Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Horsing Around

Here's a little side project that took me two nights: I made cooler-blanket for my horse Imp. It's just a light cover to throw over him after exercise so that he won't catch a chill when he's sweaty. 

I got five yards of burgundy and green plaid wool in a package deal at a yard sale, along with smaller solid colors, and I figured right away that I'd not be making a dress or anything for me out of it. Besides the color combo, sewing with plaid is a pain! Matching up the pattern -- no thank you. But a nice square horsey blanket, well, that's another matter. And I think you'll agree that the colors are quite attractive on a bay like Imp. 

It's basically just a 74" x 74" square (you can see a seam going over his rump where I pieced it together) with a strip of bias tape on the front edge. I hemmed the other three sides and braided some cord to make ties for the chest. Simple, really, and I think it's very handsome!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Just stuff.

Do you remember that flamingo-pink wool that I was working with last year? I found it again in my stash and it's really nice wool, thick and warm and... oh, so very pink.  A week or two back, I picked up some packets of Dark Brown Rit dye at Goodwill for 29 cents each, so I decided to try once more to change that pink to something a bit more bearable.  I used twice as much dye in half as much water as usual, a really stout, dark bath, and stirred and simmered it for half an hour. I rinsed it by hand and now it's doing a rinse cycle in the washer to get the last bits out. Then I'll put it in the dryer on a low tumble. 

Yeah, you heard me: I boiled it and now it's going in the dryer. That's not how you treat wool! I can hear you splutter, aghast. Wool needs to be delicately hand washed in cold water, and laid flat to dry! You've made a terrible mistake!

Ah, no. I treat my wool like it's sensible, hardworking stuff, not precious princess poofery. Before I sew, all my wool yardage gets a warm wash and a low tumble. And yes, it shrinks a bit. But it also gets rid of all the chemical sizing and nonsense that manufacturers put in -- things that I'm sensitive to and make me itch. The fabric tightens up a bit, but also softens --and I know that when my things get dirty, I can pitch them in the washer instead of spot-cleaning them, sending them out for expensive dry-cleaning, or handwashing them in the tub. 

**News Flash!**  I just put it in the dryer, and it's a lovely burgundy now! I'm so excited! 

You may notice things slowing down here as the holidays get closer. That's not because I've stopped making things -- in fact, quite the opposite. I have to start production on Christmas and birthday gifts for family. Since a good majority of the people I'm making gifts for also read this blog, posting pictures of my projects would spoil their surprises! But there's always something going on in Wenny-world, so keep a lookout for side projects and other holiday merriment. 

And since I read somewhere that you should never have a blog post without a picture, here's a free vintage embroidery pattern of a frolicking horse that I got from doe-c-doe, who has some really cute stuff and you should go check her out.

Also, I'm in a good mood because my wool turned out so nicely, so here's some overdyeing information that you might find useful.  Because pink is horrible and no one should have to wear it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We'll be back after these messages!

Just wanted to point out my store on Etsy. It's pretty basic right now, because I've only had it a few days, but I'll be putting more things there soon. Just in time for the holidays, y'see? 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A new hood.

Part of being creative is being adaptable.  Many times I've started a project with a plan, and ended the project with something entirely different -- and that's what happened this time. The green wool hood and sleeves I had planned to go with my new brown wool dress didn't play as well as I had hoped. It seems like too much work to pick out the too-slippery silk lining I'd put into the green hood, so I set it aside and looked in my smalls drawer for other options. (I think smalls is a much nicer term than scraps, don't you?)

I made a pair of brown woolen trousers about a year ago that didn't work out. The thick fabric made the drawstring waistband look bulky and unattractive. I've been cutting bits off the legs for this and that ever since and there was enough left to cut out a new hood. It's the perfect thickness, too, to keep one's head and shoulders cozy, warm, and dry. 

So here it is, in all it's odd-looking glory, gracing a plaster bust of my husband (hooray for theater props) and making him look a bit like ET because I've had to stuff dishtowels under there to make shoulders. I promise you that both the hood and my husband are more attractive in real life.

The seams were made with a running stitch and a half-inch seam allowance. Then I pressed them flat and whipstitched them for added strength, and hemstitched the edges down for a neat finish. Normally I would tuck the cut end under to resist fraying, but that would be very bulky and with wool it's not such a worry.

