Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stash to Treasure: Toddler Jean Jacket

Toddlers love dogs.  What could match the thrill of meeting a furry, tail-wagging, panting animal with bright eyes and a big wet tongue?  And then to reach out and--almost touch--before jerking away at the last second.  A dog who waits sedately for that tentative touch is exciting enough for these little guys.
But how about the puppy that plants a paw on a toddler's chest, or a big wet kiss on his face?  That's something a toddler, or at least his mother, will never forget.
I drew this pattern, beginning with pieces from Kwik-Sew's Sewing for Toddlers book.  Then I consulted McCall's 5191 Jean Jacket pattern (now out of print) to divide the pieces into sections and style the collar.  I stitched the appliqué and embroidered paw prints from the Anita Goodesign Baby Puppies collection.
The denim comes from my boys' old jeans, and the appliqué materials and soft flannel lining are all from my stash.
This was a crazy idea, but I like the way it turned out.  Hopefully a little boy we know (or at least his mother) will like it, too!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Creamsicle Baby Quilts

When Grandpa O sent me the first batch of thread from Grandma O's stock, he padded the cases with fabric, including this orange trio.  According to a receipt in the bag, this is probably some of the last cloth she ever purchased.  I don't know what she had planned, but to me, these pieces shouted, "baby quilt!"

Zig-zag baby quilt, to be precise. 

And, adding some white to set off the zigs, there was enough for two baby quilts.  I've been eying this design for long enough that it disappeared from the first place I saw it.  But I found the directions elsewhere, and it looks like the author has posted it again. 

I like the design because it creates these great diagonals without cutting diagonally--it's just a bunch of two-piece squares set (very carefully) on point.  The first top went together pretty easily once I really read the instructions and made sure those little blocks were square.  The second was a breeze.

These little blankets are also my successful-machine-quilting debut.  I've tried before, but the backing would scrunch up and get lost.  For these, I used the long-desired walking foot.  Even with the walking foot, machine quilting isn't quite as easy as I'd hoped.  My stitches aren't that even, and my shoulders got pretty sore working with a crib-sized piece.  But it was a whole lot faster than quilting by hand.  I guess I'll have to do more, to build up my endurance.

Now I just need to find someone to give these to . . .

Monday, February 24, 2014

Security Blanket

When my friend, M, asked whether I might be willing to sew a weighted blanket for her friend, J, I had never heard of such a thing.  Neither had M.  What she could tell me was pretty intriguing, though, so I did some research.

Apparently physical pressure, as from a strong hug or a heavy blanket, can be comforting to people with a variety of conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, Autism, restless legs, Alzheimer's, insomnia, and sensory difficulties.  (Click here for more information.)  J's son had a positive experience with a weighted blanket during a troubling day at school, so she wanted to have one for him at home.  The weight of the blanket should be proportional to the weight of the person.  J's son is just a little boy now, but we all know little boys don't stay that way.  So J wanted a blanket that could grow with him.

She asked me to make a twin-sized blanket in which the weight could be adjusted.  I found some inspiration here and here, and went to work.
I used muslin to make a big sheet of pockets, using overlapping strips.  I did not succeed in sewing them all straight, so I'm glad this part will be hidden most of the time.  But the pockets do hold the weights.
The sources I consulted made their weights by putting poly pellets in plastic zipper bags.  I'm sure this is convenient.  But it looks difficult to get the excess air out once the pellets are in.  Plastic bags don't last forever.  And I couldn't stand the thought of a plastic blanket.  Wouldn't it make creaky noises, raise the temperature uncomfortably, and just feel weird?  Maybe I have sensory problems, too, but I couldn't subject this little boy to anything like that.  So I sewed more muslin into nice breathable squares, added enough pellets to make an ounce each, and sewed them up.  (Hooray for overlock stitches!)  One or two of these beanbags can fit into each section of the pocket sheet, so the distribution of weight can be adjusted.
J's son chose the outer fabrics:  a planetary flannel for the top, and a soft brown striped velour for the back and binding.  I think it's a fairly mature choice for a preschooler.  He should be happy with it for a long time.
The pocket sheet attaches to the outer cover with ties at the corners.  Perhaps I should have added ties to the middles of the long sides, too.  The pockets do slip around a bit.
Our trip to Mississippi came during this project.  I felt bad telling J that I'd be gone for a week, but the trip was actually helpful.  While I was there, I found the walking foot that goes with the sewing machine Grandma O gave me.  I'd never used one before, but I think it made all the difference while sewing these large, thick pieces together.  This is also the first time I've used piping, and I think it looks pretty good.  I've used snaps from The Snap Source before, but this was the first time I've set them all right the first time.  So, some glorious firsts.
All told, this blanket came out almost exactly the way I envisioned it.  I hope it meets J's expectations, too, and comforts her son for many years.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mississippi Interlude

Dandelionslayer and I recently took a trip, alone together.  This is not something that is a regular part of our marriage, and it was nice to spend the time together.  But it wasn't exactly the tropical getaway of our dreams.
We did go south, to visit Grandpa O in the old homestead.  This picture is from Sunday, the warm day.  It was sunny.  We took a nice stroll around the neighborhood.  But the rest of the week was cold and gray and rainy, just like at home.  One day, it even snowed.  (Not as much as it did one day at home (which still wasn't much), but that's another story.)  That was okay.  We had work to do inside.
If she who dies with the most fabric wins, Grandma O was a serious contender.  She loved making things and giving them to people.  Local new mothers thought her burp cloths were too pretty for burping.  No cartoon princess is as well outfitted as our cute little nieces are.  I know the joy of creativity, the satisfaction and relaxation of needlework.  I think it is wonderful that Grandma O kept sewing as long as her illness allowed, that she looked forward and planned more projects.
But she couldn't take it with her.  She specifically bequeathed her fancy embroidery and quilting machine to me, which is fun, if a bit overwhelming.  Grandpa O sent that some time ago, along with some thread and fabric.  He said there was more, and that he'd probably box it up and send it to me.  I thought there might not be room enough to receive it.  When Dandelionslayer planned to go help around the house, I decided I'd better take charge of the sewing room.  So Grandma and Grandpa G came to take charge of the boys, and we flew away (on some of the most complicated flights we've experienced, but that is yet another story).

