Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sewing How to Books: Quick Review of "One Yard Wonders"

I've bought 10+ sewing how-to books in the past three months. I know, I have a problem.  I've also checked some out of the library, but they get recalled too fast usually for me to make anything.  It takes me awhile to mentally commit to a project.  Usually longer then the project actually takes to complete!

I want to make everything on this cover.

I plan to review all of them, but I'll have to do it in batches or something. First up is One Yard Wonders from which I've already made a few things. The best part of this book is the great array of projects.  There are dozens and dozens!  And not just aprons and tea towels.  For value, number of projects vs. cost, this book is a winner.  Some are pretty uncomplicated (like how to line the back of a bookcase with fabric, which I'm not sure even counts as sewing) while others are fairly complicated, at least for beginners.  There's a good balance of easy, challenging and impossible projects for my (admittedly low) skill level.  Because of the number of projects there aren't as many photos as I'd like, for instance when I made the "All Ages Jumper", there was no photo of the elasticized back which was the tricky part for me. 

The book is spiral bound to lay flat which I appreciate and has a front pocket for the included patterns (I haven't made anything with them yet so I can't comment on their quality).  All the projects include directions on how to lay out the patterns for cutting as to use only 1 yard of fabric.  They point out where the selvage should be which I appreciate since the whole "grain" issue I haven't been able to grasp.  It has made me think before I do other projects about how I want to layout the pieces. 

I wish the projects were coded for difficulty like many of the other books. I also think there could have been a little more quality control in the instructions.  I stumbled online upon a list of corrections for nearly 20 projects in the book, including the "Twist & Shout" toddler skirt I already made my daughter.  Might explain my backwards piping!  The designs are all by various people, not just the authors. I assume there had been some sort of call for projects which might explain why some directions seem super detailed and others a bit more vague.

Next up from this book will be a dog bed (just like on the cover) for the office.  Our very own pug often follows us down to the winery and he isn't fond of the tile floor.  I know he'd just curl up and sleep instead of tripping up employees and chasing forklifts if he had a bed next to my desk. 

That might be wishful thinking.

My Cost: $13.53 (no tax or shipping), now even cheaper on Amazon.
Verdict:  Totally worth it. Great for brave beginners.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sewing Project: The Random, the Abandon and the Lost

I've been busy (and sick) and have had little crafty blog time lately, but have managed to mangle a couple of projects for us to laugh at together...

#1 "The Peace Pillow":

This random project was supposed to be easy and useful.  My kids attend a Montessori pre-school in town that, like all Montessori schools, has a peace table where disputes and hurt feelings can be discussed and resolved between the kids without the teacher's overt intervention.  They take turns holding the "talking flower" and tell the other person why they are upset.  I'm pretty sure, "Why don't we talk about this at the peace table?" is a phrase the teachers use often. 

I've adopted the concept for home and when the kids fight I first tell them to work it out themselves and if the screaming/fighting/taunting continues I force them to "make peace" and have them hold whatever I have at hand to take turns talking.  I often have to intervene with the warning to "make peace or you both go to your rooms!"  I thought it would be nice to have a permanent object to use and so made this pillow. 

Yeah.  Not so cute.  The embroidery is okay, but I used my own handwriting instead of transferring a font so the result is less then perfect.   The symbol is straight up primitive. The piping is wonky.  Really wonky if you must know.  It needs more color and some sort of... something.  We've used it and honestly will probably continue to use it (until I can't take it anymore and remake it). 

#2  "Glorious Bounty Dishtowel"

The most random thing I have made to date:  this is a dishtowel.  It is embroidered with two of the guys from the brilliant comic "Glorious Bounty" created in part by a dear friend of mine, the unrepentant foreigner, reformed playboy, and all around gad about town, Luke Milton.  I made it for him in response to a half-joking call for fan art.  This turned out pretty well and the back is fairly neat.  I used a few different stitches so it has some texture.  That said, it is a dishtowel.  Embroidered with a killer robot and a drunken alien.  I air dry the kids bento boxes on it in the afternoons. 

#3 "Portrait of Seth Underwood, The Red House Garden's Public Defender" 

This project I have abandon until my skills improve vastly.  I don't even know how to explain this one.   I tell a story to my kids (with their constant input) about the animals who live in our garden.  That kind of storytelling is supposed to improve their ability to follow a sequence of events, to make logical connections and to use their imaginations. It is also free and forces them to be quiet for five minutes so I'm a big fan. 

