2012 February

Archive for February, 2012

09 Feb 2012

A New Wreath

4 Comments In the Craft Room

It never fails–the year-end holidays come and go, the bright and festive decorations are put away, and the house feels dull and lifeless.  Attempts to inject color into our environment seem artificial and glaring.  As a result, I’ve come to embrace January and February as months of introspection, renewal and calm, and, I think, so does Mother Nature. 

Gray, brown and winter white–these are the colors of the coldest months for us in the northern hemisphere and the colors that dominate the landscape as I now gaze out the window to the backyard.  But they need not be somber tones.  With the right setting they feel…well, right.  Cozy and comforting like a cup of warm milky tea, don’t you think?

This project has been a long time in the making.  I first stumbled upon the Alpaca Fiber Studio in Chagrin Falls, Ohio about 2 years ago.  I purchased some wool roving to play around with this specific project in mind.  But it wasn’t until I conceived of our new blog series, Winter Wolle, that I knew the time had come.

On the left in the picture below is 2 oz of cream roving–looks like a big marshmallow, eh?  It is especially light and fluffy, but I doubt it tastes any good.

Roving, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is what they call the wool after its been meticulously cleaned and carded, but before it has been spun into yarn or felted.  The roving comes together in a loose strip which is lightly wound into a skein.  The wool I used is alpaca, which has comparable qualities to sheep’s wool in terms of its felting-ability.

The process I used to make the felted balls was relatively easy:

Pull off a generous handful of marshmallow fluff (the middle object in the picture below).

Dip the ball carefully in a bowl of hot tap water mixed with dish detergent (such as Dawn)–I say “carefully” because you don’t want to totally submerge the ball in the water–you want to get it wet all the way through, but not soggy.

Begin to roll the ball gently in the palm of your hands.  Apply only enough pressure to start shaping the ball.  It should slowly start to become denser and denser.  If not, add the tiniest drop of soap and a bit more water.  As it becomes denser, add more pressure with your hands.  The idea is to reduce the ball to appoximately 1″ in diameter (depending on the amount of roving you started with).  I found that you can speed up the process some by rinsing the ball in cool, clear water, then back in the host soapy water. (This rinsing causes the fibers to sieze up.)

You’ll know the ball is completely felted when it no longer has any “loose” roving and it feels firm and dense.  At this point, thoroughly rinse it in a bowl of cold tap water and roll it around on a towel to remove any extra water and to ensure it is really round. I like to leave mine on the radiator for a day or two to get them extra dry, but plain old air drying will suffice.

Generally speaking, each felted ball was 45-60 seconds in the making, once I got the hang of it. Each 2 oz skein yielded approximately 20 1″ balls and the 12″ wreath featured here required about 175 balls to get full coverage on three sides.  Yes, I spent a LOT of time felting. Luckily, Etsy will provide you with many sources for roving in every shade imaginable (search for “roving”) AND finished felted balls. 

I found the cream roving took longer to felt than the other colors and was more prone to leave pronounced cracks in the sides (look closely at the cream balls above and you’ll probably see what I mean).  I don’t think the difference had anything to do with the color, per se, but was probably more attributable to the differences in the fibers of the roving.

You can’t really get rid of the cracks once they are formed, so take care to avoid them from the start.  Easier said then done, however!  I never found a really reliably way to prevent them with the cream except to use lots of soap, really hot water and slowing down the addition of pressure until I was sure there were no cracks.  In the end, I accepted the cracks figuring only half of each ball would be showing on the final wreath and I would just have to be careful when I attached them to place them “crack side down”.

For the wreath, I started with a 12″ styrofoam wreath form, which I hid by covering it first with strips of various coordinating fabrics from my stash.  Look carefully below and you’ll see a mixture of unbleached muslin, duchess silk, dupioni silk and twill from a pair of khakis.

Attaching the felted balls was not as easy I planned. I thought sewing them to the underlying fabric would be a kinder, gentler approach than my crash hot glue gun approach used previously. I think I only exponentially added to the process.  No matter, I am quite happy with how it turned out.

Happy crafting!

07 Feb 2012

Our Winter Wool Series

3 Comments In the Craft Room, In the Workroom, Inspiration

We are very excited to announce a new series of blog posts, Winter Wolle, that we are hosting here at Clever Charlotte!

