Family Heirloom Frame Upcycle

Back when my aunt and uncle moved into my grandfather’s house a few years ago, my aunt did some serious cleaning and unearthed this gem.

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Nobody on this side of the family reads Chinese but an aunt on the other side of the family was able to translate it for us. It’s basically a letter from my great grandfather to my grandmother approving of her marriage to my grandfather. Pretty cool, huh?

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I love that my aunt was able to uncover this part of our family’s history but no one in my family wanted it. Since I am addicted to frames I decided to take it but didn’t think it made sense to hang up something that I couldn’t even read. Heck, as beautiful as this is, my own grandmother never even had this hanging in her house. None of us even knew about it until the moment my aunt discovered it while she was cleaning. So I decided to convert it into a mirror using this mirror from Pottery Barn as inspiration. Can you believe how much it costs?! 😲

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I didn’t want to lose this letter entirely and there was no backing to the frame- the letter is written on fabric that is stapled inside the frame and the back is covered in paper if that makes any sense. So I began by taping off the edges of the glass in preparation for painting without removing the letter. I then lightly sanded all around the frame so the paint would adhere better. The paint I used is Americana Decor Metallics in Vintage Brass. The paint is sort of thin so it took a lot of coats to get full coverage and once I lifted the painters tape I had to touch up some spots using several coats yet again.  

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But it was worth it! I originally thought it would be easy to get a mirror cut to size for the frame and keep the letter preserved behind it. But once I discovered the letter was written onto a piece of fabric that was stapled into the frame, I switched plans because I didn’t want to have to disassemble the letter from the frame. (How else would I be able to preserve this part of my family’s history? Put it in a frame? It was already in a frame.) So I found this mirror film from Decorative Films. It is actually meant for windows but I thought it would work great for what I needed. However, I am horrible at math. I ordered this film specifically due to the good reviews and the fact that I would be able to order enough to cover all of the glass without having to piece it together…except all my math went out the window when I placed the order and I came up short going the long ways. 

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So I wound up filling in the gaps with some gold washi tape I had on hand and I think it works just fine. I couldn’t justify spending more money on a new piece of film when it already cost more than getting a real mirror cut to size at Lowe’s would have. It actually finishes the edges nicely because I got nervous when cutting the film and it came out very jagged at the ends. The film didn’t go on perfectly (there are so many bubbles!) But from some angles it looks just fine and I’ll just pretend the bubbles are patina. Who cares? This way this frame will fit in with my current decor and the letter is still intact inside for if I want to share it with future generations. 

Another one of my aunt’s lucky finds was my grandmother’s wedding dress- and just a month before my own wedding four years ago no less! I already had my own wedding dress (which was actually quite similar to this one) but I changed into it after our ceremony to recreate my grandparents wedding photo- the very marriage the letter above approved of.

As a third generation Chinese American, I am very proud of my heritage. Although, sometimes I feel very far removed from it. One thing I am grateful for is the weekly trips to Chinatown my parents took me and my siblings on growing up. This was crucial in connecting us to our roots and to this day the only words my siblings and I know in Chinese are all food related. I thought when I have children of my own one day, I would be able to take them to Chinatown as well to give them some sort of connection to their Chinese half. But now with the Coronavirus still raging on and the prejudice against Asian people attached to it, Chinatown is dying and it breaks my heart to see. One organization currently working to help struggling businesses in Chinatown is Welcome To Chinatown. I’ve already made a donation and plan on making more. I hope you will too.

And if you’re near Chinatown, an even better way to support all the businesses struggling there right now is to order food from them. My grandfather’s favorite char siu bao establishment has already shut down but hopefully we can work together to save other businesses before they are gone.

Sewing Room Tour

Over three months of sheltering in place and I finally snapped. One tutorial for turning a small folding tray table into an ironing board led to me rearranging our entire apartment to make it work better for us as this one-bedroom apartment continues to contain our entire universe.

Below is the only before picture I have of the mess because I was too focused to actually document the process.

