Sunday, July 14, 2019

Playmobil Gender Issues

I'm a big fan of podcasts, and my favorite sewing podcast is Sewing Out Loud by Zede and Mallory Donahue.  They are a mother and daughter team with two lifetimes of sewing experience.  And they are very funny, one of my personal prerequisites for a podcast.

There is also a Facebook group, The Self Sewn Wardrobe, run by Mallory.  She stresses that this group is for EVERYONE.  And if you don't play nice, there is no whining and moaning by Mallory--she will just toss your worthless self out of the group pronto.  I really, really like this.  Cussing is absolutely allowed but criticism of anyone's body or lifestyle is absolutely not.  And the group is very helpful to any sewing person dealing with any kind of fitting issues, including those of body parts not appropriate to one's gender identity.  Have I been both appropriately specific yet vague in my vocabulary?  In the group one may be as explicit as one wants or needs to be.  It's been a real learning experience for me.

All this is background for my latest experience of being just-so-hilarious-I can-hardly stand myself.  But first, one more bit of background data.  My BFF is a real, honest-to-goodness professional archaeologist.

Now on to the story:
I was excited to find a Playmobil sewing set and I quickly ordered it.

Playmobil set 9437, Fashion Designer

The set was supposed to include a dolly, her dress form, and various sewing tools.

The red things represent tools that can be clipped into the dolly's hand.  These were missing from my set.  But I didn't care one little bit because what I got instead was an extra dolly.

So, here we have the dressmaker and her client!  Fantastic!  (The decals in the back are decorations you can add to the garments.)

Not long after buying the Playmobil sewing set I saw a Playmobil archaeologist.  Had to have that too.

Playmobil set 9359.  Archeologist (not the way I usually spell it though)

Just one problem with the archaeologist though.  He is very definitely male.  And Playmobil did not offer a female version.  As I was thinking about being bothered by this I realized that I had not given one tiny thought to the fact that the only option for the sewing set was female.  Get with the 21st century Playmobil!  (and me too!)

Archaeology is a dirty messy business! 

Can you see where this is going?  Mwahahahah....  YouTube was my next stop....

Where I discovered that Playmobil people CAN be dis-assembled.  Apparently this is quite a big thing, with people customizing the heck out of them and selling them online.  So I had to give it a try.

Voila!  A female archaeologist!  I packed her back in the original box with all the archaeologist's tools and goodies and sent her off to my friend, who was appropriately amused.

And the other dolly became a guy in a dress.  What is his story?  Lots of possibilities, but

I think he's an entertainer, a drag queen, and he is visiting the dressmaker for a fitting.  He didn't bother to shave because he's not appearing in public, just having a private visit.  Which is also why I am calling him "he", because he is not really in his female persona at the moment.

Gender vocabulary has changed as our society has opened up.  I'm doing my best to keep up!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Spartan does Steampunk Viking

Never heard of Steampunk Viking?  That's because I made it up.

About ten years ago I bought a large piece of leather for $5 at a thrift store.  SIL Mary says I shouldn't bother to say "I bought it at a thrift store" because I buy almost EVERYTHING at thrift stores.  She says it would be more efficient to only mention it when I buy something that is NOT from a thrift store.

Anyhow, this item was obviously once the cover for a large ottoman.  It had interesting seams and variations in color and was not noticeably worn.  Unfortunately that particular thrift store had a very moldy smell and when I got the leather home I realized that it smelled moldy also.

So I washed it.  In the washing machine.  With hot water.  And detergent and BLEACH.  Because mold is horrible and only $5 was at risk.  And it came out just fine.  I dried it on the line rather than in the dryer though, on the don't-push-your-luck-any-more-than-you-have-to principle.

Then I shoved it in a drawer and it took up one whole drawer of a lateral file cabinet.  And pondered what to do with it.  About 5 years ago I decided that it would make an awesome heavy duty apron.  About 2 years ago I decided that it needed to be a Viking themed apron.  Because Lagertha of the TV series Vikings is my role model.  Except for all the bloodshed and killing, of course.

And this year was the year I finally got that leather out to work on it.

Once I had opened up the corner seams so that it would lie flat I discovered that I could get at least two aprons out of it.  Nice, because I have two daughters.  I only had vague notions of how to Viking it up but I cut the aprons out.

