Wednesday, December 17, 2014

An Amigurumi Explosion

I have been crocheting a lot of amigurumi lately, too....  Even though hats are fun, afghan blocks are intriguing, and the occasional potholder is useful, making stuffed creatures is my true crochet love.

My friend, Valerie, asked me to make these ridiculously adorable baby giraffes for her ridiculously adorable daughters:




How hilarious is this dog and airplane that I made for my little buddy, Alex?



The airplane pattern actually came with a cat instead of a dog, so I swapped the cat out for the dog in this pattern.  Alex can take the dog out of the airplane and play with him!


Look at the cute little wheels....  I love it!


The dog and airplane were designed by the same awesome crochet designer who designed Alex's fox and race car.


Using the wonderful Superman pattern, I was able to fashion a Captain America and a Batman for my little buddy, Zach:


You can remove the good captain's helmet and shield!



My cousin, Emma, will be getting this adorable little whale for Christmas:



Sonia gave this little bigfoot monkey to a friend for her 6th birthday:


More to come.... So many crocheted items finished, so little time to blog!  Christmas Crochet Season is in full swing, and boy, are my fingers getting tired.  But it's worth it!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas wine bags and other gifts

My husband has to give some coworkers a little something for Christmas, and I couldn't just let him buy a simple bottle of wine for each of them.  OH NO.  I needed to pipe up and volunteer to make some cute wine bags to make that present a little cooler.  (What I really needed to do was keep my mouth shut and focus on sewing presents for people I actually know and love.  But I did have fun making these, I promise.)



The first couple I made based on a fun little tutorial for "Wine Jackets" from the awesomely named blog Clever Charlotte.  When I made the black one I strayed from the tutorial a bit (because I was too lazy to reopen it and I tried to wing it) and that's why that zipper is a little wonky.  I doubt anyone but me would have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out though.  (I think they might need some charms dangling from the zipper pulls if the recipients of these wine jackets will be women.  I'll have to check with Corey to see who is getting which ones.)



For the next two, I used the Quilted Wine Tote tutorial from Needle and Spatula.  I strayed from the tutorial in only one way -- I used only one layer of fusible fleece instead of two layers of traditional batting.  I took her recommendation to cut the pieces slightly narrower to get a tighter fit on the wine bottle, and they turned out great.  I think these are my two favorites of the bunch.  Binding that tight opening at the top of the bag was a bit challenging though!  If I made one of these for myself (which I would like to do once the Christmas present sewing madness if over) I would make it a little bigger (to the original specifications in the tutorial) so it would fit any type of wine or champagne bottle.





For the next three, I used a simpler tutorial from Ellison Lane for a Wine Bottle Bag.  I originally thought that there was binding around the top, but it turned out that it was just the lining showing where you folded it over to finish off the raws edges at the top.  I love it -- the binding effect without the headache of actually binding!  So perfect.  The green and black ones in the background were sewn exactly to the specs of the tutorial.  For the green striped one in the foreground, I added a layer of fusible fleece to the exterior (minus a bit at the top where it was going to be folded over at the end) and I love that one the best.  The others are nice, but the padded one feels a bit more substantial and looks fancier.  I also put the ribbon for that one a tad lower and I like that look better.



For some of the various teachers in my children's lives, I sewed some matching tissue pack covers and Chapstick holder keychains.  (I also made one more of the Chapstick holders for my friend, Ivette, to give to her daughter's teacher, but I forgot to photograph that one before I gave it to her.)



I completely neglected to post about the original Chapstick holder I sewed for myself last month.  In this dry midwest winter, I am completely addicted to lip balm.  It looks rather adorable alongside my Michigan State Police bottle opener gun that my sweet friend, Kym, gave me when she worked there.  Nothing says class like a gun bottle opener on your keychain, right?  Hee hee.  The Chapstick stays in that little pocket surprisingly well, so this may become one of my go-to quick gifts to make for other women on my list this Christmas.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pattern testing for Eco Friendly Shopping Bags



I am horrified to admit that I wrote this post in early October but am now just publishing it!  I was lucky enough to be selected to be a pattern tester for the lovely Jill (she's a Brit living in Australia who writes the awesome blog Creating My Way to Success) when she was in the process of writing her E-book on Eco Friendly Shopping Bags.  More accurately, I was a PATTERNS tester, because this bag actually contains a few other bags inside it as well!  

