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how hard could it be?

Colour-matching stripes as well as aligning them? It's harder than you might think.

Colour-matching stripes as well as aligning them? It’s harder than you might think.

Do you ever find yourself asking that question? How hard could it be for someone else to clean the loo or change the toilet roll or do any of the dozens of domestic chores that evidence suggests can only be done by one person and that would never be either of the males about the house? Yep, me too. All the time!

Sewing can have those sorts of moments as well. By way of background, let me explain that YoungB has a 21st-birthday party to attend shortly (there’ll be a few of them in the next couple of years) and, given that it’s late autumn and the mornings are darn chilly, we reckoned that a long, knitted scarf would be an ideal gift. Remember the Noro Silk Garden scarf? Yep, we decided that that would do the job nicely. When I said recently that I’d finished it, I wasn’t entirely fibbing. The knitting was certainly completed, but there were still the ends to deal with and it hadn’t been blocked. Those details have now been taken care of. The intended recipient is a young woman whose idea of a great birthday present is some homemade muffins or something equally useful and not wasteful. Therefore, we decided that a reusable shopping bag would make ideal gift wrapping.

Really, making a shopping bag should be easy and why not throw in a couple of matching lavender bags?

Really, making a shopping bag should be easy and why not throw in a couple of matching lavender bags?

How hard could it be to make a foldable, reusable shopping bag? It’s not. It’s just kind of fiddly and when you’re attempting it with minimal measuring tools, getting your lines plumb is more of a headache than you might think. And when you’re trying to cut it out late at night – that’s about the only time I ever do things! – sometimes the difficulties associated with making sure your stripes match are insuperable. I lined up the pieces beautifully but not in the correct order, so although the stripes align from front to back, they don’t match. The handles have the same problem (obviously; and there the stripes don’t even align). Never mind, it’s lightweight, made with bright, cheerful fabric (acceptable for the party theme of 80s or lots of colour), suitable for purpose and if I had half a dozen of them on hand to use instead of gift wrap, I’d be extremely pleased with myself. (Yes, you’re right, that’s certainly something to aim for; but let’s not call it a plan. Okay?)

Handmade fibre gifts from our household generally include a lavender bag. In this case, we decided on two because the leftover bits of yarn are part of the gift, just in case there’s ever any mending required, and they’re in a separate little bag of their own (plastic, in that case, for mothproofing purposes) along with an instruction card detailing the yarn’s fibre content and care. The lavender bags are made with the same striped fabric as the shopping bag and I made them without a hanging loop. All YoungB has to do now is get a card and nut out a suitably 80s costume. With Dr B’s wardrobe available for raiding, how hard could that be?

 

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Posted by on April 19, 2014 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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this whole creative thing

It’s possibly weird, and probably because the things others regard as creative I regard as just part of everyday life, but when I think about my own creativity, it extends to what I do musically and not at all to the sewing, knitting, crochet and the like.

The music? I take a song and make it my own. The words and the notes provide direction but the interpretation is mine. I think about it even when I’m not actively singing. I plan how I should best approach certain technical aspects and ponder what story the words are telling and, therefore, how they should be delivered to impart maximum impact.

The knitting? I’m just following a pattern to make something that looks like what the picture says it should. I don’t necessarily consider that clever. Maybe if I were a more adventurous knitter, I’d have a different view of things but, you know, what I knit is easy stuff and pretty yarn does a lot of the work. Mostly, there’s a need for something and I have the skills to make the something to meet that need. It’s usually the case that someone else has already done the hard work of nutting out the pattern. And that some other knitter could follow that pattern and come up with a very similar result.

The sewing, specifically making clothes? I arrive at having something functional and necessary that possibly – even probably – fits better than RTW and is better made (I don’t, however, make many clothes because, frankly, I don’t see the need for a new dress each day of the week; and I wear my clothes for a long, long time). I understand about the cleverness some people bring to their sewing, cleverness that is decidedly creative, but I simply don’t sew enough and certainly not enough clothes.

