Friday, May 25, 2012

Baby's First Straight Jacket, aka "Bunting"

A friend of mine just had a baby boy yesterday (YAY!) and I made the little tyke a snuggy! Or more accurately, a straight jacket (that's what it looks like, okay). Despite having several cousins and friends popping out kids the last few years, this is the first time I felt inspired to actually make something for a little sprog. I don't know why I held off so long. This was nearly instant gratification, since baby things take approximately an hour to put together.

I used Simplicity 2165 view D, what they call a "bunting", my Mom calls a swaddling (or something), and I call a baby straight jacket. I was originally going to make the changing mat, but cripes I couldn't figure out what they heck they were talking about in the instructions. Straight jacket it is.

I decided to use soft flannel, and picked out a cute mint-green and duckies print for the outside and solid brown for the inside. Man, there is a major deficit of boy-themed prints out there. Most of it was really girly, even the blue stuff. And I'm really not pleased with the quality of this fabric. It's already piling after one wash, and has a loose weave. Really shoddy Fabricland, I'm unimpressed.

Anyways, it was super easy to put together, right up until the hook and loop tape (which I learned is actually the generic form of Velcro - like what Kleenex is to tissues). The diagrams seem to be wrong of where to place them. It took a bit of thought, superimposing the tissue paper, and folding the wings in, but I figured it out. You can see the final placement below.

Doesn't the mint print and the brown look nice together? I was craving mint chocolate the entire time I made this.

Anyways, I zigzagged the hook and loop tape on using mint thread, which looked sharp against the brown. I even trimmed the tape with wee scissors, since the edges are sharp and plasticy and I was afraid of the baby getting hurt.

And then I embroidered crossed hockey sticks at the bottom corner of the straight jacket, since his parents are rabid hockey fans. Just a little nod to them. I love the idea of being able to add that little personal touch!


As I mentioned in my last post, I'm moving to the Yukon. And as I didn't mention in my last post, I'm leaving on (or around) June 12th. MEEP! Unfortunately that means that this project will be my last sewing project before I leave, since I really need to start packing. But the good news is that I bought a car this week, and will be driving up. I have drawn up the following equation to show you the value in this:

Road trip x able to bring all(my happy stuff + sewing stuff) = YAY!

Red hot tamales!

Let's not talk about the fact that it's a 3700 km trip. And that I'm a prairie girl through and through, and have never driven through the mountains before. DOUBLE MEEP!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Personal Post Cleverly Disguised as a Crafty Post

Look what I finally finished!  I've been in love with this pillow ever since I saw the tutorial Blair over at Wise Craft came up with, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to have this cushion.  And it only took me...3 months to make.  Oh uh, yeah.

Anyways, I'm a little bummed by it, in a way.  Not because it didn't turn out exactly like what I wanted.  Not because the project was hard or the tutorial was difficult to follow.  This is the most perfect little pillow made from a fantastic little tutorial.

Trying to make up all these discs in different colour combinations wound up being more difficult than I thought it would.
No, I'm bummed because I've finished it just in time to either pack up, sell, give away, or toss all of the lovely stuff I've accumulated in my pretty (if often messy) little apartment and move.  Because I can't just move somewhere in the city, or a province over or anything.  No, I decided to move to the Yukon, and I'm going to have to severely edit what I bring with me.

Putting the discs together.

I never mentioned it on my blog at all, but I lost my job at the end of April.  Which, as it turns out, was a blessing in disguise.  I didn't realize just how miserable I was there until they slapped that piece of paper in front of me and said they were letting me go.  

Here's one side, all stitched together. This is the back side, so all of those ridges will be hidden. I attached the discs together using the crochet method shown here.

Everyone, I'm an emotional person.  I get that from my Mom.  When I'm happy, I cry.  When I'm sad, I cry.  When I'm frustrated, I cry.  When I'm stressed, I cry.  When I have to talk to people who make me nervous, I cry.  It's pathedic.  And then, because I hate getting emotional (I get that from my Dad) I get angry at myself.  Which makes me just cry more, and it's this awful downward spiral of tears and snot.

I didn't shed a single tear when they let me go.  In fact, from what I heard, I was calm and relaxed and somewhat happy looking.  That says something right there, eh?

Stitching the two sides assembled sides together, using the same method to join the discs together. I left one side open to insert the pillow.

Anyways, I've been in a sort of long-distance, not-really-dating-but-sort-of-crazy-about-eachother, THING with an old friend who lives in the Yukon.  Way back in March, I decided that I was going to take the risk and move up there to see if this Maybe Thing had any potential to go anywhere.  Of course, I was planning on waiting until the fall so that I could, you know, save up some money for the move, but uh...then I lost my job.