The bag is made from a lot of upcycled materials, including virtually all of a pair of adult jeans.  I really love using old jeans!  In addition to the upcycling aspect, there are also great features including an internal zipper pocket . . .




. . . and two adorable internal patch pockets using the back pockets of the jeans.



On the outside, there is a hidden zipper pocket too!  I love the flap covering the zipper because it makes the outside of the bag look more polished than an exposed zipper would.  (I took the next two pics before I had added the handles for some reason.)



But wait!  What is that inside that hidden pocket?



It's a pair of reusable mesh produce bags!  Jill's original tutorial for these bags used upcycled machine lace curtains, which looked really cool.  I used a type of tulle instead (because I already had it in my stash) and they turned out pretty fun if I do say so myself.



As if that wasn't enough, there is also a nifty little secret compartment in the bottom of the bag that you access by unzipping a hidden zipper at the side.



Inside is a nice little bag shaped like this.  Well, this is it empty, anyway.



The bag is designed to be filled, as shown below.



But what's inside?  It's a whole bunch (eight, to be exact) of reusable grocery sacks!



I made these from some old sheets (Erin gave my Sonia's old sheets after she got new ones!).  Here's a shot of one up close (which unfortunately does not demonstrate that the bottom of the bag is boxed out so it can sit flat when filled with groceries).



Can you believe all of this fits inside that bag, plus room for all of your normal purse items?



I have been a big fan of Jill's tutorials for a long time now, and I was very impressed with the ingenuity and design of this bag.  She did such a terrific job!  You can buy her E-book from her blog, where you can also find about a zillion other fantastic tutorials for all sorts of neat things.  Thank you for the opportunity to be a tester, Jill, and I hope you sell lots of the E-books!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Some of the cutest bags around for Heather's niece and nephews

Last month my neighbor, Heather, commissioned me to make some toy bags for her niece and nephews for Christmas.  Her family was celebrating Christmas at Thanksgiving, so these gifts have already been received (and reportedly adored!).

We took a really fun trip to Jo-Ann's together to buy the fabric.  As usual, the biggest problem was having too many choices!  We think we did a pretty darn good job of it though, and the results speak for themselves.



The first bag (for Heather's niece) was sewn from a "Kids Activity Bag" tutorial I have made before a couple of years ago, and I forgot that I was not thrilled with how short the top drawstring part was (something the tutorial acknowledges and gives instructions for amending in a place deeply buried in the instructions, unfortunately).  It turned out okay, though, but I would make a taller drawstring top if I made the bag again.






For the two older nephews, Heather chose one of my favorite patterns (from the Fabric-by-Fabric One Yard Wonders book that Erin got me).  These were the fifth and sixth bags I have sewn using that particular pattern, and I already have a few more planned for Christmas presents,  This pattern alone was worth the purchase of that book.  Thank you, Erin!  Anyway, we thought the combo of the skull and flame fabrics was all kinds of hilarious, and perfect for upper elementary school boys.



I swapped the fabric placement when I sewed the set so the brothers could tell their bags apart.



For Heather's tiniest nephews (age 3 and 7 months), we found some adorable monster fabrics.  I especially love the combo of the checkered flag lining with the monster truck fabric.  We couldn't decide what to line the other bag with, so we just chose a plain green.  Still looks pretty cute, though.  I love the Peek-a-Boo Toy Sack tutorial (with the same modifications I have used in the past to simplify the drawstring casing creation) and already have plans to make a couple of these for Christmas presents as well.




Heather reported that all the kids loved them (well, she guessed that the 7-month-old liked his, but I guess we won't know for sure until he learns to talk) so I'm going to consider that a success.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Piped Basket -- Sewing Tutorial



This is a padded fabric basket just begging to be made for a teacher, neighbor, or even your East German friend who has a birthday tomorrow (or am I the only one in that situation?).  I know there are a million fabric basket sewing tutorials out there, but do any of them have all this adorable piping?  I think not!

The finished dimensions are about 6 1/2" wide, 5 1/2" deep, and 4" tall (minus the handles, which stick up another couple of inches).

