June 2, 2011

  • A Baptist Makes a Baptismal Gown

    Almost a quarter-century ago, I had this conversation with my mother:

    “Let me get this straight. You want Rebecca baptized so you can make a baptismal gown?”
    “That is not theologically sound.”

    My mom went on to make many other beautiful clothes for my daughter, and then my son. My daughter was baptized as a teenager, like many in the Baptist church. And now this Baptist grandmother is making a baptismal gown for a christening in the Catholic Church. I think my mom would approve.

    I chose Simplicity 5813, which I chose partly because it used less fabric. I was hoping to make most of the gown out of scraps of the dupioni silk I had used for my daughter’s wedding dress. But the scraps were much scrappier than I had remembered, so the bodice is made of silk, the skirt of muslin-lined eyelet.

    The baby’s mother likes the scalloped edge. But at first, it looked like an oddly-shaped pillow case:


    Usually when gathers are called for I cheat, and make pleats, usually re-pinning about three times to make everything even. But I wanted a softer baby look, this time I tried the technique of basting in one long thread, and pulling on the ends for ruffles. Then you just stitch it down. My ruffles aren’t even, but they are symmetrical.

    You’ll see for the sleeves I did use pleats. And a silk cuff, because I want to use all the silk possible, and I didn’t have any lace, or rather I found the lace after the dress was finished.


    The back opening is to a me a classic example of how Simplicity makes dressmaking more complicated than it needs to be. I compounded this by not having enough fabric to cut the back as directed, with the tabs for the facing and interfacing. You know those warnings about extra fabric needed for one-way layout, etc.? It is also true when you want use the scalloped edge as your hem.

    I think I would have an easier time with Simplicity if the directions weren’t written like some GPS program, sending you hurtling into the unknown, taking steps blindly on faith until you reach your destination. A summary saying, “here’s why we’re going to do this” would take a lot of the worry out.

    So I cobbled together the back facings and came up with a opening big enough for a cocktail dress. Working on this reminded me of the observation about a vicar’s wife in a P.D. James novel: “It was not… that she was unaware of the frayed and ragged edges of life. She would merely iron them out with a firm hand and neatly hem them down.”

    The pattern calls for buttons, and I thought I would brave that, but seeing how the almost-finished product looked big enough for a toddler, and remembering being very proud of my new button-up-the-back top, and then going on a mini-roller coaster and having the buttons slammed into me at every turn, I am taking my grandmother’s (the baby’s great-great-grandmother’s) collection of hooks and eyes and snaps to sew on after a pre-christening fitting.

    Then it was time for the collar. Simplicity called for attaching the collar to bias tape, and attaching the bias tape to the bodice, which seemed nuts, but I tried it and it really is a useful technique.

    I  think no bias tape is supposed to show, but again, symmetry can be convincing.
    And here’s the whole thing! Not too bad, and the adorable-baby factor will help a lot.


May 4, 2011

  • The Baby Blanket finds a baby!

    I posted about making a baby blanket about six days before the baby arrived, in February 2010.

    I posted about some progress when the baby was about to roll over, in June 2010.

    It was really too small. So I added more squares. (For those of you not clicking, it’s made of mitered squares.) And then I worked on putting it together. On and off. Off, mainly.

    Finally, it was finished in early 2011. The baby had become a toddler. It fit about half of her.
    Fortunately, there was another baby available!

    Here’s to procrastination. The original baby may get a toddler sweater. Or a preschool sweater. More on that later.

March 9, 2011

  • Bind Us Together: White Cross Bandages

    My church has a small but active women’s fellowship group, and one that strives to meet its White Cross quota. White Cross provides material aid to American Baptist missionaries all around the world, including the US. It’s most well-known for rolling bandages, something that goes back to its World War I roots.

    They’re still needed. Our bandages go to to the Evangelical Hospital in Vanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our missionary team, Dr. Bill and Ann Clemmer, coordinate the medical residency program and surgical care for stigmatized women; their high-school daughter coordinates a books and scholarship program.

    Dr. Clemmer has said that their bandages are boiled and re-boiled and used until they fall apart, and feels the reusable products is one way the hospital keeps costs down.

    So we are happy to help. At my church, we usually have a setup where we have sheet rippers (second-hand but clean are fine, as well as any print or pattern, as long as they’re cotton or cotton blend), sheet pinners, sewers, and rollers. But here at the House of the Broken Metatarsal it’s tough to get to church, and even so, I can’t use the right-footed sewing machine. So after the bags of torn strips came to me.

    I decided to sew them together by hand; I like hand-sewing, and I didn’t want bags of strips bristling with pins around the house. I used a split stitch, typically an embroidery stitch; I always use a doubled thread when I hand sew. It’s one step forward, a half-step back, which locks the stitch well. Of course, the smaller the stitches, the better the seam.

    Then it’s time to roll the bandages. My church actually has wooden crank roller, hand-made two generations ago. We also have those skilled rolling on pencils or by hand. My rolling is in the not-too-bad category.
    The bandages should be 4″ wide and 10 yards long. We use our coffee-hour tables to measure our strips. They’re six feet long, so five strips make 10 yards. (Late edit: not this time. Our ladies just ripped the length of the sheet, which I think is more common. So these strips are more than six feet long, and it takes only four strips to make a 10-yard roll.)

    I’ve been told that the White Cross web site will be updated with directions for bandages, surgical masks, and instrument wrappers. Anyone who can rip and sew should think about helping out White Cross.



February 24, 2011

February 23, 2011

  • Sitting and Knitting continues

    Here we have an experiment of two kinds.

