Thursday, June 30, 2011


After being kept apart so long I finally have access to my sewing machine and time to use it.  So what is the first thing I do?  Make laundry baskets.  My mother was kind enough to give me a frame used to hold fabric laundry baskets, more laundry slings really, that she only had one of the sling/baskets for.  It was in her way and she wanted to get rid of it.  Having limited room in my bedroom I volunteered to make a home for it knowing I would have to make two more sling/baskets for it to use it effectively.  Conveniently, mom had also given me an old fitted sheet she had laying around.  The tag identifies it as a "Springs" queen fitted sheet made of 50% cotton/50% polyester.  I'm always in the market for free sources of fabric.  It had a pretty leaf print in a few colors.
It doesn't match at all the fabric of the sling/basket it came with, but free is free.  Bring a fitted sheet it was a little difficult to work with.  I started out seam ripping the corner seams so it would lay somewhat flat for measuring.  I used a fabric tape measure to get measurements from the existing sling/basket, adding 1/4" for a seam allowance.  The cutting went okay.  I wasn't too exact for something like this.  Close enough was good enough for me.  It was the pinning that made me want to scream.  I ended up with one long piece for the sling piece and two half-ovals for the sides for each sling/basket.  One end of the sling had to be hemmed (I re-used the serged edge from the sheet to save time) as well as the flat edge of each half-oval.  Then the sides of the slings had to be pinned to the half ovals, being careful to match centers so the sling/baskets would sit evenly.  The insides looked like this (after sewing because I forgot to take a picture while pinned.
This fabric had something weird going on.  I'm not sure what was used to put the nice leaf and random white spatters pattern on the fabric, but it made it a bear to pin through.  I stabbed myself every couple of seconds it seemed like because of the effort I had to use to get the pins through.  Sewing around those pronounced curves was a breeze in comparison.  Lots of pinning and sewing later I had two new sling/baskets.  The original sling/basket had the channel that went over the frame sewn so the only way to get it off would be to take the frame apart.  I put that one on the bottom.  These new ones are going higher and I might want to take them down to get the laundry out.  I had planned to add velcro, but I don't seem to have any.  So they were safety-pinned instead, three on each side.  The finished product:
Nothing earth shattering, but definitely useful in my limited space.  And an easy fix to make this product useful again where it might otherwise have gotten junked.  Sewing can definitely make your life easier if you have some imagination.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Knitting Looms

So I have some new toys.  I've never been one much for yarn crafts.  My mother tried to teach me to crochet many years ago and it was a spectacular failure.  My rows kept getting shorter and tighter.  I finally gave up.  Now that I am getting back into crafting, I've been thinking about trying yarn crafts again.  A coworker was kind enough to give me two round knitting looms she had laying around after I saw them online and mentioned how I wanted to try it.  What is a knitting loom you ask?  The round ones look like this:
The green is an adult size if you're making a hat.  The red is for children.  They make smaller and larger sizes, but these were the two my coworker had, and I wouldn't turn down free.  I won't go into how to use the looms.  There are a million and one videos online about how to use them that do a better job than I ever could.  I recommend you check them out.  It is dead simple to do.  Unfortunately she didn't have the hook that comes with them so I had to MacGuyver one for myself.  The pic below shows the one I made next to a real one:
So I had some $0.99 mystery yarn from the Goodwill that I decided to mess around with and try out the looms.  Basic acrylic yarn (I think) of medium thickness.  I discovered two things: 1) It truly was as easy as it looked and 2) one strand of yarn of the medium thickness is not thick enough to make an effective hat.  They came out really floppy and the weave looked really open.  The one on the left is the adult size made with the green loom and the one on the right is the child size made with the red loom.
Using a kind gift of additional yarn from another coworker, I tried doubling up to two strands.  I had some yellow left so I mixed in a sage color.  I only made one in the child size to see how it came out.  This was definitely better.  The two strands together provided more stability and the weave was tighter with the extra bulk.

