It was one of those first really ugly winter weather days of December. All manner of precipitation fell from the sky — rain, sleet, snow. The wind blew cold and every surface was coated with a quarter-inch of ice. Many people in Maine lost power, but I was not among them, although the lights flickered more than once and I thought sure I’d be off the grid before the day was done. Meanwhile, it was the perfect day to get all wrapped up in cloth and thread.
As it happened I had all the ingredients I needed to keep myself content. First and foremost was McCall’s pattern M5773 for a set of hats and mittens. I was especially taken by view E of the hat, embroidered with a single, large floral motif and sporting a V-shaped break at the hat’s edge. Very fetching.
It also happened that I had on hand a bit of white fleece fabric left over from another project. With some clever layout, I was able to cut from it the hat’s four pieces. And as luck would have it, I also had in my stash a just-big-enough scrap of black wool jersey for the hat lining.
The first thing I discovered after I stitched the seams was that the hat was too big for my head, even though I cut the small size. That meant adjusting the fit by taking in the seams. I really should have picked out the stitching and re-cut the pattern, but ripping seams out of fleece fabric is one of the worst chores any seamstress may ever face. The fleece fibers are dense and the thread seems to vanish within them. The task of ripping out a seam under those conditions will change me into a banshee the very moment I go at it with a seam ripper.
I made a note on the pattern that the hat needed to be cut down to size should I ever decide to make another.
Next, I stitched the lining and sewed that into the hat. This sequence of work, of course, went against the pattern instructions. Putting in the lining should have been the last step. What I should have done first was embroider the flower motif on the cap.
But since the sequence was already upset, and there was no turning back, I went on to the next task — transferring the floral motif from the pattern piece to the cap. I accomplished that very nicely by tracing the motif on paper, and cutting out the shape. Then I pinned the cutout to the cap and traced around it with a fine-tipped black marker. I had to do that very lightly and very carefully in order not to make an unwanted blot.
That accomplished, I threaded a needle with all six strands of black embroidery floss. That’s when it really dawned on me that I should have done the embroidery before putting in the lining. However, I figured where there’s a will there’s a way. I stitched the motif by hand using the stem stitch, taking great care not to catch the lining fabric in the stitching.
Take my word for it, embroidering on fleece is not a task for the impatient. Fleece is, at times, impervious to the point of the sharpest needle. You stab and stab and it won’t go through unless it is persuaded by many pushes of a thimble-clad finger. I gnashed my teeth more than a few times before I finished the stitching. But despite wrestling with the needle and fabric, I was pleased with how elegant the finished hat looked.
As a final touch, I sewed three faux pearls in the center of the floral motif and stitched lines of black bugle beads on the flower petals. Tres chic, non?
By the time I finished the project, the sleet had turned to rain. I had weathered the afternoon happily with a few scraps of cloth, two spools of thread, some embroidery floss and a few beads — and only one or two uncouth words.
— An informational meeting about the Make It With Wool contest will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, at the Page Farm and Home Museum, University of Maine. Mentors of youth sewing or knitting groups are urged to attend, including Scout and 4-H leaders, home schoolers, sewing guilds, quilting groups and others who wish to pass on their skills and traditions of clothing construction to a new generation. For more information, call Michaele Bailey at 581-3872 or e-mail email@example.com.
— A Spin-in will be held 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Newport Elementary School. Admission is $2. The event will feature a Yankee swap, used equipment related to spinning, knitting or weaving, and a table for Show and Tell. Coffee, tea and refreshments will be available. Bring a mug and a lunch or plan to eat at a local restaurant. Vendors who wish to take part in the event must reserve space by calling 474-0476.
— The SAD 22 Adult Education Program will hold a Valentine greeting card workshop 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, at Reeds Brook Middle School. The cost is $10 plus a $5 materials fee. To register, call the adult ed office at 862-6422 noon-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
— Visit www.coatsandclark.com to access lots of free knitting, crochet, sewing and embroidery patterns.
— Visit www.quiltstudy.org to view antique quilts from the at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln International Quilt Study Center and Museum.