I made an insert using an old pillow case, cut down to size.  I made it a smidge bit larger than the cushion shell, since the crocheted sides will stretch a bit.  By using an old pillow case, I only had to stitch up two sides.  Can you see the mistake I made?  (HINT: This is still unstuffed.)

So I'm in the process of finding a job.  In typical Heather luck, I managed to find a place to live before I even found a job.  The vacancy in Whitehorse is something like 0.2%, and most places are rented out before they're even advertised.  But my friend up there found me a room to rent at a rate you generally won't find anywhere else in the city, and I've jumped on it.  Especially since he's sure that I'll get on with the person who owns the place.

Stitching up the opening after stuffing the inside lining, sewing it closed on the machine (Note to self: stitch by hand next time), and stuffing the lining into the crochet pillow case.

What does this all have to do with my throw pillow?  Well, it means that I've finished it at about the time that I need to start clearing out stuff.  Will that include this lovely pillow?  I don't know.  I hope not.  I'm gutted to have to get rid of anything, to be honest, because I was expecting to live here for a few years at least, and was finally starting to invest in the things I want, instead of whatever cheapo stuff I could find on a student budget.  I'm already devistated that I have to get rid of this awesome couch that I hunted down online and fought to get back here. I look around my apartment, trying to talk myself into starting to deal with my stuff, and I just get...well, I already told you about the emotional thing.

And I don't even know what this means for my sewing stuff.

While in university, I would move on average of twice a year.  The 2.5 years I lived in Kingston was the longest I'd stayed in one place in a decade.  I should be used to this, right? Used to picking up and starting all over, right?  And it's just 'stuff'.

Then why am I feeling so gutted this time?  I'm pretty sure it's because I kept telling myself that as soon as I'm done school, I'll get a job and my own place and settle, which has been a dream for a looong time.  And I had that.  But...

But I wasn't happy.  The job I had settled for kept me too busy to spend time with my family, which was the whole reason I chose to stay here in the first place.  And I was scratching at the 'what if I'd moved up there' itch.  So I'm going.

I just wish I could pick up my entire pretty place and take it all up there with me when I do.  Pretty throw pillow and all.


ETA: Look what I found while sorting through stuff.  Apparently I was planning on being a storyteller and illustrator when I grew up!

Interpretation: Red and purple elephants eating up your hair

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How I Learned to Sew

Steph over at 3 Hours Past was discussing how she learned to sew, and I realized half way through writing up my own history that it was long enough to be it's own post. Plus I thought that you all may be interested, so I thought I'd share.

I come from a family of home sewists, although most of them are 2 generations back. Three of my Grandmothers's have always sewn, either quilting like my Memere, home decor and self-stitched clothes as my Mom's Mom, or almost the entirety of her and her family's wardrobe like my Dad's Mom. As did my Mom come to think of it, although she mainly stuck with making our Halloween costumes. By the time I was old enough to show interest, my Mom and her Mom were no longer sewing, and I didn't meet my Memere until much later. However, my Dad's Mom was actively sewing when I was a child and she taught me the basics. Later on, I took sewing in grade 7 or 8 when we still lived in the city and I attended one of the big local schools. I remember making stuffed bears and sweat shorts and other similar little things, and not having much of a problem doing so since I already had the basics.

After that, I sewed a bit, on and off, usually when I visited Grandma in the summer. Later on, my Mom bought me Herbert for Christmas ($20 Walmart special...a little plastic thing - fit perfectly in a tote bag though), and I used it to hem curtains or t-shirts. When I moved to Kingston for Grad School fall of 2008, I brought him along with me.

One of my first wearable garments, a skirt traced off from a thrifted skirt. I refuse to show my non-invisible invisible zipper.

I thought that sewing up a scrabble quilt for my Mom for Christmas 2009 was my first re-introduction to sewing, but my journal says otherwise. I started to pick up men's t-shirts and button-ups from the thrift store and played with them in late summer/early fall 2009. I mostly got inspiration from, which basically consists of a sewing community that just does it dammit, and to hell with having the right tools and skills! I created a hoodie out of three t-shirts, tried to reconstruct men's button-ups to fit me, and basically putzed around. There were a lot of failures, but I was never discouraged because I learned a lot. One of my first successes was a skirt I made by tracing off a skirt I'd bought at a thrift store. I remember trying to sew from a pattern during this time, a pair of pants, but I made the classic beginner's mistake of using my RTW pants size and not my actual measurements size. Perhaps I was tramatized by the experience, and this explains my block with them? LOL!

Scrabble quilt, measuring 3.5 feet x 3.5 feet. Almost entirely sewn on Herbert, although I stitched the layers together and bound it on my Grandma's Kenmore.

I dabbled in quilting, sewing my Mom that scrabble quilt I mentioned. I learned a lot doing that, the best of which was that accounting for seam allowance is very important. That quilt wound up a lot smaller than originally planned.

