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! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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!! πŸ™‚

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

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! πŸ™‚

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: Ο€d / 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! πŸ™‚

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 voilΓ .

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! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing, Uncategorized

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: ein Schal fΓΌr Schnuckiputzi!

Last year, I cross-stitched Berlin as a Christmas gift for my friend of German descent, which felt like it took more or less forever. This year, I opted for something less ambitious but far more pragmatic: a double-layer fleece scarf, in the colours of the German flag, perfect for warding off the frigid Prairie air.

I used this tutorial, which I also used a few years back to make a scarf for my dad, so I already had a pretty good idea of what I was doing. (That never happens!) I found the fleece at a good price back in the summer when, ahem, the eventual recipient happened to be with me.

HIM: What are you going to do with the fleece?

ME: Oh, remember those Star Trek stockings I made? I want to make more. I’ve already got Spock blue at home.

Good excuse, right? Fast-forward to the cutting table.

OVERLY OBSERVANT FABRIC STORE EMPLOYEE: Looks like you’re making a German flag.

ME: Um, no. Star Trek stockings.

OVERLY OBSERVANT FABRIC STORE EMPLOYEE: So where’s the blue?

Much measuring, cutting, and sewing later, I had this:

My model is in the Witness Protection Program. πŸ˜‰

Actually, I’m lucky I was able to take it off long enough to have her model it for me – it’s soooo warm and snuggly!

It’s nice and long, so he’ll be able to wrap it around and make sure he’s covered. Perfect for those early-morning waits for the bus!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing

Tangled Up in Blue

When I signed up for the 2019 edition of the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster, my mind danced with possibilities. I had done it a couple of years ago, when it was the Sunshine in a Box Swap, but everything was in sunny shades of orange and yellow. This time, I had limitless options. I chose pink as my colour, and couldn’t wait to see what bright hue my partner had picked. Ooh, or maybe that would be hues, plural! When I saw her colour was navy, I was temporarily flummoxed.

It’s so dark. Wasn’t that akin to sending a big box of gloom?

Still, if navy was what she wanted, navy was what she was going to get, and I scanned her Pinterest for ideas (gleaning a few Christmas ornament how-to’s along the way), until I hit a pocket of beachy Pins. Something sea-y would work well! A quick trip to Michaels later, I had two packages of iron-on embroidery transfers and a set of blank, navy-striped tea towels.

I’m pretty sure the lighthouse design is bigger, but it went more quickly than the beach chair one did. Weird.

Close-ups:

I kept things super-simple, and used a basic backstitch to outline everything. Partway through the first one, I panicked – although I knew I was using navy thread, it looked almost black. (Though this clearly didn’t panic me enough to stop stitching and switch colours. Go figure.) It must have just been a trick of the light, because when my partner received her package and posted pictures, the lines were definitely navy. *whew*

I also made her the Poochie bag we all know and love from a couple of posts back:

I stuffed the bag with some navy goodies: blueberry-scented votive candles, a tin of blueberry mints, some washi tape, navy gel pens…

I couldn’t wait to see how she ran with my request for pink, and I wasn’t disappointed!

I can’t knit, and so I’m in utter awe of the cabling on the hat. The texture…oooh! (The unicorn lights, of course, went straight to work with me to brighten up my cube.)

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

General Sewing

I’m Half Joe Camel and a Third Fonzarelli

Way back, when I was first dipping my toes into that great pool that is Etsy, I found some fabric from a purveyor of kawaii textiles that I just had to have. I don’t remember how closely I read the listing before adding it to my cart and waiting impatiently for my package to arrive from Japan.

When it did arrive, the package’s contents were just as lovely as they had looked online, only…much smaller than anticipated. I was not and am not a quilter, and had never heard of a fat quarter, and it was inconceivable (“I don’t think you know what ‘inconceivable’ means.” – Ed.) that someone should sell fabric in less than a metre cut. I had no idea what to make with an 18″ x 22″ piece of fabric – though admittedly, I don’t think I had a project in mind for a metre, either – and into my stash it went.

