Thursday, May 14, 2015

Einstein, Watson and Crick Walk Into a Post Office...

Last week my oldest friend (in length of time as friends, not age--we met in dance class when we were four. Well...she was in dance class, I was in stomp around gracelessly class) gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. At her baby shower we were chatting and her mother said "Do you know you didn't ask for a diaper bag on your registry?" To which she responded "I know. I'm asking Bethany to make me one right now." Her husband is a nuclear engineer (when I first met him I felt really witty with my "C'mon, it's not nuclear physics" quip but, as with most engineers, he was just like "Mmm hmm, OK"and didn't find me hysterical, which is how my dad the engineer responds to me, too) and wanted to make sure the diaper bag was not going to be overly babyish. Sports was tossed out as an idea, and they jokingly said "Do they have fabric with atoms on it?" I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that yes indeed, there is geeky science fabric available. After nailing down the details and getting the fabric, I got busy. I enjoyed every minute of making this. Truly.


That fabric matching on the front pocket there was pure accident. I don't think I could have done that if I tried, but it looks like I really meant it. I was a little nervous ordering the green online as sometimes things look way different and don't match in reality, but this was spot on. I did my usual elastic pockets on the sides, but didn't realize my photo was a little blurry until about ten minutes ago.


The inside fabric is just as adorable, and is an assortment of random geekery--equations, symbols, binary code, bowties and glasses.


I usually do a tie closure for diaper bags, but did a zipper this time. I had bought a small supply of purse-sized zippers to have on hand for larger bags. It was nice not to have to switch out the zip pull for a larger one and to have a little extra width to work with for the casing.


The zipper casing is nice and wide so if the bag is stuffed the zipper won't bust, and if it's not so stuffed it'll sit down a little bit. I love how that double helix worked out around the zipper, kind of creating its own pattern. I had my fingers crossed with the fabric cutting for this one as I had just enough. I had a little square left over after some gusset trimming, and I'll hold onto that for the quilt I need to get back to.


I finished this the day she had the baby and mailed it out on Friday. I asked for Monday delivery. It just got there today. It went kind of west, slightly east from there, out for delivery in the wrong town, way further west, then waaaaaay east, then back west, then finally to its destination. I tracked this thing like a bounty hunter because if they lost it I was going to lose it. Every day when it showed up nowhere really near where it was supposed to be when it was supposed to be there I would quietly rage "THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE NO MONEY, POST OFFICE! THIS IS WHY PEOPLE SHIP UPS! YOU HAD ONE THING TO DO! I COULD HAVE WALKED IT TO HER BY NOW! TWICE!" So I was quite relieved when I saw it made it safe and sound. I've said it before and I stand by it: my photo must be hanging in the post office with a note that says "Lose anything she ships and receive a pay bonus!" Because every time.

This is definitely one of my favorite diaper bags out of the many I've made at this point. So different, so fun. I'm pretty sure nobody else is going to have an atomic diaper bag. And sometimes an atomic diaper bag is necessary for the atomic bombs those wee little things can drop.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Probably One of the Most Feminine Things I Own

Recently I shared these bags that I made for my cousin's wedding. I needed a bag for myself as well, but I'm not a clutch sort of person. I like something to hold onto so that I can swing the bag at someone's head of the need arises (I mean...you never know, right?). I was delighted with this bag I had made for another wedding (I have a LOT of weddings to go to this year--be warned), so I figured I'd use some of the leftovers and another bit of a lace to make a bag to match my dress (which is silvery gray lace with a light blush lining). I had to make this right away even though I have oodles of time, because I didn't see myself wanting to work with lace again once I stepped away from it. 


The original bag pattern I used had an inset bottom. Thankfully, the lovely Liz mentioned this pattern in a comment--one with a nice, easy boxy bottom.


This is so light and shimmery--I just love seeing it. It came out much better than I thought, as I really thought I'd make a terrible mess of the lace because I was just so over it.


It's not crooked, there's just nothing in it to fill it out, and I took a chance on some interfacing that was a wee bit flimsier than usual so it's got a mild case of the flop. It made the top much easier to get onto the frame as I didn't have to fight it so hard, though.


I took my time with stitching the casing and marking and measuring, as I can't imagine the new naughty words I'd have invented if I had to rip out stitches from lace. I don't know if a stitch in time saved nine of anything, unless it was years from my life as it slid right in.


