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!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Druids in the House!

If you're not a WoW player, you won't get this, so just tell me it's pretty!

If you do play, here's the deal:  my best friend and I both raided as resto druids in Wrath, in the same guild, no less.  It was lots of fun!  And I wanted to commemorate the experience.  This was a Christmas present for her--late, of course, but we also gave her a bottle of fancy Belgian beer, and we couldn't send that to her, so we had to wait until she could come to visit!  Which she did last weekend, so now I don't have a surprise to ruin anymore!

As for the technical specs, it's stitched on 14-ct Aida; I got the free alphabet patterns here  (I think, anyway, I went on a free pattern spree right before I designed this, so that might be wrong); used the wonderful (and free!) KG Stitch to chart it; bordered with scrap fabric that I'm sure looks familiar; laced (using this Craftster tutorial) over foam board.  The little leaf bits are my own design.

Finding that tutorial randomly was actually what made me want to stitch again after a long, long fallow period; my mother is a devoted cross stitcher, but she was always bemoaning the cost of framing a finished piece.  The few pieces I did finish and frame in my younger days, I took care to keep small and choose a standard frame size so I could buy the cheapie ones and not have to take something in for custom framing.  Lacing solves that for me!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Second Purse, (not) the Same as the First

My mother is a purse lady.  All my life she's had more purses than any sane, rational woman could need.  Or so I believed.

It's taken many years, but I think I might finally be coming around to her way of thinking.

At the thrift store, I found this:

I fell in love with the fabric while hating the shirt.  I briefly considered cutting the shirt down to fit me (it was a 3X) but I doubted my fledgling construction skills were up to making something so tailored.  In my deepest crafter heart, I knew what this gorgeous material really wanted to be--a bag.

But I held off on it, not knowing what awesome bag could live up to this stuff.

Then, I saw this Craftster post which in turn led me to this tutorial, and I immediately saw my future purse take shape.  The next morning, I hunted up a pair of cotton twill slacks in my stash (a castoff of my mother's) and went to work.  Just over a day later, I had this to show for it!

The observant eye will note some differences from the original. It's a bit shorter--I don't have a printer, so I drafted the petal pattern myself, only I seem to have made it proportionally shorter than intended.  (I do like this pattern enough to make another in different fabrics sometime in the future, and I will correct that issue then!)

I only used the two fabrics, wanting to show off plenty of embroidered suede glory.  I like the textural contrast between the twill and the suede as much as the color contrast--more, in fact, because in a perfect world I'd have had black twill, not navy.  But the navy still looks fine.

I'm not big on purchased bag handles, so I don't keep them around and didn't have any to use for this purse.  I did, however, have some hardware from an old purse of mine that could be a handbag or an over-the-shoulder; when the long strap broke, I kept using it as a handbag, but I saved the hardware from the strap.  Good hardware makes it more polished-looking!  The single strap is short enough to carry this as a handbag, but just long enough to go over my shoulder (at least without my winter coat bulking me up, phooey to the bazillion inches of snow on the ground.)

Finally, I didn't have a magnetic clasp either, but I did have the buttons salvaged from the shirt front, so made a simple button-and-tab closure.  Which meant I finally had a reason to do my first machine-sewn buttonhole!  I love my new sewing machine.

The one feature I did the same was the pockets--the smaller one is just perfect for my ever-present tubes of lip balm, and the larger holds my tiny bottles of moisturizer and painkillers quite nicely!  (The three things I never leave home without.  Keys?  Money?  Pshaw.  A girl needs her lip balm!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Such a Clutch

What better way to come back from hiatus than with the first FO of the new year?

Pattern: Downtown Clutch [Ravelry link]
Yarn: Recycled silk from a thrift store sweater, somewhere between sport and DK weight
Yardage: ~250
Needles: US 2
Size: 9" wide (top band) by 5 3/4" high
Would I knit this pattern again? Absolutely!  It's such a fun little purse.

My brother-in-law's girlfriend came to the family Christmas this year--the first time he's ever brought anyone, so we knew he was serious!--and even though we'd never met, with a little research before hand we managed to exchange some great gifts.  She got me a lovely silver Celtic knot pendant to add to my small collection, and a knitting book, Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders.  Leafing through it before dinner that night, I found, oh, maybe 30 of the 101 patterns I wanted to knit immediately!

But this one drew me back over and over again as I waited to get home to my stash to get started on something...this is the first (only!) time I've ever seen plastic canvas used as structure for a knitted item.  See how nicely the top bands keep their shape when the purse is open? Each side has a strip of plastic canvas sewn inside the top band facing.

I started knitting this as soon as I got home on New Year's Eve, but I didn't finish until this morning because I also got a new sewing machine for Christmas from my parents, so I've been quite busy with small projects on that as well so I can learn all its fancy-shmancy features.  More on that later!

Modifications: Because my recycled yarn wasn't quite DK weight, the purse is a bit smaller overall than the original pattern, but I don't mind at all.  Instead of a single snap, I used three--it seemed more secure.

Also, I lined it, which isn't called for, but lined purses are so much more professional-looking, no?  The lining looks quite rumpled because I cut it wider than the top bands to echo the ruching on the bottom--I gathered the bottom of the lining to fit, then made tiny pleats along the top edge as I stitched it in.  Here's a better look at the lining fabric:

I really don't think I could be any happier with the way this turned out, and I see the purse-lovers in my life getting their own versions somewhere down the road!