My mother also gave me a lot of yarns.  One in particular was a bulky purple yarn that looks only slightly narrower than a pencil if not pulled tight.  I decided to see how that one loomed up since its bulk would make good winter weight items.  Again I did a child size being unsure of whether I had enough yarn.  Of course now the remainder is too small to make anything else with.  No clue what to do with it.
One of my coworkers has agreed to take the purple hat home to test on one of her grandchildren for fit.  I haven't been keeping track of the rows except for the last one. The purple hat is 14 rows folded in half for the brim and 19 rows from the brim to the top.  We'll see if that is good or if I need to adjust.

Not having children of appropriate age in my family at the moment, all the hats except for the purple one are being donated to a domestic violence shelter in the local area.  As I experiment with different yarns and such, the finished products will go there if I don't have a recipient in mind.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Not Quite a Refashion #3 - cardigan to awesome cardigan

Unfortunately, due to my busy work schedule, I've been restricted to projects that are portable and can be done at my desk.  So while this isn't really a refashion, I am hoping to squeak it in because it did take an item I wasn't a huge fan of and made it something I might wear more often.

This cardigan started life as a plain red cardigan.  Actually, by a huge coincidence, I have a grey one exactly like it.  I bought it for the bold pop of color, but the big redness of it turned out to be a bit too color-blockish for me.  So it languished in my closet as I wore other brightly colored items that weren't, well, so RED.

You may have noticed my introduction to embroidery.  This gave me the idea to embroider something on the cardigan as a way to pass the time at work.  A coworker suggested doing the design all in white so it would pop against the bright red.  After some looking around for an appropriate design, I found a flower design at here except I turned it upside down on my cardigan.  I also copied the big flower over again for the smaller side design.  The heavier knit meant I went through embroidery floss much faster than on the thin linen fabric I was using for the kitchen proverbs.

The whole front, I apologize for the poor contrast with the background.  For some reason I put it on my dining room table to take this picture.
Just for comparison, I also have closeup pictures of each side so you can see the design better, and I even have a picture of me wearing the cardigan to show you what it looks like on.  So picture blitz ahoy!

I like it much better this way and I've already gotten several compliments.  Though these were from coworkers who know I've been crafting up a storm at my desk through these long hours.  More projects from the storm will be posted later as I catch up getting pictures taken.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nifty Gifty

My brother is one of those male animals who is impossible to buy for.  I think he gets it from our dad.  The biggest hits are random obscure kinds of classic things.  Last year for christmas I bought him a box (empty) that had the Union Jack painted on each side.  He loved it.

His birthday is coming up and I'm cash strapped so I immediately started thinking what I could make him.  I was considering a wallet, and indeed had bought the necessary fabric paints to get the design I wanted, when this embroidery thing I've been doing at work prompted inspiration.  I'll monogram some handkerchiefs for him!  The embroidery can't be harder than the little girl pictures I've been doing, and this definitely falls under random classic item he'd probably like.

So, $4.99 pack of 6 handkerchiefs from Target (thinnest handkerchiefs I have ever been able to see right through) and $0.99 satiny rayon embroidery thread (5 little bins for black in the basic cotton floss ALL EMPTY) later I was on my way.  My mom chose the font Old London from  I didn't need to download it since I needed to sketch it out on paper, but I made sure it was a free font anyway.  Sketching the font on the handkerchief was a challenge because even though the kerchief was ridiculously thin, at 100% cotton it bled like crazy.  So my water soluble and 48 hour disappearing markers were useless.  I couldn't get a crisp enough line to follow for the actual embroidery.  I finally had to turn to my iron-on transfer pen.  With that one you draw the design backward on paper (no bleeding!) the put it ink down on the fabric and iron.  A permanent line, but thin enough the stitches would cover it up.

Finally I could get started, but it was so later in the day after all the experimenting I decided to wait until the next day.  Sunday I got cracking early in case I messed up and had to go buy more handkerchiefs.  It was terrible.  That floss was a nightmare.  It frayed like mad.  I only used two threads to keep the embroidery lighter on the fabric, but they would not blend well like cotton floss does.  The thread twisted around themselves so they wouldn't lay flat and made little loops that would not lay down.  I had to unpick stitches and try to untwist the thread and it was crazy.  Finally there was victory (for me) and all three were done.  Three because I had messed up the iron-on transfer and done it to the back of two of the handkerchiefs.  Oops.

