Christmas Traditions

I’ve been spending time on Spoonflower lately, looking at all the amazing fabrics, and also uploading a few designs of my own to use. You can print your own fabrics here, which is exciting and if you aren’t careful you can spend a truckload of money very quickly. They also have a lot of tutorials, which I was browsing one day and saw one about making your own tea towels with your own family recipes printed on them. What a great idea! I wanted to make one with one of my Grandma’s recipes on it. She was a great writer-downer of recipes.

When I was growing up, my most exciting Christmas tradition was helping my grandma make Christmas candy. She had a set of recipes that she used every year, rarely, if ever, deviating from her tried and true candies. The hardest one to make, the one that sometimes had to be thrown out because it failed, was divinity. It wasn’t one of my favorites since it didn’t have any chocolate in it. And it wasn’t one that my sister and I were allowed to help with. Too tricky. But if you look at the recipe it seems so easy, so innocuous.

When I was visiting my mom in September I looked through a big box of Grandma’s recipes, trying to find the candy recipes. Not in the box. My sister had the divinity recipe card, which she had laminated (seemed like a good idea at the time) and I asked her to scan it and send to me. I got this…

And cleaned it up in Photoshop to this….

I then uploaded it to Spoonflower and ordered 1 meter (1 yard) of Linen Cotton Canvas fabric, which had 4 recipes printed on it. Here is a link to my recipe fabric on Spoonflower.

You can see where the printing ends and the background fabric is, and I cut along those lines. And also in between each recipe print. I ended up with 4 pieces ready to have the edges finished.

When I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago I looked in a fabric shop for some nice Christmasy fabric to make a border but I didn’t find anything at all. So back to Spoonflower I went. And besides I could order border fabric in the same Linen Cotton fabric. I found this holly berry fabric and candy cane fabric. The candy cane fabric brought back another Christmas tradition memory. My grandparents always had a silver artificial Christmas tree and an electric color wheel that turned and sent colored light onto the tree. They had blue balls of different sizes hung on the tree. And lastly, big red and white candy canes, one for each of the grandkids, hung on the tree. On Christmas Eve we could take down our candy canes and eat them – or start to eat them because they were big and would last a long time. So candy canes for the border of this tea towel would be perfect.

hanging loops, ready to use

I had ordered just a fat quarter of the holly berry fabric, so I cut that into strips and made hanging loops with it. I then cut out strips of candy cane fabric, 6 canes wide, and did my best to sew on a border strip. I sewed each edge separately. Hmmm. Not very beautiful. I went to the internet and looked up how to sew on a border and saw how quilters do it. Much better. So I gave that a try. Better, but still not great.

top one is the first try, bottom one, second try

I did make my border strips like quilters do, by making a diagonal seam to make long strips.

You can see in the above photos that I had moved on to EIGHT candy canes wide. I thought this would be prettier and also easier to manipulate. Sometimes more is more.

On the third try I did pretty well.

However, you can see that I sewed on the hanging loop onto the back which looks bad. I removed this loop and sewed it onto the border. Also ugly. Why not sew that into the border seam? Which is what I did on try number FOUR.

Here is a photo of turning the corner, something I got pretty good at after so many corners.

Here they are, stacked up, from 1st try to last final version that I’m happy with.

The final version, front and back. I didn’t bother to leave any of the border on the back side. All of that candy cane goodness should be on the front where you can see it. And, besides, this is just how I sewed it and I wasn’t going to try yet another method!

I want to give one of these to my mom, my sister, my aunts and cousins. Maybe they will use them as tea towels, maybe they will hang them up as decoration. They can decide. All of them will immediately recognize the handwriting and the recipe. And the candy cane reference. Good thing I bought enough fabric. Only 12 more to make!

ready to iron the rest….

