Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Potholders and Coasters

Lately, I've been crocheting up a storm of potholders and coasters....  I haven't worked this much with 100% cotton yarn since my doily crocheting days!  Acrylic yarn is still more comfortable for me to crochet with and far more economical for amigurumis, but cotton is the only way to go when you need heat protection and absorbency.

The first three potholders were crocheted for my mother- and father-in-law, who told me that they were in dire need of new ways to protect their hands from hot pots & pans.  My mother-in-law grew up on the Jersey Shore on Long Beach Island, and she still owns her childhood home, so we went with a seafood theme for the two potholders that will reside in that house's kitchen.  This lobster potholder pattern came out of a vintage (1951) crochet pattern book that is out of print, but the pattern was posted on Free Vintage Crochet.


The lobster is appliquéd onto a plain square potholder (I used a natural color for the front and red for the back), and it is crocheted in just two pieces!  What an ingenious design.  I love the texture on the tail (using slip stitches in front loop only and then going back behind with double crochet stitches in the back loops) and how the feelers are layered over the claws.  So cool!

This crab potholder is also from a vintage pattern available for free, and while the appliqué pattern is not as ingeniously designed as the lobster (all the crab's legs and claws were crocheted and then sewed onto the potholder separately), it still turned out very nice.


The only problem with this crab potholder is that my mother-in-law has declared it too pretty to use!  I guess I'll have to make her a couple of boring-looking yet functional ones to stash in a drawer. Ha!

My parents-in-law also received this version of the scalloped potholder for their house here in Texas.  I loved the blue one that I crocheted for myself so much (it's gorgeous and works really, really well) that I memorized the pattern and started churning them out.  They take about 2 hours each, and the pattern is simply lovely.


Isn't that Lily Sugar 'n' Cream Twists yarn cool?  The yarn is 4 ply, and each of the 4 strands is a different color (red, yellow, blue, and green).  I thought it looked great with this pattern.  I paired it with a sold red for the back.


Niki said she would like a potholder, too, so I stash-busted and paired this pretty Lily Sugar 'n' Cream yellow and green.



I still had more of the Lily Sugar 'n' Cream Twists yarn left, and I was itching to use it, so I decided to make one for my mom, too.


I didn't have enough yellow to make the entire back that color (even though that would have looked really pretty!!), so I put it in the center of the backside and finished off with red.  It looks kind of like a poinsettia to me!


When I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to get some other yarn, I had cotton on the brain, so I took a quick look at the Lily Sugar 'n' Cream section.  Yes, I should be stash-busting rather than buying more, but look at this cool Ombre yarn!!  Love the color combination.


This is a classic potholder pattern worked in single crochet stitches on the diagonal, and I love how it worked with the ombre yarn.


I had a hard time gauging how big it would turn out, and I made several versions before I was able to make one the perfect size.  Potholders don't work so well if they're too big or too small, and I was being very Goldilocks about the size.  I kept this beauty for myself!


In my quest to make the perfect coasters, I finally found a pretty pattern that was quick, easy, and works great to soak up condensation!  I can whip one of these coasters out in about 20 minutes, I think.  The color combinations were created through my stash-busting efforts.


Sonia loves these eye-catching coasters and uses them in her imaginative play a lot.  But, I steal them back to stick under my drinks.

One more cotton yarn project: I was commissioned to crochet another hair accessory holder for a very cool girl named Nadia, so I used some more of my cotton stash to create this:


The plastic hanger is a lot more sturdy than the one I made for Sonia with a thin wire hanger!  Apparently, Nadia loves it and was very happy to start clipping her hair accessories onto it as soon as it came in the mail.  Happy organizing, Nadia!!  She's a girl after my own heart.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sneak preview of the huge nautical pillow and bag project

My mother-in-law and father-in-law are celebrating their recent retirements by taking to the water on a new motor boat.  I still haven't had a chance to get to where it is docked in the marina up in Sutton's Bay (about a four and a half hour drive north from here), but I'm hard at work on a project they commissioned me to complete for it.

Step one: The first of seven zippered pillows to make lounging in the boat nice and comfy (not to mention colorful).  Rocky helped me cut out the fabric (which I fussy-cut to feature the coolest aspects of the indoor/outdoor fabric).  I rounded the corners just for fun.



This is the front of the first pillow (which is 16" square):



And the back:



The next five pillows will all be in solid colors -- red, yellow, and green -- and the last one will be striped in green and blue.

