1st Day of Craftmas: Making A Simple Ceramic Plate

Who doesn’t love commemorating a special occasion with a ceramic plate?  Special occasions just scream ceramic plates, don’t they?  There are lots of cute variations floating around on Etsy to celebrate engagements, weddings, births, etc.  In addition to highlighting special dates/events, you can also capture family phrases or sayings.  Creating one of these plates is fairly fast, easy, and inexpensive.  So, if you’re still looking for that gift for the hard-to-buy-for, why not give this a try?

I knew last year when my sister announced that she was pregnant, that I wanted to find something that said, “Home is where my grandma is.”  The hard part?  In our family, grandparents of the female persuasion do not go by “grandma.” They go by “grangi.”  What were the chances I could something that said, “Home is where my Grangi is?”  I’ll tell you – nil, zilch, zero.  My next thought was, “Why don’t I just have something commissioned from Etsy.”  I’ll tell you why.  Firstly, you have to be forward thinking enough to request it two months in advance.  Yup, negatronium.  Secondly, you apparently need to make more money than a highly appreciated, underpaid high school teacher.  So, you know what came next, dear reader…..DIY!

I’d taken some pottery classes in high school.  (Ok, in reality I think I made A pot in ONE class – which, in all its ugliness, my mom still has sitting on a shelf.  Bless her heart.)  But I figured, why not give it a go?  Since I am not lucky or skilled enough to have a wheel or kiln, I decided to explore the world of polymer clay where all you need is an imagination and an oven.  That’s my kind of clay.

So, here is what you’ll need to make your own fabulous ceramic plate!

2 Types of ribbon (I used one patterned and one solid), acrylic paint in various colors, modpodge, white oven-bake Sculpey polymer clay, alphabet & decorative stamps, paint brushes (very thin for lettering and thick for glazing), and clay molding tools

First, you’ll have to decide what shape you want your plate to be.  I went with the traditional ’round’ because I knew I had a lot of things lying around in that shape that I could use for a mold.  I used the top of a mid-size pot.  Before starting, I cut a circular piece of wax paper and laid it into the bottom of the pot so that it would be easy to remove the clay circle when I was finished.  Next, I took the block of Sculpey and pressed it evenly into the bottom of the skillet, carefully trying to ensure that my circle was the same thickness everywhere.  (So sorry not to have pictures of these steps — my hands were goopey!)

When I was finished and it was relatively smooth, I used the edges of the wax paper to pull it out, flip it over onto another piece of wax paper, and put it, smooth side down, back into the skillet.  Then, I worked on smoothing out the other side.  (Note:  Since I knew that I was going to paint mine, I wasn’t worried about using my hands to do the smoothing.  This, however, did mean that the clay did not stay pristinely white.  If you want your dish background to stay white, use clay sculpting tools or plan on painting is back to white!  The wooden tools you’d need are inexpensive and can be found at Michaels.)

Because I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to freehand letters, of that size, to look nice.  I decided to utilize stamps.  I bought a stamp alphabet in a font I thought looked cute and whimsical.  (Note:  My letters are fairly small, which meant that painting them required patience and a very steady hand.  Purchasing larger or bolder letters would help with this, but you’d need a bigger plate.)  In addition, I knew that I wanted to put a peacock feather on the plate (my sister’s last name is Peacock).  I figured that I would have to freehand that.  But, as luck would have it, I found a peacock feather stamp.  After looking through the samp aisle in Michaels, I realized that no matter what your need, “There’s a stamp for that.”  There are literally, thousands of stamp possibilities.  You’ll be able to find something that is applicable and cute for your own plate, I’m sure.

So, I roughly laid out where I wanted each letter to be by placing them (wooden side down, first) on the circle, one word at a time.

Once I’d figured out the layout, I turned them over one at a time and pressed them down firmly into the clay.  You’ll quickly see that the pressing firmly means you’ll have some lines here and there from the edges of the stamp.  Don’t fret!  Just gently smooth those out with your finger or a tool once you’ve pressed everything.

Lastly, you’ll need to use something circular and hollow (I used a small test tube from work) to make the two holes at the top for the ribbon.  And, then you are ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Place the plate in an oven safe dish and then into the oven.  I used a large, Pyrex casserole dish.  Use the instructions on the clay to determine the time spent in the oven.  When it is finished baking, carefully remove it and allow it to cool thoroughly on a cookie rack.

Now, you are ready to paint!  There isn’t really any trick to this.  A steady hand and painter’s tape, if you need it, are key.  Once you’ve finished painting it and the paint has dried thoroughly, you’ll need to coat it with about four layers of Modpodge to get that glazed ceramic look.  Make your modpodge layers very thin.  You don’t want excess to pool in the recessions of your stamped letters or decorations.

When the modpodge has dried and you are satisfied with it’s sheen, add your ribbon (I used two — a blue and a peacock print) and hang!  Voila, you can now call yourself commemorated!

The finished project — look how it gleams!

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Dishing up the “Comfort Slouchy”, with a side of apology.

