Thursday, August 27, 2009

Zipper pouch

I have had a long standing fear of zippers. I was never sure how to exactly sew them, or size them. Could I just pick any size zipper? What is an invisible zipper? How did I get the zipper ends to match up to my project exactly?

Last weekend all three of our girls were at my parents for the night (a first for us!) and I had some time in the sewing room while DH had time in his workshop. Armed with cute fabric and a seven inch zipper I dove in head first. I tackled my first zipper and it was scary, but good.

I'm really happy with the tutorial I chose. It was well written, clear and seemed to be free from what I consider "unnecessary" or "fussy" steps (pinning, basting, etc.). Yes, I know that these are very important, and probably underrated, facets of the sewing art, but with a limited amount of time - and a steep learning curve - I was going for rapidity and results, not quality, my first time around.

I say the experience was scary because I did wind up sewing over the zipper teeth. As the tutorial pointed out I was careful to avoid the metal parts of the zipper, but my needle still made a scary sound as it passed over (thru?) the zipper teeth and I saw the needle bend dangerously. I've had a few close calls with breaking needles while sewing with my machine. I've even considered wearing safety glasses after a sharp needle point flew at my face after breaking. Next time I put in a zipper I'll think twice about the glasses, and probably wear them. Anyone have advice on this? Was I doing the correct thing by just going right over the zipper teeth? Is there a way to make this a more enjoyable experience for my machine next time? Anyone else have problems with flying metal when their needles break?

I followed the tutorial as best I could and am amazed that I wound up with this cute little pouch. It's sized perfectly for my knitting dpn's and has found a cozy home in my knitting basket. I've already got my eye on three other zipper projects! The next time I'd like to find something that turns out nice crisp top corners or has a rounded look overall.

Skip To My Lou also has a great tutorial on cloth napkins - I've fabric laundered and ready to go for that project too.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Iraqi Bundles of Love

Every once in awhile a special project or event arises that speaks to me. I learned about one this morning. Iraqi Bundles of Love aims to provide all kinds of sewing, knitting and fiber supplies to families and sewing cooperatives in Iraq.

And thanks to Sew, Mama, Sew! I was able to help out effectively and quickly. This was perfect for me - a busy mom that wants to help, now, but isn't able to put together a box and get to the post office all while caring for young kids at home. This project is normally something that I would have learned about, wanted to participate in, but probably wouldn't of been able to.

I would have talked about it with a friend or two, mentioned it to my husband, and maybe tried to gather a few things for a package during a nap time. But getting it all together and in the mail? I probably wouldn't of made it that far on my own. This initiative is wonderful. Thank you Sew, Mama, Sew! for leveraging my giving and helping me help others.

The folks at Sew, Mama, Sew! have put together a number of these packages and you can purchase your own here too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Birthday knitting, crafting and sewing

My mom's birthday and my twins' birthday are a day apart in August. You already knew that my SIL's birthday was earlier this month too. This means a lot of crafty possibilities every August. This year I made crowns (ala Soulemama) with my girls and knit a pair of socks for my Mom. I put the socks inside v.2.0 of my re-usable fabric gift bag.

I cut and assembled the crowns, but the girls picked out the felt and accessories; they wanted noticeably more bling than the ones I envisioned :) They also decided on the placement of the flowers and the jewels. I couldn't find my darn glue gun, and didn't let the craft glue dry long enough, so half of the little beads fell off during the day. I guess we just get to re-decorate them all over again next year.

The socks are Spring Forward by Linda Welch knit on size 1.5 birch dpn's. I knit a pair of these earlier in the year for myself, in orange.

This gift bag is a slight improvement over my previous version as the seams are thankfully inside the bag this time and the drawstring works better. The only thing I still can't figure out is how to make the entrance and exit holes for the draw string sit on the outside of the bag. The ones pictured here turn inwards. I'm sure this doesn't make sense, but in case it does, do you have any advice for me? Might I have to make the casing as a separate piece and then sew it to the bag?

