Tara Miller: August 2011 Archives
Going off to college is not just books and comforter sets, it is also doing a lot of grown up stuff that you previously shared responsibility with your whole family, but now doing it all on your own. This involves grocery shopping and general errands that can't be passed off to other family member that are in that neck of the woods. It is on you now. So you need a good bag that can keep up and be used for all your new trials and the Betty Shopper by Amy Butler is that bag. Available in 2 sizes with the smallest being pretty dang sizable, you can get all your groceries in one while saving plastic bags, or tote all your vintage scores from the local thrift stores or pack snacks for all your pals for the game or spirit rally. This bag can hold it all or can be modified for more specific needs. You can insulate it for cold foods or tailgating. You can make the handles longer or short to suit your size. Pockets can easily be added and it can be made from just about any material to fit your style. Try corduroy with bright piping for fall or a wool tweed with bold pattern handles. From quilting cotton to home dec to medium weight woven apparel, this bag is a must have for all semesters.
I made mine from 2 different prints, one a Free Spirit Print and the lining is Amy Butler. The Betty Shopper went together very easily and quickly for its size. My Betty is jazzed up a bit with some embroidery which you can customize for you or if giving a gift for your loved one. Try a monogram, favorite mascot or nickname. I am working on a second to give as a Christmas gift made from Dwell Studio and I will embroider it with a row of pies and cake along the top and fill it with a picnic blanket and linen napkins. This bag is great for any gift giver since it can be used for anything from yard sale booty to bake sale supplies.
So I was cruising the Martha Stewart Craft site a few weeks ago and stumbled upon this Lunch Bag Tutorial featuring oil cloth. I knew it would be perfect for our Dorm Days series and coupled with Anna Maria Horner's Laminated Cotton it could easily be adapted for a college student, middle or high school student. It is also a fun way to get motivated to start bringing your own lunch to the work place if you are rebudgeting or pack snacks for a mom on the go or for road trip snacks to reduced fighting. These bags are super easy and the impact is high. You could make a dozen in one day to give to friends and family for fast Christmas gifts or fill them with candles, lotions and homemade goods as teacher and caregiver presents.
My lunch bag was so fast and fun. I used Anna Maria Horner's laminated cotton for all exterior panels and followed the instructions here. If you are thinking to save time by skipping the topstitching, DON'T. It gives structure along with a finishing detail. You can finger press the seams before you topstitch to help keep the fold since you don't want to use pins. I also used a basting stitch as my topstitching because the longer stitch helped my machine run over the laminate easier. I also recommend making a cotton lining using the same directions as the exterior only with wrong sides together. By not attaching the lining to the top of the bag, it can be removed for washing. OR you could use Insul-Bright batting between the exterior and lining to turn your lunch bag into an insulated lunch bag, perfect for yogurts, meats and cheeses.
Don't forget to add a closure at the top. You can go with a clip like Martha or some Velcro like me. Grommets and a ribbon are also a pretty option along with buttons. Go crazy and have fun since these are so quick and simple and infinity useful!
The weather is really starting to heat up and now that you have probably recovered all your outdoor furniture it is time to give some thought as to how you can sit on it in that scorching sun. Outdoor curtains are the perfect solution to shading your outdoor areas during the day and pulling back in the evening and night to allow the cool breeze through.
My parents have a great outdoor space and we all love to hang out there but certain times of the day it became unbearable until my mom and I made some grommeted outdoor curtains to block the sun as it moves during the day and pull back to allow for the view. These curtains when in use reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. Plus they can be used in the winter to hold in the heat of an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. These curtains are easy to make and easy to install with the handy plumbing pipes my dad purchased from the hardware store which can be cut to fit your needs.
Mom and I made simple panels to fit the openings of her porch from outdoor fabric but made 2 panels for each opening for maximum shade customization. She had the brilliant idea to install ties where the panels meet so when the breeze kicks up the panels don't whip around and let the sun in. She was also the brains behind the tie backs that feature buttons holes so they can easily be released with carabineers and secure the curtains from breezes on that end. The curtains are hung with shower curtain rings and grommets /button holes for ease of movement. We also treated each curtain with tent waterproofing (also purchased from hardware store)to prevent mildew and discoloration along with weatherproofing. All the brilliant ideas were mom's, I just lent a hand when I could but the results are enjoyed by the whole family. When the sun is out and the fans are on, the whole porch is cool and relaxing!
