One of the great perks of being a Digits & Threads Studio Member is being invited to our monthly Studio Hours gatherings. Sometimes, we watch presentations from contributors; other times, we have a more social gathering and share knowledge and resources amongst ourselves. When Josiane Richer dit Laflèche presented about hand sewing last November, and Kate announced the publication of the Nécessaire hand-sewing pattern, our group suggested that we have a sew-a-long social hour.
Become a Studio Member to Attend the Next Studio Hours!
Studio Hours is one of the greatest benefits of Studio Membership (in addition to gaining access to all of the patterns and tutorials published since the launch of Digits & Threads, and an invitation to join the Studio Member forum). Join us each month for show-and-tell, and most months to learn from a D&T contributor.
We always start Studio Hours with updates from Kate and Kim. We learn about upcoming patterns and feature articles, any changes that are coming, and what shows and events where D&T and Nine Ten Publications will be presenting. I find the behind-the-scenes insight into a publishing company fascinating and love the excitement about the upcoming distribution of Sheep, Shepherd & Land and the accompanying e-book of knitting patterns.
This week, as the updates came, we could see many busy hands on the Zoom screen. Most of us were busy stitching the first few hems of our Necessaire pockets. There are no official timeline goals for this sew-a-long. In March, we’ll share our pieces, whether completed or not.
We started by sharing our fabric choices. Many people were using materials left over from mask making. One member previously designed her own fabric featuring an image of knit stiches and had it printed at Spoonflower. She hadn’t used it for its original purpose, so now the fabric will become her necessaire. Other favourite fabric resources are Blackbird Fabrics and Pure Linen Envy, both Canadian options. And as mentioned in a previous article, Fabcycle in Vancouver ships all over Canada, and all their inventory are deadstock fabrics.
We commiserated with the member who shared that she had planned to dye linen to use for this project, but then realized that she’d never get started if she took the time for dyeing.
Apart from new fabrics, there were many suggestions for fabrics from around the home. Josiane shared a well-worn tea towel that had holes on both the ends, but the middle was still good. This sewing pattern is made up of smaller pieces for which small scraps will work well—in fact, each pocket could be made from a different fabric. Josiane also suggested sewing smaller pieces together in a patchwork to extend the size of our scraps. Denim jeans often still have good fabric at the back of the leg, even when the knees are blown out. One participant is using cotton canvas cut off the bottom of some too-long curtains.
Josiane’s design is just a starting point. The pattern pockets are designed to fit the needle booklet project, a project that taught basic book-binding skills, but the size could be modified to fit any tools you have. Josiane suggested attaching a small piece of felt to one of the pockets as a place to store needles and said that the swatch from the wet-felted bracelet project (published in May 2021) would be the perfect thing to use.
We had lots of discussion around thimbles: the different kinds and materials, favourite shapes and sizes, and how they are supposed to fit. Many people showed their inherited thimbles; one member showed a fabulous collection of figural thimbles, some more useful than others! Several people have simple plastic thimbles, but a warning was given that those thimbles are more likely to develop holes.
We shared resources on how to use thimbles and needles. Josiane’s original article (An Ode to Sewing By Hand) compiled many great links. One participant suggested this twelve-minute YouTube video for how to use a thimble and select a hand sewing needle. Another offered this video of how to make a cardboard tailor’s thimble. And we learned that thimbles aren’t only useful for hand sewing! One participant shared that she uses hers while knitting with sharp-tipped lace needles.
Josiane was asked what kind of sewing needles she’d suggest we use. Her first suggestion was #10 sharps, but she emphasized that we should use whatever works with our fabric and personal style. She also likes crewel needles, as they have slightly larger eyes which can be easier when using more decorative threads.
And speaking of threads, we then had a great chat about the difference that waxing and ironing thread makes (see Josiane’s Tips and Tools article). One participant shared a vintage wooden spool of thread that came pre-waxed. Others shared that even Gutermann 100% polyester thread behaved better after waxing, though we were warned to perhaps be more careful with the heat when ironing (so as not to melt or damage the thread). Some people shared their inherited thread collections. Josiane did warn people to be careful with really old thread as it might be brittle, and she’d hate to see people’s projects fall apart. That said, the brittle threads can still be used for basting.
Show and Tell
We finished our evening off with a quick show and tell. Kim was delighted to share her Sentro circular knitting machine, an inexpensive tool she’s using to crank out knitted toques. She was inspired to purchase it after watching Felicia Lo’s video about this “life-changing” machine.
Kate has been working on crochet doilies, finding that work that requires such precision and care is a good meditation for her.
Finally, we congratulated Karri, a Studio Hours regular attendee, on her colourwork mitten pattern published in the From Sheep to Hand pattern e-book.
Nécessaire photo by Josiane Richer dit Laflèche.