Canal Poncho in Amsterdam

At Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam, standing in front of the Corrie Worsted wall

This past Sunday I finished my Canal Poncho and today I visited Nancy in Amsterdam and we took some photos. I really (not just saying it) love this poncho. The design is so unique and clever and the yarn is wonderful to knit with and is very warm and cozy. And just look at these colors! Nancy and I have really different color palettes for our ponchos and they both look great (if I do say so myself).

I talked about this poncho in a previous post and I gave some tips about knitting it. I have some tips about finishing it too.

When I started this poncho I wound up my bobbins with 6 arm lengths of yarn on each bobbin. I had no idea how far that would get me. Nancy had said that 3 arm lengths would be good to start with but you might run out and have to start another length of yarn before you get to the end. Three arm lengths would be the MAX I would recommend if you are NOT using bobbins because otherwise you’ll end up with a very tangled mess after every 2 rows. I had big enough bobbins that I could easily fit more yarn so I went for longer lengths hoping that I would have enough to get through the entire piece with just that. And I did! I had about 6″ (15cm) of dark blue and orange left at the end of the longest cables – just enough! My advice is to wind as much as you can on the bobbins and then you only have to deal with 2 ends – beginning and end – per color.

I think it is just as important to have beautiful insides of garments as well as outsides, so in full disclosure style, here is the inside of my poncho. You can see, at the very beginning of the cable section, a little “oops” bit of orange yarn carried over. By the time I saw that mistake I was so far along that I couldn’t bring myself to rip back and fix it. So I sewed it down a little while at the same time weaving in the beginning of the orange yarn tail and left it there. It is a testament to being human after all. And then I paid really close attention after every row to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake in where I left the yarns. There were 2 more times when I saw that I had laid them incorrectly. To fix that I unwound my bobbin, pulled the yarn out from where it was and stuck it back in where it should be. One time I had to drop the cable stitches, tink those back 2 rows, fix the yarn end, and knit the cable back up. It’s hard to explain in text but if you’re knitting this pattern you’ll know what I mean. It was frustrating and took time to fix but looking at the clean inside of this garment is very satisfying. Well worth the effort.

I steam blocked the poncho pieces before sewing them together. I found that my knitting was a little skewed and the pieces were not straight rectangles but some steaming took care of that quickly and easily. Steaming also relaxed the stitches so that the cable stitches look neater and more even.

When I had finished the knitting, and had sewn the shoulder seams, I left all the ends of yarn hanging. I picked up the stitches around the neck and knit the neckband. THEN I wove in the ends of yarn from the cable section, weaving them into the seam of picked up stitches from the neckband. In this way you have no bulk from weaving ends into the front poncho knitting. After all the ends were woven in I sewed down the neck band loosely on the inside. It makes for a very neat edge.

I also steamed the neckband when all was done. I held my super steam iron above the knitting, hit it with blasts of steam, and then just patted it down a little with my hand.

This poncho took me 2 1/2 months from start to finish, but of course it wasn’t my only project and I was also traveling during that time. It is a project that takes dedication in attention, time and space. I worked on the front piece upstairs on my craft work table where it stayed put. Moving all those bobbins and cakes of yarn around was just not a reasonable thing to do and working on it on a table is by far the easiest way to go. I’m lucky to have a dedicated space for that. I also had a schedule – at least 4 rows and preferably 6, per day. That kept it enjoyable and kept me on track to finish before the book is available.

You can find this pattern, and more beautiful garments using La Bien Aimée Corrie Worsted, in the book “Worsted”, available on her website here. The Canal Poncho can be seen also on Ravelry here. My project page is here.

Top Down in the Round

This past June I spun this yarn from BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) fiber that I had dyed myself. I had a couple of braids of bright fuchsia and a few different reds. I split them apart and randomly spun the colors together and then 3-plied the singles. The last little bit of red on the right was left over on a bobbin that I chain plied. I had been wanting to spin this for a long time and since I wasn’t knitting very much (bad shoulder, remember?) I had time to spin. It ended up being somewhere between DK and Sport weight, 438 grams.

