craftmas, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

My true love gave to me: a calendar to count down daily!

Back in the summer sometime, in the course of scrolling through Etsy, I came across a panel of 24 mini-stockings meant to be made into an advent calendar. Did I need it? No. But also maybe yes. In either case, it was delivered to me in short order. If you’re curious and/or want to try this at home, kids, it’s the “Merry Christmas Mini Stocking Advent” by Makower.

The instructions included were pretty straightforward: lay your stocking panel wrong-sides-together on top of whatever fabric you want for your stocking backs, pin and cut.

Of course, I had help.

Once they were all cut out…

…I could pin each front-back pair and sew them together.

It’s funny how much smaller they are once they’re turned right side out! From here, the instructions cheerfully directed me to press the top edge under 1/4″ and stitch close to the edge, then cut ribbon into 6″ length and fold in half and stitch the ends to the inside edge to create hanging loops. There was no way those tiny little things were going to fit around the needle plate on my machine, and I wasn’t about to hand-sew a hem. Instead, while they were inside out, I pressed that top edge the recommended 1/4″, and then turned them right side out and pressed everything – including the top edge. It still created a neat finish, and I can always sew them later if I change my mind.

Rather than deal with making ribbon loops, I decided to attach them to their display rope (that’s a very technical term) using mini clothespins. Thankfully, both the clothespins and the Command Hooks supported the weight of the chocolates I had tucked inside.

I really like that each stocking’s design is oh-so-slightly different. Even the ones that look the same have small differences!

After the day’s chocolates have been, um, dispensed with, the stocking gets re-attached, toe-up, to keep the wall from looking empty as the 24th draws closer. I’m looking forward to turning this into a yearly tradition, where the only decision is what kind of treats to fill them with.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

General Sewing

Don’t panic and always carry a towel

Towel Day is still a few weeks away, but if you’re looking for a more travel-friendly option that hooks conveniently onto belt loops, backpack straps, etc., I’ve got your back. I’ve talked about making this kind of hanging hand towel before, but this time I have a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process, if you’re feeling crafty and want to try it yourself.

I started by cutting out my “topper” from my fabric of choice. I came up with (using that term very loosely) the pattern by tracing around an existing towel-top I already had.

As with most sewing projects, you want to start with your right sides together before sewing your seam. The wide (bottom) part gets left open, but you’ll sew up one side, around the peak, and down the other side.

To make it easier and less bulky when it’s time to turn these right side out, I snipped off the very tip of my point. You could also trim the seam allowance all the way around if you’re concerned, but I’ve never had a problem with it.

Et voilà! These will need to be ironed to make those edges nice and crisp. While you’re at it, fold the raw edge to the inside slightly and press it into place, too (probably 1 cm or so – just enough that you’ll be able to catch the edges when you sew it all together. I just eyeball it, because it’s pretty hard to screw these up. If these are going to be hanging as a set, you might want to work on them side-by-side to ensure you’re shortening them by the same amount).

On to the towel part! Normally, I take a single hand towel and cut it in half, but I couldn’t find a hand towel in the colour I wanted, so I opted for two facecloths instead. They’re a bit shorter side-to-side than a hand towel half would be, but work well. (Not pictured: me hacking off the thick hem at the edge that’s going to go inside my topper, because no way was my sewing machine going to get through all that.)

Fold your towel (facecloth) into thirds-ish so that it looks like it will fit inside the opening of your topper. A hand towel half would have had more overlap in the middle. Clearly, I tried to test-fit this before realizing I’d need to get rid of the one hem.

Hey, look, it fits! There’s just a little bit of extra space at the end of my topper, and that’s OK. If you’ve got more than just a little bit, try tugging on your folds gently to make your towel fill the space better. Because these were going to be hanging up as a set, I used the lines on my towel to gauge how much I had inside the topper and how much would hang down, and tried to keep both towels even. If you’re making a single one, go crazy! Well, within reason. I probably had about 2 or 3 cm of my towel up inside the topper to make sure it all got sewn together and there was no risk of it tearing out if someone were to give it a good yank. This is probably a good time to mention that if you like one side of your topper better than the other – maybe it’s got a cooler pattern placement or whatnot – figure that out now, and make that your front. I’m pretty equal-opportunity about my veggies, so however I grabbed it is how it got positioned.