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that's almost as good as new. You don't need a new jumper every day!

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that’s almost as good as new. You don’t need a new jumper every day!

I make lots of lavender bags and simple things like shopping totes and bandannas and toobs for cyclists but they’re neither terribly clever nor at all spectacular and, in many cases, not truly my invention. Someone else came up with the idea for a toob, for example. I merely re-created something similar when necessity dictated because YoungB was fed up with having a cold face and something that got dragged down his face each time he put his helmet on. You might call that an improvement, I suppose, but the basic idea wasn’t mine.

I have a book that describes making pyramid-shaped juggling balls for kids (to stave off boredom during holidays) and I saw some dashing pyramid-shaped paperweights (filled with rice, I think the seller told me). I’d spent a lot of years making little, ravioli-shaped lavender bags, completely handsewn and extraordinarily time consuming, so I was looking for something simpler and faster. I merely adapted those two similar ideas to come up with my pyramid lavender bags (look on Etsy and you’ll see that plenty of folk make pyramid lavender bags). Original? Hardly; though perhaps the mix in mine is one nobody else uses. Creative? Not to my mind.

Is it all about the mystique that nowadays attaches to these once mundane tasks? Time was, and it really wasn’t that long ago, when every woman and quite a few men did these sorts of things as a matter of course and necessity. It is probably true that there have always been some who took it to better levels – tidier stitch definition, neater seams, precision finishing – but it wasn’t anything exceptional and/or special. My Dad used mattress stitch to mend everything; not always neat but always effective! My Mum, who’d been taught by her own mother who was a tailoress, had the right stitch for each mending job: always tidy, even when she apostrophised it as “cobbled together”. She would often add in such cases that, “A blind man would be glad to see it.” Quite so.

Time was, we were a more musically literate society, too. I grew up in a family where everyone sang, everyone had piano lessons and it wasn’t at all weird to gather for a sing-song. I’m of an age and system where the recorder was standard issue at school (or fife if you went public system, like Youngest Aunt; a much trickier instrument altogether) or perhaps there was even a school band where you could have a good time blowing your own trumpet (or possibly trombone, if your arms were long enough). I’m not necessarily suggesting we have to bring back that era or those values or that older system. But when I grew up and everyone knitted and sewed and a lot of people played piano and sang, to bring excellence to the music was special. You had to have something extra to do that.

Maybe that’s what I mean when I say music is where the creativity is, because there were many fine, skilled pianists and singers, too; but only some of them made you sit up and listen and really pay attention to their performance. By and large, the other things – the sewing, knitting and crochet – don’t grab your attention as anything out of the ordinary. They’re part of life and that’s about it. And if they do, then perhaps they’ve gone past that utilitarian stage to being something beyond. Perhaps then they truly are creations.

And perhaps you should now go and read Karen’s post!

 

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just another small FO: starry bandanna

As well as knitting steadily on my two current projects – the easy lace cowl is nearly finished, too – I sewed a bandanna for my cousin. Her hair has now started to fall out as a result of the chemotherapy and, although she’ll probably wear a wig quite often, sometimes she’ll want a bit of protection without all that bother. I popped this in the post to her the other day.

Patterned with stars for someone who is a star

Patterned with stars for someone who is a star

It’s made from some pretty, cotton quilting fabric that was lurking in the specials box the last time Dr B and I were out shopping (it’s one of my cousin’s favourite colours, of course). You’d be proud of how carefully I measured it and its hems. I was quite proud, I can tell you; no evidence of my usual slapdashery! Being a firmer sort of cotton than what I used for Dr B’s bandannas, it held a finger-creased hem nicely, so I didn’t have to iron it much at all. There are some matching lavender bags to make everything smell sweet and to help keep the moths away.