This matches my dress just right, and makes me almost excited to wear it. Almost. I'm a jeans girl through and through, and don't know if I'll ever look forward to dressing up.


I have a couple of diaper bags and a finished pair of socks to show you. My afghan is growing, and I've got a shawl on the needles in some of my fancy new yarn. My sister said to me "I don't know how you can work so much! I'd go crazy!" Which is funny, because obviously this isn't work. Amiright?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I'm Not a Kid, I'm a Girl...

...and Friday was my birthday.*

I hate to brag but I just had the most delightful three-day weekend. I took off on Friday and set an agenda of 'whatever.' I took my car in for its annual check-up, and after that headed off to an official yarn store. I have been a yarnster for thirteen years now (five more than I've sewn) and my yarn shopping has been limited to large craft stores like Michael's and Joann's, or to online shops. This was like walking into a candy store (and with birthday money in hand I didn't hold back). I'll show you what I bought as I use it. I drove around the little town the shop was in that may have been one of the most picturesque places ever (but got no pictures because of the whole motor-vehicle-operation-in-progress thing). I ran a few errands, and then settled at home with tea, a sandwich, and some knitting (I finished some more socks). We went out for dinner and after I got home I wound up my yarn purchases on my new yarn ball winder (because I know how to party).


While that all sounds like too much fun to endure, I got to babysit my little A-train on Saturday.


This kid. For real. My heart can't take it sometimes. "You be this car, and I will be this truck, and we will drive to the chocolate factory." Just lead the way, kiddo. When he's in his little world playing with blocks or sidewalk chalk or something, he sings to himself (which is the cutest thing to overhear).


He and his Aunt Leesh sat on the front steps and shared an orange. I made up a song for the experience, but no one was amazed at my lyrical prowess. I'll let you judge. (Ahem):

Oh my orange,
Oh my orange, 
Oh my orange Clementine.
You are good and
Oh so yummy
In my tummy
Clementine.

Should I quit my day job? 

Not long after this A-train stood up and said "I have to do my business." Curious as to if there was a different meaning here, Aunt Leesh said "What is that?" And he said "MY business." He then started to pull his pants down to go on the lawn. Like the dog does. My sister was laughing too hard, so I stepped in and said "No, we go in the house to do that." I was then informed "No, I have to do it right there on the grass." After a brief lesson on the difference between dogs and humans, we high-tailed it inside to continue with the potty-training/house-breaking. 


Spending a day with a kid and not glued to your phone or the have-to list is quite liberating. You are forced to slow down and be in that moment, to watch that bug and make up stories about where he's going, to drive tow trucks to the candy factory that is apparently just off to the side of the porch, and to find wishes just waiting to be made.


This morning I woke up to a big breakfast my daddy-o made, followed by a massive closet clean-out (I even bagged up my delusional section for donating--do you have one of those? It's a small selection of clothing you swear you'll fit back into one day). I put away the winter things and pulled out the summer brights. My mom made my favorite (ravioli), and we had dessert and blew out candles and all that jazz. 


I am trying to think of the last time I had three consecutive days of pure joy from start to finish. Happy new year, indeed.

*Random Shirley Temple quote (with a little creative license)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Blushing Bride

Dum dum da dum...dum DUM da dum.... That's the wedding song. Did you get that? Sorry, I'm aiming for levity as I have the news on right now and I am so very glad I do not live in Baltimore (and if you do you're in my prayers tonight). Anyhoodle...

My cousin is getting married in a few weeks and his fiance had asked me to make some bags for her bridesmaids. I said sure, even though I generally shy away from weddings as the fabrics can be finicky and the matchy-matchiness of everything can be frustrating. Luckily, she wanted a simple design and was fine with me flipping the colors so hers would be the color of her bridesmaids gowns, and theirs would be the color of hers.

These are absolutely boring to look at in pictures, but so feminine and pretty in person. They are basic zip clutches, but these have the zipper set down in a bit so it doesn't look so much like a change purse.


