July 2011 Archives

Chunky Knitting

July 29, 2011


 

I have been compiling my Christmas Knitting list this past week and given my blog schedule, my family and getting ready to move, I have had one thought and one thought only when it concerns my knitting: make it fast. Faithful readers will know that this is nothing new for me. I love instant gratification and in terms of knitting that means within a week or two. I am not a devoted sweater knitter. Give me a good hat any day! It is with this determination and central idea that I dedicate this blog posting to Chunky Yarn and it's delightful possibilities.

When my new Interweave Knits (IK) arrived this week, I was ready for my general dislike of half the projects and only real desire to knit one or two. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I wanted to knit 90% of the projects. Upon closer investigation I realized that this is because of the use of chunky yarns. Chunky yarns are awesome. Not only do they knit up fast but you generally need fewer balls to complete a project. I know it would seem the opposite because the yardage in each ball is scaled down as well but because each stitch goes further you need less. Typically you need about half the number of balls for a chunky sweater than a worsted weight. In the end the yarn costs are about the same but you really win when you finish in half the time. And Chunky yarn is not limited to sweaters. One of my most coveted projects from IK Fall 2011 is the Chunky weight lace shawl. It is gorgeous and no doubt a fast knit. Rugs, Afghans, scarves, hats and slippers are just a few of the many projects that shine in Chunky Yarn. I have found the desire to knit sweater renewed in me (something dead for at least 3-4 years now) and have not been this excited to knit since I first learned and held marathon knitting sessions on the weekends and dreamed of yarn while compiling spread sheets (I was in accounting before I ventured into writing). I feel excited to knit. I can feel that small ball of excitement in my belly much like a 5 yr. old on Christmas morning when I start filling my cart with Chunky yarn: "it will be so fast and so pretty. I could have my whole list done in 3 weeks and that leaves plenty of time to knit for ME!" So take a look at your list and see where you could add some Chunky yarn and save some time!

Yarns Pictured above: Gedifa Highland Alpaca, Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick N Quick, Rowan Big Wool

Scarf pictured above: Lion Brand Crochet Lacy Scarf in Wool Ease Thick N Quick

Subbing Yarn- Fibers Matter

July 26, 2011


My previous Yarn Subbing post dealt with yarn weights and how to double or triple your yarn to match weight. This post will deal with another aspect, picking the right fiber. Once you have the weight squared away you need to be sure that you are swapping the right fiber to compliment your project. To do this you need to keep in mind three rules: Drape, Texture and Style.

Drape: When substituting one fiber for another it is necessary to consider the drape of the recommend yarn and the drape of your yarn. Is the recommended yarn (RY) light and airy or thick and stout? Does it clingy or fall straight. If it is a light mohair or silk blend, you want to stick with other yarns that will mimic their draping tendencies like light alpaca or angora. If your RY is thick ply cotton and you want to change it up to wool for warmth, pick wool with poly blend for density. You can judge a yarn somewhat by sight or use Ravelry to see other projects made from your chosen yarn. If it looks light and fuzzy, sleek and clingy or, tight and stout, stick with other yarns that share these draping characteristics.

Texture: Will your project feature loads of texture- neat cables or stunning bobbles- then choose a yarn that will let these features stand out. If your project will be all about color and less texture, then feel free to go with a novelty or lofty yarn (Think Ribbon or Mohair).  Try to balance your texture with your yarn, the more textural detail you have going on the more toned down your yarn should be. The less texture going on, the opposite: go crazy with your yarn choice.

Style: You want to match the style of your pattern with your yarn. If you are making a really luxe looking car coat, you don't want a cheap looking yarn. If you are just whipping up a t-shirt, you don't need cashmere (unless you REALLY want it). The same goes for everything in between. Match your personal style to your yarn choice as well. If you aren't going to wear camel colored cashmere, don't get it because it is recommended or will sub well. Branch out a little but stay in your comfort zone. You know what you like and stick with it. I am not a mohair person, though I really want to be. I know deep down in my heart I am not and am not likely to wear it so I don't buy it or use it. If a pattern calls for it, I reach for baby alpaca, cashmere or llama instead. All have the delightful softness and fuzziness but I enjoy them so much better than mohair. Subbing is worth the work to find the right fiber for you! 

Yarn pictured: S. Charles Luna, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light , Rowan Glace

Wear It Now, Wear it Later - Slinky/Slouchy Vest

skirtTop.jpgJoin me in a little mind over matter excerise I'm conducting today. You see, it's really hot just about everywhere these days, and I have been wishing for cooler temperatures for a few weeks now. Maybe if I start thinking about my fall wardrobe, I'll feel just a little cooler. Knowing me, if I make something new, I want to wear it immediately. This leads me to our title, Wear It Now, Wear It Later. I've created the Hot Patterns free download pattern Slinky/Slouchy Vest into something that I think will transcend three seasons.

First of all, let's talk about the free pattern download concept. It's a pattern and it doesn't cost any money to buy, but it will cost you some time. This is the first downloaded pattern that I have ever done despite all the cute free downloads I've been tempted with from Hot Patterns. I am pleased to say that not only would I make this vest again; I would do another downloaded pattern again. Here are a couple of tips to make pattern downloads a little less daunting.

