Category Archives: other craftiness

Looming over me

I don’t know if there’s an actual etymological connection between the weaving tool and the expression of doom, but it has seemed more and more likely over the past couple of months. After a loom was passed along to me last Christmas, I put a lot of work into getting it ready to use—assembling it, cleaning several decades of someone else’s basement off it, buying some missing parts, figuring out some light repairs, buying a (very good!) Craftsy class to relearn how to put a warp on—I realized that it had some technical issues I wasn’t prepared to deal with. I reached out to the Textile Arts Center to see if they had anyone who did one-on-one teaching/loom setup and repair, but none of the weavers they passed my request along to ever contacted me. And so the loom sat, taking up a not insignificant amount of space and making me feel terrible every time I looked at it. For months. And since it was set up in our bedroom, it was one of the last things I saw at night and one of the first things I saw in the morning.

Finally, over Labor Day weekend, I was forced to confront the fact that getting the loom into fighting shape and getting myself up to speed with weaving again were going to take time and energy I’d really rather spend on other things right now. So I listed it for donation through Materials for the Arts and someone from a girls’ afterschool program in Harlem came and picked it up today. And I swear the apartment feels lighter and brighter. I’m even breathing more deeply. It’s like the loom was sucking up all the light and oxygen in the room. If I’m in a position where I want to weave again in the future, I’ll take some time to research looms and find one that fits my needs instead of trying to work with something that turned out not to be right for me.

One thing this frees me up to do more of is surface design experimentation, which I’m really excited about these days. I took a great workshop on stenciling on fabric from Anna Joyce when she was in town recently; I made these napkins and table runner with the Schoon logo design.
unnamed-1I’m also signed up for Jen Hewitt‘s online block printing workshop in a few weeks. I’m so excited!—I’ve been a fan of her work for ages and I’m really thrilled to have the chance to learn from her.

A well-traveled loom

I came by a loom sort of unexpectedly this holiday season. My sister-in-law’s stepmother wanted to clear out some space in her basement, they were already planning to drive to upstate New York from Atlanta for the holidays, and they had room in the back of their minivan for it. All I’d have to do would be to get it home from my mom’s. My mother-in-law was kind enough to bring it back to Connecticut on Christmas Day and then into Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve and now it’s living in our bedroom.

I had a small floor loom when I lived upstate 15 years ago or so and I really loved weaving, so I’m pretty excited to have a chance to play around with it again. However, this one (which seems to be this model) is more complicated than the one I had and getting it set up is drawing on some pretty weak parts of my brain (why don’t I know any mechanical engineers?). I gave the whole thing a good dusting today and figured out how the brake for the cloth beam works and what I need to do for the treadle tie-up. I also figured out that six of the 20 dividers between the harnesses are missing, which is a drag. They’re small—basically pegs—and I could probably find something that would work in their place, but I’d like to try to get actual replacement parts if possible. While I track those down, I need to relearn how to calculate and wind a warp, which shouldn’t be a huge deal, and figure out how to get the warp on the loom, which might.

I’m trying to remind myself that venturing outside my comfort zone is a very good thing, but, man, it’s hard.

Spring/summer sewing

This is the time of year when I get excited about sewing all over again. Partly it’s because I’m looking ahead to warm-weather clothes, which are so much more conducive to sewing than most winter clothes. And partly I think it’s just part of the year’s cycle; after months of rich braises and knitting, I crave crunchy salads and sewing. Turn turn turn and suchlike.

So I’m drawing up a sewing list, based on what I’d like to be wearing this summer. I’ll probably make a couple of Staple Dresses and Everyday Skirts. There’s a muslin of the latter mentioned in the post linked in the last sentence, and I have one in the same black cotton/silk twill fabric as that dress just waiting to be hemmed. I think both of those patterns would be nice in a fairly large-scale print, something like this Charley Harper nuthatch print, which marches right up to the too-whimsical line, but stays on the right side, I think, since it’s so graphic.

I have a muslin of the Scout Tee on my kitchen table waiting to be sewn together; once I have the sizing nailed down, I’ll make several in simple graphic patterns like these (both from Purl). It seems like an incredibly versatile pattern; the shape looks like it’ll work with skinny or slouchy pants, full or narrower skirts.
41366_zoom41369_zoomThe directions call for sewing the shoulder and side seams before setting the sleeve caps in, but I’m used to doing it the way sweaters are assembled: sew the shoulder seams, set in the sleeve cap, then sew one side seam from the lower edge to the sleeve cuff. It just makes so much more sense and seems so, so much less annoying. I think I’m going to try one sleeve each way on the muslin and see how it goes. I can’t see any reason why the easier way wouldn’t work just as well, but I guess I’ll find out.

The Gabriola skirt from Sewaholic is really chic and pretty. It would be a stretch for me to actually execute–there’s some fancy piecing business around the waist that calls for precision and attention–but I love it.
IMG_9274__06181.1391810470.1280.1280I’d also love to make a version of this Mociun dress, which is no longer being produced, but I can’t find a pattern that really looks like it.mociunsilkdressPlenty of people have adapted existing patterns to make their own. I’m not sure my pattern fitting/drafting skills are there yet, but maybe I’ll give it a shot. It doesn’t seem that complicated.

knit topCarolyn hipped me to this top, which I love unreservedly and would wear constantly. It looks a lot like a warm-weather version of a tunic from Uniqlo that I’ve been wearing at least once a laundry cycle all winter. The only thing stopping me from buying the pattern and enough fabric for three or four versions is that my sewing machine isn’t great for knits—the zigzag stitch doesn’t work and the repair guy I took it to said it would be more expensive to fix than to replace the machine—and I don’t have a serger. I do have a few friends who do though…

Line drawing

I’ve just started Lisa Congdon‘s line drawing class at Creativebug and have been having a lot of fun with the homework. Lisa is one of my favorite artists and illustrators and it’s really fascinating to watch her break down her methods and techniques to the point where they’re totally accessible and fun. I’m a little behind, but I’m especially looking forward to the next class: geometrics.


