Inventory #9 – September

(edited:  replaced some photos with better ones!)

September was a great month for knitting! I even threw a little crochet into the mix, too. For the first time during my stash challenge, I used over 10% of my inventory in a month, 505 g to be exact. Being on vacation the whole month really influenced the amount of time I had to knit — I doubt there will ever be another month like this once I start my new job.

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My first project this month was a Chevron Scarf crocheted from 170 g of peach-colored Caron Simply Soft yarn. This was a nice simple project to get back into crochet — I learned when I was about 10 years old from a lovely woman named Virginia, and dabbled with it off and on since then, most recently about 10 years ago. Anyway, I found this scarf pattern easy to learn and work on while chatting with friends. After the first row, there is only one row that you repeat over and over until the scarf is the right length.

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Five or six years ago I bought two balls of South West Trading Company Twizé bamboo yarn on sale, and they had been languishing in my stash ever since. I just didn’t love them and struggled to find a pattern that inspired me to use them. This month I finally used them to knit a Blogathon Lace Triangle Scarf. I modified the pattern slightly by ending with a few rows of garter stitch to keep the top edge from rolling and by neglecting to add the designer’s recommended tassels. The scarf took 200 g of the Twizé, and while I am pleased with how it looks and feels, I did not enjoy knitting with this yarn. The fibers separate very easily, especially when doing the double decrease stitch that is central to the lace pattern. But Ravelry tells me that the yarn has been discontinued, so I guess none of us have to worry about that anymore!

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The rest of the yarn I used in September was cotton used to knit various dishcloths/washcloths. First I made two Almost Lost Washcloths from a multicolored Lily Sugar’n’Creme cotton yarn (70 g total). This pattern uses garter stitch and short rows to make round, scalloped cloths. I found the pattern pretty easy to memorize after the first few repeats. Next I made four mini washcloths using the Mini Almost Lost Washcloth pattern and three different colorways of Lily Sugar’n’Creme (35 g total). This pattern is similar to the larger cloths and even easier to learn, plus it’s a great way to use up small amounts of yarn. Finally, I made a Dr. Who TARDIS Dishcloth from 30 g of some unknown orange cotton yarn. I don’t follow the show, but I know the TARDIS is supposed to be blue…work with me, I have a stash to clear out!

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Overall, I made great progress in September toward my goal of using up all the yarn in my stash. I’m almost halfway there! Thank you for following along on my journey.

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 55 different yarns remaining
  • 2814 g remaining (56.28%)
  • 31 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #8 – August

This month I completed five projects:  four knitting projects totaling 255 g of yarn and one Ph.D.!!! Thank you, knitting, for keeping me sane these past few months of finishing my dissertation. (Ok, my friends and family also helped on that count!) Let’s see what I made:

1) I modified the toe-up sock pattern that I cobbled together last month to make a pair of boot socks, using 100 g of Plymouth Happy Feet yarn.. To make the pattern more interesting, I used an openwork diamond stitch that I found in the 400 Knitting Stitches book by Potter Craft. The other difference from last month‘s socks is that I added several increases for the calf. I didn’t check this until taking the photos below, but the size of the socks turned out perfectly for my boots, just peeking out over the tops.

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2) A few months ago, I bought a stack of old knitting magazines from my local yarn shop. In an Interweave Knits magazine I found the Koolhaas Hat by Jared Flood and was taken with its interesting architectural pattern. I decided to knit it in a pretty red Mirasol K’acha yarn, using 55 g. My hat turned out to be plush, warm, and beautiful!

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3) The Darkside Cowl by Sarah Fama uses a combination of vertical ribbing and horizontal welting to create a cool reversible zigzag stitch. My cowl is made from 100 g of Malabrigo Rios in the Paris Night colorway. I found this to be a quick and easy knit that beautifully showcases the subtle color variations in the yarn. Plus, the stitch pattern causes the fabric to naturally contract so the cowl stays nice and tight for warmth.

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4) I finally finished my poncho! On Ravelry, I called it a Summer Poncho, which accurately describes how long it took me to make it. This month, I sewed together the two halves and added fringe along the bottom. In total, it took about 475 g of Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn. I am really pleased with how it turned out, and surprisingly I’m right on trend – I have been seeing ponchos everywhere!

