Monday, August 24, 2015

New Chair!

As I was sitting on our 3-year-old, $48 Craigslist couch thinking about how much I hate it and wondering where else I should sit, I realized I had the perfect solution, and all it needed was an hour or two of cutting and sewing.

I bought a swivel rocker from Goodwill sans cushion probably a year ago. I then got foam, fabric, and a zipper for cushion for this chair. The chair then waited in the corner for me to 1. figure out how to cut the foam into a more cushion-like shape (husband rounded the edges with a handsaw) and 2. cut and sew the fabric. Husband did #1 a couple of months ago, hoping it would turn at least one open project into a finished item.

This was pretty simple. I cut out two pieces roughly 1/2" larger around than the pad itself. I cut a strip to go around roughly 1" wider than the depth of the cushion. I sewed it all together with a 1/4" seam allowance, putting a zipper on the seam that would be on the back of the top of the cushion. No, I didn't iron, bad seamstress!

Voila! Comfy knitting/reading/sometimes working chair, with lovely handknit blanket that I just couldn't leave when I saw it at Goodwill. Sweet!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Steotchalong the Third: Clue #8

It's finished!

I went with the suggested saying in the Star Wars font. I think it turned out pretty well!

I had a bunch of frames sitting around from when I found some interesting ones at Goodwill. I chose a grey floral one that went surprisingly well with the piece:

I hope my friends enjoy it!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cat Cave

I managed to get almost a mile of yarn I wasn't going to be using any time soon out of the stash and into a usable format for my cats:

Pattern: Large Pineapple Doily (Ravelry mine)
Yarn: DMC Cebelia Cotton Size 30
Hook: US11 steel hook/~1.1mm
Timeframe: November 14, 2014 - January 19, 2015
Mods: This follows the pattern so loosely I'm not sure I should even consider it to be based on that pattern. It has the same basic shape but different increases for the floor, I went back-and-forth around the opening (the original pattern cuts and re-starts to make it look nice) and I do some different decreases in the top to make it start to curve in before making a flat roof. I started with the pattern, then did my own increases, then ripped back again after it just didn't work the first time:
Problems: Following the original pattern did not work with my yarn and then I realized that the yarns I was planning to use would run out before I was done. Screwing it up the first time was actually a good thing so I could re-do the color scheme!

It could stand to be a little taller, but the big cat (pictured) likes small spaces. She's been in it quite a few times, and both cats have fought in and around it so I think they like it. There's a little bit of the green and a skein and a half of the white left. I used nearly all the yarn I wanted to for it, finishing off seven skeins that weren't likely to be used any time soon. Score!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Steotchalong the Third: Clue #7

Better late than never!

Now on to the final clue and a frame!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Sock Blockers

Since my sock blockers bit the dust, I was considering where to buy my next set from. A helpful post on Ravelry noted that I could just get some placemats, trace my current pair, and have a quick, cheap, and easy new set. So that's what I did!

I got a very inexpensive pack of four flexible cutting boards, then used my retired sock blocker as the pattern for the new ones.

They were surprisingly easy to cut with just kitchen shears.

I cut outside the Sharpie line because I like how the outline looks. I also added a hole at the top so they can be hung on things like a shower rod for pictures and drying. They're a bit more flexible than I'd recommend for sock blockers, and it took a little coaxing to get the test sock on, but for under $6 for four, I'm not going to complain!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Bulky Knits

I've gotten some bulky yarns from friends who used them for a project and had leftovers or started to knit but never got anywhere. I'm knitting them up into useful winter gear and giving them back this year. I've also been suffering from a bout of Start-Itis that conflicts with my desire to actually finish things and keep the number of WIPs down, so I lined up all the smaller/faster projects in my queue. I tried to actually finish things and assuage the Start-Itis, and it seems to have worked!

Yarn: Bernat Alpaca, two skeins
Needles: US13/9.0mm
Timeframe: August 7 - 10, 2015
Mods: Knit 'til all the yarn was gone instead of to a specific length.
Problems: None, though I think I might find a different pattern next time I have yarn with alpaca in it. The yarn fuzzes out the pattern a bit.

Pattern: Rainbow Twist (Ravelry mine)
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick
Needles: US15/10.0mm
Timeframe: August 11, 2015
Mods: US15/10.0mm needles because that's the largest size I currently have.
Problems: None!

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick
Needles: US11/8.0mm
Timeframe: August 11 - 12, 2015
Mods: US11/8.0mm needles because that's the closest in US needles without going down to make it smaller. Also added a pompom to finish off 100% of the yarn.
Problems: None,!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More Sewing

I had a bunch of extra silk scarves for Nuno felting and a need for some small, lightweight bags, so I sacrificed one scarf for these:

This bag for my tarot cards was quick and well done. I folded the silk in half, double-folded the ribbon casing so the cut edges were on the inside, and took my time to make it nice. The silk seems to be yellowing a bit with age, but that's okay, it's doing its job!

