Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Facings & Yokes, Facings & Yokes, I've Got to Get Me Some Facings & Yokes

Whenever there is a design that is highly successful 
in a broad range of similar environments, 
it is apt to emerge again and again, independently - 
the phenomenon known in biology as convergent evolution.  
I call these designs 'good tricks.'
~ Daniel Dennett

Ah, blissful hours of sewing!  :)

These casual men's shirt patterns are pretty straightforward, but I thought I'd show you two 'good tricks' from my sewing yesterday.  

First, a trick that I learned from a blogging friend, for the facings.  The instructions say to iron on the interfacing and then finish the outer edges of the front facings:  

Instead, I place the un-sticky side of the interfacing on the right side of the fabric and stitch along the edge that is supposed to be finished.  

Then I flip it over along that (finished!) seam:  

Finally, iron on the interfacing - voila!  A very nicely finished outside edge!  :)

Next up, this Kwik Sew pattern showed me a nice way to deal with the yokes at the shoulder seams.  Usually I am directed to attach the front pieces of the shirt to the inside yoke, fold and press 5/8th inch strips on the outside yoke and then attach it to the front pieces of the shirt by top stitching.  

Truthfully, my level of precision doesn't always make this look as nice as I would like...  

But this pattern had me attach the front pieces of the shirt to BOTH yokes at the same time, by temporarily tucking the rest of the shirt inside - the way you'd make something that was reversible.  Here is a shot of the instructions:  

And here is a photo where I have the two yokes pinned to the front right side of the shirt:  

It's probably hard to make out exactly what is going on, but you definitely get the idea that the shirt is all tucked and folded away quite strangely...  And once you sew that shoulder seam and straighten the shirt out, it looks great!  

This is a simple idea that should work with any yoke - I'm going to use it all the time in the future, regardless of whether or not the pattern calls for it.  I like it a lot better than the way I am usually directed to attach yokes.  

If you can't make sense out of my explanation, just let me know and I'll try to do a more thorough photo essay.  

Well, enjoy your last day of 2013!  Tomorrow will be a New Year and my 300th post.  Two things to celebrate - with one possibly being a bit more momentous than the other...  ;)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Goldilocks and the Three Shirts

The first bowl of chocolate pudding was too hot, 
but Goldilocks ate it all anyways because, 
hey, it's chocolate pudding, right?  
~ Mo Willems,
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

My husband and I have been having an (unusual for us) disagreement about one of my regular sewing projects.  For years I've been making him Hawaiian shirts with this pattern:    

It is about the simplest pattern possible for men's shirts - a one piece collar, no back yoke, built-in facing, symmetrical sleeves, etc.  At first, it was "just right" for my beginner sewing skills.  But now, I'm finding it a little embarrassing to make him something that is "too simple."  

So, for the most recent shirt I sewed for him, I used this pattern:  

It has "the works" in a man's shirt - two piece collar, yoke, etc.  I loved it!  

But, for my husband, it was "too fancy" - it didn't feel like his comfy favorite shirts...  

So, now - in the three days I have before I have to go back to work - I'm going to try this pattern:  

It has a one piece collar (for him) and a yoke in the back (for me).  

Let's hope that we both can agree that it is "just right."  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

From Mine To Yours...

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents
as opening our hearts.  
~ Janice Maeditere

Wishing you and yours a time of happiness, laughter, love and giving...  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ready to Wrap!

May no gift be too small to give,
nor too simple to receive,
which is wrapped in thoughtfulness
and tied with love.  
~ L.O. Baird

The knots are tired.

The rugs have been washed.  

The second set came out better than the first - look how this one has pleasing proportions and is (almost) rectangular:  ;)

Here is the mushroom cloud of my second batch of rag rugs:  

And some close-ups:

Bottom center:   

Upper right:  

Upper left:  

All that is left to do is to wrap them.  Thank goodness Pepper stands (okay, sits) by, eager to help!  ;)

I hope you had a wonderful sewing weekend and are feeling ready for Christmas!  :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013


A friend is someone who knows all about you
and still loves you.
~ Elbert Hubbard

By the time I'm done with this year's Christmas gifts, 11 handwoven rag rugs, I figure I will have put in somewhere around 50 hours - between 4 and 5 hours per rug.  

