Friday, May 7, 2021

Robin, Revisited

Hello friends! I enjoyed reading all your comments to my last post on my mad new crochet hobby. Thank you for your recommendations and encouragement! I will be checking out some of those websites soon. I'm already on Ravelry, but in a sewing capacity, so it's a matter of simply crossing over to the yarn side when I have the time. It'll be fun to immerse myself in a new community of makers and speak a new language, as it were.

Two years ago today, I lost my dad. It still feels surreal to say that. To process the fact that I haven't seen his smile in that long, that the yearning and the grief have been part of who I am for what feels like both a blink and forever. I took stock today: where am I now on that journey? Well, I'm frustrated that because of pandemic travel restrictions, I can't physically be with Mum on important, difficult days like this, or Father's Day, or his birthday, or their anniversary. At the same time, I'm grateful that she's safe where she is and that she's taking good care of herself. I'm also perplexed that like those early days and weeks after his death, I'm once again lost for words. I thought that I'd have a lot to say - most people do, don't they, waxing existential about time and blessings and memories and life? I woke up this morning and it felt like a normal day. I wasn't fragile like I was last year. I wasn't angry. I wasn't lost and unmoored and foggy-headed. I'd had grand plans to be all solemn-ritual and bake Dad's favorite cake today but instead I made a batch of cookies and spent some time in the yard taking photos. My next-door neighbor, who'd lost her mom years before, has wind chimes hanging from a tree in her yard. She says that when the wind makes them sing, she remembers her mom and it's like hearing her mom talk to her. After the funeral, she gave me my own set of chimes. I hung them on a tree near hers, and whenever the wind blows through our yards, the chimes tinkle to each other. I heard them today when I was outside with my camera. They, too, sounded normal, the now-familiar outdoor soundtrack of spring-and-summer. 

I miss my Dad, and my heart will always look for him in the world around me, but life is moving me forward, I think.

I want to share a memory from just after his passing. I remember some advice I'd received (could've been a friend or a book or an article, the details from that time are so fuzzy) - to preserve as many memories of those days as I could, even the painful and discomforting ones, because they were part of his story and to forget them would be another kind of loss. So I journaled as much as I could, for which I am now unspeakably grateful, because that advice was indeed spot-on. I had to re-read those early entries today to remember all those precious details.

Bereaved families in Singapore often hold wakes just before their memorial services - several days of visitation to allow time for friends and relatives to sit and share memories and practical help. Sometimes these are held indoors in funeral homes but just as often they're outdoors, under large tents temporarily erected near the family's residences. If you live in an apartment, as I and the vast majority of Singaporeans do, these wakes are typically held in the public commons on the ground floor or some other designated public space. On the first night of my dad's wake (as told by my cousins) a tremendous rainstorm ripped the tents and flooded the site. The next morning, the funeral company had to reinstall the tentage. Then, I was still on the plane flying in from Minneapolis, and by the time I'd arrived, the sun was out and there was no trace of the damage of the night before. From the awe in my cousins' voices, I imagine it was quite the sight, as if nature itself raged alongside us in our grief. I was almost sorry to have missed it. 

Nature wasn't done, however, for then the moths came. Every day, for almost a week.

First, to my mother on the second night, as she puttered about in my dad's workroom, his tools still lying mid-project where he'd left them. A brown moth flew in through the open window, nine floors above the ground, and fluttered around the room. For a long time it stayed, sometimes airborne, quite unafraid, occasionally alighting on the tools. Mum was looking for something with which to swat it or bat it away when a memory from my childhood surfaced: my grandmother telling about moths turning up whenever there were deaths - a common association in our culture, but something I'd forgotten as I grew older and left those old wives tales behind (I secretly thought the moths came to funerals because of the bright lights at the wakes). The older generations certainly held to all manner of superstition regarding moths and the deceased, and spouted endless variants of their particular significance, but that night, decades removed from those stories, it was simply a comfort to see that brown moth. "Let it be," I told Mum, and we watched it together until it we could no longer spot it and had to assume it had finally flown out the window and back into the darkness. 

The next day, on the ground floor, we were clipping flowers from the wreaths for the casket when another moth appeared and fluttered around the flowers. "Was that the same moth?" I asked Mum under my breath. "No," she answered, "this one was smaller."