  • Work on the floor. You'll have all the room you need to spread out all the pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper that make up the free pattern and tape them togather.
  • Read the fine print. Hot Patterns not only numbers the pattern pieces, but also tells you what row and column the page order is in at the bottom of each page.
  • Have plenty of tape and plenty of time. Don't rush your piecing, and use as much tape as you need to keep all the pages together.
  • Draw off your size on to interfacing. Don't cut your pieces out from the paper pattern you just pieced together. Draw off your size on to lightweight, inexpensive interfacing. You may need to draw off a different size after you make the first muslin.
  • Read the directions before you start. This is usually my last resort. I like pictures better, but the pattern instructions have some great information that will help you sail through easily if you just read a little first. I was glad I did.
  • Make a muslin. In other words, test the pattern out in a fabric similar to the one you want to make your final garment from. You may have to make fitting adjustments, or you may have to go up or down a size. Once it fits the way you want it to, make the real thing from the fabulous fabric you chose.

Let's talk about the Slinky, Slouchy Vest. I absolutely love the way Hot Patterns applied the casing for the waist. I jeansClutch.jpgwon't try to describe it, but it's simple and clean. Download the pattern to see what I mean. I made mine from non-slinky gauze that has a little lurex thread running through it (black has sold out). So it slouches more than it slinks, which I prefer. I was afraid it would be puffy looking, but it behaved well when I tried it on. The tie closure is two pieces of knotted satin cord.  I also took the raw edge finish route instead of hemming everything. There are directions in the download for raw edge finishes and French seams. Depending on what you make the vest out of, it can be a great layering piece, or the focal point of your outfit.

jacket.jpgTake a look at our hot weather and cool weather options for the same gauze vest. If you've made this one yourself, post a picture on Facebook so we can see different versions of this great free pattern download. Happy sewing and stay cool!

Superdon's Flower Pens and Masking Tape Vase


Looking for a way to keep your pens from wandering off your desk? I have the perfect project for you! You can make your own flower pens and decorate an ordinary glass vase. This is a project that will take you a couple of hours if you have all the supplies on hand. Perfect to catch up on a couple Harry Potter DVDs.


Glass vase:

You are going to need a roll of plain masking tape, brown shoe polish and a glass vase. Although we don't sell these products at Fabric.com (today), I have these items around my place.

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Tear off strips of tape from the roll and start applying to the outside of the vase. Do not place the tape inside of the vase. I tried to have some overlap between pieces of tape - it will give you more of a textured look at the end. I also covered the bottom of my vase with tape for one example and did not cover for another.

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Once you have covered the vase in tape strips, you are ready to use the shoe polish. Start dabbing on the taped part of the vase. Do not rub against the vase, because you will pull up the tape. All my vases have required two coats of shoe polish to give it a darker look. Some of my other ideas to use this for would be light color fabric and adhere the fabric to the glass or acrylic paint on the vase instead of shoe polish - good luck! 

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Flower pens:

You are going to need ball point pens, flowers, floral tape and a hot glue gun. Again, although we don't sell these products at Fabric.com except the hot glue gun, you can pick up at your local store. 

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Trim your flowers down to 2-3 inches of stem. This will be the length that you will use to insert into the pen. Go for a variety of colors and different types of flowers to give your bouquet more character. 

 

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Take the caps off your pen. You will also need to remove the end of the pen. The BIC ballpoint pens that I use are awesome for this. I take my wire cutters and pop the end right off the pen. Once you have removed the end of the pen, you are ready to wrap the pen with floral tape. I start at the tip of the pen, winding the floral wrap around the pen until I reach the end and then pull to snap off the roll. You could cut the end to match it up perfect, but I like the imperfections at the end.

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Bust out your handy glue gun. Put hot glue on the stem of the flower before inserting into the end of the pen. Do not put glue in the pen! This will prevent the pen from working once you are done (I think the hot glue blocks the ink). Push the glued stem into the pen and you are done with your flower pen! 

 

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Before you start putting together your finished flowers and vase, do not forget to unplug your glue gun! Craft safety first! Look forward to hearing how things went for you! 

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Ombre Tunic

July 25, 2011

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If you read Friday's blog post you will know that today's project was inspired by a product spread in a popular magazine. The inspiration tunic costs $124 retail and is in the Ombre style. The shape of the shirt is nothing that sensational; it's a cool shirt and all but the Ombre is what makes it GOREGOUS! Ombre is a dye technique and comes from the French word meaning: Shaded. Ombre dye technique creates a graduated effect from light to dark or from one shade to another. The inspiration tunic shifts from dark blue to light. My tunic shifts from yellow to the natural linen of the original fabric. And it was so easy to do. I started with Hanky Weight Linen in Natural and Amy Butler's Anna Tunic (Tunic Length). Once the tunic was complete and before sewing on the buttons, I set up my Ombre dye. Working outside, I put down a clean drop cloth. Next, I took my jar of Jacquard Dye-na-flo fabric dye in Sun Yellow and poured it into a clean spray bottle. Having soaked my tunic in warm water until it was wet through, I then gentle squeezed out water until it was just damp (the dye is absorbed better by wet fabric). I laid my tunic down on the drop cloth and pulled all the wrinkles out and made sure it was nice and flat. Then I started spraying my tunic starting along the bottom and slowly working up, concentrating most of the dye at the bottom and less as I went up. The spray really helps you control the dye application and also creates an Ombre effect if you widen your spray area. Once I had the front covered nicely, I carefully flipped the tunic and repeated on the back. Be careful if you have dye on your fingers where you placed them when flipping your tunic. Repeat the same with the belt, just applying dye at the ends to match your tunic when tied.