Once of the categories of things I hoard is metal belts.  I pay less than $2 for them (from guess where) and I have accumulated a lot of them over the decades.  By "metal belts" I mean the kind one wears around one's waist, not anything industrial.  Chains, interesting metal shapes, hearts, butterflies, in gold, silver, and bronze colors.  I thought they would be interesting on the aprons.  Because I just never find chain mail in the places where I shop.

So I got the two aprons cut out without any clear idea of where I was going next with this project.  One of the things I do while having insomnia (a nightly occurrence) is plan the sequence of events for sewing or craft projects.  This time there was a sudden flash when all of the pieces fell into place all at once.  I love it when this happens.

And this was my revelation:  Leather loops at the top or neck edge and waist edges.  Split rings in the loops.  Lobster claw clasps threaded on to the split rings.  THREE lobsters per ring.  One is for the neck strap and waist ties.  The other two can hold the decorative chains.  Pockets and other decorations attached to the chains.  All of this in a blinding flash of less than a second, I kid you not.  So much for absorbing lots of insomnia time.

To sew leather you need the right tools and the right attitude.  The tools:  a roller foot, a leather needle, and some heavy duty thread.  The roller foot is cheap, at least for low shank machines.  There's one on amazon right now for less than $5.

roller foot

The leather needle is a must because leather is totally different from fabric.  With fabric, the needle more or less slides in between the fibers.  This varies, of course, with the type and weave of the fabric and the size of the needle you use, but that's the general idea.  With leather, the needle has to punch a hole in the leather and it has a wedge shape to the point to accomplish this.  On leather this weight I used a size 16 leather needle.  On garment leather a 14 would be better.

And you have to have the right attitude because you get ONE SHOT at whatever you are trying.  There is no ripping out and re-sewing.  Once the hole is there it is there forever.  And you had better have a long stitch length because if you have tiny stitches you have just created a line of perforations that could easily lead to a tear along that line.

For the same reason you can't pin it, although leather this thick wouldn't take pins.  Handy little seam clamps work just fine.

I tried a sample of three layers of the leather (mocking up the loop configuration) first on my modern(ish) Pfaff and got the results I expected:  the Pfaff just laughted at me.  Fortunately I knew I had a machine that just might be able to handle it:  A Singer 192 Spartan with a retrofit hand crank.  The Spartan is the budget version of the Singer 99, both are 3/4 size machines.  I keep the Spartan in the studio for sewing persons who are also children to use.  And sometimes even adults get to use it.

Years ago I read a blog post by a leather worker who raved about the abilities of a Singer 99 to handle leather.  Something about superior torque, which I only slightly understand and not well enough to tell you about.

Now there is leather and there is leather.  Thin garment leather can be sewn on just about any machine.  Saddle leather can be sewn on giant machines manufactured specifically for that purpose.  I got to try one once--you stepped INTO the machine which wrapped itself around you.  Awesome sewing experience.  That leather was 1/4 inch thick.

Folks, I won't kid you.  Yes, the Spartan managed this furniture weight leather, but just barely.  It was hardcore hand-to-hand combat all the way, especially over those seams!  I was able to use the hand crank about 80% of the time, but the other 20% I was turning the hand wheel by hand.  And there are a fair number of skipped stitches.

No backtacking either, but you can pull the threads through, tie them, and use some Fray Check on them.

After I had the first two aprons cut out I realized that I had two pieces left that, if sewn together, could create another apron.  Great, because one daughter has recently acquired a fiancee who is very handy around the house.  Nice addition to the family!  He obviously needs a leather apron also.

I had to piece the leather for that last apron and instead of just sewing on some leather loops I had to sew a long seam.  Then once it was sewn I had to find a way to flatten the seam open (it was just too bulky to leave it alone.  The original seams of the leather ottoman had some kind of seam tape glued over them.  I used my enormous hoard of yardsticks and c-clamps and got results that were acceptable.  Just.

There are yardsticks inside also.

After they were finished I wiped them down with neatsfoot oil.  Leather is an organic material that will dry out and crack.  I use neatsfoot oil on my leather shoes and bags twice a year.  It soaks in and disappears.

OK, aprons made, time to glam them up.  I'm sure I had 10 times as much fun making them as the recipients had receiving them.  I used all sort of things from old keys including a skate key, old dog and cat tags, the little tools that come with DIY stuff, and lot of other bits and bobs laying around.  And I went to the dollar store for the weapons.

I experimented with a lot of different designs.

