The Water Day Declaration and The Swearsuit

Frances: Tomorrow is Water Day.

Me: Water Day? What’s that?

Frances: We’ll spend a couple of periods doing water games and things.

Me: Oh! That sounds like fun.

Frances: Yeah, so I’ll need you to finish that swimsuit for me.

[pause]

Me: And you couldn’t have shared this with me before?

Frances: Well, I could have, but I forgot.


So.

I made a swimsuit.

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Of a fashion.

The pattern came from the summer 2015 issue of Ottobre–the one piece, with modifications for fit. The fabric was a mystery blend on discount from Fabricland, bought to make a cheap experimental version before the “real” one.

The pattern was fantastic, which I’ve come to expect from Ottobre; the fabric was fine; the whole thing sewed up well and I was pretty gobsmacked at how well the modifications worked. Frances hasn’t had a swimsuit that fits well for many years–the ones in the stores do not work for her at all, which is why I was making one in the first place.

I made a few tweaks to the cut of the legs, and that’s where it stood until the Water Day Declaration. All I had left to do was the hemming.

Instructions: “Sew 1/4″ clear elastic to the openings, then turn to the inside and coverstitch.”

1/4″ clear elastic sewn to the openings: check. Took maybe 25 minutes.

Coverstitch: …

… Houston, we have a problem.

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The looper stitches were a disaster. Nothing caught. The second line of stitching completely unraveled at the first touch on the two hems I first sewed, leaving little blue loops in the inside and an incredibly snug first line of stitching that had to be ripped out, one by one, taking forever.

Now, one of the things I love about having friends who sew, is when they share gems like this on social media (this one courtesy of Laura):

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This gives you a pretty good idea of what it was like in my dining room that night. Only more colourful. There may have been hitting of the coverstitch machine (I hear that helps).

I undid the stitches; reset the threads; the lower looper unthreaded itself and I’d go a whole seam without stitches. Or none of the second line of stitching would catch at all and I’d have a really ugly line of chainstitches.

I spent more time ripping out the fucked-up coverstitches than I had spent to that point making the suit in its entirety.

Eventually, I picked up the machine and removed it to the laundry room before I gave in to the mounting impulse to toss it into the backyard. (Dew also helps, I’ve been told.)

Ripped out all the stitches again, thus stretching out the spandex along the edges something fierce, and hemmed it using the zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine.

Took 25 minutes. And it doesn’t look as nice as it would have if it had been coverstitched properly, but since proper cover-stitching was clearly impossible, it looks a hell of a lot better than the available alternatives.

Of course, with the hems all stretched out from the repeated sew-and-rip, I had to perform emergency tweaks to the seams to tug them back in a bit. No idea if it worked or not as Frances was asleep by that point (swearing at and pounding sewing machines helps children fall asleep–try it!) and she had to bring it to school the next morning. Since then it’s also accompanied her on a camping trip, but I still haven’t seen her wearing it; she says it’s “fine.” She is 12. These days, everything is “fine.”

Also, my coverstitch machine is likely going to be taking a trip back to the dealer, accompanied by some strong words, to see if they can figure out what in god’s name is wrong with the damned looper.

Burda

Remember that sheath dress I made a while back?

It didn’t work out. The flowers didn’t make it through the first wash, and when I removed them, I was confronted with the inescapable reality that the neckline had stretched out during sewing and could not be repaired.

Sad but true.

Happily: I had enough of that lovely silk-linen fabric left over to make a decent skirt. And here it is.

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It’s the first ever garment I’ve made from a Burda magazine. Yes, I got a subscription. Alone out of all of my tech-loving sewmies, I hate pdf downloads. I hate buying them, I hate printing them, I hate worrying about the scale, I hate taping them together, I hate cutting them out once they’ve been taped, and I hate trying to store them afterwards. I would rather trace out a grayscale labyrinthian pattern sheet any day, if it saves me from the horror of the pdf download.

(I said horror, and I’ll say it again if I want to. Horror. See? I’ll keep it up, too, if I have to.)

