Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ghost Printed Tea Towels

It's time to  1, 2, 3 Sew! and start learning how to do some of the basics with my wonderful new sewing machine.  

The very first project in the book is a tea towel project to learn how to make a basic hem and folded corners.  The project suggests making fruit stamped towels, but I don't really USE tea towels so what on earth would I do with them?  Since I was in the process of planning Lucky's second birthday party I realized that I could do some fun footprint ghosts on black towels.  This will be a fun part of the party decor PLUS we will be able to reuse them every Halloween in the future.  (This was, after all, part of the inspiration to do a Halloween themed birthday party in the first place.)  

For the ghost tea towels I purchased some cheap ($2.98/yard) black cotton broadcloth.  The reviews on this particular fabric (#BCR-002) indicated that it picks up lint really easily, which I noticed immediately after prewashing the fabric.  Since these towels will only be used once a year at most I'm not worried about it.  

I could make these towels any size I want.  I'm struggling because since these are purely decorative I could potentially figure out a way to make more than 4 towels from one yard to practice.  In the end, I decided to just cut the fabric into fat quarters (20"x20.5").  I expected each to turn out a slightly different size but to my surprise I was able to end up with even squared up quarters with very little left over from the trimming (to square things up.)  When I got a piece 20" wide I did fold it in half to maximize the use of my fabric, so that helped keep things even.  

The book has you stamping the fabric before you sew, but I want to decide how I'm going to fold the towels after the hemming is done so I can decide on the placement of my stamps.  Time to start hemming!

I've done some hems with Lucky's Lion costume but I didn't do proper folded hems where the raw edges couldn't be seen in the wrong side.  This time I'm doing the first fold of about 1/4" and the second of 5/8".  Well approximately.  I suppose if I keep sewing that I'll get really good at eyeballing these small measurements.  I think my 5/8" is closer to 3/4" but I suppose that is still pretty darn close to my target.  

I can see why learning mitered corners in the next lesson is going to be helpful, these corners are bulky after just the first fold.  Even without any stitching yet this tea towel already has a nice finished looking quality to it.  I can see why doing these folded hems is worth the effort!  I was able to finish pressing all of these hems within a portion of a nap time.  This way I'll be ready to start sewing while Lucky is at school tomorrow without worrying about interruptions or continuously running up and down the stairs.

For the love of fiber, please tell me if I'm doing something wrong.  I'm stitching with the wrong side up on my machine so I can stay close to the edge of the fold.  The bobbin and thread are the same black.  If this is NOT what I'm supposed to do will someone let me know?  

I focused on following the folded hem versus trying to make a straight line with the edge of the fabric.  I think that at one point I started to try to get too close to the edge of the hem because the fabric started bunching up under the foot a bit.  I moved over a bit more and it got better.   I can see what I'll need to practice on in the future!  The first square stitched up in no time.  This is a nice project for a lot of practice with my machine.  

After the sewing was competed I wasn't quite done.  I still had to trim the threads (hey, this is WAY better than weaving in loose ends) and then press out the hems again so the edges would be nice and crisp.  Now I'm ready for Lucky to get home from school so we can do some fabric paint prints

For the placement of the ghosts, I folded the tea towels in half to print along the center line.  (I plant to hang these tea towels folded in thirds.)  On a bath night, much to Lucky's delight, we painted his feet with Tulip soft matte fabric paint in Glacier White and stamped the tea towels.  

After the ghost bodies were stamped, I added eyes and mouths using Scribbles 3D fabric paint in the color "night star".  I would have preferred black puffy paint, but this is all I found at my craft store when we went there.  Unfortunately on the one ghost I tried to paint the face came out really pale.  I think I'll just sharpie on the faces of the other ghosts once they dry.  (Maybe this night star will dry darker, but right now I"m not feeling very optimistic.)  

I did date and initial the towels "LAB 2015" so I will know years down the road which child made these towels.  It is possible  the slight white in this puffy paint will dry clear so you will barely be able to see these marks, but that is a risk that I took.  

Wow, the glitter night star color is way more visible than I expected.   I love the glittery sheen and will add eyes and mouths to the remaining 5 ghosts towels.  

