Craft Culture: My Top Five Crafty Podcasts

The audio podcast was an essential part component to my full immersion into craft culture. Listening periodically to devoted makers describe their crafting journeys has tuned me into my own perspective on craft. These podcasts continue the tradition of oral education in traditional crafts. I imagine that, at one time, discussing projects, techniques, patterns, and materials was something done by makers who lived close to each other; family members, close friends, and neighbors. Now, as a general knowledge of needlecrafts has disappeared from collective culture, finding these important places of communication requires a little extra effort. Enter: the podcast – today’s version of folk knowledge.

Here are my top five

  1. Love to Sew. Helen and Caroline are my two favorite hosts of any podcast. They make me giggle out loud in elevators, nod along in the hallway, and dream up sewing projects after every episode. I have learned valuable skills and tricks from these two and the wonderful folks they interview. Also, the theme song is brilliant. My favorite episode so far is this one. Overall theme of this podcast: you can make anything.
  2. Mrs. M’s Curiousity Cabinet. Everything about this podcast is my style. From Meg’s attention to the ecological implications of making to her soothing presentation of her making journey – this podcast inspires me to keep asking questions about my habits and materials. Her research oriented approach to knitting and sewing really satisfies my academic side, but I think even non-research folks will love this podcast. Each episode is packed with information and inspiration. Meg even answered a question I posed to her in a comment on instagram (in this episode)!
  3. Making (formerly Woolful). This is a hugely popular podcast, and the first proper knitting podcast I ever listened to back in 2014. It’s new iteration – combining Ashley Yousling’s Woolful with Carrie Hoge’s Making Zine (one of my favorite designers and publications) is pure magic. The story telling and interviewing in this podcast is beautiful.
  4. Curious Handmade. I’m really late to the game on this one. Helen Stewart is a veteran in the knitting podcast genre, but I didn’t start listening to her until last November… I now realize what I was missing. Helen has this ability to describe knitting projects and patterns with words that renders the need for images useless. This podcast really inspires me to dream up perfect projects that fit into my life, while moving slow enough to make space for realistic expectations with our crafty time.
  5. Live from Here with Christ Thile. Okay this isn’t a podcast, its a radio show. It’s also not about crafts, its about music, laughter, and pure radio magic. I had to include it because I love this show and knit to it all the time. Prairie Home Companion was one of my favorite things while growing up in Minnesota – though not without serious issues (like obvious sexism). Chris Thile has transported this show into the 21st century with modern artists, storytelling, and content. Every one of my favorite musicians has been on this show in the last two years including Brandy Carlile, Abigail Washburn, and just this whole episode with Marcus Mumford, Corrine Bailey Rae, Trevor Noah, and Gabby Moreno…). I love to listen to this show while eating wild rice soup and staring at my Dala Horses and dreaming about cross country skiing.
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Christmas Break Crafting: Wraping Up with the (sort of) Mia Jeans

I have put the finishing touches to every project I had planned for winter break making madness.

My Erin Skirt, Logalong Skirt, Flora Mittens, and Zweig Sweater, are all complete. Finally, I have put the finishing touches on a pair of refashioned Mia Jeans.

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These jeans are a hybrid of the Mia Jeans pattern from Sew Over It and the original pants design. I kept the side zipper and the button closure of the original pants, as well as no pockets. I achieved the right fit using the Mia Jeans – and that’s about it.

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Here’s a high quality shot of me wearing the original pants (kind of a drop crotch going on)…

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I found these jeans at a Goodwill in Cincinnati, I was on the hunt for a pair of pants with enough stretch required for the Mia Jeans but also large enough for me to achieve a high waisted fit. I walked around the denim aisles stretching every pair of jeans to see if I could find a truly stretchy pair. Eventually, I started imagining that some pairs were stretchy, but then I realized I was actually pulling them on the bias… I’m sure I looked a little crazy. Finally, I was shocked to come across the perfect pair of stretch grey trousers from Gap. The key is that the tag in the back actually says “stretch,” making my job much easier.

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Refashioning these was relatively simple, up to the zipper. I don’t know if I like the long side zipper on such a tight fitting pair of pants… but I also don’t hate it. It makes it a bit easier to tuck in tops and prevent awkward bulking in my midsection, but it does stick out.

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I’d like to make another pair of Mia Jeans, however the fabric characteristics (stretch denim) is not the easiest fabric to find while thrifting. I’m on the hunt for some non-stretch pants patterns (like the Lander Pant!) as non-stretch denim and canvas is easier to find used and reclaimed.

Reclaiming Femininity: how I respond when people call me a 1950’s housewife

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Pictured here (clockwise from top left): my bento bag (from making no. 4), a candle made by my friend Brie, my great aunt Joan’s thimble and sewing scissors, a necklace made by my friend Carly, my basic fingerless mitts, a pink skein of Manos del Urugray, and my Flora Mittens.

