Making Stuff

July is Dressed Up and Playing Her Tune

There is nothing like an old song to bring the memories flooding back, is there?

Today's post really needs a soundtrack . . . but you'll have to click here to listen because I couldn't embed the video (any video). That is . . . if the title of this post didn't already conjure that song in your brain. Remember that song? Summer Breeze. Seals & Croft. It is just a major, major nostalgia tune for me . . . bringing back one of my best junior high school memories. C'mon back to 8th grade with me for just a minute, okay?

There I was. . . gawky in my Olive Oyl body, with braces on my teeth, and hair that was trying hard to be like Marcia Brady's (but not cutting it) (at all), quiet and concerned all.the.time about saying/doing/wearing something stupid . . . and wishing for so much more (like a teenage sitcom life). And then, one day after band class, Nick Mizell asked me to stop by one of the band practice rooms after school. What could he want with me? I mean . . . Nick was suuuuper cute. Very cool. A drummer with dreamy hair. So very far out of my league. But I went to meet him anyway, hoping it wasn't going to be some embarrassing prank. I played it really cool - just in case - and tried my best to look like I was just casually down by the band room, y'know . . . looking for some sheet music, after school (like one might do in a teenage sitcom life).

But, no. He did actually want me to meet him. He and a couple of other band guys (Steve and Jay) were all set up in this practice room with Nick's drum set. (Steve played an electric guitar, and Jay had his trumpet). They were practicing for the school talent show, and they wanted me to listen while they played (you guessed itSummer Breeze. And it was so awesome! I'd never seen a drum set up close. Or an electric guitar. And it sounded so good, so . . . exotic! (Not to mention how exotic these boys were to me.) And you know what they wanted? They wanted ME to play my flute in their group for the talent show. Seriously. I thought I had absolutely DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN. Like I was freaking Grace Slick or something! This was one of the highlights of 8th grade for me. (Right up there with the night Alan Richardson asked me to couple skate at the skating rink . . . and then skated with me the whole night long.)

Anyway. Big nostalgia for me . . . that song.
(Oh. We didn't win the talent show, but we did get far enough along that we got to play in the school assembly.) (And, unsurprisingly, Nick was only interested in my flute playing and ignored me for the rest of time after that.)

That's a long story. . . and not really what I was planning to blog about today at all.
But I've always loved that song!
And I heard it on the radio just as I started to knit this summer tank top.


Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom
July is dressed up and wearing a tune

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Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin' through the jasmine in my mind

It's kind of nice . . . when your summer knitting project brings a welcome song and fun memories for each stitch!

I can't play it on my flute anymore, but . . . 
Eat your heart out, Nick.


For details and more photos, click here for my Ravelry project page.


And don't forget to visit Kat to check out more Unraveled posts today.

A Different Kind of Canvas

Here in blogland, Wednesdays are typically a day we share what we're making. Usually with yarn. But sometimes we share other kinds of making . . . sewing, quilting, painting, embroidery. 

For me, in the summer, I don't always have so many of those more "traditional" making kinds of projects to share. Because my time gets eaten up in different ways during the summer months, and I don't find as much time to sit and knit or stitch -- or paint. In fact, just last night I canceled out of my weekly watercolor class. I explained to my instructor that . . . I just didn't have anything to share. I hadn't done my homework. And I didn't think I could sit still long enough for 3 hours to engage with the lesson for the week. (I really shouldn't have signed up for the summer session in the first place. I usually don't. I know better. Oh, well. . . )

I used to feel bad about walking away from my regular pastimes during the summer (holding on to those expectations and arbitrary rules much?), but I don't really anymore.

I've come to accept that I'm just . . . working with another type of fiber.
A different kind of canvas, you might say.


This is my wild-and-woolly, volunteers welcome, follow-no-rules pollinator garden. (It's a certified Monarch Waystation.) It's a great example of a different kind of making -- and it really does tick off all of my "making" boxes. I've got . . . 

Playing with color.


And texture.


Moving my hands in a productive way.


And soothing my soul.


Plus, there is the added benefit of knowing I'm "doing good" by creating a welcoming space for the pollinators of the world!


(And dogs.)


I may not be able to wear it . . . or gift it . . . or hang it on my wall.
But it's a kind of canvas all the same!


How about you? What are you making this week?


Be sure to visit Kat today . . . for links to the more traditional (and inspiring!) Unraveled kinds of posts!