Ok, I know.  It’s been a long time.  I’m SO sorry, dear readers!  Just when you thought I might actually have one or two good ideas, I disappear.  I really have no excuse.  It just all happened so fast.  August 23rd dawned, and before I could duck, school up and hit me like a mac truck.  And sadly, the blog got tossed to the back burner.  The beginning of the school year is always such a rough time for me.  I’m exhausted when I get home because I’ve lost my teaching stamina over the summer and I have little free time because I’m starting with a whole batch of fresh, un-molded minds.  But, I’m happy to announce that things have now settled down and I’m back in the saddle again.

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My sad, “won’t you please forgive me” face.

You’re probably thinking that for this, my grand re-entrance, I have something really special for you.  You know, to make up for the last two months in which I completely and selfishly ignored you.  Well, you’d be wrong.  If I were a better, more organized, and less sleep-dependent person, It would be a totally different story.  Instead, today, I’m re-testing the crafting waters with only my metaphorical big toe.  And while I cannot deliver you silver bells and golden whistles today, I can assure you that as the holidays draw near, I am again amassing my crafty strength.  I made myself a new lab coat for the start of school, several new skirts, and two leather bags.  Posts forthcoming!  I also have a lot of DIY ideas for the holidays that I’m going to blog about in my “12 Crafty Days of Christmas” (throughout December) series to help motivate me to get everything done on time and to hopefully give you some ideas for wonderful, homemade presents for your loved ones.  So, please stay tuned!

So what do I have for you today, you ask?  Well, while it’s not Mt. Craftmore, I am pretty proud of it.  I would like to present the first thing that I have EVER knitted out of my own handspun angora yarn (50% Merino, 50% angora — from my rabbit Sweet Pea to be exact).

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Comfort Slouchy, in effect!

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I call this hat my “Comfort Slouchy” because I plan to wear it….well, everyday.  It’s warm, comfortable, and wonderfully soft.  I feel like a have a cloud on my head.  And, It’s just starting to develop the fantastic halo that is characteristic of angora yarn.  I’m sure as time goes on it will get even more fuzzy.

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Angora “halo” is blooming.

I made it using the beginnings of the pattern It All Comes Together on Ravelry.  But, there was a slight error in the chart for the crown decreases, so I just did my own thing when I got to that point.  (Note:  the wonderful author of the pattern sent me the updated chart soon after.  So nice!)  Overall, I’m wonderfully happy with it.  With my next handspun skein, I plan to make a (somewhat) matching cowl.  I’m trying to decide between the Stockholm Scarf, Big Herringbone Cowl, and A Noble Cowl patterns on Ravelry.  I’m so undecided.  Do you think I have to match my hat with a lacey-type pattern?  What are your thoughts?

Ok, thanks again for hanging in there with me.  I know that I have a lot to make up for.  And, I’m going to make you proud.  Really, I am.  And speaking of slacking….I’m not the only one who’s been absent around here.  I want you to make a note of which one of us came back to you first.   It was me.  I came back for you.  Not Jaryn.  Remember that.  Clearly, I love you more……and I win.

See, you really can’t trust Jaryn. Clearly, she consorts with rodents.

I hope everyone’s been having a fantastically, wonderful Fall.  Here’s to a craftastic holiday season!

Jen

Handbags Galore!

As you know, I love making handbags.  In fact, I’m in the beginning stages of getting an Etsy storefront up so that I can begin selling my handbags and angora creations.  (So, if you like any of the bags below and want one of your own, let me know.  They make great gifts!  Wink, wink.)  Anyhoo, I’m constantly looking for reasons to craft a handbag.  Luckily, my friend Gwen just recently celebrated her birthday.  Unfortunately, she’s had quite a trying summer dealing with dental visits and a sprained ankle.  Therefore, I really wanted to make her something special.  I decided to whip her up a cute Buttercup Bag (Made by Rae) in a gray IKEA fabric that I think has a cool, urban feel with a muted, lavender lining.

Gwen’s Birthday Bag!

One of the things I’ve changed from the original pattern, is to add a much larger, divided pocket to the lining.  I’m a BIG fan of organization in handbags.  I need a lot of pockets and dividers to keep everything straight.

In addition to the bag, I also surprised Gwen with her finished skirt, made from a Simplicity pattern.  Isn’t she cute?  I just love sewing for friends.

Gwen, in her new duds.

I also needed to make a “thank you” present for my friend, Jill’s, mom who helped us out tremendously by driving our sick lab back and forth from our vet to the emergency vet while we were frantically trying to get home from the beach.  Needless to say, she was a lifesaver!  Jill mentioned that one of her favorite colors is blue.  So, I used a beautiful, royal blue IKEA fabric paired with a bright red lining fabric for her Buttercup Bag.  I decided not to do the button flab embellishment on her bag, and instead, added a line of white bias binding.  I think it turned out really well.

Carol’s Bag

Buttercaup bag….now with more pockets!

Last but not least, I decided I needed a new overnight bag for my trip up to D.C. to visit my friend, Alia.  (See….any excuse to make a bag and I’ll take it.)  I had really been wanting to make the Amy Butler Cosmo Bag from her book Style Stitches – check!  Here are the fabrics I picked out:

My favorite fabric for this bag, though, was a blue and white houndstooth that I decided to use as the inner part of the pockets.  Who doesn’t love a pop of houndstooth?

