Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Fashion Show, Day 6: From My Mother's Closet to Mine

I am terrible at remembering to take 'before' pictures.  Usually my thrifted or inherited clothes get their wash, then get folded neatly into the spare laundry basket I keep my to-recycle clothing in.  I'm trying to be better about it now, but this was made a few weeks ago, though...

The original shirt had a solid black modesty panel in the v-neck--it was the first thing to go!  Having the edges of the neck fastened together didn't allow them to drape well, which was a critical design flaw, given that the center bust is pleated.  Once I took that out, I removed the sleeves so I could shorten the shoulders, which had to be done to move the underbust seam up into position.  Next I took in the sides and reshaped the back neck--I don't use it often, but I rather like the wide, shallow scoop, don't you?  I was worried a bit that it might fall off my shoulders, but it doesn't.  With all that done, I put the sleeves back on and poof! A flattering shirt from an ill-fitting cast-off!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Fashion Show Day 5: Out of Mistakes...

..sometimes come wonders.

This is the thrift store tank before:

Nothing special, just a deep hunter green knit.  I picked it up because I'm a fan of deep colors, comes with being pale as paper.  I had the idea applique a bunch of petal shapes in different colors running down one side of the front; a thing better done with fusing and hand-sewing than pins and a machine, which is what I attempted.  I didn't even get two petals on before I abandoned it.

Sadly, the trying ruined part of the shirt--there was no way to pick all that stitching out without damaging the fabric further.  I sat on the problem a few days, wondering what to do instead--after all, most of the shirt was fine!

During that few days, I happened to blog-hop over here, and I knew that I wanted to try the technique--I'm much more fond of semi-improvisational patchwork than the (plodding) planned variety.  I'm just not fussy enough to cut perfectly and line up all my corners properly, though every once in a while I try again, hoping I'll get better.  But the method, like most patchwork, is obviously intended for the woven fabrics of traditional quilting, so it didn't occur to me to use it to fix my shirt.

Until this morning, when I had my lightbulb moment connecting the two.  Why this morning, I don't rightly know, but it happened, and less than three hours later, I had a new top to show for it.

The half of the front that I removed became the sashing for the scraps; I wish I'd had a little more so I could have bound the neck and arms with it as well, but I didn't, so I just turned under the edges.  I absolutely want to do this again, I am in love with it--I have a black turtleneck in my recycle pile, so I'm thinking reds, purple, and blues.  I'll either take off or shorten the sleeves to get extra sashing/binding strips.  I might also do half the back next time as well!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Fashion Show, Day 4: I've Never Been to Japan...

...and yet somehow, I have a shirt from a study-abroad program there!  I'd say it's a funny story, but it's not; my MIL ran a similar program to Scotland and picked this up at one of the college fairs to give to my husband, and it eventually came to me.

Hey, look, I remembered to flip the image so the text is correct!  Aren't you proud?

I'm very pleased with how the neckline turned out--the original neck was so tight I had to take my glasses off to get the shirt over my head!  Usually I strive to make my collars lie flat, but I really wanted to use that particular pale blue fabric, and it's just not stretchy enough.  I do like the slight stand-up effect, and next time I use a very firm fabric for a neck binding, I think I might make it even wider...

I wrote an in-depth tutorial of the creation process for Craftster;  I started posting there last summer, but I was lurking for maybe another year before that, and I've been so inspired by everything there.  I've used quite a few tutorials and free patterns that others have posted, but until now I hadn't bothered to write any of my own, and I was starting to feel a little guilty for not contributing.  Now I have two up (the other one is for jewelry, and I will post it here after the Fashion Show concludes) and I've gotten very positive feedback on both, so I'm pondering what to write up next!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Fashion Show, Day 3: Summer Stripey Goodness

Lately I've been drawn to bright colors and stripes.  It's like an illness.  I've picked up three button-downs over my last few thrift-store trips that I couldn't possibly wear, but I knew I had to have the fabric for something.  I have vague dreams of making one a purse, but I haven't quite gotten it to yet.