Leisurely Pursuits

In the summer, I get busy in my garden, and with the back-and-forth of going up north . . . and my "making" slows way down. And . . . I'm really just fine with that! Stitching, after all, is just one - of many - leisurely pursuits for me.

But I actually finished something recently. Way back in May, you might remember I showed you this photo . . . 

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I was going to stitch up this top.
Months ago, now.

Finally stitched it up last weekend!


Now . . . I don't always like to wear woven tops or shirts. (I prefer stretchy knits and t-shirts for comfort and easy movement.) But I'm gonna tell you, this Remy Raglan pattern has kinda changed my thinking. When I got finished sewing, I did a try-on . . . and ended up wearing the shirt all day long! In total comfort and ease. (See above.)

Now I'm plotting and scheming to make more!


(Still needs a button.)

This pattern is (fairly) quick to make (I always hesitate to make that statement, because I'm an experienced seamstress and your mileage may vary). The instructions are clear. And there are some nifty techniques that really finish this shirt off "professionally" (all the seams are French seams, for example). Also . . . the possibilities for "playing around" with this design are endless. (Just take a look at the #remyraglan hashtag on Instagram for some true inspiration.)

Anyway. Great outcome for this top! I'm glad I finally made the time to stitch it up.

In knitting news . . . well. I'm still plugging along with the same old thing


Slow Leisurely progress is progress all the same.


How about you? What are you making this summer?

Fit To Be . . . Tie-Dyed

I haven't been knitting much lately.
Or stitching.
Or sewing.
Or painting.

(Life is full.)
(Life is good.)

But that doesn't mean I haven't been making anything at all.

When Erin was visiting, we decided to try our hand at some tie-dye!


I've done some tie-dye before, but never as The Instigator. And Erin had never tried it before. So the first thing I did . . . was to contact Vicki, Auntie Camp Tie-Dye Expert, for some advice and pointers. Vicki . . . sent me to Dharma Trading for supplies . . . and we were off to the races!

Dharma Trading sells everything you need for all kinds of dying projects, including kits for home tie-dying (dyes need to be ordered separately). And there are instructions (not always the most clear, but pretty clear) and inspiration guides for various projects and styles of tying/dying. We followed the steps very carefully to assure good results. There was a lot of mixing and soaking before we could apply any of that "inspiration." (Just sayin.)

If you've never worked with fiber reactive dyes before, the mixing process can sound a little . . . technical. Complicated. Science-y. Maybe a little intimidating, even. (Or maybe that's just me . . . the wife of a chemist.) Anyway. Tom wasn't intimidated at all, and he jumped right in to help us mix up our dyes. (Thanks, Honey.)

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And then . . . we got to the fun parts.

The tying.


And the dying.


After 24 hours of "curing," we were so excited for our Big Reveals.


Erin went with a purples/blues/pinks palette for her tees. (And tank tops and sweatshirts and aprons.) (We did a lot of tying and dying.)


And I went with a more . . . citrus-y/tropical palette.

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Really . . . you can't go wrong with tie-dye! Everything turns out COOL. (Even the hooded sweatshirt I did at the end . . . using all the leftover dyes. I call it "fireworks" -- because it's kind of like the end of a fireworks show when they send everything up into the sky at once. It's pretty . . . busy. But even that worked!)

We had a lot of fun. We were pleased with our results. And I thank Vicki for her inspiration and advice.

Five stars!
Would do again!


How about you? What are you making these days?



A Fiber-y Landscape

Earlier this spring, something fiber-y/painterly showed up in my Instagram feed . . . and it spoke to me immediately. (It was this kit from Felted Sky.) And I should clarify here . . . It didn't just speak to me. It yelled my name and YOO-HOOed - loudly - from across the way.

Now I've done a bit of needle felting, and I actually really enjoy it. And I've done quite a lot of painting watercolor landscapes, and I really enjoy that, too. So painting-with-fiber seems to be an appealling combination and right up my alley.

Yeah. I fell hard, friends.
Because this kit? It checked ALL my boxes!

Landscape (check)
Lake-in-the-woods (check)
Painting . . . (check)
WITH FIBER (check)

I ordered it.

I decided it would be my summer, up north project! Something I could take up to the cabin and work on while I'm there -- and, once complete, I could hang the finished object right on the wall up there.