Good choice making that the front, WittyChild! So many pretty colours… I sewed close enough to the folded edge of my topper that I wouldn’t have a big ol’ fabric flap flapping around and flipping up on me, but far enough away from the folded edge that both the front and back got “caught”, and I didn’t have that delightful experience of the front looking fiiiiiine while the back had a big gap where the fabric didn’t get sewn to the towel (or vice versa). If you folded up your raw edge evenly back when you were ironing all the things, you’ll be thanking yourself now. I don’t pin this into place before I start sewing; I just take it slow. Fine, I did try pinning the towel not pictured above, and broke a sewing machine needle when it hit one of the pins. There’s something to be said for my lazy-girl approach.

It’s time to add your buttons! I was so excited when I found these perfect orange specimens in my stash, but now think that I might have bought them with this project in mind and forgotten about them. Still! I knew I wanted my buttonhole to be near the point to allow maximum folding-over capability in case I found myself with a particularly chunky cupboard door handle at some point, and so I positioned my button where I wanted that buttonhole and then used a marking pencil (sewing pencil? Tailor’s pencil?) to mark where the top and bottom of the button are to determine how long the buttonhole needs to be.

Of course, if I had been just a little less excited about the buttons’ shiny orange-ness, I might have noticed that the card they came on had a handy measuring guide. Spoiler alert: my folksy home-remedy way of sizing worked perfectly here, too, since my buttons weren’t thick or irregularly-shaped.

It’s weird to think that buttonholes are just a series of glorified zig-zag stitches. If you don’t have a buttonhole function on your sewing machine or simply hate adding them to projects (I myself loathe sewing buttons on, but love making buttonholes. Somewhere, my sewing soul mate is out there, the one who hates the buttonhole function but loves sewing those suckers on), you could always use what the fabric store cheerfully calls “hook and loop tape”, but be it known that this stuff will eventually lose its grippy power and cause your towels to fall to the floor at the slightest provocation, such as staring at them too intently, and that’s just impractical and a little unsanitary.

Oh my stars and garters, cutting the buttonhole open once you’ve sewn it is the single most satisfying part of this whole project. It almost makes sewing on the buttons worth it.

After folding my point down to about where I’d want it, I used that marking pencil through the buttonhole to mark where my button is going to sit.

I might not like sewing them on, but I am endlessly pleased by the fact that the thread matches so well.

And there they are, ready to decorate, cheer, and dry! I keep both of them on door/drawer handles close to the kitchen sink for easy access when I need one, but they also work well on oven doors, dishwasher handles…

Thanks for looking! 🙂

General Sewing

Protect ya neck (or at least your clothes)

Oh, goodness. This was originally meant to be a Christmas present, but time got away from me and rushing to finish it – especially when I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted to do the edges – would have harshed my holiday mellow. Instead, I took my time, and have something nice to show for it. (Before you ask: no, I’m not quite that much of a slacker. I finished this in early February, so I’m really only a slacker about posting it, not sewing it.)

Although my local fabric store had had other fabrics from the same collection, I had to source the apron panel online. And, OK, some of the other fabrics too, because you just never know.

This is not a picture of my panel, but of an identical one, because I apparently lacked the foresight to photograph it before merrily cutting into it.

See that black with white lettering at the very bottom? It’s actually a rectangle with several lines of type. Per the instructions, one is supposed to cut them into strips to use as neck and waist ties, but I snorted at their adorable shortness and instead bought some double-fold bias tape. Etsy now thinks I love bias tape, and won’t stop recommending it to me.