And a bath towel draped around the shoulders that is supposed to look like some sort of cloak.  but sadly looks exactly like a bath towel.

So how do you wrap Steampunk Viking aprons for Christmas?   ummm, garbage bags.....?

Aprons on the 2 dress forms and a giant bolster.  Garbage bags labeled with names and titles in English and in Norse runes.  Of course.

They were received with hilarity.  One daughter didn't want to be seen and the other reasonably requests photo approval in advance, and right now I can't be bothered.

The practical daughter had all the bling whipped off so fast I didn't get a photo of  her with all the chains and weapons!

Jim has an appropriately Viking presence.

I had a ridiculous amount of fun doing this and it took a ridiculous amount of time.  Time, time I got.  Time has a totally different meaning when one is retired!

Well, it only took me 6 months to finish telling you about Christmas.  I'm just back from a bucket list trip to Newfoundland and I'll  be writing about that.  Because I want to write about it.  And I do know, dear readers, that you are here for the SEWING MACHINES.  There will be a few, but only a few.

If I have any readers in or from Newfoundland, please let me know!  I'm already looking for excuses to go back.  Maybe I really need to meet you and have lunch.  With scrunchions.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Singer 237 to treadle

I heard from free-motion-quilting guru Leah Day, who was looking for a Singer 237 to treadle. I had one but had done nothing with it since it came in the door several years ago.

If you are a free motion quilter you already know who Leah Day is.  Or you should!  About a year ago she interviewed me for her video podcast, in which we discussed vintage sewing machines and you can see my episode on YouTube here.  If you prefer audio podcasts, the same podcast comes in an audio only version.  Search your podcast player for "Hello My Quilting Friends".

This is the 4th time I have sold a Singer 237 for treadling, and it is a fine choice.  It has a zigzag stitch as well as the obligatory straight stitch.

It also has a needle position lever.

There are attachments to create zigzags on straight-stitch only machines, and they can (might, might not) create an acceptable utility stitch but they do it by moving the fabric back and forth, rather than (as in the case of a zigzag machine) having the needle move back and forth.  Some work better than others.  For NICE (rather than merely acceptable) zigzag stitches, you need a machine designed to do this.

Mostly this post is for Leah, to show her photos of the machine and tell her about its original condition and what was done to make it fabulous.  Because it is as fabulous as it can get whilst still being boring beige.  As usual, dear readers, you are welcome to join us as we explore this 237.

I started by pulling it out of the cabinet (you can have the cabinet if you want it, Leah) and was very pleasantly surprised to discover that my 2-month-old new shoulder was up to the task.  "Don't do anything stupid" was the going-away advice from my surgeon.  When I mentioned my habit of slinging around 40 pounds of cast iron sewing machines, he modified that advice to "Don't lift them up above your head."  Okey doke.

It was an ordinary amount of dirty and I didn't take any before pictures.

I plopped it into the big aluminum food service tray I use for cleaning machines.  And turned it on its side to clean the underneath side.

This is the "after" picture.  I use Tuff Stuff, a spray on foam cleanser, on the underneath side but ONLY ON MACHINES WITH A "MODERN" FINISH.  Definitely NOT on anything with delicate decals.  If the machine is a color other than black and the finish looks like a thick coat of poly with no cracks or crazing, then this or another spray cleaner should be fine.  YMMV, so test first.  Always test first!

I scrubbed the dirtier parts with a toothbrush and wiped it down with paper towels, and then oiled all the oiling points.  Always oil immediately after cleaning.  Don't wait until the next day even if you have more cleaning to do.  Yes, I discovered this the hard way.

For the top of the machine, which was not very dirty, I used a slightly damp microfiber cloth and just wiped it down.  Leah, I did not remove the motor and light assembly, so you will undoubtedly find a bit more dust when you do that.  And there is a small place where the finish is scratched and a bit rough but not in the "flight path" of the fabric being sewn.

And speaking of that motor:  It's crap.  It's noisy and sluggish.  I have left it on because it will give you (Leah) a simple way to test the machine when you get it home.  I have never learned anything about motors (other than how to take them off and put a new one one).  In this case the bad motor is irrelevant since it will be treadled.

I thoroughly over-oiled every point where metal moves against metal.  Over-oiling is a bad thing to do for routine maintenance, but when I have a machine that has been sitting for years I apply the oil  generously.

