Category Archives: Sewing

mask rant

When Seattle had its first coronavirus death three weeks ago – yes three – and it rapidly became impossible to procure medical masks, one of my first thoughts was, I’ll just make some out of fabric.  In fact, I thought, I’ll make enough for everyone in Isla’s and Briony’s classes.

Then I did some research.  In short, cloth masks don’t work.  Not only do they not work, they can even be worse than not wearing a mask at all.

Now, all over my quilting Insta, people are talking about making lots of cloth masks.  Does no one use Google?  Or am I missing something?

Furthermore, I find the anti-paper mask rhetoric in the US irritating.  Paper masks do help prevent contagion, which is why Asian governments recommend them, including China and Korea, the only countries so far to actually control this thing.  My Korean friend is completely mystified by the anti-mask perspective in the US.  Buying them now may not make sense since medical personnel need them more, but I’m skeptical about whether medical personnel can just wear any old paper mask.  Furthermore, many, many people already own masks in their homes which they could wear.  We, for example, have open boxes of masks from when S was in the hospital and H and I had colds.  We wore a mask whenever we held her.  And, she didn’t catch our cold.

Edited to add link.  I think you can make a case for non-medical personnel to wear cloth masks.  (1)  They stop you touching your face and (2) they scare people into giving you space.

The year in review: Sewing and knitting

I did comparatively less crafting in 2016 as compared to 2015.  About halfway through, the exercise bug bit me, and I’ve found I really only have time for one serious hobby.  I can do more than one hobby half-heartedly, and I can do some reading, but I can’t really engage with both crafting and exercising.  Perhaps as the kids get older, that will change.  Nevertheless, I did finish a few projects last year.

I started with a baby quilt for a friend’s little girl.  This project was based on a Red Pepper Quilts pattern, and I had to learn how to sew curves.  That was definitely challenging.




My next project was a throw quilt for my uncle who is battling a recurrence of stage IV colon cancer.  He mentioned that chemo made him cold, so I made him a quilt with wool batting but all cotton on the outside.  It was quite an undertaking as it was quite large, and each square had to be cut out and individually placed.  I bought fabric for the recurring diamonds but otherwise used exclusively scraps.


Next up, I made a couple of fully lined tote bags for L’s  preschool teachers.


I also made progress on my Farmer’s Wife quilt.  I have between 40 and 50 blocks pieced now; that probably means I’m somewhere between a quarter and a third done with the project.  Ah well – I’ll finish it sometime.



I ventured into the world of garment sewing last year as well.  I have mixed feelings on it.  I was quite pleased with the outcome of my first project, a dress for L:


My second project was a lot more work.  I learned a lot making a princess dress.  I was frustrated, and had to rip out lots of stitches, and the finished product was far from perfect.  Nevertheless, it was overall fun, and I’m sure I’ll do better the next time.  The hardest part by far was the gathering.  The skirt and the bustles were extremely full and required very tight gathering which was quite hard.  My solution in the end was to use 18 weight thread for the gathering.  I have heard others recommend yarn.  50 weight thread just broke and broke and broke.


I didn’t sew much else that I can recall, and I had no “finished objects” knit.  However, I did start a new knitting project that I’m quite excited about.  St. Brigid has been on my bucket list for many years, and I finally decided to take a crack at it.  I obviously have a long way to go, but I’m excited about this project.  Hopefully I’ll finish it in a year or so.


I’m not sure where sewing will take me in 2017.  I’m working on an Aerial Grove quilt from Carolyn Friendlander’s awesome quilt book, Savor Each Stitch.  I’d love to do another Friendlander quilt, or maybe another Red Pepper Quilts design.  Hopefully I’ll manage at least a couple of quilts this year.  I’d like to do some knitting as well.  We’ll see where the mood takes me.

I’d also like to try some new type of crafting this year – maybe embroidery, or cross-stitch (which I’ve done before, but not for many years) or perhaps weaving.  Weaving would require a loom, which runs around $300 for a decent one.  I love wool, and I’m very intrigued by the possibilities of weaving.  My inspiration comes from photos from Virtual Yarns.


sewing in spring

I’ve been a huge slacker about sewing lately.  As Sarah would put it, I seem to have lost my sewing mo-jo, or at least my will to finish and photograph my creations.

I did make a First Day Dress for L.  It’s a twirl dress, so I encouraged L to do some twirling:


She seems to like it.  L is my most unreserved critic.  H always says he likes my creations, but he doesn’t notice the details.  L actually notices all the little things.  It’s nice.

I also made a couple of tote bags for L’s preschool teachers.  The free tutorial is here.  I appliqued little thank you notes on the inside of the totes.  The totes are fully lined and include a lined pocket on the front.


sewing and playroom update

Inspired by Carolyn Friedlander, I decided to make a quick pouf for the playroom.  Like all sewing projects, it turned out to be not as quick as I had hoped.  I’m pretty happy with the finished product, but the directions were very hard to follow.  Friedlander had a number of tips and pictures on her blog that made it considerably easier.  The actual directions featured low DOF, over-exposed artsy photos that were not helpful at all.

I used several pieces of fabric from a half-yard bundle of Alison Glass’s Handcrafted Indigos, which I received for Christmas.  Following Friedlander’s suggestion, I filled it mostly with little styrofoam balls.  This worked rather well, but wow, they are a pain in the neck to deal with.

The fuzz on the outside is from soft stuffing I put in it as well.  Presumably that’ll come off.

It’s handy and cute in our playroom.  The playroom itself is coming along.