After I finish those pillows, I will get started on making seven bags to store in the various cabinets and storage areas of the boat.  They will have drawstring closures and handles so Barb and Larry can easily get everything on and off the boat.  I'm basing the design off of Pink Penguin's lunch bag tutorial, which uses four different fabrics on the different components.

Barb let me have free reign in selecting those fabrics, and here is what I picked out to coordinate with the outdoor fabrics for the pillows (the two on the left).  I'm going to mix and match the fabrics so that no two bags are exactly alike.



After the drawstring bags are done, I will make a medium-sized tote bag to carry beach toys for the grandkids and a giant tote bag to store all of the pillows.  That makes a grand total of nine bags (in addition to the seven pillows).

I had better get sewing, because summer is rapidly coming to a close!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Convertible/Reversible Bag Tour and Giveaway!

I am so excited I can't see straight.  Seriously.  I'm helping kick off a blog tour for an amazing pattern for the Convertible/Reversible Bag that I helped test for Cozy Nest Design, and it includes a giveaway AND a discount code for the pattern!  My four favorite things on earth are indie pattern designers, downloadable patterns, giveaways, and discounts, so this is like a dream come true.  I feel like I have been pulled up from the minor leagues to shine in the majors.  Check out the awesomely official graphic Sarah (the genius behind CND) created for us:

Bag Tour Graphic


ANYWAY, this bag is seriously amazing.  And I'm not just saying that because I was a tester and got the pattern for free.  This puppy converts into four different bags.  Maybe it's because my four-year-old son and six-year-old daughter are obsessed with all things Transformers related, but a bag that transforms is all kinds of fabulous in our opinion.  Here is my version of the bag (with Sarah's nifty descriptions overlaid on top):

Roonie Ranching Version Convertible/Reversible Bag


With just one bag, you get:
  • a shoulder bag,
  • a cross-body (or cross-over) bag,
  • ANOTHER cross-body/cross-over bag in a completely different set of fabrics, and
  • an evening clutch.
No, I'm not joking!  Here they are in greater detail:

1.  The shoulder bag:



2.  The cross-body/cross-over bag:



3.  Another cross-body/cross-over bag in totally different fabrics:



4.  And the best part (in my opinion), an adorable evening clutch:



The pattern even includes instructions for a clear vinyl insert you can use so your purse necessities won't get the fabric all dirty.  Seriously cool.  You can also make the bag with laminated cotton, which sounds like a great idea.

Sometimes, you find patterns for purchase that really aren't worth the money, but this is most certainly not the case with the Convertible/Reversible Bag.  The pattern and instructions make what could be a really complex project and break it down in an understandable way.  There are so many pieces, in fact, that the pattern includes little labels you can stick on to keep everything straight once you have cut the fabric and interfacing.  I mean, check out this photo I shot of the whole shebang before I started the assembly:



YIKES.  It was at that point that I started to fear for Sarah's sanity, because how on earth could that all go together to become a bag?  (Yes, that is my black lab, Connie, chilling out under the dining room table in the bottom right-hand corner -- her idea of "helping" me sew.  I much prefer that to the cats' idea of helping, which consists of lying on top of the cutting mat on the table next to my sewing machine and shedding all over my fabric.  Ahem.)

Despite the intimidating number of components, the pattern instructions are extremely clear and easy to follow.  For a design this complex, that is no minor feat.  Sarah uses neat graphics to accompany the instructions that keep you on target.  I can't even imagine how she came up with this fantastic design AND figured out how to engineer it all.  I was blown away by the terrific method she uses to create the boxed bottom of the bag.  I have made a zillion bags over the past few years, and I had never before seen something like this.  I love how the side of the bag looks with her boxing technique:



So. Stinkin'. Cute.  This was also my first time making adjustable straps using tri-glides, and it was much easier than I thought it would be.  I'm definitely going to do that again with any bag I try to design myself.  Honestly, I'm really kind of bummed that I gave this bag to my daughter's kindergarten teacher (thought she completely deserved a rad bag like this).  I guess I need to get cracking on making one for me.


Discount Code and Giveaway!

For this week only (good through August 2, 2014), you can pick up your own copy of the Convertible/Reversible Bag pattern at a 25% discount by entering the code "bagtour" at checkout.

