Valhalla's Things


Welcome to my blog, where I post sporadically about the things I do and the ones I make.

Recent posts

Jeans, step one

Posted on February 19, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms, craft:sewing, FreeSoftWear

CW for body size change mentions

A woman wearing a pair of tight jeans.

Just like the corset, I also needed a new pair of jeans.

Back when my body size changed drastically of course my jeans no longer fit. While I was waiting for my size to stabilize I kept wearing them with a somewhat tight belt, but it was ugly and somewhat uncomfortable.

When I had stopped changing a lot I tried to buy new ones in the same model, and found out that I was too thin for the menswear jeans of that shop. I could have gone back to wearing women’s jeans, but I didn’t want to have to deal with the crappy fabric and short pockets, so I basically spent a few years wearing mostly skirts, and oversized jeans when I really needed trousers.

Meanwhile, I had drafted a jeans pattern for my SO, which we had planned to make in technical fabric, but ended up being made in a cotton-wool mystery mix for winter and in linen-cotton for summer, and the technical fabric version was no longer needed (yay for natural fibres!)

It was clear what the solution to my jeans problems would have been, I just had to stop getting distracted by other projects and draft a new pattern using a womanswear block instead of a menswear one.

Which, in January 2024 I finally did, and I believe it took a bit less time than the previous one, even if it had all of the same fiddly pieces.

I already had a cut of the same cotton-linen I had used for my SO, except in black, and used it to make the pair this post is about.

The parametric pattern is of course online, as #FreeSoftWear, at the usual place. This time it was faster, since I didn’t have to write step-by-step instructions, as they are exactly the same as the other pattern.

Same as above, from the back, with the crotch seam pulling a
bit. A faint decoration can be seen on the pockets, with the
line art version of the logo seen on this blog.

Making also went smoothly, and the result was fitting. Very fitting. A big too fitting, and the standard bum adjustment of the back was just enough for what apparently still qualifies as a big bum, so I adjusted the pattern to be able to add a custom amount of ease in a few places.

But at least I had a pair of jeans-shaped trousers that fit!

Except, at 200 g/m² I can’t say that fabric is the proper weight for a pair of trousers, and I may have looked around online1 for some denim, and, well, it’s 2024, so my no-fabric-buy 2023 has not been broken, right?

Let us just say that there may be other jeans-related posts in the near future.

  1. I had already asked years ago for denim at my local fabric shops, but they don’t have the proper, sturdy, type I was looking for.↩︎

Macrame Bookbag

Posted on January 31, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms, craft:macrame

a macrame bag in ~3 mm ecru yarn, with very irregular knots of
different types, holding a book with a blue cover. The bottom part
has a rigid single layer triangle and a fringe.

In late 2022 I prepared a batch of drawstring backpacks in cotton as reusable wrappers for Christmas gifts; however I didn’t know what cord to use, didn’t want to use paracord, and couldn’t find anything that looked right in the local shops.

With Christmas getting dangerously closer, I visited a craft materials website for unrelated reasons, found out that they sold macrame cords, and panic-bought a few types in the hope that at least one would work for the backpacks.

I got lucky, and my first choice fitted just fine, and I was able to finish the backpacks in time for the holidays.

And then I had a box full of macrame cords in various sizes and types that weren’t the best match for the drawstring in a backpack, and no real use for them.

I don’t think I had ever done macrame, but I have made friendship bracelets in primary school, and a few Friendship Bracelets, But For Real Men So We Call Them Survival Bracelets(TM) more recently, so I didn’t bother reading instructions or tutorials online, I just grabbed the Ashley Book of Knots to refresh myself on the knots used, and decided to make myself a small bag for an A6 book.

I choose one of the thin, ~3 mm cords, Tre Sfere Macramé Barbante, of which there was plenty, so that I could stumble around with no real plan.

A loop of four cords, with a handle made of square knots that
keeps it together.

I started by looping 5 m of cord, making iirc 2 rounds of a loop about the right size to go around the book with a bit of ease, then used the ends as filler cords for a handle, wrapped them around the loop and worked square knots all over them to make a handle.