The story (so far) revolves around this bird, Seth Underwood, who is a lawyer (like my sister- it's funny the things they pick up on) who lives in a tree he has to share with a noisy outcast squirrel named Nick Whirly.  Nick's friend, the vineyard jackrabbit (whose name is disputed at this juncture) has been accused by the garden animals of having stolen the winter food store.  Seth, the bird lawyer, needs to figure out what really happened... although my kids keep forgetting whether or not the jackrabbit really did do it which makes the rest of the story a little convoluted.  But there is an owl and pack of coyotes.

ANYWAY, I thought it would be fun to embroider up some of the animals and hoop frame them in the guest bathroom or something.  Very Etsy chic on unbleached muslin.  The suited bird here was supposed to be the first in a series.  Pretty clear why that plan has been abandon.  The biggest problem is that I can't draw which undermines the whole project.  There is way too much detail and way too much texture.  His pocket watch is overwhelmed by the vest, his beak is wrong, his face is wrong, and his scarf looks too much like the lapel of his jacket.  It all gets lost mixed up together in one piece.  The back is messy and the colors aren't right.  Instead of only outlining I filled in the jacket and the hat and almost immediately regretted it. 

Ugh.  Such a good idea wasted on me!

#4  "The Yellow Envelope Pillow:  MISSING"

I made a cover for one of the couch toss pillows in yellow linen to match the ottomans I slipcovered.  Very simple, no mistakes, I followed the directions in "The Sew Everything Workshop".  I placed it on the sofa and went to bed, came home from work the next day and it was gone.  There are no pictures for the blog or the reward poster.  Vanished. 

Alien abduction?  My husband's subtle way of telling me he hates yellow?  My housekeeper's confused attempt to redecorate for me? Perhaps, the dog stole it.  At any rate, it is lost.  If you see a stray pillow cover please call.  And pillow cover?  Wherever you are, know that I miss you and want you home.  Or I'll have to make another one.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sewing Project: "Mini Me" Kid's Reversible Apron

This was one of the first tutorials I downloaded back in January after I got my machine. It is from the lovely and creative Living with Punks and is part of a whole "Mini Me" kitchen set with pot holders and mitts. The tutorial is super easy to follow, I mean, I could do it, so pretty much any beginner could. She has a bunch of great tutorials and lots of boys' projects which are tougher to find so check it out!

I wanted to make an apron because another of my favorite blogs, At Second Street along with Craftiness Is Not Optional, are having a week of apron madness they are calling "Tie One On" (cute, huh?). But I couldn't bring myself to make a me-sized apron.

Because, blog confession: I don't cook.

My husband does 90% of the cooking. He loves to cook, it is his hobby where as I feel it is a terrible chore that should be rushed through as quickly as possible. I mean, I make breakfast for the kids and pack their preschool lunches three days a week, it's not like I don't make ANYTHING. Just not dinners, usually. Anyway, making myself a ruffly, pretty apron seemed pointless and just a little false. So I made one for my kids' play kitchen. Much more practical then one for me!

Notes on the project:
-super easy, except for turning those long waist straps. Wow. I need to buy one of those turning tools, I guess. I thought they were a waste, but now I know different.

-this apron is supposed to have cute little elasticized scoop pockets on the front. I made them then decided not to attach them in part because I realized if I didn't my son could easily wear this with the red side out.

-my daughter is tall for her age, (nearly 4) so this apron looks a little short in the pictures. I just tie the apron looser around her neck and it looks fine. If your kid is older or a lot taller it would be really easy to modify Living with Punks pattern to make it bigger.

-I was disproportionately happy with how my edge stitching on the neck straps turned out. Look! They are straight and at the edge! Woo-hoo!

-cost was almost nothing. $2? The red polka dots were left over from the valentine's day chair backs. This took me maybe an hour and a lot of that was the pockets I didn't end up using and the rest on turning the straps.

Verdict: Success. It was an easy one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sewing Project: All Ages Jumper & Shamrock Onesie

Another St. Patrick's Day project!  I made this for the cutest baby girl, Vivian, daughter of the awesome Miss Kara, friend and killer co-worker. Technically, the third piece of clothing I've ever made, this outfit was a challenge that turned out pretty well. It is a size 12 months made from the "All Ages Jumper" pattern in One Yard Wonders, (which I will get around to reviewing one day).

