November 6, 2011

A delightful Sunday Crafternoon

Let’s face it, on a sunny November Sunday afternoon, what’s better than a good crafternoon?
( (TM) L.Curtis, licencing rights available).

Thus were gathered Cashmerettes #1 and #2, and honorable members Melissa and Caitlyn.

First of all, provisions were secured. Thank you Mum, for the “Great British Bake Off” cookbook which provided the cherry bakewell cupcake recipe, and also for the very patriotic cupcake cases. No oversized muffins around these parts!

Second, projects were commenced! For keen followers of Cashmerette, a theme will duly be detected, for we did a mini-tutorial of Lauren’s embroidered cards. These take quite a while, but are most satisfying, and can be crafted while also gossiping. Ace.

Here are the fruits of our labour:

Jenny’s snowman:

Lauren’s joyful tree:

Caitlyn’s glittery fishes:

And in honour of an imminent EXCLUSIVE GUEST APPEARANCE on CBS to showcase her canning prowess, Melissa finished off an apron which will be displayed for the world to see:

Next crafternoon’s mission: Christmas decorations. So, Cashmerrettians, what do you think we should make? And would you like to come and join? Do!

October 28, 2011

(Thunder)Quilts Are Go!

Ah, the quilting continues apace!

So, one final push this evening, and The Prep Is Over. And it wasn’ t quite as bad as I anticipated, especially once I twigged to the fact that quilting is all about patient repetitive work. The prep is clearly not the last of it….

First, I had to cut this:

Into this:

A bit of maths, and some rotary-cutting skills (include two hand lacerations. sigh.) and voila, piles marked A – H, each subtly different (though you can’t tell from the photo). Actually it’s a little more complicated than that: ultimately there will be 33 blocks which start with a white A, then red B, white C, through to H. Then another 23 blocks which start with a red A, then white B etc etc.

Trying to evenly distribute the 7 patterned reds and 2 solid reds through the blocks was a bit of a challenge, but hey, it’s meant to be “rustic”. I started by following the book’s advice to lay out the blocks to see how the colour balancing was going but rapidly realised that I wouldn’t have enough space. See that “quilt” below people? That’s 10 squares big. I have 56 to do. Yikes!

(Note that the final pattern will also be different – you alternate the red A and white A blocks, and turn some upside down so there is a random pattern – not consistent white and red stripes).

Given there wasn’t enough room to lay them all out, I went for the “pile” approach where you lay each piece on top of each other (i.e. A at the top, then B, C etc.) and pin the block together. And here’s the final result: 33 white A blocks, and 23 red A blocks.
Next up: sewing. While prep has been fairly rapid, I think that the next stage is going to take quuuite a long time. Wish me luck. 

October 23, 2011

So much preparation, so little time.

It would appear that an ecological academic work – sewing cycle is in operation chez Cashmerette #2. An inverse relationship cycle, in case you were wondering. Summer time: lots of sewing! presents a go-go! new projects on board! Term time: ergh. (Apologies for the ecological theories interfering here: Ecology midterm is on Tuesday and it’s all predator-mediated coexistence species round these parts).

However, today it was decided: enough is enough. Crafting must recommence! And I decided to begin with my biggest project to date: a quilt. Now I think everyone knows that quilts are a LOT of work (see previous posts by Ms. C for proof if needed). What I maybe didn’t anticipate however is the amount of preparation work needed before one can even get to the easy-peasy task of sewing together 448 individual pieces. So, preparation has started.

The planned “Hop, Skip & A Jump” quilt:

Prep step 1: Pre-wash the fabric. You have to do this because many materials shrink when they’re washed, and to different degrees – so for something as multi-fabriced as a quilt, that could lead to disaster! Or at least some buckling. Pre-washing is painful at the best of times, but even more so when you have to walk down 4 flights of stairs into a dirty basement to do your laundry. Thus I availed myself of the lovely services of Tremont Cleaners and spent a morning pre-washing and doing quantitative data analysis of tree species in the Estabrook Woods of Concord (this is not a joke). This is in itself quite a task: you have to “pink” the edges of the fabric (so it doesn’t unravel in the wash) and handle 7.5 yards of fabric. However, it is nothing compared to Prep Step 1.5: iron! I can now exclusively report that ironing 7.5 yards of fabric in a moderately effective fashion takes exactly 2 episodes of John Stewart’s Daily Show.


Prep step 2: Make your pattern pieces. This is harder than you might imagine, because first one has to use a photocopier to enlarge the pattern pieces from the book by 400% – which is larger than normal paper size…. I am now a master in geometry thanks to figuring out how to do this. Then: mount them on manila folder cardboard, and cut out your pieces: voila!

Prep step 3: Do all the sums. Unfortunately, the directions for the quilt in my book (the very good Denyse Schmidt Quilts) were for a crib size (teeny tiny!) so lots of proportioning-up were in order. I ended up figuring out I’ll need 56 blocks, 448 pieces, and various ratios of white muslin, red solids, and red and purple patterns. The historic document:

Phew! So all that done, and I still only have some flat fabric and pieces of card. However, I am much better positioned to start now – next step is cutting out the pieces, and labeling them, because remembering the subtly different shapes of 448 pieces is probably *slightly* beyond my ability.

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:


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