Then I cut the rest of the cord into 40 pieces, each 4 m long, because I had no idea how much I was going to need (spoiler: I successfully got it wrong :D )

I joined the cords to the handle with lark head knots, 20 per side, and then I started knotting without a plan or anything, alternating between hitches and square knots, sometimes close together and sometimes leaving some free cord between them.

And apparently I also completely forgot to take in-progress pictures.

I kept working on this for a few months, knotting a row or two now and then, until the bag was long enough for the book, then I closed the bottom by taking one cord from the front and the corresponding on the back, knotting them together (I don’t remember how) and finally I made a rigid triangle of tight square knots with all of the cords, progressively leaving out a cord from each side, and cutting it in a fringe.

I then measured the remaining cords, and saw that the shortest ones were about a meter long, but the longest ones were up to 3 meters, I could have cut them much shorter at the beginning (and maybe added a couple more cords). The leftovers will be used, in some way.

And then I postponed taking pictures of the finished object for a few months.

The same bag, empty and showing how the sides aren't straight.

Now the result is functional, but I have to admit it is somewhat ugly: not as much for the lack of a pattern (that I think came out quite fine) but because of how irregular the knots are; I’m not confident that the next time I will be happy with their regularity, either, but I hope I will improve, and that’s one important thing.

And the other important thing is: I enjoyed making this, even if I kept interrupting the work, and I think that there may be some other macrame in my future.

Mini Books

Posted on January 13, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms, craft:bookbinding

Two coptic bound small books, seen from the top with the pages
somewhat open. One has purple and orange triangles on the cover,
the other one waves in two shades of greenish blue.

In 2022 I read a post on the fediverse by somebody who mentioned that they had bought on a whim a cute tiny book years ago, and that it had been a companion through hard times. Right now I can’t find the post, but it was pretty aaaaawwww.

Two coptic bound small books, seen from the front. One of the
covers is covered in grey paper, the other one is cardboard that
has been spray-painted copper.

At the same time, I had discovered Coptic binding, and I wanted to do some exercise to let my hands learn it, but apparently there is a limit to the number of notebooks and sketchbooks a person needs (I’m not 100% sure I actually believe this, but I’ve heard it is a thing).

A coptic bound small book, seen from the front. The cover is
made of white cernit, with thin lines painted in gold acrylic to
form a sort of B shape.

So I decided to start making minibooks with the intent to give them away: I settled (mostly) on the A8 size, and used a combination of found materials, leftovers from bigger projects and things I had in the Stash. As for paper, I’ve used a variety of the ones I have that are at the very least good enough for non-problematic fountain pen inks.

Two coptic bound small books, seen from the front. The covers
are covered in grey paper with a piece of light blue lace on top.

Thanks to the small size, and the way coptic binding works, I’ve been able to play around with the covers, experimenting with different styles beyond the classic bookbinding cloth / paper covered cardboard, including adding lace, covering food box cardboard with gesso and decorating it with acrylic paints, embossing designs by gluing together two layers of cardboard, one of which has holes, making covers completely out of cernit, etc. Some of these I will probably also use in future full-scale projects, but it’s nice to find out what works and what doesn’t on a small scale.

Two coptic bound small books, seen from the front. The covers
are covered in grey paper, and they are half-covered by a piece of
off-white tulle, cut on a diagonal. One of the two books has a cat
eye embossed and painted in gold.

Now, after a year of sporadically making these I have to say that the making went quite well: I enjoyed the making and the creativity in making different covers. The giving away was a bit more problematic, as I didn’t really have a lot of chances to do so, so I believe I still have most of them. In 2024 I’ll try to look for more opportunities (and if you live nearby and want one — or a few — feel free to ask!)

A Corset or Two

Posted on January 7, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms, craft:sewing, period:victorian, FreeSoftWear

a black coutil midbust corset, from a 3/4 front view, showing
the busk closure, a waist tape and external boning channels made
of the same twill tape and placed about 1-2 cm from each other at
waist level.

