Tag Archives: WIP Wednesday

WIP Wednesday

IMG_3824start date: 13 May 2016
time elapsed: 5 days
completeness: 30%

Spring in Oregon is usually overcast.

Most of the time I like to tell my out-of-state friends that actually, Oregon is mostly desert.  That the majority land use is ranching.  That there are gulches and canyons and lava beds dominating the southeastern third of the state.

But you know, something about this stretch between March and June always makes me feel like that’s untruthful.

It’s gray.  And cool.  And rainy.  And misty.  Fog covers the highways at night, and the stretch from Corbett to Cascade Locks is perpetually underwater.  Tree frogs sing in the downs, and ospreys stand a stoic, drenched vigil over their nests along the river.  Streams swell, rivers rise, and waterfalls roar and thunder.


So of course, in my hands this week I have a little patch of still water or maybe even sunny sky to balance all that out.


It’s the skirt of a dress, toddler-size, that I’m more or less making up as I go along with a pattern for inspiration.

I was a little sad about the yarn when I first saw it in person– I do most of my yarn shopping online, and I was expecting a deeper, richer set of blues.  What was described as just “blue” and looked like it might be royal, cobalt, and marine turned out to be robin’s egg, turquoise, and pool.


But I’m warming up to it.  Especially, I think, because of the season around me.

The yarn is Araucania Rinihue, the pattern I’m borrowing from is Picot Dress from Special Knits by Debbie Bliss.


WIP Wednesday

IMG_3782start date: today
completeness: 10%


It’s a word I like: kind of anachronistic, a little connotation of fanciness.

As I’ve been working through the list of projects I rattled off last time, this has been the one I’m striving to get to.  It’s spring heading into summer now, of course, so the need for extra layers under my skirt is far from urgent, but these have been on my queue for a long time, and they are going to be an important part of my wardrobe.

By putting elastic in the top, I’ll be making a petticoat that can also be pulled up to my armpits and worn as a sort of shift dress, which I’m hoping will make for perfect nightgowns.


And, of course, in the fall and winter, having an extra layer under my skirt to trap warm air next to my body is going to be very important.

I dyed these in December, but then life happened, and I’m only now starting to put them together.  It’s simple work: just an Elizabethan seam up the back, an elastic casing at the top, and a single-fold hem along the bottom (because I was clever enough to leave the fabric selvage where it benefits me).

But there are three of them.  And they’re pretty big, boring sewing– lots of long, straight seams and not much else.


So I guess it’s lucky for me that they’re so important, because otherwise I might never find the motivation.

The fabric is Dharma Trading Co. Organic Cotton Muslin, kettle dyed with iDye Natural in 430 Silver Gray.

WIP Wednesday

IMG_3747start date: today
completeness: 30%

I don’t know what it is about baby vests.

Maybe it’s the fact that they are so versatile: over a shirt for extra warmth, as a shirt to keep it cool.

Maybe it’s that they are long-wearing; slowly transitioning from simple little tunics and shift dresses to shirts.

Maybe it’s that they are quick to knit and a lovely combination of delicate and practical.

Maybe it’s the perfect way they accent round little tummies and plump little arms.

Whatever it is, I love them.  I can’t seem to make enough baby vests.

In fact, in my newborn-size clothes alone, I have six tiny vests of various styles and in several different colors.

I should stop making vests.  I know I should.  I have asked Robert to tell me to stop making vests.


And for a while, I held off from making more.  But then I saw this little beauty, and I remembered that I had bought some yarn specifically for baby and toddler vests, and here I am.


Making another baby vest.

This yarn is Berroco Blackstone Tweed in 2646 Saltwater.  The pattern is Eyelet Vest from Special Knits by Debbie Bliss, although I am making a number of adjustments (because I am familiar with Debbie Bliss’ usual design flaws) and modifications to suit a heavier yarn.

WIP Wednesday

IMG_3604start date: today
completeness: 10%

Sheets.  It’s easy to take them for granted, and it’s difficult to find new ones you love.