The day after, back in our 9th-floor apartment, Mum unpegged the dried laundry from the line and prepared to fold it. When she shook out her T-shirt and mine, two moths fluttered out where they'd been hiding, one in each shirt. 

On the fourth day, a moth flew into the apartment and alighted on my head.

On the fifth day, a moth flew into Mum's bedroom and sat on her arm.

There were no other moths after that. My Aunt passed away some months later, just before the start of the pandemic. This March, Singapore sufficiently relaxed its social gathering restrictions for my family to finally inter my Aunt's cremated remains in the columbarium. When Mum got home after the memorial service, she washed her clothes and set them out to dry. When she gathered them the next day, a moth surprised her by fluttering out.  

There were other incidents, too - the fragrance of flowers in a locked car and apartment, for one - things we couldn't easily explain. Coincidental, scientifically unproven (but not disproven) wishful thinking, perhaps. Yet not everything that's unexplainable is necessarily untrue, and I like to believe that what I experienced might have been the good Lord speaking comfort in ways we could understand, using the language of nature and culture and a grandmother's all-but forgotten anecdote.

So that was my memory. Today seemed a good day to share that. But let's look ahead now, shall we? 

About three years ago, when I was trying out some mini versions of Menagerie animals, I'd planned to make a series of birds. Before I became distracted by other projects, I got as far as a prototype of a robin. The colors were a little off, but they were what I had in my felt stash at the time, so I made do. This winter, I wanted to do something in honor of my dad so I revisited and tweaked the robin, then made other birds, which I'll share in upcoming posts. My dad loved birds. He was never a birdwatcher (then again, it wasn't a common hobby in urban Singapore) but from time to time, he'd keep birds at home - the local songbirds, typically. I remember him building cages with bamboo skewers, caring for injured birds and then setting them free. In his later years, he befriended a particular pigeon on the dock where he often fished. Their initial meeting involved food, unsurprisingly, but I heard that over the months a loyalty developed that was far less conditional. All  the birds in this series are native to this hemisphere, and make regular appearances in my backyard, but because my dad visited me here in MN a couple summers pat, he'd had the privilege to see them in person in his lifetime. What a sweet memory.

Anyway, here are some photos - this is the American Robin. 

Not the same as the European Robin, whose red coloration, the internet smugly informs me, is lighter and doesn't extend below its chest.

Here it is with the more taupe-ish Version 1.

Actually, if not for its dark head, Version 1 might've passed for the European (or English) Robin. If it also had a brown beak and brown feet, I mean. And an orange breast. And throat. So . . . maybe not.

Version 2 comes in more realistic shades of gray. I did my research a little more thoroughly this time.

Check back soon for more birds!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

I Now Wield A Hook (and a new level of insanity)

This winter has driven me to madness. Or maybe it's the beleaguered education situation that's left the schools in our district in their sixth learning model since the start of the pandemic. The poor kids, not to mention the teachers, don't know if they're coming or going some days. Or maybe I'm missing family in Singapore, a world away in more ways than one, at least until the quarantines are lifted for travel. My friend and ex-colleague died last month, which made me sad on many complex levels. I've been dreaming about my Dad - he appears on each occasion in one of his many-colored polo tees and makes me wonder if I'm subconsciously collecting a literal rainbow of hypothetical memories. And I'm working through what it means to be Asian and once-ferocious in my home country but not really now that I'm here where the rules are different.

It isn't because of what's been happening in the news, although that has stirred new interest, certainly. Losing Dad and Auntie Laura creates ripples and echoes, is all. Grief does that, I'm told. I have more stories to share about that sometime soon. With the world increasingly hospitable to the more communal aspects of loss, people I know are planning memorial services and finding (or at least moving toward) closure. And I am remembering things about my own surreal season of early grief: the emergency funeral, the dream-esque interactions with people, the almost mystical way in which nature intervened to comfort us, trailing its living fingers ever so faintly across the heart of a reeling family. 

It's not been all gloom, though. Remembering can be - and has been - beautiful and healing. 