On my most recent trip, I was trying to find tank tops, as most of the ones I own either died last summer (RIP my favorite six tanks, all the same style in different colors, picked up for $1.50 each on a clearance rack!) or are slowly dying this summer.  On a previous visit, my Goodwill had all the tank tops in their own section, which was handy--but they're in the middle of expanding, they've taken over the shop next door, and someone decided to mix the tanks in with all the other ladies' tops, which are sorted first by size then by color.  Passing through my size yielded me very little, so I started moving up, knowing I could trim down too-large pieces.

I hit paydirt on the XL rack.

Blue! Teal!  Lime Green!  I fell in love.  I wanted it wearable now...I begrudged the time it took to wash it, and I certainly wasn't too thrilled by my long shift at work the next day!

But that night, in just a little over an hour, I turned it into this beauty, which had its public debut the next day at my local grocery.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Fashion Show, Day 2: I Am Still a Geek

So last year, I got a tattoo.  Someone eventually noticed it was the Dragon Age: Origins loading screen image...which is an odd thing to get as a tattoo, I admit.  My reasoning was that it was a brilliant bit of stealth geekery--anyone who played the game might recognize me as a fellow geek, but to anyone who hadn't, it was just a cool, swirly, vaguely-Celtic-knot thing.  When I'm old and gray I might laugh about the story behind it, but it will still be pretty!

Well, I liked the art from Dragon Age II, too, but I feel no urge to get inked again, so I made clothing from a loading screen image instead, laboriously cut from freezer paper and stenciled on a reconned shirt.

I didn't intend to add the red panels to the sides, but I flubbed a cut and ended up with too-small front and back pieces.  Scrap fabric to the rescue!

It took a base coat of solid white and five coats of red to get that color--I wanted it to really pop against the black.  I didn't have any textile medium at the time (a situation now remedied), so I used the acrylic paint straight, which I've done before on jeans without a problem.  However, on the softer, more flexible jersey knit, the thickness I'd built up apparently couldn't survive a wash and dry without cracking.  Happily, I like the effect, and decided to distress it some more with a little tugging and stretching.

I really like working with freezer-paper stencils.  I need to do it more!

ETA:  I cleaned up the tags on all my posts, streamlining them by craft, for the most part.  If you follow me and your list shows edits, that's why you got spammed, and I apologize.  But it really needed to be done.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Fashion Show, Day 1!

I haven't been knitting much--it's too hot!  But I have been sewing a lot, and neglecting to post any of it.

I love thrifting, as you well know if you spend any time here, so it's no surprise that this dress was once a frumpy, matronly thing that I pulled off the rack because of the beauty of the fabric.  Seriously, the pictures don't do it justice.

Multiple pinnings, seamings, tryings-on, and six hours of bead work later, I have a new favorite dress!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wanna See a Hat Trick?

I can't quite say, "If there's a craft, I've tried it" yet, but if you don't watch me, I will branch out.  This excursion into doll-making took me a week and I'm extremely pleased with it.

Meet Caitlyn, Sheriff of Piltover, of League of Legends, in doll form.

Why, do you ask?  Well, I'm a geek, and I love geek-craft, and she's my favorite champion in the game so far.  I've only been playing about two months, so I haven't gotten through all of them yet, but Caitlyn is just fantastic.  And Riot Games does a weekly Summoner Showcase that features all sorts of player-made things.  When I started playing, my husband showed a few of them to me, and promptly said, "You should make something."  Unsurprisingly, I agreed!  So here she is.

The doll itself is made from the extremely popular Pretty Poppet pattern by ghilie, which I can highly recommend; I've done some basic toy making before, but never a jointed doll, and I had no problems constructing her.  It's a very good pattern, thank you, ghilie!

She's made of mostly recycled materials, which I am quite proud of--her skin was a Danskin tank top, both dress fabrics were thrifted formal gowns, the petticoat base and ruffled trims are scraps of bedsheet, and all the leather is from one of my mother's damaged purses, kindly donated to my upcycling collection.  The new materials were the yarn for her hair, her eyes, the wire, the lace for her petticoat, and all the thread to sew her together...not too shabby!

