Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Work From The Past

When we went back east last year, we stayed a week at Steve's sister's house.  We stayed in the room at the top of the staircase, and in that room, there was a bed with a series of blankets and quilts on it.  There was this one quilt that felt quite delicate and beautiful.  One night as we were lying there, I examined it in more detail.

It was hand made.  Just gorgeous work.  These small tiny stitches.  Steve and I talked about the quilt, and I later asked Wendy where she had gotten the quilt.  She told me that Steve's Grandmother had made the quilt.  From then on, I just loved that quilt, and we were the lucky recipient of the quilt when we left the Midwest.  It's now on our bed.  I look at the detailed work on the quilt from time to time and it's served as my inspiration for the quilt work that I'm doing now.  Isn't it lovely.

Scenes From My Craft Room

I would like to say that I always keep my craft room neat and tidy. And I'd be lying. Neat and tidy is a wishful dream. Suffice to say that when I enter my craft room, I'm anxious to get on with the current project, and not so anxious to put away items. This is an issue that I will work on this year, but for now, I thought I would show you what I mean.

Tools and supplies all of jumble, a small workspace that I try to keep more tidy.  Plastic shoe boxes filled with thread, punches, yarn, ribbon; all types of scissors and beading tools, magazines, books and binders.  Part of the issue is that a selection of mismatched containers keep the space from looking well organized.  Also a problem is that I don't rotate my stock of handily available supplies with the season.  This spring, I'm doing a lot more sewing, so I should put my yarn supplies away.

I created a craft room out of a smaller spare bedroom that is 10 by 12 feet square.  I found 2 pieces of sturdy 4 by 8 feet of 7/8" mdf board for $10 bucks a piece at Home Depot.  This sturdy workspace sits on top of old 4 old file cabinets I picked off of Craig's List for $5 bucks a piece, that I have strategically spaced around one corner of the room.

I also attached to the wall 2 by 4 pine boards to help brace the mdf and the combination of file cabinets and 2 by 4 bracing allows me to place any type of weight on the workspace.  I can even stand on it if necessary to reach the wire shelving that I've placed about 18 inches from the ceiling.  This is wire shelving that I have collected over the years and have been slowly removing from my closets in the new house.  Not that wire shelving doesn't have it's place.  It just doesn't make the best use of space as does other storage options.  Of course, in my craft room, the file cabinets combined with wire shelving provide great storage opportunities, which I try to organize with by craft type.

My craft room is equipped with my ipad and laptops, a 32" television and cutting mat. Bins of fabric stacked on wire shelving. Rolls of wrapping paper and ribbon.

And for moments of serious tv watching while knitting, or doing embroidery, I have a comfortable couch with a little stand to hold drinks and supplies.

Of course, I wish I had twice the amount of space.  I dream of IKEA like storage and workspace.  But my craft room is my haven, my area to escape from work, loads of laundry, dirty dishes and guys crowding the living room watching boxing and baseball games.  It's my woman cave, my craft room.  Now, I just need to tidy it up and maybe paint the room a different color.  I'm thinking pink or coral?.

Tracing Problem – Embroider Little Birds

I've recently taken up embroidery as a way to get my quick fix for crafting.  You can sit down with a piece of fabric or a dish towel and finish a project in under a hour, so this is perfect for the gal who doesn't have much time to get a project done, but wants to introduce a little creativity into her life.  I've gotten into embroidering dish towels because I can draw my design onto the cloth, and for the most part you can stick with one color.  However, doing an adequate trace can be quite the challenge.  I tend to favor using graphite paper to trace my design.  Graphite is great, but as you can see below, the traced pattern can be a little too light to stay the course of the project, particularly if it takes longer that a single sitting to finish your project.

Look, you can barely see the pattern of the little bird on the dish cloth.  So what I learned to do is after I finish the initial trace, I take a washable tracing pencil and outline the original trace in a bolder color.  You may have to go over the trace several times to keep the line from fading.  Over time, you may even need to renew the tracing.