The maids bags are all in ivory satin and lace, while the bride's is blush satin with an ivory lace overlay. Can I just tell you this bag drove me a little crazy? I thought I found the perfect pinks at Joann's, but was promptly informed that they were "too purple" and "not blush" and "all wrong" and "I don't like that" and so on and so forth (not by the bride--by my mother and sister). I make them sound quite sarcastic but I felt the same way. So I took a shot at ordering online as I came up empty at local shops, and had the adventure that is shopping at Fabric.com. That could be an entirely different post, but that site is not the place I once loved and ordered from constantly. After getting my nag on I received my satin and it was right on. The lace was almost orange, so I did what I do when I need fresh eyes on something. I laid everything out on the dining room table and went to bed, promptly forgetting about it all. When I came down the next morning my instant reaction of what looked best was actually using the ivory lace instead of one of the several colors I now had. Thank goodness for hassle-free returns.

Goodness, I didn't mean to get all into that.


My camera does not love picking up pink accurately, but this is the softest prettiest shade of blush pink. I can't think of a more feminine color. It's not one I could ever wear as I am quite fair with pink undertones (as my sisters tell me when we talk makeup), and I would be washed out completely, but I do love this color.


These bags were fairly simple to make. The most difficult part (after fiddling with creating a pattern) was making sure the lace and satin and interfacing stayed lined up and behaved themselves. I've never done an inset zipper like this  but it was really quite simple to do.


The one thing with this was that I didn't change out the zipper pulls as I had exact zippers and didn't want to pull them apart. That teeny pull gets a little lost in there, so I tied a small length of jewelry suede (I guess that's a thing? I got it in the jewelry aisle and it says suede on the package) to the pull to make it a little easier to get a hold of. And it really made quite the difference.

Tonight I made up my bag that I'm taking to this wedding, which I'll show you next. And while I will not swear off satin as it's quite simple to work with and so pretty, I'm thinking that lace can go straight to h-e-double sticks. I have no idea how people work with that stuff (I'm thinking of you, Grandma!). I have two diaper bags on order, and quilting cotton has never sounded so good.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction

Afternoon, dears. A few weeks ago I was sent a book to review, with the request that I post my review on Amazon. Will do, but first I wanted to share my thoughts on it with you folks.

Now, I love crafty books. They're usually beautifully photographed and look so appealing, but I find that more often than not that a lot of those books are so similar (and a few even kind of not good) that it's not worth it to keep adding to my library. After reading the book notes in the email I was sent, I decided this one might be a good one. And even though it's my own opinion I think I'm right, haha.


OK, so the book. Its called The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction by Christine Haynes. After reading the author bio I thought "Ok, this person knows what they're doing" as they've been a lifelong seamstress from a family of seamstresses and went to school for seamstressing. Plus? As you probably guessed, there are a lot of photos. Not those dinky little line drawings that aren't helpful, but actual photographs showing the essential parts of the technique.


The book has a nice, thorough introductory section regarding notions and tools and the usual beginning of any sewing book info. But this one has a section I've never seen before in a sewing book and might be helpful to those whom are intimidated by a machine manual--a section on machine parts.


The book then goes on to explain patterns, measuring your body, choosing fabrics, how to cut different fabrics properly, and how to mark all those notches. The language is simple, but at the same time comprehensive and helpful. The beginning of each section also has a part called 'anatomy of a garment'--



I thought these were fun little bits interspersed throughout--you get to see what's being written about and how it looks on an actual garment, with a numbered section explaining what's what.

The next section is on construction basics--zippers, buttons, hand sewing stitches, finishing and grading seams, and so on.


There is also quite an extensive section on darts, gathering, and all manner of shaping techniques and sleeve insertion tips. And it of course finishes up with pockets and various hems.

I would have loved to have had this book a couple years ago for two reasons--fly front zippers and in-seam pockets. Some of you may remember this skirt I helped my sister make.


It was quite simple. Except for two parts--the fly front zipper and the in-seam pockets. I have a stack this high (you can't see but I'm holding my hand up from the floor pretty high) of sewing books, each covering what seems like everything but these two techniques (even recently published books!). I googled and read and googled some more, until I found instructions that were easy enough to follow. It made what should have been a very simple skirt not so simple, and quite frustrating. This book holds exactly what I needed to know among a ton of other useful information.



So. While this book is not a project book but a technique book, it's definitely a good one to have on your shelf. While I like sewing from patterns, I sometimes find the instructions terribly lacking or confusing due to the aforementioned dinky sketches. This is like having someone sitting there showing you just what to do, which seems to be the yardstick against which such things are measured, amiright?