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Much better now, right? All this was made possible by just folding up my full sized ironing board. It’s amazing how much space they can take up. Now I’ll only pull it out when I need to iron large pieces of fabric.

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I love that painted table holding my spool rack. We found it along the side of the road several years ago and freshened it up a little. I love free curbside furniture! Kevin doesn’t love it as much but we found this table the day before my birthday so he let me take it home 😝.  The tiered rolling tray is from Target.

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Cleaning up my sewing space also motivated me to finish up some long languishing projects, like these two embroidery hoops. Embroidery was a nice quiet project to work on for a few days when I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

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I copied this idea to turn a folding tray table into a small ironing board from Pinterest. The tutorials online stapled the fabric down to the table with some Insul-Bright in between but I made my cover removable like a real ironing board cover instead. Now this table serves a dual purpose. This is where I sit when I need to use my serger but if I need to iron something small, I’ll move the serger to the floor and use the table as an ironing board. The fabric for the serger cover is from Fab Scrap and I used a free pattern from Closet Case Patterns to make it.

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I put current works in progress in a small tray on top of my dresser so that they don’t get lost in the fray. Getting those baskets and hanging them from a ladder helped me clear the clutter off the top of this dresser in order to do so. It still looks cluttered but at least it’s an organized mess now!

Utilizing my closet space more effectively definitely helped a lot in terms of space. A lot of baskets and bins that I just left on the floor before now sit in here. I love this closet so much. I also moved my small dresser in here which helped make more space next to my side of the bed so that I could do this…

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I moved this armchair into our bedroom from the living room to make room for Kevin to get a new desk as he continues to work from home. I also wrote down all of the projects I’m working on and want to start working on so I can keep myself on task. I’m thinking having this armchair in our bedroom will make for a nice, cozy knitting spot for me this Fall.

Free Sewing Machine Cover Pattern

During Shelter-In-Place, my one bedroom apartment has become my entire world. Not only does it serve as my living space, it is also functioning as my husband’s office and a wardrobe room for a late night TV show. Shipping supplies are currently taking up our entry way. I’ve always used our dining table for cutting out projects but now those recreational projects are intermingled with things for work. My dress form is also now living as a different size for work purposes. Long story short, I just needed more differentiation between work and home life right now.

So I decided to finally make myself a cover for my sewing machine. And since I needed some art therapy, I also went so far as painting the fabric. My husband and I are very fortunate to be able to work from home right now but it has helped my mental health so much to be able to just throw this bad boy over my sewing machine when it’s time to call it a day…even if I’ve left the rest of the apartment a mess.

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If you are also in the market for a sewing machine cover, I’ve left the free pattern below. The tutorial will be going live on Fabric Wholesale Direct‘s blog in the near future:

Ruddy To Craft Free Sewing Machine Cover Pattern

And if you enjoy the pattern enough, might I suggest donating to one of the organizations below in return if you are able to?:

 

What I’ve Been Doing During Social Distancing

These are unprecedented times we’re living through right now. There are no hard rules during social distancing (except stay at least 6 feet away from people and wear a mask whenever you go outside!) So I’ve made a bullet point list of all the things I’ve been doing while quarantining over the past month. This way, if I have kids one day and they ask me, “Mommy, what did you do with all that time?” I can show them this list and say, “THIS IS WHAT I DID WITH ALL THAT TIME!” without having to go into too much detail. While I am not able to work right now, I am very lucky to have a job that is paying me until May 1. I don’t know what will happen after that but I’m am extra fortunate to have a husband with a job that allows him to work from home. In the meantime, I have decided it is my new job to take care of him and our friends and family as much I possibly can during this time of social distancing (this includes scheduling lots of Google Hangout activities with friends and doing my best to take care of the apartment while my husband is working.) So these are the things I’m doing to take care of myself because self-care is also very important during this time.

