Friday, July 29, 2016

Vintage Crochet Special Issue

When you hear the words "vintage crochet", what do you think of? Lacy doilies, intricate tablecloths, fine linen hankies with delicate thread edging? Elaborate bedspreads or Irish crochet wedding dresses?

Ask a group of designers and writers this same question, and here is what you'll get:

PieceWork Magazine's special issue Vintage Crochet 2016

Vintage Crochet 2016 is a very special issue indeed, with 21 lovely patterns and 7 feature articles, all highlighting various aspects of crochet's fascinating history.

One of the patterns is mine, and so is one of the articles.

The Pattern

The Modern Afternoon Apron with 1912 Edging was inspired by a garment belonging to Susan Baker, one of my favourite characters in the Anne books of L.M. Montgomery.

The apron's wide edging was reproduced from an online image found in the Antique Pattern Library:

I later adapted the edging to make it curved at both ends, and designed a smaller pocket edging to complement the wider trim. Both edgings work up very quickly in sportweight cotton yarn.

Pocket under construction

Instructions for sewing the apron are included in the magazine. I have to admit that writing the sewing part of the pattern was much harder than writing the crochet part! The actual construction is very simple, but trying to explain it clearly and concisely (without any illustrations) was a real verbal workout.

These edgings could also be applied to a purchased apron, if sewing isn't your thing.

The Article

The article is a lighthearted review of crochet's appearances in the Anne books, with speculations on some of the characters and situations involved. Needlecrafts are very well-represented in LMM's writing, with knitting the most frequently-mentioned, but crochet runs a very respectable second, appearing in seven out of the eight original Anne books.

It was such a treat to be able to include three of my favourite things - crochet, sewing, and the books of L.M. Montgomery - in this project.


It's always humbling to find myself sharing page-space with people I think of as real crochet designers - like Robyn Chachula (who designed the stunning cover sweater), Margaret Hubert, Tammy Hildebrand, and many others whose work I admire. Here are just a few of the other projects from this issue:

All photographs by Joe Coca for Vintage Crochet 2016,a special publication from Interweave. Copyright © F+W Media 2016.

You can read more about this issue and see all the project photos here. Click here to order your own copy of Vintage Crochet 2016 (for a digital copy, click here).

And I have a free issue to give away ... stay tuned! :)

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Very Damp MS Ride

Every year, at the end of July, there's a small MS benefit ride held in our county. Unlike larger, high-profile events, this one runs mainly on the goodwill and hard work of a small group of volunteers and donors who give their time and resources to organise the ride, mark the course, and provide rest stops for hungry cyclists. No fundraising is required, and the entry fee goes directly to the National MS Society. A smashing lunch is served after the ride, and a good time is had by all.

This is the third time I've participated. (You can read about the other two times here and here.)


Saturday morning we wake to dense fog and warm temperatures. The forecast warns darkly of Hazardous Weather and Dangerous Heat Conditions, and I start to wonder if I should choose a shorter course than originally planned. But the fog seems to have cleared a bit by the time I take off for the ride, and the temperature doesn't feel too dreadful. I decide to stick with my original goal of riding the 40-mile course.

Passing a house just out of town, I hear someone shout "Allez! Allez!" Apparently Mr. M and I aren't the only TdF fans in the village. :)

A tandem looms up out of the fog behind me; as it passes, the stoker looks over at me and says, "You need a set of windshield wipers!"

She's right. My glasses are so covered with beads of moisture I've had to push them halfway down my nose so I can look over them to see the road:

Everything is dripping: my helmet, my face, the trees.... The air, which seemed reasonably cool before, is now beginning to heat up. Riders come steaming out of the mist to pass me and disappear in the dampness ahead:

The humidity is affecting my shifters, and apparently those of other riders as well; I hear plenty of clunking, clicking, and cussing, and pass more than one person whose chain has come off. (Later my own chain sticks and comes off. All part of the fun.)

Finally, about 12 miles out, a few rays of sun break through the clouds:

Soon we reach the first rest stop, where a dedicated volunteer works over a hot stove to produce the ingredients needed for build-your-own breakfast burritos. Cyclists stand in line or mill around, every one of them drenched with fog and sweat and happily complaining about the weather.

My breakfast burrito is small but sustaining, with eggs, cheese, a sausage, and salsa. I half-fill a cup with pickle juice and raise a mental toast to Snowcatcher, my long-distance cycling buddy and partner in pickle-juicery.

A buggy squeezes through the sweaty throng (we're in Amish country here):

When the break is over, it's a great relief to get back on the bike and feel the air flowing past me. This is the muggiest ride I've ever taken.

