Lessons from large projects

mystery-ghan yarn If you follow the ReveDreams Facebook page you know I’m taking part in a mystery afghan crochet-along (Ravelry account probably required for that last link). I wasn’t sure about it at first; afghans are a big commitment, and when you don’t even know what it will look like? But I decided to trust the designer, whose other work I quite like, and the “art deco” in the afghan description. The hubs and I chose colors, and I ordered 4660 yards of yarn. That’s all in the two shades of purple and gray shown; I don’t yet have the joining yarn, which will be black.

I have clues 1-4 of 8 in my possession and they will continue to come out every Friday through the middle of August. I’ve stitched the first two clues over the past ten days, eating up far more yarn than I normally would in that time. The first lesson I’ve had to learn is how to deal with 16 skeins of yarn, 9 of which are double-size and at least 4 of which are “active” at any given time (I’ve gotten up to 6: one dark purple tied up in a motif whose instructions are spread over multiple clues and two more so I could do a spiral that had two dark purple strands). I also have to do something with the motifs finished so far. I’ve decided that, after photographing, I’m going to close the motifs for each clue in a plastic bag and label it with the clue number. Everything “inactive” is getting stored in the box the yarn was shipped in, which currently is just sitting on the floor in my sewing room (note: that doesn’t make it in any way unique among my craft supplies).

There’s a complication to this afghan that isn’t present in my other long-term project, the blackwork embroidery map: the materials in use at any given time are bulky and in many pieces. Usually I have one project bag with materials for several projects in it simultaneously – the life of an amigurumi designer! For this project I got out a smallish bag for the multi-clue motif and its active yarn, another for small amounts of yarn left at the end of skeins (just in case), and a larger bag that holds those two as well as the full or mostly full skeins of yarn. I’m considering buying a large basket to put them in so all three bags are still together but I have space in the large one for finished motifs of a clue still in progress. If I do, I’ll also keep the embroidery project in the basket.

Such a system not only looks neater, it makes it easier to move the project around if it’s in the way, which is bound to happen multiple times over such a long stretch. The soonest I could finish the afghan is late August, simply because I won’t have all the clues until the 15th. However, this brings us to the other lesson of this project: pacing myself. Each clue so far has taken at least 8 hours of stitching, and I’m two clues behind. My other considerations are that I’d like to finish the blackwork by some time this fall, write every other week for the local fibercraft blog, and keep up with my monthly goals here. I also need a substantial amount of time (30+ hours per week) to dedicate to my web development job. That’s not to mention that I want to continue to have a social life, spend time online, and read books. Something’s got to give in that scenario, and it’s the afghan. I’ve decided to spread out the stitching to a third of a clue per week, plus two towns on the blackwork map. That gets the map finished in mid-October (just in time for making Halloween costumes) and the afghan done by Thanksgiving, unless joining and edging take a very long time (just in time for making Christmas presents). Afghan and map work should run 4-5 hours per week, dropping down to 3ish hours when the map is done — though by then I may have a new long term project.

Delayed gratification and responsible time management are the watchwords. It’s the right thing to do for my goals and priorities. It just feels so slow!


After I tracked down the shirt to remodel for July’s Craft Challenge, which was hiding in the “remodel or eliminate” bag in the closet (clever), I had to decide what to do with it. It was just about the right size (if boxy, and with that unpleasantly small neck opening) so I couldn’t do anything that required extra fabric (I had thought at first that I could perhaps turn it into a swimsuit coverup, but it didn’t have enough coverage). I trolled through Pinterest boards and other compendia linked from Sewing Tidbits and came across a tutorial on turning a crew neck t-shirt into a V-neck.

That sounded like a good place to start. Actually, changing the color sounded like a better place to start – I figured if I ever planned to dye it, it would be better to do so at the beginning. I don’t have a before-before picture, but you can imagine the standard t-shirt heather gray.

shirt, dyed but unaltered new v-neck on shirt

To obtain material for the new collar, I shortened the shirt, which helped with fit as well. The plan was to change the collar and then reassess fit before re-hemming the bottom, and as I expected the v-neck helped the fit substantially – so much so that all I did afterward was re-hem. I took 4.25″ off the bottom, in addition to the 1.5″ or so that came off when I removed the hem to make the collar.

For the collar attachment I used a narrow, short zigzag, but I topstitched with a straight stitch. For the hem I dug out my trusty double needle. The end product looks a little boxy on the hanger, but loose and comfortable on me.

new hem on shirt shirt, finished

Business card display sleeve

I’ve mentioned my involvement with a blog about the local fibercrafting scene several times now. Funnily enough, I’ve had more use for business cards for this hobby than I’ve ever had for a job. When I designed my business card it occurred to me that we could make a version that was not specific to an individual and use them to advertise the blog.