Works in Progress:

 

Finished Objects:

 

 

What I’m Watching:

  • Kim’s Convenience on Netflix
  • Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu
  • Flea Market Flip on Hulu
  • Community both on Netflix and Hulu
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on Hulu
  • Modern Family on Hulu (very sad their series finale just aired 😥)
  • Mixedish on Hulu
  • Single Parents on Hulu
  • The Bold Type on Hulu
  • Flea Bag on Amazon Prime
  • Hustlers (rented digitally through Google)
  • Everything any late night talk show host has to offer on YouTube

 

What I’m Listening To on Spotify:

  • Trolls World Tour soundtrack (I just needed something cheerful and happy. Don’t judge me!)
  • Frozen 2 soundtrack (“Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” have me in my feelings. Don’t judge me!)
  • Dear Evan Hansen cast recording (Again, in my feelings. Don’t judge me!)
  • Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast
  • Happy Sad Confused podcast
  • HAIM
  • Acoustic playlists (I find them soothing.)

 

Where I’ve Donated Money To:

  • Feeding America
  • Safe Horizons
  • MoveOn
  • Meals On Wheels (My grandfather received meals from them towards the end of his life, so this one is near and dear to me.)
  • Franklin Food Bank (A friend of a friend is a teacher in this school district and is very concerned about her students being fed while school is out.)
  • meals4heroes
  • Some GoFundMe to raise money to buy medical masks for hospital workers that I can’t even remember the name of let alone find a link to 😕

Local Restaurants I’ve Gotten Takeout From:

Small Businesses I’ve Purchased From Online:

 

Every Other Moment is Spent:

  • Washing my hands
  • Sleeping
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Reading Twitter and going through all the emotions (sadness, anger, joy)
  • Scrolling Instagram
  • Living in fear of grocery shopping
  • Cooking mediocre and unsatisfactory meals
  • Baking
  • Eating (while living in fear of when I’ll need to go grocery shopping again)
  • Doing dishes
  • Playing Animal Crossing
  • Looking for Lysol or Chlorox wipes online
  • Failing to find Lysol or Chlorox wipes online
  • Wishfully filling up a cart on grocery delivery websites even though there are never any time slots available

 

Hope everyone is doing OK out there!

DIY Kate Middleton Hat Band

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Back in December, my friend Rose and I got together to DIY some headbands inspired by Kate Middleton. We hope people will find this tutorial to be a nice distraction during this time of social distancing. You can find it on Rose’s blog, Royal Caffeine, here.

Let us know how we did in the comments. And if you make one of your own, tag Rose and me on Instagram so we can see it! Happy Crafting, everyone!

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Embroidered Floral Emery Dress

Around this time last year, I started working on a dress to wear to a dear friend’s wedding. Since I know what I like, I resorted to using my go-to pattern for special occasion dresses- Christine Haynes’ Emery Dress pattern. However, this time I wanted something a little different than my previous versions, which I blogged about here. My friend, Sara, had worn a really pretty embroidered floral mesh dress to another friend’s rehearsal dinner recently and I became obsessed. So I set out to find some embroidered floral mesh fabric of my own. I spent a couple of hours pricing fabric in the Garment District in NYC one afternoon after work. After going around to various stores, I finally settled on this fabric I found at Hollywood Fabrics. It was a pretty good deal at $18/yard when everywhere else was quoting me $20-25/yard. The under layer is a polyester satin from Elegant Fabrics that I think was somewhere around $10-12/yard. I would have loved to use some beautiful silk satin but it was all way out of my price range.

I started by flat lining my bodice pieces together by hand because I found the fabric to be too shifty to just pin and run under the machine.

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It probably felt like this took longer than it actually did, but I’m so glad I did this.

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Here’s the bodice all stitched up!

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Next, I attached the skirt pieces. I added 1/2″ horse hair to the hem of the under layer to make the skirt poof out just a little. It was looking a little too limp on its own.

Then I let it sit around for months because as the calendar says, it was May, and I didn’t need this dress to be finished until January. It was nice having a pretty project on hold, ready to resume work on whenever I needed a pick-me-up.

