Miscellaneous March 1

I did a few projects in March that didn’t merit a post, but for which I have some photos to show. There ended up being 4 so I’ve split them up into two posts. Let’s start with the one that definitely worked out: a tooth!

embroidery floss amigurumi tooth from front embroidery floss amigurumi tooth from back

Ages ago I asked on the ReveDreams Facebook page for items I could crochet out of embroidery floss, and my aunt suggested a tooth. There it is at long last. It has only two roots mostly because it’s a pain to work that small, with the reverse-engineered rationale that this way, it can sit on the edge of something.

Second, one that I completed but that really didn’t work out so well: a pair of slippers. If you have a Ravelry account you can see more of the saga on my project page for these, but long story short, after a good deal of effort to resize these, they are a bit loose and not at all the same size as each other. Crochet chain shoelaces mitigate the problem but don’t quite fix it.

finished slippers, unlaced finished slippers with laces

One thing I would consider doing again, though, is adding loops of yarn to the perimeter of a felt sole for ease of sewing it to the bottom of crochet slippers. That way I could use a blunt needle, and should the sole wear out it will be easier to remove and replace than it would be if I’d used a sharp needle to sew it directly on. That’s 3D fabric paint on the bottom, my attempt to add traction. It works better than I expected but we’ll see how well it lasts (likewise the loops of yarn, some of which appear to be pulling out already).

slipper soles showing yarn on edge slipper soles, sewn onto slippers

Bis morgens!

Flat felt

I’d like to make a needlebook to keep my specialty needles, since right now they are insecurely occupying their original package. Needlebooks typically have wool felt pages, and I thought to make it particularly special I could make the felt and cut it into the pages. I found a straightforward tutorial on rosiepink, and I already had the materials.

It went fine, but definitely not as planned. I didn’t realize my bamboo sushi mat was comically tiny, and as it happened my netting wasn’t much better and I didn’t have a spray bottle to sacrifice to the cause like I thought I did. After I finished the first one I decided to try to make another, and be more tidy about it – the first one grew as I layered, giving it a large messy perimeter, and the middle layers of wool show through the outer ones quite a lot.

making flat felt making flat felt

Tutorial modifications: I wanted to decorate the lower side, so I laid netting over the bubble wrap before starting to layer fleece, but in retrospect I’m not sure that was necessary. The netting is definitely desirable for the rubbing step, but you can always move it if you flip the piece (which I did, at least the second one). My needle felting stash has both smoother and coarser wool, so I sandwiched two layers of coarser wool between two layers of smoother wool. It seemed like a great use for some beautiful variegated fleece I’d been hanging on to – three of the sides use that. I only decorated one side of the first piece, with contrasting fleece at different angles, but I put strands of crewel wool on both sides of the second piece. They may need a bit of needle felting to fully stay put. Fortunately this felt won’t see rough handling.

making flat felt making flat felt

My whole sheaf was a lot larger than both the piece of netting and the bamboo mat, so while I did the rubbing with bubble wrap step (though I dipped it in soapy water rather than rubbing it on a bar of soap), after that I couldn’t make the original tutorial work for my setup. Instead, I laid the non-netted side of the wool against a piece of bubble wrap, laid both pieces of netting on top, rolled it up, and squeezed and turned it all along its length, with a hand motion similar to rolling up a sheet of gift wrap. I did make sure to rotate the felt 90 degrees occasionally and flip it at least once, and it worked! Here they are all nice and dry, after a touch of the iron while they were still wet. I know these pictures are somewhat small but you can click them into larger versions.

finished, untrimmed felt finished, untrimmed felt

You can’t get the real effect, though, until you trim off the raggedy edges, so here’s that view:

finished, trimmed felt finished, trimmed felt

I got a little bit of dust from the dark green wool when I cut the edges off. Hopefully they are actually stable. I am not sure I have the necessary patience for hand-felting. Of course, I can always whipstitch the edges once I cut them down into squares, after I decide how large my needlebook will be. I plan to give it a fancy cover as well, so you’ll see this again.

A flatiron in the sewing room?

dog-612665_640 I’m conducting some in-home sewing lessons for a ten-year-old right now, and realized after the first lesson that we hadn’t made any arrangements for ironing. We’re making a dress so ironing is not optional, but there’s not a ton of space – and there is a large and boisterous dog wandering about (similar to the one pictured). I vaguely recall reading a tip to use a flatiron to straighten ribbon, and I happen to own a flatiron that I bought before abandoning 90% of hair equipment and products (I’m down to shampoo, conditioner, a hair brush, and occasionally a hair dryer). I thought we could use that to at least press the seams open close to the edges of the fabric, where they will intersect other seams, and then they could do a full press all at once at the end.

