Friday, January 31, 2014

Printed vinyl changing pad clutch

Nothing is more fun than sewing something by request.  It's almost more fun than sewing something as a surprise gift because you're never truly sure the recipient really wants or needs such an item.  It's a little scary, however, when someone mentions something -- like, say, a laminated cotton/oilcloth changing pad -- and you pipe up and say "I could totally make something like that for you!"  Poor Toni had the misfortune of such an encounter with me, and suddenly found herself the collaborator in my first-ever venture into sewing a wipeable changing pad.  Luckily, it all turned out pretty darn well.

Here it is closed:

And here it is, open:

I totally should have stuck a stuffed animal or baby doll on there for a more interesting photo.  I was just proud of myself that I still had some pull-ups on hand to stuff in there to showcase the two pockets that hang down, which can hold diapers, wipes, diaper cream, etc.

I used a great tutorial for a Travel Diaper Changing Pad, but altered it in one major way -- instead of using a layer of clear vinyl paired with regular cotton fabric, I made both the inside and the outside using a printed vinyl that is sort of like laminated cotton or oilcloth.  It's pretty tough, so I figured it would stand up to a thrashing toddler during a wild diaper change.  The original tutorial calls for cotton fabric on the outside, but I figured that since the vinyl would preclude it from being thrown in the washing machine, a wipeable exterior would also be a good idea.  There's a layer of felt between the vinyl, but it's not so bulky that it would take up tons of room in the diaper bag.

A note about the tutorial -- it calls for waaaaaaaaaay more fabric than you actually use.  You really only need 2/3 of a yard of the exterior fabric, and 14" of the pocket fabric (with a good amount of scraps left over even then).  As for the padding, you only need a 12" x 23" piece that could easily be pieced together from scraps of felt/batting already lying around.  I also think a shank button might work better than a regular one, but I didn't have a good matching one on hand to try it with.  If I made this pattern again, I might try it with PUL (polyurethane lined fabric, which is what diaper covers are sometimes made from) if I can find some better prints than the seriously barfy ones I saw at Jo-Ann's.

I am a little worried about the security of the button, though.  If yanked too hard, it could possibly pull through the vinyl.  Be careful, Toni!  I could easily stitch on a strap that used a velcro closure if that happened, though.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Easy Peasy PJ Pants

I whipped up a couple of super simple pairs of flannel pajama pants for Charlotte and Peter to test out the new patterns I drafted.  I have some super cool sock monkey flannel that I will use to make Charlotte, Sonia, and possibly even Peter (if there's enough fabric) some fun cuffed pajama pants, but I wanted to make sure I had the shape right first.  Good thing I did, because I think I need to tweak both patterns just a bit.  The pants turned out well enough anyway, so I figured I would show them off.

Quick tip -- to get your kids excited about a photo fashion shoot, let them stand on a piece of furniture that would otherwise be strictly off-limits (in this case, the kitchen table).  I gave the kids very little posing directions, and this is how the best of the shoot turned out.

#1 -- Peter as a GQ model.  His gray blue eyes just kill me.

#2 -- Charlotte as a complete goofball.

#3 -- Peter as a goofball, Charlotte looking darling.

#4 -- Peter looking adorable, Charlotte looking goodness knows where.

I got the flannel for Charlotte's pants out of -- where else? -- the remnant bin at Jo-Ann's.

I got Peter's fabric off the bolt at Jo-Ann's during a shopping trip with him.  He fell in love with the fabric and wouldn't take no for an answer.  Thank goodness for coupons.

I didn't use any specific tutorial for these, since I now know how to make my own pj pants pattern and sew them by heart.  In the past, I have used this tutorial for the basic construction method.

I need to lengthen the rise in the size 6 pants, and make the legs a bit longer for Charlotte's pair.  For the size 4T pants, I probably just need to shorten the legs a tad so there's not so much fabric folded up in the cuff.  I need to make the modifications to add the cuffs, and then we should be in business.  Next stop, sock monkey fabric!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Andrew's collar stay catcher

I was really struggling with my sewing machine (the bobbin thread wouldn't stay in its tension guides) and then finally gave up and sent it in for service during the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving -- which is unfortunately when we were slated to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family.  Thus, nobody really got any handmade gifts from me.  My machine was ready the day that my parents and brother flew home, so after lunch we raced to the store to pick it up.  I then sewed like a maniac and very, very quickly whipped out three of those thread catchers for my dad, my little brother Jordan, and my brother-in-law Andrew.  I didn't get a shot of the first two, but I had Erin send me a couple of photos of Andrew's!

