Kalle Shirt Dress

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I started this dress in March, fully believing I would finish it in a week or less. Finally in May, this dress is wearable. March and April were crazy months for me. My husband took a job in Oregon, so during my spring break in March we drove across the country to drop him off. Then, I flew back, leaving the car with him, to finish my semester in St. Louis. April marked the beginning of final paper season, which was intense this year (more intense than past years), and I felt swamped.

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I had little energy left for creativity – and reclaimed crafting requires that little extra bit of energy to address things like stains, yarn substitution, or pattern adjustments.

But let’s rewind, before I couldn’t finish this dress, I did start it – and make it most of the way through the pattern. My kalle is made from an old bed sheet (from Ikea) that had a few very subtle bleach spots. The fabric was in good condition (besides the pervasive smell of bleach) and I knew it would make a reliable shirt dress. It also pressed very well and feels quite stable.

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I knew I wanted to make a change to the pattern. Instead of a box pleat at the back, I gathered the excess fabric. So I have a small section of gathers at the back of my dress (which I love).

This dress hung mostly finished on a hanger in my room for six weeks. The thing that kept me from adding the final touches was one small stain on the back, about the size of a pencil eraser. It looked like a spot of permanent marker. This dark little stain was a huge thorn in my crafting side.

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Finally, due to the pressure of leaving St Louis to spend my summer in Oregon, and the added pressure of not having room to take my sewing machine, I knew I had to finish this dress if it was to ever see the light of day. I sat down with The Geometry of Hand Sewing by Alabama Chanin (which I just realized is a signed copy… woah), and tried to identify simple decorative stitches that would cover the stain in the back.

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I settled on an Algerian Eye variation that looks like an art deco flower design. I tried it out on the pocket and then tackled the back. I had to play around with various layouts for a while, and finally reached this triangle idea with the Algerian eyes in crossing diagonal lines. I was very chill (uninterested) in making this super precise – so one side of the triangle is about an inch higher than the other… but I can’t see it because it’s in the back and anyone who notices it would be far too close to my backside for my comfort.

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This dress has blown my mind. The simple stitching (which maybe was about three hours of work) has transformed this dress from basic to heirloom. I’m shocked with how well it turned out. I imagine I’ll be adding many more hand stitched touches to my dresses in the future.

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Mending: Flannel Cuff Repair

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My favorite cotton flannel shirt was in serious need of repair. The cuffs were fraying and so many edges were wearing through. The tag had been attached by a safety pin for about four years (though this isn’t an essential fix – more of a sentimental one).

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I love this flannel – it carries heaps of sentimentality. It originally belonged to my dad in his adventure days. As his dementia has progressed, those adventure days are mostly behind him – but he still exclusively wears flannel shirts (like a good Minnesotan). It’s a special piece, but that doesn’t stop me from wearing it. What was stopping me from donning this as a casual layer was the quickly disintegrating fabric around high wear areas.

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I applied my very basic mending skills to the cuffs, as this was the area in most need of repair. I used a blanket stitch, but stitched incredibly close together so there were no spaces in between each downward stitch. This also looks somewhat like a buttonhole stitch – but I don’t know enough about hand stitching to make a definitive statement about that.

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The stitching is a little wonky – I’m still getting the hang of the rhythm of precision hand sewing.

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A week after I finished my cuff repair, I noticed new spots on the cuff collar that are wearing thin. It seems like this flannel will forever been in need of mending. While I easily could feel despair over the never ending task of trying to preserve this item of clothing, I’ve decided that it’s perpetual need of repair shines a light onto how I feel about this shirts original owner – my dad – and his illness and aging. By spending some time attending to the weak spots in his shirt, I’m reminded to keep pressing into the weaker spots in his memory. If I wanted this shirt to last forever, I would put it away and never touch it. But what we’ve learned about people with dementia (and people in general) is that this breakable doll treatment hardly helps anyone. What we all need is love and care as we exercise our minds and bodies in community with one another. We need some mending for our thin spots, some reinforcements for our weaknesses. Revealing our vulnerabilities (visible mending) is not something to be ashamed of, but rather it is something that demonstrates our participation in the unpredictabilities of life – it shows that we are really living!

The Embroidered Erin Skirt

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This skirt began as a pair of mid-rise wide leg pants. The beautiful herringbone weave fabric with tiny strands of gold were calling out to be transformed into a wearable, everyday item.

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One item I’ve been reaching for constantly this fall/winter is my high waisted denim a-line skirt (seen here). This skirt has been a year round staple since I bought it, ready to wear, about two years ago. I’ve slowly been transitioning from store-bought clothes to homemade versions, and I thought my beloved denim skirt could use a sibling.

The Erin Skirt from Sew Over It is a high waisted button down skirt that comes in a mini and midi length. It’s high waistband is perhaps the only feature it shares with my store bought version. The Erin Skirt has the added details of a button down front, pockets (!) and a more pencil-skirt feel, while my denim version is sans pockets, has a bit more volume and is a bit shorter.