The first project of "1,2,3 Sew" is now complete!  These towels might be more the size of cloth napkins but I'm really glad that I got the chance to practice my hemming.  I cannot wait to start the next project!  

Project started 9.10.2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Stashbusting Market Bags

I made a discovery lately.  A crochet market bag is the best way to use up random balls of sock yarn in my stash!  I'm on my third ball of Patons kroy Socks FX that has been in my stash for years, this time in Cameo Colors (44 g, 146 yards).  I am so happy to have a pattern that I love to create darling crochet grocery bags.  (This is a free pattern. You will have to check out to download the pattern, but no payment is due since the cost is $0.00) 

Since you've head me talk about this pattern twice now, I'll just say that I completed the bag with 12 rows in the last step before the decreases when 14 g of yarn remained.

This project was one of the last ones I wanted to complete before I packed up and moved away from Evanston, IL.  Somehow, no matter how many rows I add before starting the decreases I end up with 5 g of yarn left over!  This is enough yarn for a hexipuff... (another project that I've let hibernate for way too long.)  

I love this pattern so much that I have to really hold myself back to not buy more skeins of Kroy Sock FX!  I have to keep reminding myself that I'm trying to solve my stash problem, not make things worse.  I do have other yarns in my stash that would work great with this pattern so I have a feeling that I will be making more of these crochet market bags coming up.

These bags look small but they hold so much stuff!  I've shown them holding 6 cans of food, gallons of milk and now two 2L bottles of soda.  These are perfect to use as reusable grocery bags.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Let it Snow... so we can Snow Dye More Fiber!

With winter season, and more importantly, snow,I wanted to share with you some snow dyeing experiments I did last winter.  I've already share with you the first video where I snow dyed yarn with rainbow KoolAid colors, but I also snow dyed roving with food coloring, roving with KoolAid and even silk hankies with KoolAid!

Previously (in the last two days), I created two snow dyeing videos, one with results that worked fantastically and one that was a bit of a flop.  Well I think it was a flop, because the fiber hasn't dried yet as I'm writing these notes.  Before it was over I wanted to take advantage of the snow so I set up some snow dyeing when I went to bed and would check in in the morning.  No intermediate photos or vidoes in these ones, these are short, and too the point.  Check them out!

Is handpainting fiber and yarn easier and faster than snow dyeing?  Absolutely!  But snow dyeing is SO MUCH FUN!  And it is an activity that you could get into with even young children. There is a lot of waiting involved, but the look of the snow changes so you can ask the kids to check for updates.  (My son is not quite 16 months old yet, so he is still too young, but by next winter I bet he'll LOVE painting the snow colors even if he can't understand that it is to dye yarn.

If I learned anything from this experiment, it is that dyeing with snow requires a lot of patience.  It can take a LONG time for snow to melt!

The final products?  Watch the videos to see where we ended up!

Snow Dyeing Wool Roving with Kool Aid

Video Contents (Skip ahead to the part you need!)
[0:00] Introduction and Materials
[1:50] Adding the snow on top of the fiber
[3:52] Adding KoolAid to the snow
[8:10] 1.5 h after adding dye
[10:21] All snow melted (overnight)
[13:25] Microwaving the fiber to set the color
[13:40] Washing the fiber
[15:04] Reveal of the dyed fiber and conclusions

Snow Dyeing Silk Hankies With KoolAid

Video Contents (Skip ahead to the part you need!)
[0:00] Introduction and presoaking 6 g of 100% silk hankies
[1:25] Adding snow on top of the silk hankies
[2:48] Adding KoolAid to the snow
[4:43] 1.5 h after adding dye
[5:13] All Snow melted (overnight). Prepping fiber to heat to set the dye.
[7:36] After microwaving
[8:23] Washing the silk hankies
[9:50] Final reveal and conclusions

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Beatles Themed Baby Shower!