And now for the giveaway!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Where is the tour going next?  To a bunch of other way cool sewing blogs authored by other bag testers from all over the world, of course.  They all sewed the same bag with very different fabric choices, and it's really neat to see how they all turned out.  I'm kind of in awe of the bloggers on this tour, and hope that no one figures out that I am just pretending to be even half as talented as these folks.  The best part is each day has its own unique giveaway!  Here is the schedule for the whole tour:

Monday, July 28th
Maria of Mia's Creations 
Niki Stringer of Roonie Ranching 
Alyssa Carrion at Keep Calm & Carrion

Tuesday, July 29th 
Lynn Potts of PottsCrafty 
Marilyn Brandt at Shades of Bold

Wednesday, July 30th 
Vicky Myers of Vicky Myers Creations
Liz Schaffner at MOMENTS

Thursday, July 31st
Amy Macdonald with Friends Stitched Together 
Judith Clauss of Judith Stitches and More

Friday, August 1st 
Jonie Brooks with Knot Sew Normal 
Lorena Rey of my way of... 
Bethany Rapp with Sweet Bee Buzzings


At the risk of making this post ridiculously long, I have to point out that I am a diehard Cozy Nest Design fan as evidenced by quite a number of my past projects.  I truly enjoyed sewing Sarah's patterns, including a modified version of the Petal Cosmetic Bag, the Play and Store, the Sweet Escapes Cosmetic Bag, and the Petal Pocket Purse.  I look forward to trying more in the future, for sure.

Convertible/Reversible Bag Tour and Giveaway!


Thank you, Sarah, for letting this minor leaguer play in the big leagues for a bit!  I'm one of your biggest fans and can't wait to see what you dream up next.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sonia Doll

I was perusing Ravelry one day when I noticed a new group had been formed by Nipiti.  She is a very talented crochet designer who created the Paw Patrol pattern that I crocheted back in March for Charlotte's birthday.  Nipiti was seeking out crocheters to help her test her new patterns, and I signed up straight away.  The first test pattern was "My Best Friend Doll with Teddy Bear and a Bag", and I think it is amazing!  Here is my version:


Isn't she cute?  The little nose is so sweet.  I decided to give her to Sonia, and Sonia promptly named her new doll "Sonia".  Creative name.

I had issues getting the part straight on Sonia Doll (definitely user error-- not a problem with the pattern), but that mirrors the results I achieve in real life when I attempt to style Sonia Kid's hair. So, I left the part crooked.



I especially love the methodology used to crochet the cute ruffled socks and sleeves, and the overall bib & straps are terrific.  Nipiti seems to have the same desire as me to crochet as much of an amigurumi as possible in one piece rather than crocheting a ton of separate pieces and having to attach them at the end.  AWESOMENESS.

The teddy bear and bag are removable (please don't lose them, Sonia Kid!!) and ridiculously adorable.




I've never tested a pattern before, and it was a ton of fun!  We testers were supposed to offer criticism, suggestions, and point out errors in the pattern, but Nipiti did such a great job writing the pattern that there wasn't much to criticize or correct.  The My Best Friend Doll pattern is fabulous and is well worth the money!  The other testers' dolls turned out beautiful, too; it's so fun to see how using different yarn colors and weight changes the end product, even when we are all following the exact same pattern.  Ravelry is so fun!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mom's Replacement Apron

While Niki was down here visiting us in Texas, Mom requested that we remake her favorite apron.  Niki had make all three of us simple aprons (using one her mother-in-law had sewed for Corey once upon a time as a template) with crocheted ties and neck straps when we spent Thanksgiving at her house in Tennessee way back in 2005 (I think).  Mom used it to death, but it was getting long in the tooth.  Here is Bobo, disapproving of the nearly decade-old apron.



Apparently, Mom was pretty hard on her apron and eventually it cried "UNCLE!"  According to her, the rip appeared out of nowhere.  We think there might have been some cooking-related shenanigans going on.



Mom and Niki headed to the fabric store and picked out a pretty batik fabric for the replacement apron.  The old crocheted straps were still holding up well, but they did look a little old.  I was drafted to crochet some new ones with the leftover yarn that Niki still had and gifted to me when she declared herself on a crochet hiatus.  Niki used the old apron as a template, did what she considered to be a MUCH better job of sewing it (since her skills have improved quite a bit over this past decade), and voila!