I decided to knit a plain sweater with this yarn, without any fancy stitches because the yarn is bright enough and I wanted the yarn to be the star of the show. I am still hoping that I have enough! But what type of construction should it be?

I looked through Ravelry. I looked through my knitting library of books. In an effort to keep things simple, I decided on top down, in the round, raglan. Raglan sweaters fit me fine and it’s easy TV knitting to make increases in specific places every other round. BUT, which pattern to choose?

I really don’t like (“don’t like” is a polite way to say that I really hate) rectangular necklines and wide boat necks. Why are all the most popular designers creating these necklines, that don’t fit necks? I suspect because it’s easy to design this way. Fewer calculations. Easier directions. But not a great fit. I looked around until I fount this pattern – #265 Neck Down Mid Weight Pullover on the web site “Knitting Pure and Simple” and that is a very apt description. So many basic patterns that do just what you want them to do – fit and flatter. You can also find the pattern and more info on Ravelry here. And my sweater on Ravelry is here. What I especially like about this pattern is that the neckline is cast on for the back and shoulders and knit back and forth, increasing for raglan shaping, and after about an inch you begin shaping the front neck, eventually casting on for the lower front neckline and begin knitting in the round. Great neckline shaping without short rows. After you knit the sweater you go back and pick up stitches for the ribbing around the neck, which also adds some stability and strength to the neck (as opposed to starting with the ribbing and just knitting down from there).

Now, lots of people believe that the incredible life changing benefit of top down sweaters is that you can try them on for size as you knit – as if you CAN’T do that with bottom up, which as you can tell from my tone of voice, I think is nonsense. You can certainly try on a bottom up sweater just as well. In my mind the advantage of top down is that if you aren’t sure if you have enough yarn to make a sweater you can decide as you go along to shorten the length of the body or sleeves or both in order to have a finished garment with the amount of yarn you have. Otherwise, honestly, I don’t see what the big advantage is. One DISadvantage to knitting top down is that you are swinging around a lot of sweater when knitting the sleeves, which is kind of annoying.

Anyway, I had made my decision so off I went. My gauge was a little bit off, so I am knitting the 3rd size (42″) to end up with a 38″ sweater, on size 5 US (3.75mm) needles.

I got to the part of the instructions where you should slip the sleeve stitches to waste yarn while you continue knitting the body in the round. Here is where you really REALLY need to check the size to be sure you should do this step, or knit further to make it bigger, or rip back to make it smaller. So I tried it on.

Well, unless you have someone to help you by holding the knitting down, making sure it’s laying on your body right, etc., I don’t see where this helps a lot. Sure, it fits around my body, but is this the correct length to take the next step? Beats me. So I decided the better check would be to compare it with sweaters that fit me well.

First I compared it to this fingering weight top down circular yoke sweater.

At first glance my knitting looked a little short compared with this sweater. The fit should be pretty much the same.

But after laying it out more carefully, matching the top of the shoulders, the points of sleeve hold were the same. So far so good! Let’s compare another sweater.

This is a DK weight sweater with a rather rectangular neckline, that I’m not so fond of, and you can see how the shoulders slope dramatically down. The sweater actually doesn’t fit all that great, but it’s cozy and I do wear it a lot.

Compared to this sweater the point of separation is a little short, but honestly, this blue sweater is long in the armpits so I’m happy that the new red sweater is not as long.

In summary, I think it is more useful to compare your knitting with a sweater, or sweatshirt, that fits you well to see if you are on the right track with sizing.

Yesterday I put my sleeves on hold and started knitting down the body in the round. I’m thinking that I might put this on hold after an inch or two and knit the sleeves. At least I won’t have all the body weighing me down when I’m knitting the sleeves in the round. Here is my progress so far, pinned down on my ironing board. The color is pretty accurate. This is such easy knitting that I expect to be finished well before Christmas. It looks like a PRETTY Christmas sweater to me!