It’s skirt 101A from the 3/2016 issue. It’s got a deep box pleat in the front, and is otherwise a simple a-line shape. And it’s got a cool extra-wide hem band at the bottom, which gives it a bit more weight and body.

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Technically, it also has welt pockets, but I opted to omit those. I can hardly imagine how I would have botched the whole thing if I’d attempted to put them in, with my focus being what it is at the moment.

I drafted a lining for it as the silk-linen is loosely woven and a bit translucent on its own. You wouldn’t think so, since it’s not thin, but it is. The zipper is supposed to go on the side, but I put it on the back, and I used a wooden button at the waistband for the closure.

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The Side, with extra helpings of linen wrinkles. I did so iron it. I would also like to thank Nikon for making me look as if I have a sunburn in this photograph. I was actually sporting my typical winter pallor.

It was entirely unexceptional and unexciting. The pattern went together nicely and everything fit. The skirt is comfortable and just different enough to be worth making. The fabric is lovely and I enjoy petting it every time–silk linen! All the waxy stiffness of linen somehow combined with the softness and sheen of silk. It’s a technological miracle.

winner of the slow fashion olympics

Years ago–really–I started this skirt.

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No I’m so fascinated, please tell me more!

I bought the linen, cut out the pieces, dyed the trim with cochineal, in 2014.

I thought about embroidering it.

Then I sewed it up.

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The Back, with bow. You can see the shadow of the insertion stitches on my legs. ! You can also see a metric fuckton of wrinkles. Ugh, linen.

Thinking about embroidering it took about two years.

Continue reading winner of the slow fashion olympics

V8997 NO BOYS ALLOWED

I made a thing.

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Yet another make of V8997–this one colour-blocked, per the advice of FaceBook. And pegged a bit at the bottom, which would have helped the other one a lot, too.

Dear Readers–

I wish I could say the return to garment sewing was a triumphant and unvarnished success.

I guess I could say that, but it would be a lie.

The truth is, I made so many mistakes cutting out the pieces, I have enough cut pieces to make a second dress. It wouldn’t fit, nor would it cover my bra straps, but it would be a complete garment.

Continue reading V8997 NO BOYS ALLOWED

little snugly bee eaters

They are just the cutest. Aren’t they just the cutest? Look at the cute. Two itty bitty birds being all cuddly on a branch.

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You can see why this was the companion piece for the LOVE cross-stitch. Dear Readers, if these two birds don’t love each other, I’ll eat my tea mug.

It’s a Trish Burr pattern from her book, Colour Confidence in Embroidery. Most of the book is an in-depth discussion of how to achieve shading effects in thread-painting, with examples of different kinds and colours of shading used in different ways. I expect it will be an enormously useful reference book basically forever. It also has a smaller section of thread-painting projects in the back, sorted by colour, to demonstrate the shading. This was one of those (it’s also a variation on the project she uses on the front page of her website, if you want to click through and see how a real expert does it).

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The top fabric is a scrap of the cotton satin I used for my math skirt last summer; it has a lovely, subtle sheen. The backing fabric, underlined in the standard method, is a stiff white cotton muslin. They were then stretched taut in the kind of plastic hoop frame that has an inner groove to prevent things from slipping. I used a standard pencil to trace the pattern; next time I’ll use a mechanical to get a finer line. Don’t try to erase a mistake. The eraser left a larger mark on my fabric than the misplaced pencil did.

Having finally tried a project from this book, a review:

The picture to trace to the fabric worked, but could have been better labelled. What’s labelled as the “neck” on the diagram, when you actually get into the instructions, is actually the upper part of the chest. A couple of things are a slightly different size or angle from the pattern diagram to her finished example. I’m assuming that’s simply because she took one of her own finished works, made for herself, and reverse-engineered it for publication. You’d expect a few differences to creep in. None of the errors are significant, but do be prepared for an inconsistency here and there.

More concerning, the colours are represented in the book’s photography don’t always match the colours in the embroidery flosses she tells the reader to use. They’re close; it’s not like the picture shows purple and you buy the thread# she says and it turns out to be green. But going by the project photography, I was expecting something with a warmer tint throughout than what I got by following the instructions. Whether or how this will affect the usefulness of the prior section on colour shading (all of which also has photographs and thread#s) I can’t yet say.