After seeing my first bag, jsknitter (aka Joan who popped over from ravelry) talked me through making a proper drawstring and some advice on french seams. I'll be sure to incorporate her advice in v.3.0!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A day away in Wisconsin

This past weekend my husband and I had an incredible day away; away from home and the kids. We started with lunch in New Glarus, then drove along scenic Highway 39 to Mineral Point. After visiting some galleries, we grabbed a quick nap at the beach at Gov. Dodge State Park and then ended the evening with a wonderful play - Hay Fever by Noel Coward - in Spring Green, at American Players Theatre. These three towns are incredible places to visit for people who love history and the arts.

After walking through numerous galleries in Mineral Point we visited Set in Stone, which is a bookstore, wine shop, coffee house and yarn store all rolled into one. The shopkeeper I spoke with showed me a lot of local yarn choices, both those that were spun locally (with local wool, alpaca etc.) but also those dyed locally. She also had a great selection of fairly traded yarns from around the globe.

The jar of buttons is from an antique store in New Glarus. As a new sewer I don't yet have a button stash. I've got a handful in little individual ziploc baggies, from new clothes I've purchased, but I don't have a monster-sized cookie tin filled with them, like I remember my Grandmother had. This jar is the beginning of my button stash.

Keeping in the spirit of promoting my local community, I'd also like to share this project with you: the 3/50 Project. It's probably clear from this post, but exploring, purchasing, creating, and investing locally is something that I'm pretty interested in.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Re-useable gift bag

I know I have a pattern for making something like this somewhere. The bags I'm thinking of might actually be in Weekend Sewing - are they weekend or travel bags? - but I've loaned that book out to a crafty friend and don't have it near by. So I just made it up as I went along. This, mind you, came with it's own challenges.

I wanted something simple, easy-to-sew (i.e., minimal seams and shaping) and I even drafted pattern notes to make sure I was on the right path.

I started with two panels, hemmed them around three sides and made casings at the top for drawstrings. Sounds good so far, right? Yet, when I assembled the pieces I got it wrong, backwards and wonky. Oh well, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or apple-pear juice as the fabric would suggest, right?

So I stitched the whole thing together from the outside (wrong sides together) - three times to give it a semi-purposeful quilted edge look. And, unfortunately the drawstrings don't actually draw anything closed. They just run thru the fabric on each side of the bag so you have to push the fabric around until it closes. So much for my (sewing) pattern drafting skills, but I'm still a beginner so I'll cut myself some slack here.

It's a small bag so it works. The print is cute so it works. I'm happy with my apple-pear juice - it's delicious.

And the contents of the bag you might wonder? Three gorgeous dish towels from Orange Tree Imports for my SIL's birthday.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


In a crazy fury of knitting I finished these mittens late last week. I was simultaneously working under deadline on edits with my advisor on a book we co-wrote over the past year. Apparently when my adrenaline kicks in, and caffeine from the insane amount of coffee I was drinking to get it all done, my knitting benefits.

These mittens are from a lovely pattern and I highly recommend it for experienced knitters. I did have a very difficult time achieving gauge and proper sizing however. It was likely due to my inexperience with two-color stranded knitting, but I wanted to give a word of caution. Be sure to check out ravelry for lots and lots of feedback on other peoples experiences with these mittens.

I made two, well actually three, modifications to the pattern. The first which isn't really a modification, but is a departure from the pattern, is that I used worsted weight yarn. I had a terrible time getting stranded knitting to look right with fingering weight wool so I went with a heavier weight instead. The second modification was to cut 8 rows from the pattern for each thumb. The mittens are already on the big side, and will need to be felted a tad, but if I had stuck true to pattern the thumbs would have reached almost to the top of the mittens. The last modification was that I added a picot edge. The pattern called for a purl row edge and I thought this was a tad more decorative. I also have to say how much I love the braided cuff detailing and will be using that again on another pair of mittens in the future.

You can find the rest of the details (needle size, yarn, etc.) on my project page on ravelry. For my history with these mittens you can scroll here.

As of tonight I have two sock projects on the needles and I have cast on for the first of two hooded wallaby sweaters. I'm definitely back in the swing of knitting again!