Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Another Hat!

I wanted to make another sunhat and this time really pay attention to how I laid the pieces on the fabric to cut out.  I was at Michaels and saw their fat quarters.  I was drawn to reds.  I looked at one but felt it had too much white and the black I intended for the other side would show through.  I looked at another one but it was "too" red.  I settled on a red with small white polka dots.  Cute, but not "baby".  I had some black with beige flower embroidery on it for the other side.

I carefully laid out the pieces of the crown so the "stretch" would be going across.  One piece of the red fat quarter seemed a little stretchier than the other.  The black had less stretch because of the embroidery.  I also cut the interfacing in two pieces, with a small overlap.  I wanted to see if this worked on my own hat before doing it on one for someone else!  I totally think it worked.

I sewed the red brim on first.  I had pinned the 1/4 marks, and it went fine until the last 1/4 section.  I ended up with more than an inch extra brim.  Instead of panicking and ripping it out immediately, I set it aside and sewed the black brim on.  It went on almost entirely perfect, maybe 1/2" brim left over.  So I ripped off the red brimmed and tried again, had to try a few times and I think in the end I did have to take in the brim seam a little bit--1/4" from each side of the brim seam? (I left the outer edge the same, but tapered the seam towards the crown).  The brim looks a little pulled in a few places.  I didn't have a red thread that matched close enough, so I used white. 
 I did the first round of brim top stitching really close to the edge to make it easier to close the gap I left for turning.  I also clipped the seam in that opening to make it lay flatter while I top stitched.  I think I trimmed the entire brim edge seam before I turned it.  When I went to do the second row of top stitching, I couldn't find a marking on my machine at the right distance, so the distance from the edge to the 2nd row is the same as between the 2nd and 3rd, and 3rd and 4th, etc, but the edge top stitching in between the edge and 2nd row.  If that makes sense.  I opted to top stitch on the crown this time instead of the brim.  I thought this might look a bit smoother and prevent any tiny pleating if the brims were slightly off size.  I think it looks fine.  I think this might also be contributing to the smaller size.  Then I remembered to add a ribbon, so I had to unpick a bit and hand stitch it in, etc.  Whatever.  It's done.

During the process, a few people mentioned it looks like Minnie Mouse.  Then, when it was finished...I realized that I also have a red nightgown with white polka dots.  Yup.  My sun hat matches my nightgown.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Seven Months Till Christmas!

How about some knitting content for a change?  The overuse injury to my wrist in mid-March took much longer than I thought it would to fully resolve.  The discomfort with using it disappeared fairly quickly, but I was still finding that if I knit for the evening, the next day my wrist felt irritated.  It's feeling much better now, though there is still a lump, so I just try to vary what I'm doing.

I've been working on this stocking for awhile.  It started off well enough.  A bit of time with Google and Ravelry lead me to the pattern at Mary Maxim.  Yay!  I wouldn't have to chart it all out!  I waited for one of their weekly sales, and bought their four pack of stocking pattern books for $20Cdn.  This gives me a little over 50 Christmas stocking patterns!!  I had already gone yarn shopping and found great matches--especially the green.  The red is a bit off, but luckily, because they're done in "reverse", it's not a big issue.  I got started, knitting happily away with the chart.

Once I got to the kitty's eyes, I wanted to check something, so I looked at the original stocking.  Wait a minute!  It didn't match what I was knitting!  I looked at the chart and what I knitted--they matched.  I looked at the tiny picture on the back cover of the book, and it matched the original stocking, but not the chart!  WTF?!  There was a chunk of white missing on the right side of the hat!!

I emailed Mary Maxim and explained the issue.  My thinking was that the chart had been re-done when they entered the digital age but the pictures hadn't been updated.  But why would they use a different chart?  The answer came back--she didn't see any difference between the chart and the picture, and perhaps I was doing the knit rows from left to right instead of right to left.

I exhaled.  This customer service rep doesn't know me from Adam.  That is the number one issue new knitters make with charts.  However, that wouldn't result in a totally different picture, it would just be a mirror image.