Then I used that crappy motor to "run in" the machine, meaning that I put a weight on the motor controller (aka foot pedal, and this one is the clamshell style) and let it run for 15 minutes to half an hour.  Before doing this I removed the needle and the bobbin case and set the stitch length to the longest length and set the zigzag to the widest stitch.  The idea here is to let all the moving parts do the most moving that they can.  You also need to make sure that the machine isn't going to vibrate off the table!  This machine did not vibrate like that.

Usually you can hear the sound of the machine change at some point, maybe 5 to 15 minutes in, as the oil works itself down into all the squeaky places and the running smooths out.  That happened with this machine too.

And although I didn't totally remove the  motor, I did take the motor belt off after this to test the machine.  SMOOTH AS SILK.

There were some of the usual, and easily correctable, issues.

The needle was rusty and I replaced it.  Nothing else was rusty so I found this a bit mysterious.

The feed dog drop was stuck.  The photo below shows the feed dog drop assembly on the underneath side of the machine.  These are often stuck.

I oiled it, but that had no effect.

On the underneath right hand side of the machine you can see the mechanism directly under the feed dog drop knob on the top side.  The problem is usually not here.

The problem is almost always on the left hand side, where a rod with a point end slides through a cylinder.  Old oil in the cylinder can glue it into immobility.

In the past I have spent countless hours heating up cylinders like this with hair dryers, trying chemicals harsher than sewing machine oil, etc.  I am older and bolder now and I just hit it with a hammer.  (Actually I tapped it fairly gently with a tack hammer).  This worked a treat.  A bit more oil, problem solved, and now the feed dogs drop.

The stitch length lever was working properly, but not completely.  I'll explain:

You are supposed to be able to set the stitch length so that it stops at a certain stitch length.  This means that you can throw it into reverse, and then throw it back into forward by moving the lever down without having to slow down to look at the machine and set the stitch length to a certain point.  It should stop at the point at which you set it.  This was set to a stitch length of about 10 and it would not move to a longer stitch.

Inside the lever is a tiny screw, and once I found a screwdriver the right size it was an easy matter to loosen this up.  The stitch length is now fully adjustable.  However, the feature that allows you to set it at a certain maximum length only works in the 6 to 10 stitches per inch range.  You can't set it smaller.

To summarize:  the stitch length lever is fully operational throughout the entire range of stitch lengths for setting a stitch length for stitching.  A minor function is not working however.

And speaking of the stitch length lever, let us now clear up a misconception about the Singer 237:  that it is all metal.  It is NOT all metal.  It is mostly metal but I'm going to detail the parts that aren't.  Like the whatever-you-call-this which is part of the stitch length lever.

Another piece which may or may not be metal on a 237 is the clutch knob.  This one is plastic, but I have also seen them in metal.

BTW, don't ever use the blow dryer on a stuck plastic clutch knob.  They will melt.  AMHIK.

Although this clutch knob did move, it WAS stuck inside.  So you could move it into the "release" position but the needle kept going up and down.  I removed it and the handwheel and there was something that I swear resembled rubber cement gluing the handwheel to its shaft.  Never seen anything like it before.  Alcohol did not budge it but #400 sandpaper did.  Followed this up with a drop of oil on the inside of the handwheel and now the bobbin winder works as it should.

The guard which snaps the bobbin race into position is also plastic on a 237.  I have never had a problem with one of those.  Sorry, no photo.

What is problematic on the 237 is a tiny plastic piece that lives deep inside the tensioner.  It is a tiny white cylinder with flanges that always reminds me of an Elizabethan ruff.  On about half of the 237s I have had, it was broken and if it is broken the tensioner is toast.  If you have a machine like this, all is not lost because the entire tensioner can easily be replaced and Jenny at has them for around $15 (at time of publication).

However, on this machine the tensioner was NOT broken.  It needed a simple adjustment but other than that it was fine.  On the principle of if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it, I did NOT dis-assemble it.

The photo above shows the adjustment I will describe, but I want you to know that my fingers do NOT glow red.  I tweak all of the photos to show sewing machine details to their best advantage, even if this throws off the color.

The problem was that the numbers on the tensioner were set wrong.  THE NUMBERS WERE JUST SET WRONG, THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE TENSIONER.  Yes, I was shouting just then.  I wish more people knew about this, and there would be significantly less sewing unhappiness in the world.