I tested it out on bias tape, and set to 15 (its max is 25) it did a decent job. You have to be careful not to stretch the bias tape; pushing your iron along fabric can stretch it (though moreso if steam is involved), so pulling something through a pair of heated plates would definitely do so. Turning it up to 20 might have made it a quicker job, of course, but we’re working with a satiny material so trying lower temperatures was a priority. I’ll probably set it to 10 and test it on scrap dress material at the next lesson.

Naturally the flatiron has to be transported and I don’t want to have to worry about its temperature when doing so. That meant an insulated carrying case of some kind. Another vague recollection came to me, of using a potholder or two to make a flatiron sleeve for travel. I didn’t have any potholders to sacrifice to the cause, but I did have a lot of leftover 100% cotton flannel and some random pieces of the silvery insulated fabric used to make ironing board covers. I did some measuring and cut a bunch of pieces.

flatiron sleeve pieces

The larger pieces are 10.5″x3.5″ and the smaller ones are 7.5″x3.5″. The silver fabric wasn’t large enough to make 10.5″ so it’s somewhere between 8″ and 9″, but that’s still way longer than the hot portion of the flatiron. I laid them out with the silver fabric in the middle, silver side in, and stitched the layers together at 1/4″. I also zigzagged the edge, but not very tightly. The short side got bias tape on its top edge, and then I zigzagged the two sides together. Bias tape all the way around the outside and it was done.

flatiron sleeve, front side flatiron sleeve, back side

The flatiron fits inside it perfectly. I am quite pleased.

flatiron in insulated sleeve

So what else is in my teaching bag? Seam ripper, seam gauge, two sizes of scissors, some rectangles of fabric for stitch practice, and painter’s tape. The sewing machine we’re using has eighth-inch marks, but they’re not labeled. I plan to run a length of tape along the 5/8″ mark to make it stand out, and my business partner suggested painter’s tape instead of the masking tape I was thinking of. Perfect!

A seat cover at long last

Back in the summer of 2013 I got my bike, and you may recall I was obsessed with making accessories for it. I started a seat cover, got the flat portion done (including some swanky 80s-style crisscrossing chains), and put it away in my yarn storage boxes. For nearly two years. When I cleaned those out earlier this year, I kept the seat cover as something I would still like to finish, and finish it I did. The bike’s still in a closet, so I call this picture “waiting for spring.”

seat cover on bike in closet

I added several rounds of crochet around the sides of the cover with 8 or 10 decreases per round most rounds (up to 2 each at front, back corners, and curve of sides). I didn’t really know how it should be done, but I was crocheting across the room from the closet my bike was in so I was able to test the fit easily. Quite pleased and hoping my tailbone will be happier with the beginning of biking season this year!

outside view of bike seat cover inside view of bike seat cover

Braided and ready

six stranded twill tape braid The dyed twill tape I showed you in October is now a braided strap. I decided to add some color and interest via a running stitch along the full length of three of the strands, with three colors of embroidery floss in the intersection of the sets “colors that work with the fabric” and “colors I already have on hand”: gold, red-orange, and a sort of light magenta. That was a little awkward because of the length of floss needed to avoid having to stop and start in the middle, but not too time consuming. The braiding instructions I used are on T.J. Potter’s site, method 1 of the flat six-strand braid.

six-stranded twill tape braid The braiding took probably an hour and a half, including machine-stitching the ends. I really like how it looks. To secure the ends I just made two parallel stretches of zig-zag stitch. I was wondering as I went along whether I would need to stitch the braid together at other points, to keep it from deforming, but I think it might be okay. At most I think it will need maybe two lines of stitching across it, splitting the strap part into thirds, to keep the braid fairly smooth without ruining the lovely flexibility of it. It is plenty long to go all the away around the sides and bottom of the bag, which is terrific, and probably with some extra. Unfortunately whatever record I might have made of the length of the individual strands is gone, so I can’t tell you the conversion rate.

I made some inroads on the bag itself in February, until I got to the point where I had to know how wide the strap would be to continue, so hopefully it won’t be too long before the completion post.

Pattern cutting tips

I’ll be helping someone sew a dress soon, and thought some information about cutting out patterns that I’ve gathered for that person would be of general usefulness. There are hows and whys and Opinions.

Patterns

The back of the pattern envelope will help you choose your fabric, as well as telling you what you need for fasteners, elastic, etc. Pay special attention to pattern envelopes that say “sized for stretch knits only.” That means the way the pattern is designed and sized, using non-stretchy fabric may produce a body cast. Note also that pattern sizes don’t match off the rack sizes. This may be less true for children and juniors, but for adults… I’m two sizes bigger in sewing patterns than in off the rack clothing. Measurements are provided to make sure you’re cutting the right size.

Cut apart the pattern pieces needed for the garment you’re making. This will in most cases be far from all of the pieces in the envelope. If there is a length variation given by pieces with two possible bottom lines, and you’re making the shorter version, if you think there is any chance you’ll ever want to make the longer version, then cut neatly along the dividing line, fold up the bottom portion of the longer version, and save it in the envelope. Otherwise, just cut somewhere near to and outside the cutting line; no need to be precise when you’ll be cutting again anyway.