Andrew is using his to hold stray collar stays (say that three times fast) that tend to float around in the master bedroom.  I might need to make Corey an official place to keep his too, actually.

For the outside, I used some more of that fabulous black pleather that Erin bought for me in the remnant bin.  The inside is red Kona cotton.  I tried to free-hand quilt the red fabric to the felt batting, and it turned out kind of okay-ish.  My feed dogs are not really huge fans of working with felt, so I should have stuck some muslin on the back for better control.  Maybe Andrew just needs to put about 80 more of those little stays in there to camouflage the shaky stitching.

Dad's and Jordan's baskets/catchers/whatever are identical to this one, but I have no idea what amazing things they are being used for (if anything).

Thank you for taking the pics, Ernie!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Alex's Fox and Race Car

For Alex's first birthday crochet present, I was excited when his mom, Toni, suggested a fox.  I have been seeing foxes float across my Pinterest feed for months now.  Not sure if the fox's popularity is a result of the "What Does the Fox Say?" song or if it's the other way around, but foxes are certainly hot right now.  I gathered a bunch of pattern possibilities, and Toni chose this pattern of a fox cruising around in a little race car.  HAHAHAHA!!!!  How hilarious is this?

The cute little nose kills me.

This is actually two toys in one, because the fox is separate from the race car (which I tried to make British Racing Green)!

The big cartoon-y headlights crack me up.

Instead of a racing number in the yellow circle at the top, I decided to embroider an "A" for Alex.  After I embroidered it, it occurred to me that it looked a tiny bit like an anarchy symbol.  Ha!!  Very apropos for the days when both children are being ornery.

Happy birthday, little dude!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Carrie's Cloche

My really cool friend, Carrie, came to me a couple of weeks ago, in need of warmth.  As long as I can remember, she has always worn a really beautiful crocheted hat during the winter, and it looked comfy, warm, and really cute on her.  Apparently, the hat was lost, and she attempted to replace it with one from Etsy.  The new hat ended up being too small for Carrie's head (which is not abnormally large, based on the quick measurements several of us moms did during a playdate-- ha!!), so she gave it to her 2 1/2 year old.  It fits her daughter perfectly.  Now, I'm not an genius, but no hat meant for an adult woman should fit a 2 1/2 year old child!  Gauge, people. GAUGE.

Anyway, it occurred to Carrie that her crazy crocheting friend (ME!) might be able to help a sister out, so she came to me with a pattern and asked if I might be able to make it.  It was a free pattern called the "Charleston Cloche", and it was published by my favorite yarn manufacturer, Red Heart, so I was definitely game to try it.  And here is the finished product, as modeled by Carrie!

Beautiful hat for a beautiful lady.  Poor Carrie, I made her stand out in the icy weather (I think it was 6 degrees at the time) so I could snap these photos.  The hat pattern's accompanying picture shows the attached flower the same color as the hat, and Carrie wondered if we might be able to switch it up and do the flower in a different color.  Challenge accepted!  I ended up making her one in hot pink and one in turquoise; both are attached to barrettes that can clip onto the hat, so she can switch flowers any time she likes.  Carrie even tried wearing one of the flowers in her hair and it looked lovely.  Did I remember to take a picture of the turquoise flower?  Nope.  But here's a better view of the pink one.

I don't know how much of a "cloche" this really is....  Cloche hats are supposed to be bell-shaped (the bottom edge flares out slightly from the head-- these were really popular in the time that Downton Abbey is currently set).  But, this hat is cool no matter what you call it.  The interesting HDC cluster pattern makes the hat surprisingly stretchy for crochet, and it turned out to be a good size because I used a big crochet hook to be extra-sure that it didn't turn out too small and give Carrie an undeserved "big head" complex.  Hopefully she will be able to wear this hat without getting "hat hair" when she comes in from the cold and takes it off.