I eventually got a "new" sewing machine, a 1970's Kenmore that I blogged about here (along with a view of my Kingston sewing space. I'm still proud of my fabric organization skills, and have a similar set up now).

Thrifted RTW tank top with added lace and bow. I mourn getting rid of this when I moved to Manitoba.

Denim skirt reconstructed from a pair of jeans. I still wear this.

A purse made up from this tutorial from a tutorial from Disney at Ruffles and Stuff. I still use this purse, but it's starting to get faded and a bit threadbare.

I played around a lot with reconstructing garments, including a demin skirt from a pair of jeans that I still wear to this day. I made up maybe a half-dozen garments from a pattern (not all of which were successful), including this first me-made (from a pattern) t-shirt, when the 2010 wardrobe contest over at PR happened, and I decided to join up. What made me decide to do it, I don't know. I hadn't even sewn 10 wearable garments before this time, and I had to create a coordinating 10 piece wardrobe? I guess I was looking for a challenge. Something other than my M.Sc. thesis, anyways.

I think that joining this contest was the best thing I did for my sewing skills. It challenged me in a way that nothing else could've, and I gained a lot of friends in the sewing community - along with scads of help - by getting involved in the discussion over at Pattern Review. Just looking at my first and last garments, you can easily see how my skills improved by leaps and bounds. Where once I was content to have unfinished seams, wonky hems, and sketchy construction, I learned to:
  • finished seams neatly,
  • value handstitching,
  • take the time to do things right,
  • how to fit to my body (well, started to anyways),
  • identify what works for me,
  • let go of a project if it's just not working,
  • look at individual garments as part of a whole, and
  • pants are hard.
I still have and wear many of these garments, although sadly some of them were tossed/donated when I moved to Kingston.

My sewing skills are still improving, as I hope they will continue to do in the years to come. I can't say that I'm more confident to tackle projects now, since I was pretty fearless to begin with. But I'm certainly more patience approaching more challenging projects, and I definitely have less failures than I used to.

And maybe someday, I'll get over my fear of pants.

What about you? How did you learn to sew? Were you self-taught, family-taught, or educationally-taught?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grading a Pattern Down a Size

I'm working on a Top-Secret Project, and while I can't share the details of it with you right now, I did want to share something that I've learned while working on it!

The pattern I'm working with is plus size (20W to 28W). Unfortunately, this is just a too big for exactly half of me, and my upper body would be swimming in the bodice if I sewed the smallest size. I guess only my butt is plus sized? Anyways, I'm grading the entire pattern down from a size 20W (the smallest in the set) to a size 18W. I thought I'd share with you how I accomplished this. While only piece of the pattern is demonstrated here, the technique shown can be used on all pattern pieces.

I've used a plastic grocery bag and a permanent marker to trace my patterns. Works like a charm and uses up plastic bags to boot! (Speaking of making do, tomato soup, tinned mushrooms, and tuna cans all make great pattern weights too.)

The first thing that I do is lay out the plastic and weigh it down so it doesn't move. Then I traced out size 20W completely, including all notches and shortening lines.

Since the size increments in this pattern are uniform from size to size, it's fairly easy to grade down a size or two. Once size 20W was traced, I shifted the pattern so that one side lined up with size 22W. Including grain line arrows and shortening/lengthening lines makes it easier to keep the pattern lined up properly.

I then retraced the size 20W line. This shifts the left side of the pattern piece down one size increment, to what I'm going to infer would be size 18W. (Please ignore that neither line is aligned with the pattern sheet below. My tracing had shifted by the time I took photos.)

Since we're going down one size, we can't just re-trace the size 20W line all the way around, or else we'll just wind up with another size 20W, shifted over a tiny bit from the original. Instead, lets look on the right side of the pattern piece. See how I've shifted the original size 20W edge to line up with size 22W?

NOTE: Normally if you're grading down to a smaller size, the new, smaller-sized outline will be inside the original larger sized outline (or vise versa if you're grading up). However, in the case of this pattern piece, the smaller size outline is actually on the outside on the left side of the piece. I probably should have used a more conventional piece to demonstrate with, but this just shows how much you have to pay attention while tracing and grading your pattern. Watch out for this!

Once again, I simply just traced along the size 20W line, creating a size 18W outline. Make sure you're marking your lines as you go so that you don't get confused when it's time to cut out the pattern piece.

I went around the entire pattern piece, shifting the traced size 20W edge over to size 22W line and retracing the size 20W line to create a pattern piece at size 18W. (I'm hoping repetition makes this clearer.) In this case, I only had to trace the pattern on the left and right side for this piece, but some pieces required retracing on all sizes.

Make sure you transfer over all markings. I find that the markings line up relatively well, but watch out for tricky areas. Sleeves can be complicated because you're often shifting one area of a pattern in different directions, which can wreck havock on the notches and marks.