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5) The project I am most proud of is finishing my Ph.D. It has been a long time coming. It was surreal to find myself this month completing my last edits and getting my reading committee to sign off on it. But it’s finished, hooray!

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 61 different yarns remaining
  • 3319 g remaining (66.38%)
  • 22 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #7 – July

This month I was excited to focus on socks, but sadly I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to make them. Based on the amount of time I spent knitting, I should have completed at least four or five pairs, yet I only ended up with two pairs.

The main problem was that I really, really wanted to make the Widdershins socks by Brooke Chenoweth Creel from the Summer 2006 issue of Knitty so I was forcing myself to knit way more tightly than I normally would to match gauge. I ended up with the correct stitch gauge for the pattern, so the circumference of the sock fit well. When I got to the heel, though, there was nothing I could do to fit my foot in the sock — the opening was too small. I ripped the heel out and tried again, making probably six different heels, none of which fit. It turned out that the extra tight knitting really messed up my row gauge so it was impossible to get a nice heel from the given instructions, or any reasonable heel pattern, for that matter. I finally admitted defeat and decided to figure out how to make a basic toe-up sock that would actually fit. My takeaway from this experience was that sometimes row gauge is really important (like for socks!).

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I ended up concocting my own design for toe-up socks that fit my feet by cobbling together advice and techniques from all over the internet. The essential methods I used were Judy’s magic cast on and short-row heel shaping (I’ll save the details for a future post). Both pairs were made from Plymouth Happy Feet sock yarn in a variegated blue color. The first pair (60 g) was straight stockinette throughout so I could focus on the shaping for my feet. On the second pair (40 g) I got adventurous and modified the cable pattern from Widdershins to work with my stitch count (I had 48 stitches versus the pattern’s 54). This pair only went to the ankles since I was running out of yarn.

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I also finished up the Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn (76 g) I have been using to make a poncho. As I predicted in June, this was not quite enough to complete the poncho so I had to purchase more yarn (gasp!) to finish it. I definitely think it was worth breaking my no-yarn-purchasing rule, since otherwise the poncho would have been a really weird size and therefore totally useless. I finished all the knitting for the poncho in July and now just need to stitch the two pieces together and add fringe!

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My total yarn usage this month was 176 g, 3.52% of the 5000 g I started the stash challenge with.

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 63 different yarns remaining
  • 3574 g remaining (71.48%)
  • 18 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #6 – June

June was a busy month for me outside of my crafting life:  I participated in my last commencement ceremony ever, I spent most of the month finishing a full draft of my dissertation, and I got really into watching the Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs (bandwagon fan!). Yet somehow I managed to find time to knit 335 g of my stash this month! (Knitting while watching basketball may have helped just a bit.)

My first project this month was a small circular shawl – the Double Double Circular Shawl from the book Circular Knitting Workshop, by Margaret Radcliffe. This is the first project I’ve made from this book, although I’ve used it several times as a reference for circular knitting techniques. The shawl is based on the Pi Shawl concept that was popularized by Elizabeth Zimmermann, which consists of doubling the number of stitches every time the diameter of the shawl doubles. I mostly followed the pattern except I did a standard knit bind off rather than the recommended picot bind off because I was running out of yarn.

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The circular shawl is too small for me to wear – about 22″ in diameter – but it might be reasonably sized for a child. If not, I still achieved my main goals of learning the pi shawl technique and using up some lace yarn. It needed 15 g of Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace yarn, finishing up the last bit of the skein I used for both my wedding shawl and last month’s shawlette.

My second project was to knit approximately 75% of a poncho from the Irish Knit Poncho pattern by Adele Huey McCall. I chose this project specifically to use up a large amount of white acrylic yarn (Loops & Threads Impeccable). I started with a jumbo skein of 396 g, which looked like this next to a six-month old baby:

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Yep, that’s a lot of yarn!

I used 320 g on the poncho, finishing the first piece and half of the second piece. The pattern is varied enough to be enjoyable, combining seed stitch, cables, and a purl-based center pattern, yet easy to remember because it repeats every four rows. Given how much yarn I had to start with, I was surprised to discover that I may not actually have enough to finish. To prevent this from being a waste of time, I might have to break my rule and buy enough yarn to finish the project (cringe). We shall see how much progress I can make with the last 76 g.