As I mentioned earlier, this skirt began it’s clothing life as a pair of pants. While I loved the pants as-is, they were just a tad too short waisted for my preference. I’ve been leaning toward cropped tops and high waisted bottoms lately; it’s a silhouette I’ve been drawn to in all seasons. While I toyed with the idea of altering the pants to fit me perfectly, I recognized that a skirt would be of greater utility.

Every material in this skirt was somehow secondhand. The pants were found at my favorite clothing swap at Perennial, the covered buttons and material come from Cincinnati’s creative reuse store called Scrap It Up. I’ve never used covered buttons before (let alone vintage one’s), but when I came across a six-pack of Prym covered buttons, I realized their versatility was invaluable. After a short rummage through an upholstery sampler box, I found a perfect navy herringbone fabric for a statement button. I think the total cost of these buttons was $.40 ($.25 for the buttons and $.15 for the fabric sampler). The clothing swap fee was $10, but I took away 10 items, making these pants $1. My total cost to make this skirt was $1.40.

I had to do some unique pattern placement to get enough fabric from the pants to make this skirt. First, my front pieces both include the side seam from the original pants (visible in the photos above and below). Second, I used the original waistband, which is double the width of the pattern waistband and includes four belt loops. Because I used the original waistband, I had to mend the original buttonhole – so there’s some mending visible on the front of the skirt. Third, the pants have about four layers of hem (why so many???) and after unpicking all four, the stitching and fold lines were still quite visible around the bottom of the skirt. After mulling over my options to camouflage the original hem, I decided four lines of chain stitch embroidery would do the trick. This thread came from my sister-in-law’s closet clean out, she found them in a box of middle school craft supplies and I was thrilled to rescue them.

Refashioning pants into a skirt was well worth the extra effort. My favorite parts of this skirt (the buttons and embroidery) were only possible because I limited myself to used materials. These limitations, rather than produce something subpar, allowed me to develop my skills and creativity. I’m absolutely thrilled with this skirt.

2017 Gifting: The Simple Handkerchief

I love making gifts for my family every holiday. I remember the first year I learned to knit I decided to make my sister a scarf, and I’ve made a lot of gifts since then. My skills have considerably improved since 2012, and so has my gifting philosophy. Each year someone in my family will receive a larger gift, usually knit, that takes time to make. The others will receive something smaller, but equally personal and beautiful.

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Starting off small, my dad will soon be the proud owner of this embroidered handkerchief (Last year he received this massive scarf, so it’s his turn for something small). It’s the perfect gift because he has now officially entered old man club and uses handkerchiefs 24/7 (which I love about him). It also declares his love for his favorites state (mine too). So, where winters are long and runny noses are common – the embroidered handkerchief is a practical statement to the kind of love only a Minnesotan could have.

Though this looks simple, the making process had some dramatic moments. First, the only embroidery hoop I could find was much much larger than the handkerchief. I decided to baste it to a larger piece of fabric and embroider through both layers. I planned to cut away the excess fabric after embroidering. Of course, the removal did not go as smoothly as I expected – I cut two holes in the actual handkerchief… I was almost devastated, but I decided to try out some mending skills. So with my white thread and a knowledge only gained from a few instagram posts – I set out on my mending journey. I think it turned out just fine! My dad’s definitely not going to notice. Would I do this again? Probably not – the removal process was far too risky and the handkerchief was so thin and vulnerable. Embroidery hoops are useful tools and I should probably invest in a range of sizes.

 

Besides the little snafoos, the overall process of embroidering this handkerchief was a breeze (I did most of it at 5 AM when I couldn’t sleep). I used backstitch for the Minnesota outline and the lettering and a chain stitch for the heart (plus one tiny stitch for shaping).

Merry Christmas Dad.

 

 

Mending: Torn Leather Bag

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One of my recent clothing swap pieces was this handy leather crossbody bag. It’s an upgrade from the tiny sized one I previously owned. While this tiny bag was perfect for the essentials (phone, keys, wallet), it was a bit tricky to stuff a cake of yarn and small knitting project into it. I imagined my new favorite hobby (knitting and walking) would be much easier with bag large enough for the essentials + knitting project.

I also picked up this bag because I wanted to give it some added years of use. Rips and holes are usually reason to toss an item into the landfill. If I mend this small rip, even if I find this bag isn’t as useful as I hoped, I could send it back into the clothing swap cycle and it might have a higher chance of new ownership. Basically: no rip = greater chance of use.

Even more than that, I wanted to test out how sewn repairs on leather hold up on high traffic or high tension areas. This bag tore right where the strap meets the bag, which makes it a perfect candidate to test how long a sewn repair might last.

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The Repair

Materials: I used hand quilting thread and a large eyed needle for my repair.

My method was something like this: insert needle from underside of leather to top on lower portion of rip. Pull thread tight (but not too tight). Insert needle from underside of leather to top on upper portion of rip. Pull thread tight. I did this until the hole was closed. I tied a small knot in the thread to secure the stitches and snipped the thread.

