Monday, September 30, 2013

Sing Soft Kitty to Me

I feel like it has been forever and a day since I've been behind my sewing machine. It's really only been about a week, but it was a hectic week that seemed much longer. I was able to steal a few moments over the weekend to put together an order I've had on tap for a while. It was the perfect project for when you need a bit of stress relief--it was easy and came together quickly, and ended up being very cute. Plus I was given the pattern and fabric, so I barely had to do anything but press the pedal and go.

This was a free project from Better Homes and Gardens. It just has to be enlarged and you're good to go. This thing was quite the curvy project (especially those ears!), but I took my time and clipped my curves and everything was fine. You sew and stuff the tail before everything else, so it kept getting in the way but I was very careful not to overstuff so I could move it out of the way without trouble.

I tacked the tail down in a few spots to hold it in place. I also found the perfect piece of ribbon to tie around its neck--

It reads 'Life is beautiful' and has wee little birdies on it, which is a very cat-like sentiment, dontcha think? I really like the shape of the finished product--especially the little tilt to the cat's head (though the butt doesn't look like it would be that big from the front)--

It has a decidedly country look about it, and would look cute on a sofa or on a shelf. I have a tendency to make things look like other things than what they are when it comes to stuffing them, but this one kept its shape nicely. The only fiddly part is the gusset that goes across the bottom. They provided no directions on how to do it, so I sewed the cat part, then inserted the gusset like I would a bag bottom. It was way long, and took a few trims to get it to sit right, but once the measurement was right it went in just fine.

Now this is my kind of cat. The kind you can't be allergic to. Which is why I'm a dog person in the first place. So that's one more thing off my list. My next project is also cat-oriented (but the fabric, not the project itself). I'm hoping to finish that one up this week, too. See you kids later! Like in October. Because that's tomorrow, believe it or not. I, for one, do not.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Few for Friday - #39

Wow, I can't believe I haven't posted anything all week. Granted, things have been hectic and busy, and I didn't feel like anyone would want to read about dusting and vacuuming, or that I organized my books or anything humdrum like that. I haven't done any sewing, and I haven't really felt motivated to. I'm at the trough of a crafty wave, and just need to find that perfect project to get back into the swing of things. Throw in a killer migraine at the beginning of the week and that should suffice as my excuse note. Not that you really need one for a blog.

Anyway, this week was pretty whirlwind so I didn't have much time to stop and smell the roses so I only have two pictures to share with you. Hopefully that will change soon as the weather is turning, and I'll feel obligated to show you pictures of leaves changing colors as though you've never seen those before.

Moon in the morning. I know when you see the moon in the afternoon it's about the time in its cycle it's going to be a full moon, so I guess when you see it in the AM it's the new moon and you won't see it at night? I forget the technical term for that...
You may look at this pic and think this is an odd sort of color arrangement for a blanket for an eleven year old boy. But it's one of those gestalt theory sort of projects where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It's all going to come down to the arrangement, and since I don't have a full row yet it won't make sense yet. I'm excited about this one so I hope it turns out well.
So that's that for now. I've got a few projects I'm hoping to get cracking on soon, but life has gotten a little bit busy lately so who knows... Posts might be a wee bit sparse until I get my rear in gear, but I'm not going anywhere so stick around, will ya?
Have a great weekend, everybody!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Goodies for Sale!

Hi, gang! How has your weekend been? Mine was lovely. I took off work on Friday, and finished up several things that now feel like a load off. Even when you have a simple to-do list doesn't it feel great when it's done? Did some thrifting with sister Rachel yesterday, and some sewing and pattern tweaking with Alicia today, so I feel very accomplished even though I didn't really do anything else. But I DID get my shop updated, which feels good, so this is just a quick post to show you a few things I popped in there in case you're interested.

First up, some fall table runners. All machine quilted and hand bound whole-cloth runners in adorable fall fabrics. These are the only three I'll have so if you want one snag it now!