I shouldn’t knock the bias tape – it provided a beautiful finish when I used it all along the edges and held the front of the apron to the lining admirably. Using a straight stitch, no matter how slowly I went, seemed to be an exercise in futility as both sides didn’t seem to catch and I’d have to go over them. Switching to a zig-zag stitch solved this and let me edge the entire thing with a minimum of frustration (but still lots of pinning).

Once I finished edging the apron, I cut two generous lengths from what was left of the bias tape to use as waist ties, and worked with what was left after that for the neck loop – I think I had about 10 cm left after all that. I zig-zagged the raw edges of the tape for all my ties and loops before attaching them to keep them strong.

Oh, remember that extra fabric I bought “just because”? It made a perfect backing for this. Ooh, matchy!

So instead of a Christmas gift, it became a totally-unexpected Lunar New Year gift (because there’s a cow on it, which is kind of like an ox, maybe? The recipient is a city boy, so I’m not too worried).

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, General Sewing

On the fourth day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: some fun, patterned PPE!

(If you had asked me back when I started this blog whether I’d ever use the term “PPE” here, I probably wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. Oh, the times we live in…)

My friend Jeanette is considered an essential worker, and although I would sincerely hope her employer provides her with suitable equipment when she has to be around people, I wanted to do something fun for her. A writer, she loves all things vintage-typewriter, and when I saw this fabric at Marshalls this summer, I had to pick up a third of a metre – just enough for a mask or two.

They have the coolest fabrics there, honestly (that’s where my background came from, too). Earlier in the summer, I found this beautiful zodiac fabric and made my mom an Aquarius mask, and then found Leo and Scorpio for my dad and for Mr. Gummi Bear when I found the typewriter key fabric.

The original Aquarius mask (not pictured) wasn’t long for this world. On about her third or fourth time wearing it out, she bent and re-bent the nose wire so vigorously that it broke. This is probably also a cautionary tale about using dollar-store pipe cleaners as nose wires, but what do you have to do to it to break it so quickly? She also complained about the thin elastic I used for ear loops cutting into her ears; the fact that she requested that elastic specifically was irrelevant. Could I replace the wire and elastic? I thought about the amount of unpicking required, and decided it was easier to make her a new one. And hey, if she was getting a new one for Christmas, so were the others.

I used a sturdier wire in all three of them, and the elastic is this super-soft and springy, rounded stuff I found on Etsy. Just let them try and complain about sore ears!

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! 🙂

craftmas, General Sewing

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a scarf for the pep rally!

Even though my friend Ricky* defected to Toronto 15+ years ago, and I see him once a year if I’m lucky, I still try to find the perfect Christmas gift to send every year. In this case, “perfect” translates loosely to “not totally impersonal, not ridiculously expensive, and not a bear to ship in terms of either packaging logistics or postage costs”. I don’t ask for much, do I?

A couple of years ago, I put together a Batman starter kit (mini Bat Signal plus some socks, soap, and mints all featuring the caped crusader’s likeness), and last year it was a box of local goodies that he wouldn’t be able to get in the Big Smoke. With everything that’s been going on this year, I opted for something nostalgic to remind him of those carefree high school days. *pause for laughter* Or at least something in our school colours.

I’ve actually made this scarf twice before, but this was my first time making it according to the original instructions and not trying to shoehorn in an extra colour. Based on a tutorial from the dearly departed Craftster, the premise is simple: choose two colours of fleece (A and B); cut eighteen 4″ by 6″ rectangles and four 6″ squares out of colour A; cut twenty 4″ by 6″ rectangles out of colour B; use nine, two, and ten of each kind of cutout to form each side of the scarf and then sew the two sides together for double-layer warmth.

I sincerely thought that cutting out all those rectangles was the most annoying/time-consuming part of this (admittedly simple) project – and then I remembered that every time you sew two of them together, you have to tie off the thread ends at both ends of the seam. Every time. For 2+10+9-1 seams per side.