I am a big fan of Cricut and love all their cartridges! It is just too fun to watch my Cricut make perfect cuts without lifting a finger. I have made some other projects in the past with my Cricut: cutting fabric, making magnets and a Halloween banner. Today I wanted to do something for our Dorm Days series and so focused on cutting vinyl with my Cricut.
Cutting Vinyl with your Cricut is similar to cutting fabric, a little tricky at first but once you get your settings right- no problem. Also you need a fresh blade. I watched this video which was very informative (The video hostess is from the Netherlands so she says ven-al instead of vinyl). She offers some REALLY great tips for applying your vinyl letters and removing them as well. What I used was not Cricut vinyl but contact paper which is cheaper and easier to find than Cricut sticky back vinyl plus in some stores you can purchase it in funky patterns like Faux Bois or in your fave college colors. Vinyl is perfect for decorating dorms or apartments because it is easy to apply and easy to remove without wall damage. You can customize it to your taste or style by choosing the Cricut cartridges you like best. I wanted to incorporate the new funky, vintage inspired letters that are all the rage in home design these days. Instead of hunting and purchasing letters of various sizes, fonts, and colors then hauling them home and hanging them, I cut some from contact paper using my Cricut and different font cartridges. Each letter stands for a family member's name and our last name. It was so easy and a lot of fun to make, plus I get compliments whenever someone pops over for a play date or coffee.
Below you can find some more Cricut+Vinyl (contact paper) wall décor ideas for your Dorm or home. Have fun!
Crochet is my new obsession but it has been a rocky road. First I had to overcome holding my yarn with the "wrong" hand (any sane person holds it in the right, I used to tell myself). Now I am comfortable with both hands and no longer feel intimidated and thus my snobbishness towards continental yarn holders has evaporated (sorry about that, I was just jealous). Then it was my tension. I was concentrating so much on holding the yarn in a new hand, only holding one stick and counting stitches that I would grasp the hook as though it were my last salvation. This has also been rectified by practice and learning new techniques that keep me interested and thus, practicing.
My last huddle in crochet has been the hook itself. I have a slight nickel allergy so my beloved aluminum hooks can only be used for short periods of time before my bones start to ache. I do alternate with acrylic but I prefer the shape of the aluminum hook better and feel it is faster for me when working with my favorite fiber: wool. But now this too has been fixed. The Clover Soft Touch hooks are aluminum with a soft, cushy ergonomic handle that provides a comfy grip with no aluminum exposure. I have been able to crochet for twice as long as previously without the aches and with less muscle fatigue as with the acrylic hooks. I used my Clover Soft Touch hook to whip up my 2 scarf ends for my HotPatterns Fringe Fest Top on Monday. Working during naptime, I was able to get most of one done and start on the second (that is record time for me considering my being new to the game). I was amazed at how much more comfortable it was. It was akin to when I discovered Bamboo Knitting Needles after using the aluminum to begin with. I am putting a whole set on my holiday wish list and can't wait to fill in my hook stash!
See my Susan Bates Crystallite Hook Review here
Check out all our Crochet Blog Posts here
Follow me on Twitter for sneak peeks of all my projects here
Everyone has one these days but if you are anything like me more often than not you don't have a pocket to spare for your MP3 player. Some of my lady clothes just don't offer the pocket space I need to take my tunes with me and some don't offer pockets at all. I tried keeping mine in my bra for a while but then the hot weather hit and that just didn't work out any more. So I vowed for Back to School I would design a great arm band for my MP3 player that I could wear with any outfit to anywhere. I use it walking with my stroller, going to the grocery store, gardening, cleaning, etc. The great thing about my MP3 Go Band is that many activities that previously were 'no-no's for my MP3 player in the pocket (it would fall out) are now back on!
To create your own takes a little bit of time, a little bit of fabric and Velcro but leads to much freedom. These are great for college kids who need an MP3 player to catch up on lectures, language lessons or just music to listen to while they trek from one end of campus to the other. As a mom, I love it as a companion for long walks, household chores and a break while running errands. But really these are great gifts for anyone in the family. You can download your own MP3 Go Band pattern below by clicking on the picture.