I also stitched up some felt leaf garlands. These drape beautifully and are in lovely bright fall colors. I've got two sets available.

I've also got a few sets of crocheted scrubbies back in stock. These are nice and sturdy and make cute gifts.

If you're looking for bag bits, I've got a few pairs of acrylic handles up for sale. One is this set I bought in NYC and has been in my stash ever since. I adore the color and the marbling, but I haven't yet found the perfect project for them so I'm offering them to a good home :)

I've also put up some trims I've got that might be perfect for a project you're working on that needs just the right touch.

And finally some handmade bias tape in colors perfect for Christmas quilting. I've got two of my favorites that I may have gotten out of hand with when I was making them, and created more than I could use in a lifetime, so now you can snag some to add just the right touch.

If you're interested, simply click on 'My Shop' at the top of this page and it'll take you straight to my Artfire shop (or click here). I've got everything categorized so you don't have to click through all the pages of items--just check out the right sidebar on the shop page.

And now I must trot. Have a lovely week!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Few for Friday - #38

Um, so, fall starts on Monday. What the hell? That one really snuck up. Not that I'm minding. I'm loving the cooler temps, the getting dark early, the knowledge that social acceptance of fall decor is right around the corner. But still. That means Christmas is in about three months. That's crazytown. I have very few pictures to share this week as I forgot my camera when we went to my brother's on Sunday and my cell phone pictures usually turn out hideous so I didn't even bother.

I don't know what's going on in this picture but it's way blurry. Obviously this is a pile of yarn. This is going to be turned into an afghan for Z. I'm hoping to have it done if not by Christmas then by his birthday in February. It's been so long since I made him one I'm very excited about it.

How's that for a harvest moon? The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. I know that if you take a picture of the moon it's going to look the same size in the photo no matter how it looks in the sky (camera lenses don't get fooled like our eyes and brains do). Unless you super-zoom. 

So that's all I've got. My sewing was fruitless this week as I was sewing with a damaged zipper and didn't realize it until I was finished. Surprisingly I didn't lose my temper in the least. But it also made me not feel like sewing a single stitch. I took off work tomorrow to finish up a bunch of things that have been sitting idle and need to be done, but I just haven't had the chance. Hopefully getting all that done will lead to more motivation in the sewing department.

Happy Friday, gang!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Giveaway Winner!

I know that fourteen of you have been waiting on the edge of your seats to hear who won a copy of 'The Funeral Dress' by Susan Gregg Gilmore :)

It was a wee giveaway this time, but I plugged the numbers into the cold and impersonal random number generator and it churned out:

Which is Cynthia, who shared:

Congratulations, Cynthia! You are going to love it!! I need for you to pretty please email me (sweetbeebuzzingsATgmailDOTcom) your address so the publisher can send you your book. If any of you would like to read my review to decide if you want to add this one to your wish list click here.

Later, taters!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Paris, Pleats, and Pleather

A few years ago I made myself this bag for fall. I made it out of fabric I got at Walmart, have used it every fall since I made it, and it still looks as good as the day I stitched it (which makes me question the whole cheap fabric/designer fabric quality issue...). It was my favorite handbag I've ever used--perfect size, perfect fit on my arm, easy to get into, and it looks pretty cute. A few weeks ago I went to Fabric Row with my sister and scored a great Paris-scripty print. I didn't know what it would be, but then my my mind tended towards a bag (as it usually does). The other night I had nothing pressing to do, so I made the bag into the same pattern as my favorite fall bag. It's very different from what I usually tend to carry (I'm more of a color-fiend), but I love this bag (and it's good to step out of one's comfort zone).

The print was great for a larger, simple bag, but the pleats give it just the right touch to make it not so plain.

I was flummoxed as to what I would line this with as I don't like sewing with plain black, but one of you suggested a black and cream polka dot print. I crossed my fingers, searched my favorite online shops, and found the perfect dotty print for this. Again, the black keeps it demure and simple but the dots kick it up just a notch.