This was one project I had a hard time giving away.  I am NOT a hat-wearer, but I thought it looked pretty decent on me when I modeled it for Andrew and Sonia!  I may have to give this pattern another try.  Here's a bad selfie taken with the iPad:

I swear, I did make a turquoise flower.....  Anyway, stay warm in your hat, Carrie!  This winter has been brutal in the temperature department.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Barb's baskets

My mother-in-law, Barb, has a really cool built-in bench near her front door.  It's a great place for her to stash things that she needs to remember next time she leaves the house.  Inevitably, she has three piles going on that bench at any one time -- things to go to her mom's house, to Stephanie & Don's house, and to our house.  She was collecting them in three different shopping bags, but then she decided that maybe there was a more aesthetically pleasing solution and commissioned my help.

I showed her my Pinterest board with pins of sewing tutorials for fabric baskets and boxes and she liked the looks of the Square-Bottomed Canvas Bucket.   She wanted them to be about the size of the knitting "bagsket" I had made her last year (which I really should take a photograph of next time I'm at her house), which was 12" in diameter, so I sized up the bucket tutorial to end up with a 12" x 12" x 12" cube (without a top, of course).  I have a special talent for photographing projects at bad angles, so please believe me when I say that in person they don't look so lopsided and wonky!

I altered the tutorial in many other ways, too.  I added clear vinyl pockets to the front so she could insert labels, and I sewed on the handles (using a different attachment method) before the lining was sewed in (so the stitching wouldn't show on the lining).  Piping around the top was a must, because I am currently obsessed with piping.  It's a scientific fact that everything is cuter with a bit of piping.  I also added a layer of felt to give the baskets more substance, and some sew-in Peltex (Pellon 70) on the sides (but not the bottoms) to keep them standing up straight while empty.  Basically, the only thing I took from the original tutorial was the basic construction method.

The buckets/baskets/whatever you call them are lined with different colors of duck cloth (well, the blue is actually a bottom-weight denim, but it's virtually the same weight).  The outside fabric is home décor gingham left over from the roman shades that Barb just had professionally made for her kitchen windows.  I wish I could have fussy-cut them so the pattern would have looked the same on each of them, but I was working with scraps (that I had to actually piece together, which is ridiculously difficult with a geometric pattern!) and didn't have that luxury.

The handles are nearly double the width and length of those in the original tutorial (to account for the increase in overall size), and they are made from some floral home décor fabric left over from recovering the chair and bar stools in Barb's kitchen.  

To contrast with the gingham squares, I made the clear vinyl pockets for the labels rounded just for fun.  I'm going to give Barb some of the coordinating card stock so she can make labels with better handwriting (or even print them out with a computer).

I hope she likes them!  She's in Grand Rapids for the night, and when Larry (my poor father-in-law, who was left behind for Barb's trip) comes over for dinner tonight I'm going to give them to him to sneak home and put in place.  That should be a fun surprise when she gets home tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Guest post from our little brother, Jordan -- Memoirs of a Gigolo, Part II

After a long month of furious single crochets, I have finally finished the afghan I made for my awesome buddy Tim. It was inspired by our latest motorcycle trip together, one we took in the summer of 2013 from Seattle to Santa Barbara. I chose the colors to match our bikes- navy blue for my Yamaha, burnt orange for his Triumph, and tan for the dirt that tends to glom on to everything one owns during a road trip.

The bikes:

The afghan:

I tried to create a pattern analogous to the way the trip manifested. The afghan (starting on the left) began much like our trip did, focused on the two bikes. We started the journey by zooming south, gradually staying longer and longer at the various destinations. I represented this by increasing the length of each color as the afghan took shape. Down at the end in Santa Barbara we parted ways and Tim headed back up north to Seattle, so I finished it up with alternating orange and tan. The rest of my own trip is another story, another afghan.

With each color change I crocheted into the back loop in an attempt to create texture and overlapping waves. It sorta worked, but the vast fields of single crochet madness somewhat diminishes the effect:

This bad-mamma-jamma of an afghan was a zig-zag pattern with a base chain of 220 knots, worsted weight Red Heart Super Saver, done with a J-hook. I calculate that there are 32,120 knots all tied up in there. You had better believe it took me a long time to complete. I am not the fastest hooker ever, at least compared to the greased lightning I once witnessed when Erin completed a one-skein scarf in like 5 minutes.