My doodling is never going to be the same.

Wedding placemat tutorial

One of the craft projects I came up with for the wedding were these kraft paper and washi tape placemats for all of the table settings. I was really happy with how they turned out–fun and graphic and colorful, special without being fussy.


  • Something placemat-sized to trace; I used a 13″ x 19″ milk crate
  • Roll of kraft paper
  • Sharpie or other marker
  • Regular scissors
  • Assorted washi tape. I used about a dozen different tapes in black/white, gray/white, gray/black, and red or multicolored patterns for the most part.
  • Fancy-edge scissors. I can’t find the exact assortment I bought, but this is close. The one I used in yellow in this grouping, but was pink in mine.

1. Start by tracing off a few placemats and cut them out roughly, leaving plenty of room around the outline.

2. Apply the washi tape in whatever patterns you like, making sure the ends go outside the traced outline.

3. Cut just inside the outline with the fancy-edge scissors.

4. Keep going until you have as many as you need, plus a few extras, of course.


  • I found it easiest to trace off a dozen at a time, and go through the whole process on that batch before tracing more. If I’d had a standing-height work table (someday!), it might have been easier, but I found wrangling the big roll of kraft paper on the floor to be hard on my back and just plain annoying. The scrapbooking scissors were kind of rough on my hands too. Spacing out tasks out a little made everything much more pleasant.
  • The fancy-edge scissors are not essential here, but they do elevate the project that little bit.
  • I ended up developing ten “patterns” or so with the tapes that I did over and over in different variations: parallel lines evenly spaced, parallel diagonals, intersecting diagonals, plaid, etc. Not having to wait for the muse to strike for each blank mat saved a lot of time and energy. Plus, it made it easy to have a variety of patterns at each table. Did anyone but me notice? Probably not. STILL WORTH IT.

Painted tea towels

A few weeks ago, I went to a fantastic presentation of Marimekko designers talking about their inspiration and process. It was put on by the Cooper-Hewitt as part of the Made By Hands initiative, and it made me long to go to Finland and become a textile designer and live on a tiny island near Helsinki where the light is incredible and eat rye toast with goat cheese for breakfast every day. More immediately, though, I was inspired to pull out some fabric paints I’ve had around for a while and paint some tea towels.

I gave both of these away to two friends who happened to both turn 40 in November, but I’d love some for myself. These blank towels are the ones sold by Sublime Stitching, and they really are great. I had a blank floursack towel too that I tried painting, but it really needs a more substantial base like these. I’d love to buy 10 yards or so of good, heavy cotton or linen, hem it up myself, and make a huge pile of these.

DIY garland

This is the first year I’ve had an actual tree at home. I’ve always liked the idea, but never bothered — too expensive, too much work, I’m always away from home for the actual holiday, etc. But this year, I decided I really, really wanted one, and made a point of inviting a couple of people over to help decorate it so we’d have to face our friends’ shame and scorn if we backed out. [side note: shame really is the most interesting emotion, don’t you think? so twisty and personal.] I have a bag of ornaments I inherited when my parents sold their house, and a string of lights is easily procured. Initially, I was thinking of going old school for the garland and stringing popcorn and cranberries, but decided I’d rather have something we could use again.

I bought 50 black and white paper straws, though I only ended up using 25 of them, and 200 15mm assorted wool felt balls. Then it was just a matter of cutting the straws into quarters and stringing them on dental floss or doubled thread with the balls. I did need a sewing needle–even my sharpest embroidery needle wouldn’t go through the felt– The garland came out a little short, so I may get another 100 balls and add to it before next year, but I’m still really happy with how it turned out. I really like graphic black and white with pops of color; it manages to evoke both Marimekko and Dr. Seuss and to be cheerful without screaming CHRISTMAS!!! at everyone.

The best himmeli yet


I gave this one to Rob’s cousin’s family over Thanksgiving. I really love how these are turning out, but I think I need to start playing around with regular straws or something else I don’t have to make myself. It takes too long and I was starting to feel a bit of a repetitive stress twinge in my right thumb from the rolling motion.

Balloon advent calendar

I always liked having an advent calendar when I was a kid. Ours was made of fabric and went over the door to the dining room, so it was right by the kitchen table, and it had a stuffed mouse that we moved from numbered pocket to numbered pocket as December progressed. I was always jealous of the kids whose parents got the cardboard ones with candy, but I think even then I knew my brother and I would have a hard time sharing something there was only one of every day, so I never even asked for one.

I’ve been coveting this one from Ferm Living, but didn’t get it together to order it this year. At first I balked a little at the price, but for a beautifully designed object that I’m going to use for the next however many decades, I think it’s fine.

next year, my pretty

So this year, before I get it together to get a permanent one, I decided to go the cheap, fun, and disposable route. And what’s the most cheap, fun, and disposable craft supply? Balloons. Balloons are categorically the cheapest, most fun, and are, by their very nature, ephemeral, so disposable.
Just tape a big piece of kraft paper to the wall, blow up 24 balloons, number and decorate them with a sharpie, and tape them to the paper. Pop one every day, then toss the whole thing.


All himmeli, all the time

I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with different structures. I think it looks a little wonky when I try to building one structure off another (like the one on the far right), but I’m trying to go a little easy on myself. It would go a lot faster if I weren’t making all the beads and I think some of the wonkiness is because the lengths are not all exactly the same, but I do really like the way they look.