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Close-up of poncho in progress

After this month’s knitting, I have now used up 25% of my stash – that’s 1250 g! I’m still on pace to finish by the end of September 2016, but I’m optimistic that I can beat that timeline.

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 65 different yarns remaining
  • 3750 g remaining (75%)
  • 16 projects completed in 2015

Easy Eye Pillow

Today I made an eye pillow to use in yoga or general relaxation. It’s a really easy project to sew, and takes less than an hour from start to finish. To make one, you’ll need a piece of cotton fabric approximately 10″x10″ square, about 3/4 lb. dry lentils for the filling, and a small amount of dried lavender (I used about 1 g) for a nice bit of aromatherapy. You can use something else for the filling besides lentils – small beans or rice would work well. You could experiment with different types of dried herbs if you don’t like lavender or don’t have it on hand, or leave the scent out completely.

Start by cutting your fabric into a 10″x10″ square if you haven’t already.

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Fold the fabric in half horizontally with the wrong side out and press flat. Sew across one short side and the long side, using 1/2″ seam allowances. Continue the long side seam onto the second short side for about an inch, then cut the thread. Starting from the opposite corner of this short side, sew towards the center for 1.5″, again with 1/2″ seam allowance. You will be left with an opening about 2.5″ long. (Leaving the opening in the center rather than at a corner makes it easier to make nice corners and to fold the raw edges under for finishing.) It may be difficult to see, but the opening is on the right side in the picture below.

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Trim the fabric at a 45 degree angle across the corners, close to the seams but taking care not to cut them. Neaten the raw edges together by sewing with a zigzag stitch and overcasting foot on the corners, the left edge, and the long edge, making sure to leave the opening alone.

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Here’s a close-up view of a finished edge:

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Turn the pillow inside out and press flat with the raw edges of the opening turned under so they are ready to be stitched. Using a funnel if you have one, alternately pour in a little pinch of lavender and about 1/4 cup of lentils. Keep going until the pillow is about 2/3 full. You want to make sure there is room for the filling to move around and conform to your face, so don’t overfill.

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Quickly baste the opening together by hand. Move the filling out of the way and carefully topstitch along the entire edge to close. If you want it to look uniform, you could topstitch all the way around all four edges, using a decorative topstitch if you like.

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Remove the basting stitches, trim any loose threads, and your pillow is ready to use. Enjoy the relaxing weight of the pillow on your eyes, and take pride that you made it!

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Relaxing!

Pillow Covers with Zippers and Piping

Today’s post is a set of pillow covers I made for two brown pillows that used to live on our old futon, but clash rather hideously with the black couch we have now – meaning that they have been hiding out in a closet for a while.

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Poor, neglected pillows

When I was shopping for fabric for my apron, I found some super cute Paris-themed fabric, and had to buy it. (I have studied French since 7th grade and finally had the opportunity to go to Paris last December, so this is definitely in character for me.) I wasn’t sure I wanted to use it for clothing, but realized this would be the perfect way to dress up the couch and breathe new life into the forgotten pillows.

To make the pillow covers, I used the instructions for project 5 in Sewing Machine Basics, by Jane Bolsover. This is an incredible book packed with great information on all kinds of machine sewing techniques. I’ll definitely have to write a whole post about it and its companion, Sewing School Basics, once I’ve had a chance to try a few more projects from them. So far I can enthusiastically recommend them!

The supplies I used for this project included about 2 yd of main fabric, 1 yd of contrast fabric, 6 yd of cotton piping cord, two 14″ zippers, and matching thread. I used the general purpose foot, the overcasting foot, and the zipper foot on my sewing machine.

The first step was to measure the pillows to identify how much fabric was necessary. I found that my pillows were 16″ per edge (square), but I actually needed 18″ of fabric (plus 5/8″ seam allowances) to account for the pillow thickness. I made pattern pieces out of old tissue paper, ending up with a 19-1/4″ x 19-1/4″ square for the front and a 19-1/4″ x 10-1/4″ rectangle to make two back pieces connected by a zipper. With these lovely homemade patterns I cut out enough fabric for both pillows.