Pop of houndstooth in the pockets

I love the way this bag turned out and the fabric colors just scream summer to me.  Overall, I’m fairly happy with the bag, though, if I made it again I would give it a bit more structure and some more internal organization.  But, it served it’s purpose well and a good time was had by all in D.C.!

Amy Butler Cosmo Bag

Side pocket

 

Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the careful oversight of my OCD border collie, Sadie.  Doesn’t she look crazy?  Yup, that’s my girl.  Stay tuned for my next post — summer skirts!

Crazy Sadie

 

 

 

Spinning Jenni’s Fiber Adventures

This year, for the first time, I managed to make it to the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival, a.k.a. “A Fiber Lovers Paradise.”  It. Was. Amazing.  There were sheep, and alpacas, and goats, and rabbits.  It was a veritable petting zoo, which you know I’m all about.  Todd had to keep a close eye on me, as I was casing all the alpaca stands trying to figure out how shove a cria in my pocket to take home with us.  Here were a few of my favorite furry friends:

Baaaaaaaahhh!

And then, you could look in any direction and see glorious fiber and yarn.  In fact, there was so much fiber goodness that it was a little overwhelming.  I simply couldn’t choose between all the yarns.  They were all so beautiful.  So, I decided to stick with my game plan of buying my first whole sheep fleece.

For those of you uninitiated to the world of fiber, buying your first fleece is akin to entering the Tour de France as a young rider.  It’s exciting, daunting, and very scary.  Since I’ve never purchased a whole fleece before, I really had no idea what I was looking for.  I know……shocking, right?  There were hundreds of trash bags full of shorn sheep fleeces to dig through.  I wish I’d been smart enough to get a picture.  I was quickly reaching “sheep fleece saturation point.”  So, lacking in any formal knowledge, I did what I do when picking a wine — choose based on aesthetics.  I was able to narrow down my choices because I wanted a white fleece so that I could blend it with my angora rabbit wool.  Then, I just looked at the names of the sheep and let my fingers be my guide.  I settled on four pounds of the softest wool I’ve ever had the pleasure of groping.  My fleece is from a lovely little Cormo sheep named Lillian.  (Each fleece comes with a label telling you the weight, sheep’s name, and farm that it came from.)  Here is my bounty:

Four pounds of Lillian the Sheep

The first step towards turning raw sheep into wonderful yarn is a very long washing process.   You have to get out all the lanolin (natural oil), dirt, vegetable matter, and other nastiness that I won’t explain, but you know…… The tips of Lillian’s wool was especially dirty, so before washing it, I clipped those off.

Clip the tips

Ready for the wash

You have to be very careful when washing wool.  If you’re not careful with the temperature changes and agitation, you can end up with felt, which probably some of you are familiar with if you’ve ever put a wool sweater in a dryer and ended up with a baby cardigan.  Doh!  One thing that helps, is putting wool into lingerie bags.  So, after clipping in they went.

Packed into lingerie bags

Since the plan was to blend this Cormo with my angora, I wasn’t too concerned with preserving the lock structure the wool.  That meant I could use the washing machine instead of large tubs.  Each batch of wool was given three separate, 30-minute soaks in hot water and laundry detergent.  At the end of each 30-minutes, I’d put the wool through a short spin cycle to remove as much dirty water from it as possible.

Wool in the washing machine

The fourth soak was in clean, lukewarm water to rinse out any remaining soap.  Then, I spread out the wool on sweater racks to dry.

Drying wool

Washing an entire fleece is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you.  You have to commit.  It is a LONG process.  I have now finished, four loads of Lillian, and I still probably have two more loads to go.  Ugh.  Yes, I purchased Lillian in May.  Yes, it is now July.  Touch of the ADD, what can I say?  But, the effort has been so worth it — I now have a HUGE plastic bin full of heavenly, cloud-light, soft-as-a-baby’s-bottom, wool.

Big box o’ fluff

What am I going to do with all of this, you might ask?  My plan is to eventually spin it into a bulky wool that I can use to make the sweater Cameron Diaz wears in “The Holiday.”  I love this sweater!  I’ll probably have it done by 2035.

Washing all of that fiber has inspired me to get some spinning done.  Since I have a bit of a backlog with my angora, the mission was to use up as much as possible.  I started with a small skein for my mom that was 50% alpaca and 50% angora.  The picture’s color is a little washed out — it’s actually lavender.  I think she plans to make something for my niece with it.

Then, I spun up a skein of angora, silk, and merino in baby blue on my spindle while we were at the beach.  And this week, I spun up a 50/50 skein of angora and merino wool on my wheel.  I was really, really pleased with the latter.  My ability to keep a consistent thickness of yarn is definitely improving.  There is definitely still a variation, but it’s less apparent.

After winding both of these skeins into balls, I started knitting up the “It All Comes Together” slouchy hat with a twisted stitch rib in the 50/50 mix.  While you can see the diameter variation, I think it still looks okay.  Look at the halo starting to form — so soft!

