August 24, 2011

The start of a patchworking career? Time will tell.

Ever since I starting learning to sew, my Mum has been suggesting I make a patchwork quilt. I was strangely resistant for quite a while, but then two things happened. First, I found a really cool, quite modern, quilting book at Gather Here. Second, my Mum’s birthday was coming up. And I thought: what better way to make her happy than to deploy not only some patchworking skills but also use the Clarice Cliff fabric which she bought me a few years ago? No better way, thought I.

So, here’s the results of attempt 1! First of all, I had to photocopy the pattern pieces out of the book and enlarge them 200%. This was *considerably* trickier than you might imagine, for my office photocopier (shhhh!) can only print onto A4 paper. But the pieces had to be much bigger. Cue about 15 attempts to get it right, and a lot of poor trees gone to waste (for those who know my profession, this is, clearly, an unforgiveable crime). Anyway, here’s what I ended up with, eventually:

I was a bit lazy so I didn’t take photos of each stage, but basically: I cut out these pieces in different colours I had lying about (including the Cliff fabric which has a very distinctive pattern on) and then sewed it together, starting in the centre, sewing the shorter sides on first and then the longer sides. Basically, building up the square on all sides.
Then, I sandwiched some batting between the patchwork and a piece of muslin, and did a bit of ‘quilting’ by hand along the key lines:

In all honesty I’m not sure what value the quilting added, but at least I gave it a shot.

And here is the end cushion cover! (without a cushion inside it):

And the real result: Mum was very pleased.
That first cushion under my belt I went valliantly on, and attended a Quilt Block class at Gather Here last night, where we learned how to make a half-triangle star block.
First we cut out various squares, then sewed them together in pairs using two lines of stitching. Then, by cutting down the middle between the stiched lines, you end up with two half-triangle squares! Clever, eh? I also learned the cool technique of ‘chain stitching’ which saves a huge amount of time when you have lots of fiddling things to do. Basically you stitch one block, then continue your sewing machine without any material in it for an inch or so, and then stick your next block in and so on. When you’re finished you just cut the thread between each block, and you’re done! This works well for quilting because all the ends are going to be sewn over again, so you don’t need to worry about backstitching.
Here are some of my chain-stitched double-squares:

Then, you trim them down to size (thus discovering how incredibly innacurate I was when originally cutting out the fabric.. thank goodness for second steps), iron out the seams, and arrange them in a pretty pattern:

And then, more sewing, this time putting blocks together two at a time. This was a bit tricker than it looked because you had to match the seams up and some of my blocks were, er, a bit wonky.

But I’m quite pleased by how it came out in the end:

I bought a zipper so that I can make it into a cushion… though I accidentally got an invisible zipper, so there’s another skill waiting to be learned. Eek! But I do feel a bit more confident in quilting skills now, so Watch This Space!

August 24, 2011

Cashmerettes abroad! (well, it felt like it….)

Sorry for the recent quiet: after many hard months of hemming, basting, zippering and seam-ripping, the Cashmerettes decided to go on a well-earned break! And it was fabulous.

Here, Cashmerettes risk life and limb by cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge:

and here, they discover a small patch of Hawaii on the West Coast:

And contrary to popular Californian belief: we both have boyfriends, and we are not in the Army. But thanks for the thought.

As for crafting: well… Lauren did nab a particularly cool find at a certain foreign bookstore, but I will leave her to reveal all!

August 7, 2011

An ever-so-nearly-professional-looking yoga bag

I was in downward dog the other day, and was suddenly struck by that most un-prana of emotions: envy. Envy for my adjacent yoga practioner’s splendid yoga bag. But while standing on one leg in tree pose, pondering all the things in the world I may never have, I had a splash of inspiration: why, I learned to sew for moments like these! I *was* planning on taking some photos of said cute bag, but my iPhone unfortunately takes about 7.5 minutes to turn on and I thought it might be particularly stalkerish to accost the poor woman when she was already halfway down the street.
So, instead, I decided to make it FROM MEMORY, PEOPLE! Oh yes. I did try to download an Amy Butler pattern from the interwebs, but apparently they were out of service today. And I figured, how hard can it be to make a cylindrical yoga bag that fits my mat, sweaty-towel (it’s hot yoga), dry-y towel, water bottle and keys? Exactly. So, a first: an actual Jenny Design ™.
First, I made a cunning plan. Presented here:
Then, I tried to construct it in my mind, but kept getting confused. Especially with the tricky sewing-a-straight-line-to-a-curved-line challenge. So I decided to play on the safe side, and make a muslin. This is a handy way to do a test run without messing up one’s lovely fabric (from Gather Here, of course). Here’s the piece I made for the bottom of the external water-bottle-pocket:
Here’s the curvy bit sewn to a straight bit (apologies if this is getting too technical):
And here is the proof of concept! Done.

And given it was a day for firsts, I thought: why not finally learn how to make binding tape? It looks pretty. And adjacent-yoga-practioner’s bag had green binding tape. So I bought the widget (three guesses where, readers) and followed the helpful instructions.
First, cut some fabric on the bias (i.e. at a 45 degree angle to the grain):

Then you pin it to your ironing board, feed one end into the bias-tape-widget and then put it along and iron what comes out the other side. Then, you have to iron *that* in half so that it’s a v-shape that you can put over the two sides of your fabric edge.Getting pinned on…

Et voila! I was quite pleased with myself at this point. Next step: sewing the pocket onto the main bag. Some hot topstiching action for you here:

Then I decided to go a bit mad with the green-trim-theme. I made the drawstring holder out of the nice green Kona cotton as well, and threaded through a rope that’s apparently meant for making piping (I do not know how to do that. One day.).