The outside fabric is a light home dec weight, and the inside is regular quilting cotton (but it feels different, almost silky, so I think it would be a great garment fabric as well). I used a mag snap as a closure and stitched it in so it would stay put:

On the version I made of this a few years ago, I used these inexpensive faux-leather handles I bought at Joann's. They didn't last long, as the weight of the bag (and I don't even carry much) pulled it apart. So I made my own braided handles to match the originals. For this bag, however, I bought some faux-leather handles on eBay. I wanted real leather, but couldn't find anything that seemed long enough or wide enough. I've never used these before so hand-stitching them in was...interesting.... The outside looks nice and swish but the inside isn't the neatest (and as when I looked for tips on how to do this I couldn't find anything that had pics of the interior I'm wondering if it's just a "thing" with handles like these--if any of you have any tips/links on how to get the inside nice and purdy please share in the comments). But it matches enough that I don't care at all. They're on there nice and secure as I made many trips through the holes with tapestry thread.

I could probably figure a way to do this on my machine, and I would most likely invest the time if I was making one of these for someone else. But as I don't mind little design 'features' in things I make for me this will be fine. It's ready to be filled with my junk and toted around town. When I change my bag for a new season I always feel that it should be a sign unto Mother Nature that I'm ready for a new season, so hopefully she takes note of my new handbag and lets the cooler temps stick around.

I'm off to watch a football game at my brother's house! Well, other people may be watching the game while I knit but it'll be on in the background and that's just about all the football I care to "watch." Have a lovely Sunday! OH! The book giveaway ends on Tuesday, so if you'd like to score a lovely read, check out my review and the giveaway details here.

I'll be linking up here:
Saturdays: Show and Tell Saturdays

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Few for Friday - #37

I had a lazy, low-key sort of week. Sometimes you need those, y'know? I crocheted a little bit (my yarn order isn't here yet so I've been making pot scrubbers as my shop is sold out of them), read a lot, and played Candy Crush. I am ten levels away from reaching the end of the mobile version. That's probably a good thing. I play that game entirely too much. I literally have to give my phone to someone and tell them not to let me have it back until I've reached whatever goal I've set for the evening. It works, LOL. Anyway, here are some photos :)

The church down the street held a flea market over the weekend. I scored this box of old glass Christmas baubles and a cricket. The cricket was in the box. I don't know when he jumped out of it but he wasn't there when I emptied the box to clean these up. I should have asked for a partial refund.

 Z started sixth grade this week. Sixth. Grade. Junior high!!!! Ugh. Sixth grade was the worst year of my life (true story) so I found myself projecting that towards him, thinking it was going to be terrible. I was on edge all week waiting to hear all about it from him. He loves it. Phew.

 First project of the year already. His science teacher has a doctoral degree. That class should be interesting.

I also sewed a handbag the other night. It came together much more quickly than I thought, and I love it even though it's not very moi. I'll show you that next. And in case you missed it, I have a giveaway happening over here. Now go and have a careful Friday. It is the 13th, after all.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Funeral Dress: Review and Giveaway

A few weeks ago, Penguin Books got in touch with me and asked if I would like to review the just-released book 'The Funeral Dress' by Susan Gregg Gilmore. After I picked myself up off the floor at the surprise of being contacted for such a thing, I read through the summary and told them quite emphatically "Yes!!!" You may think my first love is sewing (and you'd be justified in that thought), but my very first true love is reading. I can skip sewing for a few days, but I cannot turn off the bedside light without reading a few chapters. Anyhoodle, here is the official publisher's description:

"Emmalee Bullard and her new baby are on their own. Or so she thinks, until Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat by her side at the local shirt factory where both women worked as collar makers, insists Emmalee come and live with her.  Just as Emmalee prepares to escape her hardscrabble life in Red Chert holler, Leona dies tragically.  Grief-stricken, Emmalee decides she’ll make Leona’s burying dress, but there are plenty of people who don't think the unmarried Emmalee should design a dress for a Christian woman - or care for a child on her own. But with every stitch, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town’s funeral director. In a moving tale exploring Southern spirit and camaraderie among working women, a young mother will compel a town to become a community."