This winter, though. A rollercoaster of all the ways a person's body can hold on to the tension of the past year. That's not to say that previous winters were parties. The winters of Minnesota have always been one scant uffda shy of a mental breakdown. We'd always found ways to cope: calories, jigsaw puzzles, home reorganization, fantasizing about garage-saleing away all our junk, trekking through snow in subzero weather in the name of enjoying nature simply because the sun peeked out for ten minutes - you know, stoic denial in all its creative forms. After all, Minnesotans are nothing if not creative with their resources. This winter, however, stretched that creativity and those resources, let's just say. I bought a grow light for my depressed houseplants and a hulking cat tree for Milo and Maisy so they'd stop being passive-aggressive with our furniture. I also swam obsessively. Not necessarily skillfully, mind you - just obsessively. In January, at the apex of my winter ennui, I bought a box of 100 postcards and started writing to people just so I'd remember to be thankful they were in my life. And I made myself take walks - not the casual Vitamin D strolls around the block, but the sort that involved hours of militant marching so as to burn off enough cortisol and adrenaline to let me sleep at nights without a racing heart and a mind on overdrive. 

I share this not to be a downer, but to be honest. Winter is hard for many, many people for any number of reasons. It's hard for me because I used to live on a tropical island, and the sound and smell of the ocean and the feel of sun on my skin are home to me in ways that crisp air in a crystalline birch forest, no matter how beautiful and invigorating, can never be. 

So, in February, when my friend Karin offered to teach me and another friend to crochet, I said hurrah, because the literature all purport that learning a new thing is good for loss (and general crabbiness). Plus, there is something wonderful about being in the learner's seat - a true, from-scratch beginner, I mean. You're a blank slate upon which to learn new habits without any old ones to unlearn. You're uninhibited with questions, even ones you fear might sound moronic. You're keen and optimistic and nonjudgemental. You're heady from the novelty and agog with the anticipation of What Could Be. What a rush learning is. 

I've been writing sewing patterns and teaching sewing and other things in various capacities for so long that I often forget what it's truly like to learn something from the very, very beginning. When I was a classroom teacher, my approach was always to first find out how much a learner already knew, so I could take them from where they were to where they needed to go. I've tried to do that in all my instructional sewing blog posts, but over time it's easy to forget how much folks may not even know that they don't know. 

So in addition to being a brand new learner, learning to crochet this winter took me back to when I was a more careful teacher. Even while I was learning, I was re-evaluating that learning process in light of all the sewing information I've been putting forth here on ikatbag. How much of it might have gone right over people's heads, for instance, because I'd not thought to bridge gaps between where they actually were on their sewing journey and what I was so giddy-happy to introduce them to. Or how different it was to learn sewing in the age of technology (when everything's freely available online, sometimes overwhelmingly so) than back when I learned it under the discerning curation of a family member.

One of the first things Karin asked me was what I wanted to learn to make. That's an excellent question, but it threw me because I'm typically motivated to just learn the skill itself. Certainly, everyone picks up the techniques that build a particular skill in increasing order of complexity, and one of the most organic ways to accomplish this is by working on a specific project that utilizes those techniques. For as long as I could remember, however, I'd ask my parents (or any adult), "Teach me to sew" or "Teach me to work with wood" or "I want to learn to cook". I hardly ever recall saying, "I want to learn how to bake chocolate chip cookies" or "I want to learn how to sew a pair of overalls". Projects were seldom the starting point - I'd always thought that if I could learn the skill, along with the its foundational secrets, I'd be able to ultimately make any number of projects in the future. I realize that this approach puts the onus on the teacher to devise a curriculum that methodically transfers their skill to the learner, and not all teachers teach that way. Regardless, I am happy to report that in spite of my unhelpful response to her question, Karin systematically began at the very beginning, worked through basic stitches on little sample swatches, and knew exactly how to get me and our other friend feeling confident and informed yet not swamped. Over the next few days and weeks as I practised on my own, I took photos to document my learning process. 

If I remember right, this was my first sample. Karin started a couple rows of single crochet (UK: double) and let me continue - you can tell where her good stitches ended and where mine took over, like locusts devouring a landscape. So funny. I pulled everything super tight and ended my rows in random places. This must be what is known as "dropping stitches". Although given that I didn't even count how many I started with, I don't know if I dropped stitches as much as simply believed they didn't exist.

