Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Granny Square Ta-dah!!!

It's done it's done it's done! While I really enjoyed working on this blanket I couldn't wait for it to be done, either. I think for the last quarter or so I was finally tired of the colors and weaving in all those ends. I could do the math for you on how many ends, but let's just say it was somewhere between a million and a gazillion. In the grand scheme of afghan making this really didn't take too long to make. It could probably be a bit larger, but I honestly didn't have it in me to go beyond this. It's just the right size for a curl up on the couch afghan, which is what I was aiming for anyway.

I swear he waited for me to lay this down and then decided to stare out the front door. I was going for a random placement of colors, but if you really study it you can see that there was a slight bit of planning involved, just to make sure I had an even spread. I used a G hook, for some reason. I just grabbed it and started hooking without even thinking that a larger hook would probably serve me better. This was quite a stiff blanket, but out of the dryer it is deliciously soft and cuddly, though quite heavy.

I was going for ugly '70s, but toned down so that it would be something I wouldn't get tired of seeing. The white makes it look so much more muted patchwork than garish reproduction. It also has a bit of a fall vibe to it, which was unintentional, but I suppose slightly intentional as what could I expect it to be when I chose such autumn colors?

I joined the blocks as I went along, which leaves you with a finished blanket instead of a pile of squares, but robs you of the opportunity to take pretty pictures of piles and piles of granny squares (though, as these are all edged in white, it wouldn't have been quite so pleasing to look at). Weaving in the ends as I went was the best decision, and I highly recommend it (pats self on back). There is nothing worse than that feeling when you're so close to being finished but are faced with the monumental task of hiding those annoying bits.

I did a very narrow (2 rounds) border for 2 reasons--I didn't feel like getting more yarn for a color border (I ended up having just the right amount), and I thought it looked pretty with just the white around it. But mostly because I didn't feel like getting more yarn.

I do have a slight ruffle to it, but I think I know why (it's the same reason it's slightly wider towards the bottom). Instead of buying all my yarn at once like everyone who ever lived tells you to do, I bought it piecemeal, for some reason. I didn't look at dye lots or batch numbers or anything, and I should have. One of my mustard skeins had a thicker feel to it, and my last 2 of the white did as well. This threw off the whole thing a little bit, making sections a touch wider. But every little bit adds up. Lesson for next time. It's only noticeable when it's laid out perfectly flat, and who does that anyway? Most of our blankets are usually found like this:

Rarely like this:

There is a LOT of yarn in this thing. I don't remember if I used two or three skeins of each color, and I think I used maybe 4 of the white. The colors were Vanna's Choice Mustard, Terra Cotta, Olive, and Chocolate, and for the white I used Red Heart's Aran.

If you were to attempt such an endeavor here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Don't use a small hook. I used a G, but probably should have gone with an I, especially for something with so many stitches squished together.
  • Try and get your yarn all at once--this way everything has the same texture and color (I wasn't so concerned about color as my design was spread out.
  • If you're going for a large blanket you might want to consider a sport/baby/DK weight yarn. That wee difference in weight will add up.
  • Weave in ends as you go. 
  • Joining as you go lets you see your blanket grow, which is quite satisfying, but may require some planning to give you the look that you want. If you have a pile of squares to work with you have the luxury of creating your layout at the end. 
  • If you do join as you go, do it from the same edge with the same side facing up. Slight variations are created if you don't do this which aren't a big deal if you're not anal retentive, but might bug you if you are.

Now I must go and sew. I have been so consumed with this that my poor Lola probably feels neglected.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Whi-yi-yi-yi, Saaaan-dy....

It's certainly a good day to curl up and watch Grease or finish a book or get some stitching done. Here in Philadelphia we're dealing with quite the storm, as is much of the east coast right now. They started talking about Hurricane Sandy at the end of last week, and I was skeptical until my boss called me yesterday and told me not to come in today. And then called again this morning to say don't come in tomorrow, either. That's unprecedented for my workplace. I'm giddy like a kid on a snow day. What to do? Should I clean something? Sew up an order? Organize my stash? Pshh...no way. That's for ordinary days when there isn't buckets of rain and increasing winds.