I installed the zippers into the back pieces using the centered zipper method. I machine basted the two back pieces together to make a seam along the center back, then pressed the seams open.

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Awaiting zipper installation

I neatened the raw edges of this seam using my overcasting foot and a zigzag stitch. With the overcasting foot, you place the raw edge right up against the little guide of the foot so that the zigzag stitch captures the edge. This is a technique that I learned from Sewing Machine Basics, and I’m a little sad I didn’t know about it when I was making earlier projects. It prevents the raw edges from fraying and adds a professional touch. It definitely adds time to a project, but in my opinion it is so worth it.

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Overcasting FTW!

Next I basted the zipper into place by hand so that it was equidistant from the edges and so that  it would open right in line with the seam I had just basted. I used my zipper foot to secure the zipper all the way around. To finish the zipper, I removed the (green) basting stitches from the zipper, then carefully removed the basting stitches that made the central seam. The back pieces were ready to go with working zippers.

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Now it was time to make the red piping, which was the most time-consuming part of this project. The basic idea of making piping is encasing cotton piping cord in the fabric of your choice. I used 3/8″ piping cord for the pillow covers, which I believe is the same as size #5. The fabric strips used for the piping were cut on the bias (like bias tape), which means at 45 degrees to the main selvage of the fabric. Based on the piping cord diameter and desired seam allowances of 5/8″, each strip was 2.5″ wide. I found it helpful to draw the lines using chalk pencil before cutting – otherwise I’m sure it would have been impossible to stay at 45 degrees.

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To make one long, continuous strip, I sewed strips end to end along the diagonal ends with 3/8″ seams. Then I pressed the seams and trimmed the corners that extended over the edges. This step took a little trial and error to get the alignment correct, but turned out pretty well.

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To assemble the piping, I placed the piping cord inside the long bias strip with the right side out and used the zipper foot to sew as close as possible to the piping cord. This part was really tedious because I had to keep stopping to adjust the cord and make sure the raw edges were staying aligned. Does anyone have any tips to make this easier? I ended up with about 12 ft of piping in this lovely red accent color, ready to attach to the pillow covers.

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I temporarily attached the piping to the right side of the front piece by lining up all the raw edges and basting the piping into place. To help the piping turn the corners, I cut out notches in the seam allowances at each corner. I made sure the place where the piping joined was at the bottom.

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To finish assembling the pillow cover, I put the back piece on top of the front piece + piping with right sides facing (making sure to open the zipper first!), basted all the pieces together, and seamed all the way around as close as possible to the piping. Then I painstakingly removed all the basting and neatened the edges all together with the overcasting foot.

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All pieces basted together

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After seaming, removing basting, and neatening

To make the seams less bulky at the corners, I trimmed each corner at 45 degrees right next to the seams and neatened those edges too. Then I turned the pillow covers right side out and marveled at how well they turned out!

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Finally, I stuffed the old brown pillows into the new covers and dressed up my couch with my awesome new pillows.

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In total, it took me about nine hours to make these pillow covers, and about half of that was making the piping. I definitely think the piping was worth doing though; it adds  a nice contrast and makes the result look much more professional. I’m excited to have a slightly classier looking couch, pleased that I breathed new life into pillows that weren’t being used for anything, and enjoying the daily reminder of the wonderful memories of my trip to Paris.

Lined Tote Bag

This project is a simple tote bag with two different fabrics on the outside and a single-fabric lining. It only took a couple hours and I’m sure would be faster if I made another one. I chose bright, summery fabrics for this project:  yellow, blue, and white flowers on a navy blue background for the main color, and yellow with subtle little white leaves for the contrast color and the lining.

I originally planned to make the straps out of cotton webbing as the pattern called for, but soon decided that the tote bag would look more integrated and well-designed if I sewed the straps from the main flowered fabric. The process was similar to making the straps for the apron, with the addition of topstitching accents. After cutting two strips of fabric that were 4″ wide and 44″ long, I sewed each strip together with right sides facing and 1/2″ seam allowances, then pressed the seams open.