Mom now has a new simple apron.  This one had always been her favorite because the crocheted straps were especially comfortable on her neck.  Niki asked her if she wanted a pocket or any sort of decorative element but Mom declined.  Sometimes, simple is best.  We'll see if this one survives for another decade!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Basket for Charlotte Doll's accessories

I was tired of Charlotte throwing all of the accessories and clothes for "Charlotte Doll" (her faux American Girl doll) in the little cupboard next to her bed.  They are always in a big jumbled heap and they all fall out ever time she opens the cupboard doors.  Well, now the paraphernalia will be in a jumbled heap in a basket inside the cupboard!



Yes, I am fully aware that the fabric is going the wrong way.  I knew it when I started the project, but when you're using hand-me-down scrap fabric (courtesy of my mother-in-law), you work with what you have.  This was a nice heavy cotton that I added fusible fleece to for some sturdiness.  I generally followed this tutorial, but I cut the fabric pieces to 16" x 24" and cut out 4" squares from the folded pieces.

The lining is some purple canvas from my stash.  I ignored the way the tutorial said to make the handles and just improvised my own by cutting pieces 6" x 9", ironing them like I was making bias tape, finishing off the ends, then sewing four lines down them.  (That probably makes no sense to anyone else, but if I ever try to sew this basket again I will know what I am talking about!)  I stitched them on with the ends folded under so they would pop out from the sides of the basket and be easy for Charlotte to grab.  I do wish I had put them up a little higher, but it still works.



(Whoops -- should have ironed the lining a little better before I took the photo.  I swear it doesn't really look that bad in person.  It's soon to be filled with tons of tiny shoes, scarves, undies, headbands, etc., so no one will ever be able to tell.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Toiletry Tote Sew Along

I love all of the Sweet Bee Buzzings tutorials I have followed to sew awesome bags (the Brick Pouch,  the Double-Zip Wristlet, the Straight-Sided Flat-Bottomed Pouch, and several Lined Drawstring Backpacks), and this most recent one was no exception.  Last month, Bethany (the author of SBB) posted a Toiletry Tote "sew along" (basically splitting up what would be a crazy long tutorial into a series of posts over several days) and I was dying to try it.  Since the kids and I fly to Texas in a few days, I thought I could most certainly use a cute new toiletry tote for the occasion.



Not sure why it looks so wrinkly in the photo -- I swear it looks fabulous in person!  The outside fabric is left over from Toni's diaper bag, and the black on the handles, tabs, and lining is some linen I had on hand.  The handles ended up shorter than they were supposed to for some reason (some measuring error on my part, undoubtedly), but they still work just fine.

I used a Vanderbilt University (my law school alma mater) charm for the zipper pull.  It was originally on a gaudy necklace that Charlotte had helped her daddy pick out for my birthday present a long time ago, but someone yanked it off at some point.  I stuck it in my sewing stash and knew I would find a use for it someday.



Here is the view of the top of the bag.  It's annoying me that the barn in the background is clashing with the bag.  (Our subdivision back up to a farm, which is cool unless the otherwise picturesque outbuildings fail to match with my sewing projects.  Heh.)



Inside is an internal zipper pocket.  Yes, the white zipper looks awful, but I was too lazy to run to the store for a better matching one.  I went a little wild and used the exterior fabric for pocket instead of the lining fabric as the tutorial dictated.



But I went even wilder when I picked a whole other fabric for the adorable pleated pockets.  Really, I had just run out of the exterior AND the lining fabric such that I couldn't cut a piece large enough, but I am just going to pretend it was a conscious choice for style purposes.



The bag is about 10 inches wide, eight inches high, and four inches deep.  Perfect for stashing a bunch of toiletries and hair accessories for me and the kids.

The tutorial was very clear and easy to follow.  It helped that I had already sewed the Brick Pouch (this is just a larger version of it with some added features and an altered shape) and that I am really familiar with Bethany's techniques and terminology.  It would have been even easier had I not tried to sew this while my daughter had a play date (her friend kept wandering in and wanting to watch me, much to Charlotte's chagrin), but the result was still terrific.  In the future, I would buy the black fusible fleece when sewing with such dark fabrics because pins sometimes pull through some of the fleece fibers and makes the fabric look dirty.  I would also do a better job with the handles so that they ended up the correct length!  I can see this tote working well for a number of different purposes, and I would love to make it again in the future.