Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Progress is slow but continuing

I continue to make progress on my embroidered linen caftan.  I'm probably getting close to half way done with the outside hem.  Not sure whether I'll hand or machine stitch the side seams.  That probably depends on whether I'm at home when it's time to start them!

Pockets may be something to add to the caftans, either on the front in the 'usual' sorts of place, or I'm considering putting some in the area outside the side seams.  Simple patch pockets would go on the black linen quite well.  On the embroidered linen it may be a bit more of a challenge to not disturb the embroidery.

I happened to stop back at Hancock Fabrics last week and picked up the last yard of the embroidered linen.  It is so lovely and I think it will make a really nice bag, especially lined with the black linen with an interior pocket or so.  I may even consider adding a zipper to close it up completely instead of the simple open top on the black one.  I'm still doing imagination design trying to figure out what I want to do.  When I figure it out I expect it will whip up pretty fast, with the possible exception of the zipper, since I've not put zippers into anything in a while.  I know I've got some zipper tape around someplace.

Friday, September 16, 2011

More Caftans and other fun things to do with linen

I finished the black linen caftan the day after my last post.  I was too impatient to wait till the next week to stitch the side seams by hand on my rides to work, so I just whipped it up on my machine.  Wore it that evening, and quite often since.  It is very comfortable

Both other linen fabrics, the black with turquoise embroidery and the lovely blue, were washed and dried several times.  I have started on the embroidered one.  This time I used the full width of the fabric and I made the overall length longer, ankle length.  I'll have to pick the bottom up when I use the stairs, which I don't have to do with the shorter black one.  Because the length is longer I found that the outside edges ("sleeves") dragged the ground, so I cut the bottom hemline at a much greater curve on each side.  I'll see how I like this longer length after it is made, knowing that I may need to shorten it.

Like the plain black, I am hand stitching the hem while I ride to and from work.  First I did the neckline.  I cut this a bit differently than the plain black, a bit more of a curve in the front with a shorter slit.  As with the black I used a narrow, 1/8 inch hem.  I wanted this to be done first because the loose threads of the neckline were subject to rubbing around as I moved the fabric to hem the outside edge.  Taking the fabric out of the bag I'm keeping it in in order to hem it, and moving/folding it back to put it back away could result in too much fraying.

It took me a day and a half or so of riding to/from work to finish the neckline.  Once the neckline was hemmed I started hemming the outside edge several inches above the bottom curve on one side, moving across the bottom using the same 1/4 inch hem that I used on the black.  I found that I needed to pick the embroidery out if it was right next to the hem, otherwise the fabric and embroidery together were too thick to turn and stitch down for the hem.  Because the embroidery motifs are large and spaced apart I only needed to do this a couple of times.  I have finished one bottom edge and am currently moving along quite well up the next side.

Last weekend I decided that the extra fabric that I hadn't needed to make the black caftan would make a nice, simple carry bag.  This didn't take very long at all, stitching it up on the machine.  It probably took me longer to decide what size to make it and then cut it out than it did to stitch it up.  Finished size is 15 1/4 inches tall by 15 inches wide.  The folded top hem is 3/4 inch.  The 2 straps are 1 inch wide, made from 1 1/2 inch strips turned into tubes.  Each strap is 32 1/2 inches over all length, including the attachment, making the finished strap length 31 inches.  This is long enough I can hang it over my shoulder and still easily get things into and out of it.

I'm thinking that I'll make another, similar bag, out of a similar size of the embroidered linen.  My idea for this one is to line it with the plain black and put a small side pocket or so inside it.  I may make this one with a zipper or other closure, too.  It will be more substantial with the lining and look a lot fancier with the pretty embroidery.

Earlier this week I decided to stop back by Hancock Fabrics again.  I decided that I would make my husband a linen sheet.  He gets hot easily, and linen is so nice at keeping one cool and dry.  I've thought about this several times, but he always said no.  This time I decided I wouldn't ask, I'd just do it.  So I did! I came home with several yards of a very light weight linen in a pretty dark sort of rose red.  I don't even have a good word for the color.  It's not brick, but it's not rose, either.  He likes red, and it is dark enough not to stain easily, and it is a color I'm happy with so with the limited options I took it.

Usually I prewash all fabric before making anything from it, but this time I didn't see any reason to bother.  I got 5 yards, which is enough to make 2 sheets large enough for his use.  Pulled threads to make sure the fabric was true to the grain on the ends and also for the cutting line, then stitched a simple 1/4 inch hem.  Washed and dried after the hemming.  I didn't stitch the selvedges, just left them. If they start to fray at all I'll trim and stitch them as well, but this allowed me to get him something done very quickly.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Black linen caftan almost done

Yesterday I finished the hemming on my new, heavy weight black linen caftan.  It didn't take me as long elapsed time as I expected, in part due to several hours spent waiting at the BMV drivers testing station with my son last Friday.  Basically I stitched the outside hem down all the way around, then yesterday I did the neckline.  Most of the stitching was done riding in the car, as expected, which is a bit slow due to being bumped around a bit.  I used a sharp needle, which I usually don't with linen, and I won't again.  I managed to stitch my fingertip into the thread a couple times.  Probably wouldn't happen if I didn't have a nice callus on the tip of my finger, but still!  I like the way it came out.  The hemming is basically invisible on the right side, and the stitching nearly so on the wrong side.