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DO NOT RINSE YOUR TUNIC. Allow your dye to dry completely. This is not like RIT where you let the dye sit for 30 min and then you rinse off. You must let your tunic dry completely. Then, turn your tunic inside out and with a hot iron (set to your fabric setting) press the inside of your tunic to set the paint on the other side. To set the belt, place a thin piece of cotton between the belt and your iron. Sew on your buttons and DONE! Doesn't it look Chic? I must say I feel great in my Tunic, edgy but classic at the same time. Try this dye technique with other natural fibers. You can even use it on cotton prints to give a neat peak-a-boo effect.

The Total Cost of my tunic was $ 43.93 not including tax (which varies) and includes 2 yds of Hanky weight Linen, one jar of Dye-na-Flo, and Amy Butler's Anna Tunic. You could make a similar Ombre tunic using your own pattern collection and your costs goes down to $27.95. Less than $30! That is a value of $100 from the cost of the inspiration top to your custom fit, custom colored to your exact liking, one of a kind Ombre Tunic. Guess which I would choose!

As Seen in Magazines (You can make it)

July 22, 2011

 

mags 001.jpgLast month I was enjoying a nice day at my parents' house. You know those rare days where the grandparents want nothing more than to take your child away so they can spoil her and you get to kick your feet up and relax without someone asking you questions so fast you are answering one asked 3 min before. Well, it was one of those days and I was reading Coastal Living, just a few pages in when I came across a product spread. As I sighed dreamily, thinking "Wow, I really like that $165 bikini and that $300 summer dress, but that will never happen," it occurred to me that I could or had already made these items. Well, not exactly like them but close enough that with some detail changes and fabric choices these coveted items could be in my closet and all the $ would still be in my bank account or spent at the toy store (I am a sucker). So I set about searching for fabric and details that would make my dreams come true.

Leather Detail Bikini: You guys have already seen my Kwik Sew bikini. Well, all we need to make it match our expensive bikini are some strips of leather or vinyl and some instructions for braiding leather. You can modify the bikini pattern by omitting the top straps, widening them and attaching the braided leather then the wider straps. You can modify the bottoms by adding the braided leather as a detail on the waist band. I love this so much better than the tiny leather detail and feel more confident of the bathing suit staying place.

 

Long, Ruffle Strapless Dress: This is the same as my modified project for Earth Day from Sewing Green by Betz White but with added length and floral fabric. We can get the same look by adding 20 in. to the length and using Liberty of London Poplin or Lawn. The colors and floral patterns used by Liberty of London perfectly mimic this look.

 

Blue & White Market Tote: This is a very simple bag to sew up because the seams are on the outside (use French Seams to give it a neat look) and so are the gussets. I recommend two 12 x 15 in. rectangles cut from Anna Maria Horner's Innocent Crush and then add some of our Leather Bag handles in dark brown for the perfect duplicate.

Ombre Tunic: Stay tuned on Monday for my blog post on doing your own Ombre Tunic. I made a linen tunic and using some Jacquard Dye-na-flo Fabric dye, I added a super easy and super chic Ombre effect to my tunic. It is too die for (no pun intended).

Lion Brand Jonah Hoodie in Homespun

July 20, 2011

 

I have seen the light and it is knitting for kids. I may have said it before but I will say it again, I Love Knitting for Kids! Why, you ask, because it is fast, fun and almost instant gratification. The time it takes to knit a project for a kid is about ¼ of the time (if that) to knit for myself. Plus, I love her so much and couple that with my love of knitting makes it twice as fun as knitting for me. The fit issues are greatly reduced (except for the unplanned growth spurt: see pictures for evidence of a very much unplanned growth spurt). I choose the Jonah Hoodie from Lion Brand because of its comfy, cozy characteristics. It looked like it would be agreeable for a toddler to wear: warm and very functional. It is all of the above. My daughter was very excited to try it on and wear it around the house. While I doubt she will be wearing this one come fall (again see pictures) but I will be making another in the next size up for the fall. I love that there are only 2 buttons but I don't agree with the placement. They are 1 row apart and butted up to the hood. Next time I will start them 4 in. down from the cast off edge and the next one 2 in. down since I will use big buttons (these are from my stash) again so she can button them herself. I will also cast on more stitches (just a few) for the sleeves so the opening for her hand is bigger. I also changed the Hoodie placement. The instructions call for the seamed edge to be the top of the hoodie but I placed the seam at the back of the hoodie because the cast on edge curved a bit and gave it more of a front-of-the hoodie look.

