Knitting A Scrap Yarn and Flannel Blanket

Standard

Over the summer, I started two scrap yarn knitting projects as a means to clear out my growing stash of leftover yarn, (see Knitting With Scrap Yarn). The first blanket turned out great and my little dog is snuggling up in it every night.

The start of the school year pushed my second project, the Maxi Cosi Blanket, to the sidelines for a spell, but I’ve finally finished it. In many ways, I think it turned out better than the first. The smaller size gave me a great opportunity to experiment with a new finishing technique for knitted blankets.

After blocking the blanket came out at 25″ x 27″. This turned out to be a perfect size for a little corner of the bed where my cat likes to sleep. She’s already claimed it as her own!

full-blanket-1

The yarn came from four different partial skeins leftover from two hats, a scarf, a cowl, and a pair of socks. I let the amount of yarn dictate stripe size, however I was careful with the oatmeal color so I could carry it all the way through end to end, (I only came up 3 rows short, which I supplemented with a cream-colored yarn scrap I thankfully had stashed!).

For finishing, I decided to add a flannel backing. I saw the technique on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. Luckily, my local craft store was having a sale on flannel fabric and it just so happened to have the perfect print. It was meant to be!

flannel-backing

To attach the flannel and keep it from “tenting,” I employed an old quilting technique (thanks for reminding me, mom!) of using yarn ties. Once again, I went to my leftover yarn stash and found a great partial skein of variegated woodsy colors.

The grid  of the knitted pattern made it easy to space yarn ties about 2″ apart. First, I tacked the flannel to the blanket using safety pins to mark where the ties would go. I worked from the center out to the edges. Second, I loaded a yarn needle with a double-strand segment of yarn. I came up through the bottom (the flannel side) and back down through the top (the knitted side), making as small a stitch as possible in the garter stitch sections of the blanket. This hid the yarn tie on the front and added the tie detail to the flannel backing. Lastly, I tied each section and clipped the ends.

To secure the edges, I sewed a basic blanket stitch using DMC pearl cotton embroidery thread. This thread is thick and sturdy, which makes it perfect for stitching together folded flannel and worsted weight knitted yarn.

blanket-stitch-detail

The result is a smooth edge that is decorative and not bulky. The edges are fully secure and the stitch adds to the rustic quality of the pattern and flannel print.

Not bad for scrap yarn, eh? See what’s hiding in your leftover yarn stash – it’s amazing what you can make with even the smallest scraps of yarn!

Happy Knitting!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Sometimes You Get Lucky

Standard

It’s rare, but every once in a while there’s a motivated seller on eBay  that has exactly what you’re looking for at the right price. In my case, I found two motivated sellers that had the two halves to a complete outfit.

A classic vintage Barbie fashion known as Red Flare includes a red velvet, white satin-lined coat. I’ve been drooling over it for a while, but never thought I could afford one in good enough shape (velvet and satin are hard to restore!)

51f1d764d1a866826ae2936ec8c3b19a

While perusing vintage Barbie fashion on eBay, I came across a listing for Red Flare. Not only was the coat in near perfect condition, but the set was complete with the hat, purse, gloves, and even the shoes!

Aside from the completeness of the ensemble, the price caught my eye – only $17.99. I pounced. While it’s more than I usually spend on vintage Barbie clothes, it was too good a deal to pass up. Everything is in absolute perfect condition and required zero restoration. Sometimes luck is on your side as a vintage collector!

Still, Red Flare is simply a well-accessorized coat. Barbie needs a dress to go with that coat!  The fashion, Silken Flame is often paired with Red Flare as it is a white satin and red velvet cocktail dress.

286e46be1acead61463ab267b7b7aefd.jpg

A few days of searching lead to an amazing deal. It turns out a seller decided to have a clearance sale and they marked the dress down to $6.76. It was a little wrinkled and missing a snap, but no stains, (that’s huge for satin), and no red fading into the white satin (also huge as that’s not really fixable). No accessories were included, but that didn’t matter to me because I already had shoes and a purse!

The satin skirt has obviously been smashed in storage for a long time – the most notable fold across the entire skirt proved to be stubborn.

20160725_103354-1

Regardless, the satin was stain free which meant all I really needed to do was give it a good ironing. I used a combination of steam ironing and spraying the wrinkled areas with water. The combination of heat, steam, and a soaked surface  pressed those wrinkles right out!

20160726_115632-1

My Barbie is looking pretty good for a night on the town in her new coat and cocktail dress!

evening-flame-fashion

 

Who says vintage collecting has to be difficult or labor intensive? Sometimes the stars align and your doll ends up in a stunning ensemble thanks to a little patience and a lot of luck!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Suburban Shopper

Standard

8d857822cbed851a0f1189ae12cc5911One of the more popular and sought after vintage Barbie Fashions is Suburban Shopper (#969, 1959-1964). The dress alone in good condition can run about $25 and up. Add in the accessories (phone, hat, shopping basket, necklace and shoes) and the price jumps to $50 or even $100. For a budget conscious collector such as myself, these prices are far beyond what I will spend!

