March 16, 2012
Here is a collection of cotton Kanga dresses. And they are for sale! I am working on coming up with dress designs, and am testing out fabrics, sewing techniques, etc.
These four dresses are made with traditional Kanga fabric brought to me by my sister. She and her mother, who lives in Tanzania, pick out the different designs for me, and then I get to make things!
The bodices are lined with another layer of Kanga fabric, and the skirts are lined with a layer of cotton lawn.
The sleeves are left unlined. This design is loose-fitting and perfect for warm summer (or spring…) weather.
Each dress is unique, with the patterns carefully selected and matched for each. The seams are all finished with zigzag, and I tried to cut all the ends off, but I am sure that there are a few hidden here and there. The hems of the sleeves and bottom are the finished edge of the fabric, except for the white and black dress, which has a raw edge.
The material is thin and not too refined. There are imperfections, and I feel that this adds to the character of the pieces. Each piece of Kanga fabric has a quote on it, and I left the quote on the bottom of this dress.
The fabric comes quite heavily starched, and after a few washings and wearings, it softens and relaxes a lot. I always take care with laundering, and machine wash delicate, cold, and always hang to dry.
The dresses do usually need to be ironed a little, or else they end up looking a little bit rumpled.
Let me know what you think!
March 14, 2012
I went out to the garden yesterday to inspect things, and found some surprise treats!
The lettuce of course re-seeded itself. I let a lot of lettuce go to seed, and now I have little babies growing all over the place.
Above is a chard plant. The stem from the original plant is under my finger. I had mulched around the plants in the fall, and I think that the dried leaf cover protected the plants during the winter.
Last summer was super hot, and my fall crop of carrots and turnips didn’t really develop well, so I left them in the ground over winter. Because the winter was so mild, a lot of the little guys made it. A row of carrots, which still taste good, although some of them have some sort of frostbite. I am going to leave them in and watch how they continue to grow.
A healthy patch of turnips. These guys might need thinning soon!
Some cilantro, which looks pretty good, and tastes great!
And a patch of frizzled frisee. Hopefully these guys grow into happy plants. I can’t wait to see.
Meanwhile, I planted some dwarf grey sugar peas, dragon carrots, danvers carrots, Paris market carrots, flat leaf parsley, sylvetta arugula (a low growing slow to bolt variety), endive, and chard. I worked the soil in the fall, incorporating manure and straw, and so this morning all I needed to do was turn the soil a little with a pitchfork, and break up a few clumps with my hands. Much easier than last year!! It certainly pays off to take good care of soil.
A happy little garden plot, looking forward to some spring rain this week!
March 10, 2012
This dress is flannel, but doesn’t have sleeves…a little bit of a contradiction, and I will see how it wears.
I bought a dress recently that I really liked, and drafted this pattern from it. The original had a short front, and a long back, and was a little bit more fitted through the middle. I wanted this to be a bit more simple, and have a looser fitting top.
The neck and arms are all stitched by hand, which takes a while, but I generally enjoy doing hand stitching. I made bias tape out of scraps, sewed it to the edges with the machine, and then folded it under, pressed and pinned it, and then stitched it down. One of the best things about making dresses is being able to finish them carefully and by hand…
The hem is also hand stitched. I love a wide hem, turned under and sewed. There is something very substantial about it, and the dress seems to hang better that way.
The waist is elastic. I inserted an elastic band into the dress, tied it tightly at about the right spot, and cut the ends.
Overall, the dress is comfy, cozy, and can always be worn with a sweater if the weather turns cold.
March 10, 2012
This started out as a dress. When I added the sleeves, it turned into something that I wouldn’t wear. So I had to cut them off…
Now it is a jumper. Which works well with things like long-sleeved button up shirts, and short-sleeved blouses. I might be taking a turn for dorky…
The front and back both have stitching around the edges. I had to undo the entire top a few times to figure out how to accomplish this.. It was a bit tricky, but worked out in the end.