I’ve known for years that I let myself get sidetracked quite easily and that that’s why I rarely undertake large knitting tasks (I delegated the knitting of YoungB’s baby shawl, for example). It means I can drop whatever I’m doing to respond to cases of genuine need. It also, alas, often means I’m struggling to finish things I’ve been trying to do for a long time and should really have finished long ago. You remember Youngest Uncle’s fingerless gloves? Yeah, I’m still going on those nearly a year after I started them. But, you know, I have at least three weeks up my sleeve before his next birthday; at least. That should be bags of time. Shouldn’t it?

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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apparently that was the weekend

Last week was, as you might expect at this time of year, busy with a lot of hearings (quick, must get it done before Christmas) and home has been a bit nuts too. I did, however, make a point of heading down to Vic Sq one lunchtime to check out the yarn bombing. Here’s a link to the City of Adelaide’s Facebook album. No, you can’t see anything of mine in any of the photos but that doesn’t matter. I found my items and they fitted right in with everyone else’s.

WordPress and I are having a bit of a stand-off about photos at present. Mostly I can’t get them to work. Sorry, about that, I’ll keep trying. But in the meantime, that link will show you VR all decked out in special Christmas finery, of which I’m sure she’d approve.

Sunday afternoon when I went out, I found my self thinking (for the first time this season, despite some warm temperatures early) that summer has finally arrived. Given that, I was pleased to have spent a few hours putting away my winter woolies. That required making some new lavender bags. They weren’t fancy, merely a handful of mix tossed into old stockings I’d cut up. I did, however, make a real one for YoungB’s undies drawer because I was well overdue to replace several I’d borrowed.

The annual Toy Run took place on Sunday too, so Dr B and YoungB headed out on their motorbikes for that. Because I then had the house to myself for a while I was able to decorate our Christmas tree. I’m not much good at it, to be quite truthful. I couldn’t honestly say I don’t have an artistic bone in my body because if that were so, I’d never have been much chop as a performer. Simply, my artistry and creativity don’t extend to decorations.

Dr B complimented me for the tree. His take on it is that, if he were in charge, there’d be no tree because he wouldn’t get around to it (not necessarily because he’s closely related to Ebenezer Scrooge). It’s been a decorative couple of weeks, you might say, and I’m now getting a bit desperate about the amount of work I want to get done before all the guests start arriving. Help! Are you having the same dilemmas or are you just one of those really, really organised people? Whichever you consider yourself, good luck with getting all the festive season stuff completed in time.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Crochet, Knitting, Sewing

 

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oh, the Springtime

“It brings on the shearing,” is the next line of the song. We haven’t been shearing but, as today has been a beautifully warm, sunny spring day, I have harvested more lavender, managed to dry two loads of laundry and generally appreciated the sun and the warmth; and Dr B? He’s mowing the lawn!

Anything remotely craft-related? Um, no, not yet; but I’m planning to sew a couple of larger lavender bags tonight for a friend who recently provided me with a comforting shoulder to cry on.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Musing, Sewing

 

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winter lavender

Do you regard weekends as rest days or achievement days? Here it’s been a cold day and there was rain overnight. However, the weather fined up and I was able to hang a load of washing on my new clothesline. Of course it didn’t dry so I had to bring it in and hang it again inside BUT it finished drying reasonably quickly. While the sun was shining, I picked some lavender from the bush in my backyard. It has gone nuts just lately and every time I walk over it to drag the clothesline from the wall to the pole, I stir up the perfume. Now there is a very large bunch of it drying in my sewing room. By Christmas, it will doubtless be going into some lavender bags to accompany fabric gifts.