A couple of weeks ago we were doing the final pack the morning that we were driving out to Virginia for a conference and some hiking. We have a new tent and stakes for that tent, but they didn't come in a bag. Of course, the morning that we're packing and trying to leave I realize that I have the perfect, ultra-lightweight fabric to whip up a quick stake bag, so I did. I used the already-in-the-machine navy blue thread, a brown ribbon (that I tied incorrectly - there should be two loops through the bag, not just two ribbons on either side), and I cut it a bit short because I didn't consider double-folding the ribbon casing. It definitely worked, it's just not the prettiest thing I've made!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Stranded Socks

Another lonesome sock has been paired!

Yarn: Eden Cottage BFL Sock in April '09 Sock Club British Woodland and Knit Picks Essential (now Stroll) in Navy and Black
Needles: US1.5/2.5mm
Timeframe: May 31 - June , 2015
Mods: Top-down for a better fit, no CC stripe at the toe because I remembered I was supposed to do it after I cut the yarn on the first sock. Oops!
Problems: I didn't line up the instep and sole patterns, but I'm not all that fussed. Also the blue yarn ran out so I had to do the last inch of the pattern and the toe of the second sock in black.

You may have noticed that these socks, unlike pretty much all of my others, are not on sock blockers. Mine have finally been retired. They're wooden, and have gotten quite a few crack along the edges - cracks that can snag yarn. I tried sanding and sealing the edges, but putting damp socks on continued to damage the wood. Had I shellac'd the whole thing when I got them, they might still be fine, but I did not consider heavy-duty sealing until they were already warped and cracked.

They have snagged their last, having almost broken a float while I was putting the bottom-most sock on. Now, do I replace them with heavily-shellac'd wood, plastic, or metal ones?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Practially Perfect Box Bags: A (Picture-Heavy) Tutorial

I like box bags. I've made 21 of them, and finally have a method that gives me an excellent finished product, one that makes it easier for me to sew, and one that I really, really enjoy. First, I used Drago[knit]fly's tutorial, which works great but I don't love the unfinished inside edges. Recently, I came across a version with finished internal edges, and decided to try that next. I used both Sew4Home's tutorial and It's a Pretty Modern Life's tutorial, but neither was quite what I was going for. I don't like the extra seam on It's a Pretty Modern Life versions, and I don't like the ambiguity of Sew4Home's pattern, so used the basic knowledge I had from the first ones I made plus the better tips and pictures from It's a Pretty Modern Life but the actual method from Sew4Home and now I'm trying to make a photo tutorial that will help you (the reader) get the best box bag you can, even if, like me, you're not all that familiar with your sewing machine. All of these tutorials probably assumed the seamstress knew the tips and tricks (what seams to press when, when to use a zipper foot, etc.), but I didn't, and now I'll share with you what I've learned to make a painless and pretty darn professional looking bag.

Step 1: Gather your materials

Get everything you'll need together.
* fairly strong thread, coordinating or contrasting - typically, you want thread that is slightly less strong than what you're sewing so that the thread will rip rather than the cloth and you can re-sew it. For these bags, I prefer the stitches to stay and not get snagged or rip because I'm not going to be re-sewing this in the future, so I use the strongest thread I've got.
* 16"x12" piece of exterior fabric
* 4.5"x12" piece of exterior fabric (this piece can be wider or skinnier, the handle will be the width (4.5") minus the seam allowance (1/2") divided by two (in my case, 2" handle width))
* 16"x12" piece of lining fabric
* 16"x12" piece of interfacing or batting (fusible or not, either is okay)
* (optional) 1.75"x12" piece of interfacing (this will be for the handle, make sure it's close to but smaller than the final handle width (in my case, 2"))
* 12" or longer zipper (I'm using a 55 cm because that's what I've got!)
* pins, rotary cutter and/or scissors, ruler, chopstick or similar for popping out the corners of the finished bags

Step 2: Iron Stuff

Make sure your fabrics are ironed. Do not iron your interfacing if it's fusible! Once your fabric is ironed, you can iron the large piece of fusible interfacing (if you're using it) to the back side of the large piece of exterior fabric.

Step 3: Pinning

Lay down your lining right side up, with the zipper right side up on top of it (I'm using an invisible zipper), followed by the exterior right side down, and last the interfacing/batting. Pin it and mark 1/2" from either side.

Step 4: Sewing

I love my vertical zipper foot. Absolutely love it. It gives me a nice close edge on an invisible zipper and is just so much nicer than your typical zipper foot. Use whatever zipper foot you want to sew close to the teeth of the zipper. Make sure to backstitch at either end to secure the thread. Do NOT sew past the 1/2" marks on either side; it will create a hassle later on!

Step 5: Ironing Again

Press open all your fabric. Press open your lining first, then press the exterior fabric plus interfacing/batting.

