They’re Almost Pants!

This past week I have been working on making myself some cargo pants (See posts 1 and 2). While I had intended to have these pants completed by now, as always, life has had other plans for me. However, in contrast to the way the story normally works on this blog — I get busy, I don’t make time to update, 2 or 3 months later I write another post apologizing (like here.. or here), long time readers know the drill by now — I’m going to update with what I *have* managed to get done since last time (and force myself to accept the fact that I’m neither perfect nor able to juggle everything the way I’d like to).

Inside out, pinned together.

Inside out, pinned together.

Right side out, front side

Right side out, front side

Right side out, front side, pockets close up.

Right side out, front side, pockets close up.

Right side out, back side

Right side out, back side

As you can see, they are definately starting to look more like actual pants, and the pockets have turned out fairly well. However, between getting hung up on the zipper (this pattern has some oddly written instructions), work, surrendering the table to roommates for their gaming purposes, and spending time with my boyfriend (obligatory plug – check out his podcast sometime), I haven’t gotten further than this. Let us see what this next week brings.

 

 

 

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Finishing the Rag Rug: What I have learned

I first began working on the rag rug just shy of a year ago. (You can read all about the humble beginnings here) I had never woven anything before, on a loom or otherwise, but I wanted a way to use some material I had laying around and wanted to try out the technique. I always get excited to try something I’ve never done before, I always jump into these big projects head on and learn as I go… I’m actually kind of surprised I even managed to make a small practice swatch! That being said, I ran into several points of frustration that resulted in long periods of walking away from the rug to work on other things, which is why it took me so long to finish. This is how I learn though, through experimentation.

Trial and Error Learning

Experimenting with dye:

I knew I wanted to make my rug black and red. I also knew I didn’t want to have to go out and buy a lot of new fabric either (as that would be expensive as well as defeating the purpose of utilizing old material), so I thought it would be wise to dye some old white bed sheets to the colors I wanted. That should be easy, right? Oh boy was I ever wrong! Not only did I spend hours cutting and dying fabric (note: dye first, _then_ cut!), but I made a mess and all I had to show for it in the end was some pink and grey fabric. For all the other dye noobs out there: Rit is no good if you want strong colors. Do some research before jumping head first, which is what I should have done.

Types of fabric:

While most of my material came from old bedsheets (cotton is awesome), I wanted to use what I had handy as well. This meant cutting some strips from old pants as well as an old satin sheet set I’d had for some years that was worn from cat claws. Satin frays like a mother and, while it certainly made use of the material, using it was a giant pain. The fabric from my old pants was thicker than the other material, and while that’s not really a problem in itself, I should have cut them into thinner strips, as the difference in thickness contributed to the my other major problem…

GAUGE!

Notice that pink/ grey piece in the center, I wanted to make sure my dying efforts weren’t for naught, and it serves as a reminder of my journey in making this rug.

 

Just as with knitting or crochet, gauge is important. Gauge, for those readers who may be unfamiliar with the term, is the tension and tightness or looseness of a knit, weave, etc. When you are following a pattern and knitting asweater, you want your gauge to match that listed in the pattern or the sweater will be too big or too small. The problem with this rug is that the gauge is not uniform. The gauge is super tight at the top and very loose toward the middle. So, how do I fix it? I do not want to unravel all my hard work and re-do it. I can either tighten up the lower rows or I can add some material to the upper rows or some combination to even it out. However, no matter how I go about it, there is no getting around that this is going to be another time consuming process. It’s quite aggravating when I really want to be done with it and get some use out of it, not to mention, I’d like to move on to other projects.

 

How to Make Rope from Rags

I was doing laundry this morning and decided I wanted to try to save some money by drying my clothes on a clothesline. I had two major problems. 1) I didn’t have rope to use as a clothesline. 2) I currently live in an apartment and an outside clothesline just isn’t possible. So, after surveying my pad, looking for places to secure a line to that would be level and could withstand the weight of wet clothing, I set out to solve problem number 1. Rather than get in my car and drive all the way out to some store to fork over hard earned money on more rope than I actually needed, I decided to use resources I had at home already and make my own rope.

I have a lot of fabric laying around, so I had plenty to chose from, but I certainly didn’t want to use my good cotton for such a project. What I used was a old shower curtain I’d picked up from Freecycle in a bulk fabric box some time ago. It’s a fabric shower curtain, not a plastic or vinyl. Of course, you could use just about any old fabric. Old sheets, old clothes, etc. It doesn’t have to be pretty because this is strictly a utilitarian project.

I cut the curtain into strips of fabric. Starting with 3 strips, tie them together at the top in a knot. You can now begin braiding the strips together.

Once you’ve braided to about 2 or 3 inches from the loose end, it’s time to start joining in the next strips. What I did was lay each new strip on top of an existing strip, so that as I continued braiding, I was braiding with 3 double strands (6 strips). Because this causes the rope to suddenly become thicker, I gradated the new strips so the new thickness wasn’t as sharp.

As you can see, I have the 3 loose ends of the new strips hanging out from the rope where I began joining them in. These loose ends can be cut off later.

I would like to note that while this homemade rope may not have industrial strength, and I cannot vouch for just how strong it is, it is sufficient for the vast majority of the everyday tasks most of us would require rope for.