This one was supposed to be double crochet (or triple crochet for friends across the pond). Again, Karin started the foundation row and let me run with the rest of it. Check out how I overcompensated for the last sample by now adding more stitches as I felt like it. "I'm working on the tension," I rationalized, "therefore the actual number of stitches isn't the point." Isn't it gloriously liberating to flout the rules? I felt such a kinship in that moment to sewing folks who say, "I don't care if my stitches are wonky and my SA wobbles from 3/4" to 1/8" throughout the seam and the print is totally upside down as long as I can use this tote bag for library books when I'm done."

Also: how refreshing that crochet is as neurotic as sewing in its multiple languages. I used to be frustrated with having to translate all the UK terminology in my head into American sewing lingo, but behold! The crochet world does it, too! Apparently, it isn't the sewing (or crochet) itself - it's the people trying to describe it who are bonkers. 

Now, this weird swatch. I think it happened when I decided to express my independence by starting my own sample. So overachieving, I know. "Eclectic gauge" might be an accurate way to describe it. I think mental health professionals should employ crochet samples as indicators of stability - or the lack thereof. This sample would "hint at elevated levels of cortisol in the bloodstream." 

Here's another attempt at tension-management. Yarn-tension, I mean. Not mental-tension. Although it could've been that, too. My diagnosis: still hysterical.

Here's where the story goes off the rails, so brace yourselves, people. There I was, studiously crocheting away, when I suddenly and desperately decided that I needed a yarn-dispensing system. A bag, preferably circular, with a tiny hole or something, and no zippers for snagging the yarn, would be ideal, I felt. Thus inspired, I abandoned the sadly misshapen swatch I'd been working on and started sketching a Yarn Dispensing Bag. Then I became convinced that I couldn't possibly be the only person in the cosmos who had use for such a yarn-dispensing wonder, so I Googled it to see what other people had been using.

Very dangerous, the internet. First, it produced all the wrong kinds of bags in the search results. Multi-purpose all-in-ones, the websites called them. True, they dispensed yarn, but also hooks, needles, patterns, WIPs and the kitchen sink, they were so enormous. 

Next, the internet generously suggested DIY versions made from soda bottles and ice cream tubs with holes drilled into them. All well and good, but what if a person wanted to switch projects (and yarn balls) without cutting the working yarn strand? One would probably need a soda bottle for each ball of yarn in one's stash, unless one planned ahead or were a one-WIP-at-a-time kind of craftist. Which, if my sewing history is any indication, I have no hope of ever being.

Finally, and most dangerous of all, the internet helpfully recommended Other Things I Might Like Based On My Browsing History. And I found these round bins. Which of course I had to make, because, well, they were round. 

Never mind if they had nothing to do with crochet or yarn-dispensing, 

and ended up being receptacles for my sewing paraphernalia instead.

Then, because round things must always be mass-produced and shared with the rest of mankind on account of their supremeness, I knew I had to make a couple more for Karin and the other friend who'd been learning to crochet alongside me. 

But first I had to draft the pattern. And to do that, I had to first decide on the dimensions. 

Which meant that, in order to justify making these bins while in the middle of a search for crochet stuff, I'd better at least pretend they might hold a yarn ball, however impractical or improbable.

Which meant that I had to exhume my yarn collection and roll them all into balls, so as to have a range of sizes to accommodate in my draft. Now, one of the advantages of NOT having been a crocheter or knitter previously is not owning an actual stash. My modest (and thus space-saving) yarn collection is limited to shades of brown (for doll hair) or truly random colors the kids bought for craft projects involving the glue gun or plastic canvas. One of the disadvantages of not working with yarn much, unfortunately, was being disinclined to organize what little I did have. Much detangling was necessary before I could proceed, it turned out. 

When I finally got to rolling the yarn into balls, though!

That, I thought, was the absolute best part of the whole crocheting affair. Rolling yarn balls was therapeutic and mindful and relaxing and gratuitous like I wouldn't have believed. And I found an old pair of hose and cut it into tube segments to make these sleeves. Which turned each yarn ball into a self-contained yarn dispenser. Which, you know, brought my quest for a yarn-dispensing thingamabob full circle. Literally. 