With the remaining 50/50 and the blue, I plan to knit up the Ski, Bunny, Ski! hat from Ravelry:

Ski, Bunny, Ski! hat on Ravelry

It’s been so nice to crank up the AC and pretend that it’s snowing outside instead of this nasty 100 degree weather we’ve been having.  Hopefully, it’ll start to cool down soon and I can really start picturing fall and wearing all these wonderful knit garments!

 

 

 

The Knit Diaries: My Striped Maxi

The quest to become up close and personal with my serger continues, in the next installment of The Knit Diaries – a maxi skirt.  So, I’m not going to lie, when I realized that the maxi skirt was “in” this spring, I had to actually look up what a maxi skirt was.  Let me just say, wikipedia totally schooled me on my skirt lore.  Who knew there was so much I didn’t know abut skirts?  Dirndl, and Prairie and Scooter skirts, oh my!  I know, I know…..for a sewer, I’m terribly fashion illiterate.  What I quickly realized was that a maxi skirt is just a fancy way of saying a long, A-line skirt.  And since, A-line skirts are about the only type of skirt that looks good on me, I was psyched.  So, after hunting around on Pinterest for awhile for some inspiration (see the lovely skirt below), I knew that a striped maxi was exactly how I wanted to delve into this wild and wonderful world of long hemlines.

Striped Maxi inspiration

I have a maxi dress from last season, which I used (sort of) as a template to get that nice A-line shape for my front and back panel.  When cutting, I made sure to leave a lot of fabric (without the A-line slant) at the top so that I could figure out a waistline for my skirt.

Cutting a front and back panel

Once I had my two panels cut, I serged down both side seams.  Then, I thought more about the waistband.  I decided to try a shirred waistband for my maxi.  Why shirring, you may ask?   Well, I wanted to learn the technique, it’s a pretty easy way of creating a waistband, and I like the look.  What’s even better?  All you need to have to ‘get your shirr on’ is some elastic thread, which I happened to have scored a lot of in a flea market find, and a sewing machine.

Elastic thread

I put the elastic thread in the bobbin and regular thread up top in my machine.  I adjusted the stitch length to a basting stitch and I was ready to go.  I folded the top of my skirt in on itself to the inside to create 4-inch waistband – which at this point just looked like a double layer of fabric at the top.  I pinned around the circumference to hold that slippery knit fabric in place.

Waistband

I began stitching at the edge of the waistband and continued all the way around the top.  As I stitched, I began to see the elastic bobbin thread cause the fabric feeding out to begin to slightly gather. (See below.)

First row of shirring

After finishing the first row, I quickly realized that I’d better take care of securing the open edge of the waistband (on the inside of my skirt) before the waistband got too gathered.  So, I set up my serger to do a coverstitch and did a wide coverstitch at the very bottom edge of the waistband.  Then, I continued to stitch shirring rows (spaced about every 1/2 inch from one another) down my waistband.  I had to be careful to stretch out my fabric as I was shirring it just enough so that it would lay flat as it went under the presser foot, but not enough so that the elastic only brought the knit  fabric back to neutral and didn’t really gather it after it was stitched.

Rows of shirring

When I was finished with the waistband, I had 8 shirred rows.  My waistband now has great stretch and is super comfy! The only thing left to do to finish my skirt was hem it. So, I put it on and made a note of where I wanted to hem it.  Then, using the stripes as a guide, I used a wide coverstitch to put in the hem.  My maxi skirt was ready to wear out on the town…..or at least to my side yard for some pictures until later tonight!  🙂

My striped maxi, and Sadie peeking around the corner to oversee.

My striped maxi

The Knit Diaries, Part I: A Summer Hoodie Tutorial

As you remember from my last post, I’m beginning a small, summer series called “The Knit Diaries” to chronicle my exploration into sewing with knitted fabric.  Why knits?  I love knit fabric because it has low bulk, great drape and a wonderful feel.  (No joke, after a recent purchase of several incredibly soft yards of black jersey from JoAnn’s, I just wrapped myself in it while watching TV for the evening.  So cozy!)  The other really awesome factor in sewing with knits is that they are sooooo forgiving!  Having a little bit of added stretch means that your pattern can be a little off here and there, and, no worries!  I will now get off of my knit soapbox and get crackin’ on the Sumer Hoodie Tutorial.

Recently my friend, Gwen, added a lot of fun, new knit clothes to her wardrobe from Old Navy.  I love all of them.  But, the one that really caught my eye, was a super fun, black, knit hoodie.

Inspiration:  Knit cardigan from Old Navy

As soon as I saw her wear it for the first time, I began coveting it and plotting how I could “borrow” it from her for a day to draft a pattern from it.  Why did I want it so badly, you may ask?  I’m sure many of you have this problem, but I am a rather cold-natured person.  It can be 90 degrees outside, but if I’m in an air conditioned building, every draft seems to find me.  So, I usually never leave home without something long-sleeved.  Last summer, while in France, I bought a knit cardigan from H&M that I love.  As soon as I put it on, I knew I never wanted to take it off.  It afforded me the perfect ‘climate control’ for summer.