So of course, while I was already having a rough patch in my life, all my sheets decided to quit.

First was the sheet that tore itself a new one– literally– as I sat down on the bed.

Then came the sheet that Robert couldn’t get comfortable underneath himself in the middle of the night, so he tried to smooth it out and ended up with the sheet significantly more out (and less smooth) than he was expecting.

Last was a sheet I was folding to put away when I noticed an inconspicuous bit of– something– that wouldn’t brush off and turned out to be a dime-sized hole.  With a neighboring smaller hole.

Which left us with– hang on, let me count– ONE sheet.


For the bed at least three people share every night.

Obviously that wouldn’t work.

And you can’t easily mend something that, once you look at it in the unflinching light of day, seems to be a whisper-thin suggestion of a textile grid arranged artistically around several tiny holes rather than the sturdy cotton fabric you would have sworn it to be.

So I started to think about new sheets.  Believe it or not, sheeting tends to be expensive, and being a more experienced, more confident seamstress now than I was the last time we needed new sheets, I *really* wanted to make our own.  After all, finding storebought sheets I like is a monumental and expensive undertaking in itself.

And, of course, being a bit of a fiber snob, I was desperately craving linen sheets.  To my minimalist mindset, buying new sheets every 6-7 years seemed ludicrous.

But then, luckily, I discovered a way to avoid buying any new sheets– or sheeting– for a few years more.


Because, as it turns out, the sheets that quit had been part of sheet sets, with matching flat sheets we hadn’t used in the years since we bought a duvet, and I had sensibly failed to discard the flat sheets.

So now I’m stripping the elastic out of the old fitted sheets, and taking a pattern from them to cut and sew the flat sheets into fitted sheets.


And the best part?

I’m pretty sure I can just use existing hems as a channel for my elastic.


WIP Wednesday from last week…

I just found this in my drafts folder.  Life must have gotten in the way as I was setting out to take pictures and finish up this post…but it’s a perfect snapshot of my life at the moment, perhaps especially because I’m posting it nearly a week late and still unfinished.

Here’s the picture of the finished project, though:



start date: 1 March 2016
time elapsed: 1 day
completeness: 40%

At some point in the last couple of years, apparently while my back was turned, Ithilien developed a favorite color.

It’s red.

So the last time I was making new socks for the smalls, Ithilien was quite insistent that he wanted red socks.  Red socks with gray toes and gray cuffs.  Having just finished up a pair of red socks for my mother’s birthday, I was happy to use my leftover yarn to oblige him, and the red socks have been his go-to pair for the last year.

But as he put them on one morning last week, the heels no longer reached far enough to cover his heels.

“Oh no,” I said, “They’re too small.  You can wear them one last time today, and then they’ll have to go into storage.”

“Okay.” He said. “But you have to make new red socks with just gray on the toes and the cuffs.”

“So I can wear them.”  Said he.

“Because I very love the color red.”  He said.

“So I need more red socks.”  Said Ithilien.

“Oh.”  I said.  “Really?”

“Yeah.  And then when I am a grown-up I will need very big red socks, and you must knit them.”

And that is why I am knitting new red socks for Ithilien this week.

The yarn is lovely and smooth Limited Edition Chickadee from Quince and Co, which I dyed a semisolid red with equal parts strawberry and black cherry Kool-aid.  I’m holding it doubled for this project.  The pattern is Rye from The Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits, which is a great basic-but-attractive sock in a variety of sizes.  The pattern is definitely written for beginners, which feels slightly patronizing when you already know how to knit socks, but it’s very well-written.  I did an eye-of-partridge stitch heel flap instead of the prescribed stockinette and am knitting a 7.25″ foot, otherwise I’m following the pattern pretty closely.


