Upskilly & Stuff 1: The Kerchief

What could be a simpler beginning than a kerchief? Cut a square, hem the edges. Job done.

I’ve been meaning to make a brown kerchief for some time, all the more since I bought a dress in brown & cream and had nothing to wear with it that really went. In considering the brown fabrics in my stash, I discovered these:

Would you believe these are all from the same bolt of fabric, and purchased at the same time? At the top is the fabric as it came from the bolt; in the middle is the same fabric made up and lightly worn, and at the bottom is the same fabric made up and heavily worn. What can I say? It was only three dollars (NZ) per metre and I was a poor student.

So I’m not expecting this to hold its colour – but while it does, the middle fabric is a near perfect match for the brown of my dress. For some reason it (the fabric, not my dress) was in the form of a partially cannibalized medieval tunic. Why I made (or indeed wore) a medieval tunic I could not tell you, but there it is, and eminently fit for purpose.

Habito de s francisco
St. Francis of Assisi – patron saint of Make Do & Mend?
The next consideration is size. My head is unusually small, and my smallest kerchief (which I only use for a splash of colour on top of a larger plain one) is 45 x 50cm. So that’s the minimum for me, plus a couple of centimetres each way for the hem.

Suggestion: measure around your head, add maybe 20cm allowance for tying (or more if your fabric is thick) and make that the hypotenuse of your kerchief. Remember: the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the square of the other two sides.

My ex-tunic is about 57cm wide, so I’m going to use that as my base: trim off the old raggedy hem and start afresh, beginning by drawing a thread and cutting it square. (Information on why and how can be found here.)

Jelena Dimitrijevna Polenova 1850-1898 - Zehlirka
Full disclosure: I also got out the iron and pressed the rumpled edges down – despite it being 27*C – because I have reached the age where I like to take my time and do the job properly in all its details. If you’re not fussy about things coming out just so, then feel free to skip that step – just don’t blame me if the results are a little more slapdash than you were anticipating.

So, I’ve squared my edge, I’ve pressed it, and I’ve cut out my square. Now, technically, I already have a kerchief here, but it isn’t finished. There may be some who like the frayed look of an unfinished edge – yes? Raise your hand… and smack yourself firmly round the head with it and promise to reform hereafter. An unfinished edge is not only a fraying and falling apart edge with a short life span ahead of it, it is distressed. What kind of monster wishes to distress the poor fabric? Be kind; finish it properly.Fig. 8. Hemming-stitchNow for the hem. My fabric’s middling thickness, so I’m going to do a simple double-fold hem. If it were thinner, I’d do a rolled/handkerchief hem by hand, but it would be too bulky with this fabric – it’s bulky enough as is, since I’m doing a narrowish hem to keep as much width in the kerchief as possible. Pressing with an iron is an option here, too, but I just use a firm finger-press unless the fabric’s being obstinate, followed by a series of pins.

I was originally planning to sew this by machine (I even oiled the machine specially) but then I discovered I didn’t have any thread which matched closely enough. So I’m doing a blind stitch hem, which comes out almost invisible on both sides – although how invisible remains to be seen when the fabric fades.

Here’s what it looks like on the wrong side:

The background (at top) is the dress  – good match, isn’t it? My apologies for the blurriness – the camera phone doesn’t seem keen on close-ups. Here’s what the right side looks like (and this time, please note, the kerchief is at the top and the dress at the bottom):

The finished kerchief measures 57 x 56cm. Quite how this happened, considering the beginning measurements, I do not know. I assume it has something to do with flattening out the edges (formerly wedged against seams) with the iron.

But finished it is! The first step on the Upskilly & Stuff ladder has been taken; measuring, cutting, pressing, pinning and hemming have all happened, and a wearable garment is complete.

Next month: the apron!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you’ve been making – feel free to leave a comment below.

Please note: if you are unable to find the comment section, click on the post title. You’ll be taken to the full-width post page with comment section at end.

Getting Control of Your UFOs

Spreadsheets have a reputation for being cold and factual. Less often are they seen as a form of inspiration and a repository of dreams.
I Love Spreadsheets
Let me explain. Some time ago, I was going down for what felt like the third time under a morass of unfinished things and dreams deferred. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, as the writer of Proverbs sagely observes, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (You know you have too many UFOs when even the creator and sustainer of the universe tells you to get your act together and start finishing things.)

But where was I going to start? There were too many of them, and some had to be done before others, and they all had different conditions attached, and….

Enter the spreadsheet. The first thing to do is to list all the projects you have underway, followed by all the projects still at planning stage (Column A). To my shock, my list came to nearly 20 items.

Fotothek df roe-neg 0006317 003 Zirkusdarbietung einer Jongleurin mit ReifenThe next step is to assign them deadlines (Column B). These socks need to be finished by the intended recipient’s birthday; those curtains need to be lined before summer; this project needs to be completed before that one can be started, and so on. Some things don’t have a deadline; that’s fine. Just put down NA.