Knowing my innermost knit desires, paired with the fact that I now own a serger, meant I was ready for knit action!  After several bottles of wine one night (yes, that was intentional), I very easily (see?) persuaded Gwen to part with her dear hoodie for a day.  I brought the prized article home and immediately (at 12 a.m.) got to work on drafting a pattern from it.

What would you need if you wanted to steal your friend’s hoodie and also make a pattern, you ask?

Drafting tools (minus the weights, as I just used heavy things)

1)  First, drafting paper.  I like to use brown paper for drafting patterns.  It’s super cheap and very easy to find.  I buy it from Lowe’s for about $7/roll.  It goes a long way and it has a decent amount of ‘stiffness’ (I said, stiffness) and longevity — if you want to make more than one.

2)  Measuring apparati:  I used a meter stick and a see-through ruler.

3)  Pins, and lots of them.

4)  Marking apparati:  I used a pencil for my marking on the brown paper so that I could erase as needed.  I also used washable fabric markers for any marks I needed to make on the fabric.

5)  Fabric weights, or as I used, heavy objects:  Knit fabrics love to roll up on themselves, so weights placed here and there help prevent said rolling accompanied by mild swearing.

6)  Scissors – both paper and fabric.

After assembling my tools, it was time to begin.  First, a word of caution:  When using an article of clothing (especially a knit) as a template, you really have to be careful not to stretch it too much as you lay it out on the paper.  If you do that, you’re going to add a few sizes to your pattern.  I also like to pin the article of clothing to the paper in a few spots to prevent it from sliding around while I’m trying to trace it.

Gwen’s hoodie is fairly simply constructed.  Great for my first knit project!  The pieces I needed to trace were:  a back (1), the hood (x2), the front panels (x2), the sleeves (x2) and the band around the edge of the entire garment.  For this prototype, I looked to my mountain of jersey, and chose the navy/white striped.  It has a lovely nautical feel and I’ll enjoy wearing it at the beach.

My mountain of jersey

The Pattern Pieces:

So, I laid Gwen’s hoodie on the paper and started by tracing the front panels.  This is what they ended up looking like.  I included the measurements so that if you’d like to make one of these (in a large — or other sizes by decreasing measurements) you can use my template pieces as a rough guide.

Front panel pattern pieces

Next, I sketched out the back.   You’d place it on the fold of fabric to cut it.

Back patter piece

Here is the sleeve piece, which is also cut on the fold.

Sleeve pattern piece

Lastly, I traced the hood.   The hood is seamed down the back.

Hood pattern piece

Then, it was on to cutting out the fabric.  My fabric is nicely basted down the open side of the fabric.  This prevented a lot of rolling while cutting.  Thank you, factory!  If you are experiencing a lot of roll, just use more weights!  You can also use those lovely, little binder clips from the office.  They add weight and also keep the edges of the fabric lined up.  I didn’t use a pattern piece for the band.  I just cut out two strips of fabric two stripes in width, which translates to roughly 3.5″ and stitched them together at their short ends to make a very long piece.  You can really make the band any diameter you want.  Also, if you are using a striped fabric, you want to make sure that you cut your sleeve pieces so that the stripes will match up with the body.  (I learned this the hard way — one side matches, one side doesn’t.  Lesson learned.)

Next, it was on to the sewing.  I used my Juki 735 serger for this project. (You don’t have to have a serger to sew knit fabric, which is awesome.  However, I’ve never tried sewing knits on my sewing machine using a stretch/knit stitch.  I’ll have to explore that soon!)  I learned a lot of things while undertaking this project that I’m going to share in the hopes of saving you some frustration.  This project, was truly a humbling experience.  If you’re a pro, you can just skip down to “construction.”

Serger Tips & Tricks, thus far:

1)  Use ballpoint needles for knits!  They are specifically designed to go through knit fabric without tearing or ripping it.  Before I bought these, I accidentally ended up with a small hole in my project.  😦  The needles come in different sizes.  Look at the packaging to determine which size is best for your particular project.  I used size 90 ballpoint needles for this project.

2)  Use those thread nets!  Yes, they look like old lady salon hair nets, but they really do help with the thread tension.  Before I put them on, I was getting some skipped stitches on the underside of my coverstitch.

Thread nets – a necessity!

3)  Use serger thread!  When I first got my serger, we took it to the beach.  I wanted to use it, so we went to Walmart to find thread.  They didn’t have any of the “cones” that I’d seen on serger videos.  So, we just bought some larger spools of cotton.  I quickly realized that cotton 3-ply thread is not serger friendly.  Serger thread, which often comes on cones (see above) is 2-ply and lighter, which helps it go through all those loopers.

4)  Thread your serger correctly!  I had a lot of trouble with this one, at first.  Sergers are a beast when it comes to threading.  I felt like I was diffusing a nuclear bomb….one wrong move, and, destruction.  All I can tell you is, go slowly and really use your owner’s manual.  Chances are if your stitch isn’t working, you’ve threaded something incorrectly.  Also, there is a specific order to threading — upper looper, lower looper, left needle, right needle.  Order matters.