WIP Wednesday

my project bag sitting in the library with my knitting peeking out of the topstart date: 25 May 2015
time elapsed: 4 months, 1 week, 5 days
completeness: 90%

Stitch by stitch, and row by row, the yarn becomes a blanket.  That’s the way of things: imperceptibly tiny increments of change, overwhelming progress with time.

what it looks like when I take the blanket i'm knitting out of my work bag-- a big floppy mess of knitting

That’s how rivers carve canyons.

That’s how the wind shapes the dunes.

That’s how snow makes the world white and pure.

That’s how coral makes reefs.

That’s how rain quenches the earth.

That’s how babies grow.

That’s how bodies heal.

That’s how lives are lived.

It’s the sudden shifts, the thunderclaps, that make headlines.  Births, deaths, accidents, injuries, fires, earthquakes, eruptions– those things are easy to see, shocking in their suddenness, and widely discussed.

But what matters isn’t the 3.4 seconds of shaking or the height of the ash plume.

What matters, even in a cataclysm, is the incremental work.

How many mineral atoms must be set into their lattice to mend the broken bone?  How many cell divisions will it take to grow new skin over the scratch?  How many rivets are needed to hold the building together?  How many drops of water fill the basin?  How many snowflakes make an avalanche?  How many fetal hiccups will train the muscles to take that first breath?


This blanket, when it is finished, will contain some 50,000 stitches.  Including going back to fix mistakes and miscellaneous shaping, the total work going into it probably will amount to closer to 60,000 stitches.

Day by day, the baby who will someday use this blanket prepares for hits birth.  Stitch by stitch, I work the blanket to meet hit.


I can see the end of this period of waiting looming ahead in the distance.  I don’t know exactly when it will come, but I know that the moment of transition will be marked more in the course of history than all the slow, incremental work that built up to it.

But I will always remember, in my heart and in my hands, the process leading up to the change, and the slow, steady work that went into making the magical moment.

Materials notes for this project are available here.  The edging (darker brown) is Cascade Ecological Wool in Ebony.


WIP Wednesday

natural linen baby tunics piled up waiting for elasticstart date: 20 September 2015
time elapsed: 3 days
completeness: 98%

Among knitters, there’s a term for starting one project immediately after the end of the last one.  It’s called “binding off to cast on”.  That’s what my life has been like for the past several weeks as I look at the calendar and the nesting list and start to feel a little wave of panic rising in my chest.

I finished Númenor’s coat late one night, and cut out pieces of these shirts the next day.  I finished the last shirt this afternoon, and cut pieces for Númenor’s hoodie before dinner.  Back to back to back to back.

natural linen baby tunic in progress with sewing tools

In the pro column, I sure am productive these days!  In the con column, I’m feeling the strain.  And somehow every Wednesday seems to find me actively binding off to cast on, and therefore not really having a WIP to post about.  (Un)luckily, I have also outstripped my own ability to stock supplies, so I get to share these sweet little tunics while I wait for the elastic I need to finish them off.

Having had a springtime homecoming with Númenor (he was born in the winter but, as a preemie, didn’t leave the NICU until spring), most of our basics are for warmer-weather babies, and these will bridge the gap by providing an insulating underlayer for t-shirts and vests and sundresses and pinafores.

I’ve really enjoyed feeling the crisp linen in my hands as I worked.  There’s something about that fiber, especially in this undyed, unbleached state, that is ponderous with tradition, that hearkens back to earlier times and simpler needs and brings the primacy of preparing for a new baby into sharp relief.

sewing tools in the windowsill at sunset

I could have just three months left now before the baby comes.  And there are still a lot of things that must be done, which is a strange phenomenon when little babies (especially those with older siblings) have such basic needs.

Maybe it’s the basic-ness of the needs that I find so worrying: what if the baby isn’t warm enough, clean enough, dry enough, safe enough, snuggled enough, welcomed enough?