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The time for a pick-me-up finally arrived, and I decided to put the zipper in. I chose a lapped zipper insertion because this is how I always insert zippers into my dresses. I learned early on in my sewing journey that although invisible zippers look nice, they are the devil and break too easily. Working in theater, invisible zippers on ready-to-wear garments always get switched out before they even have a chance to go on stage because no one wants to deal with an invisible zipper breaking in the middle of a quick change.

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Then it sat around a little more, adorning my dress form like the eye candy it is.

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There was actually one day I was really sad and put the dress on in this state to make myself feel better. And I have to say, it really worked.

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Finally, the wedding was drawing near and I decided it was finally time to put the lining in.

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I had originally planned to add a full lining but was afraid having three layers of gathering at the waist would be too bulky and make the dress too tight. So I decided to just line the bodice as the pattern instructions called for. Also, french seams! Since the skirt and sleeve seams would be visible, I went with french seams. The bodice has regular seams since you can’t see them with the under-layer backing the mesh.

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Lastly, I added 1/4″ beige elastic to the wrist of the sleeves to make them poof a little. I felt like they looked weird without being cinched in towards the bottom.

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For the wedding, I paired the dress with these gold shoes from Anthropologie. I bought them to wear as a bridesmaid for a friend’s wedding and was glad to have another use for them.

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The photo booth at the wedding was awesome! I’m glad to have this nice memento of me and Kevin looking all gussied up together since we’re usually in our pajamas around each other.

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Here I am trying to look sassy with my beautiful friends. Doesn’t the bride look gorgeous?! Her dress was custom made! These women have lifted me up since we were 5 years old and I love them all very much. So I’m including this photo in this post in honor of International Women’s Day. Happy International Women’s Day to all the fierce women out there! 👊

Find Your Fade x 2!

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It all started with some remnant yarn. I have a few jars full of fingering weight yarn leftover from sock projects that I didn’t know what to do with so I decided to cast on this Find Your Fade Shawl by Andrea Mowry sometime last year. I began with this dark purple yarn I bought by Dyed By Darrin from Lion Brand Studio (RIP 😔) which I had leftover from a pair of socks I made my brother.

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I then added in some Madeline Tosh yarn I had leftover from a pair of socks I made my mother-in-law. After that came some blue yarn I bought on sale from Yarnia which I unfortunately can’t remember the brand name of. I had used it to make a pair of socks for my sister.

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I was enjoying the faded shawl making process so much and was feeling so satisfied at using up my remnants, I decided to cast on a second shawl while still working on my Find Your Fade Shawl. The shawl to the left is the Free Your Fade Shawl, also by Andrea Mowry. I guess I’m just an Andrea Mowry fan girl.

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After the blue yarn from my sister’s socks, I was running out of skeins large enough for the rest of the sections. So I decided to take my time and pick each additional color out as I came to it. The fourth color I added in was by Spun Right Round, which I also purchased from Yarnia. After that, I added in another Madeline Tosh yarn in grey that I purchased from Knitty City.

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The next yarn I added was special. I was becoming a little anxious about how much this shawl might cost me when I came across a post on Instagram by someone in need of a project bag. I noticed she was an indie dyer and was a little smitten with one of her yarn colorways called “Crackle.” I messaged her and asked if she would be up for a trade. I would give her a project bag in exchange for a couple of skeins of her yarn. It was a while before I heard back from her and I was afraid she might think I was crazy. Luckily she was into the idea and we made the exchange! I loved working with her yarn so much. You can find her Etsy shop here.  Below is the project bag she selected and I’m so glad she liked it in return.