Harvested from my garden

In between those sorts of capers, I have knitted some more of a scarf, decided I was too tired to tackle the beanie and tinkered a bit with those fingerless gloves. Unpicking seems like the best solution to that problem and then just knitting a flat pattern, except that lately my sewing up hasn’t been very good. At least the scarf I’m halfway through won’t take much extra work; there’s no sewing up and only a few ends. So it’s been a day where I feel as if I’ve achieved very little, but sometimes you need days like that, especially on the weekend. Me? Sometimes, and today has been one of those times, I regard weekends as rest days.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Knitting

 

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lavender bag tutorial

By popular demand (you know, a few people asked me), here’s a tutorial for the lazy lavender bags. Excuse the dodgy photography, I hope it gives you sufficient visual information for the whole thing to make sense.

You will need two squares of fabric – I’ve used 7 cm squares here – plus (in this case) a length of ribbon. I often use quite long ribbon so that there’s plenty of length for hanging but short ribbon is fine. Or you can make them without ribbon. If you want to do that, life will be even easier. And this is not going to make it hard, believe me.

Two squares of fabric plus a length of ribbon

Fold the ribbon in half and put it between the squares of fabric. Whatever way you want our ribbon to be – shiny side out, shiny side in – that’s how you should have it. I’ve made mine matte side facing in this example.

Put the ribbon between the squares of fabric, right sides facing

Pin on three sides: either side of the ribbon and the side where the ribbon aligns with the edge of the square. In other words, in the photo above, you’d put a pin on the left, a pin at the top and a pin at the right. Or not, if you’re fearless and confident. I don’t always pin mine if I’m using a nicely stable fabric. I find it’s helpful to do so when I’m using ribbon, even if it’s only on that side because the ribbon is sometimes harder to keep in place than the fabric.

Once you’ve pinned it, check hat the ribbon is free to move

There’s no reason why you can’t pin on any three sides you choose (I’ve done it myself sometimes by design, sometimes not), but it’s easier to turn through if you can just grab the ribbon and pull. Sew the sides you’ve pinned, using a 1 cm seam.

Sew, being sure to catch the ribbon in your seam

Depending on what fabric I’m using, I’ll either trim the corners with straight scissors or pinking shears. With this, which I think is a synthetic silk, I used pinking shears.

On a thicker fabric, I would probably trim all the seams

Turn the bag inside out and square up the corners. This is where the ribbon is useful because you can just stick your finger into the bag, grab the ribbon and pull. Then use your favourite squaring tool (I have a couple of paintbrushes whose handles are just right for the job) and make the corners as square as you can.

This size is large enough for turning to be quite easy even without ribbon

Then fill your bag with lavender or a mix of whatever you like. I couldn’t get a good photo while doing it that didn’t look like I was trying to choke the bag! I used about three heaped teaspoons of mix, which seems like a lot because it almost fills the bag and you’ll be thinking you’re not going to be able to get that under your presser foot.

You will. Tamp it down. I use an old chopstick to do so but you might prefer a paintbrush or a pencil. I’m not dictatorial about these things. Use whatever works for you. When you’ve tamped the mix, you’ll find you’ve a firmer bag and plenty of room for the next step, which is to make the pyramidal shape. You could sew it flat – that is, make it square, more like ravioli – if you want to, but I like the extra squoosh that goes with the pyramid.

You could make it square; if you do, you might want more mix

 

I like to use a pyramidal shape

PIn – again, this is optional and I don’t always do it; sometimes if I’m only making a couple, I might miss out pinning and go straight to sewing – then sew.

As you can see, there’s plenty of room for the presser foot

You’ll doubtless notice that my edges aren’t precisely aligned, but no matter. That will disappear in the next step, which is trimming across that bottom edge with pinking shears.

Pinking provides a quick and easy finish

Then, the next thing you know, you have a lavender bag.

There you have it, one pyramidal lavender bag with hanging ribbon

Now, wasn’t that easy? I don’t usually make 50 at a time which was the output last time. I’m far more likely to make two or three when I have a few minutes and that way when I need one to include in any fibre gift, I can just grab it from the box and pop it in with the gift.

Let me know if you have any questions. I’m sure I’ll be able to make up some sort of answer! Happy sewing, everyone.

 

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Sewing

 

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