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Next, I put a safety pin on the end of each tube and used a wooden dowel to turn the tubes right side out. I pressed the straps flat with the seam along one edge (rather than in the center as it is in the picture above).

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To finish the straps, I topstitched about 3/16″ from each edge with a contrasting yellow thread. The finished width of the straps was 1.5″ and at this point they were extra long.

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Now that the straps were complete, it was time to assemble the bag. To make the outer panels, I simply sewed one straight seam per side to attach the smaller yellow pieces to the flowered pieces, then pressed the seams open. It wasn’t clear to me yet why the pattern included the notches at the bottom.

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Next I attached the straps to the lining and the outer panel of each half of the bag by sewing across the top and sides with right sides facing and the strap sandwiched between the two layers. I didn’t keep the straps as long as they started, but adjusted the length so the bag would hang comfortably, then simply cut off the excess length after sewing.

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I turned each half of the bag right side out, placed the outside faces together, then sewed the sides and bottom edges, leaving the notched cutouts unseamed. (I still didn’t understand how these were going to work!)

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Finally, I learned why the notches were there:  they were designed to make the bottom of the bag sit flat. To achieve this, I had to simply line up the two cut edges of each notch and sew straight across on the lining side.

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After a quick line of topstitching around the top edge for strength, the tote bag was complete and ready to carry all my knitting projects!

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Inventory #5 – May

My goal for May was to knit up at least 300 g of yarn. I ended up only using 220 g, but 35 g of that was lace yarn, so I actually made quite a lot of stitches! I completed four distinct projects this month – no multiples of one item this time.

First, I made one more Plait Headband using 30 g of pink Malabrigo worsted merino. This was the wide version, which is designed to cover the ears for cold weather. I made it a little shorter than the other wide headbands I made last month, simply because I ran out of yarn.

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The next project used up another colorway of Malabrigo worsted, dark blue. I made a Foliage Hat by Emilee Mooney, of which I had made a couple a few years ago and really enjoyed. This one turned out quite a bit bigger than the other two. I’m not sure what happened, since I used the same yarn and needles – maybe my knitting has gotten looser? Anyway, it’s still a reasonable size for my head and would also fit someone with a larger head.

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Project #3 used yet more worsted Malabrigo, this time the Rios line in a purple and green multi colorway. A cowl is a great way to use up a whole skein of Malabrigo, and for this project I chose the Very Braidy Cowl by Maryse Roudier. It was a pretty quick knit with cool 16-stitch cables. A slight word of caution:  I misread the pattern while I was working the first few repeats, putting a few too many rows between the cable rows. pattern said to “repeat rows 5-24“, which I misread as “repeat rows 1-24“. I think the pattern would be more clear if it just said to repeat rows 1-20 instead. Anyway, it didn’t make too much difference to the final product.

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Finally, I spent most of the month working on the Good Day Sunshine Shawlette by Amanda Bjørge, using 35 g of red Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace (also used for my wedding shawl). This was a fun project because I learned some Estonian gathered stitches, including “3 into 3”, which means k3tog, keep stitches on L needle, yo, k3tog the same 3 stitches again. These kind of stitches make a thick, cozy fabric, which is a nice change of pace in a lace piece. I also tried cable stitches without a cable needle, and it worked really well on the little 2-stitch cables for this pattern. I’m eager to try it on larger cables. Unfortunately, the shawl ended up way smaller than I expected and did not use up all the remaining yarn…turns out it’s important to check your gauge! I used the recommended needle and I guess my knitting is tighter than the designer’s. I’m still happy with the result, as it’s a small size that just adds a bit of color without getting in the way. Is it just me, or does the combination of the shape and color remind you of a phoenix?

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Almost 20% done! That’s an average of about 250 g per month since February – not as much as I had hoped for, but not too shabby. At this rate I will finish in September 2016…

Year-to-Date Statistics
  • 66 different yarns remaining
  • 4085 g remaining (81.7%)
  • 15 projects completed in 2015

Flannel Pajama Pants

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For my second project with my new sewing machine, I made myself some flannel pajama pants using Simplicity pattern 2819. I found cute flannel fabric with a bird motif – I’m really into birds lately! – and got to work with the help of my sewing class instructor.