Her hair is a wig made of yarn hand-knotted onto a mesh base--in this case, a piece of an onion bag, if you can believe that.  The hat is fabric-covered cardboard, held on with extra hair extensions threaded through the base, which I tied to her wig.  Not the most stable thing, but it was very important to me that all her clothing and accessories be removable for future repairs.

The dress looked complicated at first, but wasn't too hard once I broke it down into sections: pieced bodice, waistband, gathered skirt, glued-on leather trim.  It took me some thinking to come up with a material suitable for the cog "buckle"--but I had a plastic lid from a Crisco can in my box of random craft things, and with my trusty X-acto knife, some paint, and some Super Glue, I had my cog charm.

Her leg bands are sections of purse strap.  These were a challenge second only to the boots, which came slightly later; my sewing machine couldn't handle the leather, so I couldn't sew it together.  I'd used Super Glue on the leather for the dress, and that held well enough, but it wasn't strong enough to hold the ends of the straps together.  Add to that my lack of tiny gold buckles, and I was stumped for a little while.  But when I was checking my bead box for something to substitute for the buckles, I found the copper wire, and an idea was born.  Both end of the leather are notched on opposite edges, and I contrived a method of linking the notches with the wire, then wrapping the whole thing extensively to hide the join.  They'll come apart if you play tug of war with them, but they hold just fine otherwise.  And they look cool.  I liked the effect so much I made myself a bracelet out of the strap I had left, despite the fact that I don't really do steampunk!  (My husband thinks I should, though.  Maybe when I have a job that doesn't have a uniform...)

The boots are an ode to the power of my hot glue gun.  There's no way in hell I could have managed them without it.

The arm bands and gloves use a modified version of the wrapping from the leg bands: I refined the notches a bit and used brown thread instead.  The gloves are held together above the thumb with that wrapping, then below the thumb I lashed a thin thong to one side, which threads through a slit on the other and then ties around the wrist.  I'm really proud of that.  Really proud.  Somebody give me a medal already!

I don't see myself churning out doll after doll now, but I would certainly make another one in the future--it was a lot of fun!  I do have two nieces that are going to need fancy dolls someday, but since right now, they're 3 and 1 years old, I think I have some time before they're ready....

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It Pays to Pay Attention... flyers tacked up on your local grocery's bulletin board.

Sure, usually it's puppies for sale, the local high school drama productions and musicals, and the like.  And then, there's the ad, hand-written in black Sharpie on cheap construction paper, that makes it worthwhile.

The one for the massive 50-cent sale being held on Saturday morning at the church-run thrift shop you rarely go to because the hours are so limited and unconventional.

Totally and absolutely worth it.  Even though it was a 22-minute hike each way and I'd already done my run for this morning before I left.  My feet are complaining, but my hands are so happy!

Check out the loot...

Destined for yarn reclamation, from left to right: 100% cotton, women's large, long-sleeved; 100% merino, men's large, long-sleeved; 100% cotton, men's XL vest.  The merino is the real find, of course, since never once have I stumbled across cashmere, but I'll take what I can get.

Destined for my wardrobe: on the left, a long-sleeve scoop neck, content label missing--but it feels like a high-quality synthetic, too shiny and slinky to be cotton.  On the right, a turtleneck tunic, long sleeves, knit from a fine-weight acrylic boucle.  It's incredibly warm without being heavy, and it's very, very, very soft.  Out of season now that it's finally spring, but I see myself wearing this a lot.

Finally, a shirt-dress I will never wear, both because I've never been a shirt-dress person, and it's too small to boot.  But that fabric!  I just fell in love.  I'm not sure what the fabric wants to be yet, but I will save it from its wretched shirt-dress fate.

I need to find out how often the church has these sales!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Over a Year Later...

...I can finally talk about this project again!