I'm not going to keep you in suspense--I loved this book. I often find myself sharing a book with the preface "It's kind of boring for a little while and then it's really good." This book was not like that at all. I was into it from the very first page, and had to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep each night. The characters are realistic, and you can see the verbal picture she paints of the backwoods areas of Tennessee quite clearly.  There were a few parts within where I thought I might actually cry, she writes the scene so vividly.

The characters are written so that you feel as though you know them (and hate the ones you're supposed to hate and love the others). There's Leona, Emmalee's sewing-machine neighbor at the shirt factory, who has that "I'm a nice person but don't let word get out" kind of quality about her, and her husband Curtis who sounds like the nicest man in the world. Their story is both heart-breaking and beautiful. There's Nolan, Emmalee's father, who's a real piece of...that. Every once in a while you feel a bit of hope regarding him, but you feel just as stricken by his actions as Emmalee must have. There are her aunt and uncle, who think Emmalee should give her baby to them, and the other seamstresses who rally around her in support.

This book of course mentions sewing (many of the women take in sewing on the side after sewing for hours upon hours all day--not sure I could do that) but it's almost as though it's a metaphor for the stitches that bind the indomitable spirit of the women together. When Emmalee gets the job as a collar maker, she is told her expected quota will be 150 dozen collars per day. That's 1800 collars. I felt anxious reading that and imagining how hard one must work to achieve that. But that's the thing with these women--they do it because they have to, they don't complain, and they do it year after year after year. It's mind-boggling when you consider how today many people don't like to do anything for longer than eleven minutes (that's the length of time between commercial breaks) because they get bored. There's a lesson in there somewhere....

I liked that this book wasn't crazy predictable. Just when I think things had to get better, here came another left-field zinger to make me say "Are you freakin' kidding me?" or something akin to that. I was sorry when this ended. I truly was. As for the style of the book--the author doesn't write this in a totally linear fashion. She goes back and forth between past and present, effectively telling two stories at the same time, building character after character as she goes. You learn the town's and the people's past and present, all coming together at the end nice and neat (some people don't like that in a story, but I prefer the happy ending).

Sound like something you'd like to read? Hopefully so, because Penguin is graciously giving away a copy of this book to one of you. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me the name of a book you liked--it can be your favorite, the most recent one, fiction or non-fiction, one you hated (that could be interesting), one you've read with your kids, and so on... I'll leave this giveaway open until Tuesday September 17th at 11:59 P.M. ET. I'll draw a random winner and let you know who it is on Wednesday. Good luck!!

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Granny Stripe Afghan: Finito, Benito!

After months and months and months I am FINALLY finished my granny stripe afghan. While I do still love the colors, I am so very very tired of working with them. You may remember that this blanket started out as a tunisian entrelac blanket (a blanket that looks like a whole bunch of interlocking strips), but I had some tension issues so I had to rip it out. I figured out how to make the blocks larger, and had tension issues again, so out that came. Now, I am hard-headed, but I'm not so stubborn that I can't recognize a losing battle so I decided that a new direction was needed. I used Lucy's granny stripe tutorial and stitched away. And now I'm done. It wasn't as just-like-that as I make it sound--this, too, took quite some time. But it's finished, washed, and draped across the back of my sister's couch (the afghan I made her years ago is looking quite....loved :) ....and this new one fits in well with her new color scheme). So--wanna see it?

This blanket isn't huge, but it's a great sofa size. I love the bright colors, and how the tan mutes them a bit. I was so tired of it all, though, that I just did a very narrow border to neaten up the ends a bit and called it a day. Plus I didn't want to add any more weight to this--it's quite the leaden blanket.