I had no idea how much fun this thing would be!


Can you say . . .  addictive?

SO much more fun than I expected it to be.
It's meditative and satisfying.
I'm having a hard time putting it down!


The kit comes with everything you need (including the frame) (although you do already need to have a mat). There are very detailed and step-by-step directions (although the painter in me is veering from the directions a bit here and there), and there is a video to accompany the instructions as well (although I haven't used that).

I thought this project would last me all summer.


But . . . now I'm thinking it might not last me the week!


How about you? What are you making right now?


No Stopping Me Now

So after the overalls . . . I've kinda gotten back into the sewing thing. (I lost all my sewing mojo last year after sewing all those masks.)


This week, I stitched up something that's been on my radar for a couple of year now . . . Meg McElwee's Hinterland Dress. I think it would be a great casual dress for summer (especially the sleeveless version), and I have a very nice piece of gingham linen that might work really well sewn up in this pattern. But . . . I didn't want to chance it with that nice linen right off the bat.

So . . . I sewed a "gauge swatch." In Sewing World, this is called a "muslin." (Or a "toile" if you want to sound European . . . or a little bougie.) Basically, sewing a muslin means you sew something up (or a part of something) in a fabric you don't care much about in order to see if you like the fit or need to make some adjustments. The goal - just like with gauge swatching in knitting - is that you end up with a well-fitting garment that you actually like and can wear when you're finished. If you're lucky, and things all turn out, you might end up with a "wearable muslin" . . . meaning you can actually wear your test-garment, too. (Unlike knitting . . . if you're not happy with the finished result you've sewn, you don't have the option of ripping out the yarn and re-using it for another project. Once you've cut it out and sewn it up? It's hard to repurpose.)

Anyway. I'm never really sure about what size to make when I'm sewing. I have broad shoulders . . . and no boobs . . . so a lot of times the fit is off and the darts end up in the wrong place. So I cut out just the bodice pieces of the Hinterland Dress to see how it would come together. It worked, so I cut out the facing and the sleeves and added those. Still good. So I cut out the front bands and tried them. Still good. So I cut out the pockets and the skirt. I also added the optional ties, because things were looking pretty . . . roomy.


Checking the fit . . . 


I could've gotten away with making this at least one size smaller, maybe two. Let's just say . . . I'm happy I added the ties. I definitely got a "wearable muslin" out of the process. And I think it'll look a lot better once it's had a chance to loosen up a bit after a few rounds in the washer and dryer. (Also when I'm not wearing it on top of workout clothes.)

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(And, yep. There's a wonky buttonhole in there. I got an eye twitch for a minute there, thinking about ripping it out and re-doing. But then I reminded myself . . . muslin! . . . and just let it go.)

Anyway. I think I'm ready to cut into that nice piece of linen now, and make another. Smaller size. Sleeveless.

But, first . . . this!


There's no stopping me now.


How about you? What are you making these days?

You're My Blue Sky

[Click here for accompanying soundtrack.]
(As if the song hasn't already started playing in your head. . . )

This time, I managed to hit the sweater/weather match right on the nose!


I actually knit a wool sweater I can wear for the next couple of weeks (given the current local forecast). This is a looser gauge, kinda swing-y sweater that screams "spring" to me -- especially in this particular yarn colorway. (It's called "Mother Earth" and it's from Miss Babs.) It's perfect for cool, spring weather -- when you still want to ward off the chill, but want to feel breezy and . . . not like "winter carnival." (Y'know?)


You're my blue sky,
you're my sunny day.
Lord, you know it makes me high
when you turn your love my way.
Turn your love my way . . .


You can find all the details here on Ravelry if you're interested.

And . . . here a little treat. You can watch the Allman Brothers perform Blue Sky (my favorite Allman Brothers song, by the way) for a little lift in your day!


The Merry Month of May

Ahhhhh. May. One of my favorite months! Blooms and buds. Green exploding everywhere. More consistent (sorta) weather patterns. I can ditch the socks and get out the flip-flops again.


I really do love May. But there is one thing about May that generally (and surprisingly) gives me a bit of . . . consternation.

True confessions: It’s this whole #MeMadeMay thing. For several days now, I’ve been thinking about why, exactly, #MeMadeMay vexes me so. 