A close friend of mine, Laura, had a baby this fall and over the summer my family threw her a baby shower.  We asked Laura if there was a theme she would like and she replied, "The Beatles."  Now, there is a lot of Beatles stuff out there but at first I struggled to come up with some ideas that would make a cohesive theme.  I was tasked with the decorations (no food planning for me) so I started researching Beatles Baby Shower ideas on pinterest.

There are two main things I did to make the theme as Beatles as possible: 1) I made three different Beatles Banners and 2) I created origami flowers out of Beatles sheet music.  Unfortunately I'm not sharing any of the banners I created for this party in this post.  I used a lot of copyrighted art and would not feel comfortable sharing that without permission.  Hopefully the designs that I share will inspire you to create your own banners.

For the first banner, the one you would see when you entered the venue, I chose a simple round shape that is similar to something I found on Pinterest.  I downloaded a free Magic Mystery Tour Font and since I wanted to make the text psychedelic I learned how to make gradient letters in PowerPoint.

The second banner is very psychedelic.  I used the same Mystery Magical tour Font (but in white without a shadow) and every Beatles themed piece of artwork I could find.  I made some of the backdrops using yellow submarine, strawberry and walrus clip art, some album covers and then some other fan art.  "Blue Harvest" was the en utero nickname for the baby, his legal name isn't Blue.

The third sign was just a little piece of fun.  If I had access to baby photos of the parents and older siblings-to-be then I would have used those in the portholes, but instead I wrote their names.  Keith helped me a lot with this banner.  He expanded some clip art that I found to have 5 windows and then made it higher resolution so we could print it over multiple pieces of paper.  I then taped the submarine together and hung it in the party room.

I have already shared with you how I created the sheet music origami flowers and now I can share with you how we used them! We placed multiple clusters on the large party table and also scattered them around fireplace mantles and the food tables.

Not shown is the big sister-to-be collecting an enormous bouquet of these flowers to take home!  I'm excited that some of them are still in a vase in the home of the new baby.

"Here comes the son!" was a theme of the party since Laura was expecting a little boy.  (This little boy is simply amazing! Lucky loves him so much and constantly requests to see pictures of him.)  I wasn't in charge of food but did help pick out the cake theme, based on the yellow submarine clip art used in two of the banners above.  

Finally, I sneaked a baby book into the decor.  Laura gave me the book Rocker Babies Wear Jeans at my baby shower and there is an Abbey Road scene that is perfect for a Beatles Baby shower.  I used a plate stand and had it sit on the beverage table.  

I had a blast helping to plan this shower!  Hopefully some of these ideas will help you in planning a Beatles themed party in the future.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lucky's Lion Hoodie

I wanted to make Lucky's costume this year (since it gave me an excuse to finally buy my sewing machine) and when I found the Make Your Own Lion Hoodie tutorial I knew that I had a winning project.  At least I hoped that I did!  Lions ("yaya") are one of Lucky's favorite animals so I knew he would love being able to dress up like one.  I also wanted a costume that incorporated a hoodie but would still be clear when Lucky decided he was done having the hood up after 5 minutes.

For this costume, I purchased a sweat suit (size 2T) from Kohl's, a brown cotton fat quarter, brown thread (Coats and Clark 100% polyester Color 8960 Chona Brown), some brown and yellow felt and Red Heart Super Saver yarn in 3 colors (Carrot, Gold, Cafe Latte).  I am not a big acrylic fan, but I wanted something that would be machine washable so this costume could (hopefully) last for more than one child.  I selected these colors because they complemented, but didn't match, the sweatshirt.  Since each ball of yarn had almost 200 g, I made Indy's coordinating puppy lion costume first.  There is no way I will use the almost 150 g remaining of each color in this project.

The Lion's Mane Hood

I started by prewashing the cotton fabric and sweat suit.  I'm a novice sewer, but if I am ever going to successfully wash this garment I don't want the woven cotton I'm adding to shrink differently than the knit fabric of the hoodie.  After the wash (machine warm/warm) I pressed out the fabric and prepared to cut it.

The fat quarter measures 18"x21" (pre washing).  This is not quite long enough to match the entire length of the hoodie so I will have to add a seam in the middle.  This shouldn't be so hard, right?  The fat quarter was only $2.50, so while I cut have cut the starting pieces shorter I wanted to give myself plenty of room to work with since I'm not sure how many rows of fringe I'll end up adding.

