Monday, May 24, 2010

Knits - my love/hate relationship

There is something infinitely appealing about sewing with knits. 

No need for any buttons, zippers, snaps...which means one less complicated step.

Its stretchiness allows for a little wiggle room, which comes in handy when you can't get your 2 year old to hold still long enough to get a really accurate measurement.

There always seems to be an old T-shirt lying about that can easily be remade into something new.

So many of the craft blogs out there make it seem easy to sew with knits.  It makes me wonder what I am doing so wrong.  I've even swallowed my pride enough to ask my mom how to make it work. 

Part of my problem is my poor little sewing machine, the cheapest one available at Walmart that has gotten quite a bit of abuse lately.  It just does not like knits!  It does all sorts of weird things...things I cant even begin to describe.

My stubborn side is pushing me to keep trying until I master this skill.  After much struggling, I have produced one (almost) successful knit outfit.  (I won't tell you about the mountain of failures cluttering my craft area.) 
My favorite part of this outfit is the colors.  In fact, my little Munchkin got LOTS of compliments on the great color combination when we ventured out in public for a few minutes.

I got the idea for the skirt right here.  The orange is from an old shirt of mine, found in the Walmart clearance racks ($3? $5? I can't remember) that I wore a little bit before I made the mistake of wearing it while painting the living room.   There's a huge drip of blue paint hidden behind that flowerish thing on the front.  (Its actually almost the same color of blue as the flower.)  I'm going to add a second, smaller flower to the side and a little above the big one; its so much in the center I think its needs something to off-set it. 
Also, I didnt do a tie, like the tutorial shows, but it turned out better without one I think.

I dont really remember how I made this shirt; it was so spur-of-the-moment that I didnt write any of the process down.  The blue is some ribbing that I had gotten at a yard sale a while back (it was a huge roll, probably close to 5 yards, for $1-although there was staining on the ends, there's still a goodly amount that is just fine. Pretty good deal, if I do say so myself.)  The orange again is from my old shirt, and I cut it in long strips and folded/ironed it in as if I were making bias tape (although I didnt cut it on the bias).  Dont zoom in on the pic; the sewing is TERRIBLE.  So wonky, I almost just threw it out.  But I love how the sleeves turned out.  I think I'm going to make another shirt, especially since she managed to get a huge ketchup stain on the belly and I dont feel like fighting to get it out.

This last pic shows off her personality these days so well!  I had to bribe her with skittles to stand by the wall so I could snap some pics.  And even then she kept wiggling and giggling, knowing what I wanted her to do and defying it as much as she could without being outright disobedient.

Oh, and the clashing Elmo sunglasses were totally her idea.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kid's Cushions - ala Living With Punks

I have a 2 year old and a 1 year old.

Sometimes they're best friends. 

Most of the time, they fight over everything. 

 My little Monster likes to tease his big sister and knows all the right buttons to push!  He really likes to play with "her" rocking chair and "her" bean bag chair.  (They're only "hers" because he's been too young to care about them before; we pretty much have a rule that you have to share everything except your special blankie.  As you can imagine, this rule is not going so well for my little Munchkin.)

Recently I came across this tutorial from the blog Living With Punks. And I thought, if I make one for each kid, and give it to them at the same time, they can each have their own little cushion and stop fighting.  (HA!)

I did a few things different from the tutorial.  First off, I didnt use Home Decor fabric.  Why?  Because I'm cheap.  There was no cute Home Dec fabric on clearance, and on sale the cheapest was almost $7 a yard.  Plus, I found the CUTEST boy fabric in the clearance section, $3 a yard, and I just had to have it but I have a rule that I only buy fabric if I have a specific project for it.  So I figured I might as well!

(In hindsight, I think Home Decor fabric is definitely the best choice.  Its heavier so it helps the cushion keep its shape better I imagine.  But I still love the cushions I made, even if they are a little lumpy!)

I also only used piping on the second one I made, because the cost for piping was more than I paid for the fabric so I wanted to try it without the piping and see how I liked it.  So the brown with flowers doesnt have piping, and its okay; but the turtles is WAY better!