Pomegranate Project Bag 11

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For the last yarn, I really wanted to support an Asian American indie dyer. I had discovered Marianated Yarns online and loved all of her colorways. The NJ Sheep and Fiber Festival was coming up and she was listed as a vendor so I anxiously waited for the festival to arrive to purchase her yarn in person. I knew exactly which colorway I wanted and my husband was keen on buying it for me for my birthday. When we finally arrived at the festival and found the barns with all the vendors, I became overwhelmed. Clutching my vendor layout, I tried to make my way through the crowd looking for Marianated Yarns. Luckily we found her before long and I found the yarn I wanted right away. Then I did a quick pass around to see what all the other vendors had to offer. I purchased only one other skein of yarn from Wobble Gobble, another Asian indie dyer. I think I spent all of 20 minutes shopping the booths altogether, subconsciously searching out faces that resembled mine the whole time. My husband, Kevin, was surprised I didn’t need more time. I had been talking about shopping at this festival for weeks. It wasn’t until we got to the car that I confided in my white husband that I felt overwhelmed and anxious being in that large of a crowd with mostly white people. I felt very out of place and insecure. It made me feel a very deep sense of the anguish people have shared on Instagram. Luckily no incidences occurred, but I couldn’t help but feel a little alienated. That’s why I’ve loved seeing the #AsianKnittersofInstagram hashtag on Instagram and seeing so many faces that look like mine enjoying the same craft. Even if it’s only online, it’s very comforting. I hope to meet some of them in real life one day.

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As much comfort as I find seeing other Asian knitters on Instagram, I’ve always felt uncomfortable sharing pictures of my own face online since the internet can be pretty creepy. So I’ve resorted to mostly sharing my makes on my dress form. So here is my finished Find Your Fade Shawl on my good ol’ dress form. Maybe at some point I’ll feel more comfortable adding my face to the mix with all the other #AsianKnittersofInstagram but for now my dress form and the cartoon graphic my sister drew of me as my profile picture will have to do.

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I recently began a new job and was looking for a knitting project to keep me occupied on the train. Thus, I dug through my yarn remnants and cast on yet another Find Your Fade Shawl. It’s a little cumbersome to work on during my train ride, but I love that I don’t have to think too much while working on it at this point.

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It was also soothing to start out my day by working on it and sipping my tea. Settling into a new job with a new setting and co-workers is always a little stressful even though I’m a freelancer who’s used to it. I don’t know if it ever gets easier but having worked so many jobs at this point, I know in the back of my mind that I will settle in eventually and that is comforting at least.

I started this shawl with some leftover yarn I had from my Bennet Sister Shawl by Mockingbird Fiber Co. Then I melted in two yarns I had leftover from making a Boxy Sweater by Joji Locatelli by The Farmers Daughter Fibers and Autumn and Indigo. For the third section, I underestimated how much yarn I had and needed to supplement it with another yarn I had leftover from a pair of socks in a similar color. After that, I used some metallic yarn from Earl Grey Fiber Co. that I purchased from Wool and Honey using a generous gift code for $25 that they gave out during the holidays. The yarn that followed that was more leftover from my Boxy Sweater by The Farmers Daughter Fibers. Finally, I finished with some Brooklyn Tweed Peerie yarn. It was perfect in that it included 210 yards and I only needed 200 yards for the last section.

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I’m so happy with how these both came out and I know I’ll have trouble deciding between the two to wear from now on. But they were both very fun projects to work on that helped relax me during stressful times. And I love that color melting allows me to combine yarns from all different dyers and spread my support around. The knitting community has been very tense online lately and I think that we could all use some more unity, which is what these shawls represent to me.

Happy Knitting, everyone!

2019 Christmas Gift Roundup

During the month of January for the past few years, I’ve found myself newly unemployed after coming off of working on a Christmas show. Having missed most of the Christmas celebrations with my family due to work, I usually feel a mix of what I’ll call post seasonal Christmas spirit along with a vivid sense of the stress that came with having to gather gifts for everyone in our family. So I’m that crazy person who works on Christmas gifts starting in January and I’m always grateful to my past self come December. Here is a roundup of what I made everyone in our family for Christmas 2019.