Then just pop it into your hoop and you're ready to go.  I prefer working with smaller hoops.  They're easier to store in my handbag, and I find it easier to work on one little section at a time.

In no time, you'll have decorated a plain white dish towel with your favorite pattern.  I've started getting into red work, but I find that there is just the slightest bleed from the red thread onto my fabric.  Given that this is just a dish towel, I don't mind.  It's going to get stained anyway.

My First Baby Sweater for Little Omar

This is the first baby sweater that I've ever made, and I made it for little Omar, Omar and Rosa's first son. I used the Cabled Raglan Sweater pattern from the 7 free baby knitting patterns that I downloaded from knittingdaily. It's on it's way to little Omar.

Stitching Book Recommendations

I am an avid reader and collector of magazines and books related to my crafting hobby. I must say that I'm extremely lucky to have such a well stocked library system within the Pierce County. There are just a huge number of crafting books to select from. This week, I have a number of stitching books that I have read that I would like to recommend. Let's begin.

Sew, So Cute by Mary Engelbreit is a great sewing book for both the beginning and more experience sewer. My favorite projects in this book are the PotHolder and Mitt, Pocket Apron, Sewing Set and Travel Case.  I really love the needle case and could one.

Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross features two different types of sewing room arrangements.  My favorite projects are the Quick Garden Gloves, the Travel Bags and Travel Case.  I have dozens of quick garden gloves but could use a colorful pair like these.  The directions look really simple.

The Best of Sew Simple has 50 quick projects.  The Pencil Case, the Java Jacket, the Diva Dress Bottle Bag and Broomstick Skirt were my favorites.  You could make a ton of Java Jackets for quick Christmas presents.   And the Broomstick Skirt would be great to wear in the spring and summer.  I really love the leather tutorial because I have a lot of leather  scraps that I'd like to use up.

The Feisty Stitcher from Susan Wasinger was really interesting.  I absolutely loved the Fuzzy Slipper Boots, the Clever Jacket with Hoodie, and the Enlightened Messenger Bag.

Get the Most From Your Sewing Machine by Marion Elliot has some funky sewing ideas.  The whole basis of the book is based on reuse of existing materials.  For example, there is a great section on the use of fabric sample books.  I myself picked up several fabric sample books at a garage sale for a buck a piece.  With as many as I picked up, I have a lifetime supply available for craft projects.

But my alltime favorite this week is the Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing.  Kathy Cano-Murillo has it going on.  The ideas that she came up.  Sewing is what this blog is all about.  She had so many projects that I just fell in love with.  The Indian Tapestry Tote, the Mercado bag, the Collage Messenger bag, the Diamond Collage tank, the Frock, the Photo Album.  All the punchy color, and glitter, and reuse of existing materials.l  It's look odd and yet so well put together.  What unique ideas.  You've got to wonder what Kathy's house must look like.  This book I have got to get.

Another way to get your reading fix from the library is try to downloading their e-books.  My library has an arrangement with OverDrive.  You can download e-books in either the e-pub or adobe pdf format.  when you download in e-pub format, you can automatically load them into the ipad overdrive app.  If you check out an adobe pdf document, you have to download this file onto your computer, and then either move it into dropbox or through itunes into goodreader.  Then from goodreader, open with the bluefire app which you can use to manage drm files.  I've been using BlueFire to view ebooks I both checked out or purchased from the C&T Publishing which has a ton, absolute ton of electronic books available.  I'm telling you girlfriends, you don't have to wait till Amazon or I-book carries electronic books.  You can find a lot of resources on the web.  And then there is the online selection of magazines which is strangely limited at the moment.  The only options you have available, unless you only view through your pc, is Zinio, at the moment.  Kudos for Interweave, jumping on the electronic media bandwagon.

