Archive for the ‘crafts’ Category

Sewing machines and I have a long-standing feud.  I try to sew stuff, they break down almost immediately.  Usually it can be solved by the more knowledgeable owner but on at least one occasion I actually rendered the machine unusable.  Friends in the know have suggested that part of the issue is that pretty much all the machines I’ve used have been thrifted 70s and 80s ones.  While older machines, with their greater proportion of long-lasting metal parts, can be fantastic for a knowledgeable seamstress who has a good relationship with her local repair shop, they’re not great for a novice who has no information to troubleshoot with. 

Recently, though, I found out that my cousin owns a new-ish machine, one that had been in storage and that she was willing to lend me on condition that I learn the mysteries of its working and then share the knowledge.  And having taken a class at The Makehouse – a local organization that not only offers crafting workshops but also space and machines that folks can pay an hourly drop-in rate to use – I was high on craft fumes and totally primed to SEW ALL THE THINGS.

So check this out: I sewed a thing!


I started with the lined dice bag tutorial from Tally’s Treasury.  Since I specifically wanted a second sock-project-sized bag, I grabbed an already-wound cake of yarn and looked through my cupboards to find a round bowl about the right size.  I traced the bowl to make the bases, then measured its circumference to know how long to make the sides.


I added a special touch inspired by the project bag I bought from Emma of Emma Knits (formerly the dyer behind Everything Old – side note, you should totally check out her awesome new podcast, which focuses on fibrecrafts but touches on sewing and fashion as well).  One of my favourite things about that bag is its interior pockets – for spare stitch markers, my cellphone, notes on the stitch pattern I’m working, etc.  So I cut a piece of the material I used for the outside, as long as the sides and about 1/3 the height, hemmed it on one side, and sewed it to the inside piece with several vertical seams (I did pin one specifically so it would fit my phone, the rest I placed randomly) before putting the lining together. 


And the whole time, I didn’t destroy the machine, not even once!  I feel so buoyed by this success I am just itching to get started on the many half-finished or barely-started sewing projects I came across while deciding what fabric to use for this one.  Hope they all turn out this well!

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So I noticed a lot of folks coming in from my sister Insoulated’s Tumblr and I just wanted to give y’all a shout out and make a quick post about the Angel-Banishing Sigil I made for her to give Misha Collins in Rome (OH. EM. GEE.).  Check it out!


This is the third sigil I’ve felted.  The first was for my sister on her last birthday; the second was for the Desert Bus craft-along (have you seen my button up there at the top right?).  I learned a lot along the way – originally, I had needle-felted the base as well as the sigil from loose wool fibre.  For Desert Bus, I used a fine felting needle to needle-felt laceweight wool yarn (100% merino; not washable/superwash) onto some super-fancy, handmade wool felt that the local yarn store imports from the Netherlands, which allowed me to make the button flatter and more evenly round.  After Desert Bus, my friend Tally of Tally’s Treasury put up a tutorial for making banana birds and I realised that blanket stitching was perfect for a piece like this – why didn’t I think of it before?  The final product, with more of the same wool yarn for the edge stitching, is what you see above, a pin-backed Angel Banishing Sigil that you can take with you everywhere you go!

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Well, maybe there’s a little, but the first project I have to report on is a sewing project!


That right there is a duvet cover!  We received a couple of sheet sets for Christmas, and since we don’t use a top sheet, I thought it would be great to use them to make a coordinating cover.  I sewed it all by hand and it was an epic undertaking!  So much so that I didn’t have the heart to iron it (hence the close-up and no shot of it on the bed – actually, I don’t believe in ironing bedding unless it’s on display in a shop window!  But the sheets are so pretty I think it would almost be worth it…in a few weeks…).  I am starting to enjoy sewing more and more, and it’s great to be able to make things for the household.  As soon as I finish my monthly spinning goals, I have designs on sewing another dress from my Gracefaery pattern set!