It was a Knitty sub, kindly rejected.  It was re-purposed into an Anticraft sub, which was accepted, but didn't fit the theme of the last two issues before the hiatus its on now, so I'd have had to sit on it for probably at least another year, and I just didn't want to do that!  (They were very sweet and understanding when I asked to pull my submission, and I will certainly say that I look forward to submitting again when they return.  Come back, Anticraft, come back!)

So here it is, at long, long last: Drusilla, available for sale.

Much credit and love to both my models: my friend and coworker Jessica for the Knitty version (top) and my friend and fellow blogger Kara for the Anticraft version (bottom).

Drusilla is a rectangular lace shawl based on a complicated edging pattern that I dearly loved, but found difficult to memorize and nearly impossible to work correctly.  I set out years ago to use it in a shawl, but it never quite worked, and this time when I turned to it again, I simplified the edging to make it far easier, but in a way that still maintains the spirit of the original.  And what better way to show off a lovely edging than to put it on both sides of a stole, and make the center a simple mesh?

Want one of your own?  Here, let me help with that.  If you end up making one, be sure to let me know, either here or over on Ravelry, I love to see what people do with my designs!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Embroidery Obsession Continues...

...with the completion of the third kimono in the series, which I have dubbed "Purple Pinwheels."

So named because each of the spirals uses a shade of purple and another color, and of course because I crayon-tinted the background purple, or really, a strange hybrid of Wisteria, Purple Mountain's Majesty, and Plum.  Gotta love Crayola color names.

The elephant in the room: the border fabric is wrinkly.  I'd intended to use a light blue fabric to echo the two blue spirals, but the color just wasn't right.  While pawing though my scraps for alternatives, I found a long, long, wrinkly strip of fabric that was once the bottom of a tiered ruffle skirt that I decided to shorten.  I sliced off the gathered top seam and ironed the hell out of the strip, and this was the best I could manage.  The color was too perfect to pass up for a few wrinkles!

Now that that's out of the way, take a good look at the reason this kimono took me almost two weeks where the others both took only a few days:

Nothing but heavy chain stitch as far as the eye can see.  (Well, back stitch border as always, but that took me less than ten minutes, it doesn't count.)  And of course to get the spirals neat, I had to work both colors at the same time, as opposed to leaving a channel for the second one, which would have made working heavy chain stitch nearly impossible anyway.  I am officially insane now, I'm never ever doing a piece entirely in this stitch again.  Even though I really like the way it looks....

Kimono #4 is in the planning stages, but finding a complementary color palette that also meshes with a border fabric that I already have is proving problematic.  In the mean time, I'm working on finishing the needle book I started to give me some relief from the miles of heavy chain stitch, expect that one in the next few days!

Will I ever get back to my knitting again?  Who knows, stay tuned!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Totes for Tots

While I have no children of my own as of yet, I do have quite a few in my family to craft for. My one and only sibling, my dear, dear brother, has already produced five charming offspring, a set of triplets first, followed by twins.  The twins are less than a year old, and I haven't made a darn thing for them yet (they're too young to care!) but for the three-year-old triplets I have produced, over the years, blankies, various amigurumi animals, beanbags (a very big hit on our last visit) and a play mat for said bean bags.

My mother wanted to give them "book" bags for their recent birthday, since they're going to be starting those darling little preschooler workbook/coloring book things.  Her contribution to the gift was picking out and purchasing the fabric; mine was making them.

I hadn't planned to do them all in one day, but the first one went so well (only 1 h 15m, including drafting the pattern from the book measurements) that I just kept going.  Pretty basic lined tote bags, with the same fabric used for all parts, light interfacing, narrow boxed corners.

All three fabrics are Debbie Mumm for Jo-Ann; the two boys got different Noah's Ark prints (that and Disney stuff being the overarching themes of my brother's family) and my sweet little niece got Bedtime Bears, chosen for this:

The bear has a pink teddy bear, and so does my niece.  Pink Bear goes everywhere with her, though usually gripped by its tail, not feet, but close enough.

