More hand sewing

Well, another step in my hand sewing progress. I didn’t ever think I’d start hand piecing in a non English paper piecing way and yet…here I am.

I’m making up some 4-patches with scrap fabric!

I’m trying to figure out what parts of sewing projects I want to take with me on vacation. These four patches are going to go into my version of the Oh My Gosh quilt. I didn’t buy the pattern but as a math person at heart, I knew it would be fairly easy to deconstruct the pattern from pictures I’d seen. I’m using 1.5″ square scraps for these.


Progress report, week 21

I wanted to try to post a progress report every week but wow, time sure flies! I finish a progress post and hit publish on Monday and the next thing I know, it’s Monday again! Where did the week go? I’ve been working on projects but I feel like I just posted something!

Since the last progress report, I DID alter that dress! I think I’ll do a more detailed blog post about it but it’s done!

The fabric was very slippery and there was a lining to the bodice so I had to baste the bodice pieces together to be able to work with it easily. I took in the side bodice seams slightly and raised the waistline and the hem. I even wore it out and around this past weekend and it was great! I didn’t have to worry about the hem dragging on the ground. I didn’t feel dumpy and boxy wearing this oddly shaped dress on my body.

I also whipped up a quick project with some scraps. I pulled out all of my 1.5″ blue strips out and sewed them end to end. Then I cut up some fusible fleece to 1 inch strips and centered them on my blue strips and ironed them down. And then I made a fabric basket! The base has a diameter of about 7 inches and it’s actually a pretty good size!

I’ve also been chugging along on Penrose. It’s getting big enough and I think (I hope!) that I have enough fabric to square it out. I’ve already checked with the quilt shop that I purchased the fabric from. Because they’re batiks, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Eek!

As for Grassy Creek, I completed clue 5, the 9 patches and other random bits and have continued onto clue 6 which is the string pieced greys. The string pieced grey are all string pieced and I’m working on the white/neutral corners now.

Tray with clues 3-5

And just for kicks, I jumped ahead to the seventh and last clue and put a couple of blocks together. Looking pretty good!

Assembling my pieces

It’s looking pretty good! The blocks are enough pop of color to make me happy and I hope it remains so once I mix in the greys!

That’s it for this week! In the upcoming week, I hope to keep working through and completing clue 6 and can start June assembling the top. My ultimate goal is to make a trip to the quilt shop at the end of June/early July to get border fabric for both Grassy Creek and Penrose. Grassy Creek is do-able for completion. Penrose…I’m not sure but I’ll definitely need to just put in the time.

Progress report, week 19

I keep looking at my crafty to do list and wonder how it is that it never gets any shorter! It’s definitely motivating me to keep working on things! So what did I do this week?

I finished my gloves! Gloves are always fiddly because of the start and stop of fingers and all of the ends I need to weave in but at least the fingers knit up fast. Overall, this turned out really well and I’m very excited to wear them next winter. The yarn is warm and squishy. When knitting these gloves, I erred on the side of slightly longer on the hand and fingers because that bothers me less than if the hand and fingers are too short. Project details are as follows:

  • Pattern: Managing Your Flamingo
  • Yarn: Neighborhood Fiber Co Capital Luxury Sport (that yummy merino/cashmere/nylon blend)
  • Needle: US2 (2.75mm)
Finished gloves!

After the gloves, I started in on the project that scared me the most – dress alteration. But I started ripping out seams and basting up pieces! As of this writing, I have the side seams taken in. The bodice and lining are basted to each other for easier handling. I had basted the bodice to the skirt to try on and have come to the conclusion that I need to a good amount of fabric to shorten the skirt to the length I want. Before ripping out any seams, the skirt dragged on the ground. The fabric is probably some sort of rayon and very drapey so it’s annoying to handle. There is a lot of pinning and then hand basting parts into place. While I would prefer to cut the fabric after I had everything sewn together, it’s too difficult to work with if I don’t cut that it has to be done.

Bodice, all pinned and hand basted

The next couple of days, I’ll be finishing up this dress and then moving onto the next item on my to do list!

April round up and May goals

My goals for April were to:

  • DONE – Use the cotton lawn I had ordered to make 2 chemises using the pattern from Wearing History
  • DONE – Make a couple of pin cushions
  • DID THIS! – continue working on Penrose

Having the list of goals and WIP projects was handy because it helped me remember all the various projects I had going and kept me focused and be able to finish things.