Domestic. Feminine. Girly. 1950’s Housewife. All “compliments” that require a huge amount of interpretation on my part to be received well. When I first picked up knitting I had no idea about its history or its current cultural connotations as a woman’s activity. As I began to knit around my family and friends, I heard comments using the adjectives above with greater frequency. Being called domestic or feminine felt more like an insult than a compliment. It has taken a lot of thought to reach the point where I say thank you when someone compares me to a 1950’s housewife rather than slam the door in their face.

If I’m being honest with myself, I am feminine. Identifying as feminine is difficult to do considering my strong identity as a tomboy and my rejection of anything girly as a child. This rejection was still present when I picked up knitting in 2011, completely unaware of its feminine connotations. I was also completely unaware how this new hobby would reveal years of internalized sexism. As I became more and more of a “knitter” I wrestled with what it meant for me to be feminine and my deeply held negativity about femininity.

Let’s return to my identity as a tom boy. This identity had a very clear origin: sometime in elementary school I chose to embrace all things “boyish” and reject anything “girly.” Previous to this point I was a huge fan of the characteristic girly stuff: dresses, pink, dancing, dolls, etc. I chose to push aside those interests and take on totally new interests like football, the color orange, and cargo pants. Now I find it absolutely hilarious that to my eight-year-old brain cargo pants and orange were the most boyish things I could imagine.

One of the reasons I rejected femininity as a child was because, in my community, feminine things were characterized as boring, frivolous, and limiting. If I was girly, I couldn’t enjoy playing outside or being loud and rambunctious – which I desperately wanted to do at all hours. Somehow I made the all-or-nothing calculation that if I were to be strong, athletic, and loud, I couldn’t be feminine. I identified with these traits that could be traditionally labeled masculine and gave up my feminine traits. While I am glad I embraced those parts of me that were loud and strong, I can identify that for most of my childhood I did not feel like I could be myself. My decision to reject the feminine had been detrimental to my sense of identity.

After years of schooling and some very helpful academic courses on feminism and theology, I realized that qualities labeled masculine and feminine could, in fact, be embodied in one individual. These traits that are labeled feminine or masculine aren’t actually inherently gendered. The color orange does not, at its core, belong more to men or women. The ability to follow a recipe for cupcakes does not inherently belong more to women than men. Gendered traits are formed by communities and cultures. I realized that in my community, those traditional feminine qualities get quite a bad reputation. Even though I was raised in the era of “girl power,” girly things weren’t considered powerful and girls could only feel powerful if they rejected femininity.

Because I believed words like domestic and feminine to be boring, I had a hard time imagining why someone would tell me, to my face, that I was so domestic or I reminded them of a 1950’s housewife. In my mind these phrases were akin to calling me boring, frivolous, or antiquated. However, now I understand that my association of femininity with frivolity was internalized sexism and revealed how my community valued (read: did not value) traditional feminine traits, qualities, and activities. After coming to terms with my community’s belittlement of the feminine, I began to explore the values of traditional femininity. I rediscovered my love of dresses, embraced my appreciation for the color pink, and owned my skills in baking, knitting, and sewing. Rather than hide my love for these things, I embrace these activities as equally valuable to my skills in more male dominated spheres like rock climbing, technology support, and building/fixing things.

My obsession with knitting, and perhaps my initial ignorance of its gendered history, was the spark that began my reunion with femininity. Now that I no longer view feminine qualities and activities as boring, I feel more connected to the strong, creative, and feminine women who have preceded me. Women like my great aunt Joan who was a master weaver, natural dyer, and spinner and my great grandmothers Eleanor and Mary Belle who could knit lace weight garments with their eyes closed. These women were previously just names on my family tree before I took up knitting. For them, traditional women’s crafts weren’t limiting, but provided necessities and freedom in the form of economic independence. When I think about them, being called a 1950’s housewife seems a bit more bad-ass than it did before.

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.

2018 Make Nine

I’ve waffled over this post for some time now. The #makenine movement/challenge/thing really caught my attention last year around this time. It’s an instagram based movement started by Rochelle of Home Row Fiber Co. to focus on organizing the upcoming years projects. Her blog post summarizing the challenge is great: read it here.

I started thinking about this challenge as a way to knit and sew all my desired patterns this year. So I looked through my queue and plans and created two separate make nine layouts: one for knitting, one for sewing. Quickly, I realized this was overwhelming and unrealistic. My knit make nine had seven sweaters and two accessories – seven sweaters in one year! This past year I made four sweaters which felt very impressive. Also, I do not need seven new sweaters.