5)  Check your settings! (tension, stitch width, cutting distance & differential feed) before starting!  Sergers have a lot of dials and knobs.  So, getting things set up the way you want them is imperative.  For tension, start out in the middle of your tension range and then play with it — small increments at a time.  Chances are, you won’t have to go very far (in either direction) from the mid-range for a knit.  Also, check that your differential feed, which controls the feed dogs, is where you want it.  For knits that have a lot of stretch, you’ll probably want the two sets of feed dogs to be set to take in fabric differently.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to change mine for this project.  You may also have to play around with your cutting distance.  My fabric really like to roll, so I had to set my cutting distance larger that I would normally have liked, to make sure I got a clean cut and that my stitches were perfectly at the edge of my fabric and not hanging off the edge.  I definitely had to play around on extra fabric for A WHILE to make sure I was getting the stitch I wanted.  So, buy a little extra fabric if you’re a newbie, like me!

For the seams, I used a 4-thread overlock (with safety) stitch.  Here is what that stitch looks like on the reverse:

4 thread overlock with safety stitch

For the hems, I changed the threading of my serger to produce a two-needle, wide coverstitch.  Here is what that looks like from the front and back:

Cover stitch, reverse

Coverstitch, front

The Construction:

I constructed the whole garment using a 5/8″ seam allowance and a 1/2″ hem allowance. First,  I placed the sleeve and front panel, right sides together, and starting at the neck and working towards the armpit, serged the sleeve shoulder seam (See Pic, Seam #1).  Then, I placed the other side of the sleeve and the back panel right sides together, and serged the other shoulder seam working from neck to armpit.  I repeated this on the other side (See Pic, Seam #2).

Seam #1 and Seam #2

Doing that first, will allow you to stitch the side seams and the seam along the underside of the arm/sleeve as one long seam. (I actually didn’t do this are realized later that it would have been easier!) It also means that long seam will lay better under the arm.  So, do that next — place the front and back panels with the right sides together and starting at the end of the sleeve, stitch the side seams to the armpit and then keep going from the armpit to the bottom hem (See Pic, Seam #3).  Ta-da! At this point, my hoodie was really taking shape.

Seam #3

Next, place the two halves of the hood, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the back, from head to neck (See Pic, Seam #4).

With the hood finished, place the neck edge of the hoody onto your hoodie, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the hood along the neck (See Pic, Seam #5).  Almost done!

Seam #5

Then, take the band, fold it in half and press it.  Then, pin the open edge of the band along the entire left, front panel vertical edge, around the edge of the hoodie, and then down along the right, front vertical edge of the other front panel.   Serge along the edge, securing the band in place (See Pic, Seam #6).

Seam #6

Now, all that was left to do was to hem it.  I switched my machine over to coverstitch, pressed my hem allowance up and pinned it at 1/2″ and then stitched all the way around the bottom edge.  Then, I turned the vertical edges of the front panels under by 1/2″, pressed them, and stitched them, too.  Lastly, I pressed down all of the serged and coverstitched seams so that they would lay nice and flat.  Voila!  My hoodie was finished!

My summer hoodie!

Hoodie, displaying hood.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into sewing a knit garment.  I hope that this tutorial has inspired you to give knits a try, too!  If I can do it, anyone can.  So, you deserve a summer hoodie.  Go ahead, treat yourself!  Up next, is the Knit Diaries, Part 2:  a striped maxi skirt.  I am also taking ANY suggestions you have for what else I can make with my mountain of jersey.  What other striped wonders can you think of?

Sergers and Stripes – The Knit Diaries, an Introduction

As I have probably mentioned in a previous post, I am a stripe addict.  Give me striped fabric over polka dots or floral any day.  Stripes are fierce, bold and ever so clean.  I love ’em.  This year, it seems that cute striped things are everywhere.  First, it was striped spring scarves.  So, of course, I had to make one, which was a great introduction to my serger.

Striped, spring scarf

But, the stripes just kept on coming.  Next, I saw this cute, Ice Cream Social Skirt, from iCandy Handmade.

Ice Cream Social Skirt by iCandy homemade

And now, it’s the striped/chevron maxis.

Chevron Maxi from Piperlime

Clearly, this is the year of the knit stripe.  I am in fashion nirvana.  So, I knew that I needed to get my hands on lots of striped jersey.  That sounds really easy, right?  Well, it’s not.  When, I first started searching all of my usual haunts — JoAnn’s, Fabric.com, Etsy– there was simply no reasonably priced striped knit to be had.  They were all playing hard to get at $12/yard.

It’s not often that I think that the Universe actually hears my pleas.  Even less that it actually answers them.  But, in this case, I don’t see how there could be any doubt that the Universe gave me a shout out.  Todd and I went antiquing in Strasburg, VA on our way home from a weekend with the fam.  We stopped at the local antique mall, where I thought I’d hit the jackpot with 4 yards of chambray for $7 and 4 1/2 yards of gingham for $8.  Not even close.  At checkout, the woman behind the counter suggested we should check out the flea market behind their store.  So we did.  Oh. My.  Goodness.  Sitting at the back of the store, covered in some really old, nasty yellow velour, I hit the mother load.  There, in this dingy, seedy flea market, I found three whole bolts of striped jersey.  There was a black/white, navy/white, and turquoise/white.  Universe, I owe you one.  When we got it home, we counted it up — almost 30 yards!  The best part?  Guess how much I paid.  Just guess.   Ok, you won’t believe this — $7.  That’s right.  SEVEN DOLLARS!!