Before I launch into my thoughts about the whole thing . . . let’s back up a little bit. Because not everyone will know what I’m talking about here. So. #MeMadeMay . . . is a social media “challenge” for people who make their own clothes - #MeMades - to wear them and share them on the various platforms (Instagram, especially, but also Facebook, blogs, etc.). It’s designed as a way for “makers” to share their “makes.”

And what, you ask, could be vexing me so about THAT? (I know, right?Because, after all . . . I AM a “maker” with a closet full of “MeMades” . . . and I have been for most of my life.

In fact, as I’m scanning all the old family photos I’m pulling out of nooks and crannies everywhere (I swear this photo scanning and organizing project is going to take years and years; yet still I persist), I’ve been struck by, well . . . all the #MeMades! In nearly every photo, my sister and I are wearing dresses my mom made for us, or - as we got older - outfits I made for us.

Kym and diane last day of school 1968 kym 3rd grade di K

(Matching sister-culottes made by my mom.)

Growing up, my family had . . . enough. But we didn’t have extra. I always had enough to eat. I was always warm enough. I had proper outerwear and toys to play with and solid shoes. I was able to take dance classes and swimming lessons. But, as a kid, I knew that we didn’t have extra for store-bought dresses or shiny shoes or sparkly tights or the "real" Barbie clothes they sold in toy departments. I didn’t whine for the stuff, although I did keep elaborate wish lists of things I wanted . . . y’know should Ed McMahon ever come knocking on our door because we’d won the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes (my biggest hope for a bright future at the time). I knew how to “wait for payday.”

But we had plenty of dresses! Because my mom made them for us.

Diane yvonne kym 1968 or so

(Fancy velvet dresses! My mom made all three.)

And I learned to sew myself when I was quite young. By the time I was in junior high school, I was making most of my own clothes. Back in those days, it wasn’t “cool” to make your own anything. (Or to like Home Ec. Or to strive to win all purple ribbons at the 4-H fair. Or to admit something was “homemade.”) No. . . back then, you needed to have store-bought clothes (and lots of them!), preferably purchased in town at one of the “exclusive” shops (Sweetbriar’s was the local dress shop preferred by the cool girls). But that wasn’t going to happen for me. 


(Lookin' good in 7th grade! I made both my dress and my sister's jumper.) (We're with a tiny cousin.)

Anyway. Eventually . . . I got really good at sewing. I got good enough, in fact, that the other girls stopped making snotty comments about my “homemade” clothes.  Not because they were impressed with or valued my sewing skills, but because they just couldn’t TELL anymore. (I’ll admit . . . some of my creations in the early days were very Not Good. Years of sewing taught me how to choose the right kinds of fabrics for the patterns I wanted to make, that pressing your seams open as you sew was actually beneficial, and how to perfect the “telltale” signs of a homemade look: zippers, buttonholes, topstitching; that kind of thing.)

Back then, no one celebrated #MeMades. No one showed off their own handiwork. You hid the fact (at least from the masses of high school Mean Girls) that you sewed and knit for yourself!

So . . . I truly love the concept of sharing - publicly and visibly and with some fanfare! - #MeMades. I mean, what a great thing. It makes me so happy to see so many people making their own clothes. I love that others have discovered the benefits of creating their own garments: you get what you want, you can stretch your clothing budget (theoretically), you can fit YOUR OWN body, you can take pride in your accomplishments.

I love the celebration of all things #MeMade. I appreciate the attention that all my favorite crafts are getting this month. I’m inspired by seeing what other “makers” create. I take advantage of the pattern and fabric sales that show up in May to further encourage the #MeMaking. 

15-year-old me would have been over the moon about #MeMade May.
And yet . . . something about it all still . . . vexes me.

I think it’s the pressure and (and I’m just going to say it here . . . ) heavy-handedness that sometimes accompanies the challenge.

Because seeing all the #MeMadeMay posts popping up this month . . . can make the casual sewist or knitter feel like maybe they’re “not doing it right.” What if you haven’t amassed enough #MeMades to devote an entire month to wearing and posting a photo of a different #MeMade each day? Or what if your goal is to sew something now and then -- but you can't possibly consider filling your closet exclusively with #MeMades?  What if hearing other makers constantly deride ready-to-wear clothes makes you question your own closet decisions? Well . . . 

It can all feel like a bit like my high school experience . . . in reverse!