So when I got the machine the tension was working properly for two layers of cotton, but the number read "1".  (One).  This means that you've got practically nowhere to go on the downhill side, so if that tension is too tight you can only loosen it up a tiny bit before you get to "0" (zero) and it won't move down any farther than that.

You're not going to believe how easy it is to fix this.  Unless you already know.

You can push in the disc with the numbers on it, and this releases the pins that are holding it in place.  Then you can just move the number disc around to read any number you want.  Release the number disc and the spring behind it will push it back out.  And your problem is solved.  I set this one at "4".

I have amazed and impressed at least one person in my quilt guild by "fixing" her Featherweight in five seconds flat.  Now not every tensioner is made this way, but if yours is set wrong it can't hurt to check and see if the number disc is moveable.

Now for the test stitches.  I always use two different colors top and bottom so that I can assess the tension better.

Top thread.  Stitch length, zigzag width, and needle position all tested and working.

Bobbin thread, showing nicely balanced tension.

So there you are, Leah.  Machine is lovely, as long as you take the motor off!

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Twelve+ Months of Christmas.

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A post twelve+ months in the making!

Yes, you read that right.  In 2017 I had some hand made items finished well before December, which was good because some health issues sidelined me for most of the month.  I decided it might be fun to try to finish a gift a month in advance of Christmas 2018.

I like making things, but I want the recipients to appreciate them so I don't usually do hand made gifts.  Except I learned years ago that adding a gift card or some folding currency makes any hand made gift appropriate for teenagers.

In 2017 I made a bunch of triangular zip bags and gave them out to lots of people.  I had so much fun making them that I didn't really care whether the recipients would appreciate them or not, lol.


In fact they were so much fun that I wanted to make more.  I ordered some fabric with tiny books on it from Spoonflower.  I love Spoonflower but was not happy with this fabric, which was much duller and more blurry than the online photo.  This is the first time I have been disappointed by Spoonflower and it's too bad because custom printed fabric is NOT CHEAP.  So I used it anyhow to make triangular zip bags for my book club buddies for Christmas.  I bought some tiny book charms and attached them to the zippers.

Just look at that adorable zipper pull!

QSAB = Queen Street And Beyond, the name of the book club.


During Christmas of 2017 I watched Jenn's eyes light up when I gave Emily a dozen crocheted dishcloths.  I interpreted this as awe and amazement at the wonderfulness of crocheted dishcloths.  I hope it wasn't amazement at the ridiculousness of giving dishcloths as a Christmas present.  In any case I crocheted a dozen for Jenn.  And she was very pleased with them,

Everyone who has received these tells me that they are the best dishcloths in the whole world and I agree.  I've seen lots of online tutes for much fancier ones and I have tried some of them but these are the easiest and best.  And I came up with the "pattern" all by myself.  Here it is:

Buy a cone of cotton yarn because you are going to make a ton of these.  I have made them in white, in colors, and with variegated yarn. I wash them in the bleach load and the colors will fade. Just avoid anything containing the color red, which bleeds.  Ask my formerly pristine white bathrobe how I know.

With a size H crochet hook, chain 25.
Switch to a size G crochet hook.  Chain 2 more, then insert into chain #24 and single crochet across the row.
Single crochet as many rows as it takes to make the dishcloth square.  I've never counted them and you don't need to either.  Tie off.

Why start with an H and then drop down to a G? Because it prevents the bottom row from being too tight and drawing up.  This may just be my lack of skill, and your mileage may vary.


I came up with another design for little bags that is almost identical to the millions of online tutorials for lined flat cosmetic bags with one crucial difference: I don't put the zip at the top of the bag.  I fold it so the zip is about a half an inch down one side.  I have never liked the way the zips look when they are at the top.  There is undoubtedly a solution and maybe next year I will take the time to discover it.

I had a long roll of leftover string piecing on a foundation strip and I used that for some the bags.  This gave me a chance to check out more of the decorative stitches on my new-to-me Pfaff 7510.  Decorative stitching is one of my favorite things, and I'm always glad to find an excuse to use it on something.

I also added rick rack.  One of the foundational principles of DragonPoodle Studio is that everything is improved by adding rick rack.

Most but not all of my gift recipients are female.  I canvassed Hugh to see if a man would like a small zip bag and what he might use it for.  He couldn't think of anything but he took one of the prototypes home readily enough! (book fabric, no rick rack) So I made a some with gear-themed fabric for a couple of adult guys and a snazzy one for a young boy.