If unfolding and running your hands over the pattern pieces doesn’t smooth them very well, you can iron them. My grandmother always did, with a dry iron at the wool setting.

Fabric Preparation

I always wash fabric for clothing prior to cutting it out (clearly I avoid dry clean only fabrics). That way if the fabric makes any changes in the wash, it’s happened ahead of time. I run a zigzag stitch along each cut edge first, to prevent fraying. The zigzag doesn’t have to be tight – I use the widest zigzag and often the longest stitch, though for something particularly fray-prone like satin I’d probably shorten the stitch. Depending on the fabric, you may need to iron it afterward, though with some fabrics if you remove them from the dryer promptly they are ready to go. Something I have learned recently is that pushing a steamy iron along fabric will stretch it, and so now I only use steam for persistent wrinkles, and when I do use steam I try to pick up and set the iron, maybe wiggling it a bit in place, rather than pushing it along.

Pattern cutting tips at ReveDreams: selvedges A little vocabulary, in case it’s needed: perpendicular to the cut edges are finished edges. “Finished” doesn’t necessarily mean smooth – they may be a bit fuzzy – but does mean that the edge won’t ravel. The finished edge is called the selvedge, and its direction is called the straight grain (or sometimes just the grain) of the fabric. The direction from selvedge to selvedge (parallel, or parallel-ish, to the cut edges) is called the cross grain. Halfway between straight grain and cross grain, which is to say diagonally on the fabric, is called the bias. Some selvedges are shown in the picture to left.

Pattern cutting tips at ReveDreams: rippled fold The pattern instructions will show you layouts suitable for different width fabrics. Most of those will have the fabric folded in half, selvedge meeting selvedge, so you can cut two mirrored pieces at once. It is important that the fold line be smooth, and this will sometimes require the cut edges not be aligned. The picture to left shows the diagonal ripples that indicate the selvedges need to be slid a bit along each other; the ripples are caused by the cross grain being a bit twisted.

Laying Out

Pattern cutting tips at ReveDreams: grainline mark. Again, the pattern instructions will show you options for laying out the pattern pieces. Some pieces may be laid out with one edge at the fold line (often the piece that crosses the center front of the garment). Others will be out in the middle of the fabric, but have a long line on them showing the direction of the straight grain of the fabric (pictured; depending on the brand it may or may not have arrowheads or a “grainline” label). The easiest way to get that line the right direction is with a ruler: make each end of it the same distance from the selvedges.

Why? Aside from making sure that, say, the sheen of the fabric is the same on each piece, the grainline marking has structural purpose. The straight grain of the fabric is the least stretchy direction. Most patterns have the grainline positioned so that the straight grain will be vertical in the finished clothing. This makes the vertical line of the clothing the most sag-resistant direction of the fabric. For patterns that use stretchy fabric, the grainline makes sure the stretch goes the correct direction. Some patterns, for swirly skirts for instance, will have the grainline pointing diagonally, so that the vertical (and horizontal, too) line of the clothing is on the bias. The bias is the most stretchy direction, and provides for a lot of mobility even in non-stretchy fabric.

Knowing this, you can figure out when it’s okay to violate the rules. If I’m cutting a boxer shorts pattern out of cotton flannel (read: not a lot of weight hanging, reasonably sturdy fabric, no stretch to worry about orienting), I let the grainline marking be with the straight or cross grain as necessary to fit the pattern on the fabric.

Pin your pattern pieces through both layers of fabric, with the pins parallel to and within the cutting line, making sure to get pins in each corner. How frequent your pins are depends on the fabric and the need for precision; for stable fabric every 5-6 inches might suffice, whereas for shifty light fabric, you might need them every 1-2 inches.

Cutting

Pattern cutting tips at ReveDreams: triangular marks There are numerous markings on patterns, and to me the ones essential in the cutting process are the triangles. These will later help you correctly line up pieces of varying shapes in order to sew them together. I was taught to cut the triangles outward, so as to avoid weakening the seam allowance, and that the most important thing to be accurate with is where the main cutting line meets the outside edges of the triangle(s). The height or shape of the triangles isn’t so important as long as you can match those corners (not every pattern mirrors the triangles on the outside of the cutting line like the one pictured does).

There are numerous other possible markings, including dots, and dashed-line triangles or diamonds indicating darts, but I haven’t found a good system for transferring them to the fabric and tend to just go back to the pattern while sewing and mark these (with sewing pins, typically) when I’m ready to use them. Generally, instructions say to transfer those with chalk or a fabric pen – the kind that fades or washes out.

There you have it: my approach to cutting out patterns. Keep the pattern envelope with its instructions and pattern pieces close at hand.