I finished my granny square afghan last night--it's now tumbling around in the dryer getting ready to meet my camera. I've got a book I'm this close to finishing (holds up fingers a wee bit apart) so I'm going to get some tea and do that. And then I think I well get my put-aside-for-now hexie project and make some progress on it. I know I'll be sorry and wish I had done something with my sewing machine when the power goes out (fingers crossed that doesn't happen), but a two-day break from work is a time to do things that get set aside for a rainy day. Plus the cutting and ironing seems so much like work that I just don't have it in me to do it today.

I know I've been lax on blogging lately--it's just that life has gotten in the way and the only things that have been going on lately are those urrrrggghhhh moments no one wants to read about. I haven't stitched much except for a few little things for the shop (but the light is so poor I won't even try for photos today). OH! I've been updating my shop with fun Christmas stockings and other goodies. I've got more to come, but yeah....the gloomy lighting. Blech.

So I'm off to curl up and read and wait for who-knows-what to happen. If you're in Sandy's path, stay safe and dry. And if you're not, take pity on the rest of us, will ya?

Later taters!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Three Dogs and a Baby

As mentioned here, we headed off to a wedding this weekend. Would you believe the only picture I took was of a stained glass window in the church? There is no evidence I wore heels, red lipstick, or a dress. You'll just have to trust that I did. My dad is like a giddy tourist with his camera, and he didn't even take any shots. It must be the travel lag (what you get from a looong car ride) as we had to drive out to Pittsburgh for this one. I have a few cuties of the Chuckster that I thought I'd share. They're all phone pics so the quality isn't wonderful.

This is his favorite thing to do. Just sit and stare out the front door. Sometimes he gets loud and yippy so you have to tell him he'll lose privileges if he doesn't stop. He usually doesn't, and then you shut the door and he gives you cute sad puppy eyes. But because he's so loud that you almost burn your hand with the iron when he makes you jump you don't open the door again for a while.

For a lunatic traveler who hates the car he sure was eager to get moving. During the journey my uncle would text my dad, who would hand the phone to my sister to type his response as he was driving. There was a small flurry of texts at one points, prompting my uncle to ask "Is Charlie driving?" We responded with this picture.

I knew we were going to have some down time, and long car rides really do me in, so Friday night after scoring some eats at "Wings, Suds and Spuds" (yes, it's a real place--and mmmmm-mmmmm good!) I curled up on the bed in the hotel with my granny square afghan-in-progress. I got a few squares added over the weekend, and a few more when we got home. I'm now up to eighty squares, ends all tucked in nice and neat. Twenty more and a border and she'll be done! A certain someone loves to ignore me unless I'm laying a quilt out on the floor, or working on a blanket. Then he loves to plop right on top. I won't name names. He knows who he is.

Someone stayed with his other grandma over the weekend as we were away, so I'm suffering some serious baby withdrawal. Seriously? How could I not?

Must go watch American Horror Story: Asylum. I'm completely hooked. Later, taters!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Get a Clue

I don't want anyone to get too excited and back-flip out of their chair or anything. No need for injuries, folks. However, a hearty chair dance would be more than acceptable. And a normal response would be a quiet little murmuring of "Oh, how 'bout that." That's sewing normal. Regular normal is "Who cares? You're a geek."

Whatever. I just noticed that this was coming out next month.

And there's a panel that goes along with it.

I've read every single one of these. Multiple times. I got annoyed when they changed the covers from those glorious matte covers to the practically neon yellow plasticy feeling covers. I probably wouldn't have minded if it didn't mean that my collection had mismatched covers. Things like that annoy anal retentive people.