Piped Basket -- Sewing Tutorial

Materials Needed:

Exterior fabric -- fat quarter or 1/2 yard (quilting cotton or lightweight home decor)
Interior fabric -- fat quarter of 1/2 yard (quilting cotton or lightweight home decor)
Fusible fleece -- one piece at least 15" x 14" and two scraps 1" x 7"
Piping -- at least 55" (about 2/3 of a standard package, or you can make your own!)
Thread to match each fabric PLUS thread to match the piping
Freezer paper (or regular paper would be okay too)




STEP ONE: Drawing the pattern and cutting out the pieces

Grab some freezer paper, and on the matte side draw a rectangle 6" tall and 7" wide.  (You don't necessarily need to use freezer paper, but I love using it because then you can iron your pattern piece onto the fabric and it will temporarily adhere to make cutting the shape out easier.  Just peel it off afterward and then you can iron it onto another piece of fabric!)

Then draw "tabs" onto each side that are 4" long.  Another way to think of it would be to draw a huge rectangle that is 14" x 15" and then cut 4" squares out of each corner.

The result should look something like this:



Iron that puppy onto your exterior fabric and then cut around it.  Ignore the cat glaring disapprovingly at your fabric choice (maybe Rocky would have liked plaid better?) and repeat that step with the lining fabric.



Do NOT iron the pattern piece onto your fusible fleece for obvious reasons, but cut a piece of it out in the shape of the pattern piece as well.



I didn't take a photo of them, but you also need to cut four pieces from lining fabric that are 2" x 7" each.  [Note - I couldn't make up my mind whether I wanted the handles to be made from all exterior fabric, all lining fabric, or a combination of the two.  For the red basket (which I photographed in process for the tutorial), I used only lining fabric.  For the green basket, I made one side of each handle from the exterior fabric, and the opposite side of each handle from the lining fabric.  It doesn't matter which way you do it!]  Cut two pieces of fusible fleece that are 1" x 7", and cut four lengths of piping that are 7" long each. Set the rest of the piping aside to be used later.

Cut list summary:

Exterior fabric:
- One from the pattern piece

Lining fabric:
- One from the pattern piece
- Four 2" x 7" pieces

Fusible fleece:
- One from the pattern piece
- Two 1" x 7" pieces

Piping:
- Four 7" lengths
- One long length approximately 27" long


STEP TWO: Sewing the handles

Take one of the 2" x 7" pieces and pin a couple of the 7" lengths of piping on the RIGHT SIDE of both of the long edges, with the raw edges of the piping aligned with the long edges of the fabric.



Do NOT do what I did and use thread that doesn't match your piping.  I will explain why later.  Instead, thread your machine with the thread that DOES match your piping, pop on your zipper foot (or piping foot if you're so lucky as to have one!) and stitch right on top of the existing stitching on the piping.  Ignore the wobbly parts that I did on the bottom.  It's hard to sew with a four-year-old on your lap.



Take another 2" x 7" piece and pin it on top of the first one with right sides together and the piping sandwiched in between.



Flip the sandwich over, then sew down both sides right on top of the stitching you did in the last step.



Then you have this!



This next step STINKS, but it's the only way to get these awesomely piped handles with the piping stitched the proper way.  Unfortunately, you have to turn the tube right side out.  This is extra difficult in this case because the piping makes the tube even stiffer.  Just be patient and go slowly.  Once the tube is turned right side out, press it to make it look a bit nicer.



See why you shouldn't use green thread to sew on white piping?  I didn't stitch quite close enough to my original stitch line on one side and you can see the green thread if you look closely.  Yes, no one may ever notice but it BUGS ME!  So learn from my mistake and use thread to match the piping.



Nest, grab one of your 1" x 7" strips of fusible fleece and stuff it in the tube, taking care to keep it flat and untwisted.  I like to use my wooden shish kebab skewers to do this.  It's amazing how many kitchen and garage tools come in handy when I'm sewing!  The fleece will probably stretch while you're doing this, so just cut off any that is sticking out on either end.  Then use your iron to press the strip and adhere the gluey side of the fleece.



Change your thread to one that matches the handle fabric and stitch down both edges and down the middle while you're at it.



Repeat that whole process (including that horrid tub turning mess) so you now have two handles.



STEP THREE: Sewing the main body pieces

Fuse the fleece to the wrong side of the EXTERIOR piece (trust me -- it looks better this way rather than fused to the interior based on my experience) according to the directions.  Then pin each of the corners together with the right sides facing.  It should look something like this:





Repeat with the lining while you're at it.