And it's not like I saved money by hand making gifts - the recycled t-shirt yarn ran about $20 per rug and the cotton warp thread adds another $10 or so per rug...  

So, why do I do things like this?  

Well, when I ride in a friend's car, I see the Not Ugly Car Trash Bag that I made as Christmas gifts in 2012: 

And when we have a potluck meal at work, I see half a dozen of the insulted casserole totes (but NONE of the insulated wine totes!  What's up with that?) that I made as Christmas gifts in 2011:  

When I visit a friend's house, I see, draped in the kitchen sink, the handwoven dish towels that I made "for" Christmas in 2009 (although I didn't actually get them finished and given out until mid 2010):

I haven't actually seen anyone wearing his or her bathrobe, Christmas gifts from I can't remember when - but that one is okay by me!  ;)

So, why do I do it?  Because I am lucky to have friends who value my handmade gifts - despite the irregularities and imperfections - friends who see the love and time that went into each gift.  

I am lucky to have such special people in my life.  :)

And that's why do I do it.  :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tying the Knot(s)

Often when we think we are knotting one thread,
we are tying quite another.
~ Victor Hugo

Do you know what this is a picture of?  

240 strings x 2 ends of each rug x 6 rugs = 2,880 strings to be tied into groups of 4


720 knots needing to be tied...  

This was NOT covered in Weaving 101...  ;)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's Called "Leveraging"

I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes.  
~ Jimi Hendrix

One of the things that I did not love about the first batch of rugs was that some of the rugs looked out of proportion - too long for their width.  So, I did a bunch of measuring and staring at the rugs with squinty eyes and decided that 3, 12 inch stripes (for a total length of 36 inches) was a good look.  ;)

Rather than having to keep pulling out my tape measure, I "leveraged" an idea from the Crafsty class.  I cut a 12-inch piece of left-over grosgrain ribbon and pinned that to the first row of each new stripe that I started to weave.  

The teacher in the class actually used a roll of paper like you'd put in a cash register or adding machine - but she had a complicated pattern with lots of different lengths to mark out.  I was just using one length over and over again.

Plus, I didn't have a roll of paper on hand.  ;)

When my stripe was the length of the ribbon, I knew it was time to change colors.  :)

It worked like a charm!  

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Details...

God in in the details.
~ Anonymous

I had major face-to-face, one-on-one time with my loom over the weekend!  

Here are some "highlights" from Saturday:  

Image #1:  Do you see that single "slot" (called "dents" in the weaving world) that is empty?

Do you know what that indicates?

It indicates that someone is about to have to re-do a lot of work...


Image #2: This is a step that always leaves me feeling uncertain - as you tie the bunches (called "bouts" in the weaving world) onto the front beam, you are supposed to pat them down (similar to feeling them up, but slightly less creepy) and make sure that they all are being held under the same amount of tension...  

Yeah, right...  Like I can really tell if one bout is slightly tighter than another...  


Image #3: Do you see the crossed threads marked by the red circle?

Do you know what that indicates?

It indicates that someone is about to have to re-do a lot of work...


While there were some challenges to the day, I got the loom ready to go and even started weaving!  I'll show you more pictures tomorrow.  :)

I hope everyone had a wonderful sewing weekend!  :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Second Time Around

Pinch me...
I want to make sure this isn't some wonderful reality.  
~ Bauvard

So, I FINALLY finished my overdue report for work and have started preparing my loom for the next set of rag rugs!  

This is now my second time following the process explained in my Etsy class and, I am happy to say that, so far at least, it is going better than the first time.

