Sunday, September 19, 2021

Masking Up

As a little kid I had dreams of being a seamstress. 

I would sew dresses out of old sheets and trim them with lace from old panties. I even posted a hand written sign in my bedroom window offering my sewing services.  I just loved to make things. That love of making has stayed with me my entire life and mask making fits right in. I find something seriously satisfying about sewing one batch of seams, then another and so on and so on, repeating step after step multiple times until a pile of masks is sitting in front of me. The actions are simple and yet the end product is actually fairly complex. 

Panel masks arranged in a wreath around a ball of blue yarn

In our home there was never a question about wearing masks. It was a given even if our Co-op hadn't required it in all public spaces. We weren't going out often, but when we did, we wore a mask. 

Over the last year or so I have spent a lot of time thinking about masks. What makes one style more wearable than another? Why do people have such different preferences?

Like my cousin over at Patterns from the Past, I have played with many styles and made personal judgements as to which ones are easiest to make (a basic pleated mask), which ones are best at keeping my glasses from fogging (pretty much anything with a good nose wire), what makes a good nose wire (I prefer 12 gauge aluminum cut to 14 inches with the ends bent under), which method is best for holding a mask on one's face (again, personal preference) and so on and so on. 

My answers to these questions are as varied as the questions themselves. 

It seems that masks, like shoes and underwear, are a personal matter. What works for you may not be what works for me. Yes, I am a proponent of nose wires but then I wear glasses and a mask that doesn't seal well over my nose means that I can't see  due to the fogging. My husband prefers that masks be held in place with elastic that goes around his head. My son is partial to a panel mask and my daughter needs softer ear bands, preferring ones that she crochets herself to the elastic that I use. Other folks are gung ho for the gold standard of non-medical masks, the KN-95, while yet others are partial to the disposable pleated paper mask. 

3-D and hybrid masks hanging from the spokes of a lazy kate

When masking was initially recommended I immediately thought "why buy when I can make?"  I could not stand the idea of paying for a disposable item when I could easily (or so I thought) make my own. The materials were already on hand and free DIY patterns were  plentiful. So, I dusted off my sewing machine (really, it was covered in dust!) and started making masks.

I had a fair amount of quilting cotton left over from my curtain making spree ten years ago. Google provided a basic pleated mask pattern and my daughter crocheted ear bands because elastic was in short supply.

Pleated Masks with crocheted ear bands

That first batch was a wonky looking lot but they covered our faces. Taking out a few for the family, the rest were donated to the soup kitchen at the church next door. I feel a little bad about those now but I was doing my best at the time.

Over the next several months I refined my techniques, found new "favorite" patterns and distributed my masks to family, friends and the staff and students at my sister's school. My repertoire expanded to four basic styles -- the "old school" pleated, the "hybrid" pleated, the "3-D" and the "panel" masks. My son and I prefer a panel mask with a zip tie inserted as a stiffener while my husband prefers the 3-D and hybrid masks. My daughter seems to mostly wear pleated and hybrid. In our family we all use nose wires now (we didn't originally) as we all wear glasses.

Hybrid, Halloween themed mask worn by the author.

I made some for the holidays because, if I'm going to wear a mask, I'm going to have fun with it!

One friend only wears KN-95s that she purchased in bulk and another mixes it up, moving between paper pleated, KN-95 and cloth -- heavy on the pink. Some folks like to coordinate masks with their outfits (ME!!!), wear seasonally themed masks (also me!) and others want their masks to be plain and unobtrusive. My son prefers plain colored fabrics because he finds a pattern distracting. He is, however, willing to wear colors of all hues. 

Child sized masks, half with fairies, half with trees

My mask making adventures reignited my love of sewing, particularly of production sewing. The rhythm and repetition of mass producing something is soothing and satisfying. It harks back to my childhood where I helped my father put out mailings for his firm. It's different from making a garment, satisfying in a different way. With a dress I am clothing one person. With masks I'm protecting my family, friends and community. And that is what drives so much of what I do in life, serving my community.

#sewing #productivefidgeting #maskmaking #masks 


Thursday, September 09, 2021

A Tale of Three Dresses

 

As I stated in my last post, my dive back into sewing was driven by one particular social media post. For some reason (known only to the algorithm designers) my mask adventures led to an ad in my feed from Rebecca Page. The ad photo was of the Classic Dress, a style that just screamed my name.

I love a summer dress with a flowy skirt and a fitted bodice and I had to have it. But I was afraid. I remembered the last dress I made, an ill fitting affair that I wore two or three times before retiring it and the slightly too tight nursing tops. But the ad kept popping up in my feed like it was daring me to give it a try. So I did.