Grab the exterior piece and sew the pinned edges together using a 1/4" seam allowance.  I like to switch to thread that matches the exterior fabric because this is a seam that will have stress on it and may expose the stitching (especially if you use a longer stitch).  






When all four seams have been sewn, it should look like this:



Repeat with the lining piece and now you have two little baskets just waiting to be merged together.  Switching your thread to a color matching the lining is probably not necessary because those seams will not be stretched and the stitching won't tend to be exposed.



Now grab your remaining long piece of piping and start pinning it to the exterior piece.  NOTE:  When I took these photos, I must have been drunk because I pinned them to the wrong side of the fabric.  So ignore that part.  

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO is turn the exterior piece so that the right side of the fabric is facing out and THEN pin the piping (matching raw edges) along the top.  Start in the middle of one of the short sides, and leave a 1" trail at the beginning unpinned.  Just pretend that the piping is being pinned to pretty red polka dot fabric instead of the fusible fleece.



Yup, this photo still has the piping pinned to the wrong side of the fabric.  Do as I say, not as I photographed!  Make sure you pin open the seams to reduce the bulk at the corners.  It's not fatal, but it makes for an easier sew down the line.



(Yup, still wrong side out in the photo.  Sorry about that.)  When you get back around to the beginning, overlap the piping by about 3/4" and chop off the excess if there is any.



Take your handy-dandy seam ripper and rip out about 3/4" worth of the stitching that holds the piping together.  Peel it back to expose the cord inside.  Feels kind of naughty, doesn't it?



Cut off the exposed cord at the point where the other intact side of the piping meets it when you nest it inside the open side.  It should look like this after you cut off the excess cord.



Take the flap of piping fabric from the opened end and fold about 1/4" or 1/3" of it back to the inside of the piping.  Just finger press it at that point - no need to get crazy and involve your iron.



Close the folded end around the intact end to make the continuous piping join all nice and neat.  Pin it into place.



Sew the piping into place (remembering that my photo is WRONG and that your piping should be on the RIGHT side of the fabric!) by stitching right on the piping's stitching line.  Again, I should have been using white thread at this point to match the piping.  Once I realized my mistake and ripped all of the piping off of the wrong side of the fabric, I switched to white thread to sew the piping onto the correct side.



See?  Now it's all fixed (after a lot of swearing and sighing).  The piping is sewn onto the RIGHT side of the fabric (with raw edges matching the raw edge of the fabric) using white thread to match the piping.



STEP FOUR: Assembling the basket pieces

Grab one of the handles and pin it to one of the short sides of the exterior piece of the basket, on the RIGHT side (the same side as the piping).  The outside edge of each end of the handle is 1/2" from the corner seam.  Baste them on within the seam allowance (between the raw edge and the stitch line for the piping).  Make sure the handle isn't twisted or anything.  It should look like this:



Turn the exterior piece inside out (so that the pretty side of the fabric is facing inward).  Take your lining piece and turn it so that the pretty side of its fabric is facing outward.  Nest the lining piece inside the exterior piece and pin into place (matching the short sides and carefully lining up all of the corner seams).  Triple check to make sure the right sides of the basket pieces are facing each other before you sew.



Stitch right on the seam line where you sewed the piping around the top of the exterior piece, BUT LEAVE A 4" GAP UNSEWN ALONG ONE OF THE LONG SIDES.  Turn the basket right side out and press everything into place.  Pin the opening shut, then topstitch closely to the piping all around the top edge of the basket (going slowly over the bulky corners and the handles!).  I got fancy and used red for the top thread to match my exterior piece and used green for the bobbin thread to match the lining.  It makes for a nicer finished product that way, especially if your bobbin stitching isn't as nice-looking as your top stitching.  Clearly, I am not afraid of rethreading my machine 49 times in the same simple project.




I took my iron and gave it all another good press for good measure.  Then, I folded the basket and pressed a bit where the corners of the basket should be around the bottom to give the basket a little more definition.  All done!

If you used a 1/2 yard of each fabric instead of fat quarters and have boatloads of piping and fusible fleece lying around, you will have enough to make two baskets.  Go wild and switch up the lining and the exterior.  Too bad I'm giving one of these away tomorrow, because they are pretty cute as a set.




Fill with treats or goodies and you have a nice little present!



Tutorial for personal use only, please.

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