Getting Down With My Sewing Machine

I stopped by JoAnne's yesterday and was totally embarressed when the lady asked me what model of sewing machine I had, and I didn't know it.  I was looking for a teflon sewing foot, but in order to get the correct one, I needed to know the model number.  This weekend, I found out a lot about my sewing machine including getting a copy of my owner's manual.  I'll never be stumped by that question again.

Suggestions for Listening While Crafting

I"m the type of gal who loves listening to audio books while crafting, working, or cleaning.  I've started getting into listening to one of my favorite authors, Thomas Perry.  Thomas has two types of heroes, men and/or women.  Usually these heroes are good guys, but occasionally he throws in a bad guy as a hero.  Anyway, he tells a mean story, lots of detail, emotion, and thought goes into these plots.

I just downloaded his latest, The Informant.  It just came out, and coincidentally, I had just finished listening once again, to the Butcher's Boy and Sleeping Dogs.  The Informant is the third book in this sequel.  Can't wait to see what the Butcher's Boy has gotten into now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A New Sewing Machine

I don't usually spend much money on craft materials, but I will spend the dough on tools, if I have the money.  My craft tool purchases are still pretty basic though.  I haven't updated the iron I normally use, nor my 25 year old ironing board.  I did buy a small hand iron to help with ironing small applique pieces, but I have a preference for not burning the end of my fingers since typing is part of my career.
Up till this weekend, I've been using old sewing machines.  The last time I bought a new sewing machine was a Singer purchased 30 years ago.  After years of use by myself, my son, and his friends, I finally let it go in one of my sister's garage sales.  I replaced this with two different sewing machines that I also bought at garage sales but even then, I had problems.
My older machines are:
One of my sewing machine didn't sew in reverse and was missing the cover to the bobbin thread.  The other sewing machine had a problem with sewing tension that I could not fix, despite numerous adjustments.  I was trying to make a present for my mom, an apron, and I the sewing machine that I was using, finally gave up the ghost.  I was so frustrated.  But then Stevie gave me $200 and I ran down to Walmart to buy a brand new sewing machine.
There weren't many choices of course, but I did find good reviews on the Brother SQ-9000.  Here's the scoop on this machine below:

Re-Upholstering Box Pillows

I recently purchased a used captain's bed for my craft room.  It has drawers underneath, a mattress on top, and then I have a number of pillows lining the wall alongside the twin bed where I curl up with my iPod and a bit of knitting or crochet.  Quite a comfortable spot actually, but in my quest to make the bed a lot more comfortable, I decided that I really needed more pillows to line the bed with.

Buying upholstery cushions is quite expensive.  For the number of pillows I was looking for, I could probably end up spending $150.  Steve mentioned that he had some older upholstering pillows tucked up in the eaves from an old rv that he has since gotten rid of.  I was a little worried about the state of those pillows, but asked them to bring them home.

After some airing, I thought that they would do quite nicely, but what I really needed was to get rid of the old covers, and spice them up with something that was more my style.  Fabric to cover some old cushions can also be quite expensive, but I have a bit of quilting fabric lying around that I thought could do the job.  I was looking for a feminine theme.  I didn't have enough fabric to cover all of the pillows in the same pattern, but I thought I could mix and match my cushion covers with something that might look quite pleasing to the eye.

The first thing I did was measure the size of the cushion.  I was a little nervous about attempting a project requiring such a close fit, but I started work on the smallest pillow.  I removed the cover, and then separated the fabric pieces.

The fabric was old.  In some cases, it came apart in my hands.  The piping was really old and was not reusable, but I was able to salvage the zipper.  I thought about dyeing the zipper to match the color of my fabric but decided not to try this step right now.

I had one yard of some pink pattern fabric, and 1/2 a yard of some purple fabric that I could use for bias binding for the piping. With some careful measurement and placement, I was just able to get enough of the pink fabric to cover the selected pillow face and bands.  I cut the purple fabric along the bias end up with 10 yards of purpose bias binding.  I also got out some piping I got at a garage sale.  I was little concerned that the piping was be too fat, it was lot thicker than it's replacement but it was the only piping that I had, and I planned to use it.  Using a zipper foot, I pre-sewed the 6 yards of piping that this project called for.  Many of the articles that I had read suggested you could sewing the piping and fabric together at the same time, but for my first time, I wanted to be sure that the piping was sewn snugly inside the fabric.

