Friday, October 28, 2011

Things are getting spoooooky around here

Hey guys, it's almost Halloween! And since Halloween is on a Monday, that means a full weekend and a day of celebration! Wheeee!

I carved this pumpkin one year, but I didn't take my own photo. This one is from here.
Despite the title of this post, I do not generally dress up as anything super scary for Halloween. I am myself a scaredy cat, and I tend to lean towards funny or cute costumes. Or sometimes pretty ones. Which makes me wonder, when did Halloween tradition start allowing people to dress as pretty much whatever? Kinda weird, isn't it? And when did funny costumes become tradition - specifically, ones involving bad puns? I'm not against this tradition, I just find it curious.

Here's a sneak peek at the costumes I'm working on for this weekend:

Haha! My table is one crafty, sequiny, sticky, fuzzy, glue-smell-gonna-make-you-high mess. I am not usually into crafts. I skip over blog posts that go too far down Hobby Lobby lane. But yesterday I went nuts at Hobby Lobby, and my crafty streak has exploded all over the place. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of how that monster fish head is looking. What do you guys think of couple costumes? Pretty cheesy? So expected? I know. Me too. But me and the husb are doing it anyway. In this case, his costume is like the set up to the joke, and mine is like the punch line. I think it's okay, or at least, it doesn't make you barf as much as if we went as Ketchup and Mustard or something.

Now I know Halloween is also a time of stress for a lot of you, and that if you have to hear the question, "What are you going to be for Halloween?" one more time you might burst a blood vessel in your head because you still have no idea and no time to make anything. So just remember, if you can't construct a totally awesome costume at a moment's notice, you can still eat a lot of candy corn, put on a hat or a fake mustache  and go out and enjoy looking at other people's costumes. Then (and here's the important part) you have to focus on not feeling like a failure, but instead think smugly to yourself, "Wow, what kind of dorks have the free time to put together a costume like that?" It can be quite gratifying. See? Halloween is for everyone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Decisions Decisions

Wool-d you like to help me make some decisions? Sorry. Sometimes when I don't know how to start a post, bad puns are the default. I just got my wool in the mail, and oh boy, I feel like I opened a can of worms. First off the brown windowpane wool is heavy. Too heavy for a coat even... maybe. But it was only $7, so I really can't be too upset. It will make an excellent blanket if nothing else.

and it's reversible!
The other piece I bought is a lot of yards (5 or 6 maybe) of this black and white check, which is a good weight for coats.

I love it, but I don't know what it's destiny is yet. A cape?

A motorcycle jacket?

Burdastyle "Larissa" pattern by amibambini
A... shawl collar jacket thingy?

The coat pattern I am competing for over at So Zo?

Don't you enter the competition too! I want this pattern.
I have no idea how I will make up my mind. To make matters worse, the kindly eBay seller who sold me these also sent these swatches of the other wools he has:

Oh crud, right? Look at all these options! I'm not supposed to be spending money, but when will I ever find wool for $4/yard again? Surely I can't just pass this up. Help! What do I buy? What do I make? What do I do!?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Make Do and Mend - and finish that project from January

While I wait for the wool I ordered to make its way to me, my hands have been searching for other ways to occupy themselves. Using my hands to manipulate and fiddle and fix things is so satisfying - I'm beginning to think I should have gone to a trade school instead of graduate school. I could have been a clock maker! Or a mechanic! I really think the "crafty" bug that so many people catch is a symptom of our underlying desire to use our hands.

Anyway, I went to Goodwill on a whim on Tuesday night, and I scored big time. Elsie from A Beautiful Mess recently did a post on thrift tips, and she's right - hitting the thrift stores mid-week is the way to go! (Have you seen her blog before? It's pretty much crafty-thrifty-DIY eye candy in the extreme:)

Elsie has her own clothing line
During my mid-week thrift store adventure I harvested no less than five sweaters and one plain white button down shirt for about $25. I say "harvested" because thrift store shopping involves a little work, right? You have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here are some of my finds:

The "wheat" - aka my sweater haul
grey pretty cable sweater (wool blend plus angora), silky merino black crew neck, royal blue merino sweater with short sleeves and waist tie, and that mustard color that everyone is coveting for fall in a v-neck
Most of the sweaters I bought were wool, and I've learned through several sad experiences that you can't just throw them in the wash. Happily, Solanah from Vixen Vintage wrote this post for Casey's Elegant Musings a while back, and I had it stored in my memory bank.