Tender Ears Hat

Side One

A few weeks ago I talked about this hat and yesterday I finished it. Just in time for cold hard winds. I have very tender ears! Cold wind against and blowing into my ears really hurts and can easily lead to a headache, so I wanted a hat that would block out the wind. I think I have finally made one.

This hat is knit double – and I’m sorry to say that I was so quick to finish it that I didn’t get a photo of it all stretched out before I doubled it (slipped one end inside the other) and tacked the crowns together at the top. Whenever I finish something by pulling a few stitches together at the end I have to think of my friend Andy who hates a “cat butt” finish. Me too. So I made a little flower.

The pattern is Musselburgh by Ysolda Teague. The multicolored speckle yarn is Merino 17 Light in color “Cake” by Western Sky Knits. The “17” means that each fiber is 17 microns in diameter, which is very VERY small and so incredibly soft. I could happily wear this type of Merino next to my skin all day long. I had to add in some yarn I had in stash for the second side because I was running out. The pink stripes are Madelinetosh Tosh Sock.

Side Two

The pattern gives you a lot of gauge options for knitting the hat, from 4.5 to 7 stitches per inch. I wanted something knit very tightly so I went down to 8.5 stitches per inch on size 2.5mm needles. I had to estimate how many stitches I would need to fit my head. I have to say, I got it just right! I ended up with 38 total stitches in each of the 4 sections. The final hat measures 20″ in diameter and 10.5″ from crown to bottom edge.

By the time you double the knitted fabric, and double it AGAIN by folding up the brim, I’ve got 4 layers of tightly knit fabric against my tender ears. I wore it last night when we walked to the movie theater, in North Sea coastal wind, and felt warm and cozy in my new hat. I’m now ready for winter, which we all know is coming.

Poncho Progress

I’ve been working steadily on my Canal Poncho, designed by Nancy Marchant, pattern published in “Worsted – a Knitwear Collection” (Laine Magazine publishers), using La Bien Aimee Corrie Worsted yarn. The plain back is already finished and I’m almost half way finished with the front, with all these colorful intarsia cables. This is the first time I’ve worked intarsia cables and once you get the hang of it, it’s really addictive. You DO have to manage a lot of yarns but thankfully I don’t mind untangling yarn – it’s a zen exercise. There are 5 balls of yarn and 18 small bobbins of yarn going on. Not for the faint of heart and not really for new knitters either.

I really love finishing 2 rows, turning it over and seeing what the new progress looks like. The cables are worked only on the right side rows, so the wrong side rows go quickly. I stop and straighten out my yarns every 2 rows. My shoulders thank me for the little break in the knitting. I am knitting this project, and leaving it to sit when not knitting it, on my sewing table upstairs. I would find it really difficult to knit with it on my lap. The table supports everything and keeps it organized.

Wrong side view

Nancy has included very detailed instructions in the pattern, explaining how to move your yarns so that the wrong side is super neat and there are not long floats anywhere. Look at how nice it is! I have to be honest. The first time I made a swatch of this cable pattern I had it wrong and there were floats here and there. I had to stop and read the instructions again and then just followed them! It’s all there – I just thought I was so clever that I didn’t have to read it through. WRONG! Trust the pattern and do what it says and it will come out like this.

I’m working on a schedule so that I get it done sooner rather than later, and so that I don’t get burned out on it. I knit 4 or 6 rows per day. Every day. It’s my quota. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with this kind of knitting it’s all my brain and shoulders and back can handle right now. I’m also doing some light yoga in the mornings and a little hat knitting in the evenings. My shoulder strength is coming back slowly but surely.

So far there are only 2 Canal Poncho projects on Ravelry, but if anyone out there wants to give it a try, I say go for it! I’d be happy to give you tips and encouragement. And look what an amazing project you will have when it’s done!