I decided to wash it before finishing the side seams, so it is in the dryer waiting for me to get home tonight.  I've not decided yet whether to hand stitch the side seams, or if I should just do it on the machine.  It will take just a couple minutes by machine, so I'll likely do that.

Since I like the way this is turning out so much I stopped by Hancock Fabric yesterday afternoon to see if they have linen fabric.  The JoAnn I got this linen at only had a couple bolts, no fun colors and very little option in the way of weight, thus the plain black.  Lo and behold, Hancock's had a nice selection of 100% linen as well as some blends, in different weights and colors.  I didn't see any handkerchief weight in white, so I'll have to continue to get that online, but I found a very nice black with turquoise embroidered flowers & leaves as well as a beautiful bright medium blue.  I got yardage of each enough to make a caftan with some left over, even with shrinkage.  I serged the cut edges of both this morning before work, and the embroidered black is in the washer waiting to be dried.  I'll wash and dry each piece of fabric a couple of times of course, so it does any shrinking before I make it up.

I need to get pictures, too, of course!

The finished width is 44 inches, length is 46 1/2 (shoulder to hem). The bottom outside corners are rounded.  The side seams will start 8 3/4 inches from the shoulder seam, 6 inches from the outside edge, and stop 9 1/2 inch from the bottom edge.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Caftans - Simple comfort

A couple of years ago on a trip I purchased a couple of caftans, loose, flowing, simple and practical garments.  One was of rayon, which I love, and the other of, I think, polyester.  The rayon is black with huge, colorful vines and flowers on it, very striking.  The other is green and black spiky leaf patterns, beautiful to look at, but I won't get a polyester one again, no matter how beautiful.  I don't like the way the fabric feels and it gets static.  The rayon is lovely and flowing, light in weight, breathes well and very comfortable.  Normally I don't buy these types of fabrics, but the simple, comfortable garments and bright colors swayed me.

I've been thinking for a while that I'd like another caftan or so, but in other fabrics.  I understand that simple garments of this sort have been around for a very long time, so I did a little reading about them and decided that I'd try one out of linen, in a much heavier fabric.  I purchased 4 yards of a heavy weight, black, linen, serged the cut edges and washed and dried it several times so the fabric would do any shrinking before I made it up.  When I was ready I took out the serged stitching along one cut edge, pulled loose threads to get a true to grain edge and trimmed off any sticking out warp threads.  Using the measurements taken from the rayon caftan I cut out a rectangle of fabric to make my new caftan.

I took time to think overnight how I wanted to do the neckline, and ended up deciding to do a simple scoop of about an inch in the back, about 3 inches deep in the front, with a slit descending from the center front scoop another 4 inches or so.  This will give me enough room to slip it over my head, but not a wide open neck.  With the fabric folded so the outside corners were together I cut them into a semi-circle, giving a nice rounded corner at the outside bottom edges.

I am making a 1/4 inch folded over hem around the outside, and will do a narrower hem around the neckline.  So far I am doing this all by hand, as I can do the stitching while riding in the car.  Yes, I could do it pretty quickly by machine, but only if I'm at the house with it!  So it will take me much longer, but I don't really care.  I enjoy hand sewing and it is possible to do a very nice, nearly invisible hem by hand.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Linen Handkerchiefs

Every so often one must buy new handkerchiefs.  For those of us who use them daily, they do wear out, get holes, get stained.  This summer I need new hankies.  Some of my favorites are some small, women's sized linen hankies that I got from Vermont Country Store years ago.  They weren't cheap, but they are nice, the fabric feels good, and the hemstitch is simple but pretty.

When I started looking for more I didn't find linen ones at Vermont Country Store, so I did an internet search.  I was rather shocked to find that it was nearly impossible to find plain, woman's sized linen hankies, and even the mens hankies were selling for anywhere from $7.75 on up for one, $25.00 on up for 2, mostly up.  I'm too frugal for that (read cheap).  So I did some searches for handkerchief linen fabric.  Now this was better!  I found fabric for $16.24 per yard.  Shipping was a bit steep by my view, but I ended up ordering 2 yards of fabric for $42.48 with shipping.  Washed and dried twice to remove any sizing it was 55.5 inch wide not including the selvedge.  I don't like the selvedge on this fabric, so I'm removing it.

I used pulled threads to square one end of the fabric, measured and snipped then pulled more threads, giving me a straight grain for my hankies.  I cut along the pulled threads.