    Like many places, we’ve had a ton of snow, and my husband has been the main, and sometimes the only shoveler. About two storms ago, he was clutching his forearm and flexing his hand. So I thought he could join Ray Allen in his use of an arm sleeve. Not even Ray, I don’t think, has one in Icelandic wool.

    It also seemed like a good time to experiment with different stitches on a knitting loom. I feel a little defensive about the round knitting looms, their glowing plastic colors, coy misspellings in the most popular brand, and their perceived lack of sophistication. But I like them. For a cowardly knitter like me, they are a great introduction into knitting, especially that part of knitting that requires you to make complicated motions correctly every single time while another part of your brain listens to something else.

    But to advance, you need to learn how to knit and purl on these. There are lots of instructions out there, but the best tutorial I got on rib knitting was this badly shot but lucid video. It shows the secret of purling on a round loom — taking the stitch off the peg and putting it back on.
    So I experimented with different combinations of stitches and ended up with this:

    And on the arm, it looks like this:

    The yarn is Hosuband, 80 percent wool, 20 percent nylon, bought at Alafoss.

    The sleeve and a little liniment seems to have helped. We’ll see how the experiment impacts the progress of my knitting skills and any future snow.

February 22, 2011

  • More Sitting and Knitting

    Long ago, I started a tube sock on a knitting loom my husband made for me:

    And now that I’m sitting here willing my broken metatarsal to heal, I picked it up again.

    This loom is a little bigger than the smallest loom on your basic knitting loom set. I needed a slightly larger one because tube socks made on the smallest one ended up too tight after washing. I believe this loom was made a from a large can of beans. This is a house that has roofing nails and duct tape lying around, so it was pretty easy to make.

    And here’s one sock in use. Both socks are done, but the new owner spirited them away.

    The yarn is two strands of Hjerte Sock 4, Danish superwash yarn (75 percent wool, 25 percent nylon), one strand pink, the other multi on a pink ground. (Yes, it’s a wretched flashless cell-phone photo. Sometimes you have to strike when the sock is on the foot.) Where did I get Danish yarn? In Iceland, at Alafoss.

    Keep your feet warm, so your heart can be warm, too.

January 25, 2011

  • The part of decluttering that cracks the mind

    Is the decision-making. Here’s some advice from The Spacialist. It’s about a guy with boxes from his grandmother’s estate. It reads in part:

    He let me know that the biggest organizing challenge for him was to determine whether an item is worthy of keeping or not.


    Below are 3 of his items that I’d like to use as examples. I’ll show you how I helped him understand their “value” to him. 


    So, we stumbled upon his childhood dog’s collar, his first PEZ dispenser and his Grandmother’s lemon reamer.


    We determined that there were 3 kinds of “value” for him:

    · Emotional Value

    · Useful Value

    · Monetary Value


    So for the dog collar:

    · Emotional Value:  High

    · Useful Value: None as he doesn’t have a dog anymore.

    · Monetary Value: None


    We determined that although the emotional value was high, that this moment of rediscovery was the very moment that he had been saving it for. He enjoyed the moment and the memories and released it.


    PEZ dispenser: 

    · Emotional Value:  High

    · Useful Value: Low. He doesn’t eat PEZ nor does he have a decorative use for it.

    · Monetary Value: Appeared to be high but once he checked the market value on e-bay, he determined it wasn’t worth his time to go through the process of actually selling it.


    So, since “emotional” was the highest of the 3 values, he decided to keep it for fun and slipped it into his desk drawer. Now it hangs out there and every time he reaches inside he sees it and smiles.  Now that’s value!


    Lemon reamer:

    · Emotional Value: High

    · Useful Value: High

    · Monetary Value: None to sell it, but to him priceless.


    The emotional value was extremely high because he has sweet memories of making lemonade with his Grandmother during the summer.  The reamer was also quite useful.  He never bought one all these years because he had been looking for one just like hers.  Little did he know it was waiting for him quietly in an old storage box.


    We popped it right of the box and into a cozy drawer in the kitchen right next to the lemon zester and vegetable peeler.  It was a perfect home.


January 16, 2011

August 29, 2010

  • The World is Rotating

    “Is it night in Kampala, too?”
    “It’s the middle of the night there. It’s 8 p.m. here … so it’s about four in the morning there.”
    “Why is that?”
    “Well, the earth is spinning around the sun. And the sun shines on different parts of the earth.”
    “We are spinning, too?”
    “Yes, we are.”
    “We don’t feel it?”
    “No, because we’re spinning at the same rate as the earth.”
    “And we are not dizzy?”

July 25, 2010

  • Survivalist Knitting — a Coupon Holder

    Well, it’s been a while since I have had an coupon holder or blogged, but the two have come together with the presence of  major-brand cereal eaters in the house. I need to use those coupons. The coupons under the refrigerator magnet were expiring away and looking ratty, so it was time for a holder that would get them to the store.

    I’ve got a stash of yarn from Alafoss, the fantastic Icelandic yarn outlet. (Political/economic note: after Iceland’s economy tanked, Alafoss has had a lot more customers.) This is Alafoss Lopi in denim heather. I was going to practice some stitches, but Lopi makes up so densely and has such texture anyhow anything than a garter stitched just looked like lumpy mistakes.

    So I cast on about seven inches and knit away, and when it looked big enough (allowing for a hinge, in effect, when gauging when to fold; I decreased one stitch on each side until it was done.

    Then I stitched up the sides. The sides are not as uneven as they appear here. But the yarn did shred; there’s no advantage in using long lengths.

    Then a shank button; the loop has a knot in the top to stop it, I hope, from pulling through.

    Now to keep track of it, and to use it!