I ended up finishing the edge of the armhole by hand. A few little stitches tucked in there to take care of the last raw edge!
The seam at the bottom of the dress was sewn by machine. I generally tend to make the seams by hand, but with the denim I have been sewing the seams, with good results. I think that it might have something to do with the stiffness of the fabric.
I am meaning to put some pockets on the front, but haven’t gotten to it yet.
December 31, 2011
Another vest for my dad. Modeled off of a navy blue zip up vest that he wears all the time. This one is made with three different yarns. A super bulky malabrigo in purples and blues, a worsted weight malabrigo in bright blue, and a lace weight madeline tosh in navy blue. All hand dyed yarns. I just love this particular combination. Both the texture and color combine and contribute to the beauty of the finished material. And knit on size 15 needles, the material knits up quickly, and has a particular firmness that is quite lovely.
The border has a few rows of garter stitch, and then the rest of the vest is stockinette stitch. To edge the front and armholes I picked up stitches (3 out of ever 4) knit a row, and then cast off. Quick, tidy and simple.
My dad chose the purple zipper, and I attempted to sew it into the knitted material. My current method for sewing in zippers is to: 1. pin the zipped up zipper into the sweater/vest. 2. unzip and hand baste the zipper on both sides. 3. machine sew the zipper from the right side of the material, taking care to back-stitch at the beginning and end of the line.
I know that there are different sewing machine feet for sewing in zippers, but I haven’t been able to figure them out yet, so I wrestle through with the normal foot…hoping that I don’t break anything.
December 20, 2011
My friend has a new grandbaby, and she had the idea to make him a little red and white suit for Christmas. We came up with a super soft yarn (debbie bliss cashmerino aran) held double and knit on size 11 needles. (There isn’t a lot of time to make things this time of year…)
I made a gauge swatch, and cast on 52 stitches. Joined in the round, and ribbed for a few inches. (I cut the bottom later to add a few more inches, and some stripes of white.)
After the ribbing came stockinette stitch, until the snuggly was about the right length.
I switched to 10 1/2 needles and ribbed a few rows to gather the snuggly at the shoulders and neck. No decreases, as I didn’t want the hood to be too small.
Then came the face opening. I cast off a few stitches, and then worked back and forth on the hood, decreasing at the beginning of every other row, and then at the beginning of every third row to shape the hood, and then knit straight until the face opening was the right height. Next I cast on a few stitches, and joined the hood back into the round, and decreased every third row to make the elf hat point. With cream yarn and the 10 1/2 needles I picked up stitches around the face opening and knit a few rows of ribbing. Last but not least was the pom pom for the top of the hood.
The bottom was left open to put the outfit on, although I think that you could add some snaps to keep it closed.
Really quick and easy and snuggly for baby!
December 16, 2011
I have been wanting to make some bean soup for a while. This soup was made using what I could scrounge up in my mom’s fridge…I found a carrot, a few stalks of celery, some chard stems, and a bunch of parsley. If you have these things, you can make a soup.
There was an onion sitting on my counter, along with a butternut squash from the farmer’s market. I cut up a bit of the onion with the squash and a few cloves of garlic and put them in the oven with a little olive oil to roast.
Meanwhile, I covered a cup of borlotti beans with boiling water and set them aside. I chopped and sauteed the found vegetables in a mixture of olive oil and butter for about 20 minutes. To the one carrot, remaining onion, two stalks of celery, and a handful of chopped parsley, I added several bay leaves, a few dried peppers and a parmesan cheese rind. And a pinch or two of herbs de provence.
I then added a lot of water, the soaked beans, and a bit of salt.
Then pressure cooked the whole collection for 40 minutes. And then another 20 minutes, until the beans were nicely tender.
After the beans were cooked I added the chopped chard stems and roasted squash for a little extra color.
This is a good soup if you have been on your feet all day. Brothy and hearty at the same time. Perfect to serve with good olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper, and a slice of fresh bread.