I also learned some things that I shouldn’t have needed to learn because I knew them already and chose to disregard them:

  • Will your clean hands leave oil marks and stains on the white fabric? Yes.
  • Will you be able to wash those stains out afterwards? No.
  • Will they respond to bleach? Also no.
  • When you wash it, will the top fabric and the backing fabric shrink differently, even though they have been pre-washed? Quite possibly.
  • Will you curse yourself for having ignored the recommendations for avoiding these, after having spent so many hours making it? Absolutely.
  • Next time, will you promise to cover the project with white tissue paper when you’re not working on it, and when you handle the frame, will you do so with a piece of clean, plain white cotton between your hand and the project? Yes. A million times yes. And then yes some more.

ig be

It’s still a nice project, but I’m kicking myself for not having taken these minor extra steps to prevent this from happening. And I’ve learned my lesson. Next time (and there will be a next time; I’m definitely a thread-painting addict now)–fabric protection! Very key!

At any rate, it has been framed and added to the wall and our sofa is cuter than ever.

Butterfly Bookmark (aka Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday Aunt Sue)

The is the long sad tale of a bookmark that was supposed to be a Christmas present, and ended up being a late birthday present instead.

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Fully aware of the wonky corners. I swear they were straight as a pin until I got them under the presser foot.

Meet my Aunt Sue.

She loves to read, and if the gifts she’s accumulated in her house over many decades are any guide, she loves little embroidered things.

Either that, or people have been giving them to her for years and she’s been too nice to say she hates them. In which case, I have added to her stockpile of unwanted embroidered things, and I apologize.

The bookmark project is from Inspirations magazine. (Issue #82 if you’re trying to track it down.)

bookmark
What it was supposed to look liked, plus the accompanying needlebook project.

Being me, I couldn’t leave the directions alone, and had to “improve” upon them. I did this in two ways: 1) The use of hand-dyed linen instead of the white irish linen recommended, and 2) using a bit of buckram in the middle to stiffen it, instead of cardstock or stiff paper.

The linen was maybe not the best choice. This was a piece from the bug juice test dyeing of a few years back, and it is a lovely shade of pink (Aunt Sue, please don’t think about it being stained with the blood of dead lady cactus beetles). The colour contrasts quite well with the butterfly colours. But the linen is quite fine which, while perfect for less heavy embroidery, turned out to be a challenge for thread painting. There is so much thread and it is so thickly layered, and it’s hard to be precise with needle placement when the fabric warp and weft are placed rather spaciously. I think it turned out ok, but it could have been better, for sure.

Post-surgical intervention
Post-surgical intervention

The buckram would have been a fantastic idea, if I’d remembered about turn of cloth and not cut out a piece exactly as big as the finished bookmark. Once I’d sewn it together, flipped it around, and then topstitched it flat, it buckled in the middle something fierce. Very disappointing.

I got that far just before Christmas but couldn’t bring myself to mail a wobbly bookmark to my Aunt.

And there it sat for three months.

Just before her birthday I finally straightened my head out, took out the seams, removed the buckram, cut off a quarter inch from the top and one side, put the buckram back in, and sewed it all up again, after pressing as many of the creases out as I could. So much better. Now it’s smooth and much less wonky looking.

 

I know some people are big fans of wonky but it’s not a look that works well with thread painting.

In its new home, sporting a new ribbon.
In its new home, sporting a new ribbon.

Anyway.

Aunt Sue is a lovely, warm-hearted, generous, and unbelievably positive woman with a kind word for everyone and a possibly limitless capacity for forgiveness. It was a lot of fun to make her a little something. Here’s hoping the next time I do, I’ll remember to mail it before at least one of its intended celebrations.

Positive Self-Talk Via Cross-Stitch, Hurrah!

I read a number of years ago in Snoop that motivational posters are essentially a form of self-talk, and one of the most reliable external indicators of a neurotic temperament. Science. Gotta love it. Apparently people buy them, not to communicate to other people their commitment to Excellence or Overcoming Fear or Success, but to remind themselves of the kinds of people they want to be.