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I tried to be as low waste as possible when it came to wrapping our gifts due to the fear of impending doom caused by Climate Change and also laziness. I bought these Furoshiki wraps while we were in Japan to wrap the gifts for our female family members and I wish I had bought them for all of our gifts because they’re so pretty and easy to use! All of the other wrapping supplies I used were leftover or recycled from previous gifts.

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More attempts at being greener with our gift giving. We gave my aunts and uncles reusable bamboo utensil sets along with these Stowe bags.

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Every year my extended family on my mom’s side does a Secret Santa exchange with a theme. We decided 2019 would be the year of the hat and the online name generator I used drew my own father’s name for me. We like to make it funny when we can and when I came across this print on Spoonflower I knew it was perfect because my dad is known for making an expression that my sister affectionately refers to as “Trout Mouth.” He also blessedly passed this facial expression down to all three of his children.

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I love this backpack I self-drafted for our niece using this corgi drawn by my sister. You can check out her Etsy shop here.

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This year was also my first time participating in an online gift exchange. Jessica of Shop La Mercerie organized it through Instagram and I sent my partner a skein of Early Grey Fiber Co. yarn along with a project bag I made.

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And the final Christmas gift I made wasn’t completed until today. But that’s OK because it’s for my husband and I live with him so I could just hand it to him when I was done. It’s a mash-up of the Negroni shirt by Colette patterns and the Fairfield Button-up by Thread Theory Designs.

 

 

My Rift Tee Plus Knitting Project Bag Tutorial with Free Pattern!

I’ve never understood the point of short sleeved sweaters. Weren’t sweaters supposed to keep you warm? But then I came across Jacqueline Cieslak’s Rift Tee pattern and my life changed. I saw the sneak peaks on Instagram and I knew I had to make it. I had just made her Ursa Sweater and really enjoyed it. It had given me a little bit of difficulty at first because I didn’t understand the half brioche stitch but overall it was such an addicting project I couldn’t put it down. In comparison, the Rift Tee went much smoother for me and was a really easy project to complete fairly quickly. It contained a decent amount of stockinette stitching that kept me occupied on my commute to work for a few days, which is always nice. And knitting in the round is especially good for commute knitting. This sweater also doesn’t take much yarn which my wallet always appreciates. I bought two skeins of Amano Awa yarn in 1108- Cochineal and still had enough left over afterwards to make my nephew a hat. Whoo!

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Here I have it styled over a Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated to show it off. I actually entered this into Mockingbird Fiber Co’s Sweater Knit Along and won! It was a pretty general knit along, with entrants able to make any sweater of their choice in any yarn just as long as it was a finished object. I received my prize in the mail and it is the most gorgeous yarn!

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I also recently made a new project bag using this canvas fabric from Fabrics Wholesale Direct and the best part about it is that it’s waterproof! So I know whatever project I store in here will be safe.

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I carried it around for the first time paired with my Rift Tee and Ogden Cami Dress. It was the perfect outfit to roam around the NJ Sheep and Fiber Festival in during a warm, late summer’s day. Just a side note though, I thought I’d save myself the trouble of carrying my purse by throwing my wallet in my project bag and the shawl I had in there got snagged on it when I went to pay for some of the yarn I bought. I was so frustrated with myself but thankfully was able to fix the snag. Never again will I put my wallet in my project bag though. Anyways, I now understand the point of short sleeved sweaters!

 

The tutorial can be found here and the free pattern can be downloaded below:

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If you use the pattern to make a bag yourself, please tag me in a photo of it @RuddyToCraft on Instagram. It’s been so nice seeing people use the pattern in the past 😊.

Paperbag Waist Skirt Tutorial

A couple weeks ago, I got together with my best sewing friends for a day of fabric shopping, lunch and ice cream. We also went to the farmer’s market and I tried a lame attempt at #posingwithproduce since the squash I bought matched my skirt. To make one of these skirts for yourself, you can find the tutorial I wrote for Fabric Wholesale Direct here.

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