Monday, September 1, 2014

Around the World Blog Tour

Hello, and welcome! And if you're a regular, welcome back! Last week I was tagged by the super-stitch-talented Maria from Mia's Creations to take part in the Around the World Blog Hop. Maria is primarily a bag maker, and she does some of the most beautiful work--her stitching is drool-worthy, and I love seeing what fabrics she uses as she lives in a land far, far away and they're very different from what I find here in my corner of the world (in Philadelphia). 

I have to answer a series of questions for you folks, and then tag a few others to take part. So I'll just get started, then.

What am I working on?

I used to be the person who'd say "I'm only working on this one project, and then I'll start another." But I've been hopping all over with my crafts and have a few things going right now. I have all the bits for three wristlets laid out and ready for stitching on my sewing table. I have about half of a quilt made (or maybe less than half--I haven't decided yet). I've got half a dishcloth on my knitting needles. And I'm also working on a crocheted sweater. When I have a list of orders from customers (i.e. stuff my friends/family have asked me to make) it's almost always bags and purses. Here's the most recent bag I completed--an overnighter for a benefit event.

And my most recent post was about this lovely copy-cat shawl I made:

I do like to keep things varied, or else I do see myself getting bored with everything. Variety is delightful when it comes to creating.

When and why did you start your blog?

OK, I will forgive you completely and without question if you laugh at this notion (because I sure do). I started sewing in 2008. In 2009 I decided I would take part in a craft fair. I thought I was just the business, and that I would sell everything in five minutes ( I had so much stuff left over I decided to open an Artfire shop to sell things. I was going to get rich overnight and quit my job and be in high demand for my creations ( So I sat back and thought about who I am and how I am and decided that while I do love to create, high volume is not a love of mine. I keep my little shop open for some bits and bobs I come across that I think might be of interest, as well as the things I have time to create (but certainly don't need a gazillion of for myself) that I think someone might be interested in. It puts gas in the car, and that's just fine with me.

As far as my blog, I started that in 2009 as well. I had read that if you have an online shop that you should have a blog, so I started one (remember the getting rich? I also thought I'd have a gazillion followers overnight. :)  But I found that I love to blog and share what I'm making as well as any other little life bits. Sometimes I'll go back and reread my blog--I chuckle at my early attempts at photography, sometimes wonder what I was thinking when I wrote something, and check my own tutorials for a reminder on how to do something or what measurements I used. I certainly do laugh when I look at what I can do now as compared to what I did then and what I thought would sell like cakes that are hot just a few short years ago. But I love looking back on the vacations and birthdays and picnics and family events, seeing how my nephews have grown and remembering just how good a certain day felt from pictures I forgot I had taken. It's a fabulous way to catalog life.

This was the first picture I posted on my blog. It was my second post, which was a tutorial for how to make a toaster cover. I had so much to learn then, hahaha. 

Why do I make what I make?

I had originally learned to sew because I wanted to make clothes, but I was dissatisfied with my early attempts (even with taking sewing lessons) and felt a little deflated. But then I made my first bag and loved it. And with each ensuing bag I loved sewing them more and more and more. The fabric choices were endless, as were the shapes and styles. And best of all--nothing had to fit! No darts, no gathers, no adjustments for high waists or low waists or buxomy buxomness. Just sweet sweet stitching. And that's where I honed my stitch skills. It's very very different from garment sewing, of which I have a renewed interest (Project Runway will do that to a person) and hope to take another shot at that sewing genre. I also love making quilts but I don't do it often. I generally fall in love with a fabric line, get the whole line, and then cobble something together. By the time I've finished I'm annoyed with the whole process, so I tend to take a while between projects (it's really just the basting that I dread). 

While I've logged a gazillion hours at my sewing machine, the first crafts I learned were knitting and crocheting. I am not a great knitter, but I do loooove me some crochet. That's what I do when I'm binge watching TV, or chilling on the porch. It truly soothes me. I learned those at the side of my grandmother one Christmas vacation, and have been steadily creating things ever since. My other grandmother is deceased, and I regretted not asking her to teach me to sew (she was an accomplished seamstress). So what this looong answer boils down to is that the reason I make any of the things I make is it feels like a connection to the past. Down through generations women have cut and stitched and clothed their families and kept them warm and made things look pretty. Not much has changed for the most part, and I like feeling that connection to the past as my knitting needles click or as I thread a needle.