If that's not a Give A Mouse A Cookie story, I don't know what is. 

So, finally, having solved the yarn-dispensing dilemma, I was able to resume crocheting again. And those multihued yarn balls inspired me to want to learn to switch colors mid-project. So pulled up a Youtube video and voila! Not hard. (Remembering stitch count, though, still was, bah.) 

Later, I collected all my dismally amusing samples and surveyed them. How sad but earnest they looked! And how incredibly mind-blowing that I'd made fabric. Fabric! How fascinating to make something I'd only ever hacked apart before, you know, so that I could sew the disparate pieces together and call it a bag, or a skirt, or whatever. Crochet = reverse-sewing! And that wasn't the only difference: where sewing was all finaloutcome! 3D visualization! floorthepedal!, crochet was small-picturey, in-the-moment, and all about each.single.tiny.stitch. Total paradigm shift.

So that's where I've been, friends. Making fabric from scratch, as it were. 

Currently, I'm making washcloths to practise my stitches. Not unlike beginner seamstresses making face masks or tote bags or burp cloths. These are a tad psychedelic, because that's all the cotton yarn I happened to have on hand.

And then I thought I'd make a washcloth for each new stitch I was trying out. 

The internet informs me that this one's called the royal ridge stitch, not to be confused with the front loop thingystitch. Behold the funky right edge where I ran out of yarn and had to graft on other colors.

I'm working on this fancy thing called a cluster stitch now. I am beyond thrilled that it's somewhat rectangular rather than trapezoidal or hourglass-shaped. I ran out of yarn (again) so had to pause (again), this time to go shopping. Came home with 8 skeins, none of which were this yellow color I needed. A bit exasperated with myself - do I really need another hobby that involves hoarding and impulse buying? 

Whatever. Point is, until I brought home this new haul today, my "stash" fit comfortably in ye olde lunch bucket. Now, I'll have to find it a new home. Maybe I do need one of those ginormous multi-purpose crochet bags after all. Incidentally,  this was the very first lunch bucket I made - it must've been about three decades ago - which inspired my modern line of ready-to-ship lunch buckets and the sewing pattern


I'm doing well now, in spite of how manic I sounded at the start of this post. The promise of approaching spring (and summer, and outdoor swimming) has helped. The kids' happy faces now that they're back in school makes my mama heart sing. And crochet has been great, regardless of how entry-level I feel at the moment. Actually, especially because of how entry-level I feel. There's something exhilarating in knowing there's a multitude of Youtube videos and an ostensibly infinite directory of crochet stitches to discover. I have grand plans to learn to crochet in rounds next (because circles are superior) and eventually make blankets or something larger than dishcloths. I don't imagine I'll venture into sweaters anytime soon. Mainly because I can't for the life of me decipher the code that is crochet patterns. But also because I'm so finicky about the fit of anything I sew to wear; fabric and seaming are fiddly enough without adding gauge and whatnot to the mix. That's not to say I won't change my mind later when I'm onto my 1000th washcloth and bored into a coma - for now, though, crochet is what calms me when I need my mind to be on autopilot after a day of precision sewing and navigating life. 

Speaking of sewing, I'm working on a new pattern which I'll share soon, hopefully in time for spring. I'm excited about that, because it's made me feel uncommonly productive, which is especially nice after a season of loss and recalibrating myself. I've missed you guys. I hope winter's been kind to you. If not, hang in there, and breathe. Know that you're not alone, and certainly not the only one tearing your hair out (or hiding in the car hyperventilating). We've lived through a record-breaking freak of a year, and somehow come out on the other side with some of our sanity intact, and - on some wondrous days - with grace to spare, even. If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is. 

By the way, I know that many of you crochet, too, and if you have any tips for a newbie, or simple projects and useful websites to recommend, please do! Thank you in advance!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Dress for the Medical Doll

I recently corresponded with a mom of a little girl who owns one of my Medical Dolls. After our conversation, I reflected on the fact that the Doll's only garment is a hospital gown. Which kind of was the point: it was intended for a pretend-play scenario in a medical or healthcare setting. Further, when I was designing it for its original purpose  - a magazine tutorial - the editorial team and I were very selective with its final set of accessories to fulfill the space constraints of the publication. 