To be fair, tying off the thread ends isn’t difficult or as prone to causing hand cramps as marathon fleece-cutting, but it’s the start-and-stop (especially if you leave them all until the end) that makes them a pain. By the time I was doing the second side of my scarf, I got smart, and tied my threads while I was on a conference call – it kept my hands busy, but wasn’t so distracting that I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on.

I think this should ward off the Toronto chill, no?

There was a time when I would have wrapped that scarf all around my model’s head to preserve anonymity or else digitally alter the photo up to and including decapitation; but darned if a co-ordinating mask doesn’t do the trick.

And sure, the scarf is nice and wouldn’t look out of place at the homecoming game (assuming we had a football team, which we did not), but it needed a little something extra to really complete the theme.

Perfect, right? It had the blue-and-gold scheme, and we both spent four years with the same English teacher who spent those years drilling into our heads such gems as the eight (nine? Ten? Google seems to be very divided on this) parts of speech. I think all of my grammatical neuroses can be traced back to that classroom.

In some miracle of modern postal service, his parcel arrived with a week to spare before Christmas, and I hope he’ll be able to get some use out of both, lockdown or no.

Thanks for looking….go Sabres!! 🙂

*Not his real name, but a nickname given by that same English teacher.

craftmas, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a flock of sheep for the tree!

Back in the days of Craftster (RIP), I participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap a couple of times. Basically, you’d create three or six ornaments – usually similar if not actual clones of one another – and be partnered up with three or six people to swap one for one. It was really kind of lovely because you could get your ornaments made well ahead of time and then just wait for your partners’ information. Craftster’s successor, Lettucecraft, is still in its infancy and the swap process has been a little different, and there was no SSOS this year.

Being me, I had already found a pattern I had wanted to use, and wound up making a few anyway.

I added some miniature 1:12 (I think?) lights that weren’t called for in the pattern, but took these from just being sheep to actually being Christmas sheep, and therein lies the difference.

These were really simple to make! My first one came to life during a conference call that required nothing from me apart from confirming my presence during roll call and answering the icebreaker question, and I completed the next two over a few evening phone calls with friends.

When I started making these, I couldn’t decide whether their overall vibe was “Fleece Navidad” or “Baaaaa Humbug”, but my “focus group” overwhelmingly preferred the former.

I call them a flock of sheep at the top of this post, but pity the poor collie who has to herd them: they wound up with (or are in the process of making their way to) friends in three different countries.

If the SSOS ever comes back, I might have to revisit these little guys. Love ’em!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing

She blinded me with science…

The second round of swaps on Lettucecraft recently took place, and I signed up for the Adult Merit Badge swap as fast as my little fingers could complete the questionnaire. I was never a Girl Guide, but I love me a merit badge! My partner listed ten different possible themes to choose from, and I was thisclose to working with “Coffee” when I started Googling bad science puns (she’s a biology teacher, and had listed “Science” as one of her themes). Before I knew what was happening, “Coffee” was all but forgotten, and darn it, I was going to dad-joke the heck out of “Science”.

It was a bit of a masochistic choice on my part, because I am not a science-type person. In Grades 11 and 12, we were made to choose at least one science class of the “big three” to take: Biology, Chemistry, and/or Physics. This was exactly one more science class than I wanted to take. Why not an extra period of French instead, so I could hinky dinky parlez-vous with the best of them? Or English? Never mind that I probably already gave Mr. Klymko a Level-5 Motrin headache on a daily basis anyway: this was my education we were talking about.

I eventually opted for Physics for two solid reasons. Primo, it seemed the “cleanest” and the least likely to feature funny smells, oozing, or explosion; secundo, my aunt taught Chemistry, and I thought it might be weird. (This was really terrible logic on my part, because she taught me math in Grades 10 and 11 and I actually understood it for the first time for reasons that had nothing to do with our shared name. And if I had known that I’d take up recreational baking, I would have volunteered to learn about chemical reactions in a heartbeat.) Because Physics was also the hardest of the three and didn’t garner a lot of wiling victims, the school combined the Grade 11 and 12 students into one class, and we covered both levels in one academic year. Every single day of Grade 11, I had double Physics, and it was brutal. (But! Having gotten both years out of the way at once, my Grade 12 schedule was such that I had the entire afternoon free every other day, so I can’t say no good came of it.)

