Sunday, May 25, 2014

Brad's Batman

We had a scare a little while ago....  Peter's pocket-sized Batman (styled to look like the animated Batman from the video game Gotham City Imposters) was almost kidnapped.  KIDNAPPED!  Apparently, Niki's friend, Brad, took a shine to tiny Batman and was considering taking candy from a baby Batman to be his own little friend.  Instead of allowing Brad to be sucked into a life of crime, I quickly hooked Brad his very own little Batman:

Nerdigurumi's free pattern is really interesting.....  It was a little tricky for me because most amigurumi patterns I've used have you crochet in a spiral rather than joined rounds.  But the result is so much fun, and you can't beat the cool cape pattern.  Here's proud Brad with his little pocket buddy:

Brad is seriously cool.  He is a high school science teacher and all-around awesome dude.  I am honored that he enjoyed one of my creations so much!

One funny thing to me is how much smaller Brad's Batman turned out.... See the picture below, which Niki took before she kindly cut out a bat symbol and attached it for me.  Can you see Charlotte's reflection in the toaster?  I wonder what she was eating.

When I crocheted Peter's Batman, I had just picked my crochet hooks back up after a 4-year hiatus, and I was learning the amigurumi ropes.  Previously, I had mostly crocheted afghans and doilies.  Anyway, even though I used acrylic worsted weight yarn for both Batmans, they are radically differently-sized.  The probable reasons for this are:

- I abhor when stuffing shows through in between stitches, so over the past year and a half of amigurumi crocheting, I have gravitated toward using smaller and smaller hooks (typically an F/3.75mm hook).  Peter's Batman was probably crocheted using an H or a G hook.

- It looks to me like I might have more rows in Peter's Batman's torso and head!  Did I lose count when I was crocheting his?  As far as I can tell, I followed the pattern perfectly with Brad's.

- I was pretty stressed out when I was crocheting Brad's Batman.  We were in the process of moving to Texas, so I was wound up tight.

At any rate, enjoy your Batman, Brad!  May you have many fun adventures together.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The transforming box/play mat

For Sonia's fifth birthday present, I tried out an awesome pattern that I had won a while back through the Sew Like My Mom blog giveaway from Cozy Nest Design called the "Play and Store".  It's basically a box/tote that converts to a play mat when the corners are unzipped.  So nifty!  There's nothing I love more than a clever design, with bonus points if zippers are involved.  (I have never been particularly afraid of sewing with zippers -- a fear that I have heard expressed by some sewing bloggers and commenters -- probably because ignorance is bliss.  I probably have yet to encounter a horrific zipper experience that shakes me to my core and forever scars me.  It's probably coming at some point, though.)

Here is an overhead shot:

The lining fabric is interfaced with Pellon Craft Fuse, but there are also pieces of plastic mesh canvas in there to give the box its shape.  The pattern called for "Ultra Firm Plastic Canvas" and the mesh canvas was what the Jo-Ann's employee said was the closest thing she had.  The next closest crafty fabric store is probably Hobby Lobby, and it definitely is a haul to get there -- something not easy to do when you're trying to buy fabric in time to make it back for preschool pick-up.  The grid of the mesh is more apparent than I had hoped, but that's probably because I forgot to add interfacing to the outer fabric until after I had sewn on some zippers and was way past the point of no return.  Whoops.

Each side is different.  I know I was using a directional fabric for a project that really should have used a non-directional fabric, but the abstract faces on this print looked just as neat upside down or sideways as right side up.  I figured Sonia wouldn't mind.

Two of the side zippers are pink and two are black.  I did it to make the box a little funkier.  Well, actually, I did it because there weren't four 7-inch zippers in either color and I had to mix and match if I didn't want to haul my cookies all the way to the other side of creation to the other Jo-Ann's.  If I had remember to take some swatches of the fabric to the store then I would have chosen four different colors, but the pink was the only one I was confident would match based on my memory of the fabric.

Here is a view of it when you unzip the corners and open it up to be a play mat.  It's about 27 inches square when open.  You probably couldn't use the play mat on top of a wooden table because the zippers would scratch the heck out of it, but it would work great on carpet or an upholstered coffee table/footstool (or an old table you didn't care about, I suppose!).