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Just for giggles.

It made me incredibly insecure about anything that might be considered a motivational poster in any of my spaces. Oh my god. I’m advertising my neuroticism. Laying bare my inadequacies for the viewing pleasure of any passing pizza delivery person.

One exception to this rule has been this poster:

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Proudly displayed right above the sofa, for many years now. Except at Christmas when it’s replaced by a seasonal cross-stitch. Anyway:

Backstory is that our former PM, Harper, had a very anti-science and secretive attitude, and this artist, Franke James, was outright censored by the government for her views on climate change. You can read her story elsewhere, but James put together a series of posters and stickers, and a really funny book, about her experiences. And this is one of those posters. (I also have the book. Worth reading.)

True to Snoop form, it is of course a statement to myself of the kind of person I want to be: committed to environmental values, willing to take an unpopular stand to communicate my commitment to environmental values.

But since the election of Justin Trudeau in the fall, it is also out of date.

Cue parade, streamers, marching band. Hurray! So glad it’s out of date!

This meant it needed to be replaced. And the sooner the better. I don’t want to have to look at any Harper Era reminders for any longer than I have to.

It’s been replaced by this:

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Just a minor shift in tone.

Soon to be joined by the most adorable little threadpainting. It’s going to be a corner of nauseating sweetness. Frances and I will snuggle up with Simba and talk about our days under a nice little “LOVE” banner (plus the threadpainting), possibly while using the critter cuddle quilt. Maybe I’ll call it the Saccharine Seat.

The backing fabric is a hand-dyed aida bought at Gitta’s Charted Petit Point (favourite embroidery store in the known universe, Dear Readers. Did you know you can buy embroidery fabric off the bolt?). What I love about hand-dyed aida is, well, first off the colours are fabulous, but I also find the slight mottling introduced by the hand-dyeing process tricks the eye into seeing it as a regular fabric, at least from certain distances, rather than a grid.

Never let it be said that I lack self-awareness, Dear Readers. (Though it’s true sometimes.)

I could say I made it just because of how wonderfully the colours work with the grey-blue walls. I love the contrast between warm and cool. Give me a room to decorate, I’ll put a warm or cool colour on the walls, and then the opposite for the furniture and fixings. And the golds in the cross-stitch work so well with the golds in all the other art hung over the couch.

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Not sure that I love that the one in the middle is the only one with so much white in it. Might be a smidge too heavy. Hmm.

And I could talk about how mentally I have just not been up for sewing. The massive purge has contributed, yes–but even then. Sewing (even pouches and tote bags) requires a kind of focus and concentration I haven’t had much of. Whereas cross stitch is like paint by numbers on fabric. You can set yourself up on the sofa with something on the TV and just plug away, one little x at a time, and as long as you count correctly, you’ll end up with something gorgeous. But that begs a whole other question, doesn’t it?

The TV appears to be important, because otherwise I end up fruitlessly ruminating on unhappy memories.

And you don’t want to hear about it, but fruitlessly ruminating over unhappy memories is, in the main, incompatible with a hobby that requires focus, concentration, some math, and the use of machines with strong engines and sharp edges. An easy, mindless project that can be carried out on the couch while watching sci-fi shows is much more the thing.

According to WordPress I’ve written about 25 versions of the rest of this post. Not that I’m indecisive or anything, but apparently I can’t decide how to end this. Dear Readers, let’s try #26:


 

Once upon a time, a young girl at daycare stared, puzzled, at a boy who was sobbing brokenheartedly as his mother left. “Why would you cry,” she wondered, “just because your mother is leaving?”

She thought about this hard all day, but her thinking brought her no closer to an answer. She decided to try this for herself, the next time her mother dropped her off there, and she did. Wailed. Her mother left and the daycare workers comforted her. “Nope,” she thought. “I still don’t get it.”