CW for body size change mentions

I needed a corset, badly.

Years ago I had a chance to have my measurements taken by a former professional corset maker and then a lesson in how to draft an underbust corset, and that lead to me learning how nice wearing a well-fitted corset feels.

Later I tried to extend that pattern up for a midbust corset, with success.

And then my body changed suddenly, and I was no longer able to wear either of those, and after a while I started missing them.

Since my body was still changing (if no longer drastically so), and I didn’t want to use expensive materials for something that had a risk of not fitting after too little time, I decided to start by making myself a summer lightweight corset in aida cloth and plastic boning (for which I had already bought materials). It fitted, but not as well as the first two ones, and I’ve worn it quite a bit.

I still wanted back the feeling of wearing a comfy, heavy contraption of coutil and steel, however.

After a lot of procrastination I redrafted a new pattern, scrapped everything, tried again, had my measurements taken by a dressmaker [#dressmaker], put them in the draft, cut a first mock-up in cheap cotton, fixed the position of a seam, did a second mock-up in denim [#jeans] from an old pair of jeans, and then cut into the cheap herringbone coutil I was planning to use.

And that’s when I went to see which one of the busks in my stash would work, and realized that I had used a wrong vertical measurement and the front of the corset was way too long for a midbust corset.

a corset busk basted to a mock-up with scraps of fabric
between each stud / loop.

Luckily I also had a few longer busks, I basted one to the denim mock up and tried to wear it for a few hours, to see if it was too long to be comfortable. It was just a bit, on the bottom, which could be easily fixed with the Power Tools1.

Except, the more I looked at it the more doing this felt wrong: what I needed most was a midbust corset, not an overbust one, which is what this was starting to be.

I could have trimmed it down, but I knew that I also wanted this corset to be a wearable mockup for the pattern, to refine it and have it available for more corsets. And I still had more than half of the cheap coutil I was using, so I decided to redo the pattern and cut new panels.

And this is where the “or two” comes in: I’m not going to waste the overbust panels: I had been wanting to learn some techniques to make corsets with a fashion fabric layer, rather than just a single layer of coutil, and this looks like an excellent opportunity for that, together with a piece of purple silk that I know I have in the stash. This will happen later, however, first I’m giving priority to the underbust.

Anyway, a second set of panels was cut, all the seam lines marked with tailor tacks, and I started sewing by inserting the busk.

And then realized that the pre-made boning channel tape I had was too narrow for the 10 mm spiral steel I had plenty of. And that the 25 mm twill tape was also too narrow for a double boning channel. On the other hand, the 18 mm twill tape I had used for the waist tape was good for a single channel, so I decided to put a single bone on each seam, and then add another piece of boning in the middle of each panel.

Since I’m making external channels, making them in self fabric would have probably looked better, but I no longer had enough fabric, because of the cutting mishap, and anyway this is going to be a strictly underwear only corset, so it’s not a big deal.

Once the boning channel situation was taken care of, everything else proceeded quite smoothly and I was able to finish the corset during the Christmas break, enlisting again my SO to take care of the flat steel boning while I cut the spiral steels myself with wire cutters.

The same corset straight from the front: the left side is a few
mm longer than the right side

I could have been a bit more precise with the binding, as it doesn’t align precisely at the front edge, but then again, it’s underwear, nobody other than me and everybody who reads this post is going to see it and I was in a hurry to see it finished. I will be more careful with the next one.

The same corset from the back, showing cross lacing with bunny
ears at the waist and a lacing gap of about 8 cm.

I also think that I haven’t been careful enough when pressing the seams and applying the tape, and I’ve lost about a cm of width per part, so I’m using a lacing gap that is a bit wider than I planned for, but that may change as the corset gets worn, and is still within tolerance.

Also, on the morning after I had finished the corset I woke up and realized that I had forgotten to add garter tabs at the bottom edge. I don’t know whether I will ever use them, but I wanted the option, so maybe I’ll try to add them later on, especially if I can do it without undoing the binding.