The buttons were a thrift store find. I got fifteen of them on a blouse for five dollars. I wish they were little bigger, but at that price I wasn't going to argue. They're not beads and wire -- they're one piece, solid cast. 
Sorry for the lousy quality of these photos. It was a little overcast this morning so there wasn't much natural light in the kitchen. I had to crank open the exposure to get a decent shot. 

There's a short liripipe tail on the back. I could have made it longer by piecing on an extra bit, but frankly, it bugs me to have that much going on in the back and they're a pain to turn out after sewing the seam. Short tails are just as period-acceptable, so there we go. 

Here you can see the hood, casually open as it would be on a temperate fall afternoon, with the brown dress. A very attractive match, I think! I'm still deciding if I want to add decorative embroidery. I think I'll get the sleeves done and then figure out if I want to add that touch of fancy. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn dress

Well, the sun didn't come out. Instead it's been three days of damp grey drizzle, with occasional downpours. After a record 48 days of dry weather (that's actually Seattle; I couldn't find Olympia's report, but it's basically the same) the rainy season is finally upon us.

Even more reason to have a new wool dress to wear!

I promised you a picture, so here it is. Imogene the Dress Dummy would like you to know that she was having a bad day and felt the hallway lighting was unflattering. She says this is a terrible picture of her. Maybe so, she does look a little lumpy (sorry, Imogene!) but I've never figured out how to get that dress dummy to have a figure similar to mine so the fit isn't really the best, especially in the bust area.  You get the idea, anyway.  I haven't hemmed the bottom yet, but I mean to leave quite a bit of length. Usually I like to have my hem just brush my toes, but long hems are very period and it might be nice to have a little bit extra to keep out any drafts when I sit. The bit of green on her left is one of the pin-on sleeves I'm making to go with the dress. There will be embroidery to pretty them up and add a bit of fancy, as well as a matching hood.

The hood is giving me fits. I chose a piece of gold silk to line it, and it looks very nice except that it slides all over my head and won't stay up! The silk is too slippery! So I'm going to have to unpick my seams and replace the lining with linen that has the sense to stay put. Ugh, what a bother.

More as it comes!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


As the mornings become colder again, I've taken to having more savory breakfasts. Today's is naan bread with garlic hummus and some leftover bean soup. Delicious! 

I need to get you guys some pictures of  how the brown wool dress is progressing. I have one side's worth of eyelets (15, to be exact) and the bottom hem to stitch and it's done. It gets easier every time. To anyone who says that hand sewing a garment would take forever, I say unto you Nay! Two hours in the evening for the last few days and I'm well on my way to a new outfit. 

Outfit? Oh yes -- I made the sleeves short with the intention of making pin-on sleeves. That would make the dress more adaptable to changes in the weather, like when it's cool and foggy in the morning, but warms up and gets sunny in the afternoon. And then I thought it would be totally cute to embroider the sleeves with a design, and then use the same design on a matching hood. Oh my! A new hood! So exciting!

And I found some wonderful inspiration to share with you all. Check out this guy's stuff! It's AMAZING. 

Stay tuned for some pictures of the brown wool dress later today once the sun comes out. See you then!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Now that I've been sewing stuff for over a year, I've gotten to a really comfortable point.  My stash is full of all sorts of notions and yardage, and I've got a basic pattern for a standard dress that fits well and is easy to play with. Used to be when I wanted to make something in particular I'd find the bits as I went.  I had to draft up a pattern first, and I'd remember things I needed halfway through and have to make late-night trips to the fabric store. But no more!

Yesterday afternoon there was a slight chill in the air, and I saw a posting on the Glymm Mere mailing list that Yule Feast is coming up. Folks, it's Fall, and that means it's time for me to make a new wool dress. When I got home, I pulled a few yards of caramel-colored wool out of my closet, took a small cut of dark brown to use for trim, chose a piece of linen to line the bodice, grabbed my tried-n-true pattern and a spool of thread, and got to work right after dinner.

I cut out all the pieces and sewed the lining for the two front bodice bits while watching Battlestar Galactica, so this project is well begun. I even chose some crewel yarn colors out of the drawer to use for an embroidery design on the cuffs and collar.

The yarn colors seem especially bright in the sunshine. I haven't chosen an embroidery design yet, so I don't know if I'll be using all the colors or just one or two, but they all looked suitably autumnal together. Anything can happen!