Here I have done a "rough sley" - where I divide my 240 lengths of thread into groups of approximately equal size and spread them out along approximately the width of the final rugs:

Here I've pulled the rod to the back of the loom, in preparation for the two-person job of wrapping the back beam:

Notice the relatively untangled lengths of yarn.  :)

Finally, a shot taken in the middle of the process of wrapping the back beam - notice my helper back there, smiling at me.  ;)

I'm holding the 10 yard lengths of 240 yarns in my hands (in two groups) - keeping them under tension - as he turns a crank that wraps them onto that back beam.  Again - notice how the threads are all relatively untangled and actually behaving relatively well!  I am so happy!  :)

I also studied the first set of rugs and identified some things I am going to do differently this time.  The main thing is that I didn't have any fixed length for the rugs - I just used all of the recycled t-shirt yarn of each color - however long (or short) that made each rug.  

Well, when I looked at the rugs I realized that the lengths were not all attractive.  The width to length proportions were odd on some of them.  :(

So, this time I am going to make each stripe 12 inches long - so that each rug is 36 inches long - even if that doesn't use up all of the t-shirt yarn.  That proportion looked pretty good.  :)

I should be able to finish preparing the loom this weekend - hopefully I'll even be able to start weaving!  The weaving itself goes fast!  This year may be a first - I may actually finish my Christmas gifts BEFORE Christmas!  Pinch me!  ;)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Hope is much like a cat in the Dark - 
you only know it's there by the reflection in its eyes - 
which means there is Light nearby.
~ Terri Guillemets

This may not seem like a very special picture - but this little buddy has barely been eating for almost a month...

It all started when he ate a bunch of my wooly nylon thread.  Turns out, wooly nylon and a kitten's digestive system are not a good combination.  :(

Several trips to the vets later, lots of expensive tests, some exploratory surgery, and tons of medicine (antibiotics, anti-nausea, appetite stimulant, etc.) - and no progress - he had lost about one third of his body weight.  We were really worried!  :(

Then, last Friday, the vet added prednisilone to his medicine regimen and, within 24 hours, he was eating again!  We still stop and marvel every time he walks over to one of his food bowls and eats...  

Our baby, Popeye - we'd be lost without him.  I promise to never tease him again about his potbelly - if he will just get it back again!  ;)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different...

"You have no fortune."  
I didn't need a cookie to tell me that.  
~ Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City)

You know that game where you "spice up" your fortune from a Chinese fortune cookie by adding the tag line "...in bed." to the end?  

One day at a work lunch, I got the fortune, "You are about to experience something exciting and wonderful!" and as soon as I was back in the office, I emailed my fortune to my husband.  

Within minutes I heard back from him:  "What a coincidence!  I ate Chinese for lunch too.  My fortune read, 'You are about to undertake a dangerous mission.' "  

How I love that man!  ;)

Anyways, it recently occurred to me that the tag line "...in bed." doesn't just spice up fortune-cookie fortunes - it also adds a bit of pizzazz to a lot of popular advertising slogans...  

Here are just a few of the ones that I have thought of:  


And now, for my favorite one...

What ones can you think of?  

PS - and now you know what I do at midnight, when I'm supposed to be finishing a report for work, but I'm totally brain dead...  ;)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lots of Work & A Small Celebration

With mirth and laughter
let old wrinkles come.  
~ William Shakespeare

Sorry I haven't been posting - last week was insane - I was working a convention all day long every day and then trying to finish up a work project in the evenings...  :(

The work project extended into my weekend and ate up the majority of my non-chore related time.  :(

We did squeeze in one fun event.  On Saturday evening we took our friends to a fondue restaurant to celebrate the mom's birthday.  

They had never tried fondue before, and, as you can see from the state of the cheese pot below...  

...it was a big hit!  :)

Posting might continue to be sporadic this week - although I'll try to get up at least one gratuitous kitten photo - but I am alive and (weakly) kicking...  ;)

I hope you all had wonderful sewing weekends and are ready for the start of a new week!  :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An Exposition

The best ideas come as jokes.  
Make your thinking as funny as possible.
~ David Ogilvy

All this week at work, I'm "manning" (or wo-manning) a booth at an Exposition on military simulation and training devices.  

If I set up a small display stand next to my exhibit and stock it with some "How Much Fabric?" Reference card sets, do you think I'll pick up any sales?   ;)

I hope everyone is having a good week and that your feet don't hurt as much as mine do right now!  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Size does matter.
~ Godzilla (1998)

The Christmas village is helpless in the face of...  