Luckily for us, our clothes basket has almost exactly 17 in diameter (which is the size given for the tutorial), so I didnt have to hunt down a compass thing and draw my own circle!  (My little Munchkin thought it was great that I put the basket on the table, and couldnt understand why I took it off.  Every time I turned away she put it back up there!)

It took a little over one naptime to make each of the cushions, and I thought they turned out pretty good.  The real test, though, is what the kids think of them.

And the verdict is....

Yup!  I think we have a winner!
My little Munchkin LOVED her cushion, she kept scooting all around the kitchen and mudroom on it (it slid really well on the tile floors.)  And she didnt try to steal her brother's at all, which was GREAT!

I showed her the handle, and the first thing she did was pick it up (like you see in the picture) and then hit her brother with it.  Niiiiiiiice.

My little Monster really didn't care too much about it either way.  He tried to use it as a step-stool, which didnt get him very far.  But if I forced him to sit on it, he would laugh and clap his hands and stay there...for a few seconds.
Here's the brown with flowers.  As you can see, no piping and its not lumpy because the kids havent touched it yet.

And here's the turtle one, with the piping.  I dont know why I couldnt manage to center the pic, or move the toys out of the background...sorry, I'm tired so thats all you're getting!
One last pic, using a lil' of my (non-existent) Photoshop skills.  I just love how cute and innocent she looks...I'm glad I could capture that brief second, because seriously it only lasts a second or two these days!!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Felt Paper Doll Dress-Up book

Almost two months ago I found out that the 2 1/2 year old daughter of one of my high school friends had been diagnosed with Leukemia.  It was a huge shock to me, partially because this little girl is so close to my own daughter's age and I can't imagine what it would be like to have to watch my daughter go through everything that this little girl is going through.

I immediately began to try to think of some way to offer help.  Seeing as they live a few states away, I knew I couldn't bring meals, clean house, or do any of the other really useful things that I think would be most appreciated.  About the only thing I could do is send a gift and perhaps a few encouraging words.

I know a number of people sent a variety of things to this brave little girl.  I tried to make her some cute hats (she lost all her hair due to the treatment), but so far none of them have turned out nice enough to give away.  At one point I made a felt book for her, but my daughter managed to snag it before I could mail it and promptly destroyed it.  (Which, I suppose, is a good thing - that showed me how NOT toddler proof it was!)

In the last week or so I was finally able to come up with something I could make her that I think she'll enjoy.
Here is the felt paper doll Dress-Up book.
What you see above is actually the one I made for my little Munchkin - I learned my lesson from the felt book and made two this time, one to keep and one to give!  I consider this one "the ugly one", because it has so many flaws that I was able to fix as I've made more.  Such as, I sewed the felt doll down on this one.  That didn't go over so well with my two year old; she wanted to move the doll around.  I also have changed the way I did the pockets to hold the dress up clothes, as you'll see later on.

I've made 5 books now, all with slightly different outside covers.  This one above is just a cotton fabric.  The one I made for my friend's daughter (I forgot to take a picture before I mailed it) was a sparkly pink cotton fabric with "My Dress Up Book" painted on the front (done with freezer paper stenciling).  My daughter's is made with lime green pleather with a felt "M" and a flower stitched on the front.  I also made two out of a knit butterfly-design and I plan to hand stitch some felt initials on the front.  (I didnt bother to take pictures of those ones yet.)  All of them have a little flap with velcro to keep it closed (you can see it in the picture above).
The inside of the book is a solid color of felt (the first two I made were a darker blue felt, the next two a light blue felt, and the one above is a cream felt.  I like the cream best, I think).  On the right is the space to dress up the doll.  The doll isnt sewn down, but since its felt it sticks nicely to the background.  The white "swimsuit" is sewn on, for modesty's sake.  :)

On the left, there are two pockets: a big one for the clothes and a small one for the shoes and other accessories.  The pockets are vinyl, edged with the same fabric that the cover was made from.  This is the very-revised version of the pockets...if you look back at the pic of my daughter's, you can see how terrible THOSE pockets turned out!  I like it with the vinyl, because I feel it makes it easier for little fingers to grab what they want if they can see it.
The doll is made from two pieces of felt (to give it extra durability) sewn together, with felt hair sewn on as well.  The face is painted on (I considered hand stitching it...for about a second.  Then I remembered how much I HATE hand stitching!)