Piles an piles of striped jersey!

So now you see, dear readers, why I had to begin the Knit Diaries.  1) I have knit fabric coming out of my eyeballs; and 2) that brand new serger was not earning it’s keep.  So, the Knit Diaries, otherwise known as my next several entries, will entail me figuring out how to use up all that striped jersey while learning how to really use my serger.

I’ve already figured out my first few projects:

1) A breezy summer hoodie (inspired by Old Navy)

Old Navy Jersey Lounge Cardigan

2) A flowy, striped maxi skirt (inspired by Make it and Love it)

Striped Maxi by Make It and Love It

3) A beachy cover-up (with added pockets) (inspired by H&M)

H M cardigan

4)  A full maxi dress with shirring/smocking (inspired by Old Navy)

Old Navy Maxi Dress

Spoiler Alert!  I’ve actually already made a few of these.  Hee hee.  I’ve been having so much fun!  So, stay tuned for the first Knit Diary project.  Let summer begin!

Craft Room Metamorphosis, Continued

Since beginning my craft room makeover last summer, it has slowly and steadily continued to take shape.  After getting the room painted, I was able to sweet talk Todd into making me a myriad of woodworking treasures.  I featured his fine woodworking prowess in a pervious post.  But, to refresh your memory — he fashioned me a wonderful sewing/cutting table out of a 5-panel door.

Sewing/Cutting table out of 5-Panel Door

He created a coffee table and end table out of my grandmother’s vintage Lady Baltimore luggage.  Classy, no?

Lady Baltimore Luggage Table 2

After getting my serger, he quickly answered my spool storage issue by making me a spool rack from tongue-and-groove flooring.  Really, my craft room wouldn’t be much of anything without his help.

Serger thread spool rack, which now is hanging on the wall

The only thing I was left with, after all that, was figuring out how to organize the rest of my craft room “Krackatoa” — spinning paraphernalia, loads and loads of fabric, patterns, paints, sewing notions, etc.

First, I decided to tackle the sewing notions.  I had seen a friend use an IKEA bar and bucket system over her craft table and I really like the look.  I made a trip to IKEA with Deb and we were able to put the bar and buckets on lock down.  Todd helped me hang them over the craft table and in a matter of about an hour, I was already more organized! (Pay no attention to the painter’s tape marking where the shelves will go.)

IKEA bar system above my sewing table

While this did much to free up space on my sewing table, I quickly realized that I wasn’t finished wielding my feminine whiles.  I was in desperate need of more shelving!  After some additional pleading, Todd agreed to more mandatory woodworking fun.  He decided to start with the easier of the two areas for shelving – the closet.  Since he’d already created shelves for one of our other closets, he had a good idea of how to go about it.  My only stipulation was that he leave enough room at the bottom that I could store my sewing machine in it when my craft room morphs into our guest bedroom.  It literally took him no time at all before I had glorious, glorious shelves.  Can you hear the angels singing?

Shelves for my fabric storage

On the shelves, I decided to solve my fabric addiction quandary by creating my own little fabric store.  I cut foam core board into mini-bolts and placed all my fabric on them.  Now, I can see what fabric I have AND it’s easily accessible.  I can now store more fabric than ever!  Todd already thinks I have more fabric than I could ever possibly sew up in one lifetime.  What a naysayer.  Geesh.

My mini-bolt fabric storage system

My lovely organized closet!

Next up, was the more difficult job of creating shelves that would be placed over the sewing/cutting table.  After much brainstorming and sketching, we decided upon two long shelves, centered directly over the table.  The top one would be four inches narrower than the bottom.  Todd even designed a curved bracket for the shelves so that they’d look a little less industrial.

My shapely shelf brackets

After everything was assembled, we took them out to the back deck and gave them a few coats of white, glossy spray paint.  While it was quick, I don’t think I’d go with spray paint again.  It just doesn’t ever turn out as nice as when you paint by hand.  Then, they were ready for hanging.  We live in an old house with plaster walls.  And let me tell you, plaster it a bitch.  It doesn’t like to have its integrity compromised and if not careful, will answer your unwelcome advances by splintering and cracking .  This is probably one of the reasons that the decor on our walls hardly ever changes.  If it does, it usually involves placing pieces on already existing nails – regardless of whether that means something is centered.  What can you do?  Thankfully, Todd has now worked his way up to “plaster black belt” and knows how to hang just about anything in the stuff.  While I do not understand these jedi mind tricks, I do know that it involves fantastical items like “cams” and “mollybolts.”

So with the aid of his mollybolts, Todd and I (but, really I just held things) put the shelves up.

Up go the shelves

Toddley being a goof

And, then they were up!  They are utterly fantastic and now give me just enough space to have everything in my craft room organized.