Thanks to my husband for the photo.  :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happiness X 2

Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  
~ G. K. Chesterton

Every year, this class brings amazing people into my life.

For this, I am truly thankful.  :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It is never right to play ragtime fast.
~ Scott Joplin

Well, here are the first set of rag rugs - I have to admit that I'm not ecstatic with how they came out.  The width of each rug still wanders (wider for a little bit, then narrower for a little bit...)  And I just wove the full amount of recycled t-shirt yarn that I had of each color - so some rugs are a little bit longer than seems appropriate and pleasing to me...  

I started with my rug - here it is:  

I didn't take a picture of it spread out, but you can tell that it isn't a nice consistent width from one end to the other...  :(

Here is one with three stripes of pink:  

A red, white and black rug:  

Navy blue, light blue and beige:  

The last one on the loom - green, blue and brown:  

The only slightly positive thing I can say is that I do think my weaving improved the more rugs I made - this last one is the straightest yet (and I like the length):  

So, hopefully I'll keep getting better and the last seven will be even better...  And hopefully the recipients of the first four rugs will remember that it's the thought that counts and think of these rugs as special in a unique, quirky way...  ;)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Holiday Frenzy

As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, 
compounded by December's bad weather, 
it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives 
who are worth this aggravation, 
and people to whom we are worth the same.  
~ Donald E. Westlake

No fun sewing or weaving for me over the weekend - I was knee-deep in php and html code, thankful that there wasn't a 2-year-old around, learning a whole lot of new "vocabulary"...  ;)

So, backing up a bit, I haven't been doing a good job of marketing The Original "How Much Fabric?" Reference Cards, but I was motivated by the looming holiday season to set up a couple of give-aways and offer our first ever discount.  But PayPal doesn't provide any easy way to offer a discount code - you know, because who would ever want to do anything like that, right?  It's so rare...  

Hence, the struggle with code...  I can report that I emerged bloodied, but semi-victorious!  ;)

You can find our first give-away at Tasia's website, Sewaholic (here).  We are offering two sets of cards - one to a US winner and one to an International winner.  

We are also part of a larger Thanksgiving give-away on Pattern Review (here) - you definitely want to check that one out because there will be 12 give-aways in total!  

Finally, in conjunction with these give-aways and the upcoming holidays, we are offering a discount on all of our card sets - this, in the face of strong opposition from PayPal!  Yes, just enter the code HOLLY (each time you add a set to your shopping cart - sorry, this is where the "semi" in "semi-victorious" comes in.  I could not find a work-around for that limitation) and you'll receive 15% off (here)!  

The card sets make the perfect small gift or stocking stuffer for your sewing friends - not to mention a really nice little treat for yourself!  And they pay for themselves quickly - because you don't overspend on fabric...  ;)

Okay, the promotion is over.  Now, back to your regularly scheduled content...  ;)

Tonight is our last ESL class of the semester and so I hope to have a picture or two for you tomorrow... 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Color Selections - Part 3

My two favorite colors of the rainbow are gold and leprechaun.  
~ Jarod Kintz

The last batch of color selections that I'm going to show you:  

Row #1 - ivory, apricot and light green
Row #2 - blue, grey and yellow
Row #3 - red, light yellow and dark brown

Now you've seen them all but two - one set I accidentally wove into a rug before I took a picture and the other isn't complete yet.  One person had her heart set on a particular color combination and only got two of the colors she wanted on color market day - so she is ordering the third color herself and it hasn't come in yet.  

Aren't all the combinations interesting?  I think they really show how diverse tastes can be...   

The color sets are different, but each person had the same look of satisfaction on her (or his) face when contemplating her (or his) set of colors.  :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Photo

The reason cats climb is so that they can 
look down on almost every other animal - 
it's also the reason they hate birds.  
~ K. C. Buffington

Recently, Sophie has taken to heights...

It's making us "jumpy" too - worrying about how she's going to get down...  

Isn't it funny how much we worry about the most self-sufficient of all animals?  ;)