The first batch was 5 across, so each hankie was about 11 inches square. The next batch I decided to make smaller, to more easily fit in my pants pockets as well as giving me more hankies for the same amount of fabric.  This time I made 6 across, so they are around 9 inches square.  Plenty big enough for my purposes.

I carpool to work, and I often do some sort of handwork while riding, as well as other times as I have a chance.  It has been nice to do this simple hand work on a daily basis.

I've been doing a small rolled hem.  I started off doing a squared corner, but after the first or second one I switched to rounding them off.  It is easier to continue the rolled hem around them, and I like the way it looks.  I've already got 6 new hankies and as the days go on I'll finish more.  I consider this money very well spent.  I get nice new hankies and I get weeks worth of pleasure hemming them, giving me something useful to use as my 'fidget' while riding in the car, in meetings, or out walking.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Domestication is an interesting thing

I find it quite interesting that domestication, mainly breeding for tameness and bonding with humans, results in coloration and other physical changes. Floppy ears, head shape, tail shapes. The color changes are striking, and so familiar from other domesticated animals of all sorts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Experiments with oils

For the last year or so I have been doing a number of experiments using various oils, mostly on my hair, but also my skin. This journey was initiated by a fortunate accident. I happened to have what I found out was a migraine when one of my sisters was able to observe. I had no idea why I was so sick, just knew that I sometimes got like that, aches in my upper back and neck that moved into a nasty headache. Later light sensitivity and then eventually throwing up. This sister had been diagnosed with migraines some time before and asked if I had. I was completely confused, since that never occurred to me. She said that the progression was pretty classic and gave me some suggestions on how to manage it. What a revelation! It wasn't something that "just happened" sometimes, it was a progression that I could recognize and sometimes manage.

For years I had not worn my long hair up on my head very often for fear that it was a trigger for causing my 'neck aches'. Well, it might affect a migraine, but wouldn't cause it, so I started to research more ways to wear my hair. What fun!

In my search I found the Long Hair Community where I found instructions and links to many ways to wear hair as well as lots of information on having healthier hair. Over the past year and a half or so I have been slowly trying techniques and recipes gleaned from this site. I have been doing this slowly because it can take several weeks to really know the results of a particular experiment. Over time I have stopped using hair products that contain silicone compounds and have instead used various natural oils, either alone or in blends.

Everyone is different, so something that works for one person may or may not work for someone else. The only way to know is to try it and see, and especially to try it over time to see whether the results are consistent. For example, early on I tried a technique called Conditioner Only (CO) washing. This is using conditioners as cleansers as well as conditioner, usually by using 2 different conditioners, a lighter one for cleaning, rinse well, then use another application of the same or other conditioner as usual. When I first tried this I did not get good results. However, months later, after changing to non-silicone products it worked well and is now part of my normal weekly routine.

I have had good luck with coconut oil, Shea butter and others. There are a couple of blends I particularly like that I get on Etsy, Beldaran's Hair Oil and Panacea by Night Blooming. Beldaran's shop is currently not stocked. Night Blooming has several formulations of Panacea as well as Hair Anointing Oil which is also quite nice.

In addition to using oils as leave ins, deep and overnight treatments I have been quietly participating in experimenting with oil shampoos. The huge thread is here. I have not contributed to the thread because it is so big, but the results others were getting intrigued me, so I have been trying formulations of my own.

Along the way I realized that the store bought lotions I was using on my hands and skin kept getting into my hair. I decided that if I put something on my hands it better be something I was willing to have in my hair. So I started to use Shea butter, coconut oil and various other oil blends on my hands and skin. This has worked quite well overall.

My skin, like my hair, tends to be very dry. As is common in winter my hands have gotten extremely dry. Applying oils has only helped to some degree. Using Panacea very carefully has been quite successful, and has the added advantage of smelling lovely.

The same trip that my sister recognized I have migraines we happened to be out shopping and tried a Dead Sea Salt scrub, which has been in the back of my mind since then. Today I finally decided to do some research to learn more about such scrubs. As a result of that research I made a small batch of coconut oil and sugar scrub, since sugar was said to be gentler than salt. I plan to try this when washing my hands for a while to see if this helps make my hands softer and smoother.

Cat Dancer and Bubbles

Hawkeye Cat continues to do very well. He loves one toy in particular, called Cat Dancer. This is a great, simple toy that is fun for him and fun for me.

Hawkeye is an indoors only cat, which is my preference. I've had indoor/outdoor cats, and ended up with fleas in the house. Not fun, and not something I want to deal with again. Hawkeye loves to look out, and always tells me when there is someone out side, especially the outside cats from the barn next door which I feed outside. However, he doesn't have any interest in being outside himself. The experience of being outside alone in the cold for a couple of weeks and nearly starving to death has made him cautious and appreciative of being inside.