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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Pink Trapeze Dress

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I’m finding my stride with dress silhouettes. This trapeze dress hack of Simplicity 8335 is maximum flow.

I wanted to make a dress appropriate for a summer wedding, and I gave myself about three weeks to do it. While three weeks would be a generous amount of time for my typical sewing speed, final paper season cut my sewing speed in half, and then in half again.

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I changed two things about Simplicity 8335. First, I extended it into a wide a-line shape dress that would hit just above my knees. Second, I removed the sleeves and created a more appropriate (flattering) sleeveless cut around the armholes.

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The first change was easy, I laid the pattern on a piece of old fabric (on the fold) as if I were to cut out the pattern. I then drew a line from the arm hole edge to the selvedge edge. This line was long enough to extend the length of the pattern by about 20 inches.

I made the second change by tracing a ready to wear sleeveless shirtdress I have in my wardrobe on top of the new pattern.

I also took about 1 inch off the center of the front pattern piece – there was just a little too much volume and the neck wasn’t laying flat against my chest.

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The biggest element of this dress are the appliquéd flowers. After sewing most of the dress together, I noticed a stain on the back of the dress towards one of the side seams. I chose to cover this stain up by creating a cascade of flowers down the stained side of the dress. The flowers are cut from an vintage bedsheet and appliquéd with a various simple stitches. I used a running stitch, chain stitch, and blanket stitch in three different pinks to apply the flowers. Appliquéing was a lot of work. I spent about a week sewing these flowers on this dress. In the end, I’m very proud of it. It also moves like a dream – it just floats behind me when I walk.

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I would have loved to do some more complex hand stitching on this dress, however I had to be honest with my abilities and my time crunch. Basic stitches were the only way this dress would be completed in time for this wedding. I do, however, look forward to the slow advance of my embroidery skills.

I’m at the end of a crazy semester, and my imaginative language skills are lacking as a write this, but I did try to express the great joy that making this dress brought me over in this ig post.

What Happened to April – Finished Objects and WIPS

 

Hello Readers,

Before that MMMay18 post, I was pretty quiet (actually silent) in this space for the last month. All that radio silence is my first real period of blog-absence since Reclaimed Craft started in August 2017. I had a great streak of posting at least once a week since that first post appeared, however, April came in and just smacked me in the face.

So what happened to April? Where have I been? What have I been making? AM I STILL AROUND?

Answer: yes, I’m around. I’ve been pretty active over on instagram… I’ve been making a bit, not a lot, and definitely not according to my schedule anymore. I have been writing – final papers. Those thirty page gems that demonstrate my skill as an almost Doctor of Theology and Health Care Ethics (coming 2020 if all goes well). This writing takes WORK – and uses very similar skills to blog writing. All my writing abilities have been zapped up by these papers. But I’m not sorry for my blog absence because these papers will be amazing and all three people who read them better be impressed.

So, more to theme, what have I been MAKING? Well, April left me with a lot of work to do, so honestly my projects have been minimal.

Finished Objects

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This embroidery sampler has really kicked my slow sewing bug into shape. I want to add hand embroidered elements to all of my me-mades. Is it possible? I think so.

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I finished a pair of socks which are (subjectively) the ugliest socks in the world. Rainbow is just not my style. However, I will wear these socks with pride. Also you can just see the final paper fatigue written all over my face – I’m embracing it.

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I finished another GORT! for my friend Carly from scrap yarn. I wanted to celebrate her birthday and her upcoming graduation from seminary with a sweet toy that mixes her favorite color (forest green) and my favorite color (dusty pink). Incidentally, she has hated the color pink for our entire friendship (something about recovering from consumerism… and suburbs), so I have now made it my mission to reintroduce the color to her in a helpful and palatable way. I think it’s working… This Gort is stuffed in a similar way to my last Gort, but with more cut up fabric scraps than yarn pieces – which makes it a bit lumpier and heavier. Yarn scraps are definitely my stuffing of choice when it comes to toys.