Revisiting the Dolls this past fortnight, however, made me wonder what they might wear when they'd recovered from their injuries or illnesses, or when the surgical procedures were over and they were done with physical and occupational therapy and ready to go home and get on with the rest of their lives. The Owie Dolls had a dress/shirt to which their hospital gowns reversed when they were all better; why should the Medical Dolls be subjected to perpetual treatment and neverending convalescence? It was, I felt, an important thing to think about, not only in the context of a make-believe rag doll but also in the light of what's been going on in the world in the last couple of years. And - let's be honest - winter has been especially onerous this year, with the restrictions and enforced isolation and general uncertainty of what spring and summer might bring. I know we've been told to live in the moment and focus on the present but if those are to have any virtue, it is in the context of a future that is worth looking forward to.

Hope, in other words. 

And so I thought I'd draft a dress for the Medical Doll - a Go-Home outfit, as it were. I worked on it in between other projects, so it had to be quick, without lining or zippers or buttons or anything fussy like that. From paper draft to final stitch, it came together within a day or two, and then it was packed and mailed off to this little girl and her doll. I took photos of the finished dress, though, and saved the paper patterns to share here on the blog. However, because I needed to get it in the post ASAP, I didn't photograph the individual steps, so this is going to be more of a deconstruction than a tutorial. Regardless, I hope you'll enjoy using it to sew dresses for your own Medical Dolls. 

As all my girl dolls have been sold, here is Patrick very kindly modeling the dress for you guys. It is a very simply-constructed garment: raglan sleeves on a straight bodice with a gathered skirt and a bound neckline.

This is meant to be sewn with knit fabric, for easy dressing and undressing. Even with the stretchiness of the fabric, the dress has to accommodate the doll's sizable head, so there's a slit opening at the back that's fastened with ties, 

all of which add up to a dress that's suitable for even beginners to make. 

First, download and print out the templates.

Click HERE to download the templates.

Note: There are no seam allowances (SA) on these templates. You'll have to add your own where needed. I recommend 1/4". 

Here are specific instructions for cutting and layout:

Use knit fabric. Do not use wovens, such as quilting cotton. This dress design is intended for fabric that is stretchy. 

2  Lay out all four templates (the bodices, the sleeve and placket) so that the fabric stretches sideways in the completed garment (i.e. horizontally across the body or arm).

3  Fold the fabric to double thickness with the stretch direction perpendicular to the fold and

(i)  place the edges of the Front and Back Bodice templates with the bent arrow along the fold of the fabric. Cut out one Front Bodice and one Back Bodice. Do not add SA along the folded edge. Do not add SA along the neckline. Add SA around all the other sides.

(ii) place the edges of the Sleeve template with the bent arrow along the fold of the fabric. Cut out two Sleeves. Do not add SA along the folded edge or the short neckline section. Add SA around all the other sides.

4  Cut out one Placket. Do not add SA around any of the edges - the final piece of fabric is exactly the same size as the template. Do not cut along the midline slit now.

5  Measure and cut out a rectangle of dimensions 21" x 5-1/2" for the skirt of the dress. The direction of greatest stretch of the fabric should be parallel to the long side of the rectangle.

6  Measure and cut out a strip of dimensions 20" x 1-1/4" for the binding of the neckline (and included ties). greatest stretch of the fabric should be parallel to the long side of the strip. You can use the same fabric as the rest of the dress, or ribbing.

Here follow the sewing instructions. A caveat: because we're using knit fabric, which doesn't fray, you do not need to finish any seams or edges. However, I've included instructions to finish edges and seams anyway because that just gives the whole garment a neater finish (especially if you have a serger).

1  First make the slit placket. 

Fold the Back Bodice along its center back line and press the midline so that it is visible. Fold the Placket along its midline and press so that it is visible. If desired, finish both long sides and curved bottom of the Placket (this step is optional because knit fabric doesn't fray, but it does give a neat finish. Do not finish the curved top of the Placket at this point - you'll bind it along with the neckline of the dress later). 