Edit: I’ve noticed a number of folks arriving here after searching for how to make a duvet cover from sheets.  How did I do it?  I pinned 2 double flat sheets with wrong sides together, sewed a straight seam around 3 sides and a little ways around the bottom corners, and turned it right side out.  It fits my queen duvet pretty well, although it’s slightly narrower than a storebought queen duvet cover.  Yes, it was that simple! 

Speaking of the monthly spinning goals, here’s where “My Preciousss” stood as of yesterday.


It’s looking gorgeous, just taking a bit longer than I hoped.  I’ve spun up all 2.5 oz for this month, but I still have a lot of plying to do and only 4 days to do it in…!

I’ve also finished J’s wedding socks, and I think they look fantastic!  I’m anxious to find out if they fit, though – it’s my first time knitting socks for someone I couldn’t try them on as I went, and he & my sister have been busy honeymooning and then loving on their new kitten…ah, wedded bliss!



Incidentally, I wore a second pair of socks to take this photo – it just seemed wrong to put bare feet in someone else’s socks, but I hate how socks look without feet in them!

And finally, I took on a big project yesterday – tidying up my knitting basket that lives in the living room!  Check it out!


Current WIP, project bag, design notebook, I even went through all my notions canisters and organized them.  My favourite is this little box which contains my fancy stitch markers:


I had help, though – while I was going through my knitting basket, winding up little ends of yarn and piling up ball bands and scraps of paper to be recycled, Killira was leaning out of the cat tree trying to play with the yarn…or, since it was out of reach, my hair!



Yeah, she looks innocent, doesn’t she?  But we know better!


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One of the best things about spending my workday catering to a toddler’s wishes is that I get to spend an inordinate amount of time just sitting at the window, looking at things.  Birds are a big hit – there’s a seagull who hangs out on a streetlight out front, and we often watch crows flying by.  And then when it snowed, I noticed the flock of robins that seem to visit the back yard quite regularly.  This is maybe half the group; it seems to be about 15-20 birds that visit the little ash tree daily.


Sadly, these fat, sassy birds are very shy and every time I tried to actually get outside and photograph them, they flew away.  In fact, as I took these photos from behind the glass, there were a few times when I felt they flew away because they noticed me looking away from my viewscreen and right at them.  Well, I do have eyes on the front of my head like a predator, so I suppose I can’t entirely blame them.


These guys aren’t even the fattest ones, but Big Fatty Robin was the most skittish, so you’ll just have to take my word that ze’s out there, looking rather as though a normal robin had put on a big fluff suit.  Kind of like this sweetie that somebody else photographed.

Speaking of fluffy, wonderful things, here’s another bit of fibrey goodness I just brought home.


That right there is a gorgeous braid of Blue-Faced Leicester/Silk top from, yes, my recent favourite, Everything Old!  It’s also proof that I am going to learn to spin!  Because I can’t let something that pretty sit in a drawer forever!

I’ll be learning to spindle spin, as I mentioned when I bought my starter spindles, partly because of the space issue, partly because I can buy a lot of drop spindles and fibre to spin them on for the price of even an inexpensive second-hand wheel, and partly (maybe the largest part) because I see drop spindling as a connection to a long line of fibre crafters stretching back through song and folktale into the dim mists of history.  In particular, my mother sings one Quebecois French Canadian turlute (a kind of folksong with mouth-music refrains, often sung at breakneck tongue-twister speeds) collected in Saskatchewan, featuring a woman with a distaff:

Dans mon chemin, j’ai fait rencontre d’une vieille… turlututu
D’une vieille… turluron, turlurette
D’une vieille… turluron, turluré
D’une vieille… rare beauté.

Je lui ai dit, ma bonne vielle, voudrais-tu faire… turlututu
Voudrais-tu faire… turluron, turlurette
Voudrais-tu faire… turluron, turluré
Voudrais-tu… m’embrasser ?