This repair created a zipper like effect on the fabric which reminds me a bit of Tim Burton movies (specifically Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas). I ran into a few problems in the middle of my rip. With this leather, it was clear that the area immediately surrounding the rip was weak and would not handle the stress of a needle and thread. On this particular rip, the area in the middle was significantly weaker than the two corners. When I would sew through the middle section, often my thread would tear through the leather. My solution to this was simple: insert the needle farther from the ripped edge. So, in my repair, the stitches are noticeably different lengths.

This isn’t what I would call the most beautiful bit of visible mending, but it does the job. I am interested to see how these stitches hold up, especially considering in my repair process the stitches pulled out in some places with minimal force. If they don’t hold up, the next step is to create a larger patch secured to more than one seam.  However, I will be pleasantly surprised to see how long this repair might last.

Happy Mending

Mending: Ironing Board Cover

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After the beeswax fiasco of 2017, I needed a new ironing board cover. But even before that, my ironing board was becoming rather flat in the middle. It needed to be mended. Rather than toss the entire board, I deconstructed the cover and replaced the unusable piece. The end result was a quick and speedy mend.

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The problem: the structure was good, but the batting was totally squashed and the fabric cover was full of wax – making it useless. Without a new one, my clothes would be horribly ironed and covered in wax. Top priority.

The mend: I needed to totally recreate the ironing board fabric cover and cut out new batting. This was wonderfully simple.

I removed the cover by loosening the drawstring. I separated the foam from the fabric (easy as they were just set on top of each other).

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I placed the foam on top of the batting and cut.

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I placed the waxy fabric on top of a stiff cotton sheet. 100% cotton, linen, or wool is best for an ironing board. These fibers can withstand high temperatures and won’t melt like poly’s or acrylics. My sheet was a remnant from my Orla Dress.

I added 1 inch around the edges of my fabric cover to create the drawstring channel.

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After cutting my fabric, I pinned the edges up 1 inch around the new cover.

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I sewed around the edge using a 3/4″ seam allowance. I stopped about 1/2″ from where my stitches began to leave room to thread the drawstring through the edges.

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Using the old drawstring and a safety pin, I managed to thread the string through the stiff fabric.

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Finally I was ready to place the cover on the board, sandwiching the batting. I used the board’s original drawstring stopper to tighten the string.

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And then I was completely done! I now have a fresh ironing board cover and no danger of waxing my clothes.

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Mending: Broken Glass

The story of two seemingly hopeless items and how they were repaired

Elbow + Chemex

Kyle discovered coffee soon after we married. It started with a demand for caffeine and grew into a full blown love affair with the process. The Chemex was his first brew system. He loved it, cared for it, washed it regularly, and always told me to stay away because I might break it.

It was a sad day indeed when the Chemex finally met its maker. However, it wasn’t any of my flailing limbs that did it in. Someone else’s elbow knocked the drying Chemex over on the dish rack. Kyle has missed it ever since.

I saw the Chemex, expecting it to be shattered, but I saw it and was filled with hope. Only one piece had been removed from its award-winning figure. “I can fix this” I thought to myself, just like the Japanese would fix cracked pottery with gold, I can make this Chemex even more amazing.


Lofty goals.

Ladder + Bedroom Door

Kyle and I live in a weird house. An early 1900’s single family home turned duplex. What once was the kitchen is now our bedroom…it has two entrances…with textured glass panes on both doors. (Weird)

After hours of debating if we could stand the sage green bedroom walls for one more second, we finally decided that, even though we were renters, we could fork over some cash to paint one room. Our tall friend was crucial for reaching top of the 12 foot walls, he was also a little clumsy. We awoke to a crash one night. It wasn’t a break in, but a ladder that met the glass part of our bedroom door with a smash. Frightened, shocked, and confused, we realized our ladder placement was horrible. Our friend briefly brushed it with a shoulder and caused the ladder to lose all balance. The glass pane was a goner.

Mending Broken Glass

I headed to my favorite place in the world – Perennial, my local community workshop and crafting haven. They’re all about fixing broken things and reusing materials. I knew they could set me up with someone who could solve my shattered problems.

Amazingly, they had the exact textured glass for our bedroom door in storage. A little corner was missing, so I learned how to solder to add a bit of stained glass. Now it truly is more beautiful than before.


The Chemex has a happy ending too, after learning how to grind glass, I could successfully solder the broken pieces together to make a water tight seal. The solder is lead free, so it’s safe to use on things like coffee brew systems and pipes. Now all I have to do is convince Kyle that this Chemex is even better than its old self.


I followed this tutorial for soldering glass pendants. It’s so helpful. My glass items would still be broke without it.

Glass Reflections

I postponed these mends for a number of months. Partly because I’m a grad student and semesters are always busy, but also because I was afraid of glass. I had no idea how to solder, no idea if fixing glass was an option, and no clue how to fix a glass pane in a door.

I probably could have made it easier: like supergluing the chemix. But soldering adds so much beauty.

With a little direction and the right tools, both of these tasks were quite simple. Now I want to repair all the broken glass and ceramics!