I used quilt bias binding for the hem which is wide enough that catching the edge was not an issue and I imagine I'll be using plenty of it until I get a better handle on bias tape or learn to make my own. I made the buttons to match. The great thing about the jumper is that it has an elastic back so (if I had made it in non-seasonal fabric) it could grow with the kid and become a longish top to wear with leggings. Nifty, huh? That's a look I really like on little girls actually.  My daughter is wearing leggings under a skirt right now.

Elastic back with inserted straps.  Woo-hoo!

Well, at least you know it is hand-made...

Notes on the project:
-the directions for the jumper were really unclear about how to attach the front and back along with the elastic. I searched the internet and only found examples of people's finished projects. I figured it out on my own, but it took awhile and I wasn't sure I was doing it right. It is more then possible this confusion was due to my total lack of skillzzz.

-the pattern calls for you to attach the straps on the outside with a box stitch, but I thought that looked a little messy so I just inserted them into the seam. A lot of the people who'd made this had complained that the straps were too long, so by inserting them I hoped to make them just a tad shorter too.

-had a little trouble with the buttonholes this time, though I was doing it exactly like I was before, so I don't know. It worked out but isn't has neat as it could have been.

-I used 100% cotton thread to attach the bias tape since I couldn't find the right color in any other thread.  I do not recommend for beginners.  I snapped it a couple of times and it was just not as easy to work with as the blended thread.  I did like the texture though.

-I hand embroidered the onesie which was not as easy as I thought. I attached stabilizer to the back but it was still stretchy. My poor drawing ability is on display here with the different sized and shaped shamrocks. I used variegated green floss which I think was a good idea. Gives the design some depth.

-cost was low. The onesie was $2.00 and the fabric and buttons were probably $4.50 total. This did take some time, but I kept taking breaks to do other things. Maybe three hours? The embroidery I just did while watching tv so that shouldn't even count. That's lost time anyway!

Verdict:  Successfully cute!  We'll see how it actually fits and wears.  I will be making this jumper again, I'm sure.




Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sewing Project: St Patrick's Day Shamrock Doll Dress

Now, in miniature!

Actually, this didn't turn out that great.  Trying to top stitch around the armholes was virtually impossible (so tiny!) and I didn't leave enough room in the back for the Velcro so had to glue in an extra panel of fabric.  Plus, I didn't bother to hem it.  And it isn't lined.  Basically, it's a little bit of a mess.

I used a dress the doll already had (she's a Pottery Barn doll, her name is Merry, like "Merry Christmas", btw) to make the pattern.  If nothing else it is a good chance to wash the white silk dress she was wearing.  For an inanimate object she sure gets her clothes dirty. 

Notes on the project: 
-this took me 30 minutes to make the pattern and cut, 30 minutes to sew.  Seriously fast.

-tip for beginners: pattern making from existing clothing (in this case, doll clothing) wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.  Take into account though that the back wasn't wide enough so maybe it is a little harder if you do it right.  Don't be afraid to try is what I'm saying!

-good use for leftover seasonal fabric.  I imagine this doll will end up with quite the wardrobe since I always overbuy yardage.

-despite the tutorial I watched about gathering where I was told to baste two rows of thread for pulling, I only did one.  And wouldn't you know the thread broke.  Sometimes the rules are there for a reason, folks.  Since the dress was so small I just gathered the rest by hand and eyeballed it as I sewed, but it would have been a real issue had it been a person sized garment.

Verdict:  Fail?  I can't really call this a success since the stitching is so off on the edges and I had to glue it.  Happy I made it, but it isn't something I'm especially proud of producing.  My daughter ABSOLUTELY loves it to death though.  She even melted my heart with an "I love you, mama" when she saw it. 

Upcoming Projects: Not Yet Blogged

a rundown of what I've been up to: DIY wedding dress, "Back to School Night" decor, Flower Arranging for the Incomptent, more jam labels, a dog bed solution, paper embroidery, flying pig needlework, attempting to scrapbook, make your own board game kit, Link from Zelda costume, organinzing for homework, and how to build an afterschooling program!

how to declutter after a death... and how not to do it

what do you do with all your fat clothes? Make doll clothes!