more or less did this.  There’s another helpful tutorial over here.  They know more about sewing than I do, so it’s likely best to do what they said rather than precisely what I did.  The only real modification I added was to tuck some lengths of twill tape in at the corners so I can tie my duvet in place.

Next step, get them on the bed.  I’ll even properly make the bed and take pictures for next time.  Between now and then, I’ll be vacuuming.  This was the lintiest sewing project I’ve ever seen.  Everything is coated in a fine layer of fuzz.


I’m making duvet covers.  I plan to be making duvet covers for the next several days.  I fully expect this to eclipse more or less all the knitting for the next week or so.  You’ve been warned.

The goal is two, twin sized, linen duvet covers.  You may recall I got the fabric when we were in San Francisco.  I realized at the time that 19 yards of fabric was a lot.  Somehow I’d forgotten just how much it was until I dumped it out on the table (sewing happens on the dining room table around here).  It’s really quite an amazing amount.

Somehow, it all fit in the washer, and then in the dryer.  And yes, yes it is wrinkled as all hell.  I’ll be engaging in judicious ironing during the making process (just enough to make sure I’m putting it together right), but then I’ll be reveling in the inherently wrinkly nature of linen and pretending it’s an intentional feature once it’s all done and on the bed.  If you object, you’re welcome to come iron for me.  Douglas will keep you company.

Oh, and I’m shutting down comments for Rachel’s awesome book now.  Winner announced later this week!



I tend to bring back somewhat non-traditional goodies from my various excursions.  I don’t have much use for tshirts.  I am always drawn to pretty drawings of the places I go, but I never manage to get them framed and hung.  Pretty much if it’s meant to be sold as a souvenir, I’m not so interested.  Three of my very favorite possessions in the whole world are the tiny little salt pot we brought back from Bulgaria, the sea glass we brought back from Maine, and the stick we brought back from Nova Scotia.  That stick is on the ‘grab when packing the car to flee the hurricane list’ (granted, an unlikely situation in Ohio, but you never know).

I’m continuing the tradition with what I bring home from this trip.

That’s 19 yards of beautiful buttery soft gray/beige linen (as a side note, 19 yards of fabric is freaking heavy…and huge…I had no idea), a whack of very expensive buttons (but they were oh so perfect for the project), and that fabric string stuff (which I have now learned is called twill tape). All from Britex, which was more than a bit overwhelming.

These will all be magically combined (once I’m home…I did not bring a sewing machine on the trip) to become new duvet covers and pillows.  I’ve been wanting linen ones forever, but I can’t justify the cost.  Making them myself isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s a bit less, and I’ll get exactly what I want.

I’ll be detailing the making (likely at nauseating length…I’m bad at sewing but good at spatial reasoning and crackerjack at origami, so I’m thinking it shouldn’t be too hard) once I’m home.  Well, once I’m home and back from TNNA and have gotten over the trip funk.  But I have a suspicion this will be one hell of a souvenir.

If I Lie Down, Perhaps it Will Pass

I’m finding myself obsessed with the idea of making about 14 zillion (or, alternately a dozen or so), of the little felt cubes I linked to on the last post. The sort of obsessed where I’ve taken measurements of my shelves and sourced materials (fancy pants industrial felt that comes in a whole range of thicknesses, and about 3 awesome shades of gray) and made schematics and otherwise gone a wee tiny bit insane.  Can someone out there explain any reason this is a terrible idea?  Am I overlooking something obvious?  Is there some reason this will end in tears?

Doing it myself will be cheaper, will let me get the precise size I want, and will let me get the color I want (this is only because the color I want is ‘gray’…if I wanted something more colorful I’d be out of luck).  It will also mean some sewing, but that’s fine, it’s all straight lines.  At least at this stage in the process it is.  I don’t doubt I’ll find a way to complicate it up between here and there.

I’m going to sit and think on this over the weekend, but if nobody talks me out of it, I may be ordering a few yards of some seriously sturdy felt come Monday.

Ironing, Now With More Stabbing

This is how I made my curtains.  I’m telling you all about it because it’s what I did (instead of knitting) for much of last week.  That means I don’t have much knitting to tell you about.  It is likely not how you should make your curtains.  You should probably do it the proper way.  The way that involves lining, and special feet for your sewing machine, and possibly interfacing (whatever that actually is…I’m still unsure).  The way that doesn’t speak so poorly of your mental health.