The next step would have been flossing, which I proceeded to postpone until I’ve worn the corset for a while: not because there is any reason for it, but because I still don’t know how I want to do it :)

What was left was finishing and uploading the pattern and instructions, that are now on my sewing pattern website as #FreeSoftWear, and finally I could post this on the blog.

  1. i.e. by asking my SO to cut and sand it, because I’m lazy and I hate doing that part :D↩︎

Blog updates

Posted on January 6, 2024
Tags: madeof:bits, meta

After just a tiny1 delay I’ve finally added support for tags to this blog.

In the next few days I may go back and add / change tags to the older posts, or I may not, I’ll decide.

Also, I still need to render a tag cloud somewhere; maybe it will happen soon, maybe it will take another year. :D

I hope I’ve also succesfully worked around the bug in Friendica where the src for images got deleted instead of properly converted.

The logo of this blog, just to see whether a random image is
shown on Friendica and the Fediverse.

  1. less than one year!↩︎

Random Sashiko + Crazy Quilt Pocket

Posted on January 5, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms

A 18th century pocket in black jeans with a random pattern of
pink running stitches forming squares and other shapes. The
unfinished edges of the pieces of jeans can be seen, running more
or less diagonally.

Lately I’ve seen people on the internet talking about victorian crazy quilting. Years ago I had watched a Numberphile video about Hitomezashi Stitch Patterns based on numbers, words or randomness. Few weeks ago I had cut some fabric piece out of an old pair of jeans and I had a lot of scraps that were too small to do anything useful on their own. It easy to see where this can go, right?

The wrong side of a pocket piece, showing a light coloured fabric
with a grid drawn in pencil, a line of small stitches all around
the edges and a mess of thread ends left hanging.

I cut a pocket shape out of old garment mockups (this required some piecing), drew a square grid, arranged scraps of jeans to cover the other side, kept everything together with a lot of pins, carefully avoided basting anything, and started covering everything in sashiko / hitomezashi stitches, starting each line with a stitch on the front or the back of the work based on the result of:

import random
random.choice(["front", "back"])

The wrong side of the other pocket piece, with just three lines
of stitching and a piece of paper to mark the pattern. There are
bits of jeans peeking out of the sides.

For the second piece I tried to use a piece of paper with the square grid instead of drawing it on the fabric: it worked, mostly, I would not do it again as removing the paper was more of a hassle than drawing the lines in the first place. I suspected it, but had to try it anyway.

The front of the pocket seen from the wrong side, with a
machine seam around the lit, whose end has been cut in a triangle
so that it can be turned.

Then I added a lining from some plain black cotton from the stash; for the slit I put the lining on the front right sides together, sewn at 2 mm from the marked slit, cut it, turned the lining to the back side, pressed and then topstitched as close as possible to the slit from the front.

The finished pocket attached to a belt made from the waistband
of a pair of jeans (with button, buttonhole and belt loops still
attached) whose raw edges (left when unpicking away the jeans)
have been sewn shut by hand.

I bound everything with bias tape, adding herringbone tape loops at the top to hang it from a belt (such as one made from the waistband of one of the donor pair of jeans) and that was it.

The back of the pocket, showing another random pattern in two
different shades of pink for the vertical and horizontal lines of

I like the way the result feels; maybe it’s a bit too stiff for a pocket, but I can see it work very well for a bigger bag, and maybe even a jacket or some other outer garment.

Crescent Shawl

Posted on January 2, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms

a woman wearing a shawl, seen from the back where it looks like
a big dark grey triangle with a light grey border and another
light grey border with a grid of holes. There is also a double
line of holes in the center of the back, and two single ones
towards the sides.

One of the knitting projects I’m working on is a big bottom-up triangular shawl in less-than-fingering weight yarn (NM 1/15): it feels like a cloud should by all rights feel, and I have good expectations out of it, but it’s taking forever and a day.

And then one day last spring I started thinking in the general direction of top-down shawls, and decided I couldn’t wait until I had finished the first one to see if I could design one.