Step 6: More Sewing

Topstitch. I use the width of the zipper foot as a guide for my stitching, though you can switch back to your normal presser foot if you prefer. Again, remember to backstitch and do NOT sew past the 1/2" marks on either side!

Step 7: Pin again

Same as before, but this time fold the lining back to make one tube (blue tube on bottom), then fold the exterior plus interfacing/batting the other way to make a second tube (top tube). You still want lining right side up, zipper right side up, exterior right side down, interfacing/batting, and mark that 1/2" from either side.

Step 8: Sew, sew, sew your zipper

Same as Step 4. Reminder, backstitching is good and do NOT sew past the 1/2" marks on either side!

Step 9: Press

This time, it's easier if you open the zipper all the way to turn the bag right-side-out to press it. Press as in Step 5.

Step 10: Topstich

Same as Step 6, but more difficult. Open and close the zipper as necessary to navigate around the other side, especially if you have a 12" zipper. One last time, backstitch to start and finish, and do NOT sew past the 1/2" marks on either side!

Step 11: Inside-Out Again

Flip everything back to where it was originally, with the lining making one tube and the exterior and interfacing/batting making a second. Zip the zipper 100% closed. Prepare for Step 12.

Step 12: Pin Stuff

Line up your tubes so the zipper is exactly centered for both tubes, and pin each tube separately

Step 13: Sew Again

Sew across each tube, no need for backstitching this time. Give it a 3/8" seam and use your zipper foot so you can get as close to the zipper as possible. Sew the lining by itself and the zipper, exterior, and interfacing/batting together. If your zipper extends past the edge, make sure you open it enough to have the zipper pull inside the bag when you sew the edge. Otherwise it won't open! I know from experience...

Step 14: Cut!

Trim the edges, especially if you've got some hanging zipper ends like I do.

Now, use a clear ruler if you've got one, and cut out 1.25" squares from every corner (both the lining tube and the everything else tube), lining up the square with the folded side edge and the seam, not the cut edge.

Step 15: Pin!

Using the corner holes, open your zipper up completely. Now this next bit is a bit difficult to visualize and figure out the first time. Open up the hole in the corner, and line up the seam with the small crease the fold makes. You'll be folding at the cut corners.

Pin 5 of the corners together, leaving one liner corner and the two exterior corners on either side of the top of the bag (where the zipper pull is when the bag is closed) unpinned.

Step 16: Make handle

Fold the 4.5"x12" piece of exterior fabric in half and iron.

Sew the long edge to turn it into a tube.

Re-fold it and iron the seam open.

Turn the handle right-side-out. If adding interfacing to stiffen the handle, make sure the width is slightly smaller than the width of the handle and feed it through the fabric tube (I use a safety pin to help me feed it through.

Stitch a few lines on the handle for decoration and so it stays flat. I like to use one straight line roughly 3/8" from either end and a decorative stitch down the center.

Step 17: Pin!

Pin the handle into the two exterior corners left open from Step 15. Center the handle and line up the edge of the handle with the edge of the bag.

Step 18: Sew!

Sew all 4 of the outer corners and the 3 pinned liner corners with a 3/8" seam.

I also like to go over the zipper a few times to be sure it is secure and to tack the lining and exterior together along those seams.

Use the last open liner corner to turn the bag right-side-out.

Step 19: Finish!

Finally, fold in the edges on that last liner corner and sew that one up too. Run a chopstick or something similar along the corner seams on the inside of the bag to fully open them up if necessary.

Voila, finished bags!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Friendship Bracelets

I was a part of a friendship bracelet swap on Ravelry. I received an excellent anklet and bracelet:

And made two for my swapee:

Patterns: Macrame Leaves
Thread: DMC in Blanc (White), 699 (Green), 726 (Light Topaz), 720 (Dark Orange Spice), 722 (Light Orange Spice)
Timeframe: July 2015
Mods: None!
Problems: Tension wasn't the most consistent, but I'm happy with it!

Patterns: Pattern #86772
Thread: DMC in Blanc (White), 310 (Black), 726 (Light Topaz), 720 (Dark Orange Spice), 722 (Light Orange Spice), 600 (Very Dark Cranberry), 602 (Medium Cranberry), 603 (Cranberry), 605 (Very Light Cranberry)
Timeframe: July 2015
Mods: Made the ends arrow-shaped based on the design.
Problems: Tension wasn't the most consistent, but I'm happy with it! I also ran out of the white and black 3/4 of the way through so had to add more. I don't think the knots are visible.

Aside from my cats thinking the threads flying about were things for them to play with, I had almost no problems and these went fairly quickly! I did have to add more white and black to the larger bracelet, and I did that by tying each one of the six strands to the new strand of the thread. You can tell on the back where I added the new stuff, but it doesn't really show on the front. The tension isn't consistent, so the leaves on the anklet aren't all the same size and the pattern for the bracelet isn't as clear as it could be. I hope the swapee enjoys them anyway!