Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sweetheart Apron

  It seems like it's almost a requirement of being a sewing blogger that you sew and share an apron at some point. Thing is, I don't like most aprons. They pull on my neck and are extremely uncomfortable. I've tried before to solve that problem and didn't particularly like the results, but I tried again recently, and it worked! The pattern I developed will need some tweaks, so I'll probably sew another one up soon, but I finally have an apron that is comfortable to wear!

  It's pink, even though I really don't wear pink, because I wanted to use a fabric I wouldn't miss if it utterly failed. It turned out that this is one of those fabrics that looks considerably better made into something than in a pile. It came from a set of fabric-stuffed garbage bags that I picked up second-hand recently, as did the grey accents. The lining is made of pink sheet pieces left from making crib sheets last year. =)

  I accented the bodice with black flat piping, and the skirt with black decorative stitching when I ran out of flat piping. I almost wish I had no flat piping to begin with, because I love the scalloped stitches. I'm not sure they would have worked well in the curves of the bodice though.

  I created this pattern using my basic block, extending the vertical darts into a seam and folding out the angled side darts. I should have folded out extra though. I didn't take into consideration that the sides of the bodice would now be partially on the bias, and would stretch. I had to sew darts in, and there is still some excess fabric there. I should also have trimmed some off the side panel at the most curved point, where it meets the center panel, because there is some bubbling.

  The extra at the side edge means that the waistband slants downward where it shouldn't as well, and makes the skirt pieces bubble out a bit. This was a very good lesson in fit for me! It's amazing how many things just that little bit of extra fabric affects.

  Ready to see the special treatment in the back that makes this apron comfortable for me?

  As you can see, there is some bubbling going on in a few spots here, but all of that should be simple enough to to alter for the next version. I also want to lower the strap keeper an inch.

  I had fun making this one fully lined with all of those straps. First, I sewed the strap keeper and turned it right side out. Then I sewed it into a seam of one shoulder strap, and turned that right side out. I stuffed the whole assemblage into the second shoulder strap and sewed the strap keeper into that strap too, the turned it right side out. I did something similar with the sashes, but instead of stuffing the whole thing in there I just made sure the edges of the straps met the right spot inside the sash and kept the rest hanging out the end of the sash where it would meet the apron front while I sewed.... then turned them right side out. =) Finally, I sewed the front and front lining of the apron, basted the straps on, and lined it, leaving a small gap in one of the side seams, which I hand-stitched closed after -you guessed it- turning everything right side out. =)

  One more thing that I messed up.... the sashes. I intended to make each sash 30" long, and my accent fabric was 60" wide, so I should have just cut two width-of-fabric strips in my desired height, and cut or folded those in half. Somehow I got distracted while cutting and cut 4 strips across the fabric. That, in turn, meant that I sewed those 4 pieces together for my sashes.... which means that I have to tie a really big bow or my sashes drag on the floor! The hazards of sewing with children awake... =)

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Stuffed Animal Storage Cushion

  I mentioned recently that I had exciting things concerning classes AND machines to share. I've shared the class (which is incredible, you should definitely check it out), and now it is time for the machines.

  A while back I entered a giveaway on a favorite blog, girl.Inspired. I NEVER win giveaways; although I've entered probably over 1000, the only thing I've ever won was in a giveaway I didn't realize I was entering, and was something I didn't particularly want.... so I wasn't expecting to ever hear anything about that giveaway again. But I did! I won it! Have I mentioned yet what it was? A gift card to Joann's, for $500!!!!!! And Stef is really sweet, and packaged it prettily, and sent it to me along with a lovely handwritten note. =)

  Most people would probably spend the gift card on fabric, but I have quite a lot of fabric that I need to use up. Having admired coverhem machines ever since I first heard of them, I decided that one of those would be my first item. Joann's only carries one coverhem machine, the Singer Quantumlock, which is a serger and a coverstitch machine. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but since choices were limited, I went with it.

  Joann's was skimpy on the details of what was included, so here is a layout of everything: the actual machine, an extra knife, extra needles, a set of 6 extra feet (elastic, taping, blind hem/lace, shirring, beading/sequin, and cording), spool caps (also cone holders, currently inside the thread cones), thread nets, basic toolkit of hex screwdriver, flathead screwdriver, tweezers, oil, and lint brush, a serging cover that swaps out for the coverstitch cover currently on the machine, a box to hold it all in, a scrap bin, a manual, and a dust cover (not pictured).

  I was pleased that the feet were included, although I do wish there was a folded hem foot.

  So far, I've only tried out the safety stitch, three needle coverstitch, and two needle coverstitch. The loopers are ridiculously difficult to thread unless you remove the throat plate, but once threaded I haven't had any problems adjusting tension, length, knife, or differential. The manual isn't particularly clear, but I managed to figure out the setups without too much difficulty. Although it's not the easiest to use, setup-wise, it's been beautiful to actually serge/coverstitch with. With 5 thread cones and 5 needle positions, there are quite a few different stitches you can make, even more than pictured here:

  Overall, I'm satisfied, although I'd recommend buying something else if you are shopping at some other place than Joann's, just for ease of setup. =)

  The second machine, which I would also recommend buying somewhere other than Joann's, is a Silhouette Cameo (affiliate link). This is another one I've had my eye on for years, and just couldn't justify getting it until now. I did end up paying a little out-of-pocket for this one, but still much less than the usual price.