With RS together, align the midlines of the Back Bodice and Placket so that the curved top of the Placket is also aligned with the fabric edge of the Bodice's neckline. Stitch along the dashed line. Carefully cut along the dotted midline, then turn the Placket RS out through the slit so that the WS of the Placket and Back Bodice are now together. Press the slit opening. On the RS of the Placket, topstitch close to the edge of the fabric through both the Placket and Back Bodice. This will hold the Placket in place. 

2  Next, attach the sleeves.

Finish the hems of the sleeves. Fold the finished SA of the hem to the WS of the sleeve and sew the hem "in the flat".

With RS together, sew one sleeve to each shoulder of the Front Bodice along their raglan seam lines. With RS together, sew each shoulder of the Back Bodice to the 
other side of each corresponding sleeve along their raglan seam lines.

3  Then bind the neckline of the garment, and

It is easier to bind the neckline of the bodice before the side seams are completed so that the Front and Back bodice pieces and be spread apart. Locate the mid point of the 20" strip of binding and temporarily attach it to the mid point of the front neckline with pins or small clips. Pin the binding in place along the neckline on either side of this attachment point, working from the front of the garment toward the back. Beginning at one corner of the back Placket opening, attach the binding around the neckline, ending at the other corner of the back Placket opening. Continue to sew closed the free sections of the binding strip - these will be the ties. For additional instructions, here is a post containing methods of attaching bias tape and here is another detailing how to bind with knit fabric.

4  Sew the side seams.

With RS together, align and sew the side seams of the garment, continuing through the sleeve seam. The bodice is finished.

5  Finally, make and attach the skirt.

With RS together, sew the short ends of the 21" x 5-1/2" rectangle together to make a wide and short cylinder. Finish one edge of the circular opening, then fold and sew 1/4" of this finished edge to the WS of the fabric. This is the hem of the skirt.

At the other end of the cylinder, use the longest stitch length to sew two rows of basting stitch around the entire opening - the first row is about 1/4" from the edge of the fabric, and the second about 1/4" farther away from the first (i.e. the second row will be about 1/2" from the edge of the fabric). Leave trailing threads at both ends of both rows of stitches. 

On EITHER - but not both - the RS or WS of the fabric, carefully pull the trailing threads of both rows simultaneously to gather the fabric. Pulling both rows at the same time allows you to create even, parallel gathers. Make sure to gather from both ends of the rows, creating gathers toward the centers of the rows. Gather (and evenly distribute) the fabric until the circumference of the cylinder matches that of the bottom of the bodice. 

With RS together, sew the bottom of the bodice to the gathered edge of the skirt, stitching between the two rows of basting stitches (the two rows of basting stitches will keep the gathers in place so you can stitch over them without shifting).

Finish this seam.

The dress is finished.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

I Finished Something

that I'd been sitting on for several years. 

Some Scandinavian-style embroidery on upholstery suede. These, along with the newer cuts of the same suede in different colors, will become shoulder bags at some point in the future. Which could then become a sewing pattern. Unless - erk - I sit on that, too. Regardless, it feels good to finish something!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cardboard Popper - a tutorial by Kate

Hello friends! I hope everyone's surviving the winter and finding ways to enjoy the sun (when it turns up).

We've just come out of a cold snap here in Minnesota. Negative 20s and whatnot. Not pleasant at all, but we stayed in and did virtual school and tried not to let cabin fever make us too cranky. 

Kate has been making fidget toys. Too many Zoom classes at school, perhaps. Sitting still in a physical classroom is not nearly as odious as being hyperattentive on a videocalls for hours on end. Especially when there aren't any physical friends to sit next to, or when half the attendees' screens are dark and muted. Big hugs to all the kids out there who are showing up anyway, and doing their darnest to make it work. We see you, we're proud of you and we can only imagine how tough it is. 

Anyway, Kate spent several afternoons making an assortment of things to play with. Some were inspired by pre-existent toys she'd seen online. This one, the Simpl Dimpl, was actually an infant toy she discovered last summer when we met up with her baby cousin for the first time. It's curiously addictive to play with!

This popper is Kate's cardboard and paper version. She named it after the original toy and, as you can see in the photo below, it's version 2.0, the more robust iteration of her prototype.