Canal Poncho – finished example – Laine Publishing photo

Frog Like a Boss

Foldlines sweater, first try

In April last year I finished knitting this sweater. In 2020 I was knitting like a fiend (nothing else to do in lockdown, right?) so I finished SIX sweaters, a lap blanket, a baby blanket, six hats, a shawl and a cowl. AND I spun and plied at least 200g of lace weight yarn and knit most of a giant lace christening blanket. No wonder I wrecked my shoulder!

Anyway, the above sweater didn’t get much wear over the past year. As you can see, it has 3/4 sleeves. This was not the plan! This sweater should have had long sleeves but I ran out of yarn. And the sweater is really big on me. It measures 45″ around. It’s supposed to be boxy shaped with drop shoulders, but this was really too much. In last week’s post I talked about the decision to frog it and knit the sweater again. This week I took those balls of yarn and re-skeined them

washed them

let them dry and twisted them up, ready to go for the next sweater.

I have a total of 718 grams, counting those little ends that I’ll use if I have to. I’m going to knit Foldlines again, but in the smaller size and with long sleeves. Luckily, I didn’t wear the sweater much, and the yarn is the type of yarn anyway that doesn’t pill very much. I really don’t have to worry about reusing this yarn at all – it’s in perfect shape as if it’s never been used or worn.

I can’t say the same for another sweater that I frogged earlier this year. This sweater was knit with Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Worsted MCN, which is 80% Merino wool, 10% cashmere 10% nylon. It’s the softest stuff you’ll ever wear next to your skin, but also because of the content it pills like crazy.

I made this sweater in 2015 and did wear it now and then. I didn’t wear it as much as I thought I would because I didn’t like how it fit. It’s a raglan shoulder sweater but the shape of the shoulders wasn’t good on me and I was constantly pulling it up on my shoulders. It was annoying. It probably didn’t help that this yarn, along with being super soft, is super HEAVY. It’s superwash and worsted spun, so there isn’t much air between the fibers which makes it heavier than other yarns of similar diameter. I really hadn’t worn this sweater very much at all in the past couple of years. The color of the yarn is so lovely that I decided to frog it and reuse the yarn. Easier said than done!

This sweater was knit in pieces and sewn together. There were LOTS of ends to pick out and seams to rip back. It took patience and a lot of swearing to get it done. But I managed it.

In this case I caked the yarn after washing. This is hand dyed yarn so each skein is a little different from the rest and I will alternate skeins to keep the colors even throughout the next sweater. But not only do I have to consider the color of the skeins, but also for this one I have to consider the amount of pilling and wear. I matched up skeins, 2 by 2, according to color and also pilling. One “good” skein paired with one “worn/pilled” skein. The one on the bottom is the worst for pilling and I’m hoping I don’t have to use it at all. Luckily I still have 2 skeins extra from when I knit this sweater in 2015 so I’ll use those also in the new sweater and avoid the worn out skeins if possible.

For my next sweater for this yarn I think I will knit something with a lace pattern to try to lighten up the weight of it. Or maybe just plain stockinette and certainly no cables (like the first sweater) to weigh it down.

So, the moral of this story is – if you have sweaters you aren’t wearing but you love the yarn, don’t be afraid to rrrrrrripppppp (frog) them out and start again. Or give the sweater away to someone else who will love it. But don’t let it just sit in your closet gathering dust! And besides, unraveling knitting is fun and satisfying! Or maybe I’m just strange…..

Always Knitting

Despite the past couple of posts being all about sewing, there has been, and always is, knitting going on. I think I’ve had at least one project on needles since…. 1977? And before that always some kind of craft project in the works. Since I was very young. Anyway, here are the latest knitting projects.

It’s hard to believe, but even with this shoulder injury, I’ve finished six things so far this year (photo above)! I’m surprised myself. A sweater, a baby blanket, a pair of socks, a hat, a shawl, and a huge Shetland lace christening blanket.

I only have two things on my needles right now – a hat and a test knit for a friend that I really can’t talk about much. I can show you a bit of that project and a nice tip for changing skeins of yarn.