A few miles later, the sun disappears, but the steamy conditions remain. We bump our way over one of the rougher sections of the route:

(I ask one of the recumbent riders if she has any suspension on her machine. "No," she replies, "but I've promised myself that when I turn 80 I'll splurge and get one with full suspension. And power assist.")

My shifters continue to alternately stick or go slack (usually just at the wrong time). And my camera is behaving oddly. About every other time I pull it out, it refuses to work and flashes the "Change Battery" sign. I think the heat and moisture are getting to it.

But it's working when I reach the second rest stop:

Here pretzels and fruit chews restore the inner cyclist and provide some welcome salt and sugar. Then it's back on the bike for another 16 miles of occasional drizzle and rolling Amish farmland.

The weather seems steamier than ever by the time I finish, and as the post-ride lunch is served, large raindrops begin to fall. I eat my burger, grab an extra brownie for Mr. M, and head home just in time to beat a severe thunderstorm. I'm glad it didn't strike sooner!

A good ride for a good cause.


Speaking of good causes: this September Mr. M and I are heading to the Pacific Northwest to join our friends Snowcatcher and the Lizard at Bike MS Washington. Our goal is to raise $750 dollars for the fight against MS.

If you'd like to learn more, or make a donation, just click on the button below:

(All donations go straight to programs, services, and research to help people with MS. Every dollar counts, and even one dollar will help!)


How's your July going? Are you ready for August? :)

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Month's Worth of Rides

This year seems like a runaway train with no emergency brakes.  The months have flown by like blurry images, just glimpsed through the windows, then gone. Where are March and April? May and June ... whoosh! And here we are, past the middle of July, with autumn (seemingly) right around the corner.*

This is one reason I take my camera on rides. Perhaps it would be better to live purely in the moment, but sometimes life is so fraught, or the moments so packed, that we have trouble remembering the good ones. A camera lets us capture some of those good moments - bits of beauty, things that give us joy - so we can enjoy them again later. And it lets us share them with others.

I haven't blogged any cycling photos for over a month, but I have been riding. Here are some of the things I've seen....

June Evening Ride

Wildflowers from left, top row: Common Milkweed; Yellow Sweet Clover (with bike wheel); wild Gaillardia; White Campion. Lower row: seldom-seen white Hairy Vetch (usually it's purple); Early Meadow Rue.

Late June Ride

Wildflowers from left, top row: Wild Parsnip and Fleabane; wild alfalfa blossom. Lower row: the first Field Thistle (with Yellow Sweet Clover in the background).

Early July Sunday Ride

Wildflowers from left (top row): Crown Vetch; Dog-fennel (Anthemis cotula); more Crown Vetch. The lower-left photo shows a cluster of butterflies on the ground - I couldn't figure out what they were doing, but at times there was a solid circle of them there.

This Week's Sunday Ride

Wildflowers from left, top row: Clasping Milkweed, Rudbeckia, Fireweed. Second row: Hedge-parsley; Swamp Milkweed; Turk's Cap Lily.

A lonely horse (above left) watched me take a picture of all its friends in the pasture across the road (lower center).

And I found three new barn quilts for my photo collection. :)

*I always get a little pre-autumn gloom about this time of year. Maybe it's because "August" looks so much like "Autumn". I need to stop looking at the calendar....


How's your summer going? Like a runaway train, or a sedate excursion?

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sewing Projects, plus Random Thoughts on Research and the DIY Mentality

For me, having a DIY mentality is a bit like being a 2-year-old, especially when it comes to making clothes. I'm awfully prone to insisting on "doing it myself". (Why buy a pattern when I can draft it, or copy an existing garment? Why buy something ready-made if I can sew it? I will Do It Myself!)

Unlike most 2-year-olds, however, I like to bolster my efforts with copious research. If I'm going to Do It Myself, then by golly I want to get it right. This means Consulting the Experts.

When I was younger, there were few Experts to consult. Luckily I had (and still have) an older sister who was (and is) better at nearly everything. She was my resident Expert throughout my internet-less childhood. Since then, the field of available Experts has expanded into a world-wide web simply crammed with crafty wisdom, all just a keyboard-tap away.

So now, my sewing projects tend to follow this pattern:

Step 1: Preparation. I get out all the tools and materials I might need and display them prominently in the dining area. (This is meant to spur creativity and encourage diligence.)

Step 2: Research. I waste all kinds of time online read all the blog posts, tutorials, and online magazine articles I can find on the subject in question, not forgetting to check the comments sections for good ideas that might otherwise be missed. And I look at project photos. Lots of project photos.

Step 3: Action. This is where I ignore much of what I just read and decide to come up with my own method. (Do It Myself!)