Below are the front and back of one of the monograms for you to see.  They all came out pretty much the same so that was good.

So that is how I spent my weekend after buying ridiculous amounts of yarn for my mom who crochets.  She is using 100% cotton yarn called Sugar and Cream right now, which happened to be on sale here where I live.  So of course I volunteered to go buy lots of it for her.  I have two plastic shopping bags stuffed full of yarn in my apartment right now.  She may have yarn forever.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mending #3 and #4

So my Make and Mend challenge is swimming right along since I had that mending to do for my father and a coworker asked me to fix something for him.  When you can sew and mend it sends out a subliminal signal that others can sense.  That and I was embroidering at work.  Whichever explanation you prefer.

Mending #3 was a sweater for my father.  The lesson with this one is don't rip out your tags.  Just don't do it.  Why?  It leaves a hole.  Of course.  Unfortunately, my mom didn't have matching thread so I volunteered to bring the sweater home with me since I was positive I had matching thread.  Nope.  Luckily when I swung by JoAnn's they had my fave thread: G├╝termann for 40% off.  So I picked up some grey and invisible thread, just in case.

Below are the inside view with all my stitching and the outside view.  You can tell on the outside it was mended by the distortions in the knit lines, but the thing had a hole.  Not just a tear, an actual hole.  Couldn't just grab a pair of scissors to cut the tag out, then even if there was a mistake there would be a tear that is easy to close back up.  Nope.

Mending #4 is a Coworker Hoodie.  Apparently the kangaroo pouch on the front of his hoodie had come away on one side.  Luckily I had brought my father sweater to work for mending (though I didn't actually do it until I was home) - yay for long work hours - and the grey thread was also a perfect match for the hoodie.  In fact it matched so well I had to go slower than I would normally to make sure I wasn't sewing back over my previous stitches.  They were really hard to see.  Plus three layers of a thick knit with the pocket edge folded under.  It went pretty quickly for all that and the finished result is below.  It is actually a straight seam, it looks bent because I didn't take the picture until he put it on so he is holding it out for me.  I also included a smaller inset of what the original stitching would have looked like courtesy of the other end of the pocket.

Yay for mending.  Only one more project for the month.  Plus I need to get my third refashion in for the Refashion Nation.  So much to do, so little time.  Once my job lets up I'll have much more time to be creative.  For now I am stuck with smaller projects I can bring to work since this is where I am spending the bulk of my time.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Embroidery Complete

Well, my first foray into the world of embroidery was exciting and pretty successful if I don't say so myself.  I finished the second two pictures for the gift for my grandmother.  That is four pictures in five days.  Not too shabby.

The third picture is below.  I have also included a closeup of the hair because unlike the others, this girl's hair is colored in.  I used two strands of a medium brown and one of a golden-mustard brown for a highlighted effect.  It was the suggestion of one of my coworkers, and I think it came out really pretty.

The fourth and last picture was the simplest in my opinion, which was nice because I was getting a little tired of embroidery by this point.

So there you have it.  Four retro-vibe pictures embroidered with three strands of floss throughout.  The embroidery needle that came with the kit was the size of the tapestry needles I saw in JoAnn's, so not sure about that.  Oh well.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Embroidery? Certainly!

SO my job has been keeping at work late this week.  I knew this was coming so I looked about for some sort of projects I could do at my desk that wasn't too much of a production.  Digging around on my craft shelves I found an embroidery kit I had been given for christmas.  I hadn't ever tried embroidery before, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  Plus, the box looked portable.

It wasn't until I got it to work that I opened it and realized the patterns it came with I (a) didn't like and (b) didn't have an iron to transfer to the humongous piece of fabric anyway.  So what does a crafty girl do when faced with this dilemma?  Apply some internet to this problem.  I found some cute vintage-looking kitchen proverb patterns here that were perfect.  The guide is not good at all, so I went with whatever colors I wanted and used 3 strands all around.  For those who don't embroider, like me 3 days ago, embroidery floss is actually 6 strands woven together.  You pull it apart to whatever thickness you want based on the number of strands you use.