After I finished those, I pulled out Grassy Creek because I couldn’t remember where I left off on that one. I had started it even though I knew I was moving and ended up packing it away while the clues were still coming out. I did aim to start at the first clue and aim to work through the clues in order so I knew that at least clues 1 and 2 were done and I was somewhere in the middle of clues 3 and 4. Another reason I decided to pull this out was because I was aiming to use scraps out of my fabrics so I had scraps of fabric sitting around that I wanted to put away. So clue 3 and 4 are now done!

My stack of clue 3/4 units for Grassy Creek

And then I started in on clue 5. There are three parts to this clue. First there were the scrappy 9 patches and I digged deep into my scraps. In trying to keep them as scrappy as possible, I had strips of fabric in piles all over the place and I couldn’t wait to get the piles sewn up and put away! Then there were the flying geese. I finished the flying geese units last night but they still need to be trimmed.

Grassy creek flying geese

As for May, I decided to go with three main goals, an ongoing project, and a reach goal based on how April’s goal setting went.

In April, I had started knitting a sock as a project I could take in the car that wasn’t too fiddly and I didn’t have to pay too much attention so I have a basic 2×2 rib sock. I just turned the heel on the first sock. At my normal knitting speed, if that’s the main project I work on, I can start and finish a pair of socks in about two weeks. Since this is in between projects, it’s a reach goal.

For my main goals, the first is to alter a dress for Me Made May. I had bought this maxi dress from Modcloth because I really loved the look of it. This was a couple of years ago, and I was 30 pounds heavier and even then, I knew that it was a little bit too big. The waist was fine since it’s a loose dress but for the bust, there’s no way to wear a bra and my chest was NOT big enough to fill it out. With how strappy it is, I would have to wear it either without a bra, or have my bra show.

Since the idea behind Me Made May is to challenge yourself with a sewing project to improve your relationship with your sewing, I thought this was a good project. So far, the only clothing alteration I’ve done to any article of clothing was to shorten pants which is pretty simple. This is definitely a more challenging project and I’m a little nervous. I have to pretty much deconstruct an article of clothing, make it fit me, and then put it back together again.

Dress before alteration

So here we are, the dress in its before state. Since I bought it, I’ve lost 30 pounds and my chest has shrunk another inch. What I want to do with this dress is:

  • Take in the bust so it actually fits me and add bra cups so I can go bra-less in the dress. I think I’m going to have to rip this out from the elastic waist up and take in both on the side seams and on the existing bust darts.
  • Shorten the straps? I’m not sure if I’ll need to do this if I’ve taken in the bust.
  • Re-attach the waist elastic so it fits
  • Figure out if I can shorten the dress without destroying that bottom hem pattern which is also pretty awesome. Maybe I shorten it at the waistline when I’m re-attaching? I love the look of a maxi dress but I hate having a hem that drags on the ground. Aside from stepping on it, it would ruin that hem so much faster

My next goal is to finish knitting my gloves. One is completely done and the ends are woven in. The second glove is about half done. I can definitely finish this if I give it some attention this month and it will be ready for winter!

Grassy Creek – just keep chugging. Clue 5 deals with some scraps and to finish this up, I need to trim down my flying geese and then I need to cut a bunch of red pieces. The one thing that will prevent me from finishing this clue would be if I run out of red scraps. Clue 6 is….string piecing greys. I may also run out of grey fabric since I already had to buy a fat quarter bundle to do clue 4 and these flying geese.

As before, Penrose is my ongoing and I’m debating having a “hexie day” where my main project is to turn some scrap fabric into basted hexies.

Hmm, one thing I forgot to add to my list of WIPs is an experimental Cathedral Windows pattern piece that will turn into a pillow cover. That will chug through a lot of neutral fabric (I buy Kauffman’s Kona Cotton in Snow by the bolt) and would make for a nice travel/car sewing project.

So that’s it for now! I’ll try to post progress reports every week and see how it goes!

Progress report, week 16

That is, it’s week 16 of the year 2021.

In keeping myself accountable for working through materials and projects, here’s what I did last week.


I had about 5 yards of cotton lawn that I wanted to make up into some 1910 style chemises. I hadn’t set up my sewing machine yet so I decided to hand stitch both of them. Sure, it goes MUCH faster on a sewing machine but I figured that even at my beginner hand stitching pace, it would only take me an hour or two for a long seam.