And these are all the fabulous outfits I've created for each book!  (Although, I did have to change the ballerina one from blue to pink because the blue tulle I had was too coarse and kept getting stuck in the pockets.)  Each outfit is constructed mainly of felt, although as you can see I embellished quite a bit with some odds and ends I had lying around.

In the center is the cover for my daughter's book...pleather is kind of a pain to sew, so I told myself I wouldn't make anymore like that, but I have to admit it's kind of my favorite cover so far!

So, there you have it.  One of the few craft projects I've done lately that is completely my copying, mimicking, whatever you want to call it (although I do try to give credit when I use someone else's idea).  I'm considering listing a few on Etsy;  I'm just not sure if they would actually sell!  We'll have to see I guess.

To my amazing friend and her amazing daughter: I hope you enjoy the dress up book (you should have gotten it by now, I hope!) and don't look too closely at all the imperfections.  I know its not much, but I hope when you see it you remember and think of all the people who are praying for you.
It was a massively creative morning, at least compared to the lethargy that the last few days have been for me, so I thought I should post now what I accomplished before it gets shoved aside by new projects.

The first thing I made was this:

Wow.  What a lovely Sumo Diaper!

I know that's what you're all thinking.  But it is NOT, in fact, intended for Sumo Wrestling wear.

It's....a fabric travel high chair!

I saw the idea months ago here on Homemade by Jill, one of my favorite craft blogs.  Of course, we hardly leave the house so I didnt think I would need anything like this.  But this last week we ate a couple of meals at my in-laws, and I quickly realized how wrong I was! 

My little Monster is getting too big (and his arms too long) to sit in my lap and let me feed him, yet he's not ready to sit in a chair completely on his own.  We have a high chair with a tray that straps to a chair, but its kind of a pain to remember to pack in the van and carry in and out.  This fabric one could easily be slipped in the diaper bag, and of course you just throw it in the wash machine to get it clean!

Jill had seen this idea on another blog, although no instructions or measurements were given.  She gave measurements on her post, which were WONDERFUL.  She used two different fabrics with a layer of batting in between.  When I was at Joann's the other day there JUST HAPPENED to be a remnant of chocolate brown quilted fabric - so it had the batting built in!  It was just shy of a yard, but still a remnant so I got it for 50% off the normal price.  Score!  And it was enough fabric for TWO high chairs, with a nice square left over.

I decided to use up some of my scraps for the other side of the chair, and I did have to piece some together but I figure no one will really see it so no big deal.  For the second high chair I'm going to make I'll probably just use bias tape around the edges, it'll be quick and just as effective I think.  We'll see who the lucky recipient of that high chair will be!

So, right now would be a good time to show some more pics of the high chair, how its constructed etc.  But I'm feeling kind of lazy.  And honestly, the link I gave you above has much better pictures.

But I did have to try it out today.  My little Monster woke up from his nap just before lunchtime, so he was kind of out of it in this picture.  And I think he was kind of confused why he was getting to sit at the table when his high chair was only a few feet away.  But I think he liked it - I even let him eat his entire lunch there!  (I had to move my laptop, though, because his monkey arms kept getting a hold of it and wreaking all sorts of havoc.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Flat sheet from Value Village - $3, A Shamelessly Matchey-Matchey family photo- Priceless

Okay, so in my previous post I showed you a lil' sumthin' you can do with a $1 sheet.

Now, what if you decide to 'splurge' and get yourself a $3 sheet from Value Village (or another thrift store)?  What can you make from THAT sheet?

A little boys hat?

With a matching vest and tie?

Or a new dress for mommy?

With a matching bow tie for daddy (not pictured)?

A new Sunday dress for the little Munchkin?

With a matching handbag?

If you couldn't tell from the pictures, the answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE.

These were our Easter outfits this year.
So cheesy with all the matching.  I just can't help myself!
(Just so you know, I've only made us all wear the matching outfits to church once.  Or maybe twice.)