In the end, my rope was a success. My jerry-rigged clothesline however, not so much. As I don’t seem to have the space to adequately dry a full load of laundry in my apartment, I may need to rethink this afterall…

Nowhere but Where you Want to Go…

Life has a funny way of unraveling itself. Despite all our efforts, all our planning, the road we set off embarking on will change as time goes by. Life will set obstacles in our way, and if we are to stay on course, we must surmount them. Yet, sometimes we’re forced to take a detour. Often, we become frustrated, and we try bustle through and get back onto our well planned pathway. Every once in awhile, if we actually look around us as we travel down these side roads life’s detours force us to take, we might discover something worthwhile: an out of the way diner, a cozy independent bookstore, an old theater, or maybe just a pretty house with a for sale sign in the yard.
Or sometimes we simply decide we want to go somewhere else and cut across a parking lot or a farmer’s field to get to another road.

I feel like society at large expects us to plot a course and stay true and unwavering to that course. The implications being that if we stay the course we will be happy and stable and successful. The general model that we’re supposed to base our lives on is: Get your HS diploma (or GED), go to college (or trade school), get a job, get married, buy a house, start a family. It also feels as if getting off that course suggests failure at life. But what happens when you’re traveling down the expressway and traffic jams up and forces you into a painfully slow single lane? Or what about when your ending destination suddenly disappears like Atlantis into oblivion?  This is what a lot of people who have lost their jobs have had to deal with. This is what myself and my peers have had to face (or will have to face) coming out of school. It seems like college is becoming more and more of a necessity with fewer and fewer guarantees of anything beyond student loan debt.

What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere? Where do you go? Do you keep moving in some direction, or do you pause for a moment and take in your surroundings? Do you follow the well trodden path? The path less traveled? Or do you create your own path, hacking your way through the brush if necessary? It seems to me that we often feel pressured or rushed to keep moving and to “get back on track” as quickly as possible. As if to be off track is to be in this very undesired position. I find it somewhat amusing that it’s ok to be “outside the box”, so long as you are “on track” and even better if you are “on the fast track”.  (this is my odd/corny sense of humor at work here)

When I started this project, I had no real idea where it was going, and over time, as I built upon it, its true nature revealed itself to me. It really took on a life and a meaning all its own. The Nowhere Man, with its kind of off-kilter compass and frayed edges that shirk convention, reminds us that even when we we’re out in the middle of nowhere, we have the freedom and the power to go where we want to. We don’t even have to know where we are going when we start off, the path will reveal itself in due time if we keep our senses open to it.

Having come to the end of the road (but certainly not the end of the journey), the Nowhere Man is now officially for sale on my Etsy.  I’m excited to see what other roads I will be led down as I continue to work this blog and continue to create…

Nowhere on the Horizon

I want to thank my readers for sticking with me despite my negligence in posting the past few weeks. Almost immediately after I finished dealing with all the holiday happenings and the post-holiday take down, I was viciously attacked by a nasty flu bug bent on world domination… or, well, at least the domination of my immune system. After almost a week of full on war, the entire flu army has been obliterated. Somewhere in my sinuses there are still bits of mutilated flu bodies scattered around, and on a cell wall is a photo of some of my white blood cells in combat fatigues and helmets, climbing over a tonsil and raising the flag of victory.

Now that life is settling back into it’s normal rhythm, I’m back to work, sewing away. I’ve been doing most of my work on the Nowhere Man.  Have a look at what I have been up to:

Adding the second later of diamonds...

Rather than applique the star onto the back of the jacket, I decided to replace the entire back panel. I ended up using one of my collector knives as a seam ripper because I had lost mine. It actually worked rather well, however I did get a proper seam ripper as a replacement for Christmas.
I wanted to replace the entirety of the back panel, so, it’s obvious that I needed to add more diamond layers. One thing I would like to point out now that ended up turning into a huge pain later on: Do you see how the original panel is sewn together in 3 sections? Notice how they are curved? It’s a seam trick that makes the garment a little more form fitting — this is a woman’s jacket afterall. It also does not allow the fabric to lay 100% flat, there is an ever so slight curvature to it. With the way the star is put together and laid out, I can’t very well replicate those panel sections. So, I had to alter the shape of the entire back somewhat to accommodate my design.
I toyed around with the idea of orienting the star in such a way as to designate the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) in red and using the grey for NNW, NNE and the like.  I also, ultimately, wasn’t able to do this either once my star was big enough to cover the majority of the back.
All the diamonds come from old jeans. The bigger chunks of denim come from scrap material left over from when I made myself a pair of bell bottoms 4 years ago. I save everything. I have some scraps of fabric I have been toting around since 8th grade that I’m still not sure how I will use. Maybe someday I’ll make some twined rag rugs or maybe I’ll get really industrious and use the smallest bits of fiber to make my own paper. I don’t put it past myself. The point is, I do not want to waste anything if I can at all help it.
Right now, I am actually in the process of installing the new “Nowhere Man” panel into the jacket. I still need to pick up some more yellow denim thread to do this properly, so all the current stitches are just temporary stay stitches. Something else that’s going to be super fun (and a super pain in the butt): Do you notice how those big chunks of new denim are so much lighter cleaner than the rest of the jacket? Left alone, it probably won’t look right once the installation is done. That’s right… I’m going to have to manually age/dirty those sections so it’ll fit into the surroundings better.  That’s something I have never done before.. so, on one hand, I am excited. On the other, I am nervous and worried that I might end up ruining this piece that I have spent so many hours toiling over. This is how I learn though, I play around and experiment.