a trip to the fair, or, how to block your knitting without any pins or anything.

just back from another lovely week at the lake, our summer tradition. swimming, knitting, baking, eating, and re-reading evelyn waugh (a new obsession since re-watching the amazing 1981 production of brideshead revisited).

this trip, i pioneered a couple of new methods for blocking!

with no blocking boards, or pins, or any tools at all really, i came up with two methods. for a washcloth: wet it, smoothed it out on a cutting board, covered it with a tea towel, and flattened it with a stack of magazines. later i set it out on a picnic table in the sun to dry completely.

method two, for an alpaca scarf: i was already sitting by the lake when i finished it, so we went for a swim together. then i laid it out along the length of one of the boards - it was the perfect width! - and weighted the corner down with stones, to make sure it wouldn't blow away and be lost forever.

then i treated myself to my annual pedicure while it dried in the sun!

with that done, it was time to get all of our fair entries together. there were many tags to be filled out - i made sure to bring a pile of blanks home, so that next year i can write them in at my leisure. my hand was sore after filling in all the tags.

i did have quite a few entries.

but all's well that ends well. the blocking techniques seem to have worked okay - the designed-in-canada knitalong dishcloth came in second, and the scarf won first prize.

my gloves came in first, too!

here's a better picture:

my pyjama pants won, too! haven't made the top yet, no rush on that as the category is "ladies' sleep pants."

the kid has a full set of prize-winning pyjamas. these will go under the tree on xmas eve.

the argylette cardigan took top prize as well! one of the women accepting the entries joked she might walk off with it!

my "ladies' pullover" was also a hit.

i finished this tea towel at the cottage... a year after starting... can't believe i didn't get a better photo of the finished object! and i left it up at the cottage to fulfil its destiny as a dishdryer, so no photo is likely to be forthcoming. ah well.

i also got a couple of seconds in baking - brownies and shortbread - but no photos.

my mitts took a prize as well.

not everything did though! this hat to go with the mitts? nothing.

and my strawberry jam and pepper jelly were a bust, too.

honestly though? that was entirely expected. i usually overcook jam; this time i overcompensated and undercooked it. and the pepper jelly? well, have a look - the pepper bits are all at the top instead of evenly distributed throughout!

none of my photos won either. but, i did achieve my goal of spreading my wings and entering categories i hadn't tried before. maybe next year!


big stack of entries for the fair!

a few ends to run in, a few photos to mount, but still... a pretty decent collection of fair entries! there will be baking this week as well!


piping and flat-felled seams tutorial!

following the tradition of getting xmas presents underway early enough to enter them in the fair, i just finished a pair of xmas pyjamas for the kiddo. just need to find some buttons and they're done. also did a pair of pyjama pants for myself, top to come later! both were made from cotton flannelette from fabricland. i may be slightly addicted to flannelette.

i have made a zillion pairs of tailored pyjamas, i love them so. kiddo won't wear anything else. the thing that makes them look so smart is the piping and the flat-felled seams. they also make the pyjamas more durable. it's a bit futzy, but i've got my technique down to a science, so i thought i'd do a tutorial.

some of the piping is obvious - the collar for example. sandwich piping between layers of fabric, and sew. but it's the sleeve cuffs that this tutorial focusses on.

note: this tutorial assumes a standrad 5/8" seam allowance. also, to use this technique, you will be applying the piping and cuff before you sew the sleeve/underarm seam.

first, how much hem allowance does your pattern allow? unless you want your sleeves extra-long, trim it off, plus an additional 3/4". for example, if the pattern allows 1 1/4" for the hem, shorten your sleeves by 2".

tear a strip about 2 1/2" or 3" wide along the selvedge edge of your fabric. using the selvedge edge is key: it means one less raw edge to worry about. cut a length of strip the same length as the sleeve hem to use as the cuff. then, cut a length of piping the same length as the sleeve cuff.

sandwich the piping between the sleeve fabric and the cuff strip, lining up the raw edge (not selvedge) of the cuff with the edge of the sleeve, and sew together as you normally would.

then press flat.

next, trim back the excess cord inside the piping pull out about 3/4" of the cord, and snip it off.

pull the fabric smooth so the ends of the cord disappear back into the tube. this will make sewing the seam easier - no lumpy cord to sew through - and the seam will be more neat.

next, pin your sleeve/underarm seam as you normally would, right down to the edge of the cuff. make sure you line up the piping as precisely as possible. sew right to selvedge edge of cuff, leaving a 5/8" seam allowance, and press flat.

snip the seam allowance along the edge of the piping, right up to the seam. then trim the seam allowance on one side of the sleeve to 1/4". leave the other seam allowance, and the seam allowances on the cuff, untrimmed.

press the seam allowances on the cuff open, and the sleeve seam allowances to one side.

fold the wider seam allowance around the trimmed seam allowance, and pin down. all the raw edges of the sleeve seam should be neatly enclosed.

sew this folded edge down against the sleeve. on the right side, this will appear as top-stitching.

almost there!

next, fold the cuff up, just overlapping the sewing line for the piping with the selvedge edge. make sure to line them up well.

on the right side, edge stitch along the piping, going through both layers of the cuff to secure it in place.

now, the selvedge edge of the cuff neatly covers all of the raw edges on the inside...

... while you have a neatly trimmed cuff on the outside!

it's not difficult once you get the hang of it, and in addition to giving a tailored finish, it finishes all raw edges using the machine - no hand-finishing required. i use this method to cuff the legs on pyjama bottoms, too.