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I also loved the yarn, Lion Brand Homespun in Parfait. It gives a Boucle like look and is SUPER SOFT to the touch and to wear. It was a bit of a challenge to work with because of the fuzzy factor but worth it since it was one hang-up every 5th or so row (not really that big of a deal but a change to one used to cotton and linen these last few weeks of summer knitting).

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This is a great project to work on while cooped up with the summer heat and humidity, wishing for fall to coming all ready. It really put me in the fall mood but is not so daunting that I regret time spent. It is just the right amount to get you over the summer hump.  

Raveled Here

Chenille-It Blooming Bias Tape

July 18, 2011

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I have long been a fan of Chenille, so when I came across out Chenille-It Blooming Bias Tape, I got excited. It looked like a lot of fun. When it arrived I was even more excited, then I looked around and realized I had no idea what to put it on. I didn't have any quilt tops, yet, to add it to. I didn't have any pillows I could use the Chenille-It Tape to couch with.But wait! I had a jacket I purchased at a thrift store last year that just needed something. The Chenille-It Tape would be perfect. The jacket is a camo green in a military style, single breasted button up with lapels. I decided to embellish the button bands and lapels with the Chenille-It. It was so simple too! I used my walking foot and centered a medium length stitch with a size 14 sharp needle and stitched down the center of my Chenille-It Tape which was even with the edge of the jacket. I added the Chenille-It Tape to the right side of the button band, but added it to the wrongside of the lapels so the Chenille-It Tape would show all around. I didn't worry too much on the corners of the lapels. I just cut and overlapped on each point or corner (as shown above).

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My Chenille-It Tape needed 2 washings to get good and fluffed. I haven't decided if I am done or if I will add more to the pockets and to the bottom of the jacket. I do recommend that you match your upper thread to your chenille-It Tape and your bobbin thread to the project you are adding your Chenille-It Tape to. I wish I had considered that before but I was blinded by excitement. I won't see my bobbin thread much since it is on the inside of my jacket and underneath the lapel but it is a detail I will consider next time.

Crochet Granny Squares

July 15, 2011

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So now that I am an official crocheter, I figured I should get some Granny Squares under my belt to seal the deal. For those who don't know, Granny Squares are to crocheters as dishcloths are to knitters. Granny Squares are small crocheted squares that feature different designs in each that you can sew up into different projects. Some of the most popular are blankets, scarves, and shawls. Collecting and finding new Granny Square patterns is just as fun as working them up. I set out to find some that I, as a beginner, could handle and I came up with 2 good patterns. The first is a beautiful granny square which is shown in 3 colors but can be worked up in just one or two, as I did. The second is an interesting take on the Granny Square style but reshaped for Christmas to make a Granny Tree. I worked my tree up based on the instructions that called for a treble stitch. Next time I will go with the double and use a smaller hook as with the hook called for by the ball band and the treble stitch I think the finished project is too floppy to make a good ornament but would be perfect with the DC.

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I have to say I loved making these. I learned some new things, obtained some much needed practice and new ways to use the skills I already had. Completing something so cute, colorful and beautiful in a short amount of time is very satisfying. Unlike the Amigurumi animals I had made previously, there was no assembly, no stuffing. Once I was done crocheting, I was done! I did learn that: yes, my tension is still too tight. How do I know this, you ask, well... the thought occurred to me shortly after my crochet hook snapped in my hand. "Self", I thought, "you may need to relax a little with this crochet business". Stay tuned to see how this revelation works out. Until then, I will keep practicing and definitely keep cranking out Granny Squares.

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My Green and Purple Granny Square was knit up in Berroco Weekend (75% Acrylic, 25% Cotton) in Tomatillo and Orchid. This was a great yarn to crochet with: no splits and it was neither too slick nor fluffy. My Granny Tree was knit with Tahki Tara Tweed (80% Wool/ 20% Nylon) in Brick. This was also a fantastic yarn to crochet with. It was fluffier than the Weekend but it was also had more stretch. 

Laundry Bag -Revisited

Kristl as part of the dorm makeover look has created a laundry bag from Valori Wells Wrenly Home Decor Fabric. I advised her that she might want to modify my original instructions to make a smaller laundry bag. The original is quite large and when full might require a line backer to carry it.  Kristl used one fabric instead of two. She used one yard of fabric.

Supplies are listed below.

Change fabric requirements to 1 yard of 54'' fabric.

Revised Instructions:

1. The fabric is 54'' wide.  Remove selvedge edges.

2. Overcast or serge all edges to finish raw edges.

3. Sew front and back together with right sides together using a 5/8'' seam allowance.  Leave one side open about 4 inches from the top. You will need to create a casing later and I inserted a loop to hang my bag on a hook or door knob. You will now have a large tube. Press seams open.

4. Two options for bottom:

     a. Sew bottom with right sides together using 5/8'' seam. Press open. Turn bag inside out to right side or

      b, Create a squared bottom by taking the corner of each side towards the bottom creating a triangle. Sew    across the triangle on each side. This will create a squared bottom. Turn right side out.