You could also just flip the play mat over so that the zippers faced up (though it wouldn't be as convenient because you would have to empty the bin first).

Here is a close-up of one of the corners.  It takes a teeny bit of finesse to zip (it's a long story, but it's my fault, not the pattern's!), so Erin will probably need to help Sonia at first.  [Erin -- just pinch the zipper closed with one hand, and use the other hand to zip it up.]

I didn't follow the pattern for the handles because I had a chunk of black cotton webbing that I wanted to use.  I have nothing against the way the pattern recommended making them (by sewing them from fabric and adding a bit of ribbon for detail), but this saved a bit of time.

It was so much fun to use a large chunk of the kooky, modern lightweight home d├ęcor weight fabric given to me by Corey's Aunt Martha -- it's called "GULLVI" and is sold at Ikea.  I'm in love with the colors, and I hope Sonia will like the cartoony faces.  The print is on such a scale that this fabric wasn't always appropriate for the smaller projects I tend to do, so it was awesome that this play mat could feature it in its full, goofy glory.  (Now that I think about it, this fabric would be adorable as an apron.  Hmmm . . .)

Happy birthday, Sonia!!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lion and Pig Loveys

This past Christmas, in anticipation of her friends gaining a couple of new grandchildren, Jenni (my mother-in-law) asked if I could crochet two loveys for her to give as baby gifts. In all the amigurumi work I've done over the past year, I hadn't made any loveys, and now I'm kicking myself for not making more because they are so much fun!  Basically, you make the head and the arms of any stuffed animal (or human character) and attach it to the middle of a small blanket.  Loveys are helpful because they don't tend to roll out of the stroller as easily as stuffed animals.

For the first lovey, which she wanted to be for a baby boy, we went with a lion.  The free pattern for Tau the crocheted lion was amazing-- perfectly written even though it used several slightly tricky techniques.  Look at his handsome little nose!

A short tangent: When I started crocheting the blanket part, I laughed-- this was the same pattern (alternating single crochet stitches and double crochet stitches) as the very first afghan I ever crocheted.  I need to take a picture of that monstrosity and post it on the blog some time because it is hilarious.  I was having trouble figuring out how to begin and end rows, and I felt there were too many stitches to count as I made each row (WHY did I choose an afghan as my very first project?!?!), so I didn't notice until about 40 rows into the afghan that I was losing a stitch or two after each row.  Also, I had mis-read the pattern, and the afghan was turning out really skinny and long.  Did I rip out the bad rows where I lost stitches at the turning point?  No.  I just then started adding stitches to try to get back to the original width.  Did I leave out rows and turn the skinny afghan into a baby blanket?  No.  I just decided I'd still make it adult afghan length but I'd have to stretch out underneath it and not move around too much.  I'm an idiot.  I still have the afghan because I can't stand to throw it out.  I still bring it out and laugh at it every once in a while.

Anyway!  Here's a bird's eye view of the lovey all spread out.  I love it!

For the other lovey, which Jenni wanted to be for a baby girl, we chose this adorable Piggy Lovey pattern.  I love the little bow on her head and the granny square blankie!  So adorable.

I went with the same colors as the pattern originally suggested except that I swapped out the beige for gray because I had a beautiful heather gray that I thought would coordinate nicely.

The granny square pattern looks like a cute little dress (well, more of a ball gown, really).  Jenni had me add a few extra rounds to increase the size of the blanket part in proportion to the piggy's head

So much fun to make!  Great pattern.

Welcome to the word, babies!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Granny's summery table runner

I whipped up a quick table runner (about 36" x 9") for Corey's Granny last weekend, again using the Robert Kaufman jelly roll.  I still have quite a bit of it left, too!  Anyway, the backing is just some royal blue Kona cotton, and I put felt inside as the batting.  You can't really see it in this horrible cell phone picture, but I quilted the top using big Xs across each of the four blocks.

Instead of binding (which I was too chicken to do on a project for an amazing quilter such as Granny!), I used piping.  Granny thought that was very fun.

The only bummer about doing everything that way is that there isn't any neat quilting to show through on the plain backing.  I suppose I could add the quilting after final assembly, but then I would have to deal with the ugly backstitches showing.  I could also add a second layer of batting to the backing and quilt it separately before assembly.  Ooh -- I'm definitely going to try that next time!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wine glass hexagon coasters

These Honeycomb Wine Coasters look like regular old coasters at first glance, but . . .