Fast-forward ten years (I know!), and suddenly every store is charging 5Β’ for a plastic bag. I’m honestly not bothered by being charged a nickel, and as long as plastic bags are reused or disposed of properly, I don’t believe they’re the environmental bogeyman that everyone makes them out to be. (Edit: I found this, which confirms my theories at least partly.) But some stores’ (looking at you, Michaels) are made so cheaply that anything sharper than a cotton ball will cause them to tear so that they can’t be reused. And who wants to lug around one of those family-sized reusable bags from a grocery store when you’re just heading to the drugstore for dental floss and conditioner?

While browsing through files on my computer, I stumbled on a PDF that I had downloaded from the Happy Zombie probably around the time that I bought that abnormally tiny cut of fabric. This so-called “Poochie Bag” looked like the perfect way to use it. Honestly, if I hadn’t had to go out and buy coordinating fabric for the lining and handles, it would have been the perfect destashing project.

Except I didn’t make this a “true” Poochie Bag because…no pooch. Doing that would have relegated that lovely Cyrillic lettering to he bottom of the bag, and I didn’t buy this on whim and then sit on it for ten years just to do that. I still wanted to try the milk-carton corners, though, and decided to make one for my mom’s birthday.

Not only did it hold all of her other birthday swag admirably, she’s gotten a ton of use out of it since for all those small purchases. I picked three coordinating fat quarters (aha!) from Michaels, and was pretty pleased with the results.

So pleased, in fact, that I decided my partner in the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster needed one in her chosen colour, too.

I love the lining fabric!

After three of these, I think I’m poochie-d out for a little bit. But they’re a great quick project, and I may have to revisit them for Christmas gift-giving.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a skulk of foxes for the tree.

For the past nine years (counting this one), a Christmas ornament swap has been hosted on Craftster.  Charmingly dubbed a Sweat Shoppe swap, it functions like a cross between those holiday cookie exchanges and a chain letter: you sign up for either three or six partners, make three or six like ornaments to send off, and receive ornaments from either three or six different people.  Because you’re not crafting something specifically for someone, many participants made their ornaments well in advance and wait for sign-ups to begin.

I had been tempted by it in the past, but never had anything made ahead of time and never had time to start anything once sign-ups began.  This year, some magical wave of forethought seized me, and I started my sewing early.  When sign-ups hit, I was ready.  I had found this pattern by Maisie Moo on Etsy, and gave it the old college try to make sure it would turn out, be an appropriate size, etc.

I named him Les, and he has a home on my Christmas tree. πŸ™‚  I’m glad I practiced on him, because it gave me a chance to tweak the instructions a bit.  Rather than cut out teeny, tiny black eyes from felt, I traced them onto the white pieces and embroidered them using raised satin stitch.  I also used finer stitches than the instructional photos showed.  And…I’m not sure how the scarf, at the length prescribed by the pattern, was supposed to wrap around his throat and have a tail to fringe – so I made it about 1 1/2 times as long so that I had a little room to play with.

Because I have apparently learned my limits after many, many years of Craftmas (official and unofficial), I signed up for three partners and not six, tempting though that was.  These little guys were so much fun to stitch up!

I named them Redd, Michael J., and Renard – just think about that for a sec – and all three have made it to their new homes, despite the best efforts of the postal service to waylay them.

And now that they’re finished, and I should be thinking about the zillion other things I need to get done before Christmas, I can’t help but think what sort of ornaments to offer next year…

EDIT: By popular request, here’s what I got in return.

A fabric tree from Alberta.Β  (Front and back.)

A cozy cardinal birdhouse from Massachusetts.

A shaker ornament from Pennsylvania – the tree was up by the time the postal system finally decided to get it to me, so it got photographed in its natural habitat. πŸ˜‰

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