5. Create a casing at top of the bag. Make the casing at least twice the size fo the cording you are going to use for a drawstring. In other words if my cord is 1 inch wide, I need at least a 2 inch casing.  I folded the edge of the top over 1/4'' to 1/2''  towards the wrong side of fabric and pressed. I then turned the top down 2 1/2''  towards the wrong side and pressed. I sewed 1/2'' from bottom edge to create a casing to pass your cord through. I made a self cord about 2 yards long from a 2'' strip of fabric. I pressed 1/4'' to the wrong side of the long edge. I stitched both long sides. I then folded the fabric in half and stitched near the folded edges to create one long piece of cord. Kristl used ribbon for her cording. Here is Kristl's laundry bag- so cute!

 

laundry bag.JPGOriginal from the Fabric Maverick: New Beginnings 

This is the time of the year when parents who have children graduating from high school or college or both are wondering where the years have gone. These toddlers who once depended on us for everything are marching on to create their own independent lives. The primary job of a parent is to raise a child to be independent. A person who can make good decisions. Give yourself a pat on the back! You may yet have some money for retirement. Some of the lessons still to be learned are how to manage money, cook healthy meals and learn to do the laundry. Unfortunately "life lessons' are not generally taught in school. I have yet to find a book on finances which focus on young adults. If anyone knows of one, I would be grateful to hear from you.

Of course we all want to celebrate the launching of a new adult into society. Lowes has given us some inspirations with their Creative Ideas Magazine. Their #1 idea is "Laundry 101"- fill a laundry basket with detegent, fabric softener, stain removal pens,an iron and hangers.  It is a great idea. To add to this idea, what about a laundry bag?You can create it in school colors or perhaps a special designer bag. For fabric selection you should consider using a durable, washable fabric such as canvas, twill or denim. We did do a laundry bag in fleece. It will not be as durable as a twill bag, but it would be a fun fabric to work with.

For our designer bag I chose a couple of fabrics from Amy Butler's August Field collection. (August Field is no longer available) but feel free to use another Amy Butler fabric.

Supplies:

Sewing Machine

Size 14-16 needle

Thread - all-purpose or outdoor living thread

1/2 yard each 2 different fabrics (twill, denim, canvas)

Self made cord or purchased cording

Iron

Instructions:

1. The fabric is 54'' wide.  Remove selvedge edges. Cut fabric into 2 pieces. The pieces will measure approximately 26'' x 18''.

2. Overcast or serge all edges to finish raw edges.

3. You will have 2 cuts of each print. Join one print to a different print. Press seams open. Repeat this with remaining 2 sections; You now have a bag front and back.

4. Sew front and back together with right sides together using a 5/8'' seam allowance.  Leave one side open about 4 inches from the top. You will need to create a casing later and I inserted a loop to hang my bag on a hook or door knob. You will now have a large tube. Press seams open.

5.  Sew bottom with right sides together using 5/8'' seam. Press open.

6. Two options for bottom:

     a. Turn bag inside out to right side or

      b, Create a squared bottom by taking the corner of each side towards the bottom creating a triangle. Sew    across the triangle on each side. This will create a squared bottom. Turn right side out.

7. Create a casing at top of the bag. Make the casing at least twice the size fo the cording you are going to use for a drawstring. In other words if my cord is 1 inch wide, I need at least a 2 inch casing.  I folded the edge of the top over 1/4'' to 1/2''  towards the wrong side of fabric and pressed. I then turned the top dpwn 2 1/2''  towards the wrong side and pressed. I sewed 1/2'' from bottom to create a casing to pass your cord through. I made a self cord about 2 yards long from a 2'' strip of fabric. I pressed 1/4'' to the wrong side of the long edge. I stitched both long sides. I then folded the fabric in half and stitched near the folded edges to create one long piece of cord.

 

Hot Patterns Free Download- Cabriolet Wrap-Over Skirt/Dress

July 12, 2011

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From Hot Patterns, this Cabriolet Wrap-Over Skirt Dress behaves similarly to the ever-so-popluar infinity dress. It's a little confusing at first, but the more you play with it, the more wearable options you come up with! The skirt mode is pretty easy- just pull your tie pieces through and wrap till there's nothing left to wrap, and then tie.  For dress mode- The pattern indicates it is meant to be an empire waist dress, which is very cute, however you can create other options as well! When you're styling it as a dress, be patient and get creative!

A very easy project, the hardest part was cutting out the pieces! And that wasn't really "hard" per say, it was just time consuming. I love how fun and flirty it is! I used coordinating fabrics from the Greenfield Hill Voile collection by Denise Schmidt. I loved the sweet, romantic prints mixed with the geometric designs of this collection- and it's on sale!