1 – Buy an old house.  The older the better.  This ensures that your windows will all be different sizes so you won’t be able to just buy curtains.  It also helps ensure that your walls will be plaster (and thus a nightmare to put holes in).  It also works to instill the proper level of fear.  If you have a new house, you can feel somewhat confident that things like pipes and wiring aren’t lurking behind the surface of every wall.  You can likely have some assurance that teeny tiny projects will not turn into the sort of ordeal that involves calling in a host of tradesmen and getting estimates that look more like phone numbers than dollar amounts.  That sort of confidence is not what you need for this project.

2 – Wait a few years.  The longer the better.  During this time, think how nice it would be to have proper curtains instead of nasty plastic shades.  Be sure to undertake a few small home improvement projects so you can build up a proper understanding of just how dramatically wrong such things can go in old houses.  Fear is important.  Count up the number of windows in the space you’re thinking about (13 for me).  Consider the likelihood that all will go well when putting that many sets of holes in your house.  Decide against any rash actions.  Wait a few more years.  Just to be safe.

3 – Eventually, and for no discernible reason, decide you can abide the plastic no longer and take rash action.  Elect to use the rods that hold the nasty plastic shades to hold your curtains.  Rejoice as you realize this means you needn’t make any holes in your house.  Note that the incidence of household disaster increases dramatically for projects that use either hammers or screwdrivers (or, god forbid, drills).  Realize that this plan requires none of these tools.

4 – Go to your trunk and get the drop cloth that’s been living there for the better part of 6 months.  Bring it in, wash it, dry it, and rip off the seamed edges.

5 – Measure your windows.  Note with surprise and delight that you can squeeze all the dining room curtains and all the living room curtains out of just one tarp.  Measure again to be sure, as things just don’t usually work that way and it’s likely you did something wrong.  Wonder what it is you’ve been doing right to deserve such unexpected good fortune.

6 – Tear the fabric into appropriately sized pieces.

7 – Begin to iron.  Iron the pieces flat.  Be sure to curse yourself for leaving the tarp crumpled in the dryer for an hour.  Iron in the folds for the hems.

8 – Iron some more.

9 – Continue to iron as you feel  your life force drain away.

10 – Keep ironing.  No really, this part takes about three and a half hours.  All you do is iron.  You and the iron are one.  Embrace the zen of the iron.  Mind your posture, and don’t scorch the fabric.  The steam setting is your friend.

11 – Enlist the services of your resident cat to guard the freshly ironed fabric.

12 – Sew up the seams.  This part will take about half an hour.  Spend this time wondering why the hell they call this activity sewing.  It is quite obviously advanced ironing with some stabbing thrown in for extra danger.

13 – Insert strategically placed magnets in the corners of some curtains to allow them to be held open when desired.  Revel in the cleverness of this plan.  Other methods of curtain wrangling might require putting holes in the house.  This doesn’t, therefore it is the best possible way of achieving this goal.

13 – Iron one more time for good measure to get out the crumples introduced while stabbing.

14 – Take down the old shades, strip the plastic off of the rods they hang on, put the curtains on said rods, and hang them back up.  Note the total lack of tools required and thus the fairly low risk of disaster.

15 – Slip on the pile of plastic you’ve left on the floor, just to keep things balanced.

16 – Flit around like a loon reveling in the non-plastic qualities of the new arrangement.  Play with the magnets for a truly unreasonable amount of time.

17 – Realize that while one tarp took care of the living room and the dining room, you still have a sun room to take care of.  Further realize that the chances that the store will have the same drop cloth 6 months later are almost nil.  Become more or less sick at the thought of all that wasted ironing.  Dash to the store.  Boggle at your good fortune.  Grab another drop cloth.  Repeat steps 4-15.

Now I know these are the simplest curtains imaginable.  They are basically fabric rectangles in place of the previous plastic rectangles.  They are not examples of great sewing prowess.  They do have the notable advantage of not being sticky and not having crayon marks on them (the previous owners of the house had two small boys, and all attempts to render the blinds crayon-free and non-sticky proved futile).  They also incorporate magnets, which more or less doubles the entertainment value of anything.

I realize I should not find them nearly as satisfying as I do.  Alas, I must be simple, for I am deeply satisfied.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go talk myself out of painting the bathroom (the other project I’ve been meaning to do for five years and have somehow managed to put off).