And I had a tiny scrap of cave-art-horses fabric that I used for me, the daughters and one more person.  One of the greatest thrills of my life happened when I was in Houston with my cousins for a memorial service.  We went to the art museum only to discover an exhibit of reproductions of parts of the caves of Lascaux.  Perfect.

All in all I made a lot of them.

I spent April having a hip replacement and spending a couple of weeks in rehab recovering from the surgery.  Just as I did with my knee replacements 2 years ago (and yes, I DO assume that all my joints will have to be replaced eventually) I brought a Featherweight and a project to work on while I was in rehab.

One of the nurses said "I have been a nurse a long time and I have never seen anyone bring a sewing machine with them before."   What can I say, I have been a ground-breaker all my life.

The Featherweight was a GREAT conversation starter but I confess that sitting was uncomfortable and I could only work for 15 minutes at a time.  I also quickly discovered that devices that heat up are NOT considered acceptable at Chatham Hospital.  They nixed my heating pad for my bad shoulder* (like I said ALL the joints are toast) so I didn't even bother to ask about the iron.  I pieced a bunch of stuff and then brought them home to iron.

*they did provide a heating pad alternative that bubbled hot water through it.  It never got hot enough for me but it did make a nice white noise sound for attempts at sleeping, and I could leave it on all night, unlike a heating pad.

Didn't finish any crafty gifts in April and never expected to.


The recovery-from-major-surgery fun continued into May and consumed most of it.  But right at the end of May Becky expressed approval and admiration for an insulated tote bag I made last year.  So I made one for her.

On the insulated bags I made for myself I used Insulbrite.  But on this bag I merely slip covered an insulated bag from Walmart, and replaced the straps.  It was surplus to requirements once I had made the other bags, so this was a good way to recycle it into something much cuter.

The central panel fabric came from Ikea several years ago.  I bought it to make an apron but didn't buy enough for that purpose.  It's brighter than the photo above.  Bright colors make me happy.


I'm going to cheat on this one because I don't remember making anything in June.  But in June I showed off my sewing machine totes at the NC TOGA (vintage sewing machine gathering and swap meet).

And Barbara liked them.  Honestly everybody liked them but not everybody is on my Christmas list.

  I had made several and when I saw Barbara's reaction I decided to give her one for Christmas.


I had an unexpected financial windfall in July.  I considered doing something responsible with it.  Instead I bought a Babylock Evolution, serger plus coverstitch.  I absolutely love it and I haven't forgotten that I have promised the thousands of people who requested it a review (well, OK, two or three people). But that will be later.

The first project I tried has been about a decade in the planning stages.  I've been buying 100% cashmere sweaters at thrift stores during that decade.  Don't make the mistake of thinking of me as a hoarder.  Hoarders never give up the stuff in their hoard.  I am an accumulator, and after accumulating for a decade or two I am perfectly willing to use it all up.

blanket for Megan's baby
All of the sweaters went into a hot washer and hot dryer.  You heard that right.  THEY DID NOT SHRINK, which surprised me. All of the textiles I buy at the thrift store gets this treatment as soon as they come in the door.   I cut the sweaters into 4.5" and 8.5" squares.  Because of the 0.5" seam allowances, four 4.5" squares pieced together equal one 8.5" square.  There is a lot of waste and I threw it all away.  The goal:  baby blankets and TV watching blankets.

and another baby blanket

I laid them out on my large worktable to get the colors placed harmoniously and then started flatlock seaming them together on the amazing Babylock Evolution.  I had never tried flatlocking before.  It's a loose-ish stitch and when you gently pull on the seam one side slides underneath the other.   So instead of a bulky seam on the back there is a flatter seam.  Two layers of cashmere won't be all that flat, but it looks nice and worked well.

and a TV watching blanket for myself
I failed to take photos of the other two blankets that I gave as gifts.

Cashmere sweaters come in different weights, from tissue paper thin to much thicker.  It works best to stay close to the same thickness in each blanket.  It also helped to stick with flat knitted pieces.  I had a couple of cable knit sweaters but they stretched too much while serging them.  And those tissue paper thin sweaters really weren't that great so I ditched them too.


Another project decades in the making:  a family cook book.  Once the daughters grew up and moved away they called on me from time to time for those trusty recipes and I enjoyed this.  I started typing up the recipes slowly.  VERY slowly.  And finally I thought I was almost finished.  Then I mentioned that there are a lot of stories that go with the recipes and they requested the stories also.  So I worked on that at the same snail-like pace for the next few years.