There are some aspects of the sewing tutorial that I could follow/skip if I wanted to get this done fast, but I want to try to do it properly.  I am going to hem the fabric A) for practice and B) so there aren't unfinished ends unraveling in my Halloween Pictures.

When I went to start cutting I realized that the fat quarter isn't square, so I had to trim off the edges. The hood edge is about 10" long from zipper to tip so I will need at least 23" of fabric.  Since there isn't enough width I'm adding a seam down the middle.  I cut two 6" x 18" strips.  This should be enough fabric for my hoodie.

I was too confident when cutting and butchered it.  (I promise I won't take pictures of cutting in progress every time I have a sewing project, but this is my first time using a rotary cutter.  I love it SO MUCH MORE than just scissors, but there is a learning curve.)

I started by sewing the center seam, since this would need pressing before I hemmed the sides.  I also knew that I would have to make another cut in the fabric so I wanted to wait to do this until after I had sewn my seam.  I'm not yet confident that I'll be able to make perfect 1/4" seems everywhere.

Not a bad 1/2" seam, is it?  

Oh my goodness this looks straight!  I even went back and forth over the edge at the end to finish it off.  Look at me go!  I'm really sewing!  I couldn't tell the difference between the right sides and wrong sides of this fabric, so I just did the best I could and hoped for the best.  You won't really be seeing much of this brown cotton cloth anyway.  

I cut the cloth 12" past the center seam and then pressed it open.  I folded down square corners from each edge and pressed.  This was the hardest part, because there was no measurement involved with the pressing, but I think it is okay in the end.  I am going to leave the back hem open for now until I decide how much fringe I'm going to add.

I can't believe I'm doing this without consulting my book, but I remember from reading it many times how this worked.  Now I just have to stitch these seams down.  (The book would have me fold and press again but I don't think that is necessary for this particular project.)

These first seams of mine aren't particularly straight or prefect, but I am super proud of this so far!!  Now it is going to be time to start adding the fringe.  Yikes!  

The first round of fringe went surprisingly fast.  I'm feeling very proud that I was able to do this so easily, even if I might have to give the fringe a bit of a trim.

I decided to add at least a second row of fringe to make the mane fuller.  Since I still had plenty of yarn and fabric, I decided to add a third row of fringe.  But that is it, Rebecca.  No more sewing fringe!

I sort of like the loop look.  I can't decide if I'm going to cut it to be cohesive with Indy's costume or not.  Maybe I'll baste it on to the sweatshirt and then try it onto Lucky to figure that out.

You can see that the spacing of my rows is not perfectly even, but they still aren't bad considering the amount of (to quote Tim Gunn) flotsum and jetsum that I've been adding to this piece of fabric.  I know at this point that I am going to have to 100% hand sew this onto the jacket hood, but I"m okay with that. The real question is how I'm going to hem the back portion.  I cannot press it closed because the yarn is acrylic and would melt with the heat of an iron.  Pins!  This is where I need pins! I"'m going to pin the raw edge to the second row of fringe and then do a 3/8" seam.  The two ends of the fabric are still approximately the same width, so I think I"ve got a winner here!   I sewed with the RS up so I could keep the fringe out from under the needle easier.

Wrong side of the fringe piece

I probably could have folded over the fabric more, but I'm happy with my strip of fringe.  Now to pin and sew it onto the hoodie!  I did a back stitch to attach the fringe strip to the hoodie.  This was hand work, but it went much faster than I expected.

In one evening I EASILY finished the fringe strip for the hoodie.  I now need to pin it onto the hoodie itself and sew it onto the hood.  Next, I'll try it on Lucky and decide whether to keep the fringe loopy or to snip them into pieces like Indy's.

I may have needed to bribe Lucky to keep the hood up, but it is still 90 degrees outside every day so even in our air conditioned home he was not thrilled by the idea of more layers.  Lucky has also recently figured out zippers so it is possible that he will figure out entirely how to take this costume off himself.  