Then reorder them accordingly. Column B gives you your deadlines (where applicable) but it’s Columns C and D which really tell you what to work on next.

Column C tells you whether each project is portable or not. Can you take it out and about (to the theatre, on the bus, to a friend’s place), or is it a strictly stay-at-home kind of project? Obviously, if you only do one or the other sort of project, skip Column C.
Albert Guillaume 15 minutes d'entr'acte
Column D rates the concentration necessary for each project. A rating of 1 means you can do it while focussing on something else – TV, someone reading aloud, a conversation… Plain knitting, sewing hems or seams, and projects you’ve done a zillion times all fall into this category. A rating of 3 means that the project requires your full attention: complicated projects, cataloguing materials, or trying something you’ve never done before.

A column for notes can also be handy – take photos throughout for this one; break this one down into smaller tasks; check you have all the materials before starting. Do not attempt when tired. Here be dragons. Whatever.

The results? While I still have plenty of UFOs, there are fewer of them. Fourteen at last count, of which only six are actually UFOs – the others are still in the planning stages. When I add something new to the spreadsheet – for a gift, for example – it moves toward completion more quickly.
Albert Anker Sitzendes Mädchen mit einer Katze 1903And then it disappears. You may wish to keep a record of your Finished Objects, so you know where all your time went, but don’t clutter up your UFO spreadsheet with them – you want to see at a glance what you still have on your plate, and what you have, so to speak, eaten. (Let us leave this metaphor before it becomes any more ooky.)

After so long spinning my wheels, I finally have traction, and I am enjoying it. Enjoying making progress, enjoying knowing the UFOs are under control, enjoying seeing my dreams come closer, and enjoying the productivity of my hands. Because good time management isn’t about being harried by a to-do list, it’s about enriching your life. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

I Have a Cunning Plan

Congratulate me, my friends! I have at last learned to be prudent when it comes to making cunning plans.

VillaincI think.

Long have I brooded over the difficulty of finding the kind of clothes I want to wear in shops (either new or second-hand). The obvious solution seems to be Way #5 to an Ethical Wardrobe. Yes, I have decided to learn to sew my own clothes.

In baby steps. “How else?” I hear you cry. “Where’s the prudence in that?”

Long-term readers of this blog may recall the epic quilt of craziness that dominated my Year of Finishing Things. Yes, I finished it. But it was far from being the only Thing in my possession that required Finishing. In fact, it wasn’t even the oldest Thing that Requires Finishing, or UFO as handworkers call them. (This stands for Un-Finished Object or Unfinished Fabric Object; not, as Cuthbert Soup pointed out, Uncommonly Fat Orangutans).

ORANGUTAN (8551550474)
Who are you calling uncommonly fat?

As I mentioned in this post, there were still two quilts (yes, there were two quilts beside the crazy quilt – clearly, the quilt was not the only crazy around here), a pair of gloves, a cardigan and a pile of mending to be done. Mending comes and goes, the cardigan and gloves are in regular wear, but the quilts are still with us in their UFOid state.

Behold, the prudence: instead of launching straight into the process of learning to sew my own clothes (and I have some delectable ideas, let me tell you), I am going to begin by Clearing the Decks. “Do not plan for ventures before finishing what’s at hand,” as Euripides said.

I have set aside the rest of 2017 (ok, my home handworking time for the rest of 2017 – I do have a book to publish) to get some projects completed and out of the deep dark Wardrobe of Unfinished Things.

Two women open a cupboard in which a skeleton stands. Engrav Wellcome V0042203
Deborah finally opens the Wardrobe of Unfinished Things

My targets are the mending of a pair of worn sheets, the lining of a pair of curtains, and the final completion of the rose quilt – less than fifteen years after I started it! Possibly no more than twelve! And if I somehow manage to complete all that before the end of the year (most unlikely), I shall do the block quilt assembly as well, for Extra Credit.

Anyone keen to join me? Not in clearing out my own UFOs, that is; I’m not that desperate – yet. But are you too trapped under a mountain of Unfinished Fabric Objects, or general Un-Finished Objects? (If trapped under a mountain of Unusually Fat Orangutans, please seek professional assistance.) Or is it some other task: cleaning out the garage, painting the kitchen, or extreme weeding in the back yard, that darkly looms like the great unfinished gargoyle that it is?

Church of the Holy Cross Great Ponton Lincolnshire England - tower gargoyle 2
Haul that lurker out of the shadows and pin it down in the comment section. What gargoyles do you have in your sights? When are you wanting to have finished them off by? Stake your claim! I’ll be posting weekly updates about my progress or lack thereof, and I would love to have you chipping in as you chip away at your own gargoyles.

Prudence shall be our battlecry – Prudence and Gargoyle Chips!