We have a variety of wool-inspired projects lined up to show you over the next few weeks. In doing so, we hope to demonstrate just why we love wool in all forms. While the function & beauty of wool isn’t limited to just wintertime, it is precisely in these cold, dark months of winter in Northeast Ohio that I seek out wool for its visual and physical warmth. What better time to feature this wonderfull, all-natural product?

So, why wool?

An obvious answer is warmth. But did you know that wool is naturally water repellant and moisture wicking? It is also extremely durable, more than making up for any extra up-front costs of a wool product over its lifetime.

It is sustainable, renewable and otherwise relatively eco-friendly. It can be produced without harmful pesticides. Wool is also low-maintenance, requiring only occasional laundering. Wool can be composted!

For apparel and crafting, wool is ideal because it naturally resists wrinkles and maintains its shape well. It is also extremely versatile. It is perfect for the coldest months of the year, and yet can comfortably span 3 seasons of style for the Mrs.–

Left, Right

the Miss–


and the home–

Left, Right

In addition to being a perfect sewing medium, it can be spun and knitted,

Left (Anthropologie archives), Right



and needled (Ok, really just another form of felting)–


Wool’s industrial applications are also worth considering. Did you know that wool can insulate your house?

With wool’s unlimited potential, we hope Winter Wolle will inspire you to plan a project or two for yourself or home.

Happy Sewing!


PS Wanna see more?

03 Feb 2012

The Boy Raven: Mad for Plaid

2 Comments Raven Hoodie & Pants, Tutorials


To mix it up a bit, we thought it would be fun to feature some variations of our Raven Pants specifically with boys in mind.  For our “Mad for Plaid” version, we’ll introduce several new sewing topics: (1) removing the front pintuck called for by the original pattern, (2) sewing with plaid fabric without going mad,  (3) adding warmth to the pants by basting in a flannel lining, and (4) adding side seam pockets.  

That’s a lot to pack in, so let’s get going!

Removing the Front Pintuck

We can think of several instances when the front vertical pintuck featured on our original Raven Pants would be extraneous.  In this case, the pintuck would likely get lost in the bold plaid and may even confuse the design.  Thankfully, removing the pintuck is really simple:

Trace the pattern pieces directly from the original pattern, including the vertical pintuck line.  Crease the paper pattern piece along the vertical line and fold it over 1/8″ to one side (this narrows each pant leg by 1/4″ total). Tape the fold down along its length.  Now you’ll need to remove the same amount from the front waistband piece in a similar manner. Try to make the fold at about the point where the front waistband piece matches up with the pintuck line on the front pattern piece to preserve the curve.  That’s it!  Cut and sew the pants according to the written instructions, but skip the steps relating to sewing the pintucks.

Sewing with Plaid

Plaid is certainly a daunting design choice, especially for pants such as these.   By following a few simple pointers, you can do it, I promise.  

When cutting out plaid fabrics, subscribe to the woodworker’s motto: measure twice, cut once.  In other words, take your time and think it through before you cut!

First, you should cut out the two front pieces separately, rather than trying to fold the fabric and cut out both pieces at the same time.   Ditto for the back pieces.  Lay out the first set of front/back pieces on your fabric so that the corresponding notch points of the outside seams on the front and back pieces align at the same point on the plaid pattern.  This will help to ensure that those points will align on the outside side seam of the finished pants.

Once you’ve cut the first set of front and back pieces, use those cut fabric pieces to cut out the second set of front and back pieces, rather than using the paper pattern pieces again. In so doing, you’ll be able to directly align the plaids of both pieces before cutting out the second set.

Look carefully at the photo below–you almost can’t see the original pattern pieces laid on top of the fabric!  This is because I carefully matched the horizontal and vertical plaids at key points.  

Here’s where I should make a tiny confession–the plaid on my cut pieces did not align perfectly with the plaid underneath around the entire perimeter of the pattern pieces.  Was the fabric wonky when I first made my original cuts or now with the second set?  After a few frustrating moments trying to get it all to be perfectly aligned, I had an epiphany–certain areas of the sewn garments are more critical than others, so I should really prioritize getting the plaid to line up at those spots. For these pants, the center front and back seams and the two outside seams were the critical spots, so that’s what I focused on. I also made a decision to not concern myself how the waistband lined up. I saved myself a lot of frustration and was not disappointed in the end. 