For the vest I just used a hand-me-down dress vest I had as a pattern.  It has a full back, and even though it LOOKS like it buttons, the front is actually velcro with buttons on top.  I really hate sewing buttonholes!  But its actually a good thing I did the velcro instead, because this little Monster has been packing on some weight around his belly.  In the month between Easter (when they first wore them) and yesterday (when these pictures were taken) he's gone from fitting it just fine to practically bursting the seams.  At least the velcro gave a little lee-way.

The tie looks funny here because my hubby tried tying it first THEN putting it on, which didn't go so well.

And this hat...what a pain in the rear!  The end result is (mostly) worth it, but honestly I gave up on this hat so many times but kept coming back to it and trying to fix it.  I think it worked out okay.  Not that he usually leaves it on very long for me to see.

For my dress, well as you can see I needed something maternity.  Lucky for me this wonderful blog called Presser Foot just happened to do a month-long project called the Maternity or Not Frock.  I followed the wonderful tutorials, except I cut my "frock" to be long enough for a dress rather than just a long shirt.  If I'd thought about it a little more I would have made more of a flare to the skirt part, because it is rather narrow to be chasing after a 2 year old and a 1 year old!  Also, my armholes ended up too big (at least for my liking) and I was worried that the hole for the head would be too small so I cut it bigger than they suggested.  I should have listened to them - it turned out too wide!  Which is why I'm wearing a white shirt underneath, to keep it a little more modest.  Usually I wear my black sweater with it, too.  (There's also a tie that goes around the waist, meaning above my belly right now, but I couldnt find it for this pic.  It looks way better with the tie.)
This is the only pic I got of the bowtie, but its really nothing special.  Its terribly crooked here, and yes it makes my hubby look incredibly geeky so I don't let him wear it all that much.  Just when we were all wearing it and being matchey-matchey.

I started this dress first, and it took the longest to finish!  Those pleats were kind of time consuming, mainly because I didn't sit down and plan it out first, I just started ironing and pinning.  And then unpinning and re-ironing and re-pinning until it worked.  I didnt exactly have a pattern for the dress - I could only find the front bodice and the back of the skirt of my go-to dress pattern.  Oh, and the sleeve to a smaller size.  Somehow I made it work, with a side zipper rather than the back (its a terrible job which is why I didnt bother with a close-up).  I had to choose between 3T and 4T, so I opted with the bigger size to make it last longer.  She may still be wearing it next Easter!  The sewn-on belt tie really helps it from not being to baggy.
As for the cute little purse, I made it on a whim once everything else was finished and I still had a little fabric left.  I didn't bother to write down how I made it though, so I can't remember exactly what I did.  It was something weird that I was sure wouldnt work, but then it did! 
(I just have to say, this was a ridiculously windy day when these pics were taken, and we were about to rush off to church, so all in all this is a decent photo shoot.  And the only tears that were shed were when we had to stop running around outside and load into the van.)

So, what do ya think?  Not too shabby for a $3 sheet!

Maternity dress

Lately my sewing machine has gotten a LOT of use.  If you'd told me 5 years I would one day enjoy sewing, I would have laughed in your face.  My mom did her best to try to teach me how to sew, but I was just too stubborn and impatient.

So now, I get to try and teach myself.  The AMAZING craft blogs out there help a lot - there are some really neat tutorials that show little techniques that I never would have known about otherwise.  My mom keeps telling me I could just buy/borrow some patterns and actually follow them and I'd pick up a lot.

For reasons I have yet to figure out, I can't stand to follow a pattern.  I don't like being told you MUST do it this way! and thats what a pattern feels like to me most of the time.  (Silly, I know, but thats the truth.)  I also like the excitement of figuring it out on my own.

Of course, I don't always figure it out.  I have lots of mishaps along the way, and not all of them are fixable.  And cute fabric is kind of expensive, so as of late I've started stocking up on sheets from Value Village to use for my sewing projects.

Mostly I plan on using the sheet for a run-through, so if its a disaster I can just toss it aside and not feel too bad.

But sometimes are too cute for just practice.  I mean look at this:
There is lots of fabric out there right now that is very in that looks a lot like this!  And it certainly costs more than a DOLLAR!