Here's the geekiest thing you will learn about me (I think). I first read Nancy Drew when I was in fourth grade. I immediately decided that I too would be a girl detective. My friends weren't readers, so I had a hard time convincing anyone to be my Bess and George sidekicks. I was going to have to go solo. My approach was this: I would walk up to people and say something like "Hey. I'm a detective now, so if you have any mysteries you want solved just let me know." My first case was to find out if Skyler liked Lisa, because she really liked him. Here's how I solved it. I walked up to Skyler and said "Hey. Do you like Lisa?" He said "Who's that?" I pointed her out--she was the one standing there like Captain Obvious practically drooling into her fruit cup while gazing at him with gooey eyes. He said "No, she's too loud. I don't like loud girls." I said OK, and reported my findings: "He doesn't like you. You're too loud." She said "Do I have to pay you for that?" I told her she was my first official case so it was free. You probably don't need me to tell you that she was my only case. I now confine myself to solving cases with the NCIS team from the comfort of my couch.

Any upcoming fabric lines you're excited for?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Comb Over

We're off to a wedding today, an event for which I will be donning a dress and heels. Heels!!! They're not even real heels, they're wedges, but I had to practice walking in them just the same because I don't do shoes that aren't flattish. I've got a shiny red minaudiere clutch, the perfect red lipstick, and back-up shoes so I can dance without breaking bones. I'm sure there will be pictures. If I don't look demented and weird I'll even show you :)

I've told you before that sister Alicia dabbles in beads and baubles and delicate little creations. My aunt (the mother of the bride) asked her to make her a comb for her hair. When I heard this I immediately had a flashback to those big plastic combs from the '80s that always seemed to come free with your ponytail holders but that no one ever wore, and if they did wear them you immediately classified them as a librarian. I don't know what I was thinking. This is Alicia, after all, who can smell tacky a mile away (at least I think that's why she wrinkles her nose at certain things. Like the jacket I bought at Target in a print I love but was questioning, but knew for sure should be exchanged the second she walked in the door and saw it. No words necessary. Just the 'look').

Anyway, she bought a bunch of stuff, and fiddled around with everything for a few evenings. She's very meticulous and likes things to be just so, so she made dang sure this fit her vision before she assembled everything for keeps. So here's the little beauty she made--

Each thing is an individual piece. Every time I walked by the arrangement I felt like I should tiptoe so as not to disturb it. It's got a vintage look to it that makes me think of the movie Titanic.

The comb itself is delicate so it buries in your hair and displays the embellishments without screaming "I'm a comb! I'm a comb!" No one wants that.

Doesn't she have pretty hair? She sent me these pics from her phone and shipped it off to our aunt right away. I can't wait to see it in action! It always makes me nervous, seeing something I made being used by the person I made it for. I wonder if Alicia thinks the same about this.

Ta for now! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


When your sister calls and says "Do you want to go to this paranormal investigation thing at Fort Mifflin on Friday?" you should say "Sure, why not?" Because you might not find evidence of ghosts, but you'll have fun and come away with a few chuckles under your belt.

So off we went (it was Rachel and me - Alicia had zero interest in this particular outing). Having never seen the fort during the day it's a little disconcerting  being there. It's not very large but only seeing it at night kind of throws you as to where everything is.

First we looked at a bunch of pictures, and listened to a bunch of stories of things that people have experienced. Full body apparitions, blood-curdling screams, voices caught on recorders, stuff like that. We came completely unprepared except for a camera. We were told that any orbs caught on a regular point and shoot were most likely reflections from the flash due its location on the camera. Curses. I thought I had something.

We then divided into two groups for a watered-down version of the candlelight tour we took a couple years ago. We went with the tour guide we didn't have last time. Apparently there's not much turnover at ye olde fort.

He was kind of funny. He started off by saying "Look, I don't believe in ghosts." Every time he related a tale he would end it with "But I don't believe in ghosts, so who knows what I saw?" It was a pretty chilly, breezy night, and the fort is right on the river so were a wee bit cold. Thank goodness they had a break time--we sipped on hot chocolate and warmed our rears for the "investigation" part.

We then divided into our "teams." There were five sites to investigate, so we rotated through them all, spending a half hour in each. Our team had a girl on it who was pretty hard-core. She had a case with all her gear, and took everything quite seriously. The rest of us were kind of just there, waiting for I don't know what as proof of existence of something. She got a bit dramatic at times, and when I related the story the consensus was that she had to be some kind of plant. Or it could just be our luck to get the weirdo on our team.