I wrote back explaining that I had over 20 years experience knitting from charts, and also charting my own designs.  This was not a mirror image problem, but a totally different chart.  She wrote back saying she still didn't see a problem.

Ummm.  Okay.  I took a iPad photo of the chart, and used a colouring app to colour it in the correct colours.  Then I took a picture of the picture of the stocking on the back of the book, and I put the two in an email for customer service.  I heard back from someone different, who did confirm that the chart was changed after the first printing and I must have the newer printing.  Well, fat lot of good that does me, paying $20+ for something that isn't as advertised.  How many other charts don't match the pictures?  There was never any mention of say, a gift certificate or a refund for my troubles.  Not even a free box of mystery sock yarn.  I would have gladly taken a free box of mystery sock yarn, though that would through my "Yarn In" totals quite high.

See that white band above the right ear?  Missing from the chart!
I had to rip it back to the bottom of the off-white band, and knit from the original stocking.  It wasn't the greatest knitting, with twisted stitches and some wonky tension making it hard to count rows and stitches were the intarsia was.  I got past what I thought was the issue area and moved back to the charts.  Once done, I did see a couple of wayward stitches that I duplicate stitched over.

At some point in all of this, I took a break and mended all my handknit socks, and ended up with the wrist injury and had to stop knitting for a bit, then gradually work my way back up to long stretches.  I wanted to make sure this injury healed properly, not like my toes after I dropped the weight on them and then ignored the pain and swelling for several weeks.
Can you spot the couple stitches (on the right kitty) that I duplicate stitched over?

I finally got the stocking finished, and had to hunt for a pom pom.   I couldn't find any the right size so I went bigger, and replaced the original too, trimming them both down quite a bit.  I gave it some steam to smooth it out, arranged a pick up time for the next evening, and brought the two together to take a look.

And whoa. The new one was quite a bit shorter!!  I had had some tensions issues and had been alternating needle sizes to try to match, and sometimes it's hard to tell the final size before seaming, washing and blocking, but there was no denying.  They did not match.  Panic.  Exhale.  I am Tracy, and this is just the way these things are.  It's the True Tracy Way.  I would have to do surgery, as I didn't think I had time to reknit the lower leg, ankle, and entire foot.

I did not take any photos.  I know many knitters find images of cut apart knitting to be too graphic.  I undid the back seam above the ankle, snipped a stitch at the edge, and proceeded to try to pick out a row.  Apparently, I had been knitting from two ends since after finishing the picture, I wanted to use up the small amounts of the red that I had been already using for the background.  It was kind of messy, trying to get it ripped back to one row, and get the ankle side cleaned up to one row to be ready to be grafted back.

I had already put the needles away, thought I had the right size, knit for a while when my daughter was doing her skating tests, ripped it all out, picked out bigger needles, knit for a bit, then knit a few more rows, then grafted it to the original piece.  The new section was obviously bigger and looser, along the seamed edge.  I ended up tightening up stitches one by one, getting some slack, bringing it to the back, and knotting it tight.

I also cut open the toe, ripped back the toe and added some more rows.  It took me several tries to get the toe decreases right and the grafting.  I was grafting starting in the middle of the row like with real socks, but it was wrong, I needed to graft from the end....hard to explain, it's only been a week but I don't really remember exactly.

In the end, it was much improved.  I got a few photos, the customer came and was thrilled.  She doesn't need to know about all the issues.  She did give me a nice tip though, which was much appreciated since the original quote was on the lower end even if there hadn't been any issues.

This is something that is nice about doing custom work.  Every project has a story.  Not just who ordered it, and why, but rarely do the orders go entirely smoothly.  Usually I'm trying to copy something, or "wing it" or working with limited supplies or questionable measurements.  It keeps it interesting.  I don't know that I could crochet 20 owl hats for a craft show.  It might be less stress, but then what if they don't sell.  What if someone wanted blue eyes instead of pink?  What if...