For my first attempt I used an odd ball of 50% wool 50% plastic I had in my stash and worked it on 12 mm tree trunks, and I quickly made something between a scarf and a shawl that got some use during the summer thunderstorms when temperatures got a bit lower, but not really cold. I was happy with the shape, not with the exact position of the increases, but I had ideas for improvements, so I just had to try another time.

Digging through the stash I found four balls of Drops Alpaca in two shades of grey: I had bought it with the intent to test its durability in somewhat more demanding situations (such as gloves or even socks), but then the LYS1 no longer carries it, so I might as well use it for something a bit more one-off (and when I received the yarn it felt so soft that doing something for the upper body looked like a better idea anyway).

I decided to start working in garter stitch with the darker colour, then some garter stitch in the lighter shade and to finish with yo / k2t lace, to make the shawl sort of fade out.

The first half was worked relatively slowly through the summer, and then when I reached the colour change I suddenly picked up working on it and it was finished in a couple of weeks.

the same shawl, worn before blocking: the garter stitch part

looks denser in a nice way, but the the lace border is scrunched up.

Then I had doubts on whether I wanted to block it, since I liked the soft feel, but I decided to try it anyway: it didn’t lose the feel, and the look is definitely better, even if it was my first attempt at blocking a shawl and I wasn’t that good at it.

the same shawl, blocked, worn and seen from the front, where it
falls in wide falls from the shoulders between the arms and the

I’m glad that I did it, however, as it’s still soft and warm, but now also looks nicer.

The pattern is of course online as #FreeSoftWear on my fiber craft patterns website.

  1. at least local to somebody: I can’t get to a proper yarn shop by foot, so I’ve bought this yarn online from one that I could in theory reach on a day trip, but it has not happened yet.↩︎

I've been influenced

Posted on December 30, 2023
Tags: madeof:atoms

A woman wearing a red sleeveless dress; from the waist up it is
fitted, while the skirt flares out.
There is a white border with red embroidery and black fringe at
the hem and a belt of the same material at the waist.

By the influencers on the famous proprietary video platform1.

When I’m crafting with no powertools I tend to watch videos, and this autumn I’ve seen a few in a row that were making red wool dresses, at least one or two medieval kirtles. I don’t remember which channels they were, and I’ve decided not to go back and look for them, at least for a time.

A woman wearing a red shirt with wide sleeves, a short yoke, a
small collar band and 3 buttons in the front.

Anyway, my brain suddenly decided that I needed a red wool dress, fitted enough to give some bust support. I had already made a dress that satisfied the latter requirement and I still had more than half of the red wool faille I’ve used for the Garibaldi blouse (still not blogged, but I will get to it), and this time I wanted it to be ready for this winter.

While the pattern I was going to use is Victorian, it was designed for underwear, and this was designed to be outerwear, so from the very start I decided not to bother too much with any kind of historical details or techniques.

A few meters of wool-imitation fringe trim rolled up; the
fringe is black and is attached to a white band with a line of
lozenge outlines in red and brown.

I knew that I didn’t have enough fabric to add a flounce to the hem, as in the cotton dress, but then I remembered that some time ago I fell for a piece of fringed trim in black, white and red. I did a quick check that the red wasn’t clashing (it wasn’t) and I knew I had a plan for the hem decoration.

Then I spent a week finishing other projects, and the more I thought about this dress, the more I was tempted to have spiral lacing at the front rather than buttons, as a nod to the kirtle inspiration. It may end up be a bit of a hassle, but if it is too much I can always add a hidden zipper on a side seam, and only have to undo a bit of the lacing around the neckhole to wear the dress.

Finally, I could start working on the dress: I cut all of the main pieces, and since the seam lines were quite curved I marked them with tailor’s tacks, which I don’t exactly enjoy doing or removing, but are the only method that was guaranteed to survive while manipulating this fabric (and not leave traces afterwards).

A shaped piece of red fabric with the long edges bound in navy
blue bias tape and all the seamlines marked with basting thread.

While cutting the front pieces I accidentally cut the high neck line instead of the one I had used on the cotton dress: I decided to go for it also on the back pieces and decide later whether I wanted to lower it.