If you are knitting something with an edge that will always show, like a shawl, or cardigan where you are knitting the front edges at the same time as the rest of the sweater, or in any situation where an edge will not be hidden with a seam or picked up stitches, you want that edge to remain beautiful. You don’t want to see, anywhere near that edge, where a new yarn was started or ended. How do I do that?

You can see in this knitted piece (photo above) that the ends of new and old skeins begin and end inside the knitted edge. I knit with the old yarn to the end of the row, turn, and then knit back to the end of the edging section (in this case, 5 stitches). Then I add in the new yarn and continue knitting the row to the end. Turn and knit back all the way to the end of the row, passing by the point where the yarn was added in. Turn and knit to the yarn change point, 5 stitches in. Pick up the old yarn and continue down the row to the end. Turn and knit back to the end. Continue in this way for a few turns and then cut the old yarn (or when you run out of that skein, if your yarn estimation is good!). Continue knitting with the new yarn. In this way you can weave in the ends farther into the knitted piece where it won’t be seen and the edges remain perfect. Actually, if you are knitting with commercially dyed yarn with a matching dye lot number, you don’t need to do this back and forth exchange of skeins. Just start and end the skeins inside the edge. I knit with both skeins for a few turns because they are hand dyed and are not identical and I didn’t want a jarring change to be seen in the knitted fabric.

The other photo I can show you of this project is the pile of bobbins I’m using to knit the intarsia part of the design. Yes, it’s intricate and fiddly to get started, but once you are 10 rows into it, it’s less fiddly and starts to become automatic knitting. And the results are stunning, trust me. 😉 I hope to be finished in a couple of weeks to show you the FO.

As for the hat, I’m knitting this with Western Sky Knits Merino 17 in the color Cake. This is the softest yarn you’ll ever knit with, other than cashmere. And I’m sure it will pill less that cashmere. I’m knitting the pattern Musselburgh from Ysolda. This is going to be a double thickness hat. You start at the crown of the inside, knit to the bottom edge, keep knitting the same length to the shaping of the crown, then decrease to the outside crown point. You end up with a tube with rounded points at each end. Fold one end into the other and voila a double thick hat! I’m knitting this with 2.5mm needles with a gauge of 8.5 stitches/inch, which is smaller than the smallest gauge in the pattern. I just estimated how many stitches I’d need based on the other sizes/gauges given and also compared it with a few other hats I have. So far so good! It’s super easy tv watching knitting, even though my shoulder still can’t take very much of that. I hope to be finished before it snows.

Finally, I UNKNIT something this week.

Last year at Stitches West I bought yarn, Sincere Sheep Cormo Worsted, with the advice from the lovely Yarniacs. I bought 6 skeins thinking it would be plenty for a sweater. I knit Foldlines, by Norah Gaughan. I love the pattern. I love the yarn. Unfortunately I made the 42″ size for a boxy fit (which ended up being 45″ with my gauge) and I didn’t have enough yarn for long sleeves. I hardly wore this sweater because 3/4 sleeves with a worsted weight sweater just didn’t work for me. I needed a warm sweater, which needs long sleeves. So, again with sage advice from the Yarniacs, I decided to frog the whole thing and I will reknit it in a smaller size and will have enough yarn for long sleeves. It took me all day yesterday, painstakingly pulling out the seams and woven in ends, to unravel it and now I have 660g of balled up yarn.

Next I need to skein it up for washing before I can think about starting to knit it again. Along with a couple of other sweaters I’m looking forward to starting. Without hurting my shoulder again.

My Bag

Since about February of this year I had so much shoulder pain that I couldn’t knit at all. My physical therapist said “no knitting!” since that was what caused my injury in the first place. So I did some sewing instead. I have also been on the search for the perfect bag, since forever, and thought “well, I’ll just make my own!”.

I started by making a couple of cloth shopping/tote bags.