She would never cry for missing her mother. Not once, in her entire life. There was nothing to miss. Her relationship with her mother was like a three-prong electrical cord trying to fit into a two-prong outlet, like the outline of where a person should be.   Fear, anger, and sadness were subject to evaluation and her reasons for being scared, sad or angry were never good enough. Eventually nothing would make her cry–not disease, not death–not where anyone could see, but she suspects the jewelry box she hid a scalpel and a bottle of aspirin in is probably still in storage with the rest of her childhood things.

One day she would find herself in a psychologist’s office, after having made so many mistakes that she could no longer chalk them up to circumstance, and realizing that she didn’t know what to do with her life except try to fit three-prong electrical cords into two-prong outlets. That psychologist would have a number of things to say, like, “I don’t know why you still have a relationship with those people,” and “Asking why is pointless. A doormat can ask the feet that walk on it for a million years why they’re walking on it. If it really doesn’t want to be walked on, it needs to roll itself up and go under the chair,” and “You are more disconnected from your emotions than anyone I’ve ever met.”

A lot of it wouldn’t make any sense at the time, but would become clearer as the years passed, until she was able to say to herself, “I don’t know why I have a relationship with these people either.” Until she became the kind of person who regularly wore waterproof mascara and carried kleenex in her purse, who was teased by her daughter for crying at everything. Who learned that crazy doesn’t look like crazy from the inside, that the people closest to a situation often see it least clearly, that children normalize whatever it is they’ve grown up with. That Philip Larkin is at least a little bit wrong, and so are The Clod and The Pebble.

That people who have grown up in houses with empty outlines instead of people develop a sense of humour that is quite distinct and often not appreciated, and she could find her tribe by telling a joke and seeing who laughs.

That people only change when they want to, and they almost never want to. Dragged  to the edge of a cliff, held  by the collar of their shirt over the edge, while life says “change or die.” They’d rather fall. They do fall, reciting a litany of reasons why falling was inevitable, why falling isn’t actually falling, why they’re falling up instead of down, why actually everyone is falling and those clowns standing there looking so smug are falling too even if they won’t admit it. It was a kind of gift, she knows, to have been dragged to the right cliff at just the right time. It wasn’t a given.

Eventually plenty of tears would be shed over what should have filled that outline–the words, gestures, and expressions that might have existed, but didn’t–a kind of meta-missing. Like missing a friend you’ve never had. A country you’ve never seen. But decades of looking for what wasn’t and couldn’t be there would eventually drive home the point that if it was to be found, it would need to be found elsewhere; and that regardless, it would need to be begged, borrowed, stolen, bought, or created out of popsicle sticks and duct tape, for her daughter.

(That part didn’t turn out to be so hard. Her daughter is pretty lovable.)

 

Rectangles in Suede (sort of)

I don’t post for months, and then when I do, I go ahead and post a Scout.

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A Scout.

Surely you’ve seen three million Scouts already.

And now you’ve seen one more!

This was a shirt inspired by a fabric–a very light, double-sided faux suede with a lot of stretch and a lot of drape. I spent a lot of time looking at suede shirts, real and fake, on the internet (probably more time than I spent actually making the shirt), and decided that I liked the look of loose, boxy tops more than button-up shirts for this fabric.

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I didn’t have a single loose, boxy top pattern–how is that possible?–so I picked up the Scout and altered it to be even looser and more boxy, primarily by dropping the armscye and lengthening and widening the sleeve. There’s clearly no concern about fitting with something like this, so as long as the shoulders were in the right place, and the bust wasn’t snug, I considered it a success.

For something so basic, it’s been getting a ton of wear, usually on casual Fridays in the office.

As a matter of fact, this is pretty much exactly how I look on casual Fridays.
As a matter of fact, this is pretty much exactly how I look on casual Fridays.

This is exactly three rectangles joined at the shoulder. But that’s what I wanted, so I’m counting it as a success.

Let’s Stereotype!

One of my favourite things about the internet is that everywhere, you can find articles, posts and memes about different kinds of people.

Right? You’ve seen a million of these.

Now I am going to embark on my own gross over-generalization:

There are two kinds of sewing bloggers:

Sewing bloggers who like to sew.