I was a little concerned about such a complicated project, but I read a few articles on the subject.   This article from Threads served as my inspiration and kept be going through the rough spots.  There was also another article about how to reupholster a cushion that I thought was interesting.  In the end, I also found a number of other articles that I wished I had found before I started this project.  I'll list those links at the end of this article.  Rough spots were the following:
  • Inserting the zipper into the band.
  • Applying the band and the piping around the corners.
  • Getting a snug fit.
Here's are snapshots of the end result.  I'm satisfied with this project, but I've picked up some tips to make the job easier next time.

How to Make and Attach Your Own Piping
How to Use Piping (Part 1)
How to Use Piping (Part 2)
How to Make and Attach Your Own Piping

A Simple Pouch

I wanted to make a simple pouch as a container for a gift, and was looking for a quick pattern.  I found a quick pattern for a zippered  pouch in my copy of Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes.  I like this really cute pouch, but I decided to make one without the strap.  The photo below is screen shot from the book.  Looks are deceiving though.  The picture shows a pouch that looks a bit longer than the one I actually ended up making.  I also found a sample of this same pouch pattern in Craftster.

It took a while to select the right materials.  I have a stack of fabric samples that I picked up at a garage sale several years ago.  I took the fabric samples books apart, cleaned the fabric, and organized the samples by color, but I had not been able to find the right project for using them.  The fabric is upholstery fabric, a little heavier than cotton fabrics.  My friend is a red head and I found this piece of fabric among these samples.  I chose the pattern piece of fabric for the outside and the burgundy shade for the lining.  I also have a huge box of zippers in assorted colors and sizes.  Matching fabric colors with a zipper color was a bit of challenge, but I think it accomplished an adequate color selection.

It took me about an hour to cut out and sew the pouch from start to finish.  There are several things I might do the next time I make this pouch.  First, I'll measure what needs to go inside the pouch.  In this case, I was using it to encase a sashiko fabric sampler, some sashiko thread, needles, needle threader and instructions.  It turns out that the pouch dimensions were the exact size, but just exactly.  It was touch and go there for the moment.  I also should have clipped the corners and the outside seam.  Here's a photo of the pouch sewed inside out.

Here is the finished project.  I think it's a great looking pouch.  I plan to make many more of them.  These little pouches would make great christmas presents for a man or woman.

Eye Glass Case

I made myself a new eyeglass case following the pattern Three Birdies Glass Case from the folks of Wee Folk Art.  I followed the pattern almost exactly, but it was only later that I realized that the photo in the pattern had been further embellished.  Well, maybe next time, I'll do some more embellishing.  This project is a nice portable project that I can carry in my purse, although you have to plan carefully and cut out your pattern pieces first - you can create a kit of sorts for the case.  Also, while I used a case to sew both the inside and outside of the case to each other, there was so little stitching, that one could have done this by hand, so need for a sewing machine.  These eye glass cases would make an interesting Christmas gift for family.  Here's a photo of my project.

A couple of comments about the pattern, including some modifications I would make are:
  • I used cotton fabric on the inside of layer.
  • I found that my glasses kept slipping out of the case so I placed a tiny snap 1/2 down on the inside of the case in the middle to keep my glasses from sliding out in my purse.  Next time, I'll sew the snap before attaching the outer layer to the inner layer.
  • As suggested by the pattern, I placed tiny buttons on the outside of the case, as flowers, but I think next time I would use appliqué or simple embroidery for the work instead.

Organize Your Patterns with Evernote

I have a craft room, but in my opinion, it's quite tiny, only 10 by 12.  And I enjoy a great number of crafts to include sewing, knitting and crochet, embroidery and cross stitch, beading, and scrapbooking.  Many of these crafts take up a lot of room, so it's key to be organized.