Yes, that's right, with a simple dollar sheet I made this:

(Terrible picture, I know.  Its been ridiculously windy lately, and we were running late and I hardly ever put makeup on, so it was a now-or-never sort of thing.)

Okay, its not the greatest thing ever.  But I'm really glad to have another maternity dress in my wardrobe; I have yet to buy a nice summery maternity dress because its either too short or it looks like I'm wearing a tent.

This sheet was fairly thin so I decided to double up on the fabric.  I don't think I'd do that again, not for a whole dress.  Its way heavier and bulkier than I would like.  If I made this dress again I would probably splurge and use some real fabric, something lightweight yet not see-through so I wouldnt have to double up or line it or anything.
Kind of looks like a potato sack, huh?  Lets see if we can fix that...
A TIE!  Marvelous!

Here's a close up of the sleeve and neckline:
There's elastic in the armband and around the neckline.  I used Simplicity 5756 as my inspiration for this part of the dress.  Of course, my mom had bought this pattern for me before my first pregnancy...when I was MUCH slimmer.  The one she bought only goes up to size 12 - which sadly I am not anymore (thank you, flabby arms and ever-expanding bustline!)  So I had to adjust and tweak quite a bit but we got there in the end.
I've still got some of the sheet leftover.  I'm hoping this week to make a dress for my daughter, because yes, I am one of THOSE mothers...I get a kick out of matching our clothes! 
(as you will see when I get my next post up!)

Freezer Paper Stenciling

Last night, before I went to bed, I planned out my entire week.  Shopping, laundry days, mopping days, and most especially, crafting.  I'm trying to plan so I can do a little craftiness each day, since that seems to make it easier to get motivated to do all the cleaning and other things.

This morning I woke up with what may just be the start of another sinus infection.  Great.  The weather here is kinda crazy - high wind warnings and we just had a freak downpour of rain.  I'm hoping its the weather causing my face to feel like its going to explode, and in the meantime I'm snorting saline nose spray like it was...well, I would never actually do drugs so maybe I won't use that as a metaphor.

So, instead of crafting, I figured I might as well try an catch up with all the blog posts I've been wanting to do.  You see, I have one thing holding me back with this little craft/thrifting skills.  That, and cooperative models.

Take this project for example. 
I made the shorts out of a mens button-up shirt that we got at one of Value Village's huge clothing sales.  I had tried to make the shirt into a stylish skirt for me but it just wasnt working so I threw it aside, intending to come back and fix it later.  Then I got pregnant and figured it was a lost cause so I turned it into shorts for my little guy (using Simplicity 3765, if you're curious.  I used the pants pattern, just cut it shorter for shorts).

I got the white T-Shirt from Walmart, and it was marked down by about $.50, so not a steal but the kid needs more clothes anyways so it'll do.
I used this tutorial from MADE to paint the owl and the words on the shirt.  (There's a number of craft blogs out there that show you how to do this, MADE just happened to be the one I bookmarked.)  I drew the owl myself and then I used a downloaded font called A Little Pot for the words.  (I typed it in Microsoft Word, the traced it onto the freezer time I'll use a thicker font, I think, since this one was a real pain to cut out!)

(*sidenote* In the top pic you might notice an ugly little owl on the shorts.  I tried to do a reverse stenciling-thing on the shorts so as to tie the two together more succinctly, but it was just so hideous that I cut it off and hemmed the shorts up again.  Which is fine, seeing as they were plenty long to start with.)

I finished it some time this last week, but I kept putting off getting my little Monster into it.  So I snapped a few pics of the clothes just lying on my kitchen table, and then finally Saturday I forced myself to try them on him.

Despite actually having my hubby around to help, this is the best pic I could get:

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother!

I'd like to blame the pics on my crummy point-and-shoot camera...someday maybe I'll get a nice one.  Or the fact that I can't find a decent place in the house with enough natural light to not have to use the flash, which makes everything look terrible.

But when it comes down to it, I think I know my real problem: my kids.  SO ornery!  SO unappreciative!  SO frustrating!

After every failed picture-taking session, I promise myself never again will I trouble myself to make something for these kids.

Of course, thats one promise I just can't seem to keep!