How does my work differ from others?

I don't think it does, really. There are oodles of folks out there making very similar things--bags, purses, accessories, quilts, and so on. There really isn't anything new under the sun, except for that moment when we discover it for ourselves. You can find a million zip pouch tutorials out there, all mind-numbingly similar. But the difference comes in with what you do with those. I recently took part in a blog hop for a new bag design. The thing that struck me was that even though we all used the exact same pattern, our fabric choices and little modifications we made along the way made each item truly unique. So while we all may be sitting around creating essentially the same things, we're bringing pieces of ourselves to it, depending on who we're making it for, why we're making it, or what we've got available to do so. It's the 'me' (or the 'you') in it that makes the piece unique, no matter what it is.

This crocheted 'wreath' on canvas is one of my favorite things. It hangs in the bedroom and I smile every morning when I wake up and see it.

This recent paper-piecing project is a bit of a fail, but it looks so cheery hanging up (also in the bedroom). 

These baseball jersey pillows remain the most popular thing I've ever posted on my blog.

What would you like to learn next?

Garment sewing. I can make tee-shirts and pajama pants, sometimes a cute top or skirt, but I generally stick to things that don't have precise fit as one of the requirements for success. I'd like to change that. True, if you handed me fabric and a pattern I could technically make it. But whether it would fit or look good? I'm thinking that would be more on the side of not-a-chance.

I'd also love to get better at free motion quilting. I love the look of it, and the endless variety of stitch designs you can create. I seem to have issues with it when I make a feeble attempt that put me off of trying harder, but it is something I'd like to achieve (even if it's only table runners and pot holders for a little while). 

I mentioned that I have a crochet sweater in the works. But I also have pattern and yarn for a very ambitious cable knit sweater. I have stitch anxiety over it, lol. But I'm going to go for it. I am hell-bent on knitting a sweater that fits and looks good (it's always been one or the other :)


Now that I've blathered on for a while, I'd like to introduce you to my three tagg-ees. Since this is an around-the-world hop, I decided on three from around the world that I thought would play along.

Esther blogs over at Happy in Red. She's a delightful lady who crochets in yarns I drool over and travels the world, sharing her adventures afterwards. She also sews, and quite often shares pictures of yummy-looking food. Her blog is bright, yet calming, and I always love whatever project she is working on at the moment. 

Jane (from Projects by Jane) is a bag-maker who hails from Singapore. Not only does she sew, she occasionally beads and tats. My mind is blown by the tatting--I tried it and ended up with a beautifully knotted ball of thread. Jane is quite funny, and will often regale us readers with her adventures around town. I love when she describes the 'customers' she encounters at her craft markets.

Eleni is from lovely Greece. Although her blogging is infrequent, she very often provides lovely peeks of what she is up to on Facebook and Instagram. Her quilts and pillows and other items are so whimsical and well-made and pretty, I love when her posts show up in my feed.

They're due to post on Monday, September 8th, so I do hope you'll hop over there and show them some love. If you're new here I hope you'll stick around a bit and follow along. You can catch me in all the social media places as well (check the top of the sidebar for the links). Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nordic Shawl

Everything I'm posting this week is quite derivative and unoriginal. I often read blog posts where people fall in love with something they've seen but don't want to copy it because it seems wrong, so they tweak it but it loses a little something along the way. I don't get that--if you give credit where it's due I think it's a pretty big compliment that you like something enough to want to invest your time into making the same thing. This is entirely different from that girl you couldn't stand in eighth grade having the same shirt as you, and then you wore them on the same day and it was weird. This is not like that. This is the kind of imitation that's a sincere form of flattery.

So my second copycat of the week (this one being the first) is a shawl. I know, whaaat? A shawl? What year is this? But there are some fabulously beautiful shawls out there, and if done in the right colors or a swanky yarn they lose that 'granny' look that may come to mind. I kind of want to make fifty million of them as I do love wrapping myself in warmth that is not a full-sized afghan that drags on the floor behind me.