The simple granny stripe is one of the easiest stitch patterns you can do--it's all chains and double crochets (treble if you're from the UK). However, it does get a bit boring. There is no change in anything at all to lend any variety to what you're doing.

I made sure to weave in the ends as I went. It really does make the finish so much more enjoyable. There's nothing worse (well, yes there are worse things, but I'm talking strictly crochet here) than putting in those final stitches and realizing you have a gazillion ends to weave. This one doesn't look like it would be terrible, but I had squillions of small balls as I was working from when I had ripped out my previous attempts. Instead of two ends on some stripes there were up to six in several spots.

When I decided that enough was enough and it was time to finish this off, I still had four balls of colored yarn left, but not enough tan, so I exchanged the colors for tan at the store. As per my usual, I overbought that, so I gave the remainder to my aunt as she had fallen in love with the color and I was just feeling done with all of it.

This washed up so snuggly and soft--I used Vanna's Choice (Cheery Cherry, Duckie, Aqua, Fern, and Linen). I've used it for several projects now, and it really is quite a nice yarn. Great range of colors, easy care, not too pricey. I've had my next afghan planned now since about two weeks after I started this one, and I placed my yarn order tonight. This next one is for Zach (it's been a long time since I made him one--I think he was about two), and I can't wait to get started.

Have a happy Monday!

I'll be linking up to these parties:
Saturdays: Show and Tell Saturdays

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Few for Friday - #36

Hellooo!!!! Here we are at the end of another week. How does that happen? Not that I begrudge the weekend, but September is a week old already and that just seems entirely unacceptable (not that I begrudge the coming of cooler weather, either). I was feeling a little off this week, not sick but decidely...womanly...for lack of a better cryptic phrase. I didn't feel like doing much of anything that involved anything other than sitting, so not a whole lot got done. But after last week's marathon sewing to churn out this bag I feel I deserved a break anyway. Here are a few photos so you can see some of what's been up.

Lots of hand-stitching. I tacked the bindings onto three fall table runners (hopefully I'll have them in the shop this weekend if you'd like to snag one). I didn't think it would take me so long to do, but the simple motion of hand stitching was actually quite soothing. Just have three left for Christmas. If you're wondering why I don't machine sew them, it's because I'm still in the practice stages of getting a neat finish, and if I'm going to sell something it must have a neat finish (especially something like this).
Wednesday night sewing with my sister has resumed. This week? We drafted our own skirt pattern, with a little help from an old-school pattern-making book. It looks like an actual pattern, with darts and curves and everything! We're going simple with the design this time, and as soon as it's done I'll do a show-and-tell with the book and the skirt.
This brought literal joy to my heart this week. After MONTHS of enduring the incorrect usage of 'your,' this sign finally reads as it should. Many was the time I felt compelled to pull over and tell the guy to fix his sign, but then it became a game of "I wonder how long it will take for him to realize..." Of course, someone else may have said something. But I don't care--I don't shake my fist and say "Come on!" almost every morning on the way to work anymore.
So there you have it. I'm doing a bit of shopping and sewing this weekend, as well as reading--I'm almost finished with a really good read that I'll tell you all about. Do you have any fun plans?

Happy Friday!

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Mixed Bag of Everything

An odd amount of my sewing tales lately seem to be starting with the phrase "My sister asked me to..." and this one shall be no different. She sent me a link to a backpack/handbag from Victoria's Secret (which, of course, was pretty stinkin' expensive) and asked if I could make anything like that. I never had before so I hemmed and hawed, and she said "I don't need it right now, so you've got time" which is sister-speak for "I really want this so figure it out." I tried to whittle down the elements that gave me heartburn in thinking about figuring them out, but the only thing I could get knocked off the elements checklist was the brown leather tab thingees (but believe me--I tried to find something similar, just because).

"You can figure this out, right?"