Biology, however, was a bit of newish territory for me. Through the magic of the internet, I found a picture I liked, to use as inspiration for my badge. My partner told me she has a purse where she affixes any badges she accumulates, and my hope was that her students would get a kick out of this one, too.

Oh, how I love working with felt! The badge is about 3″ high from top white border to bottom white border. When I first found my “inspiration image”, I honestly had no idea whether all the little bits contained in the cell were accurate, but through research I discovered that yes, they were – this is a rough representation of an animal cell!

I made my nucleus and cell phone out of felt, but embroidered the facial features and, in the end, the mitochondria and the vacuoles. I had initially cut small bits of felt for the latter two, but the bright red and green felt made it look like a Christmas ornament and not, you know, an actual science thingie. The satin stitch I went with instead wasn’t a tremendous effort, and helped the overall appearance, I think. Once I had all my features stitched on, and my layers of felt where they ought to be, I added a white backing to hide the stitches.

A close-up, for good measure:

My partner really liked it, which is a huge relief! Her comment: She even got the detail of the endoplasmic reticulum being attached to the nucleus. I just smiled and nodded – although I do know which one the nucleus is!

Wondering what I got in the mail? My partner absolutely nailed it, and did a mash-up of my “Cats” and “Cupcakes” themes.

Her daughter helped pick out the colours, which are honestly so perfect purrfect for something cupcake-themed. She even attached a safety pin to the back of it for easy wearing and removal, which is the ultimate thoughtful detail.

It’s so nice to have the swapping up and running – I love being able to craft outside of my usual comfort zone.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

General Sewing

“Is ‘mask’ the keyword?” – Humbert Humbert

Because if there’s one thing I love, it’s a bandwagon to jump on.

OK, snarkiness aside, I’ve been seeing different patterns for non-medical-grade face masks popping up everywhere over the last few weeks. My regional health authority has been telling us that we don’t need masks, that they don’t protect us, that all they do is provide a false sense of security – however, I figured they couldn’t hurt, either. Even if you’re keeping your distance like a good citizen, there’s always some rando in the grocery store who thinks he can breach your six feet to squeeze in behind you and grab a pack of gum from the checkout rack, having a coughing fit as he does it.

In the end, I went with this pattern, mainly because I liked that it wasn’t just a video tutorial. I’m old-school darn it, and I like my step-by-step instructions to read. I also thought the contoured shape would offer a better “seal”, for as much good as a homemade mask is.

My dress form, Dolores (named after Dolores Haze; my dad keeps calling her “Doris”, citing that her short blonde ‘do seems inspired by one Miss Day), kindly offered up her head to model the finished masks. She’s a little shocked-looking at the best of times…

…but she looks positively panicked at having to wear a mask.

The recipient of the coffee-printed mask, on the far right, told me later that he undid a few stitches in the lining and inserted an unfurled paper clip as a makeshift nose wire, which helped prevent his glasses from fogging up. (The tutorial I used offered a variation using wire, but I had dismissed it as being uncomfortable. Colour me wrong.) When I made the next two, I used grocery-store twist ties for a gentler, more pliable wire.

I’ve had that Simpsons fabric in my stash for three years now, not knowing what to make with it – this was such a great project for it. I also figured out that by removing Dolores’ wig before putting on her mask, I didn’t have the issue of the elastic scooting her hair back and making it look weird. Too bad that doesn’t work on humans.

Here’s hoping they offer their wearers at least a little extra protection!

Thanks for looking…and stay home and stay safe! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing

Stop! Grammar time!

Happy Grammar Day! I did not craft some lovely, grammatically sound work of art (nor did I invite the strippers, JFK and Stalin. Always use your Oxford commas, people!), so I’ll leave you with this because it makes me smile.