Anyway, if you crochet chances are that you know of the Nordic Shawl, a pattern by Annette over at My Rose Valley. The pattern came out last year, and when I saw one of her versions I literally gasped, the colors were so beautiful together. I could not get this out of my mind, but I kept telling myself "A shawl? You don't need a shawl!" but I tuned myself out. I finally couldn't stand the internal conflict, so I ordered the pattern, and the exact same yarn in the exact same colors (which was quite the splurge for me--it's not crazy pricey but the skeins are small so you'd need a lot for something sizable). I was going to wait until the weather cooled, but I was extremely impatient (as in I lasted about a day).

The start of the pattern is a bunch of granny clusters. I did start to lose my mind with the monotony, but the prettiness of the yarn made up for it. When you get to the colors things move really fast--even with the counting and checking to make sure I wasn't skipping too much or too little. Each row is different, so it makes this section really stand out from the rest of the shawl. My edges were a little rough as I think I pulled tighter on some than others, but a lot comes out in blocking. I've never blocked anything before and am now kind of amazed at how well it works.

I was pretty sure I was going to run out of yarn for the last few rows and I was not ordering more, so I used some of the colors on the edging instead. I like how this came out. And I'm still amazed at how those points came out so sharp just from pinning this thing to the carpet until it dried.

I don't remember if the pattern called for it, but I finished off my long edge with some stitches in white. I feel like this maybe pulled a little oddly where the stripes are, but I had woven in all those edges and what's done was done. But have I mentioned blocking? It even helped with that.

I loved making this oh so very much. I missed working on it when it was finished. Wouldn't this be pretty as a blanket? This is essentially just half a square, so if you kept working this as a granny square you'd have something pretty dang pretty. If I come into a small fortune I might splurge on the yarn to make it (or if I marry money, or if someone gives me a generous gift, or if a few boxes fall off the back of a yarn truck--I don't care, I just love the yarn).

Our oddly cool summer weather has suddenly turned quite hot, so now I'm worried about summer lasting much longer than it's supposed to and delaying me wrapping myself in this puppy without sweating all over it.

I kind of want to leave this laying around casually, so I can say something like "Oh, let me just grab my shawl and I'll be ready" but it'll sound really awesome and hip and not old and stodgy.

I do wish it was a little bigger, but I suppose I'll just have to make another one. If you check out the links above you'll be able to see what yarn and what colors were used, as well as more info on the pattern if you're interested in making one. I'm truly fighting hard not to make more of these. I'm quite keen at the moment on making myself a sweater. One attempt has already been scrapped after a few tries for something that seems to be coming along a little more swimmingly, and I have a few knit sweater patterns to twirl with as well, so it's not like I need more projects. But get it, right?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pink and White Overnighter

I have a confession to make. I have a fear of gussets. Not every kind of gusset...but the kind where it attaches to a zipper and forms a big loop, and then you attach it to the front/back pieces? I get a little wiggly when faced with those, so I try and do what I can to avoid having to do that (which is why I make my boxy pouches like I do, but that also keeps me from getting that cute curved edge at the top). My main issue is getting the fit just perfect, which, in hindsight of making this bag, is kind of silly on my part as the adjustments (if necessary) are easy.


Anyway, a few weeks ago my sister asked me to make a bag to donate to a fundraiser one of her friends is having. I never turn down those kinds of requests, and she had an idea of what she wanted so it was just narrowing down the options. She had in mind some kind of overnighter/weekender, that wasn't a duffel and wasn't a glorified tote. I came across this link on my bags page on Pinterest, and sent it to her. She loved it. I told her we'd go look at fabrics, and she said "Ummm...I kind of want it exactly like that."

I emailed Vanessa at LBG Studio who made the pinned version of this bag by Gingercake Patterns to ask if she used any interfacings, and found out she used duck and denim, and that's it. After spending a long time trying to decide on a duck without much luck, we went to the bottomweights section, and hit the jackpot as far as colors go. We found all three colors in the same fabric and same weight, which was lighter than duck, so I did add some medium-weight interfacing for a little more stiffness.

I pretty much made the exact same bag, so there is certainly no creativity or originality on my part whatsoever. As the pattern had to be modified to get this look, I did have to do some thinking and adjusting but nothing difficult. Things got a little squidgy when I was putting on the gusset, but not too terrible. I did use some fleece in the handles and they feel nice and sturdy.

