Thursday, October 2, 2014

So much to do this weekend!

American Craft Week starts tomorrow, and Vermont is a big participant. From the Vermont Crafts Council open studio directory for Windsor and Orange counties, I found silk painting in Hartland and studios that include fiber crafts in Woodstock and Randolph. That's separate from the Vermont North By Hand open studio tour, which includes three weavers and a coatmaker.

On top of that, Vermont Sheep and Wool is this weekend at the Tunbridge fairgrounds. There will be demonstrations and classes about all things wool-related, from raising wool-bearing animals to shearing to spinning to knitting, weaving, and felting.

There don't seem to be any Craft Week events in the eastern half of the Upper Valley, but the next League of New Hampshire Craftsmen exhibit in Hanover includes art embroidery.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What's the Difference Between Mending and Alterations?

The simplest way to express the difference between mending and alterations is this: if you mend something you're returning it to the way it once was. If you're making an alteration then you're changing it in some way but you still have the basic garment. (If you want to turn it into something completely different that's called refashioning.)

So if your favorite jeans have a tear in the knee you can...

Learn how to fix the tear in my Basic Mending class at the Sew-op on September 27th from 10-12. Or...

Learn how to alter the jeans into cut-offs in Rebecca's Alterations class at the Sew-op on September 29th from 5:30-7:30.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fall Classes for Kids and Teens

Here is the promised post on classes for everyone preschool to high school. Note that most of Artistree's adult classes allow enrollment of anyone age 12 or older, and that the definition of "adult" for purposes of Sew-op classes is 14 or older. Other locations would probably be amenable to older teenagers participating in adult classes, but I didn't find any posted policies. See the previous post for those class listings.

Artistree, South Pomfret, VT:

AVA Gallery, Lebanon, NH:

Upper Valley Sew-op, White River Junction, VT:

Some classes are described on the Sew-op webpage; descriptions for the rest should gradually appear on the Co-op's events calendar, under which you'll find a form to sign up for Sew-op classes online.

  • Basic Sewing for Kids, Part 1.
    Thursday Oct 9, 1-3.

  • Basic Sewing for Kids, Part 2.
    Thursday Oct 23, 1-3.

  • Doll Clothes.
    Four offerings all 10-noon: Friday Nov 7, Saturday Nov 8, Monday Dec 29, Tuesday Dec 30.

In addition, there is an Open Hours expressly for kids, 1-3 on Wednesday Oct 29.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Upcoming Events

There is so much going on this fall that I've separated the classes for kids and teens into their own (forthcoming) post and put the adult classes behind a cut. First some non-class events:

The Sew-op is having a "taking session" on Thursday, September 4, from 2-4 PM. Like our yard sale, it's an effort to downsize our stash in advance of our reopening for the fall. The selection is reduced but so are the prices - unlike the yard sale, everything will be free.

The Tunbridge World's Fair is coming up September 11-14. There are always lovely quilts, knitted and crocheted items, embroidery works, and other eye candy. If you want to participate, you'll have to be perky for pre-registration (Sep 1) but you can register on the spot Sep 10 as long as you have no more than 5 items and show up before 5:00 (pre-registered items may be dropped off until 6:30). Here are the details.

Further down the road, Vermont North By Hand is having their Open Studio Tour October 4-5. Most of the participants do not work with fiber, but there are three weavers and a coatmaker among the nineteen of them. The majority of studios are in Corinth, with the rest in an arc to its east. See the online map or look for a red pamphlet about the event.

Finally, White River Yarn's sixth annual Green Mountain Fiber Festival is November 15-16 at the Wilder Center.

Classes for adults

General notes: if I say, for instance, "5 Saturdays" but give a date range containing six Saturdays, there's a skipped Saturday in there. See the linked description for details. "Alternating" means every other, beginning and ending with the listed dates.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quilting retreats

Unlike the knitting retreats, quilt retreats seem to take a summer vacation. There is a convention this very weekend, though: the World Quilt Show, New England XII at the Radisson Center, Manchester, NH August 14-17. There will be classes, exhibits, competition, shopping, and an ice cream social. A quilt appraiser will be on site so you can have quilts appraised for insurance purposes (by appointment and with a fee). Registration is $20 plus fees for individual workshops and lectures.

If you speak French, there's a French language quilting retreat in September from Quilting in Vermont, at the Strong House Inn, Vergennes, VT.

The remaining retreats are all in November, but it appears there's a tendency for them to fill very much ahead of time, so it's not too early to think about them.

  • Quilting in Vermont also has some no-teacher retreats (the first starting Oct 31) and advanced landscape quilting.
  • There is a Quilters' Workshop, at the Colonial House, Weston, VT, on the pattern Attic Window.
  • There are two Quilting Retreats at Calumet, in Ossipee, NH, each to learn a particular pattern.
  • Pearl Hill Quilts retreats at the Silver Fox Inn, Waterville Valley, NH (in White Mountain National Forest, about 90 minutes from Hanover) has a weekday retreat.
  • And finally, Mount Washington B&B Quilting Retreats, in Shelburne, NH, has three retreats (the first starting Oct 31), which are Mystery Quilt, Learn to Quilt, and UFO Finishing.