This bag was full-on schoolbag size so we knocked a little off the size, and there are a few differences in the sizes of pockets and flaps and such, but for the most part I did pretty well (especially since there were several things I've never done before). This is probably going to be wordy and pic-heavy, but I worked for an entire week straight for hours each night on this and I'm pretty proud of it. So here we go.

Luckily the fabric wasn't a beast to find as chevrons are still all the rage. But we couldn't have plain fabric when the original shimmers, now, can we? So I bought some of that Martha Stewart multi-surface craft paint in Sugarcube and painted my pieces with it to give it a bit of shimmer. I followed the directions to set it, and I'm hopeful she isn't trailed by a shower of glitter wherever she goes, but you never know with glitter.

It's hard to take a pic of shimmer, so this will have to do. But when the light hits it the effect is pretty dazzling. OK--so let's discuss the elements.

It's hard to see and it's a wee line, but darted pockets that aren't smack-dab on a bag but kind of sewn into the seams are a bit of a math-thinker and take some tinkering to get right. I have a terrible skill of mucking up the placement of snaps/velcro on flapped pockets, so I made sure these were just right. The bias tape was a beast around such a tight curve, but it's on there.


This 3-D zipper pocket was the cause of needless worry. I couldn't fathom how this was going to take shape, but I had a cute bag I bought at Target that had just such a pocket that I used as an example. It was a little tight getting it together, but it really worked out. The weirdest thing was sewing it to the bag--you have to smoosh things out of the way to sew it down, but if you smoosh too much you end up with a flat pocket. I went slooooowwwwly and it came together fine.

Those were the parts I worried about and didn't really have to. I was feeling good about the straps and so on, but that is where my worry should have been directed. I completely underestimated the bulk situation. This is a home dec weight fabric that I lost my head on and decided to interface and fleece. Even my super-strong machine balked in a few places and asked for new needles periodically. I ended up sewing bands over the ends of all the straps so they wouldn't end up in the seams, but even that was thick.

The stitching isn't the prettiest I've ever done but it's a concession I had to make to get through those layers. If I made this again (and I'm iffy on that ever happening) bulk reduction would be the number one thing I'd keep in mind. It was the only thing that made this less than pleasurable to sew. I enjoyed the challenge, enjoyed the thinking and planning, but hated getting these straps down. It was the only thing that (literally) almost had me in tears of frustration.

I made the straps so they'd be adjustable, but they're kind of not. In a technical sense they are, but in a length sense--not so much. It was really hard to gauge the length of the straps on myself so they ended up slightly shorter than I had hoped. They're set at a great length now, but the shiny bits are just for show (but that's OK as they look good :)

We went with a fun coral lining. I used a scrap of Medrona Road to line the pocket--it might be my favorite bit, kind of like a little secret.

Normally I would put the grommets just on the exterior of the bag, but this time I put them through all layers so I could get the placement right. I really didn't have it in me to make my own drawstring cord, so I bought some and added a double-cord stop for easy tightening. I love how they work--just a simple squeeze and pull and the bag is cinched, no fuss with tying anything to keep it together.

I did the faux piping method at the top where you pull up just a bit of the lining. I like the pop of color, and it saved me from some crazy bulk while top-stitching.

As I was sewing this together I kept thinking "I hate everything about this!" but that's not entirely true. I hated the parts I didn't think through fully. I had convinced myself that never again would I make one, but I may have to retract that statement. If I hadn't made some parts so bulky the whole thing actually would have been quite enjoyable to sew. I won't be making one of these for quite some time as my brain and my machine are on a bit of overload. This is the longest it has ever taken me to sew something, but it also has the most new-to-me elements in it. Leave it to sisters to ask for the 'impossible,' right?

And if you're wondering if she liked it--she did. She loved it. It makes it quite worth all that time and effort. And now--I am off to hand-stitch the bindings to some table runners. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to simple, soothing handwork.

I'll be linking up to these parties:


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