Kwik Sew Pressing Ham

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I have had "Pressing Ham" on my To Make List for many years but for some reason or another (usually it is that I am never in the mood to make one) I never got around to making it. I really wanted one so I knew if I scheduled it for the blog it would get done. And What-do-ya-know...It did. Kwik Sew 3571 was a piece-o-cake too and since I am over the hump, I will be getting to the sleeve roll faster than I would have previously guessed. Since this pattern is basically 2 pieces of fabric: 1 of wool and 1 of cotton (though you could use linen too. You want to stick to natural, high temp fabric that can take the wear and tear. Avoid fancy fabric, which may look good but won't press well. You can opt for Wool Felt but not craft felt, which is mostly poly (depending on the manufacturer) and will melt. I would not use fleece or any kind of thick knit either. You need your ham to keep its shape and hold firm while you press on it. You can go with cotton on both sides if you want. I used a gingham cotton and I lined it as well with some muslin. I wanted a smooth shape and didn't want any indentations from some of the larger saw dust pieces that I had in my mix. I cut 2 from my muslin and then 2 from my quilting cotton. When I sewed them up, I made the turning opening for my exterior a little bigger than the muslin so it would be easier to sew up later. I then placed my muslin in my quilting cotton shell and then stuffed the pressing ham with the saw dust. I also added some lavender in with the saw dust for a nice perfume when the ham is heated with the iron (this was a great suggestion from my Mom, Debbi Krisher. Thanks Mom!)

I also extended, curved and tapered the end of the ham a bit to help with some narrow bits of some of the patterns I have been sewing lately and it really came in handy. I saw this on another pattern and liked the idea so modified this pattern to mimic. It ended up looking like a crook-neck squash. It is a little silly looking but totally helpful in the smaller areas. My little one loves it too since it now has a toddler handle. I will be making another in a brighter color so it is easier to find since she likes to hide it. I am also considering make a small hanging loop on one end so I can hand it from the wall for easy storage, keep it from little hands and make it easier to find. It will probably look like a giant Christmas ornament but that will just get me ahead of the game!

The 3 1/2 Hour Duvet Project

 I have created a simple duvet project as the first installment of our Make-over Your Dorm Room Series. I made it on a Sunday morning, and when I was finished, I wondered why I didn't have a wardrobe of duvets for my own bedroom. Simple sewing skills are necessary. You need to be able to sew a straight seam, and manipulate a lot of fabric while you are sewing. It helps to lay it all over a long table or even set up your ironing board next to your sewing table to handle the extra fabric lying around while you sew. You will also be ironing and matching patterns if you use a patterned fabric. Don't worry. I have some tips for that.

First of all we used the beautiful Wrenly Collection by Valori Wells for Free Spirit Fabrics for this group of projects. This is the Wrenly Home Decor Twill Gypsy Multi EK-823. You will need fabric for the front of the duvet and 108'' quilt backing fabric for the back, coordinating ribbon, thread, straight pins, scissors, a yard stick, a sewing machine and a serger (optional). Let's get started!

Here is how I figure the yardage for the duvet. Measure the comforter that you will fill the duvet with. Mine is 86'' long x 82'' wide. My fabric is 54'' wide, but I will cut off the selvedges and take a 5/8'' seam allowance, so I make the middle panel 52'' wide for measuring purposes. I will split another length of the fabric for the sides. I will also be matching a 12'' repeating pattern, so I need another 24'' added to my length. Lastly, I will fold back a 3'' hem around the opening of the duvet. Here's the calculation:

86'' + 86'' + 24'' + 3'' = 199 '' total

199'' divided by 36'' = 5 1/2 yards for the duvet

 

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Whew! I swear the math is over. I use the floor to measure the fabric, cut it to length and split the remaining half for the sides. You see that the sides are longer than the middle. That's for lining up the repeats to match across the duvet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cutting out.JPGThis is showing you that I cut down the sides to the correct width. My duvet is 82'' across and my center piece is 52'' wide. I cut two 16.5'' wide pieces for a total of 33 inches to make the width of the duvet and accommodate for 5/8'' seam allowances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

matching pattern.JPGHere is an example of the pattern matching. I found the first motif on the center piece and the first bird on the side piece and matched them together. Everything else fell into place and matched beautifully. Pin both sides every three or four inches just to keep it all together while you are moving the duvet top from the cutting area to the sewing machine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sew the sides to the center piece. There will be a lot of fabric to manipulate. Take your time and keep the fabric of the side you are sewing loosely piled in your lap so it is not straining through the machine. Keep one hand on the fabric at the back of the presser foot for guidance only. Do not pull from the back, just guide. Press the seams to the center of the duvet sewing seams.JPGwhen you have finished stitching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

serging.JPGYou need to finish the seams in some way on the inside. I love my serger! It is perfect for enclosing the seams and trimming off the excess fabric. No problem if you do not have a serger, just zigzag the seams on the edge to enclose the raw edges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sewing backing.JPGI used 108'' wide quilt backing for the back of the duvet. You will only need one length of the duvet for your yardage measurement since the quilt backing will be wider than the width of your duvet. Also, you will not have to piece it. That's 2 1/2 yards for my project. Cut the backing down to size and place it on the duvet top with right sides together. Pin every three or four inches on three sides leaving the bottom of the duvet open. Stitch around the three sides and then finish the seams with the serger or a zigzag stitch.

 

 

 

 

 

haf inch edge.JPGPress in a 1/2'' hem at the open end (bottom) of the duvet and then....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3'' finish.JPGthen fold and press in a 3'' hem. We'll go back to the floor for the next step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

measurinf for ties.JPGLay the duvet on the floor to place the ties on the open end. Cut six pairs of ties to keep the duvet closed (you could also make button holes and buttons). I used some polyester grosgrain ribbon that will be washable. Find the middle of the duvet and measure in even increments to place your ties. I actually fooled with mine a bit after the measuring to get them where my eye thought they should be. Pin them in place front and back.