So off I went in search of a TLC Suburban Shopper. It was clear from the start, that I’d have to let go of the accessories – they are hard to find and often expensive.

Instead, I focused on finding a TLC dress. Seeing as this is a popular fashion that was in production for five years, finding it isn’t too difficult. However, it can be pricey because there is a strong demand for this particular fashion. I ended up finding one in pretty rough shape for the bargain price of $5. Let the TLC games, begin!

The front of the dress was covered in brown age stains and a couple of unidentified dark spots on the white stripes (of course!).

Suburban Shopper Front_Before

To make matters worse, the stitches of a bad previous repair job can be seen along the bodice dart seams and the skirt/bodice seam.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_Before

The back of the dress is just as bad as the front. Dark stains (likely rust) hover around the zipper.

Suburban Shopper Back_Before

It only gets worse on the inside of the dress. One of the straps has fallen victim to a bad repair job. A wad of stitches going every which way actually shortens the strap to an ill-fitting length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_Before

The bodice/skirt seam was also “repaired” with another wad of stitching. The stitching is so bulky, the waist doesn’t fit on the doll – one side shifts up at an angle.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_Before

It’s as bad as it looks! However, some needle and thread, along with a good washing turned this disaster of a dress into something really special.

The Brown Age Stains

Luckily, the brown stains covering most of the dress came out with just a basic treatment. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and peroxide for two hours. Then, I laid it out to dry in direct sunlight. I repeated this process three times and the stains completely disappeared. All that was left behind were the darker spots.

The Dark Spots

It’s usually not recommend to use bleach on vintage fabrics, but the dark spots were pretty stubborn. Seeing as they were on the white stripes, (and I’d only be out $5 if this didn’t work!), I decided to chance a bleach treatment. I dabbed each spot with a Q-tip lightly loaded with diluted bleach.

I repeated the process until the spots started to lighten, all the while careful not to bleed the bleach onto the blue stripes. After the last dabbing, I gave it a good rinse and dried the dress in direct sunlight.  By some miracle, the spots were completely gone!

Bodice Dart “Repair”

To fix the previous poor repair, I carefully removed the stitches with a seam ripper. I found a small hole in the bodice dart and also realized one bodice dart was shorter than the other. Both problems were solved with a simple straight stitch along the dart seam, plus a few extra stitches to even out the length difference.

Strap “Repair”

Ripping out the previous repair stitches was quite the chore. Removing a “pile” of stitches poses the risk of accidentally tearing the fabric – especially on more fragile vintage fabric. I took my time and removed one layer of stitches at a time.

Once the stitches were gone, I could actually see the original sew line of factory stitches! That made my job a lot easier. I simply lined up the the sew line to the bodice seam allowance and stitched the strap back into place.

There were some strange stitches running down the zipper flap, but I decided to leave them in as they aren’t effecting the look of the dress or the fit. They’ll just be part of this dress’s story!

Bodice/Skirt Seam “Repair”

Oh, this was a mess. The wad of stitching took more than an hour to pick out. I had to be even more careful about not tearing the fabric because of the added bonus of gathers. Gathered fabric often has a separate line of stitches aside from the seam. If this was the case, I wanted to be sure to preserve as much of the original stitches as possible.

Underneath the wad, I found a mostly intact original seam. There was just a small hole that required only a few stitches to fix. I am baffled as to why it was previously repaired with a mountain of thread!

The end result was far more than I expected for my $5 purchase. It’s amazing what a few basic sewing skills and good washing can do!

Here’s the front of the dress after repairs and a visit with a steam iron. The stains are gone and all seams are fully restored.

Suburban Shopper Front_After

The bodice looks a lot better with properly repaired darts.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_After

The back of the dress also looks pretty good!

Suburban Shopper Back_After

My repair on the strap is hard to see, just as a repair should be! No more wadded stitching and the strap is now at its correct length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_After

My repair on the waist seam blends right into the original seam. Without that wad of stitches, the waist once again fits the doll.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_After

Perhaps one day I’ll piece together the accessories for my Suburban Shopper fashion, but until then I’ll just enjoy how pretty my Bubblecut Barbie looks in her restored dress.

Suburban Shopper Dress

More Vintage TLC projects are in the works. I recently got my hands on an Enchanted Evening gown (#983, 1960-63) and Movie Date (#933, 1962-63). Stay tuned for more vintage fun!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Cotton Casual Dress

Standard

Collecting vintage Barbie dolls and fashions can get very expensive, but it’s not impossible for collectors on a budget to join in the fun. All it takes is a little patience and willingness to do some restoration work on vintage items that have seen better days.

Over the summer, I picked up a few vintage Barbie dresses that were in pretty bad shape. We’re talking bad stains, tears, holes, and previous repairs that did not go well. In short, they were disasters that desperately needed some TLC. Luckily, I have plenty of TLC to give.

One of the dresses I bought is Cotton Casual #912, (1959-1962).