The colors that came with the kit were also a bit bland, but luckily a coworker had a bunch of floss in her desk (I swear she got that thing from wherever Mary Poppins got her carpet bag).  After getting the first one done, I decided to do 4 pictures total on the fabric and then mail it to my grandmother as a christmas present.  That gives me plenty of time to finish.  Pictures 1 and 2 are done, below:

Mending #2 and idea of #3

So it must be something about guys and the backs of their shirts.  Boyfriend has a polo shirt where he mysteriously tore a hole horizontally through the white stripe near the collar in the back.  The tag is fabric and sewn in totally in a large rectangle, so it wasn't that.  So mending #2 was just using white thread and sewing the raw edges back together.  Luckily the polo is a knit so I didn't have to deal with any unraveling.
Mending #3 is a similar situation on a grey sweater belonging to my father.  My mom didn't have thread that matched, so I took it thinking I did.  Well, yeah no, so when I was out at JoAnn's I picked some up.  Turned out G├╝termann thread was 40% off.  So I picked up some invisible thread too.  Bonus.  I'll get to that when I have a chance.  Work is crazy right now.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Make and Mend #1 - for the boyfriend

Well, I didn't get much done today.  I did finally break out the stitch witchery (pic) to hem a pair of boyfriend's work pants.  They are the cotton twill wannabe-denim fabric that makes my machine wheeze.  I really need to get a sharper needle for fabrics like that.  For now though I am using the iron hem stuff to get the job done.
Of course I forgot to take a before picture.  I just cut right in.  The bottom edge of the hem had frayed through in several places and the bottom edge kept growing fringe.  Plus they were too long.  Boyfriend disagrees, but when you always wear the pants cuffed once to the point they are wearing a line, the pants are too long.

So I got out my trusty seam ripper - great fun on this project - and ripped out all of the neat little stitches holding the hem up.  Then I cut the hem allowance off.  The frayed through and worn edge made that a snap.  The stitching had left a track of little holes that made a convenient reference point for folding up a new hem since the current-new bottom edge was uneven from all the fraying.  I folded up to about 1/4" above the stitch line.  Two rows of bonding web in between, I went section by section around each leg.  Once I finished the hemming, I used more bonding web to put hem tape over the raw edge like so:
You can see the inside of the hem on top and the outside below.  Unfortunately, until I get the sharper needle I can't try to put a line a stitching to make the pants look natural.  For now they look like they were hemmed, but that is better than looking ratty I think.  Boyfriend will have to deal.  This saves him from buying a whole new pair of pants.  And they're the right length now, bonus!  If he wears through this hem I'll probably have to go all the way and cut them off for shorts.  I can't take them up any more or they'll look too short.  It's the little projects that keep you going between bigger stuff.

Monday, June 6, 2011


So if you look right I have two new buttons hanging out.  One is for Mend and Make Do, which is a philosophy I have been a believer in for ages.  Back in college I used to make shelves to hold my stuff out of the cardboard boxes other people brought their junk in.  I hate throwing things away if I can envision any amount of use from them, though this means sometimes I keep things I should probably donate since they have use but simply don't suit me.  So codifying this intent, and dragging my boyfriend's wardrobe along however unenthusiastic he may be, is a new button I got from The Sewing Dork.

Also is a new button from C&C for the Refashion Nation.  At first I was a bit worried because you're agreeing to 3 projects, however small, a month.  This month is going to be killer work-wise so I thought I'd fall behind the first month I signed up!  Then I looked back over my projects and realized I had finished turning a valance into a skirt on June 3 and finally did that refashion on my blah and mysteriously stained lavender shirt on June 4 so I am already 2 of 3 for the month.  *Cue sigh of relief* Maybe I can make it after all.

Summer will hopefully see me in an internship in addition to my full time job though so this type of challenge will give me incentive to not just hoard stuff, but to actually turn it into something useful either for myself or someone else. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Refashion #2 - shirt to cardigan

This refashion came about because of a three-quarter-length sleeve knit shirt that I was so-so on to begin with (I owned it in a light green as well) somehow ended up with a mysterious stain right on the front.  No idea how that happened, but needless to say, the shirt wasn't getting worn.  I also happen to have an aversion to throwing things out if they can be fixed.  I decided to try and turn it into a cardigan using a tutorial I had seen somewhere (I am so sorry I lost the link to it).  I forgot to take a "before" picture, so just envision a v-neck 3/4 sleeve lavender knit top.