Oh, Jasper…watch out for that pencil sharpener…

But back to our regularly scheduled crafty post, and apologies for the bait-and-switch.

Back in December, Craftster closed the membership part of its site, leaving a bunch of us without a crafty place to call home. (The site still exists, but in archive mode, and you can still look up projects assuming the original poster didn’t take down her pictures.) Just before that unpleasant little announcement was made, one of the members had started gauging enthusiasm for a Little Good Things swap: we’d send our partner something quick and simple, that took two hours-ish to make, plus a sweet treat and a little card telling what one of our personal little good things was. I liked the idea of a quick turnaround, and if I was considering it before the announcement, the fact that it would be the last Craftster swap ever sealed the deal.

I wasn’t the only one thinking like that: this thing turned out to be epic, with 50 participants (something that hadn’t happened there in years) and zero flakers. I requested two partners, and although there was a bit of overlap between their questionnaires and likes, I wanted to make sure I didn’t send twin packages.

My first partner mentioned adult merit badges as a little good thing, and I thought this would be a fitting way to commemorate her time as a member of the site. I cut two 3″ circles out of light blue felt, and then resized an image of Craftster’s mascot (unofficially known as “Cork Guy”; I don’t think he has a name) to fit and cut him out of felt, too. Cork Guy and the dates were sewn only onto one circle, and then I attached the second one with a rainbow blanket stitch to hide the back of my work. The numbers really set my nerves on edge, trying to make them a) the correct size and b) legible. But oh! I got to use math to figure out how long each colour of blanket stitch should be: πd / six colours = 1.57″ per colour.

Although my second partner had also mentioned adult merit badges, I wanted to go a different route. Her questionnaire declared stormy weather to be a little good thing, particularly if she didn’t have to go out in it. The darker blue fabric with the silver streaks reminded me of lightning streaking across the sky, so I paired it with a bright-sky blue fabric to make a 6″ x 8″ mug rug. There’s a layer of fleece in between to offer a bit of extra cushioning and absorbency. To round out the “cozy night in” theme, I sent a few individually wrapped tea bags and some chocolate.

There’s a happy ending to the Craftster trauma: almost immediately after its closure was announced, a few of the moderators put their heads together and launched a new crafty community. Lettucecraft (Just Let. Us. Craft.) has been up and running since January 1, and it’s already full of crafty inspiration.

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, General Sewing

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a gift that’s very “hand”-y!

When I was little, my grandmother used to cut decorative hand towels in half and then crochet a topper on each half, complete with a loop for hanging. When she had a good stash built up, she’d bring them out at a family gathering and let us pick which one(s) we wanted. These were a serious staple of my childhood, and I can’t imagine a kitchen without one.

My own crochet skills are not as sophisticated as hers were, sadly, but when I saw this glorious fabric:

…I had the perfect plan for it.

I took a towel I had bought somewhere else (charity fundraiser?) and traced around its fabric topper to draft a pattern for myself. I found some plain red towels at the store that matched the red lettering pretty much perfectly. I cut each towel in half (width-wise, not lengthwise), folded each half in approximate thirds (lengthwise, not width-wise) to fit into the topper. Once they were fit in, I sewed the topper shut, et voilà.

The first time I tried making towels like this, I attached some Velcro unbranded hook-and-loop tape to make it easy to hang the towel from an oven handle or whatnot. Unfortunately, after repeated washings, the Velcro-like product lost its “stick” and the towel would fall to the floor at the slightest provocation, like some sort of kitchen-linen fainting goat.

Sooo…I worked through my dislike of sewing buttons and sewed on buttons. It honestly wasn’t as painful as I remember, and now these towels aren’t going anywhere until you decide they are.

My mom has laid claim to two of them; the rest will be tucked into various Christmas gifts as a fun little bonus. In fact, one has found its way to its new home already:

I want a dishwasher handle like that!

Thanks for looking! 🙂