Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wool coat to cape conversion experiment

For a long time, I have wanted a long wool cape; an older woman at church had one, and she always looked so dignified in it.

For fabric, I found a large and long wool coat at a rummage sale. I put it in my closet and kept my eye out for another coat in a compatible color, so I would have enough fabric.

But I didn't find one. After about two years, my mother-in-law gave us her old cheerleading cape to use for dress-up play. I looked at how it was put together, and thought that maybe there was enough fabric in the coat I had to make a similar cape. Maybe the reason I wasn't finding what I was looking for was because I didn't really need it.

Well, the coat did have enough fabric, just barely, for a "using every part of the pig but the squeal" sort of reconstruction. I took it almost completely apart, using a seam ripper, and laid out the pieces, and sewed here and pieced there, with many pauses to think about what step to take next. The center front and center back are nearly the same as in the original coat, but the rest took a lot of creative reworking. Capes are usually simple, structurally--only the shoulders need close fitting, and the rest of it drapes from there--but I had to work with the fabric that I had.

After several months, it is now all done but for some pressing:

The curves at the top edges of the hand holes were formerly the side front sleeve seams; I turned those pieces literally upside down.

The fabric left over:

Detail of the hook and loop, which are made of a scrap of thick copper wire, a penny that I experimented with annealing and hammering some time ago, and a piece of beaten wire that we picked up someplace for free:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Beginning knitting

Knitting has a very steep learning curve at the beginning, but once you master the basics, a wide vista of possibilities opens up before you.

From the Lazy Genius, who is still struggling up that learning curve, some hints for the beginning knitter. All her hints are spot on, although in the first one she means circular needles, which I personally have never mastered--I prefer to use one very long pair of straight needles (from dowels three feet long), or a larger number of shorter straight needles for wide projects.

Children around the age of six or seven can have good enough motor skills (and perseverance, which is vital) to learn to knit.  As my friend said, "The best way to learn to do a new craft is to read a book for teaching children how to do it," because a craft book targeted at children has to stick closely to the true essentials of the technique.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The small things and the not-so-small things

Another series of small wins:

I figured out how to re-attach the wreath hook on the front door (after it fell was only held up by double-sided tape!) in a more secure manner, using screws. So I don't have to buy a new one.

I altered a pair of jeans that was too big, by taking in the side seams. Hint:  try them on first, inside-out, and see how much needs to be taken off. Also:  watch out for the rivets while you are sewing!

I started some seeds, in folded newspaper pots. These pots are easy to make, but hard to keep folded without being stapled or filled with soil.

I've been keeping up with the mending.

I applied KonMari folding to the bed linen, and it looks much more organized.

I pushed through and made it over the peak of the hill for my Major Sewing Project; the rest of the work is downhill.

One thing I've been thinking about for a while is a small rug for the bedroom. I've been testing various ideas, and have settled on a granny-hexagon, to be crocheted from about $3 of dollar store twine (probably jute), for organic texture.

I also did a Nester-style "quieting the room" exercise in the bedroom--taking down all the decorations--to see what it needed. Most of the things went right back where they were, but it was good to have worked it all through again.

I scavenged some pine twigs from last year's Christmas tree, for a future project.

I found a nice pair of walking shoes at Goodwill for $7, although somewhat Providentially, because I passed them over at first and only took a quick second look as I was leaving. Shoe shopping usually makes me cry, because my size is very hard to find. These shoes are replacing a pair of shoes that were Providential when I found them (on vacation, after the soles of my hiking boots suddenly started melting into tar--don't ask me why--and I was left with only dress shoes while camping in the rain), they were even in my size, but they are really too narrow in the toe for me to wear long-term.

Plus one BIG WIN:

I figured out what I want being in my home to feel like...I knew before what I liked and what I didn't, but now I have one phrase that covers it all. And looking around, most of what we have already supports that theme. I've done a little tweaking since then, to bring it out a little more clearly.

A few years ago, I read a book about how to work your way toward a two-word Style Statement for your personal style; probably this book. My decorating theme isn't the same as the two words I came up with back then (which still fit me well enough), but
it fits within the broader style.

In Alexandra Stoddard's books, the idea of decorating a room to feel like being in a garden often comes up, but somehow that never seemed quite right for me...I'm not nearly as into gardens as she is. I had to find my own favorite thing, and now I have.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Organizing fabric, and more gardening plans

I used the KonMari method to organize my modest fabric stash. Aside from some larger pieces and some denim, it all fits in one drawer. The method has you fold each item into a neat rectangle, and then stand it up vertically. The genius of this approach is that it allows part of each item to always be visible, so there is no digging to find anything, and nothing gets lost and squashed at the bottom of the drawer. I find that this method is much easier to apply to sewing fabric, which is mostly square, than to clothing, which mostly isn't. Every item has its own sweet spot where it is folded enough, but not too much. And folded items take up less space, giving you breathing room: 

In the same way, I organized some children's clothing in sizes that we don't need at the is amazing to look into the drawer and see everything at a glance.

I am planning on reviewing the book at some point, but I need to re-read it first.

As for gardening, my husband found a source of food-grade five gallon buckets:  a local food business is selling their empty buckets for fifty cents each. He is amassing a collection of buckets for container gardening, using two nested buckets per container, with a space for a water reservoir between. Apparently the big challenge in container gardening is in keeping everything watered.

Some other sources of lower-cost plants, that I didn't mention in the last post:  cuttings and splits and seeds from other people's established gardens.

Friday, March 4, 2016

An actual crafts project, and garden thoughts

We have a fireplace, set in a wall of brick veneer. I like the brick, but it sucks up all the light at that end of the room...and the room is painted to match it, so all other walls suck up light too. There is no mantel. I've been thinking for a while about finding something light-giving and lightweight to hang over the fireplace, that doesn't involve drilling into the brick.

I used to own lots of craft books, but at the moment we only have one. In this book is a project that uses coarse sandpaper to transfer crayon designs to fabric in a sort of pointillist texture:  draw a reversed image on the sandpaper with crayon, place fabric and a press cloth over it, and iron on high.

For fabric, I recently picked up a lot of smaller pieces of white fabric at the church craft supplies giveaway. A couple of the children colored pieces of sandpaper, and I colored several more.

With ironing, some brands and colors of crayons transferred more thoroughly than others, and many were light to the point of being washed out; not necessarily a problem in such a dark room. I used string to hang the pieces of fabric across the brick, in a Soulemama sort of banner, from cup hooks that I set into the wood trim. I made it so that I can easily string up something different later.

In other news, we've been planning next season's gardening. Last year, we didn't know what perennials were going to come up in the flower beds, and we had almost no money to work with. We bought a few packets of vegetable seeds, did some indoor seed starting, and for the rest just planted old seeds from our stash (many of which didn't sprout). In a couple of places I "planted" by selective weeding: choose a couple of the friendlier types of weeds (purslane, for example) to keep, and pull up the rest. This year we have a better idea of where we are starting from, and can throw a very modest amount of money into plants and seeds and equipment. I have plans to build or buy myself a hoe. We have a couple of hoes, but I think I need one just like the one Grandma had. For flowers, I am heavily favoring perennials or self-seeding annuals, to minimize long-term seed costs.