Yarn In: 1586gr
Yarn Out:  3850gr + 107gr = 3957gr
Balance:  2371gr more USED than bought
Costs:   $74.87/102days = $0.73/day

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ultimate Cinch Sack

What's the "proper" name for these bags?  I've seen cinch sacks, drawstring backpacks, and I think a few other terms. 

After making my bag, and then my daughter's bag, I felt confident to get started on my niece's birthday bag.  I had gone to Wal-Mart and found they had fabric that came with two co-ordinating pieces that were quite large.  I first looked at one with wild animals that was a bit more childish, but then picked out this one because she's turning 10, so not a "child" but not a teen.  And, let's face it...how often do the parents end up being the one that carries the child's things?  I decided for this one, I was going to use one fabric on one side, and one on the other side, and a different one inside.  This way, although it's not inside-out reversible, it could be back-to-front reversible and a little more mature fabric could be shown.  As well as this awesomeness, I was going to enlarge the backpack by adding a 3" (or so) wide strip between the two sides.  Like a gusset.  I figured I would just cut one long strip and sew each side to it. 

But then I thought, how does it go around the corners?  So I cut out a piece for each side and the bottom, and sewed them together.  But they were too long somehow.  After staring at it for a bit of time, I got out my Singer "Sewing for the Home" book and looked up pillows.  Indeed, they used one long strip, cut a snip at what would be the corners, and "bent" it at the corners.  Since I had sewn seams, this wouldn't be easy, but since the strip was actually too long, I shifted it a bit.

On top of all that drama, I wanted a water bottle pocket on one side piece.  I wasn't going to do it like I did for the purse, which was based on the car seat organizer.  I was going to do it similar to what's on our "real" backpacks, except I didn't have stretchy mesh so I used a pleat.  Then I thought, much of this needs to be taken up to become the "bottom" of the holder, so it needs to be taller.  The scrap piece of fabric that I thought was perfect was suddenly too short.  No problem, I would use the brown of the gusset, and it would be more durable.  That also meant thicker though.

I went to sew it on.  Realized that if I put it up on the side, it would need to have the bottom edge folded up inside and top stitched on--a little thick (I realized after a slightly different way I could have done it).  Ideally, it should be sewn into that seam at the bottom corner.  Then I realized, as I was about to do this, that I needed the straps to come through that brown strip, in the middle, just above the bottom edge.  On the other cinch sacks, there is a seam running between the front and back and the hole for the strap is in the seam.  There was no vertical seam here.  I could use the vertical seam of either the front of back piece, but then would it still be reversible or would it feel funny?  So, I raised the pocket up again.

Then, it really hit me.  Just HOW was I gong to insert the straps into that strip?  I had done so much thinking about this bag before even starting, I thought I had figured out everything.  I can't believe I overlooked this detail!  I was tempted to take the strip off, cut it in half so each the front and back now had a narrow brown strip, and then sew them together again, creating a vertical seam mid-strip.  I realized I needed to go to bed before I started cutting!! 

I came up with the idea of a  button hole.  How to fasten the straps inside though?  I couldn't stitch the button hole slit closed like with the original bag when you sew over the straps along the seam line, on the inside. I could fold each end over to the side (inside), and stitch down, but then you would see that stitching on the outside.  I made buttonholes, and kept pondering if there was something better. 
After much thinking, I looked at my kids' cheapy cinch sacks, and some of them used loops sewn into the side seams, and the cords come through the loop and knotted below.  I've had to replace a few of these loops. Again, I had no seam to sew the ends of the loop through, and if I placed the loop on the outside with each side spread and sewn down (picture the breast cancer ribbon, put fold each leg out flat to the side), you'd see the ends of the loop and how to make that look finished?  I could put the loop through the buttonhole, and stitch down the ends...again, the stitching would show but maybe I could do it really close to the buttonhole.

I had to lengthen the buttonhole slits.  One side went fine, but on the other side, I couldn't get the buttonhole attachment to work properly because of the thickness of the water bottle pocket!!  If I had done the buttonholes before stitching the bag together, it would have worked fine.  Or if I had the pocket up just a bit higher.  At least I hadn't sewn both layers of the bag together yet!