You can find your materials here:
Not only was I totally pumped to have a go at the new HotPatterns Download before it hits the net but I was also pumped because I love knit tops. I am not a big ironing fan (though I do love a good pressed seam), so wrinkle free and knit tops are big populators of my wardrobe. After I saw how many pieces it took to create a Fringe Festival top I was even more excited. But that was all a candle flame compared to the sun of my excitement once I finally tried on my top! I don't know if it is the fit of HotPatterns or the style or an equal combination of both but few pattern makers final pieces make me feel as satisfied at HotPatterns once the project is complete. The Fringe Festival is no different.
This top was quick and easy and coupled with the grey Tencel Jersey Knit that I used the fit was easy but sexy. The fabric drapes nicely and the cut is perfectly shaped to cling (slightly) in all the right places and gently bunch right at the hips. One of the bonuses I noticed concerning the hip bunching is that when I bent over, kneeled or squatted down, I did not feel exposed. Even with the lowest jeans, the extra long hem line gives you coverage when you need it and the ruching hides any tummy troubles when standing.
I decided to modify it with a dupioni scarf and crochet trim. I wanted to braid the scarf in the knit fabric but given my deadline I couldn't make it work to satisfy me so I practiced my crochet skills instead. I used the given pattern piece to make the dupioni scarf and used a simple crochet decorative edge that I found in one of my stitch books. The crochet edging is working in Berroco Vintage in Pumpkin which really stands out against the teal silk and neutral grey of the top. With the casual sexiness of the cut of the top coupled with the elegant silk and lace edging this top is perfect of a date night, pair with a cropped tuxedo jacket for a cocktail party or worn with grey wool pants for office wear.
Sometimes it takes a little something out of the ordinary to create some excitement in a familiar hobby. My knitting habit goes in waves, sometime ebbing and sometimes tsunamis of excitement. The bigger waves are created when I discover a new technique, stitch or medium that just gets my juices flowing. This assignment definitely got the juices flowing. This week I was knitting with fabric and it was eye-opening. Not only is it a quick knit (insert eye rolling here) but it was very different. "Oh course", you might say, "you are not knitting with yarn. Duh... that's different"! But it was different in other ways too. #1 Tension was easy so I just let the strand hang loose. It didn't flow through my hand like yarn and the knotted ends caught on my fingers. Even with my massive US 17, the gauge was tight. I think you could even knit with some US 19's. Knitting with fabric is an awesome way to use every last bit of fabric- so waste not, want not. Knitting with fabric is the PERFECT way to round out your Christmas list as well. Not just because it is quick but because you can knit rugs, bath mats, trivets, dog beds, picnic blankets, nap mats and more stout articles that one is always in need of. When using quilting cotton, these projects are very absorbent and cushy. Here's how to get started (tension relief ahead)
Using either remnants or whole pieces of fabric, clip into your selvedges about ½ in. in, in 1 in. increments. Pull apart the strips (the clips just get each strip started). Knot each strip together and roll up into rag balls (you can also purchase rag balls on eBay, but rolling them up is good fun for stray children who would otherwise be making messes). Start knitting!
You can organize your fabric strips into color families to knit project in certain colors to make stripes or a solid piece. If you choose fabric that features a print, your finished piece will have a variegated look but you can still choose dominate colors. Try knitting a lace pattern for an interesting entry way rug or knit it up in muslin for a Christmas snowflake using a doily pattern. Have fun thinking outside the box while creating a one-of-a-kind gift for a loved one! I'm making a bath mat for my little one's bathroom using 3 stripes of quilting cotton, 2 of blue and one of pink. To make one stripe, I cast on 10 sts using my Lantern Moon US 17 needles and am knitting to 24 in. and then bind off. Repeat for the other 2 stripes and then stitch the 3 together using a mattress stitch or crochet them together using a size 17 hook. It will be super cozy on her little toes.