I allowed about an inch above the fold of the hem for the ribbon to tuck into the hem as I stitched everything in place.

 

 

tucking ties into seam.JPGRemember, these will tie together,so line up the ribbons on the top of the duvet and then place the other ribbon directly beneath on the back of the duvet and pin that ribbon the the backing of the duvet. Take them to the sewing machine and stitch it all in place at once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

beauty shot.JPGCongratulations! You have a brand new duvet for only the cost of the fabric and your time! And, more than likely, it's exactly what you wanted instead of settling for whatever the stores have to offer. I have a twin bed with a duvet made just like this one, but I used a pair of damask sheets I found on sale. If you use that trick, you can skip half of this tutorial and go right to sewing the back to the front, hemming and adding the ties. That's almost instant gratification!

 

Happy sewing!

Using an Umbrella Yarn Swift

July 11, 2011

Somethings are best left to videos rather than photos. There was no way I would have been able to properly show you how great our Umbrella Yarn Swift is without a video. I love mine and use it much more than I would have thought. I went years without one thinking that I don't get that many yarn hanks so I can do without. Well, not only do hanks add up but also yarn balls that have been partially knitted and been the plaything of dogs and small children need to be wound up as well. Previously winding a hank to a ball took me an hour using my knees but with the Umbrella Yarn Swift, my time is down to less than 5 min. This is definitely a bonus. 

Adding Pintucks to Existing Patterns

July 8, 2011

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Following on the heels of my previous article on how to sew Pintucks with the Janome Pintuck Foot is how to then add this amazing detail to your store bought patterns. Say you have a dress or a shirt that you want to add pintucks too but you aren't sure how to add the details without altering the pattern. The solution is to sew the pintucks on before you cut your pattern piece. This can be tricky but if you plan ahead your finished piece will look amazing.

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I start out by first deciding which pattern pieces will feature pintucks and mark them in some fashion. Then, I layout my fabric and pattern pieces as instructed in the pattern. The pieces that will have pintucks, I trace with tailors chalk around the outside giving a wide berth (sometimes about 1 in. around), be more generous on the width of the piece since that will be affected more by the pintucks than the length. This will give you a good idea of where to place your tucks and how long to sew them. Also be sure if you are working with pieces cut on a fold to mark the center line. You can cut out the unaffected pieces now or after you add the pintucks to the fabric. Do not cut out the pieces that will feature pintucks. Sew your pintucks before you cut out these pattern pieces using your traced outline as a guide. Sew your pintucks from the top of the traced outline to the bottom. Once you have added your pintucks, then cut out those pattern pieces. I like to go over the top and bottom of the pintucks with a basting stitch to keep them secure until the garment is all stitched up. I added 7 pintucks to the HotPatterns Cupid Cami in Sherbet Pips Squares Vanilla/Pink with matching bias tape. I modified the pattern to eliminate the ties and made 12in. long straps. The light pattern really helps the pintucks to stand out and compliment the camisole shape. Pintucks would also look great on the bodice of a shirt dress, widthwise on a fabric belt, or as a hem detail on some twill shorts

Janome Pintuck Foot

July 6, 2011

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Pintucks are a delightfully simple detail that really bring together a garment or provide that finishing detail that helps a garment to shine. Pintucks are small pleats in the fabric that provide texture and delicate detail to fabrics. When hand sewn pintucks are tedious but worth it, as you must fold the fabric and stitch very close to the fold for an extended length. However, pintucks with the Janome Pintuck Feet are a breeze.

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My machine threaded with 2 spools and a twin needle

I learned lot when learning about and practicing with the pintuck feet. Not only did I learn how to sew pintucks but I also learned to sew with twin needles (this was my first application with twin needles) and how to thread 2 spools on my machine (check your manual for instruction specific to your machine). It was pretty neat to learn so many new things about my machine and really opened my eyes. I practiced a lot to develop my pintuck sewing technique. The packaging suggests placing a thin cord under your fabric to promote the pintuck but the Janome Video demonstrated that you don't need to use the cord. From my practice I learned that it helps to hold the fabric taught and not to give it much slack. I thought that if I just loosely guided the fabric then the tucks would develop on their own and this is true to a point. But if you give too much slack the tucks get sloppy. You want to treat it similar to sewing a seam. You want to hold your fabric tight and guide it straight just like with a seam you want to keep straight and together. Don't give the fabric too much head and let it have its way. You might think that it needs slack to puff up a bit between the needles but you will like the results much better if you give it less lack and keep it reined in. It is also important to line up your twin needles with the foot grooves with the needle coming down on either side of the groove so the fabric will be encouraged to puff up into the groove. Use the bigger grooved foot for medium to light weight fabric and then narrowed grooved foot for very light weight fabric, like sheers and silks. I used the bigger grooved foot for my quilting cotton and the tucks are just right.

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Using last pintuck to guide new pintuck

pintuck 4.jpgPintucks on left not guided, Pintucks on right reined in

pintuck 3.jpgBack of pintucks

Check back on Friday for my posting on how to integrate pintucks in to patterns. It will really spice up your summer wardrobe! 