I dove in and measured and stacked and organized and sneezed.  Dandelionslayer, alas, spent this vacation with a miserable cold, so he and his dad kept asking if I was catching it, too.  Nope.  It just doesn't take much dust to set me off.  After three days I'd found the sewing machine accessories that hadn't made it to me earlier, and collected my cut of the fabric, tools, and projects.  I found some things that were ready to send to the nieces.  I collected pieces that had been cut out, and bagged them up with their patterns.  I organized the other patterns by brand and number.  I vacuumed.

Then Dandelionslayer braved the attic.  Along with boxes of his old stuffed animals, Scout memorabilia, and books, he found three more boxes of fabric and craft materials.  Some of them had been up there a long time.  But most of the fabric was still good.  And no, I definitely could not use it all.
So I got it organized and called the Relief Society president.  She was happy to restock the service project closet from Grandma O's stash.  I hope the closet had room enough.  We gave her at least 440 yards of fabric, many spools of thread, and a sewing machine.  I hope she came back later for more tools and kits.  The ladies will be able to make many blankets for babies or disaster victims, and teach the younger girls to sew a few things.  I trust them to put it all to good use, eventually.  I think it's what Grandma O would have wanted.

And I look forward to using the things I collected . . .

Monday, January 27, 2014

Becoming Jane

Remember all that yarn I wound so patiently?  Eventually I transformed this into another piece from AUSTENtatious Crochet:  the Becoming Jane Sweater. 
It's done in the Begonia Stitch.  Isn't it lovely?  I had a little trouble with the gauge, like the last time I used this book.  Perhaps it was my fault.  I chose to use a yarn different from that called for.  But I was really careful about it.  I figured that a yarn with the same ratio of length to weight should produce the same gauge.  I calculated ratios and considered colors for many yarns, and finally chose CoBaSi, a blend of cotton, bamboo, silk, and elastic nylon in a range of vibrant colors.  I knew I'd need a hook larger than the recommended E, so I tried F.  And G.  Once I got to N, the stitches were large enough to achieve the specified gauge, but they were loose and undefined, and didn't look right at all.  So I settled on J, and crocheted by the measurements. 
The lightweight yarn and small pieces made this a perfect summer crochet project.  The fabric has a great drape, and the sweater is warm and comfortable.  I think it is fairly becoming, too, even if I'm busy talking while Dandelionslayer takes my picture.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

K is for Kilt

I don't do a whole lot of sewing for the boys.  They're content to wear the same jeans and tee shirts over and over.  Not much scope for creativity.  But sometimes one comes up with an interesting request.  When the Caterpillar decided he'd like a kilt to wear with his Boy Scout uniform, I couldn't deny him.
Note:  A kilt is not part of any official Boy Scouts of America uniform, and the BSA has no official tartan.  But the Caterpillar has seen kilts in use at Scout events.  He wanted one that was similar to his Scout pants--green, with belt loops and useful pockets.
I mostly followed Uglymike's Cargo Kilt Instructable, and it went pretty well.  I sewed the pockets on just above the point where the pleats swing free.  I was happy to find snaps that matched the finish on the belt buckle--Smoke (Metal) from Snap Source.  Since the Caterpillar still has a noticeable waist, I added some adjustable elastic to help cinch the band evenly under the belt.  That went well, too, except that one end got in the way of one snap.  But under the belt, no one will know.

I finished sewing the kilt in September, I think, but the Caterpillar didn't have time to model it until Thanksgiving.  The one condition I set for sewing a kilt was that he must wear it--at least to his Eagle court of honor, and hopefully before that.  I planned to do this photo shoot somewhere neat, with boulders and a big flag, but he refused to leave our yard.  I began to have some doubts.  Was he not confident enough to wear a kilt in public?  He hasn't done that yet, but he did wear it the rest of the day on Thanksgiving.  Must be comfortable.  I'm sure he'll get it out again when it's warmer outside.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Craft Bridge

I crocheted a bridge into the new year.  I began a scarf on New Year's Eve, mostly finished on New Year's Day, and did some revision and finalizing on the next day.
It turned out to be a very long bridge.  Eight and a half feet long.  I was very careful to count the chains, but didn't look at the big picture until the end.  That's okay.  I get to be creative when I wear it.
A while ago, I ran across this pattern, which Pinkleo based on one worn by Luna Lovegood in one of the Harry Potter films.  When I went back for it, I also found Calophi's modification of the same pattern, which I liked even better (it is easier to see here).  And then, well, mine turned out differently.  I used two skeins of Caron Simply Soft Paints, in Springbrook, with an H hook.  The first skein ran out shortly before I finished the first side.  So I began the second side with row 2, rather than row 1.  That didn't save me enough yarn, though, and I ran out again before finishing. 
The next day, I took out rows 5 and 6 on both sides, then worked row 6 without row 5.  I have a little yarn left over, and I like the lacy pattern.  It doesn't look so much like Luna's anymore.  But we're both pretty unique characters, so we should have unique accessories, shouldn't we?