The inside is a great cheery yellow. I had one issue with the lining, if you can call it that... I literally had this bag finished and was doing the final press, when things didn't seem right. I couldn't figure out what was going on, and then I realized that the front piece (or back piece) was on upside down. So I had to get acquainted with my seam ripper and fix things up a bit. It didn't take long, and I felt really dumb, but silly mistakes keep you from patting yourself on the back too hard. I did add some interfacing to the lining, but only because the yellow showed through the white and was not looking good. The interfacing removes that effect, but keeps that nice pop of sunshine inside.

And there it is. I love it big time. This is the larger size of the two in the pattern. As I had a little bit of pink left over I made a flat-bottomed zip pouch (tutorial here) with another fun yellow for the lining:

The fabric requirements for this one were pretty dead on, and the instructions were well written. I haven't sewn bags from a pattern for a long time (until recently), and I find that I like not thinking too much sometimes.

And hey--save those ribbons that come tied to everything. I bought a cute little ice pack on clearance at Joann's the other day (mostly out of nostalgia for schoolyard bumps and bruises but also because it'll come in handy around here with nephews and such) and it came with a bright pink ribbon tied around it. My mom bought washcloths or something recently, which also came tied in a ribbon. Those ribbons are excellent for cutting into zipper pulls or reusing as an actual bow. I used to toss those with no thought to reuse, but they came in handy for these zippers as I had nothing on hand that matched just right.

There is only one thing I would change with this pattern. The part that attaches to the zipper is curved (you can see this in the top pic). I would eliminate that and make it a consistent width for the whole length of it. It'd be a little wider at the top but wouldn't affect that cute curve across the top corners. And I do like the handles coming up the sides instead of out of the top seam but that's just personal preference...but one I'd probably try to work into other versions.

I'm thinking of making another one...maybe black and white with some hot pink piping? I'm pretty sure more of these are in my future anyway, as my sister doesn't want to give this one up. 

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pink and White

Is anybody else a little bit...stymied? to how Labor Day is in just over a week? And then we hit the time of the year where time flies faster than any other? It does not seem at all possible. This summer seems to have gone by unusually fast. So fast that days go by before I realize I haven't blogged. In a bit of a paradoxical way, I don't mind the onset of cooler weather (even though it has been cooler than normal this year) as I get to haul out sweaters and jeans and boots and cozy clothes and all that good stuff.

ANYhoodle, I finished a little crochet blankie a few weeks ago. It was quite a long work in progress as my baby blanket mojo waned majorly along the way. I really wanted to make a some-color and white granny squarish blanket with a flower in the center of each. It took a long time to figure out just what I wanted. I ended up using this tutorial for the flower and the first round, and then just crossed my fingers and went for it to give each square a granny border that I could easily join together. Luckily there was just the right amount of stitches to work out nice and even.

I used baby weight yarn for this (the pattern called for worsted, but I wanted something lighter and airier). while the pattern wasn't difficult it wasn't easy. It took a few practice shots to get the flower right, and it wasn't one of those sleep-through-it blocks. I had to check and count each one, so it wasn't the relaxing little project I had envisioned.

To join the squares I used the continuous join as you go method. It was definitely a little strange to get the hang of as something seems so wrong about it, but it all matches up in the end and you have a couple ends to weave in vs. a multitude. The back looks just as soft and pretty as the front as the stitches have a slightly different look to them.

The pink is such a soft color that I used the same for joining the squares so it wouldn't end up so very white. I like the balance between the two much more this way.

I did a very simple, very basic shell stitch border to soften the squareness of it all. So easy to do, but it adds such a feminine touch without being too much.

The size and light weight of the yarn makes this a lovely blanket for a baby--it's a bit airy, and not too thick or heavy, but would still be warm and cozy. As I don't have anyone to give this to at the moment I've decided to sell it in case you have someone to give it to. Here's the shop link if you're interested.

I've been pretty productive this week. I've finished the bag I was working on (and if you follow me on FB--link at the top of the sidebar--you'll know I may have sewn things together upside down and had to redo them) but I can't wait to share that one with you. Just needs a press and it's portrait taken.

I'm taking tomorrow off from work to treat myself to a sewing day. I'm very looking forward to it. Have a happy Friday!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wristlet: Nailed It

'Allo! I've spent some quality time with Harriet (my sewing machine) this week. When I find myself not very motivated to sew (but have projects 'due') I find that two things help: first, I just start. Half of my problem is usually getting going, so once I do that it's easy to keep going (I don't like leaving things unfinished). Second, I work in small bits instead of marathon sewing. Small, reasonable goals are much more achievable towards the same end as an unrealistic night or two of super late night sewing.