  Not much was included in this one... there was the machine, a cutting blade, a cutting mat, a basic manual, USB and power cords, 50 free designs, basic software, and a $10 download card. It sounds like a lot, but I've seen bundles for the same price that also include a tool set, extra mat, an extra download card, and vinyl, as well as the designer software. In fact, Massdrop has a deal going on like that right now. If you are in the market, it's worth checking out.

  This machine also has a learning curve. So far though, it seems that the easiest mistake to make is just loading the cutting mat crookedly. If you do that, everything cuts crookedly, or worse, the rollers don't grip the mat and it swings wildly back and forth, destroying all the previous cuts. That said, if you can load the mat correctly and set the blade depth and cutting speed right, you can cut amazing, intricate designs from a huge variety of materials. Like this cardstock lace:

  I haven't had much of a chance to use this one yet, but I'm really looking forward to seeing what else it can do!

  Now that I've rambled for 30 minutes about machines you probably didn't want to hear about, here is something I made using both of them:

  I know, it's all lumpy and crooked. That is because it is full of stuffed animals. I've been constantly frustrated with stuffed animals everywhere, and I think this will help. It also doubles as seating for messy-haired little girls. =)

  I dyed some drop-cloth pieces a dusty rose color with the intention to make a stuffed animal storage cushion about 6 months ago, then cut out the pieces and left them sitting, because I wasn't sure if I wanted a vinyl window or not. Yesterday, when I was searching for my black knit (I think I accidentally threw it away with a bag of scraps. So careless. I know!), I came across the pieces and decided to finish it up. I decided against the vinyl window, because I thought it would be less durable and also look more cluttered.

  First, I cut a few freezer paper stencils with the Cameo and painted some daisies on the top piece. It seeped under the edges in some places, because the freezer paper adhered rather imperfectly to the canvas, and I painted a little too vigorously in some spots, but overall it turned out decently.

  It took a while to set up the safety stitch I used to sew this up, and in the process I forgot that I had a pile of piping waiting to be inserted, so I failed to add it in the lower seam. In the top seam, there is piping and a zipper for animal addition and removal. It isn't easy to add a zipper and piping in the same seam! Next time I'll hand-baste the zipper on before sewing it. And the piping! I had 2.5 yards. I was exactly 1/2" short. Which means there is a small gap in the piping in the back.

  The basic shapes here are two circles and a very long rectangle. I had to cut the rectangle in two pieces, since I was using leftover pieces and didn't have a single piece long enough. The construction was simple enough, since I was stitching and finishing the edges in one pass. If you'd like more detailed instructions though, check out this post or this post. Mine is kind of a cross between those two. Turns out, it's good for more than just sitting on... there was a whole lot of this going on:

  I wonder how long it will last. ;-)

  I have several other things made and waiting to be posted about, but since Beckers is both mobile and in the throes of separation anxiety, I haven't had much hands-free time for typing. It's much easier to snatch 5 minutes to sew than 5 minutes to blog, somehow. Hopefully I'll get a chance to share everything else soon! =)

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Progress Of A Goal

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy this product through one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission.

  You may remember that one of my goals for this year was to learn to create PDF patterns... I'm happy to report that I'm well on my way to completing it!
  I happened across a blog a few months ago that had something I found really useful on it... a standard measurement chart from Lauren Dahl. I started following her blog, and soon after was invited to preview the amazingly comprehensive class she was developing, "Creating PDF Patterns: From Sketch to Sale"

  I'm only 26% through the course, and here's what I think... this course is amazing!

  Besides videos on the actual digitizing process, Lauren has helpful tips, printable cheat sheets, information on using Illustrator and InDesign, checklists, and lessons on subjects like pricing, pattern testing, yardage calculations, and cutting diagrams. There is even a bonus lesson on getting your patterns commercially printed! I'm really impressed by how much is included in it.

  This course is also laid out really well.... you can click to complete a lesson so it's easy to see what you've already finished, but you can go back to any lesson at any time and do it again. 

  I'm ridiculously excited to learn everything this course has to teach, and to put it in use! I'm working on a pattern that I'm hoping to turn into a PDF by this summer, and have many, many more ideas in waiting. =)

  If I hadn't been lucky enough to preview this course, you had better believe I would be buying it! And it is really a great deal too... for a class like this, $149 is almost giving it away. AND, if you buy it from now until Sunday, March 23 at 11:59PM MST, you can get $10 off! Just use the code launchparty10 at the checkout.

  I'm a Pattern Workshop affiliate, so if you buy through my link, here, or by clicking on either of the banners, I'll earn a commission. If you aren't interested in increasing my fabric supply, you can use this non-affiliate link: Pattern Workshop.

  Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know how excited I am about this, and share it with those of you also interested in patternmaking. And to anyone who is more interested in just buying the patterns.... soon! =)

Thanks for stopping by!
Disclosure: I received free access to this course, but was not required to write about it. All opinions and excitement are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy this product through one of the product links, I’ll receive monetary compensation

Swaddled Diaper Babies

  One of the things I made to decorate at the baby shower were these swaddled babies made from diapers, washcloths, socks, and wiggle eyes.

  I finally tracked down the picture I saw on Pinterest, so if you'd like to see my inspiration, go here. At the time I made mine though, I was instructionless, so this is what I came up with. Mine are a bit different than the originals, mostly because I wanted to show the cute cuffs on the socks.

  Start with a diaper.... pure white diapers would be best but I used Huggies Little Snugglers in newborn size (affiliate link), since those are my favorite new-baby diapers. They are soft, unscented (artificial fragrances give me a headache, I don't like to think about the effect on my babies), with an umbilical cord cutout, elastic in the back for a snug fit, and a leak-reducing pocket in the back.

  I decided to roll the diapers with the back facing out, since it has less printing than the front. I put a small piece of tape on the back to hold it.

  Next, I fold a baby washcloth almost in half diagonally:

  Put the diaper on it, tape-side down:

  And fold, starting with the bottom edge:

  Tuck one side around the diaper:

  And wrap the other side around to the back. The original version has the washcloth tucked into itself in the back (what would be the neckline) but mine wouldn't stay that way so I taped it too:

  Next I took a cute baby sock:

  Turned it inside-out:

  And folded the cuff up:

  I popped it on the top of the diaper:

  Then I turned the whole thing over, pinched the part of the sock that was sticking up:

  and tucked it into the cuff:

  It should look like this from the back:

  and like this from the front:

  then all the baby needs is eyes. I used double-sided tape to attach wiggle eyes.

  And repeat!

  These are really quick to make, especially assembly-style. All of these took less than 30 minutes.

  I love that these are also a useable gift!

  I had a hard time finding baby washcloths locally and ended up buying them on Amazon. I bought this set and this set. (affiliate links). And if you were counting, yes, there were some leftover. They, and the leftover diapers, were given to my sister-in-love along with the babies after the shower was over. =)

  I have a few exciting things involving machines and classes to share soon, so don't forget to check back!  =)

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Strawberry-Maple Chex Mix

  I don't normally enjoy sweet Chex mixes, but this one is hard to stop munching on. The salty-sweet flavor with the crispness of the cereal, buttery texture of the pecans and the bright tang of the strawberries is really delicious. The one ingredient that's a bit unusual is freeze-dried strawberries... I found mine at Trader Joe's, but Amazon also sells them. (affiliate link)

  I show the strawberries being baked along with the mix in these photos, but after making it a few times I found that I definitely prefer them added afterward... they get a little burnt when baked too long, and the maple-butter mix doesn't really add much to them.

  You'll start by heating your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit... if your oven runs hot turn it down a bit lower. Mix together your desired Chex cereals- I used 5 cups each of rice and corn, and 2 cups of wheat. Next, add some pecans. I like to lightly crush some and leave some whole. I used a cup and thought it was perfect, but my husband prefers it with fewer pecans.

  In a separate bowl, add 1/2 cup (1 cube) butter and 1/2 cup maple syrup.

  Sprinkle on some nutmeg... I went with 1/4 teaspon.

  and melt it all in the microwave, about 1 minute 30 seconds on 50% power for me, but that will vary depending on your microwave. If you don't have a microwave melt it over low heat on the stovetop, just be careful not to burn it. Avoid overheating it either way... maple syrup foams up like crazy when it gets hot, and you'll have a giant mess on your hands. I've accidentally boiled maple syrup too many times to count.

  Pour this delicious mixture over your cereal/nut mixture while stirring:

  Mix it up really well until everything is nicely coated. I used a spatula for this batch since it was for the baby shower, but it is much, much easier to use your hands. Just be prepared to wash them when you are done!

  Pour it all on a cookie sheet, the largest you have:

  Bake it for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. When it no longer feels wet it is done, even if it isn't quite as crispy as you expected. It crisps up more as it cools. Finally, add 2 cups of freeze-dried strawberries, or more up to 4 cups, and serve.

  Here is the recipe all in one place:

Strawberry-Maple Chex Mix

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45-50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield: approximately 15 cups
  • 5 cups rice Chex cereal
  • 5 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 2 cups wheat Chex cereal
  • 1 cup pecans, partially crushed
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups freeze-dried strawberries
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix cereals and pecans in large bowl.
  3. In separate bowl in microwave or pan over low heat, melt butter, syrup and nutmeg together, do not overheat.
  4. Pour syrup mixture over cereal mixture while stirring. Mix well, until cereal is completely coated.
  5. Pour onto large baking sheet and bake 45-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until cereal is dry to the touch.
  6. Mix in freeze-dried strawberries and let cool before serving.
  7. Can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 weeks. 
 I hope you get a chance to try this out!
Thanks for stopping by!