Here it is in Kate's hands, to give you an idea of its size.

And here are a couple of videos of Kate popping the colored dimples.

There are so much I love about this design. The circles, foremost, because they're round and all those colors make the whole thing look like a happy artist's palette. And also because it's brilliant in its simplicity. Finally, it's cardboard. And my kid combined art and Physics, using stuff around the house to invent a workable version of a commercial plastic thing. 

Too good not to share with others, I thought. After all, who's to say there aren't other kids with time on their hands, going slightly bonkers at virtual school, missing friends and all the other good things from the World Before?

Shall we make a popper together? Here is Kate's tutorial - she made this Two- Dimple popper for ikatbag and walked me through the steps. I watched her, took photos and asked a lot of annoying questions.

We made a template for you to download if you're disinclined to freehand the shapes the way she did for her prototypes. There are two frame templates:  "The Two" and "The Eight". The Dimple template will work with either frame.

Click HERE to download the template.

This is what you'll need for "The Two":

  • 1 x "The Two" frame in corrugated cardboard (we cut ours with the flutes parallel to the longer axis of the frame)
  • 2 x "The Two" frame in white card stock 
  • Narrow strips of the same white card stock to cover the edge of the project
  • 2 x Dimple circles in paper or card stock. We found that while thick printer paper gives the most satisfying "pop", construction paper and card stock also work.

plus (not shown in the photo above):

  • clear tape wide enough to cover the Dimple circles (packing tape works well)
  • high temperature hot glue gun
  • scissors and X-acto or craft utility knife

Here's a tip for cutting out the frame: cut out the circles inside the frame first, and then cut around the outline of the frame - cutting something out of big shape is easier than cutting it out of a smaller shape because the bigger shape is more stable and moves less. This is true for both the card stock and cardboard, but is especially helpful for the cardboard. Here's why: when cutting stuff out of card stock, most people work on a cutting mat (or stack of newspapers) and use a slicing action to cut through the card stock with one hand while holding the card stock flat and stationary with the other hand. The thickness of the corrugated cardboard requires a sawing motion to get the blade all the way through the hollow flutes to the underside, and most people will hold the piece of cardboard away from a cutting surface to allow the blade to move freely in and out. If you'd cut around the outline of the frame first, there'd have been a lot less cardboard to hold on to while you were sawing out the inner circles - not only is this less stable, there's also a higher likelihood of the frame itself bending or being overly manipulated by the time the circles are liberated from it.

Let's begin! 

First, cover both sides of the circles with clear tape,

leaving enough tape around the edges

to "bubble cut" a border of at least 1/8" around them.

You don't have to do this beforehand, but we cut a slit (see next step) as a visual guide so we didn't have to draw on the plastic later.

You can eyeball this next step without actually drawing the radial lines (like in the pink circle above), but we included them in the green circle for clarity.

Cut along ONE of the lines to make a slit,

then bring that cut edge to meet the second line, overlapping the segment between them.

This should give you a very wide and shallow cone. 

Tape the edge down with a small piece of clear tape.

Invert the cone and flip it over. The cut edge will pop out on the underside. Tape that down with a piece of clear tape as well.

Make two of these shallow cones.

Fire up the hot glue gun. On one side of the cardboard frame, apply glue over the entire surface.

Stick on one of the white card stock frames. This side is finished.

Flip the frame over. On the other, bare side of the cardboard, apply glue around one of the inner circles

and stick one of the cones over the circular hole. It'll be mostly the clear 1/8" border around the paper that gets glued on.

Repeat this to stick the second cone over the other circular hole.

Now apply glue to the rest of the frame around the cones,

and stick the other card stock frame on. 

Here's a photo of Kate using the stub of a marker to press the card stock more firmly to the cardboard surface, because it was too hot to use her fingers.

You can declare the popper finished at this point, or you could keep going and cover the bare edge, too (we did!)

Apply hot glue to the edge in a short section at a time, and glue on the narrow strip of card stock, pressing it carefully (here's the fingertips-saving marker again) to ensure it adheres fully.

Here's the completed popper: The Two.

The dimples should pop in and out easily.

Kate made "The Eight" the same way, except with Dimples in eight colors. 

Happy making!