I had found two scraps of the brown twill and sewed it into a tube, turned right side out, pressed with the seam in the middle and top stitched with a contrasting colour.  Mainly because I knew I was getting low on the brown thread and also because I just didn't feel like changing the thread in the machine.  After inserting the liner and stitching together, I added the straps.  Before closing the opening in the liner (which I had forget to leave when I stitched the liner together), I stitched the loops right along the buttonhole, and then "stitched in the ditch" of the side seams--by shear luck the strips were long enough to reach the side seams.  I also stitched the loop right next to the straps so that hopefully the knot never pulls through.

The liner was not problem-free either.  The pocket went fine.  I was slightly more prepared for the water bottle pocket.  I thought "this time I won't put it along the strip so I won't have a problem with the straps".  Duh, the straps don't go through the liner.  I opted to put one side in the side seam, the bottom along the bottom seam, and the other side I could stitch it first with the pocket laid out, RS to RS, next to where it was going to end up, stitch the seam, then flip the pocket over the seam and do the side and bottom with those seams.  Otherwise, if I had centered it, I could do that with only one side of it, so you just top stitch pockets down. But wait a minute....looking at the pictures, the inside water bottle holder is also on the strip.  I think I changed my mind about doing it that way because I couldn't get it straight, or the bottom was funny, or maybe I am so sleep deprived I actually made something else recently and I'm confusing two projects...Oh yes!  I am working on another bag!  Please ignore my rambling.

 I also used some plain white fabric to line the liner because the zig zag side was a little see through.  I lined one side of the liner and one side of the outer.  Not sure why.  Maybe something to do with the inside zippered pocket, or the fussing with the pockets.  When I put the inner and outer layers together though, it hadn't worked out like I had planned.  Either the two water bottle pockets would be on the same side, or both pieces of lining were going to end up on the same side.  I can't tell from my pictures what the end result was.  If I do this again, I think I will center the inside water bottle pocket, regardless if there's one on the outside.  That way, it'll always be balanced.

In the end, I really like this bag.  It's roomy but not huge.  Functional.  Totally unique.  I like the fabrics I used, and I like how I turned the fabric sideways for the water bottle pockets.  I chose the fabrics for the hat in the last post to co-ordinate without being too matchy and I love how it all looks together.  I'm not sure I'd do it with the side pieces again.  The twill is heavier and more durable than the cotton, maybe I could do "patchwork" and use twill for the bottom 1/3 of front and back pieces.  Oh, just thought...what if I had sewn on strap end into each of the seams at the bottom side?  Still, adding the side piece did add to the work and I don't know if the cost would be worth it.  It does make a nice place for a water bottle though.  
Every once in a while something good happens....like running out of bobbin thread right at the end of a seam!

I wish I had a picture of the hat and the backpack together!  Maybe I can get one from my sister-in-law.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Finally, it feels like we might have a summer.  If it stays just slightly warmer than it is now, I'll be happy.  Weather like this calls for a floppy sun hat!

 This was made for my niece's 10th birthday coming up.  She's very active, hiking and living in New Mexico, summer camp in Ontario.  A hat that travels well is perfect for her.  I chose this fabric because it was young but not childish and the colours work well with her blue eyes and with the other gift I made her that I'll blog about later.  It's two fat quarters from Wal-Mart!  I've never really looked at fat quarters, but I see how people get addicted to them!
 The inside of the hat is another fat quarter.  I'm not keen on green for the inside, I'm afraid it will reflect off the skin and make the wearer look odd.  But there's also pink in there.
 As soon as I laid out the first pattern piece on this fabric, I discovered a big issue.  The hearts were just slightly bigger than the pattern piece, and when you take into account the seam allowances, it would be hard to tell it 's a heart  :( I can "pattern match" at  the seams, right? 
 Well.  Apparently pattern matching works only for straight seams! 
 I did the best I could, trying to match up the top parts of the hearts.  I knew there would be no way I could match up piece six with piece one, so I didn't even try (below).  I had trouble sewing the pieces together--I had labelled each edge A/B, B/C, C/D, D/E, E/A.  Except....there are six pieces!!  I got that sorted out as best as I could.
 The sixth piece.  Well.  Due to the very large repeat, and the hearts being in rows of one row upright, one row upside down, I couldn't get the last piece to fit anywhere where it could match up with piece 5.  I couldn't even get it to fit somewhere so the heart would be at about the same level as the rest of the hat!  I decided to piece the last piece.  That took some trial and error, and the top of the section (below) worked better than the bottom corner (above).
 I was a little disappointed in how the top lined up.  It's not too noticeable with all the print, so I left it.
 The green gave me no troubles, in the cutting and sewing together.  Until it came time to sew the brim on.  The blue side went together pretty well, it was just off a little bit.  The green?
Ugh.  I eased it, I stretched it, I finally restitched the seam.  I was just too big.  The whole hat feels a bit smaller than mine.  I think what happened is that the green pieces were placed crosswise to what they should be.  There's no grain line on the pattern.  You'd think, small pieces, it's just a hat with cotton....it doesn't matter.  But one direction, the fabric has a bit of natural stretch.  And I guess I got it wrong!  Hopefully it still fits.  She has a big head, but much of that is hair, LOL!  I added a pink ribbon and the white slide lock from my hat.

I really like the pattern and the end result, though it really eats fabric for the brim!! I bought a meter of the stiff interfacing (maybe it should be woven interfacing instead of non-woven), and I'll be able to get only two hats (with some left over).  I wonder if I can cut the pattern piece in half, slightly overlapped, and do that.  I am going to take about 1/4" off the brim length (each side, so 1/2").  Three out of four brims have been too large, so I think it needs it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


Winter got to a late start, and really didn't make much of an appearance this year.  Spring has been even slower.  So much so that even on May 1 we were still wearing winter coats in the middle of the day!  I finished this hat a week or more ago, and haven't even had a chance to try it out until yesterday!

If you want to check out a picture of me in it, see either my facebook page or Instagram page.  And while you're there, maybe hit the "like" or "follow" button?

I got the pattern from Craftsy.  I don't remember if it was one of their emails or on Facebook.  The actual pattern can be found at http://blog.lorennabuck.com/p/patterns-and-tutorials.html.  The pattern is very good, though myself, and others on line did find the brim was a tad big when sewing onto the crown.  In my own case, it could be because there were no grain lines on the pieces, so I didn't pay much attention to that when laying out the pieces, and I might have had some stretching.

Also, I didn't have heavy fusible interfacing.  I figured I could use the sewn in stuff I had.  Then I had an idea to use the lightweight stuff on the other side of the brim, and for some odd reason thought I'd be able to iron it to the sewn in stuff.  Well, yeah, I could fuse them together...but then it still needs to be sewn in.  I had some fusible webbing but not enough to do the whole brim.  In retrospect, I could have used the light stuff on each brim piece.

I used a 50-50 poly/cotton sheet I had bought at Value Village a while ago.  For $5, it's a LOT of fabric and although not as heavy as what Lorenna recommends for one layer, it's still good choice.  The inside is a quilting cotton.  I chose it so the soft pink would reflect onto my face and make me look good :)

I read a blog after I finished mine, that suggested topstitching each time you sew top pieces together, rather than after.  I'll try that next time.

I was really impressed with myself, until time to sew the brim on.  The first time, it was much too big.  So I folded it in quarters and did that method, and the first three quarters worked well, but the last one was still giving me troubles.  I eased it in as best as I could.  And then topstitching.  I was going to do more rounds along the outer brim, but it was starting to wrinkle.  But I'm okay with it, for my FIRST sewn hat!!  The ribbon and the slider lock were in my sewing desk.  I keep all those little notions when taking apart wrecked backpacks!  It's been so nice making things entirely from my stash of fabric and supplies.  However....a certain young girl is having a birthday soon and that required a fabric shopping trip!!