La bonne vieille avec sa quenouillette, a voulu faire… turlututu
A voulu faire… turluron, turlurette
A voulu faire… turluron, turluré
A voulu me… frapper.

C’est les jeunes filles de notre village, ils ont des beaux…turlututu
Ils ont des beaux… turluron, turlurette
Ils ont des beaux… turluron, turluré
Ils ont des beaux…jupons picquets!

C’est les garçons de notre village, ils ont des beaux…turlututu
Ils ont des beaux… turluron, turlurette
Ils ont des beaux… turluron, turluré
Ils ont des beaux… caleçons barrés!

Which is to say:

In my street I met an old…
an old…
an old…rare beauty!

I said to her, “my dear, would you like to…?
would you…
would you like to…give me a kiss?”

The old woman with her distaff wanted to…
wanted to…
wanted to…beat me!

“It’s the young girls in our town, they have the pretty…
They have the pretty…
They have the pretty…lace petticoats!

And it’s the young men in our town, they have the handsome…
They have the handsome…
They have the handsome…striped undershirts!”

(Apologies if my translation is inaccurate…I think it’s close enough to convey the idea, but French 12 was a long time ago now)

I want to be a sassy spindle-wielding Woman Of A Certain Age, and beat men who get fresh with me with my fibre transportation system!  Plus, the word quenouillette is just so fun to say!  And so I snuggle my fluffy fibre and pet my pretty spindles and plan to register for a drop-spindling class early next week!


edited to add and correct a few points after singing this through with my mother and getting lightly schooled

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You might have noticed the shiny new button up in the right-hand corner there, the one that says Desert Bus Crafter, and you might be wondering what that’s about.  Well, Desert Bus for Hope is a charity gaming marathon, where a team of awesome people formed around the folks from Loading Ready Run play the world’s most boring videogame (Desert Bus, a real-time cross-country coach-driving experience) for as long as the money (ultimately donated to Child’s Play) keeps rolling in.  As the drivers try to stay awake during their 24-hour shifts at the wheel, everybody else participates in live chat, wacky challenges, auctions, and giveaways – with perhaps a few celebrity cameos and call-ins as well!  If you’re a geek and/or you like to support charity and/or you like to see people engage in ridiculousness for a good cause, you have to check them out, starting tomorrow (as I write this, the countdown is at 20 hours and change) and continuing for at least 94 hours…more as new donations come in!

Some of the auctions and giveaways are sponsored corporately.  There’s some amazing-looking stuff from Wizards of the Coast if you like Magic: The Gathering or D&D.  There are video game sets, including some that have been signed by Big Names or are phenomenally hard to find.  But in my opinion the coolest stuff that comes out of Desert Bus is the craft-along!  For months now, crafters around the world have been working on geeky videogame- and fandom-related projects large and small.  Some will be auctioned off, others will be given away.  A crochet Dalek!  A skirt with tetris blocks on it!  A gorgeous glass plate with the Minecraft Creeper on it (best snack server ever)!  TWO THREE COOKING MAMA APRONS OMG!  IT’S OKAY, MAMA WILL HELP YOU SUPPORT CHARITY!

And, well, there’s this:

That right there is the slightly more finessed sibling of the Angel-Banishing Sigil I made for my sister’s birthday.  I bought pre-made felt for the button itself, then needle-felted the sigil on with yarn again.  This one has a proper pin back and everything, not just a safety pin sewn on with silk yarn!  And it was photographed by someone with a modicum of skill!

I’m really happy to be even such a small part of this epic charity event.  I know I’ll be tuning in to support the Desert Bus folks, and I hope you will too!

I was just looking at it on their site thinking about the grey backing (I wanted black but it was out of stock) and I had this awful facepalm moment where I realised I could have done both layers in the same red as the front.  Oh well, live and learn…

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Happy Halloween

By the time this post goes live I expect it will be November already, but as I start to write it, it’s still Halloween and I’m squeaking my costume post in under the wire.