I ordered the fabric on line from a highly recommended source and the website even matched the thread, lining, and zipper for me. This so excited me that I didn't realize that the vendor was located in Manhattan's Garment District -- a mere ten blocks away (and only two blocks from my office!).

The pattern was purchased and downloaded, I measured myself, assembled the pattern and started. The instructions were incredibly detailed and guided me through every step of the process from my first French seam to the final hem. Going slowly and carefully, reading and rereading the instructions, I put it all together. I sewed, I pressed and I trimmed. At one point I realized I was running out of matching thread and switched to using white on the inside seams, conserving the lilac for the hem.

And suddenly I was done!

Classic Dress in blue poplin, front view

Classic Dress with pockets, blue poplin

My first fitted garment in 20+ years! I was so excited -- and a little bummed that I was still working from home and had no one to kvell over it besides my family. Yes, I like to show off a little. 

There are imperfections. The zipper shows a bit because I didn't have the right zipper foot. The pockets (yes pockets!) have some puckers where they join the seam. And, it is a bit loose. But I made it and love it!

This time I went to the fabric store in person. I roamed the aisles stroking and poking the fabrics and finally settled on two. One was intended for a short sleeve dress, the other for another, more casual, sleeveless version.

Once again I cut and sewed and pressed, confidant that I knew what I was doing since this was my second go at the pattern -- and this time I had the correct zipper foot! I was even confident about the sleeves since I had eased many a sweater sleeve into place.

Yes, you can predict what happened. I got cocky and made newbie mistakes.

This fabric was thicker and had some stretch to it. I hadn't realized the stretch issue when I purchased it but did realize that it was thicker. What didn't occur to me was that the thicker fabric would give me some problems when it came time to put in the facing. You see, I had decided to forgo the lining this time and do a facing instead since the fabric was totally opaque.

Silly me.

Once again I followed the instructions to a fault, including hemming the facing. That was the fault. Since the fabric was on the thicker side this made the facing hem too bulky, a fact that bothers me every time I wear the dress (which I do!). No, I haven't fixed it but I probably should. Lesson learned: there are different ways to finish the edges of a facing and hemming may not be the best one.

I had, however, learned my lesson about the invisible zippers from the first dress, purchased the appropriate foot (and many others) and this zipper is indeed invisible. There are still issues where the zipper starts at my neck and the pockets are still a bit wonky where they meet the seams and the dress is still a bit loose despite my using the size corresponding to my measurements. But here it is!

Pink short sleeve dress


The second length of fabric that was meant to be another sleeveless dress was repurposed into matching skirts for my daughter and myself (the subject of another blog post due to the vast amount of learning that went with them).

Then I went on a bit of an adventure with workout gear and skirts. More about those in later posts.

Fast forward to July. I am now working from the office five days a week and am usually alone due to pandemic restrictions. Since returning to the office I have taken to roaming the nearby blocks to get some exercise and to check out the smaller fabric vendors. If I just want to get lost in the fabric, however, I still default to the larger, more well known store because, for me, a good browse is more comfortable in a larger space. I picked up some knits here, some voile there and had fun with my makes.

Then came the day of the fire drill. As happens in all office buildings we had an evacuation drill. Leaving the building is fairly quick but reentry can take up to an hour due elevator capacity. Knowing this, once I exited the building I decided to take an early lunch and headed over to the larger fabric store. Without any clear goal in mind I wandered the aisles and, while chatting on the phone with a friend, stumbled on the perfect poplin for a new dress. Then I found a fabulous light knit for a coordinating cardigan. I admit to crouching in the aisle stroking the knit for longer than was probably socially acceptable.

Using the lessons learned with the other two dresses and the garments in between, I pressed and cut and sewed. This version was lined with a thin, soft, cotton purchased from a hole-in-the wall shop near FIT (SUNY's Fashion Institute of Technology). The pockets are without wonkiness (yay!) but the zipper took three tries and I wound up doing some hand stitching to make it look more normal near the base. I just was not willing to redo the whole back yet a fourth time! I dare anyone to look that closely at the small of my back.

Classic Dress in red patterned fabric


This one fits perfectly! It seems (seams?) that when I actually use the recommended seam allowance the dress is just right -- almost. In between dresses I purchased a social media promoted gadget -- a magnetic seam allowance guide -- so I am no longer eyeballing my seams and they are now the correct width and much more regular. Love it!