Last year, I posted about my troubles with making a cute, workable wristlet for a friend's daughter. She beat the crap out of that thing all year long (which I love to hear--it means it got used :) However, as I had never made the pattern before I didn't realize how thin it was, which limited how much could be carried. As such, if it's just holding a few cards or bills it's fine, but anything more and the zipper pops. This year, though, I had my own new wristlet I had just made to base a new one on. It's what I was hoping to end up with last year, but had no clue how to go about it. I did some drawing and some math, and delivered this one today.

I used the same exact fabric (as I just couldn't find the right kind of elephant fabric), and I think it really has a Vera Bradley-ish look to it. I quilted with simple straight lines in one direction that you can barely see. And let me just tell you that I have no idea what is up with that fabric--it looks faded, but the colors are really rich and vibrant in actuality.

Figuring out that teeny flush zipper was not fun. The process was the same as usual, but I had to be really mindful of the side edges (and I'm not used to doing that as I usually insert these into larger bags with plenty of room). I confused myself a few times and thought I really messed it up, but it is the perfect size for holding a standard-sized card, which is what I was shooting for, so yay! Seriously, what is with that fabric looking so faded? It's really not. Swearsies.

Normally I would have gone with bronze hardware to match the fabric, but I didn't have matching anything. Good thing silver seems to go with everything. I have no idea why but I have oodles of these clips that I don't remember buying, and looking at this picture makes me think of a leash, so maybe I'll make some of those....

I put two card pockets on the inside (my expired library card that I still have for some reason is getting quite the workout as a model). This leaves a nice chunk of room for a phone, cash, some lip gloss, and phone numbers of cute boys, harharhar.

This ended up as such a good size, and I used a bit more interfacing than I did on mine so it feels more structured. I was giddy with joy when I found some woven black interfacing I don't remember buying, and I had some black fusible fleece as well. I don't know if that makes a difference on such a small thing, but I felt I had to use them or else all that glee would go to waste. It's actually a little smaller than mine, but has more depth. I don't know how I manage to use the same measurements for two things and they end up different, but that could be the story of my creative life. Which is good, I guess--it guarantees that no two things are alike as I'm clearly incapable of making them so (but in a good way).

I've got an overnight bag that's half-finished sitting on my sewing table that needs a lining inserted, so I'm hoping I'll have that to share soon. I've got bathroom curtains to make, my quilt to work on, and yarn for two sweaters on the way (whaaatt??? I know, I'm going to try to make clothes! Clothes that aren't pajamas!!). I certainly never lack for things to do. For that I am thankful.

See you soon, lovelies!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What's This Decision: Blocks 21-24

Sooooo I kind of just realized that I haven't finished posting my finished wacky quilt blocks. I've hardly been at my sewing machine this summer at all, except for a request here or there. Something about the lack of portability of a heavy sewing machine onto one's porch probably has something to do with it, as well as the discomfort of a steaming hot iron on hot days. I've finished some crocheted bits which I'll show you soon--that and finishing my paper-piecing project has taken up much of my time. Anyhoodle, here are the next four blocks. I don't even know if I remember what I was thinking as I put these together.

The quintessential after school snack--milk and cookies at the kitchen table. I used to love those moments when we would all come home from school to our waiting mother, to have a quick snack and then start homework. It's still my favorite time of day, that late afternoon four o'clockish time.

Ermm....I don't really need to explain this one...

This one is a basket of strawberries with a pretty gingham cloth to keep the bees off during your walk home from berry pickin'.

Cherry pie :) Even though the pink says cupcake. I guess they could be cherry cupcakes. I love the look of delight on the woman's face. That's how I'd feel if someone gave me a cupcake right now.

Hmmm. I guess I do remember what I was thinking...

I've got a few more blocks, and a few crocheted projects, and hopefully by the end of the weekend a few bags, to share. So why do I feel like I haven't done anything? Ta for now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spicy Shelf Giveaway Winner

Hi all! Just a quick pop-in to announce the winner of the Spicy Shelf. We had a whopping sixteen entries :) but I popped them in the random number generator just the same, and that winning number is:

And that would be Margaret, who said:

Congratulations! I'm off to email you now, Margaret, so we can get your prize to you.


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