How to wash a wool sweater? Solanah will tell ya!
Following Solanah's instructions, I have successfully laundered my sweaters with no shrinkage! I'm pretty psyched, as psyched as one can possibly be about doing laundry. And since I was on a thrifty/laundering high, I decided to plunge into some mending. One of the new sweaters had a very small hole in a very...noticeable spot. Whereas previously I might have just left it and considered it part of the thrift store bargain price, this time I found some matching thread and in a few minutes had it mended to where it was barely noticeable.

close up of mended hole
hole from a small distance
Ta da! I was so pleased with this quick fix that I ran and got my cashmere sweater. This black sweater was a thrift store find too, and a gift from my mom a while back. It is so soft and lovely, and I was really heartbroken when moths got at is last year. Until yesterday, it was so sadly moth-eaten that it really shouldn't have been worn outside the house (even though it was). But 30 minutes with a thread and needle and it is totally wearable once more. Why didn't I do this sooner? I really don't know. I think I looked up sweater mending a while back and was intimidated by the pictures and descriptions of reweaving, patching, and so on. I wasn't about to spend that much time on a thrift store sweater. But it turns out you don't necessarly have to do all that. Here's what I did to repair my own sweaters.

Here's a photo of what the holes in my sweaters looked like:

I didn't take before photos, or during photos, so just bear with me. All I did was take some matching thread, and (with the sweater inside out) run the needle around the hole, catching the loops of the knit which were still secure, like in the red circles below.

I tugged gently to close the hole a little, and then went back and forth, catching loops on either side of the hole, as in the blue lines below.

I pulled the two ends of the thread tight, knotted them together, and clipped the ends. This is by no means a perfect or professional fix, and it probably will only work for holes which are fairly small (about 1 cm or less) and for knits which are fairly fine (no big chunky yarn). On my black sweater, however, I repaired about eight holes this way, and I think the mends are pretty discreet. I'm happy I'll be able to get many more wears out of it, with only minimal effort. And to think I was going to cut it up to make a hat and mittens. So silly! I'm not sure why I'm so excited about these pretty mundane mending jobs. I guess it's just nice do a project that is really easy and saves a garment from being recycled before its time is up. And it makes my thrift store closet feel a little less like a series of castaways and more like a collection of cared-for special pieces.

Speaking of knits and yarn, I'm once again trying to tackle the honey cowl that I blogged about back in January. How far along am I? Oh.. about one inch of knitting. I've stopped, backtracked, and unraveled my knitting two or three times now. I was cursing at it last night, but I'm not going to let my second knitting project of all time get the best of me. Anyone know some tips or tricks for keeping track of where you are in a pattern?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Coats and Capes!

Here is a picture of Indiana in the fall:

Wow, that's bright.

I can't get over how vivid the colors are. Some people think of fall as lots of muted colors or earthy colors. When I think of fall here I think of a bright blue sky, vibrant green, and also lots of red and orange and earthy colors.

Here's a picture taken with my camera lens pushed up against my sunglasses.


And a butterfly...


And some more trees...

There were definitely some bright colors to be seen on our hike today, but we might have been a little early for the leaf change. Now, some sewing stuff. I'm thinking about sewing a cape for this fall... hopefully before this fall is over. Here is a pattern I'm considering:

I think that black and white one is pretty cute. And I just purchased some wool for four bucks a yard (!) that might be perfect.

I like the idea of capes because they seem easier to sew than a coat. And they can be stylish... right? I could be wrong. Capes can also look shapeless and blah. And leave your forearms cold. And allow drafts to sneak in. I'm not decided yet. Here's another option:

I'm looking at versions 1 and 2 in this pattern. Not as complicated as a full-blown coat, pretty cute, but maybe impractical for cold weather. What do you think? Know any particularly cute cape/coat patterns?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Finished Apron, Blouse Refashioned?