I had these finished last week and in all the embroidery excitement I completely forgot to blog about them.  Fortunately I remembered today, because I still haven't finished anything on my to-do list, though the third kimono is only probably a day or two away from completion.  And the needlebook is started.  And I'd still rather start eight more projects than actually sit down and finish anything.  Good to know, I guess, that my terminal case of start-itis isn't limited to my knitting!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Power of Deep Breathing and Turkey Sandwiches

I woke up today feeling less than ideal, and soldiered through work feeling no better.  I've been meaning to get back to doing yoga at least a few times a week, if not daily, so today seemed like the day to start over.

Fifteen minutes of that, followed by a healthier-than-usual lunch of salsa-and-turkey on sourdough, and a homemade fruit salad, I feel much more like a real human being.

What do you do to feel better on a blah day?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Am, In Fact, Feeling Stitchy

Over at feeling stitchy, one of my new favorite blogs, there's a stitchalong this month.  I only discovered it this past Sunday, so it's a good thing the design isn't too complicated!  But as soon as I saw it, I knew that I had a plain shirt that was just perfect for a little embellishment.

The design is a little crooked and my stitches a bit uneven, because I was so impatient to get right to work that I didn't bother to do anything like, oh, use stabilizer or even transfer the pattern to the fabric somehow: I sat at my computer screen with the image up and eyeballed the whole thing!  So I really don't mind that it's not perfect, it's plenty good enough for a wearable that I stitched up in an afternoon.

As for why it's on the back and not the front, since I wear my hair up 95% of the time or more, I actually like the surprise of having a plain-fronted shirt with something kick-ass on the back.  People really don't expect it, and I like getting the compliments!

Totally off-topic: check out the awesome turtle hair stick!  My husband found this for me when he went with some friends to Chicago for a few days last year...I didn't even expect a present, and poof!--amazing carved turtle hair stick. He's so sweet.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fit For Princess Peach

I named the first kimono "Green Tea", so I think I'll stay color-related and call this one "Super Peachy."  The original color description called for a saffron background, and I've seen "saffron" applied as a name to anything from deep red (for the color of the spice itself) to various orange shades to bright gold--the color my saffron rice turns out!  The pattern behind the flowers is supposed to be scarlet, and I liked that idea and wanted to keep it, so I started pairing different colors with the red floss I chose until one stuck.  Plus, I want each kimono in the series to be distinct, but related to the others--so using the peach from the flowers on Green Tea to tie it to this one seemed like a good call.

Compared to its predecessor, Super Peachy was fast to stitch...satin stitch can certainly cover a great deal of real estate very quickly.  The flowers and the scarlet patterning are all satin stitch; the flower edges and the outside of the kimono are both back stitch; and the flower centers are french knots.  Pretty basic, but very effective.

Ideally, I would have liked to use a solid color fabric for the border, like I did for Green Tea, but all the purple solids I have are t-shirt scraps, and using a stretch fabric wouldn't have worked with the lacing technique I used to mount the piece.  I could have waited until I had time for another trip to the thrift store, which is how I got the green border fabric, but in pawing though my stash I found this fabric, the favorite of a pack of purple fat quarters my mom chose for a commission I did for her recently.  I just could not believe how well the various shades in the fabric matched the floss colors I chose, so I went for it.  I'm very pleased with the result as an individual work, but I'm not sure yet how much I'm going to like it as a part of the series...especially if my next border is solid.  It might stand out too much!

The solution, of course, is to go for four pieces, two with solid borders and two with printed.  What embroidery monster have I unleashed on myself?

And I did something new here as well that I wish I'd done the first time--process photos!  I apologize for the inconsistency in color and lighting...these were taken at various times of day, and there's only so much that my editing freeware can correct.