The edges are a little curvy and the afghan, as a whole, tends to wave a bit with the pattern. I figure Tim will beat this out of it via marathon Xbox sessions and cuddle time with his latest main squeeze. Seattle gets cold in the winter, hence the single crochet battlefield. No holes or gaps that might let precious heat escape!

Knowing this would be a loooooong project, I was tempted to keep track of the man-hours spent behind the hook but instead I logged all of the full-length albums I listened to. I also crochet during football games, getting in a few knots between each play as well as during commercials and halftimes. This is the complete list of all albums/games enjoyed during the afghan process, in chronological order:

Kansas- Point of Know Return
Keller Williams- Dream
The Band- Music From Big Pink
Sunny Day Real Estate- Diary
Viva Voce- Get Yr Blood Sucked Out
Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Show Your Bones
Cake- Comfort Eagle
The Flaming Lips- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Jethro Tull- Thick as a Brick
Devotchka- Una Volta
Ween- Quebec
Outkast- Aquemini
Rush- A Farewell to Kings
Rush- Moving Pictures
My Morning Jacket- "Z"
Man Man- Life Fantastic
Built to Spill- Keep it Like a Secret
Broncos vs Raiders- Broncos win 34-14 and set all sorts of records.
Panthers vs Falcons- Panthers win 21-20.
Belle & Sebastian- If You're Feeling Sinister
Phish- Billy Breathes
The Decemberists- The Crane Wife
Ween- Quebec
49ers vs Green Bay- Niners win 23-20.
Jack Johnson- Brushfire Fairytales
Saints vs Seahawks- Hawks win 23-15! Go Seattle!
Steely Dan- The Royal Scam
Steely Dan- Pretzel Logic
Steely Dan- Countdown to Ecstasy
Broncos vs Chargers, Broncos win 24-17. Go Broncos!
King Crimson- Discipline
Spoon- Gimme Fiction
System of a Down- Hypnotize
Steve Howe- Homebrew II
Tool- Undertow
Built to Spill- You in Reverse
Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
Gomez- How We Operate
Pink Floyd- Animals
Smashing Pumpkins- Siamese Dream
Broncos vs Patriots, Broncos win 26-16, Super Bowl bound!
Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
Arcade Fire- Reflektor

Such good music! Such good football! Such tedious crocheting! This was a once-in-a-lifetime pattern, because once was enough. Yes, I realize I listed Ween's Quebec twice, because I just so happened to listen to it twice- it's that good. I also went on a bit of an Arcade Fire tear there near the end.

Tim, hope you enjoy the afghan!

We met on a disc golf course, and said goodbye on a disc golf course. Next time we meet, it might be at a disc golf course! Well, it will realistically be in the terminal of an airport, but rest assured we will head straight for the nearest set of frisbee links. Here's us parting ways at the course at Lake Casitas, just south of Santa Barbara- Tim's the one on the left:

Best bros. I hope this afghan will always remind him of not just the road trip but all of the kick-ass times we shared when we hung out on a regular basis. Blood, sweat, and cabernet sauvignon were all spilled during this project but you'd never notice the stains 'cause I'm bunny-quick with a washcloth.


Note from Erin -- Yes, I am a quick crocheter, but perhaps it only seems that way because I choose small amigurumi projects most of the time!! I had to swear off afghans because I would get so bored making them that they would sit, languishing, as works-in-progress for months, if not years. I wonder if maybe I wouldn't have given up crocheting for several years around the time of Sonia's birth if I had realized my love of amigurumi earlier. Anyway, Jordan is a crocheting genius (he is so much more of a natural at this-- I mostly need patterns, and he comes up with his own as a rule). I frickin' love this afghan and wish I had it. Oh, and I totally approve of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Cake!! And a lot of the rest of the music list, too. Also, the thinking behind the pattern of this afghan makes me a little teary-eyed: friendship and a road trip captured in a crochet project.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The complete diaper bag ensemble

I had a bit of fabric left over from Toni's diaper bag, so before I sent it to her I made a couple of little extras to stash in her bag if she so chooses.  We have grand plans for a cool coordinating changing pad, but I'm going to have to pick up a bit more fabric for that next time I'm at the fabric store.