The hoodie looks amazing with the hood up, but with some facepaint Lucky will also look very much like a lion with the hood down.

Wrists and Ankles

I have one 7"x17" big piece of brown fabric left.  I cut four 1.5" strips and then pressed down approximate 3/8" hems on three sides.  Each of these pieces are going to be like a ribbon I'll sew some yarn onto.  Each ribbon is about 5/8" wide. These are all much longer than I'll need but I can cut and hem the end when I get to where I need to go.  I see some of this as an exercise in sewing on my machine.

I should have folded down the ends before pressing the sides.  Now if I press down an end it looks a little wonky.  Thankfully these will be mostly covered with yarn!

After I went through the trouble to make these thin ribbons, I realized that I wanted to see if I could make a true fringe ribbon by sewing the yarn only to itself and not using any fabric to help.  I think it would be easier (and cleaner) if I were able to just sew the yarn fringe directly onto the cuffs of the costume.

It's working!  The yarn is going through the machine and I"m getting a garland that is just stitched to itself.  Wahoo!  Now I can take this long yarn garland/ribbon thing I'm making and directly stitch that to the cuffs of Luckys' costume.  This is going to be so much cleaner than if I had attached the yarn to the fabric itself.

While making the garland I realized that I hsould have measured the cuffs first to know how much I needed, but I was having fun watching project runway anyway so I just kept going and kept going.  I have plenty of yarn, after all, and what else am I going to do with all of this acrylic?

I pinned one layer of the fringe edging of each cuff and the tail and then hand stitched them with a backstitch to the cuffs.  Looking at how the fringe hands I was happy with one layer.

See how the fringe hangs?  


I cut out four pieces from brown felt and two pieces of yellow for the ears out of felt.  for the tail, I cut two 1.25 inch strips along the long end of the piece of felt.

I top stitched the inner ear onto one piece of brown felt and then top stitched the two pieces of brown felt together with RS out.  I think that I'd like the visible border and the felt will have enough stiffness that the ears probably won't need any stuffing to stay upright. I sewed on the slowest setting, this is my first time sewing around curves with this machine and I didn't want to have to rip anything out.

Attaching the ears was harder than I had expected.  Maybe it is because the felt is so stiff or there is just so much mane.  I was able to attach them in the blank space between the first and second row of fringe.

The mane is so exuberant that you can barely see the ears, but we'll see how it looks on the toddler.  It was super cute without ears to begin with, so I'm not that worried.  I should have made them larger, but I don't feel like going back now.  (Well, I could go back and recut them, but I don't want to!)


I didn't want to sew the tail perminantly onto the sweatshirt because I was concerned that it would freak Lucky out.  I had some sew on velcro in my stash (7/8", 2.2 cm) and I machine stiched the rough edge to end of one of the tail strips.  I'll hand stitch the soft velcro piece to the inside of the back sweatshirt hem.

Next, I top stitched the two pieces of felt together on all 4 sides

Finally, I hand sewed one rows of the yarn fringe to the bottom of the tail.  I thought about adding more fringe but once I saw it hang I loved the tiny little puff of fringe.

I stitched the soft velcro piece to the back top of the inside hem in the center back of the sweat shirt.  I didn't stitch through both layers so you wouldn't see any stitches on the right side of the shirt.

Lucky in his costume!

Finally the costume is completed!

Indy's free puppy lion snood knitting pattern was designed by ChemKnits!

I don't have any face paint yet, but don't Lucky and Indy make a fantastic pair?

When attempting to get some photos I got a lot of lion snuggles.

This costume was a success!  Now we just have to hope that I can convince Lucky to keep it on at Halloween.  I'm not worried about the hood coming off, that was part of the design.  Lucky is now obsessed with zippers and I'm sure he can figure out how to take the jacket completely off.

Making my own Halloween costumes isn't so expensive when you look at the materials that went into the costume, but if you incorporate the cost of the sewing machine then it starts being less economical.  Thankfully I really wanted my Janome 8077 anyway, this was just the excuse to bite the bullet.  I can't wait to try something a little more involved next year!

Project started 9.4.2015