A finished chemise

As you can see, the cotton lawn is pretty transparent, and so I put it on the dress form. I’ve been wearing this as a night dress since I don’t have another occasion to wear this right now. In the future, I may add some lace to the neck line so that I can thread a ribbon through it so it doesn’t hang open like that, but that would be the only adjustment to both of them. I also added a tag to the back. I hand stitched down the seams so it is incredibly difficult to tell front from back and inside from out so the tag helps!

Clothing tag

Pin cushions!

I found myself with a greater need for a functional pin cushion as I started to sew again. In the process of moving, I threw out a couple of pin cushions that had served their purpose and I knew I wanted to make a pin cushion out of a tea cup that is part of a set that belonged to my mother. Once I finished the chemises, it was onto the pin cushions.

If you search for how to make a pin cushion, you’ll find that there are a couple of different sets of instructions. One version is more for a pillow type pin cushion. You sew around three edges of a rectangle and part of a fourth. Then you turn it right side out, stuff it until you can’t stuff it anymore and then sew the seam closed. I started out with this method, but for a round pin cushion. The could also double as leg-less tuffets for a dollhouse.

The blue one fit just fine into the votive candle holder, but the white one was too big to fit into the tea cup. If I had made the top and bottom circles a little smaller, and adjusted the side piece accordingly, it probably would have fit. At this size, the stuffing expanded it out so much it just didn’t fit.

So I made another pin cushion. I used the other pin cushion method since it was getting late and I didn’t feel like fiddling with sewing small seams on small circles. This is the method that involves cinching a piece of fabric closed around a bunch of stuff. This video from the Missouri Star Quilt Company can better describe the process. Once I had my pin cushion ball cinched up, I trimmed off the fabric ends and then I actually traced a circle of fabric to cover up the mess:

Finishing the bottom of the pin cushion

No one will ever see this but I will know! Also, I find that this makes the bottom much cleaner so that I can better glue it to the tea cup. At this point, the pin cushions are essentially done. All that is left is to find the glue gun so I can glue them all into their respective containers. I know I packed the glue gun but I don’t remember where I packed it.

Other WIPs

There was the glove. I finished the glove for the right hand and cast on for the left. It’s too warm now for gloves but I’ll be ready for next winter!

Right glove

I took my old chemise that I had made out of quilting cotton (comfortable but weightier than it should be) and cut out the bodice for the By Hand London Anna dress. I really wanted it to fit well based on all of the pictures I saw so I wanted to take the time to get the fit just right. Anyways, I need to find some matching thread and an invisible zipper and my first non essential trip out after the second vaccine will probably be to JoAnn’s to do this. It also gives me the time to play around with the duvet cover to make sure it won’t drape awkwardly.

Mock up for Anna dress

I pulled out Grassy Creek. This was the 2020 Mystery Quilt from Bonnie Hunter. I love her scrappy designs and decided to follow along this year. In early January, about 4 clues in, I had a move date and so I packed up what I had and set it all aside. I saved the remaining clues as they came out, knowing I would pick it all back up at some later time. I had already finished clues 1 and 2 before the move. This is my tray of clue 3 pieces.

Grassy Creek, clue 3

Finally, there’s Penrose (no picture). This has been a long term English paper pieced project. I finally found the bag of paper templates I was working with before the move so I don’t have to cut out more templates! I think my goal for this one is to have the quilt top done by this fall so I can sandwich it up and snuggle underneath in the evenings while I hand quilt.

That’s it for this update. This week, more Grassy Creek, more Penrose!

April Goals

For many years, I’ve always had many many projects going at once. Don’t get me wrong, I still do! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to focus on one or two projects though start-itis still rears its head periodically. Still, making a list of all of the WIPs can be a little overwhelming!

This month, I’m trying something new. I am making three project goals. The first goal is a larger project that I can work on and hopefully finish or do a large percentage of. The second goal is a small project that should only take a couple of days to do. The third goal is to make sure I work on one of my long term projects. This might change each month as I figure out what works for me but I hope this will keep me more focused in completing things instead of letting them languish!

My Project List for April

Sure, the month is half over but I started this list after the month began! And as of the time of this post, I’ve finished the two chemises, even without a sewing machine! After that, I ended up making the pin cushions that I wanted to do!

What I’ve learned from this month of craft goal setting is that depending on the goals, I may want to add in “Reach goals”. Some things like starting a quilt top from scratch may take more than a month. Something like pin cushions may only take an evening and I may end up with extra time after I’ve accomplished my goals. Having reach goals would help me to prioritize various works in progress and projects that I have materials for and are ready to get started on and to clear through it all.