Maybe that’s why my head is so full of bees trying to ensure that everything is ready: while the baby’s needs are simple and few, they are critical.

pieces of new DIY hoodie piled up and ready for assembling/sewing to start

I’m trying to remember that just because it’s critical that the baby is warm doesn’t mean that it’s critical that I finish any particular blanket or piece of clothing.  We have plenty of warmth here already in hugs, and blankets, and a busy kitchen.  We have plenty of cleanliness, too, and, perhaps more importantly, not too much, either.  We have ways to get dry, even if I never re-hem that new hooded towel.  We are safe.  We can snuggle.

And I don’t think I’ve ever truly doubted that we would welcome this new life among us.


The fabric in the shirts is an unbleached handkerchief-weight linen I was given as a gift; if you’re looking for something similar, try this.  The pattern is a long-sleeved, tunic-length adaptation of Abby’s infant peasant dress, which I highly recommend, although I can’t speak to the construction tutorial because I’ve used my own techniques.  I have attached the sleeves to the bodice with a French seam and the sides are Elizabethan seams, for maximum durability.  The gray fabric in the pile at Ithilien’s feet is a seconds-quality cut of a long-discontinued organic sweatshirt knit from Organic Cotton Plus.  If you’re looking for something similar, try this.

WIP Wednesday

homemade satin and lace ballet flat WIPstart date: 18 May 2015
elapsed time: 2 days
completeness: 70%

Living in the modern US as we do, it’s easy to take many things for granted.  Perhaps the most striking example, for someone like me who tries to do it herself, is that somehow, Americans don’t seem to understand what a hugely significant thing it is to have too many shoes.

And not just any shoes– waterproof shoes.  Warm shoes.  Durable shoes.  Shoes that fit pretty well.

We don’t have too many shoes in our house.  I make the smalls’ shoes, and they generally have only one good pair at a time.  Robert buys a new pair of serious boots every few years.  And my last two pairs of storebought shoes– ballet flats and flip-flops– are at the end of their lives now.

I am making myself a new pair of flats– my first pair of homemade shoes.  And I seriously hope they work, because my experience of making shoes for the children for the last few years has been that shoes are harder to make than they seem.  But I’ve learned a lot, and I know a lot about myself as a wearer of shoes, so I’m pretty confident.

pattern piece pinned to batting for cutting out sole pad for DIY shoes

I know that it works best to sew the layers of the sole together, and then sew the layers of the upper together, and finally whipstitch the upper to the insole from the inside, because if they’re on the outside, the stitches will fray and break long before the material needs mending.

I know how important it is for the sole to be the right size for my foot when I’m putting weight on it, but that even more important than size is shape.

I know that I might have to come back later and make corrections and amendments in order to get the shoes to fit correctly.  I wouldn’t be surprised by having to add an instep strap to these.

I know that it’s important to give the sole some padding, but even more important to use a layer of wool somewhere in the upper for water resistance.

And I know that I deserve shoes that make me happy, so it’s worth the extra work to add the lace overlay on these.

upper pinned together and ready to be sewn, sole pieces next to it

As for what I don’t know, well, that’s everything else:  The future.  Whether these shoes will be as reliable and comfortable as the fast-fashion sweatshop-made article they’re intended to replace.  Whether, at that moment of truth when I try to put the first one on my foot, they will fit at all.

me sewing the uppers on my DIY satin flat shoes

Only time will tell.

The pattern is an old one from Shoeology, with some of my own modifications.  If you want something similar, try her basic or bridal flat patterns.  I also bought the soling material from her, but I’m planning to buy natural rubber in the future.  The padding is double-thick Warm & Natural, which I no longer buy and don’t recommend– try Organic Cotton Plus’ Heirloom Cotton batting instead.  The uppers are lined with JoAnn’s smoke gray heather wool blend felt, and the satin and flocked net lace are scraps from my stash.


WIP Wednesday

baby sweater knitting in progress showing one sleeve finishedstart date: 27 April 2015
elapsed time: 2 days
completeness: 35%

Last week I tried to make myself a “quick” and “easy” top.

That didn’t go according to plan.