For future reference, quilting events all across New England are listed at the Rising Star Quilters Guild events page. is a website for quilt shows and events internationally; their New Hampshire page is quite a bit more complete than their Vermont page, but both may be worth a look.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two fibery reasons... go to WRJ's First Friday tomorrow. There's always a lot of live music, art exhibits and artist studios, but this month there are two events happening on topic with this blog.

  1. Tag Sale at the Sew-Op: As Jenn mentioned, we are cleaning house! Come augment your stash with fabric, yarn, vintage sewing patterns, buttons, and trims. We also have some kits, sewing machines, empty sewing machine cabinets, calligraphy books, thread organizers, and other miscellaneous crafty and sewing items. A few things will be individually priced and the rest will be by the bag (different sizes of bags available). For inspiration see our previous post, on crafting with secondhand materials.

    The sale runs Friday August 1st, 4-6pm, and Saturday August 2nd, 10am-2pm.

  2. The Creation: Local DJ Shara Dee, wearing a white dress sewn by Robina D'Arcy-Fox of Fancy Felix Theatrical, will create music with Mr. Grim (Chris Boncoddo). During the music Robina will paint Shara and add fabric embellishments to her outfit while Maria Lara Dailey of Aquilino Arts paints a giant canvas behind them. The event will be filmed and turned into a time-lapse video. Decorating a dress on a person in motion should be an interesting challenge.

    The Creation is Friday August 1, 5:30-8pm, in front of Fancy Felix (58 N. Main).

You'll find Facebook pages for all these things: Sew-op tag sale, The Creation, and WRJ First Fridays. Perhaps I shall see you there!

[Disclosure: I may also be described as "of Aquilino Arts."]

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working with Secondhand Craft Supplies

Whether it's a hand-me-down, swap, vintage purchase or thrift store find, you may have items in your stash with unknown properties or in colors or quantities different from what you would have chosen on your own. You may also want to acquire secondhand materials for crafting. I aim to address the concerns of getting and using such items.


Of course you want materials that are in good shape and clean; anything that isn't should be left behind, disposed of or washed. Even if it's in good shape, if it doesn't appeal to you and you don't see practical value in it, leave it behind or re-donate it. Whimseybox has tips for thrifting craft supplies which are fairly general and focused on locating desirable items. Whip Up has advice on thrifting sewing supplies in particular, that is more aimed at selecting. That article has a lot of good tips for checking quality, though if you acquire secondhand thread don't just throw it out. You can test it by breaking the thread by hand and paying attention to the elasticity. If it just snaps, don't use it. If you feel it spring after snapping, it's probably still good. Since the outermost layer will be in the worst shape, if it's okay the rest should be too.


Now you have it; what is it? The type of material makes a difference - you don't want to make potholders out of fabric that scorches easily, nor decorate towels with fabric that repels water. You can identify some fabrics by eye (no mistaking gold lamé), but for many fabrics and yarns you'll need the burn test. I found nice pages on the burn test at Threads magazine and You can get fairly fine identification once you learn enough, but the general rule of thumb is that plant fibers (cotton, linen, acetate, rayon) burn like wood or leaves, protein fibers (wool and silk) shrivel and smell like burning hair, and petroleum-based fibers (acrylic, nylon, polyester) melt into a hard plastic bead - though they might burn first.

Here are some properties you might consider:
  • Absorbance: for towels, coasters, and napkins, cotton is best.
  • Heat resistance: for potholders, trivets, and hand warmers. I've had success using a double layer of fleece in my potholders, with cotton outer layers, but I would use only cotton for the hand warmers. This is also relevant in ironing. I had the experience of laying my iron on a giveaway bag that I wanted to mend with ironed-on patches, and coming away with an iron-shaped hole in the fabric. Fortunately I was able to clean the iron by scraping off the cooled residue with the back end of a wooden clothespin.
  • Safety and comfort: flannel, for instance, comes in cotton, wool, and synthetic varieties, and the synthetic ones are marked unsafe for children's sleepwear. They are also less comfortable than cotton if you sweat in them.
  • Washability: fairly easy to test simply by washing the material, but if you love it you might be more cautious. Concerns are shrinking, bleeding, and water spots. I pre-wash and dry all my fabric by machine, especially if it's secondhand, zig-zag stitching the edges first so they don't ravel. I have, however, run into problems occasionally with material that crumples in the wash and won't iron flat, though some became more smooth with multiple washings (my theory is uneven shrinkage evening out).
  • Dye-ability: all the natural fibers will take dye, and some synthetics, but not all.
  • Stretch: This generally has more to do with the construction than the fiber content. Clothing patterns are generally designed for either stretchy fabric or non-stretchy, and won't work as well with the opposite kind. Knit fabrics also take some special considerations in sewing. Anything where a lot of fabric will hang loose, such as curtains or even a dress, may stretch under its own weight. Long dress patterns will often tell you to hang the dress overnight before hemming, and the same principle can be applied to curtains. A different note on stretch: elastic doesn't live forever. Before using it in a project make sure it springs back on stretching. In extreme cases it may crackle when stretched; that's the elastic strands breaking, and such elastic should be discarded.
  • Creases: Some fabrics acquire wrinkles and creases far more easily than they give them up. If pressing the fabric is a laborious, unpleasant job, you'll want to avoid using it for anything likely to need regular ironing. Home decorator fabrics tend to be more wrinkle resistant than, say, quilting cotton.