Sewing bloggers who like to make things.

Sewing bloggers only sew. Their sewing may even be incredibly specific: authentic medieval costumes, say. Cosplay outfits for conventions. Knit t-shirts.

Sewing-bloggers-who-like-to-make-things may blog primarily or exclusively about their sewing, but if you visited their home, you’d see an enormous crafting stash for everything from candle-making to wood-carving to books on constructing custom rocket-ships for “someday.” Do I get to make it with my hands? Does it involve fun toys and the chance to accumulate highly specialized tools you can really only use for one thing? Fantastic! Sign me up!

I am part of the second crowd. I cook, bake, make candles, sew, embroider, occasionally refinish furniture, make cards, carve stamps, draw, paint, make things out of old books, take photographs, do calligraphy and hand-lettering from time to time, crochet, have sadly neglected knitting supplies, dye things, etc. Basically, if it’s an object that can be made by hand rather than by machine, I’d prefer to.

It’s really fairly hopeless.

There are also two kinds of sewing blog readers, I’ve found.

Those who are only interested in reading about sewing. They will turn away if a blogger starts blogging about something other than sewing, or even something other than sewing what they used to sew (such as when a sewing blogger has a baby and starts sewing baby clothes).

Those who are mostly interested in the person doing the sewing, and will happily keep reading even when sewing is not the only subject of posts.

Which are you, Dear Readers? What do you look for in your bloggingness, either as a blogger or reader (or both)?

This is Not a Stowe

The Market Tote bag as made up in the book. Yes ok, theirs is prettier. But I like my owls. See in link: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/2011/06/23/in-praise-of-totes/

This is the Market Tote bag from 1, 2, 3, Sew. I made two, a stash-busting project to use up the laminated owl-print cotton I bought years ago to make bags, and then didn’t.

The book contains 33 projects, most with full-size paper patterns included. And the Market Tote bag is better than the Stowe.

For one thing, it’s fully lined. And for another, the contrasting panels make for a more interesting design.

Because it’s lined, should you want to add interior pockets, you can do so without the stitching showing through to the outside. It’s also tougher. The book recommends burlap and cotton outers with a canvas lining, but I imagine you could use about any kind of fabric you like, so long as either the lining or the outer fabric is canvas-weight. Regardless, it’s two fabric thicknesses, which is nice and durable.

On these, in addition to the laminated cotton used on the outer bottom, I used a medium-weight linen in a coordinating colour for the top, and lined it with a heavy canvas. They are sturdy, tough bags that carry a lot of groceries. And because the bottom is laminated, I can put these on the ground if I need to.

Also, Simba approves. Or maybe he just smells the port.
Also, Simba approves. Or maybe he just smells the pork.

The instructions are fairly clear and the bag sews up quickly. The only downside–and I imagine this would apply to a bag with any similar profile, including the Stowe–is that it uses up a lot of fabric. Most tote bags are made out of an assemblage of rectangles, which means you can jigsaw the pattern pieces around on the fabric to get the best fit and stretch the fabric farther. When the handle is cut on to the bag with all the swoopy curves and such, you can’t do this. It uses a surprising yardage and the leftovers are odd shapes that are difficult to use for other projects.

The other downside is that the lining piece appears to me to be a bit longer than the exterior. Double-check before you sew them together to make sure you won’t have lining puddling in the bottom of the bag, just in case. 1, 2, 3, Sew does have issues with their projects in measurements of pieces, so I’d recommend double-checking before cutting and/or sewing, just to be on the safe side. I’ve identified a few others in my GoodReads review.

From this book, in addition to the Market Tote bag, I’ve made the pencil holder (x4), plaid coasters (x approx. 12), doodle bag, lunch sack (x2), and lawn cosmetic bag, with plans to make up the mouse pincushion someday. Technically I’ve also used the other zippered pouch pattern, but it’s the same as any other zippered pouch pattern pattern you’d find anywhere, so we won’t count that one. $25 for the book on-line, divided by 7, is about $4 per pattern.

$4 Cdn. Not US $18.

I think I can handle being hopelessly uncool, under the circumstances.

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