We got through the first three sites just fine, but by the time we got to the last two we were done. I just wanted to get off my feet. In the last room I went to stretch my back and made a squeaky creaky noise it felt so good. This one kid says "Did anyone else hear that?" I had to inform him it was simply the sound of getting old. I told whatever spirit was in the room that I wouldn't mind if she wanted to make me some tea. She didn't.

 And then we were done. Five hours out in the damp cold. Sore feet. No ghosties. At least none that we know of (maybe I'll scout eBay for a recorder if we ever do this again). But it was fun. A perfect October night sort of activity. But at the same time one that very much makes you appreciate your bed.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Treat Sacks - A Bullet Point Tutorial

We don't get a ton of trick-or-treaters anymore. We get so few, as a matter of fact, that it's almost not worth it to even turn on the porch light anymore. We do have a few kids on the block, though, that my mom always gives a little something extra to. I was in a very Halloweeny mood this afternoon, so I whipped up a couple candy-corn inspired sacks for her to fill and give.

I say "whipped up" like I didn't spend the first hour trying to be all clever and fancy with something that ended up in the trash, ultimately. You see, I was going to make these with french seams and no lining (but no raw edges either). But when I got to the drawstring part I kind of got all "$%^#&# this!" and started over. I ended up using the method I used in this tutorial here (but without a flat bottom, and with one drawstring instead of 2). Now these I can say I whipped up without it being a lie.

If you want to make a few I wrote down the measurements and some simple directions for you below--it would be helpful to read through this tutorial for the basics and pictures (I didn't take any for this one because sometimes I'm just dumb :) I used one fat quarter each of yellow and orange, and two of white. I also used about  18 inches of piping cord each for my drawstring (but you could use ribbon or bias tape, too).
  • Cut 2 six-inch by three-inch strips of each color. Sew them together (as in the picture above) using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Press seams open.
  • On one of the outside pieces, mark two dots near one of the top side edges--one will be a half-inch from the top, and the second will be three-quarters of an inch below that. That's for the drawstring hole.
  • Put the 2 outsides right sides together. Sew the bottom and side seams using a 1/4 inch seam allowance--make sure you don't sew between the dots you made or the drawstring won't be able to escape.
  • For your lining cut 2 pieces that are six-inches by 7 1/2 inches. Sew the bottom and side seams. This time I left a 3-inch gap in the lining for turning (instead of along the top edge as you'll see in the tutorial).
  • Put the outside into the lining, right sides together. Pin around the top edge and sew all the way around.
  • Reach through the gap in the lining and turn everything right side out. Sew the gap in the lining shut, tucking the raw edges inside.
  • Tuck the lining down inside the bag. Neaten it up around the top edge, and stitch a row of top-stitching about 1/8 inch from the top edge.
  • Make another row of top-stitching about one inch from the top edge.
  • Feed your drawstring through the hole, all the way around and back out. Knot the ends together.
  • Stuff with your favorite kiddos' favorite treats!
These would look cute in prints for a patchwork effect, or in completely different fabrics for some simple striped bags. They would also make super-cute treat sacks for Christmas. If you make some add them to the Flickr group (link in the sidebar) so we can all have a look-see!

And if you have some candy corn colored scraps left, don't forget--you can always stitch up a few softies!

Happy sewing!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


One of my favorite shows is The Big Bang Theory. When TBS is showing eighty-seven episodes in a row I'm all "Yessssssssss!" about it (while my brother would bemoan this and wail "Whyyyyyy?" if he were to be in my presence). Anyhoo, I don't know if you've ever noticed but they have a Rubik's Cube tissue box cover on the end table next to Sheldon's spot. I wanted to make one, and put Google to work to find me some assistance. There are oodles of listings if you want to buy one, but very few if you want to make it yourself. But I found this tutorial at Polish the Stars, gathered my stuff, and set to.