Since this is a modern dress, with no historical accuracy at all, and I have access to a serger, I decided to use some dark blue cotton voile I’ve had in my stash for quite some time, cut into bias strip, to bind the raw edges before sewing. This works significantly better than bought bias tape, which is a bit too stiff for this.

A bigger piece of fabric with tailor's tacks for the seams and
darts; at the top edge there is a strip of navy blue fabric sewn
to a wide seaming allowance, with two rows of cording closest to
the center front line.

For the front opening, I’ve decided to reinforce the areas where the lacing holes will be with cotton: I’ve used some other navy blue cotton, also from the stash, and added two lines of cording to stiffen the front edge.

So I’ve cut the front in two pieces rather than on the fold, sewn the reinforcements to the sewing allowances in such a way that the corded edge was aligned with the center front and then sewn the bottom of the front seam from just before the end of the reinforcements to the hem.

The front opening being worked on: on one side there are hand
sewn eyelets in red silk that matches the fabric, on the other
side the position for more eyelets are still marked with pins.
There is also still basting to keep the folded allowance in place.

The allowances are then folded back, and then they are kept in place by the worked lacing holes. The cotton was pinked, while for the wool I used the selvedge of the fabric and there was no need for any finishing.

Behind the opening I’ve added a modesty placket: I’ve cut a strip of red wool, a strip of cotton, folded the edge of the strip of cotton to the center, added cording to the long sides, pressed the allowances of the wool towards the wrong side, and then handstitched the cotton to the wool, wrong sides facing. This was finally handstitched to one side of the sewing allowance of the center front.

I’ve also decided to add real pockets, rather than just slits, and for some reason I decided to add them by hand after I had sewn the dress, so I’ve left opening in the side back seams, where the slits were in the cotton dress. I’ve also already worn the dress, but haven’t added the pockets yet, as I’m still debating about their shape. This will be fixed in the near future.

Another thing that will have to be fixed is the trim situation: I like the fringe at the bottom, and I had enough to also make a belt, but this makes the top of the dress a bit empty. I can’t use the same fringe tape, as it is too wide, but it would be nice to have something smaller that matches the patterned part. And I think I can make something suitable with tablet weaving, but I’m not sure on which materials to use, so it will have to be on hold for a while, until I decide on the supplies and have the time for making it.

Another improvement I’d like to add are detached sleeves, both matching (I should still have just enough fabric) and contrasting, but first I want to learn more about real kirtle construction, and maybe start making sleeves that would be suitable also for a real kirtle.

Meanwhile, I’ve worn it on Christmas (over my 1700s menswear shirt with big sleeves) and may wear it again tomorrow (if I bother to dress up to spend New Year’s Eve at home :D )

  1. yep, that’s YouTube, of course.↩︎

Modern XMPP Server

PDF planners 2024

Posted on November 22, 2023
Tags: madeof:atoms, madeof:bits

A few years ago I wrote a bit of code to generate a custom printable planner, precisely to my taste. And then I showed the result to other people, and added a few variants for their own tastes.

And I’ve just generated the first 2024 file (yes, this year I’m late with the printing and binding), and realized that it may be worth posting all the variants on this blog, in case somebody else is interested in using them.

The files with -book in the name have been imposed on A4 paper for a 16 pages signature. All of the fonts have been converted to paths, for ease of printing (yes, this means that customizing the font requires running the script, sorry).

A few planners in English:

The same planners, in Italian:

And finally a monthly planner with ephemerids for the town of Como (I mean, everybody everywhere needs one of those, right?); here the --book files are impressed for a 3 sheet (12 pages) signature.

I hereby release all the PDFs linked in this blog post under the CC0 license.

I’ve just realized that the git repository linked above does not have licensing information, but I’m not sure what’s the right thing to do, since it’s mostly a dump of unsupported works-for-me code, but if you need it for something (that is compatible with its unsupported status) other than running it for personal use (for which afaik there is an implicit license) let me know and I’ll push “decide on a license” higher on the stack of things to do :D

…this is probably not the beginning, you can find more in the archives.