This is self-published, meaning that I printed out 12 copies of all of the recipes, 3-hole punched them and put them in binders with dividers.  This took an unbelievable amount of time.  I've listed this under August because that's when I did the bulk of the printing and punching but it stretched out before and after this.


Last year at Christmas I gave Jim half a dozen crocheted washcloths (identical to the dishcloths) worked up in a camouflage variegated cotton yarn.  Emily told me he loves them but wanted to know if I could sew two of them together because he would like them bigger.  So I bought another cone of a similar color pattern and made more.  A one-pound cone made seven double-width washcloths.


Finished up the cookbooks, which was a huge project made huge-r by several bad decisions about how to create it.  Not sewing related and not discussed here!  (But the cookbooks were a big hit).


My young friend Anna fell in love with this fabric.  It's a heavy silk brocade.  She wanted some to take home with her but I nixed that. Silk is slippery and difficult to work with and she is a beginning sewing person.  I didn't want her to start out with a frustrating experience.  So I told her I would make her a skirt.

The photo could be better.  It is the same color and shiny-ness all the way from top to bottom.

I bought the bolt at a thrift store.  23 yards for $10.  This is why I haunt the thrift stores.  The quality of this fabric is AMAZING.

Two things that contribute to my happiness and mental health:  great music* and fantastic textiles.

*at this very moment I am listening to Alan Doyle, formerly of the band Great Big Sea.  Love both Alan and Great Big Sea.  If you want to be happy, check them out.


The original plan was for making one gift a month and easing up in December without that awful pressure to finish things in time for Christmas.  Instead my plan had the opposite effect psychologically.  I powered through additional Christmas projects like a sewing demon.  Go figure.  I do think the "there is no pressure" attitude worked though, because as I worked on these things I always had in mind that if they didn't get finished in time, well, those would be presents for 2019.  Because of that I ENJOYED all the sewing and never felt any pressure.  Life as it should be!

Little Red Rising Hood Cape

That red silk skirt that I made for Anna was crying out for a Little Red Riding Hood cape.  I found a child's cape pattern in my stash and modified it.

I lined it with the red silk and made it reversible.

She liked it!

She preferred the "fancier" silk brocade side.

Folkwear Sunset Wrap

Here's another time where I broke my own rule about not making things unless I know the recipient really wants it.  In this case I just really wanted to make it!  I have a complete, and I do mean complete, collection of Folkwear Patterns, which I began  buying when they first came out in the 1970s.  So when they came out with a new pattern for the Sunset Wrap I bought it and then really wanted to make it.

So I selected my victim recipient.  I thought it would look good on Jenn, and her favorite color is green.  I have tons of cotton velveteen and found a nice green and made it.  Simple yet very interesting construction.  It is basically a rectangle w
ith a sleeve.

She claims to like it!

Rex Factor pillows

Emily and I are both big fans of the podcast Rex Factor, a very funny podcast about British history.  I took a couple of phrases that have become running jokes and used my new Singer Futura embroidery machine to make covers for some thrift shop pillows.

One giant bolster and one neck roll

The new Futura has a hoop twice as large as the largest hoop on my 2005 Futura.

In one hooping I created these (the maroon one is for me).

Aed was king of Scotland from 877 to 878 and the only thing the Chronicles of the Kings of Alba had to say about his reign was this:

Áed held the throne for one year. The shortness of his rule has bequeathed nothing memorable to history; but he was killed in the town of Nrurim

And yet the fellows at Rex Factor got a whole episode out of this.

The large bolster was embroidered in two hoopings, and the software helped me line up that text very nicely.

Viking Steampunk Aprons

What?  Viking Steampunk Aprons?  Is Viking Steampunk a "thing"?  (Spoiler alert:  NO.  But it should be).

Stay tuned for the final thrilling installment of The Twelve+ Months of Christmas to discover what they are and how they were created.

These (and their construction on a vintage hand crank) are worth a blog post all to themselves.


Whew!  I NEVER do this much crafting for Christmas.  At least I never have before and probably never will again.

I'm sticking with the idea of making something each month though.  The Viking Steampunk aprons were finished up on January 2019, and because of both daughters work and travel plans in December, it was January before we all got together to exchange gifts.

Did you give or receive handmade gifts for Christmas or any other holiday last year?