Darned denim

Today was Day 14 of a 15×15 challenge: downsize and organize in the sewing room 15 minutes per day for 15 days. It was born of realizing the morning of the 17th that, counting that day, there were exactly 15 days of January left, and it’s been incredible. Surfaces don’t have piles on them! Getting to the back of the closet doesn’t require moving things! There is even open space on more than one shelf! Right now there are large bags of trash, recycling, and donations taking up space in the room, but tomorrow’s 15 minutes will culminate with their ceremonious removal.

Today I sorted through some hanging shelves in the closet. One stack included a lot of cut and torn denim. When I learned how to darn, I was infatuated with the idea of it. Hand-darning has lost its luster, but for a while (also influenced by the denim repurposing adventures and the book Mend it Better) I had the idea to make a denim mending sampler, and maybe even a denim bag or basket that would feature a variety of mends in the same few bright colors. I believe the following darned tear was destined for the latter project.

a colorfully darned denim tear

It’s mended with all six strands of some bright variegated embroidery floss.

That project is not sticking around; there will always be higher-priority sewing and embroidery. However, I wanted to show it off, because it is quite pretty I think, and it also made me think of this picture:

machine-darned jeans knee

This is a poor picture of the knee of a pair of my husband’s jeans, posted on my personal blog some 14 months ago but never seen here. I machine-darned this tear by following the grain of the denim, stitching in the ravines except for quick stitches over the wales to get from ravine to ravine. It is perhaps the most invisible mend I’ve ever done (the photo actually makes it more apparent, which is useful for teaching I suppose), and I have an idea to improve it. Here’s the ideal process, where step 2 is the one I failed to do in this mend:

1. Fuse a piece of iron-on tricot to the inside of the knee, large enough to extend into good fabric in all directions (typically a tear happens because the fabric is weak in that area).
2. Secure the white threads by stitching around the interior of the tear in a flattened oval.
3. With a shortened stitch, sew along the grain of the denim about every 3rd ravine, moving between ravines by stitching perpendicular to the grain, and covering the whole weak area, extending the stitching into the good fabric. This secures the tricot and spreads the stress out.
4. Over just the torn part and immediate vicinity, sew as in step 3 but in every ravine (or at least the ones you didn’t stitch in before). This helps prevent fraying and covers a bit more of the white threads.

I don’t anticipate much hand-mending of denim in my future. This mend lasted the remaining life of the jeans and took a quarter of the time hand-darning would have.

Adding to the mystery

We’ve reached the next installment of the mystery afghan series. After the joining was done I checked the size. Big enough for our queen size bed? The answer was almost but not quite, and I had the solution on deck: a Greek Key patterned throw from Red Heart. I originally thought I’d do this in black and dark purple, but realized that would detract from the stained glass effect of the black joins. Since I had the most dark purple and dark gray leftover (albeit not quite enough gray, as it turned out), I did it in those colors and joined it with black.

Greek key pattern panels for the sides of an afghan

Instead of a long foundation chain followed by a row of single crochet, I made 213 foundation single crochets to start. Otherwise I followed the pattern, save fixing one typo: In row 9, just before “repeat from * across” it says to dc 3 rows down and skip the next sc. In between those two instructions it should have you chain 2 (in place of the sc you’re skipping).

The pattern calls for you to chain 2 whenever you’re skipping 1 stitch. If I were starting over I would only chain 1. It’s likely the designer’s chains are tighter than mine and a single one puckered unattractively, but in my tension the two chains spread and make the key pattern serif instead of sans-serif, so to speak.

I made the second panel twice. The first time I joined all my leftover gray and still ran out with one long row left. Instead of continuing from that point with new gray yarn and a dozen tails to deal with, I decided to pull it out, and when I got back to the beginning purple I realized I’d joined that in the second row as well! Must have cut out a knot or frayed area. Anyway at that point it seemed worthwhile to start completely over. Once I got the new skein of gray I realized why I’d run out: it wasn’t enough for the panel! Barely – I ran out with maybe 10 stitches left – but man, that’s a yarn eater. I pulled back to the start of the row so the tails would be at the edge and used some of the previous leftovers to finish. Unfortunately the new skein was a vastly different dyelot than the previous, but in the not terribly bright light of the bedroom, hanging off the edge of the bed, it should be fine.

yarn left over from afghan making

Since I’m down to just the border, here’s my leftover non-black yarn (plus all the ball bands, minus one small ball of light gray which hid in the bag). This is the remainder from 5 dark gray (Red Heart Classic Nickel), 3 light gray (RHC Silver), 5 light purple (RH With Love Lilac, double-sized skeins), and 4 dark purple (RHWL Violet, ditto). The pattern called for 3, 2, 9, and 7 single-size skeins of each color, respectively, so I used less than one additional skein of each color (not counting the extra gray for the extra panels).