The layout of the pajama pants was straightforward, consisting of two front pieces and two back pieces. Immediately after cutting the back pieces, I realized that I had placed the pattern upside down, so the birds on the front would be facing the right way, but the birds on the back would be upside down. And I definitely didn’t have enough fabric left to cut the back pieces again. Oops. Undeterred, I forged ahead with the project, figuring that no one would really notice the back of these pants anyway. I mean, these are for sleeping and lounging around the house!

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Hem for bottom of legs

The first bit of sewing was to create the outer leg seams, sewing the left front to the left back and the right front to the right back. Then on each leg I made the bottom hem by folding the edge up about 1″ and pressing, folding the edge up 1″ again and pressing, and sewing a straight seam close to the fold. I think that’s the first hem I’ve turned!

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Preliminary hem for waist

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Ready to sew inner leg seams

I made a preliminary 1″ hem on the other edge for the waist, only folding it up once this time since there would be more finishing later. Then I sewed both inner leg seams to create tubes. They were starting to look like legs, but not quite pants just yet.

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Ready to join left and right legs

Next came the fun part – finally connecting the two legs! I kept one leg inside out and turned the other one right side out, then stuffed one inside the other so the right sides were together. Once the center edges were aligned, all it took was one simple seam from front to back to join the two legs.

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Threading in the elastic

The last step was to finish the waistband. I folded over the waist edge by about 1 1/4″, enough to hold 1″ wide elastic with a bit of room, then sewed close to the edge around the waist, leaving a 2″ opening to insert the elastic. I measured enough elastic to fit around my waist snugly, then threaded it into the waistband casing. I double-checked the fit and securely stitched the ends of the elastic together. Finally, I sewed across the 2″ opening to close the waistband, and the pants were ready to wear!

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Loving my new pants!

This was a very simple pattern to work with, and I would definitely make these pants again. Next time I think I’ll go for lightweight cotton for summer, and of course I’ll pay closer attention to the orientation of the pattern pieces before cutting my fabric. A couple minor things I might try are making the legs just a bit longer and adding a drawstring.

Inventory #4 – April

During April, I made the most progress of any month so far in this challenge. Not coincidentally, this was also the month that I defended my Ph.D. dissertation – I was doing a lot of knitting to relieve stress! I completed several items, although as you’ll see, most of them were small. That’s kind of what you get when trying to knit through your stash – it’s time to get creative and figure out how to use up small quantities of yarn that aren’t enough for a whole hat/scarf/blanket/etc. The total quantity of yarn I used this month was 360 g, or 7.2% of the original amount.

My first completed item this month was the orange baby blanket I’ve been making steady progress on all year. I made a big push on this blanket during the first couple weeks of April, using up 220 g of yarn. I purchased the orange yarn (along with some reddish pink yarn) three years ago intending to use it for cute table decorations for my wedding…but then I realized that it’s crazy to try to make yarn-based centerpieces mere weeks before your wedding, with so many other details to manage! I already made another heart baby blanket with the other yarn, so I’m thinking it will be fun to use the two blankets for my future children, to remind us of how much fun we had at our wedding.

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Finished blanket just after blocking

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All folded up!

The rest of the items I made this month were all plaited headbands from my forthcoming pattern. I used up a lot of the Malabrigo remnants from past projects, and the result is very colorful. First, I refined the pattern I used for the purple headband featured in last month’s inventory to make three more like it (turquoise, pink, and green). Then I developed a wide version intended to cover the ears and made two of these (orange and yellow). Finally, I modified the original pattern to fit a child’s head (I hope!) in order to use a smaller quantity of yarn (red). The original and child’s patterns take 15-20 g of Malabrigo each, while the wide version takes about 30 g. (The turquoise one didn’t make it into the group picture because I already gave it away to my sister!)

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Wide, regular, and child’s headbands

Overall, I’m happy with my progress this month. If I can maintain this pace for the rest of the year, I’ll be in really good shape for completing the stash challenge in a reasonable amount of time. Back to knitting!

Year-to-Date Statistics
  • 68 different yarns remaining
  • 4305 g remaining (86.1%)
  • 11 projects completed in 2015