WIPS

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I have some Selbu mittens on the needles. They need thumbs.

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I’m working on this wedding blanket for my good friend Veronica. I have not been able to find the right style for this blanket. It has to represent her well and be large enough to avoid the baby blanket look. I’ve knit three different versions, and have finally settled on a log cabin style Mexican blanket inspired look. I will 100% not finish this on time, so it’ll be a late wedding present.

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Finally, I have a Kalle shirt in progress. It’s been languishing for the last month, untouched, for some unknown reason. All I have to do is add the hem binding and the buttonholes. I think the thing stopping me is the stain on the back. I have so many ideas for how to cover it creatively to make it a design feature – but my creativity has really been funneled into those final papers, so crafting has taken a serious back seat.

I’ve also finished one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever made – but that deserves a whole post dedicated to its creative glory. Fear not, there is more making to come!

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!

A Monster for Baby Francis

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My wonderful friend from my PhD program is having a baby! So to celebrate, I knit her this sweet monster baby toy. This is Gort from the Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger.

Toys like these monsters are my favorite way to use scraps of yarn. I use larger leftovers for the body and those small offcuts for the stuffing. Unravelling thrifted sweaters produces a surprising amount of yarn scraps – some of the scraps used to stuff Gort were from 2015.

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Speaking of stuffing toys with scraps, I once heard an experienced toy knitter say that the only reliable way to stuff plush and full toys was to use poly-fil (or some sort of polyester batting) specifically for toy use. I’ve never used polyester filling for my toys. I’ve stuffed with lambs fleece, roving, and mostly scraps of yarn and fabric. I have never had a toy collapse or grow lumpy. I prefer to use scraps as it saves them from the landfill and serves a wonderful purpose.

The body is stripped with worsted weight yarn – the dark blue hails from my mother-in-law’s stash while the light blue marl was from a wedding blanket I knit in 2015.

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I decided to embroider the facial features on this monster to make it baby safe. The embroidery process was a bit nerve-wracking, but I pulled myself together and tried my best to plan it out. I think this little toy has a friendly face, perfect for small ones. Though, I did have a bit of a crisis immediately after finishing the face as I feared it could come across as terrifying. Thankfully, everyone who saw the monster disagreed and thought it was adorable and said it was overreacting.

This little monster is going off to meet it’s new family this afternoon! I’m hoping it will fit right in and be a loved for many years.

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: Zoey the Cat Ornament

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The last hand made gift for 2017 is Zoey the Cat (ornament). This little sweetie is modeled after the cat who, this fall, won my heart and brought me to two amazing roommates. Zoey the ornament cat is the perfect reminder of this surprising season of cat cuddles and roommate laughs.

Ornament Zoey is made from used materials found at Perennial. She has a black felt body with an embroidered face. I used hand stitching (rather than machine) during the construction process. She’s stuffed with leftover sweater scraps from my Open Waters shawl. Her dress is made from linen duvet scraps and her shawl comes from a scrap of a slightly felted sweater. To add a little holiday spirit, she’s carrying a jingle bell (ironic because the real Zoey hates bells and noise of any kind).

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I used the “Fern the Cat” ornament pattern in Making no. 4. I didn’t change much, except the color of the felt cat body, and I eliminated the bag. I’m still pretty new at embroidery (visible in the unique size of each eye), but I found this pattern easy to follow, helpful, and manageable. My favorite part was hand stitching the body together. Like most people who sew, I also avoid hand sewing whenever possible. However, the author of this pattern recommends hand stitching as a deliberate slow and peaceful practice. I took her up on this offer and found that it was exactly as she described. I narrowed my focus on tiny stitches and many of my concerns disappeared for an afternoon.

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I think the real Zoey is proud of her miniature, and her real parents are delighted. I have enough black felt left over to make another mini Zoey, and I’m thinking I might need one of these myself.

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