This year felt a bit like Talloween, since both my costume and G’s were based around Tally’s tutorials from I Could Make That.  First off, my costume:


I used this tutorial on making a lined hood as a jumping-off point for a Little Red Riding Hood.  The cape I modelled off a raglan sweater I like the fit of…turns out that wasn’t absolutely the best choice as the trapezoid-on-a-rectangle-shaped sections that work so well in hand knitting make for strange corners in a woven fabric, so if I were to make another cape, I’d take the same measurements from a sweater that fits me well, but I’d smooth the pieces out into straight trapezoids.  Got it?  Well, I whipped up a schematic to help a bit.  I’m sure if you’re smart about sewing you already know this (maybe there are even better names for these shapes than the ones I’ve come up with!) but it was news to me.

diagram of raglan-shaped and trapezoid-shaped sections that might be used for sewing something cape-like

The whole thing is lined, and it’s all sewn by hand.  I was working on it on the heels of my epic dolly dress, and if ever an experience made me want to own a (non-broken) sewing machine, it was 3 days of hand-sewing pleats and gathers in miniature followed immediately by 3 more days of sewing what felt like miles of straight seams.  Usually my fingers feel pretty tough, what with all the small-gauge knitting I do, but I sure was ruing my lack of thimble by the time I debuted this costume.

Cape shaping notwithstanding, the hood itself turned out great (thanks, Tally!) although following her pattern did make it fairly shallow, so if you want one with a little more depth I suggest adding maybe an inch along the front, especially if you are using a woven fabric, such as for example a red fitted sheet you picked up at the second hand store for $3, instead of t-shirt jersey material or other knits as in the original tutorial.  This is because the woven material tends to have a little more body/less drape, so my hood doesn’t quite have the same soft fall as Tally’s awesome tiger costume.

Speaking of $3, I made G’s costume for the same low price!  Well, not counting any of the stuff that came out of my stash…


What are you looking at?  Only the most dastardly serial killer of the panda persuasion!  The sad panda serial killer kills other pandas and then wears their skin for clothes.  He’s sad because he realizes it’s wrong but he knows he won’t stop until he’s caught.  Poor sad panda.  Someone should make a movie.  The sad panda mask was also made from a pattern of Tally’s, although I completely omitted her awesome heat-bond appliqué method.  I can tell you, though, that if you have the supplies on hand, her method would make certain parts of the process a lot easier.  For example, I get the impression that heat-bonded fleece would be able to stand up on its own in the ear department, unlike this faux-fur coat collar I picked up at the Sally Ann which is heavier and less stiff.  But the biggest thing is, you wouldn’t have to finish the eye holes.  I did my best with no-sew glue and ribbon, but by the end of my crafting I very much understood why the heat-bond technique would be a major advantage.

Incidentally, the panda is holding his weapon of choice there.  Yup, it’s a fondue fork.

Happy Halloween…now this salamander needs to crawl into a mud bed before she turns into a pumpkin!

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Monday was the local doll collectors’ group monthly meetup – with a Halloween theme!  We met at a restaurant, so I just brought Rada and didn’t get any good photos in the low light.  Today I got out into the glorious, almost unseasonably warm sun to immortalize this year’s costumes.


Suzuha is a jellyfish!  I riffed off a toy pattern for a Juvenile Sea Nettle to make a fun hat.


Rada is Snow White (you can tell by her needle-felted apple), and Posy is one of her dwarven friends.


Posy’s beard is also gently needle-felted onto her felt mask.  Yes, I like using new skills!



My hard work sewing definitely paid off, although if I were to make the pinafore again (for mini) I would cut the skirt parts a bit narrower so you could see the dress underneath a bit better.  But I think the overall effect is adorable!


Sadly, I didn’t have time to make costumes for anybody else this year.  Sewing those long pleats took a lot of time, and of course I’m working on my own costume as well, and hopefully I’ll have pictures of that by the weekend.  Next year I’m starting my Halloween prep in June…

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