The rug is beautiful, and it’s great for the kids to have a dedicated place to play.  With H’s relatives continuing to send us a lot of toys, it’s nice to have a place to store them all.   I’m planning to move the couch away from the window to where a bookcase currently is, add an additional bookcase, and add a hanging tent for the girls to play in.  Standby a month or so for the finished product.


a tote and a pouch

In between working on my hand-applique quilt, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing here and there.  In particular, I made a tote bag and a little pouch.

The tote bag turned out fairly well.  It’s a simple pattern without a boxed bottom, but I like the fabric, and you can never have too many tote bags, right?  The free tutorial is here.  I used this tutorial to make the handles.  I didn’t have enough interfacing for the handles, so I just used an extra piece of cotton which made them nice and sturdy.

It has a little pocket on the front, and my only complaint is that the pocket gaps a bit.  It would be better with a zipper or button or snap or something.

I also made  a little pouch.  This was my first time trying to do a zipper since high school, so I figured I should do something simple.  The tutorial for this one is here.

It’s totally cute.  Dealing with the zipper was a little awkward, but it turned out OK.

L is my most uncritical critic.

sunrise quilt

I decided that my next quilt should be a variation of the last one.  It’s very similar, but I divided the rainbow section into five columns.

The five columns are divided by smaller white columns of a linen/cotton blend, Essex by Robert Kaufmann.  I really love the white fabric – there’s something about it. I will definitely be trying to incorporate more of Essex into my quilting in future.  In general, I’m very interested in linen lately.

The quilt top is now sewn and ironed and ready for basting.  Ug, basting – it continues to be my least favorite part of quilting.

I plan to free-motion quilt this one, so I’ll be spending a little time practicing before I dive in.  This brings me to something I’ve been meaning to post for a while.  I got a new sewing machine!  It’s a Brother PQ1500s.  Checking out the link, I’m glad I decided to buy it when I did, as the price has gone up considerably since then.  I spent $650 on it, and it’s now $800.  Eek.

In any event, I’ve wanted a sewing machine with a larger throat for some time.  I considered machines like this, straight stitch only non-digital industrial machines, and I considered the fancy digitized machines.  Prior to the price increase, this was pretty much the cheapest sewing machine you could buy with a large throat.  It has an 8.5 inch throat with something like a 6.5 inch height.  You can tell just by looking at it that it’s very spacious.

The cheapest digitized machine runs about $900 if you wait for it to go on sale, and while the width of the throat is about the same, the height is lower, meaning the cross-sectional area to the right of the needle is significantly less.  I’m thinking of the Janome 6300 here, of the 6×00 series.  The Janome 6600 is one of the most popular machines in sewing, but it runs about $1500 new.  I did strongly consider buying a 6600 used on eBay, but I consider buying an item with so many moving parts like a sewing machine a bit risky, and I felt I’d rather have the larger c-s area of the pq1500s.  I probably could have gotten a used 6600 for around $700 or so on eBay.

I also considered springing for Janome 7700 which has a massive throat.  Interestingly, it’s got a width of something like 11 inches, but the area is only slightly larger than that of the pq1500s, since it’s lower.  That machine runs $2500 new – definitely not an option – but I watched used models on eBay for a while.  It seems like you’re looking at $1300 used for that model on eBay, which I felt was just not worth it.

I have been loving my machine so far.  I’ll have to come back and add some more photos.  It is just a power house, and I love love love the extra space.  FMQing should be easy now, right?  Ha.  It is rated 4.8 stars on Amazon, and it’s accurate.  I am still getting used to the extra power, as I got whacked on the forehead by part of the feed system (on the top), and I sewed the edge of my finger.  Ouch.

watercolor coasters

H’s mother has been asking for some artwork from L.  We’ve been really into painting lately.   Until recently, we’d stuck to the Crayola washable finger paints.  They really are fairly easily washable, and L can now get the paint out of the bottle herself.  She usually ends up with a big brown / gray / black blob in the middle of her paper, though, which I haven’t really felt like saving or sending to relatives.  L also enjoys the paint-with-water.  We’ve tried the traditional kind where the paint is actually on the page, like this, and she has a lot of fun with it, but again, the result is not really anything to write home about.  Recently, we tried this version of paint with water.  Basically the paints are at the top of the page, and for a three-year-old, I liked it a lot better.  L had a lot of fun with it (though I fell short trying to answer her why questions regarding the paint attached to the top of the page), and the results were actually really pretty, as much as rainbow painted cars, trucks and automobiles can be.  (On a side note, my appreciation for Melissa and Doug toys has been increasing as L ages – no Disney characters, basic, fun toys of every description, and more affordable than its Hape / Haba cousins.)

Inspired by the paint with water, I decided to buy L some water colors, and I think the water colors are much more forgiving than the finger paint.  I’ve even sat down myself and done some painting with her.  I decided we’d try and make some simple coasters for my MIL.  I just cut some seven inch squares of white fabric and gave them to L and let her have at it.  Then I cut some five inch squares of white fabric and some wool batting.  (In retrospect, I wish I’d used lower loft batting, but wool was what I had on hand.)  Once the paint had dried, I just layered the three together with the five inch squares centered on the seven inch squares.  I folded the seven inch edges over twice in half inch widths, and then just stitched the whole thing together.  I do think the result is quite cute considering the age of the artist and the low effort involved.

L was very pleased with them and doesn’t want to send them to Nana.  Too bad!  Off they go.  I feel I really should quilt them somehow, but I guess we’ll try that on version two.  The idea is that they could theoretically be used as coasters, but that may be incompatible with watercolor paint.  Fortunately, I think Nana is not a very though critic when it comes to her granddaughter’s art.