The green one was made mostly from curtains we weren’t using and the blue one from face mask material and a pair of pants I cut up. I made 2 of the green ones and gave them to my mom and sister. The pattern for that one is from Bagstock Designs. The blue one I use all the time for shopping and sometimes for a beach trip. The pattern for that one is an old Butterick pattern I’ve had for a long time. I felt like I really had this bag making down pat. I got cocky.

In June we all had high hopes for being able to go to a music festival later in the summer. Vaccinations were rolling out. Things were opening up. I thought it would be fun to make a festival bag – something shiny and festival-like and a real celebration bag. I found some cool vinyl and fake leather on a German fabric shop called Fabrics Hemmers. I bought everything I needed from this web shop. Except for the pattern. I bought the backpack pattern from RLR Creations.

I had never sewn this kind of material before so I went to my local sewing shop and asked for advice about what needle to use. Just a regular needle would be good, but had I thought about the presser foot? Huh? Yes, I needed a special non-stick presser foot, otherwise the vinyl would stick and not feed through correctly. Gulp. That was an expensive addition. Ah well, a learning experience. I also had to buy clips to hold the pieces together, instead of using pins. You can’t pin vinyl because once a hole, always a hole and you don’t want holes where you had pins.

Finally I could begin with the cutting and sewing. What an experience! What I learned….

  1. Vinyl is more flexible than you think so don’t be afraid to hem edges.
  2. Vinyl is thicker than you think so making an article that needs to fold in half, like this backpack, was maybe not the best choice.
  3. Working with endless zippers was something new and challenging. It took many many tries to get the zipper pull to go onto the teeth correctly.
  4. With this pattern, and endless zippers, you have to sew over zipper teeth. Do it by hand, letting the needle slide between the teeth. Don’t use power to sew over this because you’ll just break the needle. Which I did a couple of times.
  5. My sewing machine was just barely able to handle all the layers of material when sewing in the top zipper and it was hard work with my hands too. I don’t think I want to do this again. It also doesn’t look really good – the seams don’t line up at the top and the stitching is a little wonky. Since it’s vinyl, and I’m tired of working with it, I’m calling it GOOD.
  6. Working with clips instead of pins is a pain when you are working on something in the middle of your fabric (instead of just edge seams), like the outside zipper pockets. If I were to make this again with the same materials I’d just skip those outside zipper pockets.
  7. The large size backpack is not as large as I thought it would be. It’s like a medium sized purse, especially once you fold it down and clip it closed. Of course if you want to really pack it full you can leave it standing up and zipped closed.

More photos of the bag in process and finished:

I will definitely use this bag. Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Tillburg to visit the Textile Museum with a friend and I’ll take this bag with me. It’s not perfect but it is very useful and fun.

I still haven’t found the perfect bag but I’m willing to keep making my own to find it. I think next I’ll try making a bag with waxed canvas. Something waterproof would be perfect for our weather.

And just in case you thought this new-version blog is just about sewing, I’ve also got knitting news coming up.

I’ve started knitting a hat with some beautiful and incredibly soft Western Sky Knits Merino 17 Light. I also found this cute case (“etui” in Dutch, stolen from the French) at my local HEMA which is perfect for small projects.

I’m also working on a test knit for a friend, which I can’t really talk about, but next week I’ll show you a nice tip for starting a new skein when your project needs a neat edge.

AND I’ve started on a very exciting spinning and writing project that I’ll talk about in the coming month.

Until next week, happy crafting! (By the way, festivals were not allowed this summer after all. Hopefully next year.)

The Perfect Face Mask

3 sizes of masks, PDF pattern link below in text

We’ve been dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic for well over a year now and I have finally discovered the perfect face mask. At least it fits me, and DB, and my mom, pretty darned perfectly. They are also very simple to make yourself.