I fought with that project all week, making stupid mistake after stupid mistake, and having to rip out seams and start over again and again.  By Sunday, I was so discouraged by my repeated difficulty with what should have been perhaps 5 hours of work (three 40″ French seams, 30″ of hemming, and two yards of whip stitch) that I gave up and did nothing.  I didn’t even pick up my work bag all day.

And so, on Monday, instead of continuing to punish myself, I put the top aside and started a project I knew I would enjoy– a baby sweater, using assembly techniques I’d never done before, in a gorgeous handpainted yarn that would delight me with every color change.

At first I told myself that I shouldn’t be knitting a baby sweater.  This project is so far down my queue that it doesn’t even appear on the list I have in my notebook, and you know how I feel about making lists.  But I craved the meditative calm of knitting, and I needed something that would qualify as instant gratification (which baby sweaters generally do since they’re so small), and every lone skein in my stash that finds a purpose is a victory.

By late Monday night, I was finished with the first sleeve and feeling like an artisan again.

On Tuesday, I did some kitchen work, as we often do on Tuesdays, and after I started the bread dough, I sat down in the studio and took another swing at the top.  Four hours later, it was done.

So now I’m back to working on the baby sweater, but now it’s a reward for having persevered in finishing the project at the top of my list.

Of course, now I suffer no illusion that knitting this sweater is a waste of my time.

me knitting my DIY baby sweater

This pattern is Yael Baby Sweater by Naama Zahavi-Ely, a top-down seamless raglan that is truly in one piece: you never break and reattach the working yarn.  The sizing is a bit wonky– the measurements would turn out about right, in my estimation, for a size 0-3 months and the pattern says it’s 9-12 months size– so I’m trying to fix that as I go along and make it bigger.  The yarn is Malabrigo Rastita in Peacock (tonal blue), which is a little thick-and-thin but not enough to throw off the consistency of the twist, and definitely soft enough for baby garments.


WIP Wednesday

rag rug and supplies on cutting table start date: 20 February 2015
elapsed time: 2 weeks 5 days
completeness: 65%

I hate this rug.  I hate it.

Rationally, I know that a big part of why I feel repulsed by it right now is that I fall out of love with virtually all of my bigger, longer-term projects.  I like RESULTS, and that’s not really compatible with braiding and sewing a rug together out of 2″ wide scraps of fabric.

But it’s more than that.

Projects that take “too long” for me underline that I am not in control of my life.  I start to obsess about all the other things I’m trying to do that are taking too long– like how we aren’t making much progress on paying off our student loans, or how we aren’t mortgage-ready so we can’t build our house, or how I had really planned to have a new baby by now, or how I haven’t yet found the right midwifery apprenticeship, or how, no matter how much time and patience I put into my parenting, my children are still developmentally incapable of empathy or foresight.

I feel like I’m running up a loose sand dune– grueling work, not much progress to show for it.

My rational mind, of course, thinks this is all nonsense.  “So you haven’t achieved every last one of your major life goals yet– you’re 27 freaking years old!  Why worry about things you can’t control?  Get over it, emo-kid.  Some people in this world have real problems.  You have a great life and are just pissy because you couldn’t custom-order it exactly the way you’d design.”

And that makes it worse, because then I feel guilty for feeling depressed, and then we arrive at what Allie Brosh describes WAAAY better than I ever could.  Except that I can additionally pity myself because I have never broken through the barrier to the I-don’t-give-a-fuck-I-feel-nothing stage, and that kind of sounds like it might be nice.

Last night, while we were lying in bed and ostensibly trying to sleep, I was overcome by my freak-out and confessed tearfully to Robert– “I hate that rug.”

me working on my rag rug

And he said, quite reasonably (and therefore EXTREMELY IRRITATINGLY): “Why? It looks great!”


And he’s right.  But I’m right, too.

New to the rug this week are one of Robert’s old scouting shirts, more boxers,  and scraps of some maternity pajama pants I wore when I was pregnant with Númenor.