As for the "almost" part of the fitting, I realized that the neck didn't lie quite right. This prompted me to go back to the first two dresses and realize that it doesn't lie right on them either. The problem is my body shape, not the pattern. So, I made a small box pleat in the center of the front neckline and now it lies better. Another lesson learned. On the next go I will try to actually alter the pattern piece to fix it since I want the dress to lie a little closer to my chest without the added pleat. Oh, and I also hemmed this one properly. The first two I just folded up the hem evenly around. This time I had my daughter mark the proper hem placement so that the back doesn't look shorter then the front. That lesson was learned from the mommy and me skirts. But that's another story!

#rpclassicdress, #rebeccapage, #rebeccapageba, #sponsored, #sewing, #skilllearning, #productionnotfidgeting, 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Sew What?

It has been a long time since I posted and even longer since I quietly stopped blogging regularly. I could write an update of all that has happened in the intervening years but that would just bore you. Instead, I will fast forward to the last 18 months.

When I started this blog it was to highlight my knitting. Eventually it grew to include stories of my family and the city I love -- and the occasional squirrel. I am resurrecting the blog to once again share my hobbies and the journey that is the coming years.

Over the last 18 months all of us have had to adapt and change to accommodate the times. It hasn't always been easy but there are plenty of stories of the good that has come out of the not so good. One of the pleasant occurrences in my life was the return to an old past time. It appeared in the guise of protecting my family -- and persisted.

For the last 22 years I have been an active and avid knitter. Hundreds of socks have emerged from my needles. A score or more of sweaters, mostly for my son, and enough wraps and scarves and shawls to keep a small village warm. Alongside and complementing the knitting is the spinning -- not on a bike (though I do still ride) but on a spinning wheel. Miles and miles of yarn has been created while listening to a good book or seven while sitting on my balcony.

But before I knit regularly I dabbled in other needle crafts. Some bobbin lace here, a bit of cross stitch there and yards and yards of tatting. With the onset of pregnancy I dove into sewing. I made some decent maternity clothes, a few pieces of nursing attire and many cute infant and toddler clothes. Sewing, however, requires space to spread out and space is at a premium in a NYC apartment. So I turned to knitting. Small and portable it fits nicely into the apartment lifestyle. (Feel free to laugh here.)

Masks were the gateway for my return to sewing. My membership in mask making groups on social media led to sewing ads appearing in my feeds. One particular ad kept attracting my attention and down the rabbit hole I went.

During lockdown we were all working from home. Our daughter, who had moved out, commuted each day to our apartment and her old room, now my craft room. She and I shared an office -- a room that kept calling out to me to craft instead of working.

Our adjustment to working from home required that my sewing machine table become a desk where one of us worked while the other used my actual desk. For several months I would convert the sewing machine table back and forth from "desk" during the week to sewing table on the weekends so that I could churn out masks for those I love.

Picture of a fabric masks encircling a ball of blue yarn

Now we are back in our respective offices and  my weekends and evenings are devoted to making. Dresses, tops, workout gear and whatever else catches my fancy. Just yesterday Mike wore a particularly silly pair of shorts that I made for him. So (sew), to get to the point, I will now be sharing my journey from mask maker to sewist here, with you gentle readers. Yes, this will be a brag book but I also intend to talk through my difficulties and how I solved them -- or didn't. You can take the teacher out of the classroom but not out of the person.

The name of the blog will remain the same because, why not? Besides, I do still knit, just not quire as prolifically.

So welcome or welcome back to Squid Knits and join me on my journey through life and crafts.


Mike at his easal wearing a pair of hand sewn shorts. The shorts have cartoon figures of sea creatures on them.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Make a Blanket Statement at Catskills Conf 2018

Make a Blanket Statement at Catskills Conf 2018

Looking forward to hearing all the great speakers at Catskills Conf?

Naturally fidgety?

Don’t want to be rude by: constantly checking your phone? Daydreaming? Doodling?

Want to be even more constructive while filling your head with awesome and interesting new ideas?

Put needles (or hooks) and yarn in your hands and help us construct the third Catskills Conf blanket(s) for Project Linus.

The project will run in a few ways:

  1. Learn how to knit at Catskills Conf. I will be available before breakfast, during meals, during session breaks and as an alternative during the activity times. Caveat: I can only actively teach 2-3 newbies at a time -- but can do many over the course of the weekend. Then, knit blocks during the conference. 
  2. Or … Bring pre-made knit or crocheted 7 inch X 9 inch blocks. Any color is fine, the yarn must be acrylic (Project Linus regulations) and should be worsted weight. Any pattern is fine. I have many premade blocks in burgundy but will make any color work! 
  3. And / Or … knit the blocks during the conference. There will be more than enough yarn available for a large blanket, as well as knitting needles (and a few crochet hooks), scissors and rulers. Feel free to bring your own supplies (size 7 or 8 needles or crochet hook H/I).
Materials (needles, hooks, yarn, rulers and scissors) will be available to borrow.