I was finally able to travel to the U.S. to visit my mom early this month and I wanted some new face masks for the long plane ride. I also wanted to make them myself because, well, I can. I was looking around the internet for fabric and mask components and came across everything I needed at Textielstad. They had fabric on sale for only 5 euro that was printed with masks in various prints that you just needed to cut out and sew together. They also sold the metal nose bands so important to glasses wearers. I was really excited to find a special interfacing that is sold as a mask filter, so my masks would be 3 layers yet still breathable. I still had lining fabric I could use (100% cotton). Here’s what I started with:

pre-printed mask fabric
filter fabric, lining fabric, nose clips, elastic and example masks

I quickly discovered that the mask fabric was printed in 2 mask sizes. I made several of each. I liked how the larger ones fit, but they were still too small for DB’s manly nose. So I created a larger size by simply adding a seam allowance around the larger size, which fits him perfectly. I took my masks with me to the U.S. and ended up giving my mom the small ones I had made, which fit her well.

This week DB is going back to work at an actual office so I made a couple of new masks with this pattern for him. Then I decided to make paper patterns of the different sizes because I like them so much and want to share them with the world. 🙂

Here is the pdf file. Below is a short description of how I made the masks. If you know how to sew, this should be pretty obvious. If you are a beginning sewer, these masks are a great place to start honing your skills! Print out the file and make sure that the 2cm / 3/4″ square measures correctly after printing and adjust the scaling as needed for your printer.

Cut out the pieces in the outside fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric is best), the filter fabric (if using) and the lining fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric, or plain white sheeting is best).

With right sides together, sew each layer together along the front seam with 1cm / 3/8″ seam allowance.

Then trim the seams and snip them along the curves to that they will lay flat when opened.

Open up the pieces. Put the outside and lining fabrics together, right sides facing. Then lay the filter fabric against the lining fabric. It doesn’t matter which side of the filter fabric faces the lining fabric. Pin the top and bottom edges of all 3 layers together and sew the seams with the same 1cm / 3/8″ seam allowance. Again, trim the seams and snip the curves.

Turn right side out by opening up between the outside and lining fabrics and pull through.

Next I did a first pass at top stitching along the top nose of the mask. I did this now because it is easier to put the metal nose piece in after topstitching. If you are not putting in a nose piece, you can skip the top stitching for now and go on to the elastic ear pieces.

Press the seam flat with your fingers and top stitch along the top curve from about 2cm from the edges (not all the way to the edges because you still have to add elastic and turn those edges in).

pinning the nose piece in place

Slide the metal nose piece between the lining and filter, centering it horizontally and pushing it snug up to the top of the mask as far as it will go. Then stitch from edge to edge, under the metal piece, so that it will stay in place. Be careful not to hit the metal with your needle! Oops, replace the needle if needed.

outside view
inside view

Now time to add elastic and finish top stitching.

Cut elastic to the size indicated on the pattern pieces (or a size you think will fit you best). Fold in the edges 1cm / 3/8″, tucking it all neatly in. Slide the elastic in between the layers and pin in place. Do this on both sides.

Beginning at the top where you left off the previous top stitching, continue stitching all around the mask, from top, the sides (back stitch over the elastic to make sure it is strongly attached), around the bottom (make sure the seam is well open) and up the other side to meet up with the previous top stitching.

And you’re done!

One last thing – for the large size, I made a small tuck on the sides. This makes the mask itself the right volume for the face, but takes less room on the side and seems to fit better. This is a matter of choice and you might try both ways to see what works better. Here’s a photo of the tucks (one for the outside fabric, one on the inside for the lining/filter). I didn’t do this tucking for the medium and small sizes.

Here are finished photos of the 3 sizes so you get an idea of the differences in them. I hope you find this useful, even at this late date in the pandemic. I hope that we in the Western world are more used to wearing masks now so that even if you have a cold and still have to ride a train you will wear a mask as a courtesy to your fellow passengers. When I was working in Thailand I was impressed by how people cared about each other and masked-up when they were sick. Maybe I’m only wishful thinking that the rest of us will be so considerate.

top to bottom: large (with tucked edges), medium, small