Finally, as shown further below, when sewing these critical seams together, be extra careful to match up the corresponding plaid points.  It helps to pin the fabrics together at each matched point and remove the pins just as you reach each of them with your sewing needle in order to prevent the pieces from shifting while sewing.

Adding a Flannel Lining

When I asked my son if I could make him a pair of plaid pants, he immediately thought of his most-favored flannel plaid pajama pants.  Not wanting to disappoint, I promised him I could make them as warm and soft to the skin as his PJs.  I decided to sew a flannel lining to the inside of the pants rather than have the lining hang loose.  Given that the outer plaid fabric was a heavy twill, the flannel lining made for rather bulky seams, but JR doesn’t seem to notice.

The lining pieces were cut from the same pattern pieces as the main pant legs, then stitched to the wrong side of the main fabric pieces using a 3/8″ seam allowance and a slightly longer stitch length (3.0).  The only change I would make in the future is to cut the lining pieces 1″ shorter at the ankle and forgo stitching along that edge.  This removes some of the bulk at the bottom hem, which gets turned up twice.  Once you’ve sewn in the lining, proceed with the rest of the assembly as instructed, treating each layered piece as one piece.

*** Side note about the knee patches: The knee patches are largely intended to add some additional boy flair to the finished pants and are less about function.  I added the knee patches before adding the lining for a cleaner look/fewer stitches inside the pant leg.  Either way, you’ll want to add them before assembling the pants because it is MUCH easier to sew around the perimeter at that point.    I used a medium weight corduroy for its greater durability and simply zigzagged around the edges.  I like the less refined look of raw edges, but you could certainly find a way to finish these edges.  You could also add in a layer of quilt batting or several layers of knit fabric to add a bit more cushion.

Adding Side Seam Pockets

My final alteration to the original Raven pattern was to add pockets to the both outside seams.  I find little boys love the thrill of stuffing their pockets with all sorts of urban detritus and watching what survives a run through the wash, so I offer these instructions with a fare bit of caution.  (I should also add that this same pocket shape and sewing method works well for skirts and dresses with side seams.)

First, I sketched the pocket so that there is a good 1/2″ seam allowance on the edge that will be the opening in the outside seam.  I also ran the top edge of the pocket flush with the top edge of the front pant leg so that the pocket would be supported by the seam joining the front leg to the waistband and not just hanging down from the side seam.  {Here is the downloadable pocket pattern piece that I created for these size 6 pants.  It’s important to print this in actual size (in Adobe, look for the option to print “actual size” or “do not scale to fit”).  To open in Adobe, you may have to “save as” to your local hard drive, then open with Adobe.} 

Next, cut 4 pocket pieces from a plain muslin or similar soft, pliable fabric (even an old Tshirt)–nothing too stiff or thick!

Baste the pocket to all four pant leg pieces (front and back) with wrong sides facing.

When sewing the front and back pant leg pieces together, match the pockets and pant pieces together with right sides facing. At this point, you should also carefully pin the outside edges of the front/back pieces so that the corresponding plaid points align.

Starting at point labeled 1 in the picture above, sew around the pocket to points 2 and 3 with a standard seam allowance.  At point 3 (on the 1/2″ seam allowance), pivot your needle so that you can continue sewing down the outside edge of the front/back pieces.  Note that the top of the pocket remains open.

Once you are ready to sew the top waistband to the pants, make sure the top of each pocket is pinned flush with the top of the front pant leg. Treat the pocket and front as one piece when sewing on the waistband.  That’s basically all there is to it!

We’ll be featuring several more Boy Raven looks throughout February and hope you’ll be inspired to try out your own version!


Happy Sewing!


02 Feb 2012

Our Stitch Winner

3 Comments Shop News
Fingerprint by Ky Anderson

Fingerprint by Ky Anderson via 20x200

Congratulations to our Stitch giveaway winner, Erin, who said:

 I would love to win the magazine and pattern in it. Love your patterns and hope to invest in them all one day:-)

Doesn’t she sound lovely? Happy Sewing, Erin!

PS The fine art print above is by Ky Anderson found via 20×200 and has nothing to do with this post; it is just something that makes me smile.