. . . they actually fit ON to the bottom of the wine glass!  I know wine glasses don't really sweat like tumblers or highballs do, but these do protect your tabletops as well as looking hilarious.  I made the mismatched set above for my mom.  She doesn't drink wine, but she hosts book club and bunco at her house from time to time and apparently those ladies definitely love their wine!

The navy and aqua set below is for my mother-in-law.

I had fun packaging them as gifts, but I guess these ribbons could also serve the purpose of keeping the coasters together while being stored.

I had a ton of fun going through all of my scraps and making matching sets.  These were very quick to make, but it did get monotonous to make 24 of them right in a row!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

American flag round table topper

For my mother-in-law's Mother's Day present, I used some flag fabric (that she had actually handed down to me, so I know she likes it!) to sew a little round table topper.  Since Barb loves to decorate seasonally, I figured this would be cute to set out in the weeks leading up to the 4th of July.

I kind of made it all up as I went along, so I didn't follow any tutorial in particular.  I started by cutting the fabric (which was essentially just long stripes) into four squares and sewing them together in alternating directions.  Then, I decided it would look even cooler as a circle and hacked off the excess.

Before I attached the top to the backing, I quilted the top using two perpendicular lines that intersected in the middle.  Then, instead of binding it, I sewed on some piping, put the backing and top right sides together, and sewed it into a sandwich -- leaving a gap for turning it right side out.  I had to *gasp!* hand sew the opening closed, but that spot is on the back and hopefully not very noticeable.  After I closed the gap, I quilted it with a couple of concentric circles.

The backing is pieced together because I didn't have enough of either the red canvas (left over from Barb's baskets) or the denim (left over from goodness knows what).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Twisted Pleats Zipper Pouch

I love this sweet little Zipper Purse (or as I have been calling it in my head, the Twisted Pleats Zipper Pouch) tutorial from Amy at And Sew We Craft.  Having made about 500 zipper pouches in the past few years (well, that is kind of an exaggeration), I am always looking out for a new spin (or twist?) on the basic pattern.  This was fun to make and I loved the result.

The one tricky thing about this pouch is that you really can't do topstitching on either side of the zipper like you normally do in a zipper pouch to make sure the lining doesn't float up and get stuck in the zipper.  If you did, the topstitching would totally ruin the look of the pleats.  I tried my best to iron down the lining instead but didn't want to go crazy and melt the zipper.  We'll see how it works over time.

I purposefully cut the lining pieces with the stripes in alternating directions, but it's not quite as cute as I hoped it would be.  I love the peekaboo effect of the alternating twisted pleats on the outside, and I also am impressed at how the pleats (backed by just a bit of medium-weight interfacing) give this pouch the sturdiness it needs without a layer of felt or batting inside.  I will be making this pouch again for sure, possibly in even bigger sizes -- it would be darling as a wristlet.

Mother's Day nesting baskets

To round out my mom's Mother's Day gifts, I added a trio of nesting baskets made by referencing (but not strictly following) this tutorial from the Birch Fabrics blog.  They're so stinkin' cute that I am thinking I need to make a few for myself.

I found the outer fabric in the remnant bin.  The navy canvas was left over from the Detroit Tigers tote bag, the yellow canvas was left over from the baskets I made for my mother-in-law, and the striped fabric was left over from the valances I sewed about a decade ago for Erin and Andrew when they still lived in their apartment in Chicago.  I still have quite a chunk of that left, because I had bought a crazy amount due to my inexperience and fear of messing up.

I goofed up the proportions because I forgot to take into account how the varying depths of the boxed corners would affect the heights as well.  They're still cute in the varying heights.

I think the striped one is my favorite.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  Thank you for introducing me to sewing all those years ago when Erin and I made those goofy crop tops.  Yes, it took me probably another decade to pick up sewing again, and then another decade to really sew in earnest, but it all goes back to those little crop tops.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Pleated block table topper

The first gift I made for my mom for Mother's Day was a table topper that featured pleated (and unpleated) blocks.  I got the idea from this cool tutorial, but I didn't want to make anything quite that long.  I thought the aqua and coral fabric looked nice and springy, and the black sashing added a bit of edge to it.