In fact, if I’d omitted the extra panels and done the joins and border in two different colors, I believe I could have squeezed them out of the remaining yarn as well. That’s rather amazing because my afghan came out a third again the size predicted – the squares that said they would be 9″ came out 12″ – and I did not buy a third again the called-for yarn. My work must have much more extra air space than extra yarn.

I’ve begun the border but it is slow. I’ve now been working on this afghan fairly steadily for nearly seven months, though, so what’s another one or two?

A change of pace

newspaper-412811_640 You may have noticed I didn’t post Friday. I’ve realized that frequent posting is incompatible with the kind of crafting I want to do.

I’ve realized first that I have to ration my time. I can have something to say here twice a week, or I can work on long-term projects, deep experiments, and uninteresting but necessary projects such as mending.

Time isn’t the only factor, though. My ongoing struggle to eliminate the nomadic piles that must be moved whenever I want to work in my crafting room has made me think about why I make the things I make. The piles aren’t a failure to put things away; they’re a failure to have any more “away” in which to put things. Making projects to feed the blog only contributes to that problem.

This will be a difficult thing for me. I was blogging so much partially because doing so is the prevailing blog wisdom, but also because I find my blog kind of sad when it goes for long periods with nothing new. My hope is that non-blogging time will allow me to write posts that are wholly interesting and useful (among the project reports and monster-related silliness that will be ongoing), and that those will make up for the long stretches of dormancy — at least once I adapt.

First Friday is suspended indefinitely, though I’ll continue to add to the resource pages here whenever I find new useful links. Clearly my goals from last blogiversary are obsolete as well. I have no idea how frequently I’ll post; I was going to do Thing-A-Day in February but I’m reconsidering. That’s not to say I won’t – and if I do you’ll see me daily here. Otherwise, I suspect you’ll still see me at least monthly. I’m not going to stop crafting, and when I have something to share I’ll share it.

I’ll leave you with an inspirational comment my spam filter curiously thought was garbage.

“The hard work starts now,Michael Kors Outlet. I think we’,Michael Kors Handbags;re going to get nine home games which will just be amazing for the fans,Michael Kors Outlet.”

S(h)aving sweaters

A black sweater hung abandoned in my closet for a long, long time (two years? more?) because it was covered in white or off-white pills. It was such a mess that I didn’t want to look at it, much less be seen in public in it. During my wardrobe reset over the holidays I decided to finally fix it.

My first try was a safety razor, having repeatedly seen the “life hack” of using one to remove pills. It didn’t work at all. I then turned to my battery-operated sweater shaver, which works much better, but was going to take probably 8 AA batteries to finish the whole thing. After that realization I thought I’d better give the safety razor another try, and grabbed a different brand. That one worked like a charm!

I didn’t take a full “before” picture, but here’s the front cleared by battery and back half hand-shaved.

sweater front cleaned by electric pill remover half-shaved sweater back

Some consideration and the testing of yet a third brand of disposable razor has led me to conclude the key is widely-spaced blades. The original razor’s blades were very close together, which for hair is fine, but for large lint balls is not. Now, I did go through a couple of razors as well (my sweater is acrylic; as with all synthetics that probably contributed to speedier dulling of blades than a natural fiber would have), and a bunch of lint roller sheets, but it still seems more environmental than a bunch of batteries, and certainly was more economical.

Here’s a picture comparing the razor that did work to the razor that didn’t. You can hopefully see the difference in blade spacing.

comparison of safety razor blade spacing lint roller in use for sweater cleaning

Some tips:

It doesn’t have to be expensive to have widely set blades. I started with some wide, three-bladed Schick product that probably was at the upper end of disposables, but ended with the narrower, two-bladed, and almost certainly much cheaper Bic Silky Touch. It worked just as well (given the limitations of size and number of blades).

You can reduce the quantity of lint roller sheets or lengths of masking tape you use by picking the large tumbleweeds of fluff off by hand. My picture above was before I thought of that.

Shave with the grain. That is, if your sweater has ridges, ribbing, or cables, shave along them rather than across them. You want the blades as smooth against the fabric as possible to avoid gouging the yarn and creating weak spots that could turn into holes. I made an exception to this for the fuzziest part of the sweater, the bottom of the inside back, where shaving with the ridges didn’t seem to accomplish anything.

Be patient, take breaks, and clean the fluff out of your razor regularly. If the razor just stops working even after cleaning, swap it out. It’s less waste than a sweater!