85fa01a2e5b2ce871c341d812241cacf

This is a fairly common vintage Barbie dress, but it can still go for $25-35 if it’s in mint or near mint condition. That’s a little over my price limit, so I found one in TLC condition for $9.

Cotton Casual Front_Before

The front is in pretty sorry shape. The ribbons are frayed and no longer tied into bows and there’s a massive stain covering most of the skirt.

Then, there’s a hole in the bodice seam.

Cotton Casual Bodice Hole

The back of the dress sees a continuation of the same dark stain that plagues the front.

Cotton Casual Back_Before

On the plus side, the snaps are original and still secure, all hems have original stitching with no fraying, the gathered waist seam is intact, and the original Mattel tag is in place.

I know it looks bad, but a few little repairs transformed this dress from a stained mess to something bright and beautiful.

The Stain

This was the scariest part of the whole restoration process. The stain was dark and bled all the way through the fabric (it even went through the doubled up hem). At minimum the dress is 54 years old, so who knows what that stain is or how it got there.

I decided to try a basic stain removing sequence for vintage fabric. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide for two hours. Then, I set it out in direct sunlight until it dried,  (sunlight and hydrogen peroxide are gentle bleaching agents). I repeated this sequence four times and managed to get the stain to lighten several shades. Still, it wasn’t enough.

Finally, I soaked it one more time in Vintage Textile Soak for four hours. Then, I laid it out to dry inside (the package instructions warn not to put items in direct sunlight after using the product). This did the trick! The stain is nearly gone and only visible if you know where to look for it.

The Bodice Seam

The hole in the bodice seam was tricky in that it reached all the way down to the gathered waist seam. Repairing it with a running stitch would mean ripping out all the original stitching along the waist seam. Instead, I decided a simple whip stitch on the bodice seam inside of the dress would fix the hole just as well.

The Ribbons

In it’s original form, the ribbons on the bodice were tied into bows. Unfortunately, the ribbons on my dress have frayed to a length much too short to retie. To fix this, I had two choices: 1. Replace the ribbons with new ones 2. Attempt to sew the ribbons to look like bows.

I ended up going with Option 2, because I believe in keeping as much as the original dress in place as possible. I shaped each ribbon into a bow and sewed the center with a reinforced stitch. It took a few tries, but the result turned out better than expected.

After some patience, creative solutions, and a steam iron, my $9 Cotton Casual looks amazing…

Here’s, the front of the dress with restored bows and a repaired bodice seam. However, the biggest difference is the absence of that bad stain.

Cotton Casual Front After

The back of the dress looks just as good. The stain is mostly gone!

Cotton Casual Back After

Who knew a little TLC could go so far … My Bubblecut Barbie is looking pretty good in her Cotton Casual dress.

Cotton Casual Doll After

This is just the beginning! The restoration process is ongoing with several other TLC vintage fashions. Stay tuned!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Poetic Strategy

Standard

Last night, my husband asked me out of the blue, “How do you write your poetry?” Well, that’s a loaded question! It largely depends on what kind of poetry I’m writing.

My chosen forms of poetry are haiku, black out, and free verse. It’s no accident that each of the forms has a certain amount of freedom and spontaneity involved. I like the concept of having no idea what a poem is going to be until it is finished. Perhaps it’s my trust in my muse or maybe I just like to be surprised!

Haiku is the most structured form I write, but I ignore the 17-syllable rule completely. Instead, I favor the modern english language haiku where the focus is less on syllable count and more on capturing a moment (as per the Japanese tradition). I prefer to keep my haiku under 13 syllables, but it’s not a steadfast rule.

The appealing element of haiku for me is the focus on a singular moment. All I have to do is look up or conjure a memory of somewhere I’ve been and the words just come. Rarely, do I need more than a few minutes to compose a haiku and it’s always amazing to me that they come so fast.

Overthinking haiku almost diminishes the purpose of a form that is so rooted in Zen. It’s about being one with nature, a moment, or a feeling. If you think too hard, you miss the point.

Black out poetry is very similar. While Zen isn’t the central influence, the idea of singling a few words out of a page of text requires a little selective observation. They key is choosing just a few words that string together. Too many muddles the poem into a long piece of verse that doesn’t make sense. Or worse, the “poem” becomes an overwritten mess!  I liken it to a student highlighting an entire page of text instead of just the important sections!

You have to let go of the instinct to circle every single interesting word. In many ways, it’s a lesson in letting things go and making decisions without fear. Overthinking it makes it impossible to single out the words that work the best together.

For years, free verse was my chosen (non)form. The lack of rules made poetry seem far less daunting. To a certain extent, I still enjoy writing free verse. However, it does take me longer to compose than haiku or black out. The lack of rules is very liberating, but it also widens the field of inspiration and possibilities which can be overwhelming.

No matter what kind of poem I’m writing, I employ one simple strategy: trust my muse. I don’t try to force anything or rack my brain trying to write the perfect poem. The words always come if I just breathe and trust myself to find them.

– – –

c.b.w. 2016