It's hard to tell in the photos, but one block is pleated horizontally, and the other is pleated vertically.

The coral fabric is left over from the valances I made for Charlotte's nursery, the aqua is left over from the cosmetic bags I sewed for Faith Carol, and the black is from the Rescue Bots bag I made for Ben.

The back of the table topper just has some of the black pieced together with the fur-like print turned in alternating directions just for fun.  I made my own binding from the aqua fabric.  There is felt in between the layers, and I chose not to add any quilting because it was such a small project (and was spray basted together).

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Oilcloth basket

I had some oilcloth left over from Alex's changing pad/clutch, so I decided to give a tutorial I saw for an oilcloth basket a whirl.  There wasn't anything super special about the method of construction, but it was a nice change to make a basket with a separately attached bottom rather than just boxing the corners (which I never feel like I do quite properly). The folded over top gives it a little stability that would be otherwise lacking, especially since the basket does not include any sort of batting or felt inside.  (It probably could use some batting, if only just for opacity -- you can see where the seemingly opaque lining fabric actually shows the oilcloth's print where the light was shining through!)

I'm torn on what to call the printed material -- is it printed vinyl or oilcloth?  It's certainly not that laminated cotton stuff.  I think I need to look a little closer at the labels at the fabric store.  Whatever the material is called, it made a basket that is the perfect size to hold some random Lego creations in my craft cabinet!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A thank you for a great kindergarten teacher

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week at Charlotte's school (at least I think so -- I kind of deleted the email that the administration sent about it and couldn't find it again).  Charlotte's kindergarten teacher is awesome.  You would never know this is her first year as a classroom teacher and that she was probably born in the 1990s.  She has a really calm and gentle manner, and I think it rubs off on her students because I'm consistently amazed at how well-behaved they are when I volunteer in the classroom.  I can hardly get MY six-year-old to do anything I ask her, and somehow this teacher gets 21 of them to do whatever she asks.  If anyone deserved a nice thank you present, it is definitely this woman!

Anyway, I made her this table topper in a herringbone pattern (I think that's the right term, right?) by just sort of winging it.  I didn't get the idea from anyplace specific.  I have a ton of green scraps in my scrap bin, so green seemed like the logical choice.  Charlotte's teacher went to Michigan State (yet another reason we love her), so I knew she would like the tiny bit of MSU fabric thrown in there as well.

Some of the seams line up, and some don't.  Overall, there is a general sense of it all coming close at least.  Just keep a good distance away from it and it works.  I tried to be as consistent as I could, but I probably should have starched all of the fabrics first.  It's kind of fun working with scraps, because it's like a trip down project memory lane.

The backing/wrap-around binding is a black linen from my stash.  I found a tutorial that results in better corners with the wrap-around binding from Cluck Cluck Sew, and I was happy with the results even with using the bulky linen.  I cut each piece on the top to be 2" x 7" and sewed them at 30-degree angles and 60-degree angles onto 4" wide strips of muslin.  Then, I spray basted it to some felt and added the backing/binding.  I didn't do any quilting because I was terrified to screw it up.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

More primary polkadot fun

Made another small basket with some more of the Robert Kaufman polka dot strips from the jelly roll I won.  This one is just like Alicia's, but taller and with longer handles.  Not sure why I made the handles this long, because they look a tad silly.  This basket now holds the bill that need to be paid.

I also made a little hot pad/table topper/mug rug/whatever just playing with piecing.  I still have major issues with sewing straight and keeping a consistent seam allowance.  I'm thinking a quarter inch foot should be something I ask for on my birthday.

Again, I tried the wrap-around binding, and again I had issues with the mitered corners.  My friend, Kym, told me she liked the peekaboo corners though, so I'm going to pretend like they were meant to be like that.

I had fun with the quilting on this one, despite the fact that my machine was skipping stitched even after I changed my needle, cleaned out the bobbin area, rethreaded everything, and altered the tension.  I probably needed a heavier needle or something.  My latest theory is that my machine seems to get cranky with quilting spray basted items with felt as the batting.  I will be testing out this theory by changing the variables to see if I can isolate the problem.  Of course, it could also be that I need a walking foot for my machine.  Yet another birthday wish, I guess!