Other characteristics that might influence how you use the material are whether it's prone to raveling or running and whether needle and pin marks disappear or stay put (as they will in many delicate fabrics as well as leather-like material). Delicate fabrics can be a pain to wrangle for sewing, un-squaring and shifting themselves, and can be tamed with gelatin (provided you can wash it out after!).


Good material but not enough

How can you use up nice things in small quantities?

  • Make small projects, or large ones with small pieces: "Stash buster" and "scrap user" are terms typically associated with projects that use up leftovers. Jenn discussed this topic here just last month, and you can find large collections of scrap fabric projects on my craft blog and Tipnut. Tipnut also has a list of yarn stashbusters. To highlight some specific ideas: a charm quilt (not to be confused with a charm pack quilt) is one where every piece of the top is a different fabric; you could make something similar with knitted or crocheted squares and different yarns (though you have to be careful of gauge). An armchair sewing caddy from During Quiet Time even quilts selvedges to form decorative panels.
  • Harmonize colors: If you have a bunch of fabric of the same type, and it's a type that takes dye, you can layer a new color onto the existing color so they will still be different, but coordinate better. This is called overdyeing, and could be as simple as tea-staining the lot to give them a sepia cast. Overdyeing can help even dramatic color differences harmonize (such as in my quilter-approved reverse applique shirt). MAKE has a nice article on natural dye. My one piece of advice on dyeing is to stir. Regularly and throughout.
  • Join pieces together: You can patch fabrics into larger pieces or join yarn into longer strands. Since your pieces are likely to be irregular, techniques from crazy quilting can help with fabric, such as foundation piecing (which you can do without a foundation if your fabric is sturdy enough). For yarn, Whip Up has a "magic ball" tutorial. You can even join fabric scraps together sculpturally as in this scarf tutorial from Jo So & Sew, rather like freeform crochet.

Undesirable type, irresistible look

If your fabric or yarn is, let's say, not so versatile, but you love it, you can still use it.

  • Gluing: Mod Podge will stick not-too-thick fabric to anything. You'll want a layer below the fabric and at least one sealing layer above (just one and it might be rough textured). I've used it to cover binder clips and promotional magnets with fabric, and the binder clips, at least, have seen quite a bit of handling since then with no ill effects. You could cover lightswitch plates, cans, jars, notebooks, folders, or drawer fronts. If you want to cut out pieces of the fabric to glue on something, you can prevent fraying by using Mod Podge on the fabric before cutting it (of course let it dry first). Stretching the fabric in an embroidery hoop can help keep it flat and prevent it from sticking to anything. Alternatively, cut the fabric before use, but let the layer of Mod Podge under it dry completely (having carefully patted all fabric edged down) before applying the sealing layer. The Long Thread uses hot glue and clothesline to wrap four cans together, but yarn or fabric strips could be substituted (though you might need multiple rounds for sturdiness). White glue will attach yarn to boxes, and even a glue stick will attach fabric to paper (though this probably won't withstand a lot of handling).
  • Knotting: Plant hangers are traditionally made with heavy yarn, but you could make them with multiple strands of thinner yarn or fabric strips of comparable size. Just make sure your material has enough friction to keep the knot in place. If you end up with a ton of material you can even make a new seat and back for a lawn chair (see here for a video tutorial). Free Macrame Patterns is just what it says, but in addition to the pattern listing pages it has general advice and information, and instruction in the basic knots. It also has instructions for many Celtic and Chinese knots.
  • String art: If you have thread or yarn, nails, wood, and perhaps a bit of visual intuition gleaned from playing with Spirograph, you can make string art. The nails and wood could be substituted with thumbtacks and a cork board or paper brads and cardboard or cardstock. Tutsplus has a nice how to, and more patterns are available from String Art Fun.
  • Accent fabric: You might be able to combine your good-looks-only material with better types of material in a project, such as for the cover of a needlebook whose pages are all wool felt, or as appliques for the outside of a coffee cup cozy.
  • Projects that aren't material-sensitive: You should be able to make pattern weights out of any fabric that will hold the beans. Small bags and shabby-chic jewelry are forgiving of material. The necklace in the latter link could be done with yarn as well as fabric, and along those lines you can turn a very long crochet chain into a scarf in a variety of ways, good for yarn that would be a pain in the neck for more crocheting or knitting than that. This trinket tray could be bound with bias tape instead of edged with piping, which would allow right-side-out construction and hence assistance by Mod Podge or a glue stick to keep recalcitrant fabric in place with the cardboard.

So many notions!

That is, what do you do with a big bag of buttons, zippers, ribbon, or other trims or notions?