It doesn't help that I'm a pattern junkie.  

Whenever JoAnn's has a 99 cents sale, I'm there, picking up 10 of my favorite patterns for 10 bucks.

I also belong to ClubBMV so I get notices of their sales, buy vintage patterns from ebay, shop for patterns from Burda, Craftsy,  and  any number of indie designers, and get patterns from books I buy and magazine subscriptions.  And I just don't sew clothing, but accessories, home decor, and gifts.   I have hundreds of patterns, and I keep them organized in pattern boxes, hat boxes, and binders.

Keeping them organized in my craft room is great, but what I really need is to have the information about a particular pattern while I'm shopping for material or notions, or when I'm shopping for other patterns (I don't want to duplicate purchases).  It's a bit inconvenient to have to remember to collect the pattern from the craft room before I go shopping, or to browse through patterns when I'm deciding to make something.

I want an app that will help with the job.

I've been waiting for the perfect craft organizer application, available for the iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac and Windows Desktop.  Unfortunately, that application has not come along yet, although there are some good applications like Ravelry, Craftster or Pattern Review that offer a number of organization features.  Still, those applications are not quite what I'm looking for.  I've tried a few applications that were available from the App store, but I'm loath to spend a lot of time uploading information and images when the app might be only useful for a single platform.  So until that perfect app comes along, I need to come up with a solution to help organize my craft room.

Evernote comes to the rescue.

So I looked around, and decided that I could use Evernote to fill the bill for the time being.  Evernote, is a free application that is available for multiple platforms to include ……  To start, I created a Notebook in Evernote that I called Patterns.  I then added the Patterns Notebook to a Stack that I created and called Craft Room.

Then I created a singe note that I call Pattern List, that I organize by vendor.

Then I go through each box/book of patterns and I start listing them on this note.  I changed my mind over time, what information I keep on this list.  For example, I only sew clothes for myself, so no need to mark the sizes on this list.  I'm also frequently making changes to this list so I don't want to make it difficult to edit.  As time goes on, the list is getting quite long so I'm thinking about breaking down this PatternList into separate lists for different vendors.   This is the primary list that I refer to whenever I'm shopping for patterns.  It's a quick way for me to see if I already have a pattern on file.

Next I create an individual note for each pattern and I use the Pattern Number or Title as my way of organizing them.  I link to that note from the main Pattern List, so I can drill down into individual patterns when I need more information such as fabric type, notions or how much fabric to buy.  You can link to another note, by going to the note you want to link to, right click over that note, and select Copy Link.  Then go to the note that you want to link from, and highlight the word that will hold the link.  There are instructions for creating a link to to a note here in Evernote.

I will scan the picture side of the pattern.  I like having a good picture with acceptable resolution so that you can see detail.  This helps me in choosing the right pattern.  You might choose to scan the detail side of the pattern as well but I don't because I want to capture the information that i need that is essential when I go shopping, and I want to have this information in a format that is easy for me to read.

Use Tags

I also use tags to help me organize the patterns, such as top, skirt, pants, wardrobe, etc.  This way, I can do a search through my patterns for all dresses without having to flip through them individually.  When you're searching through your patterns, Evernote will display an icon of the note so you can see a tiny image of the pattern.  That will help you make your selection.

I also reduce the size of the picture to 600-800 pixel width using either Paint or just copy from Image Browser (Mac).  I crop the picture so I'm only getting the pattern image, and then I copy the picture into Evernote.  Just keep track of the size of these images, as there is a 60 mb limit on the free Evernote account, although the premium service is not that expensive.

A side effect of organizing my patterns on Evernote has meant an opportunity to do some housecleaning, noting patterns that were missing pieces, setting aside patterns that I might sell on Ebay because the they're duplicates, etc.  If you have ideas for how you can use Evernote to organize your craft supplies, send me a note.