I decided to cut up the middle per the tutorial and folded under 1/2" on either side then basted.  To cover the stain I used 1 1/2" wide grosgrain ribbon running vertically up each side.  Below is a picture of it pinned on.
It is hard to see in the picture but the neckline is on the left.  There was a seam there where the neck edging had been sewn on from the back.  This created way too much bulk folded under so the excess had to be cut off in order to sew the grosgrain ribbon down.  That created a new problem of raw knit edges showing on the ends of the neckline.  Luckily I had also bought some lacy hem tape in lavender for this project.  I'm not much for lace and ruffles necessarily, but just the edge folded over the neckline and the rest underneath has a subtle look to it.  I just folded it over, pinned and top-sewed through it as close to the seam with the rest of the top as I could.  Hopefully the pic below will help illustrate my explanation.
Once I got the lace on and tried it on I realized that putting on buttons would distort the side seams.  I wouldn't be able to pull one side over the other without too much stretching because the shirt didn't have enough extra width.  I decided instead to use some hook and bar closures I had since I bought an entire package for the skirt beta.  Sewing in two at the bust area, I left above and below open.  Finished product below:
(Please forgive my slouch.)  So, as a shirt it layered under things not very well which is why I didn't like it much.  As a cardigan it layers over other things so I am hoping I like it better this way.  The embellishment of the ribbon and lace edging turned out very subtle on the finished product so I am debating if it needs something more.  I guess we'll see.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Skirt Beta finished!

So my first ever skirt made is done.  The skirt beta is complete.  Slogging through the fog created by the confluence of bad allergies and benadryl, I was determined to finish this thing once and for all so I could say I was done.  I finished.  I made a skirt!  I learned a lot in this process:
- how to change my presser foot
- how to put in a zipper
- how awesome pressing is
- how to use fusible interfacing
- why you fold the fabric under for a blind hem stitch like they show you (see picture of hem)
- take your measurements before you buy patterns

And those are only a few things.  The pattern was McCall's 3830.  I chose view D since I prefer knee-length skirts.  If you recall, the fabric for this beta came from a valance (1 of 3) that I was given to use as practice.

Here is the result on me.  I apologize for the meh picture quality.  The t-shirt just happened to be what I'm wearing this evening as I worked on it.  Definitely not what I would wear with this skirt.
Contrary to every other skirt made for normal height people, which I always have to take up, I had to lessen the hem allowance on this skirt otherwise it came out an inch or so above the knee.  I don't like that look on me.  I imagine this happened because in addition to being petite I am short-waisted.  At least that is my theory.  The skirt is tight around my waist, borderline uncomfortably so.  I had bought the pattern in size AA (6 -> 12) without taking my measurements ahead of time.  What was I thinking??  I made the skirt in the largest size available, 12, and the waist is definitely tight.  My only two options are to buy the pattern again in a larger size or finally start exercising and eating better.

Oh, and this is why you should follow the directions for blind hem stitching instead of just folding up:
I guess the explanation for this will be that I have decorative stitching now.  Not what I intended, but meh.  This is why I made a practice skirt.  When my allergies let me go from their clutches I can think about trying a different pattern.  I have an elastic waist sleep pant pattern I bought that I might try next since now I know the 12 with a waistband is going to be too tight.  Elastic being more forgiving I might be able to get away with a 12 in the other pattern.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Allergies 1 . . Erin 0

So yesterday I totally had the best intentions to go home, attach the waistband to my skirt and do the bottom hem - skirt beta finished.  Except I did not reckon with my allergy medication wearing off earlier than expected.  So a benadryl later, I practically passed out after dinner.  They should market that stuff as a sleep aid.  Too bad it works.  So even as I sniffle while I write this, I hope to get another shot when I get out of work today.  We'll see how that goes.