Crochet Cast On

July 4, 2011

When you are in need of an excellent seamless cast on, you can't go wrong with the Crochet Cast On. The Crochet Cast On is a flawless cast on perfect for joins, grafting and decorative bind offs. You can use it when knitting identical halves of scarf or shawls, for sock toes or when matching your cast on to your bind off. You don't need to know to know how to crochet to complete the crochet cast on, but having a feel for the hook is helpful in learning this new technique. It is a great foundation for pick up stitches later on and is easy to pull out later.

All you need is your working yarn, some waste yarn in a contrasting color, your needle and a crochet hook.  It is a terrific alternative to the Provisional Cast On, if you are short on cable needles or just prefer this method. It is always good to have a few tricks up your sleeve and more than one way to get the end result, if the end result you are looking for is a seamless join or graft!


Chef Bubba's All American Barbeque

July 3, 2011

ribs.jpgIndependence Day- fireworks, grilling out, picnics, parades, patriotic music and more! Down on the bayou there is a breeze blowing.  It is summer time and the living is easy at the Red Neck café.

 What is more fitting for our Fourth of July barbeque than ribs? C'est si bon, mes amis.  Pair your ribs with your favorite potato salad, baked beans and dessert.  You might try my fruit cobbler. Forget to count calories for the day.

Fall Off The Bones Ribs:

My secret lies in the dry rub. You can add flavor without fat.

All American Barbeque Rub:

2 TBS mild paprika

2Tbs dark brown sugar

1 Tbs dry mustard

1 Tbs  chile powder

1 Tbs onion powder

2 tsps garlic powder

2 tsps salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1-  4 lb. rack of ribs

Figure ½ lb. ribs per serving portion.  Of course, my cousin Andre will eat much more.  Have extra for unexpected guests or a cousin Andre. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Choose pork sparerib that are pink with white fat. Remove the thin membrane on back of ribs.  Cut a 4 lb. rack of ribs into serving sizde portions. Rub the dry rub into the ribs and refrigerate for 4 hrs. This will give the ribs a deeper flavor.  Stack ribs into a slow cooker and add 1 cup of beer. Cook on low for 6-8 hrs. Check tenderness and carefully remove from cooker. Heat up the grill. Place ribs on grill with fat side down. You may brush with your favorite barbeque sauce.  Cook for 10- 15 minutes.  Remove from grill and serve with extra barbeque sauce.

Now, mes amis, it is time to sit back and enjoy the lively conversation with your family and friends.  If you are having fireworks at your barbeque, try some of these safety tips:

1.       Fireworks should be fired from a concrete or asphalt surface. Select a surface that will not burn.

2.       Have a bucket of water handy.

3.       Keep fireworks away from grassy or woody areas.

4.       Clear all areas of combustible items.

5.       Animals are frightened by fireworks. Keep them inside.

6.       Wet down the launch area before lighting fireworks.

7.       Identify an adult with a water source to douse any sparks or flames

8.       Never handle fireworks after consuming alcohol or drugs.

9.       Never hold an active firework in your hands.

10.   Never try to relight a "dud" firework.  Immerse it in water.

11.   Light fireworks when the prevailing winds are away from spectators.

12.   Only children 12 years and older should use any type of sparklers.

 

Happy Fourth of July from Chef Bubba and Fabric.com

Scandinavian Stocking

July 1, 2011

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The last of the Stocking Challenge is Scandinavia- granted this is not one country but several; however the style is too similar to attribute it to one. My husband is half Scandinavian and my geographical choice was inspired by him. I also love the style, the natural details and motifs really speak to me and my love of the outdoors. Plus the Scandi style is so "in your face" homemade which I also find really attractive. It is not too difficult to recreate the Scandi style though I took come liberties with color to make it my own. The Scandi style, as I see it, is very natural, incorporating animals and plants that are very important to the Scandinavian people, such as birds, reindeer, trees, flowers (particularly tulips) and vines. Most of these elements have found a home on my Scandi Stocking. My bird is of unknown origin just something inspired by a Google search for "Scandinavian Embroidery" with daisies, a pine tree, and other embroidery flourishes added to fill in and make it beautiful in a cream thread. I found a reindeer shape from a coloring page search and traced him onto my Moda Bella Broadcloth stocking pattern and outlined him in some navy thread. I filled in my reindeer with some deep red thread in a vine and leaf pattern that I free handed. The leaf is embroidered very similarly to a daisy petal. Lastly is my snowflake appliqué which is featured here.

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I am of 2 minds whether or not I am done. Part of me says that Scandi style is also a minimal style and that my big embroidered animals are a bold statement and I should stop while I am ahead. My other half says that I should fill in the blank areas with more natural elements, like tulips which I neglected to add. I also like the contrast of the linen appliqué and maybe some more would look even better. But I think that is my American brain wanting to fill in the blank space. Should I stay true to the minimal Scandi Style or take more inspiration from my husband's heritage and meld the American with the Scandinavian. Well, I have 6 months to mull it over but feel free to give your input. Oh, and Gledelig Jul (Merry Christmas)!

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