At last I have a finished project to post! This mysterious project can now be revealed!

Voila! It's an apron for my sister Katie. If you check out the delicious things she cooks/bakes and the delicious photos she takes, you'll understand why I would happily put the time in to make her something like this. I'm continually impressed by the work she does. For instance, she made me these:

Check out those cables. She and my mom have been knitting things for other people for years now, and I've only just gotten around to sewing something for someone else. Shame shame. So I was very happy to finally finish this apron and send it off to her. Now she can bake in style. The pattern I used came from the box of vintage patterns I picked up off of Craig's List this summer. It's Simplicity 4479.

Supposedly you can make this apron out of one yard of fabric, but I think it should be scaled up a little if you want it to be practical. I slashed and spread the center pattern piece down the middle, adding a couple inches to the width, but I think it could easily stand to grow a few inches more. You can see in Katie's photo that it just barely covers her front, and she is not a large person. The straps are also too short, in my opinion. If Katie were any bigger, they wouldn't be able to criss-cross in back and meet at the waist ties. This apron took me way longer than any apron should because I decided to line it and create my own ruffle trim. As a result I spent a lot of time just staring at the pieces and trying to make sense of the sewing order of operations. If you decide to try this pattern out with a lining, it would probably be easier to just sew the lining and matching front pieces as one, rather than sew them separately and then join them at the end like I did. You could finish your edges with bias tape. My ruffle also created problems because I decided to top-stitch it down to the front pattern pieces. This caused headaches when it came to attaching the lining. It might have been easier if I had sandwiched the ruffle between the two layers when I sewed the lining and front together (similar to how you might sew piping). Who knew an apron could get so complicated!

Here's the order of operations I ended up following....

  1. Sew ruffle trim to individual pattern pieces
  2. Sew side pattern pieces to center pattern piece
  3. Sew trim to pockets, attach pockets to sides of apron
  4. Sew shoulder straps (I made these into tubes) and tack them down to the top (wrong side) of the center pattern piece
  5. Sew lining side pieces to lining center piece
  6. Sew lining to front, right sides together, being careful not to catch your ruffle or the shoulder straps (which should be on the inside as you sew), leave the tops of the side pieces where the waist bands attach open, and leave a gap where the waist bands will get sandwiched between the lining and front center piece
  7. Attach the waist band on either side according to the pattern instructions - you will be able to finish one side inside out, sewing on the wrong side to secure the end of the waist band between your lining and main fabric, but you'll end up having to top-stitch the other. Don't finish the outer, short ends of the waist bands yet.
  8. Sew your long floofy ties (the ones that join the waist band, not the shoulder straps). I made these as tubes again and turned them inside out. Then fit the ends of the ties inside the tube created by the waist bands, and top stitch all this together.
  9. Sew some buttonholes and buttons onto your shoulder straps and the waist band. Cuz that's cuter than just sewing them together like the pattern instructs.

Wow. I hope that is useful in the unlikely event that anyone decides to recreate this. Maybe it will help me when I decide to make another one someday. For now, I'm on to different projects. I got tired of my blouse refashion and ended up sacrificing any kind of stylistic changes for just making it wearable. Here it is on me, looking ambivalent:

And here it is on me, having a crazy time out this weekend...

I guess if you get at least a few successful wears out of an item, it's not a total waste. I can see pulling out this one again in the future, even if it's not my finest work. Now, on to other things!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Love and Happiness

Would you like to know what life is like when you finish qualifying exams?

I think this sums it up. Exhibit A - delicious breakfast made with apples we picked at the orchard on Sunday. Exhibit B - a flower my husband picked for me from a particular bush I always notice when we go to the grocery store. Exhibit C - a pin cushion symbolizing the sewing I have resumed now that my exams are behind me. All of these on Exhibit D - a desk almost entirely clear of academic clutter and stress.

Yes. Life is pretty good.

I finished one sewing project (hooray!) but I don't have photos to show yet. Soon though. And next up I have this little number that I'm going to do a refashion on:

What? Too loud? Too large? Too shapeless? That will all be changed soon! Except for the loud part. That's not gonna change. Good thing I like it that way.