An appreciation for hand sewing

The last few months have been hectic. I’ve packed up and moved and unpacked and dealt with all sorts of issues in the new house. In early January, I packed up my projects and sewing machines and they’re still mostly still packed. I’ve unpacked my containers of scraps and the Penrose quilt but for the machines are still sitting in their cases.

Some time last month, I was really itching to sew on something and pulled out Penrose to work on. Penrose is an English paper piecing project due to all its sharp corners and it was incredibly soothing…once I cut out more template pieces and could continue on sewing.

Last week, I decided to work on a slightly different project. I had bought some cotton lawn to make a couple of chemises. I still didn’t have my sewing machine set up but I decided that I would go ahead and hand stitch it all together. There was nothing super complicated about the construction since I’d already made one from some quilting cotton. I’ve never hand sewn a garment before so I thought that this would be a good practice. I plan on wearing these to bed as pajamas and if needed, under a more see through dress so no one is really looking at my hand stitching.

Sure stitching by hand is slower than by machine. A side seam that I could pin and sew on a machine in 5 minutes would take a couple of hours by hand. But you know, I’ve been slowing down and enjoying the process! It’s not taking me days to sew up a seam and in the end, I will know the work and effort that went into it. Once the seams are sewn up, I’m also sewing them down by hand.

I find the hand stitching to be incredibly soothing, especially finishing off the raw edges. There is something very relaxing about bringing the order of a finished edge to the chaos of the raw, fraying seam that goes into my enjoyment of the process.

There’s still a lot of little things to do around the house as we settle in but taking the time to slowly sew up an article of clothing and turn raw materials into a finished item has been great to help me relax and step away from all of the chores!

Crumbs and Scraps

I recently started in on some crumb blocks. There is something soothing about taking the bits of leftover fabric and making something out of it. Order out of chaos.

Last week with the US elections, I think we all needed to find a safe calm mental space. For me, that was sitting there and sewing together crumb blocks.

Little pieces sewn together. Those pieces sewn together.

When one of the local G Street Fabric locations was closing down, I bought a lot of zippers. I have a lot of 7 inch zippers. So I started turning these crumb blocks into a basic zipper pouch. Even the lining is from fabric scraps, though I didn’t piece that. After a while, the seams become bulky.

It’s been a fun little project!

Seeing the forest for the trees

Last month, I finally finished the Esmeralda Quilt! Looking through the pictures on my phone, I saw that I was working on this two years ago. Two!

I loved how the pattern of the pieces implies circles and yet, there’s only straight lines involved, no actual curves. I got my layer cakes and got started. As I worked along, I started to lose motivation.

First, as I was squaring the edges, I found that the pieces making up some of the edges were not even. If it was a smidge off, that’s fine. But there were a couple of blocks where there was more than a quarter inch difference. A quarter inch being my seam allowance, that meant I either had to keep trimming all the blocks down further or I couldn’t use that block. I ended up discarding that block. Thankfully, there were only a couple of blocks I had this happen on and I had extra fabric to make additional blocks.

Second, as I started sewing the blocks together into my first row, the corners were not quite matching up. I’ve mostly worked through my perfectionist tendencies but this bothered me. Can you see where the corners don’t quite match up in the picture?

Third, I was planning on doing a piano keys border and the thought of that, well, let’s say that I wasn’t looking forward to it.

And it could have been that I had been staring at this quilt for too long. Or it could have been all of the frustrations, but while I loved the fabric collection when I saw the layer cake, I was starting to dislike the fabric choice.

And so, the blocks all ended up in a bin until this year. Quarantine happened and I was going through my fabric stash and decided that regardless of my feelings about this quilt, I would ignore the imperfections of the blocks and start putting it together. I still wasn’t looking forward to the piano keys border. As the blocks turned into rows, magic happened! The little nit picky things like corners very obviously not matching became harder to see. I also decided against the piano keys. Instead, I was just going to sew some extra strips together, end to end to do a scrappy border.

The more the quilt top came together, the more I started to love this quilt. Even the colors were coming together! The actual quilting design was a big spiral and it went pretty quickly. I barely had enough fabric for the border. Confession time, because this project had been on pause, I was pretty sure I had bought fabric for the border but I couldn’t quite remember until I found it.

I love the finished quilt. It all really came together and I think I made the perfect choice on the border color. This is definitely one where I had to stop focusing on each piece of fabric and take a step back to see the whole picture, or quilt as it is.