Storing stickers

This fall I finally decided to break away from commercial greeting cards as much as possible. I’ll pay for wit, but if I just want sweet or pretty I’ll go the less expensive route and make them in-house. Of course, I got a die-cutting machine as a gift that I use for them, and if I had to count the cost of that in the cost of making them myself it would be a long time before the savings in card purchases caught up, but as-is I believe I can make a hundred cards for the price of a dozen in the store. My disintegrating sticker and card storage folder was due for replacing anyway, so I tried to figure out something to accommodate leftover die cuts.

the original expanding folder that was my sticker and card storage

I decided to put the cards in their own box and keep the stickers and die cuts together in another container. I thought about some kind of plastic envelopes in a binder, but found they were priced above my pain point. There were kinds that were a bit cheaper but didn’t have the panel with hole punches for a binder. Finally, when looking for ideas on making things “binder-able,” I stumbled upon an Instructables about making a pencil pouch. Essentially, you cover a shortened gallon zip-top bag with duct tape. I wanted to be able to see what was in the pouch, though, at least a little, so I bought generic unprinted bags and applied duct tape just around the edges. That should improve the longevity and help avoid the bags getting crumpled up.

my new sticker storage: taped bags in a binder

To make them the right size for a binder, instead of cutting off the bottom I folded it up: first to the top of the hole-punched panel, then that section in half, and then the whole folded section up again and taped near each end. That should keep any stickers or die cuts from getting pushed down into a sticky section. The small bags, of course, are just as-is, taped around the outside and with a duct tape extension at the bottom for the hole punches.

first gallon bag fold second gallon bag fold

third gallon bag fold taping the bags

The tape along each side is a single length folded over, and the tape along the bottom is full width, two lengths stuck to each other. I didn’t take a photo of it, but when I duct-taped the gallon bags, I made sure the tape came up a little above the folded part.

Note that if you use scissors on your duct tape you’ll be saying goodbye to them for the duration of the project. In fact, if you make as many bags as I did (20 of each size), you’ll need to clean the scissors at least once during the project, because they’ll get too sticky to use. I used Citrasolv, which worked wonders, and then dish soap because the Citrasolv left them oily.

One roll of patterned duct tape will do just over 9 gallon bags, or (I estimate) at least a baker’s dozen sandwich bags. Ten gallon and ten sandwich bags took most of two rolls – the photo below shows what I had after finishing the first 20 bags, done with most of two rolls of duct tape.

two new and one leftover roll of duct tape

Next up is my favorite part: reorganizing the contents. I also need to figure out a new storage system for my cards.

Cards, cookies, and craftcation

Christmas cookies! With eyes! December was devoted to preparation for and enjoyment of Christmas, as well as putting together a website planned to go live near the end of this month. I have a few things to talk about, though.

• Unfortunately, with one (long) row left of it, I ran completely out of the darker gray yarn for the mystery afghan! In order to avoid paying $7 in shipping on a <$3 skein of yarn, I went to fabric.com to combine with some other things I wanted, and there it is backordered until late this month... so don't anticipate another afghan update for a while.

• I made a few Christmas cards by hand for the first time ever. I'm pretty pleased with how they came out. One was a preprinted scene with pine trees and newsprint snow, to which I added cut-out snowflakes and glued-on sleds, one was a star of Bethlehem, one a Christmas cat, and one a Christmas tree. I took photos of each and titled them with the destination and year, so that in the future I can remember what I sent to everyone and not repeat myself. It was fun - I had to fight my Cricut a bit, but once I got things working it was just like grade school. With a bit of Amazon money from Christmas I've ordered a miniature hole punch (1/8" instead of the standard 1/4") for gift tag making, and two sizes of corner rounding punches.

• As is our tradition now, the hubs and I joined his mom for cookie baking, and more importantly cookie decorating. The picture at top is some of our creations. The eyes were new this year; we found them at Thanksgiving in a little boutique food shop in my grandmother's town, and they were the best $5 or so we ever spent -- especially combined with my mother-in-law's purchase of neon food coloring.

• I did what I called a "wardrobe refresh" at the end of the month: fixed two shirt hems that were coming out, sewed the button back on a sweater (this sweater), attempted to de-dinge-ify three shirts that were yellowing, fixed some holey jeans, and cleared off the mass quantities of contrasting-color pills that for over a year had kept me from wanting to wear the sweater they populated. The shirt cleaning didn’t work so well (read: at all), but everything else was successful. I’ll actually have more to say about de-pilling the sweater in a later post.

• I intended to take a good bit of time after Christmas to sew, but a head cold cut that down. I did, however, take two days around New Year’s in the sewing room. In addition to the wardrobe refresh, I cut another piece of terrycloth into nonpaper towels, and worked on a non-sewing project to organize my stickers, which you’ll see later this month.


calendar-478033_640 This is the traditional time to talk about plans and resolutions. You know about my biggest crafty plan: learning to draw. I’m going to leave it at that for now; web development is so time-consuming that I hesitate to make additional demands on myself. Someday I’ll stop making major life changes nearly every year and be able to make long-term plans with confidence again, but until I know how the web development job settles in, such plans are fairly pointless.

I’ll know more by my next blogiversary. Certainly the grand plans of the previous one have fallen away under the pressure of learning two programming languages and the intricacies of markup.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year to all!