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Overly Ambitious To-Do List

Projects already underway:
  • Poet's Pullover [Ravelry link], body done, sleeves and finishing to go
  • Lily of the Valley shawl [Ravelry link], barely started (again) after having frogged the first start months ago
  • Continuing work on the Kimono embroidery series (#2 nearly done!)
Projects I have materials for:
  • A Mass Effect inspired N7 Logo tee for me (love the look of the hoodie, want a babydoll tee instead!)
  • My husband's belated Valentine's Day gift, also ME-inspired, details on that in the near future...
Projects I may be able to stash-dive for:
 Any bets on what I can get done in the next week?  I really ought to finish the sweater, but...needlebook!  New geeky clothing!  Jewelry with embroidery!

I just can't decide...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Which I Admit a Lingering Fascination with Japan

I remember in third grade we started world geography, and I thought Japan sounded incredible.  I don't remember much specific, but then, I don't remember whatever other countries we studied at all, so Japan must have made an impression on my forming child mind.

Around the time I was in high school, anime was just coming over in the form of Pokemon, and I was horrified.  Still am, at least of Pokemon and its ilk...I'm not anti-capitalist, but the commercialism was just a little too blatant for me.  I avoided it.

By the time I got to college, anime still wasn't cool yet, and manga could only be found in import shops or online, not in every Barnes & Noble like it can now.  But somehow I hooked up with the geek crowd and landed myself in the anime club, and good thing, too, because that club introduced me to my future husband!  Can't be all bad, right?

So I spent college as a low-level Japan-ophile.  I wasn't nearly as rabid as some of the other students, but I did take the first-year Japanese language course, and since I'm always a crafter and occasionally an ambitious one, I even made myself and my future husband each a kimono.

I've always loved kimono.  I think kimono are the most beautiful clothing in the world (with Indian saris being a close second, and everything else miles and miles behind.)

My mother owned a copy of Geisha, an utterly fascinating book by an American anthropology student who, in her efforts to study geisha, was given the opportunity to become one.  After having devoured this, I went on to read her book Kimono, which, to my everlasting love and delight, had illustrations, including several taken from antique pamphlets describing the colors and embroidery stitches used in creating and decorating kimono.

At the time, I was inspired to recreate a few of my favorites as embroidery pieces.  My skills were poor, and as it turned out, so was the quality of the fabric I'd chosen, so they were failures.  But the idea lingered.

When I was cleaning up and organizing some of my old books, I found the copies of the illustrations I made, and what do you know, I had just read on Craftster about crayon tinting!

A week later, I have this to show for it:

The first in what I hope will be a series of three, maybe four.  I have designs for seven or eight different kimono, I think, but I don't like all of them equally, so I think I may just do my favorites.

I took some liberty with the colors from the original description:  the fabric color was called "tea-green", which I think is just fine, and the grass was a deeper green, but the stems and leaves were supposed to be blue and the flowers purple with scarlet and gold tops.  I didn't want to do goldwork, and I just didn't have coordinating shades of blue, purple, and scarlet to hand (in fact I didn't have any reds at all until a few days ago!) so I went with what I did have, a beautiful range that starts at pale peach and ends with a nice warm rust color.

The grass and leaves are fishbone stitch; the stems, split stitch; the flower buds, long-and-short, plus straight stitch for their tassels.  The outline of the whole thing is back stitch.

I'm not ashamed to say that this might be the prettiest thing I've ever stitched.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coasters Are Old And Busted

Mug rugs are the new hotness!

I made one following (in rough theory, at least) the tutorial here, and I liked it so much I wanted a matched set!  It helped that I had a lot of scraps of these fabrics leftover after I finished the first one....

Here they are, in order of creation:

Very upright and straight...

A little more adventurous, with smaller bits...

And here's where I start to lean...

And now it looks like I'm drunk!

Though the piecing is all different, I used the same binding and the same basic quilting pattern for each--lines radiating from a single corner, crossed by two pairs of parallel lines.  I had no hope of creating a more complicated design that would work for all of them and still be possible with my limited machine quilting experience.

I'm quite happy with them--I love blue!--and they are in fact the perfect size for a mug of hot chocolate and a few chocolate biscotti, one of my favorite cold-weather treats.  I have a few of the latest batch of biscotti left, so I think I shall reward myself for throwing this post up with some!