I often teach friends and neighbors to knit. Invariably they show up with a ball of worsted weight yarn and 2 ridiculously long straight needles. One of my first recommendations I make if I think they will stick with knitting is to invest in a set of interchangeable cable needles. But even if they are unwilling to take that step, I encourage my students to use cable needles as their default needles as opposed to straight needles. My reasons are thus:
1) Multipurpose. You can only knit straight on straight needles, while you can knit straight and in the round with cable needles. This means you can change needles less if you have a project that jumps from knitting in the round to straight and back again.
2) Weight distribution. Even when working straight on cable needles it is gentler on your wrists because the flexible cables allow knitters to rest most of the weight of a project in their laps or on a table in front of them. This is a good option of those with weak muscles, arthritis or people just getting in the game who haven't built up their knitter's bulk yet.
3) Odd jobs. Cable needles can serve as stitch holders, can be used in provisional cast-ons and other odd jobs that straight needles can't even dream off.
4) Lighter. Though not terribly so, over many hours the lighter weight of cable needles over straight needles can reduce fatigue, muscle strain and can speed up your project.
But how do you knit straight on cable needles? Easy, it is just like have a string tied to each end of your straight needles. You knit from your left needle to your right and once you get to the end of a row (this is easy to tell) switch your left needle to your right hand and vice versa for the other needle and start your next row. It is easier done than said and will really open your eye, expand your project load and reduce your needle inventory. You can start with one and go from there. I would encourage you as I do my students to invest in an interchangeable needle set; it is worth its weight in yarn!
The classic story begins: So I was surfing the 'net' a few weeks ago when I found this tutorial...
I would say that 50% of my blog projects start with the above sentence, but not all end with this sentence: As soon as I saw this project I had to make it IMMEDIATELY!
Most projects I look forward to, most I love to shop for and some I stay up late to work on. A select few get my heart pumping and my brain spinning. This is one of those projects. I love rugs. I love softness under my toes. I love a block of color, texture or design to make a room. I love how rugs can 'make' a room. Now I can make them too! I knew this would be a great project for our Dorm Days series because it is such an easy project, dorm rugs are often cheap in construction and in design and since you make it, you can make it to size, color and design that fits you.
To make my rug, I followed High-Heeled Foot in Door's awesome DIY Chevron Rug tutorial which calls for:
2 yds of home decor fabric
One 6x9 ft canvas drop cloth
One 5x8 ft rug gripper
Tacky Glue Spray
Size 14 needle
This tutorial was really well done and assembly was easy. You do need a significant area of clean floor space to lay everything out and a heck of a lot of spray starch to get all the wrinkles out of the drop cloth. I would recommend using the more expensive rug gripper that has more gripper surface and less holes and applying the same tacky glue spray trick to attach the gripper to the drop cloth as for attaching the fabric to the drop cloth. Don't flip over or sew until the tacky spray glue has dried. I suggest this because the gripper slips around and bunches a lot when sewing.
I used Valori Wells Wrenly Twill Home Décor weight fabric (2 yds) and this busy pattern lends itself well to piecing should you want as bigger rug. It will also hide spills or dirt which I am counting on since it is beneath my eat-in kitchen table. I like the print so much I am going to make a big rug by ordering 6 yds of fabric, cutting it in half and stitching them side by side to make more of a 9 x 9 rug for my dining room. Also, the amount of rug gripper I cut off would make the perfect size for a runner. This fabric rug is really customizable for any and all sizes. The rug feels nice underfoot with just a little plushness and stays in place very well. I am impressed with how well it turned out and how well it seems to be functioning as a rug.
Check out all of our Free Spirit fabrics to create your own Design Fabric Rug!
P.s. Of course my kitchen always looks like this and I didn't set the table just for you ;)
Here is a great, quick Halloween mask pattern for our readers to get in the spirit of All Hallow's Eve before the rush really hits. Your kids are probably already planning their costumes and perhaps can't even decide what they will be. With the ease of this pattern, you can create several masks for them to 'try on' an idea to help the decision making go faster so you can order your patterns and fabric to get started!
Materials for 1 black cat mask:
1 piece of black eco-felt
Eye Mask pattern from Prudent Baby (reduced to fit your child's face. I reduced mine 20% to 6 in. wide)
1 spool of coordinating thread
Ear Pattern (See PDF download below)
After you have cut out your pattern piece, lay your quilting cotton face down and place your felt on top. Cut out 1 of the mask pattern piece and two ear pieces. Cut out two 4 in. by 12 in. from quilting cotton for mask ties.