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

To be or not to be

For Christmas I got a delightful box of Stylecraft DK weight yarn, perfect for blanket-making as it's cozy and soft but not stiflingly heavy. One of the more popular blankets that resides here is my ripple blanket made from said yarn because it doesn't weigh forty pounds. While that one is bright and riotous with color, the blanket I'm working on now is still colorful, but darker. Definitely out of my color comfort zone, but when I see it waiting for me to get back to it I do like it. It almost has an...ethnic?... look to it, I feel like I wanna say.

This is a mixed-stitch stripey blanket as seen here and here.


I'm trying to be kind of random with the colors but it is not easy. Due to the varying heights of the stitches it's difficult to get the right balance of light and dark, cool and warm. In some areas I think I'm good, but in other areas things stand out much more than others. When that happens I try to 'hide' that color in a skinny stripe.


I use each color once before I repeat anything, with the exception being the white to offset so much color and bring a little light to it.


For the most part the stitches are various combinations of double crochet and some half doubles, with a few thinkers thrown in for good measure. It keeps everything quite interesting and doesn't grow boring as you're not doing the same thing for a million consecutive rows. Some of the color pairings are interesting to see come together as it looks so much different in stitches than when I line up rows of skeins on the floor.


Now here is my dilemma. This is one of the edges. Ignore the ends. I'm trying to.


But here's the thing that makes me get slightly clenchy. It's the other edge.


That's some wiggly action happening up there. I'm counting my stitches and all is well in that regard, so I don't know what's happening. I'm planning on doing a border but I don't know if that will help even anything out as I've never had this problem before. Anybody know? It doesn't look so terrible in person but every time I pick this up to work on it I spend a good five minutes pondering if I should stop and start over with something that will be more uniform, or if I should just keep going with it. I think that's why it's so slow-going, I'm hesitant to grow it too much as I'm kind of unsure about that edge. Your thoughts? What would you do? I'm really having quite a conflict in my brain over this.


This must be how Hamlet felt. I'm super sure of it. Any advice would be appreciated.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Socks

Some people make Easter dresses. I made Easter socks. OK, not really. I just happened to wear them today. I finished off a pair of cuff down socks in official sock weight yarn, so these are real socks knit on itty-bitty needles and that fit in real shoes and everything.


I used this free pattern, and these teeny needles, and this kind of OK yarn that was a little scratchy to knit with but washes up nice and not-annoying-to-wear.


I do a much better job on this style of sock with not having stretch holes like I do in the toe-ups I've knit. Plus I really love how you can see all the parts cohere while at the same time being entirely separate and identifiable.


In the first sock I knit I threw in a nylon thread on the heels and toes. But then I read something that said don't do that because the thread can actually cut through the yarn, so the second sock doesn't have that element. This yarn is superwash wool blended with nylon so I'm hoping that's enough strength built in.

On the first one I finished it, and wove the ends in and was feeling quite pleased. Then I saw what looked like a dropped stitch. Then another. They were all literally hanging on by the (nylon) thread. I must have been very anxious to finish and wasn't paying attention. Then I recovered from my minor heart attack, UNwove my ends (which is the direct opposite of fun), UNdid my kitchener stitch (also not fun), and frogged the toe with fingers crossed (but not literally because I needed them, haha) that I could pick the stitches up again. Phew. It all worked out. I think I possibly did a few extra decreases as the one has a little bit of  ruffle/pucker/gather/wrinkle/whatever to it, but it seems to wear OK. The second one I took my time with the wretched DPNs, making sure all stitches were where they were supposed to be before I slid anything off. And then boom. Just like that I had a pair of socks.


The ribbing across the top of the foot makes it hug nicely and the stockinette toe makes it not feel too bulky. I have worn these inside regular shoes all day, and not felt aware of the stitches or any bulk or anything. They're a little too toasty for this time of year, but will be fab in cold weather.

And now here's the dilemma. I was ready to pack it in because I thought these were way too much effort. About two weeks-ish for the pair, thin yarn, skinny needles. But I really like these. They feel cozy. BUT I had a lot of extra yarn because I didn't know how much I'd need. BUT I found a toe-up pattern that looks just like these. Plus I saw this yarn. So I feel I kind of have to give it one more go so I can make an educated decision on my investment of time (yes, I'm aware of the irony of possibly wasting time while deciding if that activity is a waste of time or not. And yes, I'm also aware that I probably used 'irony' incorrectly).

Decisions, decisions. Next up: for a change of pace my new afghan I'm working on and enough unwoven ends to make you physically ill. Later kids!

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