Moment of Crafting Honesty: I like to think of Step 2 as research, but maybe it isn't. Maybe it's really procrastination, caused by a subliminal fear (born of previous experience) that the project won't turn out the way I hope. Or maybe it's a control thing - seeking power through knowledge. Or - gasp - maybe it's just more fun to look at other crafters' projects than it is to start my own (procrastination again).

Meanwhile, piles of fabric sit around, cluttering up the dining table, forcing us to eat our meals in the living room in front of the laptop while watching the replay of that day's Tour de France stage. (Which isn't actually a bad thing. Watching someone else exercise is almost as good as doing it yourself. Rather like looking at other people's craft projects. But I digress.)

Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea, says the poet. Translated into crafting language: even the most determined researcher (or procrastinator) eventually produces something. Here are a few recent projects of mine:

Green Tee

The green fabric is a rayon-spandex jersey knit; the purple slub and grey print are blends. All are from JoAnn. I dreamed of putting together a really arty and amazing tee, à la Marcy or Katherine Tilton, but when it came down to the actual construction, a contrast neckband turned out to be enough. Anything more and it wouldn't have been me. (Aside: how do you figure out what's you? Is there a quick and easy way to make sure that you only wear what you like, and that you like everything you wear? If so, do tell.)

The grey print had very little stretch, and the neckband didn't want to lie flat, so I added four tiny darts evenly spaced around the front neckline curve. The darts are neatly camouflaged by the print:

I love the softness and drape of rayon jersey, but its slinky and crinkly properties can make the cutting-out process a real hassle. What with making sure things are on-grain, and trying to keep the fabric layers smooth, it takes me longer to cut out the pattern than it does to assemble it. But the results are worth it. (If only it didn't pill so quickly....)

Bonus tip for hemming soft, stretchy fabrics with a regular sewing machine: When cutting out, add about 1" extra length to the standard hem allowance. When it's time to hem the garment, fold at the desired hemline (the hem allowance will look really wide, but that's okay). Stitch at the desired distance from fold, then carefully trim excess hem allowance after stitching. This method gives your presser foot a more stable area of fabric to sew over, with no cut edge to get sucked into the path of the needle.

The pattern for the Green Tee was copied from a favourite purchased tee, using a method I read about in Threads magazine some years ago.

Copying an existing garment still counts as Doing It Myself, right? :)

Popsicle Top

The colours in this fabric - another rayon knit found at JoAnn - remind me of a Big Stick, the favourite popsicle of my childhood.

For this tee, I converted the Green Tee pattern to a dolman-sleeve version by folding the sleeve piece in half and pinning it to the front and back pieces in turn, matching the underarm seam points and lining up the folded sleeve edge with the shoulder edge. The underarm corner was rounded slightly during cutting to give a smooth underarm curve.

The sleeve length was dictated by the amount of available fabric - which was 1 yard. (I am a fabric Scrooge.) We will gloss over the ridiculous amount of time spent in anguishing over how to make the best of this print - which has stripes running in both directions - or in dithering between set-in sleeves and dolman. Dolman won out, mainly because there was no way to match such irregular stripes with a set-in sleeve (the shirt back has a completely different stripe pattern than the front).

This tee was cut on the cross-grain (a first for me when working with a knit), and the selvedge was used as the hem.

Once cut, the tee came together quickly, and I'm really happy with the way it turned out. It's fitted through the shoulders and chestal area, and slightly slouchy around the waist. I was afraid the underarms might be baggy, but they came out just right.

Some Other Small Projects

Brace yourself....

Yes. They're exactly what they look like. And I'm surprised to find that I like them. 'Nuff said.

(Okay - just a few words more. Some of you may be absolutely horrified by this. If so, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to shock anyone. Others are probably wondering how anyone could possibly want to make and re-use things like these. In my case, it started with a leaflet from my doctor advising only 100% cotton products in the body area involved. Other factors included: the prohibitive cost of disposable 100% cotton products, an abundance of cotton fabric scraps in my stash, and a sewing machine at the ready. Environmental concerns also played a role. If you'd like to learn more, there are plenty of articles, reviews, patterns, and tutorials on the net. Some are embarrassingly gushy, but here are two that are soberly and thoughtfully written:

To my fellow sewists: even if you wouldn't use these items yourself, would you consider making some for donation to girls and women in other countries who either don't have access to, or can't afford, the disposable products we take for granted? If you'd like to help, here are two links to get you started:

Embarassing Topic concluded.)

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Wow - this post turned out much longer than I planned! Next time I'll have a month's worth of cycling photos to share.

What have you been making (or researching) lately? :)

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