Taking the bus and want to knit your way to the Ashokan Center? We’ll have the materials on the bus!

Blocks brought to the conference should be made in a worsted weight (medium weight) acrylic yarn using any pattern that makes you happy. A box or bag will be provided to leave completed blocks in.

As the blocks are finished, they will joined into a blanket. Work in progress will be on display all weekend.

The completed blanket(s) will be donated to a Project Linus chapter for distribution. Any left over blocks will be added to those made by a Project Linus group and incorporated into a blanket.

In each of the last two years we made one complete blanket over the course of the conference. These were donated to the NYC chapter of Project Linus. I am hoping to be able to complete 2 blankets this year but that will require people making the blocks ahead of time and bringing them to the conference.

The block size is 7 X 9 (inches) or 9 X 7. Direction does not matter.

Thank you!

Devorah Zamansky

Saturday, November 04, 2017

We Did It! Making a Blanket Statement at Catskill Conf

About a month ago I posted the instructions for participating in the Blanket Statement project that I was leading at Catskill Conf.

I am proud of what we accomplished.

Over a dozen knitters contributed to the project either by learning to knit and/or by completing blocks.

Thank you to: Sarah, Tiana, Milo, Carla, Joanna, Sabrina, Alyse, Jasper, Joe, Oliver, Kelly, Mandy and anyone whose name I many have missed!

Here is the completed blanket  (displayed on my son's bed atop his elephant comforter).


Note the leaves on one of the blocks.

Milo (the designer of the images used for Catskill Conf this year)  worked with me to put them in a form that could be worked into the blanket. I am absurdly happy at the way they came out.

This blanket will be sent along to Project Linus with the next batch that goes from my monthly blanket group.

Even after the conference the project continued. Over the last few weeks I've received blocks completed by not only conference participants but by Ashoken staff who wanted to participate off hours as well. These blocks and one more that just arrived, and any that may yet come in, will be incorporated into a second blanket being constructed out of the leftover yarn. I'm taking my time with that one so don't expect to see it finished until just before the next Catskill Conf.

If there are anymore blocks in progress out there, let me know and send them in! I am always working on blankets for Project Linus in conjunction with the Sanctuary Stitchers at Temple Shaaray Tefila. We can and will find a blanket for any and all blocks.

(Sanctuary Stitchers graciously contributed the burgundy yarn and its members have been knitting blankets for children in need for a dozen years.)

Finally, this is the blanket made from the leftovers from last year's Catskill Conf blanket.



Saturday, September 30, 2017

Make a Blanket Statement at Catskills Conf



Looking forward to hearing and sharing all the great ideas at Catskill Conf?


Naturally fidgety?


Don’t want to be rude by: constantly checking your phone? Daydreaming? Doodling?


Want to be even more constructive while filling your head with interesting new ideas?  


Put needles (or hooks) and yarn in your hands and help us construct the second annual Catskill Conf blanket(s) for Project Linus.


The project will run in a few ways:


  1. Learn how to knit at Catskill Conf. I will be available before breakfast, during meals, during session breaks and as an alternative during the activity times. Caveat: I can only actively teach 2-3 newbies at a time -- but can do many over the course of the weekend.  Then, knit blocks during the conference.
  2. Or … Bring premade knit or crocheted 7 inch X 9 inch blocks. Our palette this year is woodsy colors … browns, oranges, greens and blues. Stuff that theoretically coordinates with the large amount of burgundy yarn that was gifted to me for this purpose.
  3. And / Or … knit the blocks during the conference.  There will be more than enough yarn available for a large blanket, as well as knitting needles (and a few crochet hooks), scissors and rulers. Feel free to bring your own supplies (size 7 or 8 needles or crochet hook H/I).


Materials (needles, hooks, yarn, rulers and scissors) will be available to borrow.


Blocks brought to the conference should be made in a worsted weight (medium weight) acrylic yarn using any pattern that makes you happy. A box or bag will be provided for depositing completed blocks.


As the blocks are finished, they will be joined into a blanket. Work in progress will be on display all weekend.


The completed blanket(s) will be donated to a Project Linus chapter for distribution. Any left over blocks will be added to those made by a Project Linus  group and incorporated into a blanket.


Last year we made one complete blanket which was donated to the NYC chapter of Project Linus. This year we want to complete 2 but that will require people making the blocks ahead of time and bringing them to the conference.


The block size is 7 X 9 (inches) or 9 X 7. Direction does not matter.


Thank you!


Devorah Zamansky

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fabulous Fourteen!

Happy Birthday, Little Squid! May all your math classes be sensible!