The finished shelves

I have to pause a moment here to tell you about a special addition to my craft room.  I had been feeling a little sad about the fact that I have no bicycle representation in my craft room.  For those of you that know me well, bicycling is a huge part of my life (TakingTheWorldBySaddle.com).  So, DH talked to his brother, who made me the most special addition to my craft room EVER – a mini bike!  Trent is a metal artist.  I love it SO MUCH.  It makes me happy just looking at it.  So, it had to be the very first thing that I put on my new shelves.

My newest bicycle!

Everything in its place.

While we had the plaster-wrangling tools out, I also finally hung up my grandmother’s little antique shelves and added her pitcher collection to it.  It reminds me of playing “tea” when we were kids.

Grangi’s Pitcher Collection

I organized all of my patterns into the bottom drawers of my filing cabinet.  I need to make dividers for them.  But, it’s been a perfect storage solution for now.

My pattern collection

I also was so lucky to find this awesome ironing board/chair at an antique store near here.  It was only $45!  It’s an ironing board!  It’s a chair!  It’s a step stool!   (It folds up.)  Too cool.  So, one of my next sewing projects needs to be making a custom cover for this little baby.

It’s an ironing board!

Having a space that I can call my own for creating has drastically changed how often I craft.  Because I love my room, I spend as much time in it as possible.  Moral of the story:  if you’ve been thinking about a craft room makeover, do it!  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Do it.  You won’t be sorry!

Homemade Cranberry Almond Granola

I love cereal, so I knew swearing off of packaged foods for a month would be tough because I would have to give up my beloved Honey Bunches of Oats. To satiate my cereal yearnings, I decided to try to make homemade granola. I was surprised at just how easy granola is to make and I chastised myself for not making it sooner! This is a recipe you can definitely play with and make your own.

Homemade Granola

2 cups of rolled oats

3 T of honey

2T of brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 T of butter

1/2 cup of slivered almonds

1/4 cup of shelled sunflower seeds

1/3 cup of dried cranberries

Set your oven on low broil. Spread your oats out on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 5-7 mins. Depending on your oven settings you’ll want to keep an eye on them. Your job is to lightly toast the oats, not to char them. Turn the oven off.

Meanwhile in a skillet, combine honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Stir until butter melts. Then add your toasted oats and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Then stir in your almonds and sunflower seeds and allow it to cook for a few minutes. Finally add your cranberries or other dried fruit.

Spread the mixture back onto your cookie sheet and put it back in your oven (make sure the oven is turned off). Doing this will continue to dry out your oats and make the granola crunchier. Let the mixture sit for about 20-30 minutes in the warm oven.

If you want the granola to stick together more in clusters, add some additional honey and butter. I wanted mine looser like cereal.

A Striped, Chambray Wiksten

It’s not long after you get really into sewing that you realize just how many patterns there are available online now.  Of course, there are the larger pattern suppliers, such as Burdastyle.com, but there are also a lot of individuals throwing their hats into the pattern ring.  While reading Made by Rae’s blog, I stumbled upon just such a pattern – the Wiksten Tank.

The Wiksten Tank - oh so cute and hipsterish (yes, that's a word).

It immediately captured my attention.  It had that hipster feel to it with it’s scoop neckline, small bust pocket, and curved hem.  I fell in love with it instantly.  And like a good, little ADDer, immediately moved it to the front of my queue.  And there it sat for a week while I did my research.  I have found, through knitting, that I save myself a lot of time and hardship if I read about others’  experiences with a particular pattern before attempting it myself.  Since this is a fairly popular pattern, there are lots and lots of cute Wiksten’s out there, let me tell you.  I didnt find out anything life-altering about the pattern.  Most people were really happy with it and had made very few changes.  I did, however, during this search find my heart captured by a new (to me) fabric I saw on the Make Something blog.

Paris Map Wiksten by MakeSomething

Oh, I just yearn for this.....Isn't it amazing? by MakeSomething

I LOVE this paris map fabric.  However, my love will most likely remain an unrequited one.  This gorgeous fabric has been discontinued.  WHY, cruel world!?!  If any of you know how to make a miracle happen…that would allow me to get my hands on two yards of this textile delight, do not pass go, do not collect $200…..just message me immediately!

So, the search continued.  The weekend before Easter, DH and I were doing a little antiquing in Woodstock, VA and we stumbled upon a fantastic antique mall/flea market.  There, I not only found 28 yards of varying striped jersey fabric for $0.30/yard (more on that soon!), but I also found some absolutely fabulous striped chambray for $4.  Can’t beat that.  I knew from the moment I saw it, that it would be my Wiksten fabric.

Striped Chambray - in two variations

So, the first step was to cut out all of the pieces.

Pattern pieces

From my measurements, I had determined that I was an extra large.  However, in retrospect, I think I was a large.  I had to do a lot of tailoring before it fit perfectly.  There must be an incredible amount of ease built into this pattern?  I also added two inches to the length, as I have a long torso and like shirts on the longish side.  After making this once, I think I would only add an inch.  I might go back and re-hem my tank.

I love the finished project!  It’s the perfect summer tank.

My striped, chambray Wiksten

Now, I just need to make a cute, red skirt to go with it to complete my spring/summer nautical look!  🙂  Now, accepting pattern suggestions!