Toni's Diaper Bag Accessories

First, I made a sweet little lined drawstring pouch by following a tutorial from Threading My Way.  It would be the perfect size for a couple of pacifiers or some small toys.  I didn't have anything specific in mind when I made it -- I just didn't have any good coordinating zippers on hand and wanted to make some sort of cute pouch to match.

Toni's Diaper Bag Accessories

I made this coordinating keychain to hook on to the loop inside of the bag.  I didn't follow any specific tutorial (though there are loads of them out there for very similar keychains).

Toni's Diaper Bag Accessories

I'm sticking the whole ensemble in the mail on Tuesday morning while Peter is in preschool.  It will be on its way to Aurora soon, Toni!

Toni's Diaper Bag Accessories


Toni sweetly sent me some photos of her diaper bag all loaded up with her goodies!  She wanted to show me how there is still tons of room left even filled up with all of the necessities.  The green and tan bundle there is actually a diaper clutch I made her last winter right after Alex was born.

Toni was especially thrilled to discover that the floating inset pocket holds not one, but TWO sippy cups.  Woo hoo!

Toni also reports that even fully loaded, the bag is still a lot lighter than the store-bought ones.  Score!!

Featured at: Threading My Way

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Alex's Aviator Hat

How in the world did I forget to post pictures of this hat?!? Back in September when the weather started getting nippy, my friend, Toni, and I came up with the idea of crocheting her 8-month-old son, Alex, an Aviator hat.  I looked around at a bunch of different patterns and realized that it would be pretty easy.  I could just use my favorite hat pattern, the Hello Kitty Hat from Crochet in Color, and add an extra flap in the front to be folded up.  Voila!

Because I was kind of winging it in terms of size, and because I was too impatient to wait until the next time I saw Alex to try it on him, I ended up crocheting the hat at least 3 times before I got the size right.  Whoops.

A lot of aviator hats have cute buttons sewn on the front, but Alex excels in being ornery, so we were pretty sure we were saving Toni and her husband some future grief by leaving them off.

4 months later, the hat still fits, but the end might be near.  Alex has gotten really good use out of it, though!  I made this hat before I taught myself how to line hats with fleece, so I don't know how warm it really is.  But he looks pretty cute in it!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cameron's Spider-Man Beanie

I am in LOVE with a new crochet pattern: The Graph Beanie by Liz McQueen.  What a simple yet perfect way to make a hat!  Unlike most crochet hats, it's really stretchy (due to working the hat sideways in the back loop only).

This next part appeals to my math-loving mind: because the hat is worked in single crochet rows, you can incorporate designs into the hat by using a chart.  Basically, you take any simple design and pixelate it as if you are coloring it on graph paper with one color per square.  Because this was my first time making the graph beanie, I bought a graph of Spider-Man's eyes.  The author has a bunch of different graphs for sale; she obviously crochets for a a bunch of little girls because I saw several My Little Pony graphs!

I think if I practice a bit, I can make that seam where you crochet the two ends of the hat together disappear a little better.  You can kind of see it in this picture of the back of the hat.  But it looks pretty ok.  I'm not too mad at it.

Now that I know roughly how the process of crocheting off of a graph works, I think I might be able to design my own graph to incorporate any sort of image into a hat.  Hmmm.  Maybe an interlocking ND....

This hat was made for Sonia's little buddy, Cameron, who is turning 5 this month.  Happy birthday, Cameron!  He reminds me so much of Niki's son, Peter, that I think they would be thick as thieves if they ever met.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Minion Hat

Sonia asked if I could crochet her a minion hat (we had seen several on Pinterest), and I decided that I didn't need no stinkin' pattern (although there are a ton of great free ones out there, just FYI!).  Well, I didn't need a minion-specific one, at any rate.  I went back to my old standby, the greatest hat pattern I have found so far: the Hello Kitty hat by Crochet in Color. Then, all I had to do was freehand a monocle (Sonia's loves the one-eyed minions the best) and add some hair.

I purposely made the hat big so I could fit a fleece lining inside (I'm addicted to lining hats with fleece!), but I ended up making it a wee bit too big.  Whoops.

Once again, I wish I had just crocheted a black monocle strap and sewed it on because my color changing stunk!!!

Sonia seriously loves posing for pictures with my crocheted creations.  She was telling me which poses she wanted to do.

I couldn't get her to let go of the braids! Oh well.

Here's a quick shot of the fleece lining: