Are you a new year resolution maker?
I'm not really, mainly because, like most people, I've discovered I'm not really very good at sticking to resolutions. There just seems to be something about a resolution that seems to be more of a challenge to defy rather than to achieve. Or maybe it's that I set the bar too high, given that the year starts in full on holiday mode, where it tends to stay for the next month. Makes it a little hard to stick to optimistic ideals.
What my little family does like to do is set ourselves environmental or eco challenges. These are all about changing patterns of consumption and hopefully changing our longterm habits. We've done things like no clothes buying, no using the car in town, not buying takeaways and buying minimal packaged food.
This year our focus is on reusing and recycling rather than purchasing. Thinking about what we have here that can be repurposed to meet any needs we have. How can we use the excess of things we have?
I've started the year thinking about old towels and what to do with them. We don't have a dog so they don't become dog towels and to be honest there are only so many rags you can actually use. (I have an extraordinary amount of old flat terry nappies already serving this purpose). But we do have a lot of old towels, some past their prime well and truly and others that are just that bit too cardboardish and stiff to do the job properly.
I thought I'd hit on a golden idea when I decided to cut them up into strips, refashioning my own yarn so to speak, and knit them up into big thick squishy bath mats. The idea seemed like pure genius at the time. Pure genuis. And bath mats is one thing we do actually need.
Unfortunately, I didn't factor in the fluff. All that fluff shedding. Not so great. I'm hoping that it will cease after a bit and it will indeed make it as a useful bath mat.
I knit this on my 25mm/US#50 needles in nice squishy garter stitch. I'm guessing it's going to take about four or five towels to make a good size bath mat.
Another use I've found for my old towels is as the padding in these trivets.
I made them with some scraps of fabric leftover from clothes making and simply randomly patchworked them together. One layer of towel was enough to create a good trivet or pot holder. I used some scraps of corduroy for the backing and quilted the three layers together, finishing them off with a bit of leftover bias binding.
There's some very old scraps in there, but I can also see some more recent ones; chevron from a pair of shorts for Toby, gingham and rabbits from a geranium dress for Lily, whales from PJ shorts for Andy and Toby, green floral from a Wiksten tank for me and green spots from a geranium dress for Sage. The mushrooms is from a mei tai baby carrier I made when Toby was little and some fabric from Lily's kyoto. I gifted two of these at Christmas but I do love how my kids will coordinate with the kitchen accessories and how they provide a wee bit of reminiscent fodder. I can see myself always making these from now on. No more store-bought pot holders for us!
I did experiment with two layers, which made a very thick pot holder. The downside was that it was a bit more difficult to quilt.
If you're keen to give something like this a try, there are some excellent instructions over at My Poppet
If you've got any bright ideas for using up old towels, I'd love to hear them.
What other household items do you recycle/make/repurpose? Give me all your hot tips, please!
My kids loves to throw me a costume challenge. They have this expectation and belief that I can simply knock something up for them in an afternoon, no matter what they ask for. And yes, there have been some doozies; my favourite possibly was the jellyfish dress up. Unfortunately, my compliance to their challenges has really only fostered their beliefs and encouraged them. Dress up requests have been thick and fast of late with school concerts, book day and dress up parties.
When Lily decided she wanted to dress up as Little Red RidingHood for her school concert, I knew the pattern I needed for her hood. This pattern was in an Ottobre Winter magazine quite a few years ago, and I've hoped for an excuse to make it ever since I first laid eyes on it.
The pattern itself is designed to be made out of a wool fabric and then finished with some binding. I do have some really lovely wool fabrics in my stash that would have served the purpose except that none of them are red. Pink, black, burgundy, a plethora of checks but no red. The most appropriate fabric I could find in my stash was a pinwale red cord, so I decided to use it and line the cape with a second fabric.
In a stash search I found this amazing vintage style Red RidingHood fabric, which would have been perfect for the lining except that I didn't have enough. This just meant that I had to get a little creative.
The first step was to line the cape with a cotton fabric. I used the Red Riding Hood fabric for the hood and also the sides of the cape that may be publicly open. I then used a vintage cotton for the rest of the cape.
This is a super simple pattern, with just the shoulder darts, the seam across the top of the hood and attaching the hood to the cape the main sewing tasks. Pretty simple.
I added a row of bias binding/ribbon across the bottom of the hood to create the ties and to stabilise between the hood and the cape.
To finish the hood I used bias binding. I made this from the same vintage fabric that I used to line the cape. I made five metres of bias binding all up and used about four of it on the cape. Do you make your own bias binding? It really is pretty simple and it means you get far lovelier binding than the boring options available in the shops.
This was a very simple sewing task, and a really enjoyable one. And Lily loves it, which is the most important part, it looks so perfect on her. She's worn it quite a bit since as it has become part of her staple clothing choices.
I think I might make this pattern again. I can see a yellow and pink checked cape in my future. Hmm, you know, I'd quite like to scale the pattern up to fit me!
What have you been crafting?
Do you seem to have a time of the year when everything entails a dress up?
P.S. Are you going to or thinking about going to The Craft Sessions?
That amazing weekend retreat of creative workshops and delicious food I'm teaching at. If you're still thinking about it, please make sure you register before October 10th. That's when registrations close and I'd hate for you to miss out! It's going to be an amazing weekend!
It's been a long time since I've done much sewing.. This is despite the fact that I have a dedicated sewing space out in our studio where my machines are permanently set up.
When I see it written down like that it seems sort of crazy that I haven't been sewing but I haven't. I'm not really sure why I haven't, I guess I'd sort of lost my sewing mojo, which is something I once upon a time thought would never happen. I suspect that's one of the issues when craft becomes your work, it's hard to balance the hobby stuff against the necessity stuff. It's hard to justify time sewing or weaving or even cross stitching when I have urgent knitting UFOs that need to be finished. I guess it's also sometimes hard to rekindle or even retain the love for something that used to be work.
Sometimes I think you just need to say, "Stuff it!" and follow your instincts. I've been doing this more and more lately. I've had a lot more weaving and cross stitch in my life and now this past couple of weeks I've been loving sewing again. So much so that I've been "stealing", yes stealing time when I should be working to actually sew! And it has been so wonderful.
I feel like I've found the love again.
One of the first things I decided to sew was this dress for Lily. This was something we could do together when she was home recovering from a bout of the flu, her first.
The pattern is Frida by Patty Young of Modkid Boutique. I bought this pattern, ooh, many years ago when Lily was much younger. I also bought the fabric to make the dress. I've sewn Patty's patterns before, my favourite being the Kyoko which Lily has worn so much. We love it because it's like a sewn version of my Oriental Lily pattern.
Unfortunately, because I did buy the pattern so long ago it is an older version. The new version goes up to a size 10 but my old version is only sized up to a size 7. Patty's sizing is much leaner than the Yarn Standards or even the ASTM sizing, which is something to be aware of if you're dabbling between crafts. Luckily, even though Lily is quite tall she is lean and the size 7 was going to fit with no problems.
The fabrics we ended up using for this dress were not the ones I'd bought. Lily chose all the fabrics, and with her typical colour flair she got it right. We didn't have enough of the bird fabric for the whole skirt but she didn't seem to think that was a problem. "Just use a different fabric for the back," she told me. I love sewing with her, her cavalier approach is refreshing!
The thing that I love about Patty's patterns are their readability and the focus on communicating effectively instructions. Everything is clear and accompanied by step by step visuals. I am a big believer in instructions that encourage the crafter rather than alienate them. If that means the pattern is longer or wordier or needs more white space to make it easier to follow, that to me, is a good thing.
We made the option with the elasticised capped sleeve, which were a bit fiddlier but I really like the result.
There were only a couple of things in the pattern that I would have changed in hindsight, but being the first time I'd sewn for so long I blindly followed the pattern. The pocket placement is the same for all sizes, I wish that I had lowered the pockets considerably. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the dress was finished that this became obvious to me, and by that time Lily was wearing it and I wasn't going to get it off her in any hurry.
The other thing was the finish of the bodice. Next time, I'd stitch the skirt to the bodice alone and then topstitch with the lining edging turned under and sitting over the seam to give it a neater finish, rather than sewing the skirt to the bodice and lining as per the pattern instruction.
One last issue that was more of an inconsistency was that there was no length specified for the side ties, even though you had the option of using ribbon for them instead of making your own ties. The pattern pieces included a length guide but it would have been so much easier to have a length specified in the pattern as well, as was the case for the elastic for the sleeves.
These of course, are very very minor things, and this is a terrific pattern overall. I'd have no hesitation in recommending it, the pattern is much easier than the result suggests. Patty's patterns are a bit like that, the finished piece is a bit of a WOW item, but this is a really simple sew.
It's good to be back sewing!
And Lily is very happy with her new dress.
How do you balance your crafting time? Particularly if one of your crafts is your work?
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Textile artist, knitwear designer and teacher.
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