I have been excellent about destashing lately, and didn't want to buy a huge honking amount of yarn in various colors to have most of it left over. In my local craft store, right next to the plastic canvas, they have little 20-yard paper spools of yarn. I bought one of each color, and 2 of the black and had plenty for this. I measured the plastic canvas sizes to see which one I needed, and bought some needles (though yarn needles would have worked fine too).

I ended up using much more red than I should have--it was spun oddly so some parts were thin and others thick, so I wasted a lot looking for even lengths of yarn. Plastic canvas comes in different mesh sizes (like cross-stitch fabric)--I have never used plastic canvas for anything other than to give a firm base to my handbags, so this was a new sort of adventure. I bought one sheet of this size, and it was perfect.

After a few false starts I finally had my rhythm down and this stitched up pretty quickly. I can see why senior citizens like to make things out of this stuff--the holes are large, the needles aren't tiny little things, and projects come together quickly. This took me a few after-work evenings to complete, plopped in front of the TV watching the inspiration show.

I actually used a Rubik's Cube for the placement of the colors so that it would 'work.' In an insanely anal-retentive way it would have bugged me if I had sewn these squares in an order that was not a solvable puzzle. Not that I can even solve these things--I get one row to match and fancy myself a genius. 

I like the sharp contrast the colors have with the black. This was pretty fun to make--I don't know of anything else I could make that wouldn't have that "granny" look to it. though, so this is probably it for my plastic canvas adventures for a while.

My brother even liked it. His exact words were "Is that a Rubik's thing? That's bad ass!" Those words will never be in such close proximity ever again, I'm willing to wager. Oftentimes I want to make something for the sake of making it, but I don't necessarily feel the need to own it, so I gave this to my brother-in-law figuring he could use it in his classroom (plus I rarely make him anything--I think I knitted him a scarf once and that's about it). He got a big kick out of it.

What are some of the quirky things you've made?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Patchwork Totebag Tutorial

Ahoy ahoy! Ready to sew yourself a cute patchwork totebag? You can use scraps, yardage, fat quarters, whatever you've got that you want to use. I finally found one of the Denyse Schmitt fat quarter sets at Joann's,. My coupon made it a sweet price, indeed.

To make this bag as I did you'll need four fat quarters, a half yard for the lining (more if it's a directional fabric), a half yard of fusible fleece, and a piece of plastic canvas to make a rigid bottom (optional). Throw in basic sewing stuff and something to mark with and you're all set. A few rules of thumb: backstitch at the beginning and end of every seam, and we'll be using a quarter inch seam allowance, unless I indicate otherwise (which I will, towards the end).

We're going to prep the lining first--we'll be fusing our fleece to that and the adhesive needs to cool to set properly. Sorry, I was in the zone and forgot to take pictures of this part. Fold your lining fabric from selvage to selvage. Cut two three-inch strips from fold to selvages, and then trim those so they're 25 1/4 inches long. From the rest of the lining fabric you'll need to cut 2 pieces that are 11 3/4 by 12 1/4 inches, and 3 pieces that are 4 3/4 by 12 1/4 inches. Cut the same out of your fusible fleece. Fuse everything according to the directions that come with the fleece. Set those aside to cool.

From your fabric you're using for the outside you'll need to cut the following:

From the fabrics that will make up the front and back panels, cut 2 of each fabric measuring 12 1/4 by 4 1//4 inches. From the fabrics that will make the sides and bottom cut a total of 3 pieces measuring 12 1/4 by 4 3/4 inches. For the pieces that will be the strap cut 2 each of 3 fabrics measuring 8 3/4 by 3 inches.

Take your front panel pieces, and sew the long edges together, right sides facing, with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Do the same for the back. Press those seams open.

This next step is very important if you want to make sure the bottom goes in nice and neat. You'll need to make a mark 1/4 inch in from each of the corners that will be at the bottom of the bag.

Take a side piece and one of your patchwork panels, right sides together. Line up the dots, and pin the pieces together. Sew using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, stopping at the dot. Do not sew that wee bit from the dot to the edge. Do the same for the other side piece and patchwork panel, minding the dots. Now take those two pieces (consisting of a side piece and a panel) and sew them together, lining up the dots and all that jazz. You should now basically have a large patchwork tube with tiny unsewn bits at the bottom corners. Press the seams open.