Pin your mask pieces together and using a medium zig zag stitch, sew around the bottom of the mask, leaving the sides and top open. Set mask aside.
Assemble your ear by pinning them together and zig zagging around the ears. Place your ear between your mask layers (on above each eye) and pin in place. Repeat for 2nd ear. Zig zag across the top of your mask, set aside.
With right sides together, fold your ties in half lengthwise and sew a ½ in. seam across one short side and down the long side. Repeat for other tie. Trim your corners, turn and press. Insert your ties on either side of the mask in the side openings, pin in place. Zig zag your mask sides.
Trace a spool of thread onto your mask for eye holes. You can gently hold your mask on your child's face to mark the eye hole placement. Choose a spool big enough to accommodate your eyes and you know it will be big enough for your child. Cut out each eye hole, pin around the hole and zig zag around each eye hole. Trim any loose threads as needed.
You can add embroidery details or contrasting thread to highlight your ears. With the quilting cotton lining, you know these masks will be comfy enough for hours of play, giving you much needed quality sewing machine time.
Once you get past the basics of knit, purl, increase and decrease, you will probably start branching out to more challenging or more interesting techniques. One of the most beautiful is Entrelac: a knitting technique that gives the impression of patchwork or basket woven knitted fabric. I particularly love entrelac because there is a definite starting and stopping points and it is easy to find where you put it down even years after you last knitted your project. Entrelac is created by a beginning row of knitted triangles, then of knitted squares. Each previous square is knitted together with the next while picking up stitches from the previous row. It is this process that allows each square to be diagonal from the row below. It is a lot of fun once you get used to it and is easy to learn. You can practice with just a few triangles and squares till you have it. Entrelac is an excellent intro to color work since each row or block could be knit with a different color and you don't need to worry about bobbins or stranding. Or you can choose an awesome painted yarn (like Lion Brand Amazing Yarn or Berroco Origami) that changes colors gradually to give the appearance of color work when really you are using the same yarn throughout.
Here is a simple entrelac practice pattern by Knittyotter that only uses 18 Sts. Try experimenting with Entrelac with different weights of yarn (lace weight for a drapy shawl or chunky for a cozy lap blanket), colors (diagonal stripes, each block a different color using 4 different colors, or knit one color till you run out and then adding another till it runs out or until you reach the size you like) or textures. Entrelac is a great way to try new yarns, use up yarn balls or as a stash buster since each block uses just a little bit of yarn. Make a Boho Chic scarf but combining any and all yarns, from mohair to wool to cotton, giving heed only to coordinating colors instead of fiber. Entrelac of any kind makes a perfect gift since it looks like it took a great deal of work or time when neither is true.
A concrete cube is what awaits many collegiates this fall and nothing distracts more from studying than a blank canvas. Given the various rules and contrasts on decorating dorms is it tricky to put your signature on a room that you will spend the next 4 years (5, 6 or 7 years, who am I to judge a major-a-semester student). It may be necessary to break the rules or at least work around them.
One of my favorite mediums to use as wall art is plates. I understand that ceramic plates and college students may not jive; you can pick them up cheap at a thrift store or use this technique on another solid surface it will create a project just as fun. What you need is a cool plate, some equally cool lightweight fabric, a silhouette (I use coloring sheets because of their big, detail less shapes are great for negative art), and some decoupage medium. Trace the silhouette onto your fabric and carefully cut it out. Use some decoupage medium to glue the fabric onto the plate and then slather more medium over the entire surface of the plate. Allow to dry and then use a plate hanger to hang (you can try some 3M hooks for concrete walls). You might also try the decoupage medium right on the walls. In a small spot out-of-view, test to make sure but I am reasonably certain that the medium will peel off of concrete. This project will add some spicy details to a dorm fridge, microwave, book covers, trash cans or storage containers.
There are many other awesome fabric wall art projects out on the web to try in conjunction with my fabric art project. Anna Maria Horner on the Martha Stewart Show used fabric, canvas and paint to create trendy hip wall art. Here is another tutorial using embroidery hoops and quilting cotton. Or you can just cover canvas frames with your favorite fabrics for big, bold color accents.