I took some time to clear my ambitious mind and consider what I actually need in my wardrobe. It’s not much – at this moment in time I have almost everything I could possibly want, with the exception of some needed pairs of shorts for summer and a basic cardigan (put them on the list!). I then turned my attention to ready to wear items in my closet that I could try to replace with handmade items. This list is a little longer – and propelled me into list making mode.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. a loose boxy long sleeve tee with stripes
  2. jeans
  3. mini skirt
  4. high waisted shorts
  5. everyday cardigan
  6. some sort of blouse/button up
  7. overalls
  8. chambray button up
  9. sweetheart summer dress

That’s NINE THINGS! that I actually could use in my closet. Many of these – esp the jeans and button up – stretch my sewing skills (another goal of 2018).

Here’s the picture layout with potential patterns:

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  1. Bobbie by Pam Allen
  2. Mia Jeans by Sew Over It
  3. Rosari Skirt by Pauline Alice
  4. Lander Shorts by True Bias
  5. Marigold Cardigan (modified to be longer) by Cecily Glowik MacDonald
  6. Alex Shirt by Sew Over It
  7. M7547 Flared pants and overalls
  8. Archer by Grainline Studio
  9. B6453 Princess seamed dress (modified for less fullness in the skirt)

I probably won’t hold too tightly to these patterns (except for the two knit patterns – pretty stoked about those). These are guidelines to inspire me throughout 2018 to make items I need and will actually wear. Here’s to a year of inspired making!

 

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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Summer Wardrobe Round-up

 

Fall classes started last week. I’m already mourning the loss of so much making time. I’ve turned a corner this summer in my wardrobe philosophy. I’m making things that replace ready to wear items, I’m planning my projects, and I’m fixing mistakes rather than rushing to finish.
So, in honor of the end of a season, here’s a round-up of garments I’ve made. I have some thoughts about each item, some were great choices, some weren’t. By cataloging those thoughts hopefully I can learn from my mistakes each season and discover what works!

Total items made: 15

  • Shorts: 2
  • Skirts: 1
  • Dresses: 5
  • Tops: 3
  • Outerwear: 2
  • Sweaters: 1

Shorts

 

 


My first shorts ever (left) might not last into next summer. These were basically my “I know these will be awful but you have to start somewhere” shorts. Pattern is a vintage 1970’s that was two sizes too big. I took in the waist, but the legs are still kind of roomy. The zipper is sort of a fly construction… without the back? There are no back pockets. The waistband is weird. All signs point to “let this pair go.”

Second pair of shorts = 100% success. I love these shorts. They’re perfect. These are the spring shorts pattern from peppermint magazine (free!!) and I used an old linen tablecloth. All good things to say about this pattern.

Skirts

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This has been a great casual skirt. The high slit is a fun detail. However… there are a few mistakes… the hem is super botched, the waistband was cut against the stretch, and there are a few holes growing in the fabric. So I might remake it and turn this one into a cleaning tool…

Dresses

 

 

Takeaway from the summer: I love sewing dresses.

My first Cleo (purple corduroy) was a bit premature – definitely more of fall outfit. So I’m looking forward to wearing it this fall.

My every other day dress is holding its title… every other day. Love it. I haven’t machine washed it, I just rinse with cold water and lay in the sun for less than two hours. It’s stayed nice and bright.

My denim Cleo has also seen a lot of wear. It already has a few dye spots and stains from teaching workshops! I consider that a success since it was an intentional work dress.

My Orla also hasn’t had much wear this summer, it’s kind of a warm fabric. So I’m waiting to see if fall will be its time to shine

The Laneway Dress is so new! It’s perfect for school and I feel super classy.

Tops

 

 

Two Megan Nielsen Rowan Tees. Both huge successes, though the white one almost gave me a run for my money. These are two basic tee’s that will see heavy rotation in my wardrobe. The navy is perfect for all seasons. The turtle neck is a bit warm for summer, but I plan to love it for fall and winter. These are both made from thrift shop bedsheets. The sheets had less stretch than the pattern called for, so I went up a size and they fit perfectly!

Outerwear

 

 

The Mountain Gods vest has really been a dream. All good things so far.

I made the SOI Kimono out of a thrifted silk wrap skirt (the kind with two layers). I need to revisit this – perhaps fix some of the seams that look a little sketchy.

Sweaters

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This sweater has not really seen much action this summer. A little very early on in June, but I was unsure if I really liked it. The sleeves are tiny bit too tight. And I don’t know if I want to lengthen the crop top by an inch or so. Only time will tell if this will survive. I think it’s super cute though, and it’s just calling to be styled with some high waisted black jeans… that I hope to make… someday.

Summer was so productive. I am so happy with all that I made. My biggest lesson learned: I can tell when I’ve rushed through something. If I want my pieces to last and experience wear, I have to make them well and attend to the details. As a big picture person, sometimes I focus too much on my overall goal of a handmade wardrobe and forget that each piece has its own complexities. So, with my autumn wardrobe in mind, I want to work on taking each piece slowly and carefully.