The idea of putting small stacks of business cards out naked didn’t seem so good. They aren’t really designed like advertising materials would be, so they need an introduction. What else than to make some kind of holder for them using fiber?

Here they are: small sewn pockets that the cards stick out of, with ironed-on intro text and a ribbon so they can be hung on bulletin boards as well as laid on tables.

business card display sleeves

And here’s how to make them. Each sleeve requires four 3.25″ x 3.75″ pieces of fabric. I cut my ribbon, which was 1/8″ wide, to a bit over 4″ (I wanted to use tiny rick-rack, but didn’t have any on hand). If you’d like the sleeves to come all the way up to the top of the card, increase your fabric to 3.25″ x 4.25″.

I printed the advertising text onto fabric designed to go through an inkjet printer, colored a piece of paper with fabric crayons and ironed that onto the fabric as well, ironed fusible web to the back and finally cut out each square of text with wavy borders.

Pinch a center fold into one short side of one piece of fabric and then pin the ribbon ends on each side of the fold. Make sure your pinheads are the end hanging off the edge. I let the ribbon ends stick out by about 1/4″, so their cut end would be further from the stitching, but that’s probably unnecessary. Pin pairs of fabric rectangles right sides together (one pin in each corner should be plenty). Starting on a short end that does not contain a ribbon, stitch at 1/4″ a bit near the end, all the way around the other three sides, and another bit near the opposite end of the starting short side. Back stitch at each end and also across the ribbon where applicable. Trim the corners.

pinned business card sleeves stitching on business card sleeves

Press the open end’s raw edge up at the stitching line to give yourself a clean edge to sew shut. Turn each pair of rectangles right side out and use something pointed but not sharp to push the corners out. I used a pointy decorative chopstick. Be gentle because the clipped fabric will let you push right through the corner if you’re not careful (that happened to the unturned one below when I turned it; I had to make a new one). Press the edges nice and crisp. Avoid pressing the ribbon further out than, say, 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric, so it doesn’t get any creases.

business card sleeves pressed and turned finished business card sleeves

At this point, if you wish, you can topstitch all the way around each piece separately. This will stabilize the top edge a bit. This is also the point at which you should iron your text on to the front if you are using it. Stack the two on top of each other with the openings on the same end and stitch along the two long edges and the short edge with the openings, close to the edge of the fabric (I was lazy and did a probably-generous 1/8″, but you could definitely get closer).

Now we just have to post them!

Business decisions

puzzle pieces A recent thread on Ravelry about pattern pricing made me wonder whether I’d ever written here about the decisions I made along the way to opening my pattern store. A little looking says no, I haven’t, so here we are. I think it may be of interest both to people considering buying from me and people considering selling their own patterns. Pricing is at the bottom, since I decided it last, in case you want to just hop straight down there.

Getting Started

Before making my first PDF, I read about page layout and graphic design; The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books taught me a lot of fundamentals at large and small scales, and various sites online chimed in about grids for page layout, style guides, and branding (I still have yet to crack open Brand Against the Machine, though, and Amazon tells me I bought it two years ago).

As part of branding I chose colors (“Stumpy Green”, a pale blue, and originally “Hugs White” but that was replaced with true white), developed my logo (which took a long time, and then a quick inspiration, and then another long time), and chose fonts: Janda Elegant Handwriting for my logo and Rotis Semi-Serif for my pattern text (you can also see it in the header image on this blog). Overkill perhaps, but I wanted all the pieces in place as though I were a huge company, because then they will all just be there as I proceed.

I also needed an appropriate program. As a former mathematician, I first turned to LaTeX, but I simply couldn’t get it to easily do what I wanted in this case. I like open source as a philosophy and also wanted to minimize my start-up costs, and the combination led me to Scribus, a desktop publishing program. More on all the software I use has already appeared here; I’ll just mention that it took me some time to discover the existence of WooCommerce. I actually found it by reading 1-star reviews of a different WordPress e-commerce plugin, where someone said they wished they could have a do-over and use WooCommerce instead.

Layout and Style

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Link maintenance

A hot, humid day is perfect for hiding in the basement and checking for link rot. To my surprise, I got through the links in all of my pages today except Scrap Users (which I am saving for a time when I can not only check, but also prune and reorganize). Note that this is just the pages (everything accessible from the header menu), not the blog posts. In some cases, replacing broken links led to other additional links and to revision; this happened primarily in the Learn Crochet series and Sewing Tidbits. I hope they are useful to you!