Ready for the next step? Make sure your tube is inside out and get your bottom piece ready. I like to do one side at a time--you could certainly do this in one shot, but I find I can line things up better by doing it as 4 separate seams. To each his own, so do what feels best to you. OK, we're doing the longer sides first. Pin from edge to edge--you'll be flattening that seam a little bit and pushing the side panel out of the way. Pin well. It helps.

Sew from dot to dot. Take your time at the corners and try to keep the side panel out of the way. Repeat for the other long side of the bag bottom. Now you'll do the same for the short sides, except you'll be moving the front/back panels out of the way as you sew the side piece to the bottom. When you're finished your corners should look like this:

Turn it right side out and check your handiwork. If you're not satisfied, pick those seams out and give it another go. You want it to look something like this (minus the stray threads that I just noticed):

Give the bottom seams a press to make it all look tidy. Now we're going to do the lining. Take your front and back panels, and your side and bottom pieces. Make your dots 1/4 inch in from each corner along the bottom, just as before. Sew your side pieces to the front/back panels, stopping at the dots. Sew it all together so you have a large tube, just as before. Press the seams open. Insert the bottom as you did for the outside, sewing all the way around. The fleece can make this part a little more fiddly to work with but good news--if these corners aren't perfect they're tucked down inside the bottom of the bag where no one will see them. You should have a nice sturdy-looking lining when you're finished.

Now for the straps. Take your pieces that you cut for the straps, and sew the short ends together, pressing the seams open. You should have two long strips now.

Place those, right sides together, against your lining strips, and sew the long sides together. You should have two loooooong tubes.

Turn those inside out. You might be thinking "Oooo Bethany, you big jerk, making me turn a skinny tube." But I assure you it's not that bad. Once you've got them right side out give them a nice press, and topstitch at whatever point you like (I did 1/4 inch in, just because).

Take your exterior bag, right side out. Pin your straps, lining up, centering the ends on the end pieces of your front and back panels. Make sure they're not twisted.

I placed mine so that the strap would contrast with the bag when I was finished.

Stitch these down 1/4 inch from the edge. I always go over the straps a few times, for peace of mind.

We're almost there. Place your lining and your exterior together, one inside the other, right sides facing. Pin all around the top. We are going to leave a gap between the stripes on one of the panels.

Sew around the top, minding the gap, using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. Reach inside and turn the bag right side out, shoving the lining down inside the bag.

If you're inserting the plastic for a rigid bottom, cut a piece that is approximately 11 1/4 inches by 4 inches (check to make sure it's not too large). Make sure the edges of the plastic are smooth. I also like to round the corners slightly so they're not as pointy. Put this through the gap we left in the top, and place it in the bottom between the outside and the lining. When I first made this bag I was concerned that the corners would poke through in no time, but after four years of heavy use they haven't.

Neaten everything up at the top of the bag, pinning everything in place. Fold in the raw edges of the gap, and give those a little press in addition to pinning. Now we'll topstitch it all in place. I did my first line at 1/8 inch in from the edge, which is about the closest I can get that doesn't stress me out.

I added a second line of stitching 3/8 from the edge (so 1/4 inch from the first line). When I leave a gap at the top of a bag instead of at the bottom I like to add an extra row of top-stitching for an extra little bit of security. Give it a final press. Then strut around with it, just because.

Inserting a bottom like this isn't something I do often. I usually use the triangle method to make a flat bottom. But this method works really well when you want a contrasting bottom in your bag. It also works well if you want to make something like these milk crate covers where the inset piece is pretty large. I've tried to not mark the dots and leave that wee gap, and I always end up with pleated corners that don't all look the same, so those dots are very key to a neat inset bottom.

As ever, if you find something I goofed or have any questions, please let me know. As with all my tutorials, feel free to sell the finished product (though I would appreciate a touch of credit and a link-back if you blog about it). Happy sewing!


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