I think we always need to remember (and #MeMadeMay provides a perfect backdrop here) . . . that there is no one “right way” to do this "making" thing. (Or not do it.) Some of us enjoy making things that we can wear. Celebrate that! Some of us just don’t have the time, the skills, or the inclination to mess with it. Celebrate that! Some people get really into fashion and love having a closet-full-of-options. Some people don’t give a crap about that. Maybe your life goal is to never buy ready-to-wear again. Or maybe you only want to fill your closet with thrifted clothes. Or limit yourself to 33 items. Whatever works for you . . . works for you! It’s all good! Celebrate that! 


(Bitchy high school Mean Girls? I made these overalls. And they are pretty awesome. So there!)

So, now that I've figure out what was bugging me . . . I’m ready to enjoy #MeMadeMay. To scroll through photos of really awesome things other “makers” have made -- to be inspired, to get fresh ideas, to celebrate what others have accomplished.

Be inspired. But never let the Mean Girls get you down. Y'know?


I'll be back on Wednesday. With (ahem) . . . a #MeMade. (And it's not my overalls.) I'm working a special election here tomorrow, and guessing I'll have plenty of time for knitting but no time for blogging. (It's a one-issue election. And it's not a controversial issue at all. We're expecting low turnout. . . ) See ya then.


The Big Hang Up

Let's get back to my green overalls, shall we?


Because they've been essentially finished for a couple of weeks now.
But not technically finished.
And certainly not wearable yet.


What's the Big Hang Up, you ask?

Well. I can tell you it wasn't attempting a complicated, British pattern (written in English, sure, but I'm just gonna say that British-English and American-English are not the same, and there are slight - but key - differences in phrasing and nomenclature when it comes to sewing instructions).

And the instructions using only metric measurements didn't throw me at all (because I just used my metric measuring tools).

It wasn't the level of detail in the making. And it wasn't the topstitching (I secretly love topstitching).


It wasn't the fact that I slipped up with my seam ripper and made a little slice in the bibs. (After running them through 4 or 5 wash/dry cycles to soften up the canvas, I actually like the "weathered" look that little slice gives the bib. Not even gonna mend it.)


It wasn't the fit. (They do.)

It wasn't the buttonholes. (I did have to rip one, because it was wonky. But I'm fine with ripping/re-doing buttonholes.)



What WAS the big hang up in getting these things finished?

It was the hardware. The damn jeans buttons!

You know . . . the ones with the rivets on the back? The ones you need to hammer into place? 

I've never installed jeans buttons before . . .  and they freaked me (the hell) out. I almost chickened out and just used sew-on buttons. But, shoot. I'd gone full-on authentic with this particular pair of overalls, and damnit . . . I wanted the authentic buttons!

So I watched YouTube video after YouTube video about installing jeans buttons. It looked easy. But. . . each of them talked about the importance of using some sort of heavy iron base to do the pounding. A cast iron skillet would be fine, they all said. But I don't have one. So I stewed and hemmed and hawed . . . and finally broke down and purchased a little mini-anvil (about $10 from Amazon).

It arrived yesterday! 


(It looks like it belongs in the scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel . . . where they use tiny tools to dig themselves out of prison!)

Let the pounding begin!



And right out of the gates, too. It really is as simple as the YouTube videos make out . . . to install those damn jeans buttons. Especially when you can pound away - safely and securely - on an iron base. (Satisfying, too. There's just something very cathartic about hammering the shit out of something, y'know?)


In no time at all, I had installed all six jeans buttons, and figured out the slide/fastener for the straps!


They're finished!

They fit!

They're Just What I Wanted!

And . . .  I have tackled my Big Hang Up!

And when Tom gets home (he's up north, opening our cabin and discovering that we need a new water heater), I'll have him take some pictures of me and I'll show you the full glory of these overalls soon.


How about you? What are you making this week?


Note: My overalls are actually the shade of green in the last photo. They are a perfect Mr. Green Jeans shade of green. Kind of spring-y, but not super bright.

When Spring Gives You Snowflakes . . .

There has been some knitting happening here . . . 


Nice and springy. (Just ignore the fact that as I took this photo out on my back patio, snow was falling.) (Spring is so very fickle.)

The pattern is Sun Dog by Laura Aylor. (Here's a Ravelry link.) It's a great spring sweater, and by the time I finish, the weather should be Just Right. (That's my story and I'm sticking with it.)

What are you making these days?