Sewed up the sides (including putting another green panel in.. because I measured too small, I hear you say? Never!), sewed on a circle at the bottom (very hard), and here she is! One home-made yoga bag. And if only I hadn’t forgotten to leave a space for the strap, and hence had to unpick and re-sew seams, it would be almost-professional-looking. If I say so myself.

Right, I’m off to do a Happy Baby and Chatarunga Dandasana.

August 7, 2011

A crafty afternoon… organising.

The Cashmerettes had a fairly productive afternoon yesterday, what with the completion of my super-secret present (shhh!) and adventures in bird-making by Lauren.

However, nerd that I am, perhaps the highlight was the re-organisation of all my sewing stuff. Blimey I’ve got a lot! Gather Here better watch out, because I have at least half a shop’s worth of stuff in my apartment already.

Anyway, for those odd birds among you who would appreciate such things, you can see the fruits of my labour below:

July 28, 2011

Cashmerettes go a’birdin!

Jenny: Last night heralded a Cashmerette first – our inaugural class at Gather Here! We were joined by Honorary Cashmerette Melissa and the very talented Abby Glassenberg who taught us how to make our very own fabric birds from her new book, The Artful Bird.

As you can tell, we were somewhat excited to get started:

and who wouldn’t be, faced with the prospect of these beauties?

First, we learned an excellent trick that I had never heard of before: trace the parts of the bird’s body parts onto freezer paper, then cut them out and adhere them temporarily to fabric with a hot iron so that they act as templates stuck right on the fabric. Brilliant stuff. The photo below, by catching me unawares, reveals how much I secretly love the primary-school activity of tracing.

After cutting out the pieces- including an adorably small beak which I promptly lost- we began with the bird’s main body. We adhered the the freezer-paper body template to a piece of plain white cotton (Abby likes to use tightly woven cotton so that the seams don’t burst when you stuff it firmly) and sewed right around the template using the sewing machine on a very small stitch length (again, to avoid burst seams). Not forgetting, of course to leave a small opening at the bird’s, ahem, rear, for it to be stuffed (oh dear).

Melissa: This process of stuffing our birds may seem a bit sinister. We use surgical forceps to fill the bird’s body with fluff (wool or synthetic cotton) and then tie the wings with thread. We know, it sounds like the surgical practices of doctors in the 16th century. But hey, this is a fun sewing class and no birds are hurt in the process.

Once stuffed, this flat sack will soon turn into a pretty bird body.

Bag of real ole’ timey wool from Pennsylvania Dutch Country. (We didn’t use this, but thought it was cool enough to share)

Pick out the colors that will best suite your style and soon to be the vibrant tail feathers and wings of your fashionista birdie.Sew the wings to the body and tie a knot to secure. Don’t worry these wings are made of cloth and aren’t as delicate as the wings of a real bird. So go nuts with your stitch, the more creative you sew, the more attractive your bird will be.

Jenny: And here they are: three affectionately home-made looking birds! There even seems to be a bit of Jenny-Lauren bird love going on…

Though Lauren’s was giving her the beady eye…. eek!

All in all, a thoroughly splendid way to spend an evening. Who needs the pub when you can make fabric animals? Not us!

July 27, 2011

Busy bee

So, despite trips to France, Cincinnati and Cape Cod (#which one of these is not like the other?#) I have nonetheless been crafting away! Here’s a few highlights:

1. BUNTING! My first-ever. To celebrate America’s birthday on the 4th, and mine on the 2nd. In fact, I found super-patriotic fabric during the craft-swap at the ever-ace Gather Here, which was begging to be turned into something appropriate. Et voila: American bunting to make you wipe away a tear.

During construction chez moi:

And in action chez B!

(I should note however that I remained secretly subversive through the medium of cupcakes in Union Jack cases…)

2. I can EXCLUSIVELY REVEAL that one of my super-secret projects was my first-ever attempt at embroidery: a Tshirt for the soon-to-be Dr Rev M! M is fond of owls. Even purple and green and orange ones, that must speak a foreign language, for they say ‘Woot’ instead of ‘T-wit T-wooooo’ as good British ones do. In the meantime, M owes me a photo, which will soon be posted!

3. (3!) I copied Lauren and made my very own iPad cover! Now, you can’t tell to look at it but it is really quite wonky. However, it achieves the twin objectives of 1) protecting my iPad from scratching against everything in my handbag 2) having cool birds on it. Plus all the quilting mistakes are on the inside, hidden from those roving seam-inspectors that you always encounter on the street. I used material that I bought two years ago in Kyoto, which was previously fashioned into two cushions which were sadly languishing in my guest bedroom all alone. A quick seam-ripper later and here we are! Japanese birds protecting my new favourite toy.

4. (for there is a 4!) I have started another super-secret project, this time for my Mum. Due to the Sewing Cone of Silence, all will be revealed… at a later date.

Phew! Well I’m tired just thinking about all this work. And the stockpile of materials for future projects which are currently swamping my kitchen table, and preventing me from eating dinner in a civilized fashion. Another baby dress, some sheets, a cool wrap-behind-you-dress, and my quilt await.

July 27, 2011

Tweet tweet!

What’s better than little birds up in the trees?

MAKING little birds, that’s what!

And the Cashmerettes (plus special guest Melissa) will be crafting away this evening. Our flock awaits…. (and photos will follow).


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