Once finished, carefully cut out your pattern pieces, paying attention to which line you're cutting. On the piece above, I nearly cut along the size 20W line on the right side, which would've left me with a too small of a piece!

This may seem time consuming, but so is running out to purchase a new pattern in a different size. Cheaper too, especially if you're recycling plastic bags for your tracing material!

What I'd really like to do is get a hold of this same pattern in the smaller size set, and see if my down-graded size 18 based on the plus-size pattern matches up with the size 18 based on the Misses' pattern. Not only would I really like to know how close I am to getting the size accurate through this method, but I suspect that there may be some drafting differences between regular sized and plus sized patterns.

The picture above is from the Simplicity website, showing the differences between different body types. They classify plus size patterns as "women" or "women/plus size", and they indicate in the text that the main difference between Misses' and Women's shapes is the proportions. Wouldn't this mean that the pattern proportions would be different too?

So this is why I keep referring to my new pattern size as 18W to distinguish it as coming from the Women's shaped pattern, as opposed to an 18 based on a Misses' shaped pattern. I'll try to get my hands on the smaller size set soon so we can see if there's a difference!

What do you think? Is there a difference in the pattern proportions between these two shapes?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Liebster Blog Award!

Doobee of Doobee's Creations nominated me for the Libester Award ages ago (5 weeks?! Oh geez sorry Doobee), and I'm only just getting around to writing up the post. She did give me a heads up...I think...I sort of remember a comment ages ago. only excuse is that I'd check my email at work, thus 'unreading' them, and then completely forgetting about it when I got home. Not a good excuse and I probably don't deserve the award for such carelessness, BUT TOO BAD YOU GAVE IT TO ME SO YOU CAN'T TAKE IT BACK!!!


ANYWAYS, the Liebster is an award for those who have less than 200 followers but deserves a lot more recognition and following as they build up their blogs. It is a way for bloggers to help each other out by spreading the word about their sewing blogs.

The rules for this award are:
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated your blog by linking back to them (see above)
  2. Nominate 5 other blogs with less than 200 followers each
  3. Copy & Paste the award on your blog
  4. Hope that the 5 you nominate will keep the cycle going to spread all that good blogging karma!

And that's it! I don't even have to come up with 7 things to tell you guys about myself. Easy peasy, and I have no excuse for now doing this a month or more ago.

I hearby nominate the following awesome Sewists/Seamsters:

Stacie Thinks She Can: I pretty much want to copy everything Stacie makes, and she seems to want to do the same with me. This woman can whip up pretty dresses and quilts like you wouldn't believe, and someday I'm going to just go down to Texas and steal all of her creations, just to save myself the trouble. Especially a particular rose quilt she's made twice now... Oh, and she has the cutest sewing assistant that I might also have to kidnap.

ElleC Sews: ElleC just started blogging in January, but is already proving herself to be an interesting blogger. She's funny and charming and apparently on a shopping diet, although we haven't actually seen much evidence of this yet. Go on over and check out all the lovely fabrics she's acquired during her diet, and have a looksee at her projects while you're there. She has a great hilarious valuable cautionary tale on napped fabrics and underwear! ;)

FussWorks: Heather is very new at garment sewing, but has been quilting, knitting, and cross-stitching for ages. She just started up her crafting blog (after I harrassed her for years about it), where she's been showcasing all of her crafty projects. I'm super excited to see her progress in garment sewing, and she writes interesting posts that often feature one of her critters or another! Unfortunately, she's on a bit of a sewing hiatus right now since she needs to focus on her thesis, but I know she's still creating, and will be posting again soon. Go on over and check out her projects (and her grumpy bunnies). One of her first projects is a crazy pair of pj's, and I'm totally impressed by the collar she attached to the top!

quiet and small sewing adventures: Kristin hasn't had much time lately to sew either, but that's because she's also a Super Scientist in her spare time, doing stuff with "bacteriophage" (c/p from her profile - I don't do bitty critters). But trust me, this woman has some spectacular sewing skills to go with her lab skills, and she takes the most fun photos! I don't know how she does it, but she manages to whip off these gorgeous dresses and cute separates, and I often hate her for it (actually not really). Look at her holiday dress and her reconstructed shorts and try not to hate her as well! If you like things involving bacteria, lab work, and assorted Grad Student Woes, you'll be interested in her scientific adventures as well.

Another Sewing Scientist: I adore all of the interesting dresses and skirts this sewists creates. She always seems to find the most interesting fabrics, usually on her trips to Cape Town. Just look at this dress, and this top, and this skirt. *sigh* She has such a chic style that I wish I could duplicate (but totally wouldn't look as cool as she does).

And those are my five nominations! I suspect some of you have received this before, and don't worry about reposting if you don't feel like it. But I totally recommend people check out these bloggers, if you haven't already!

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