Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sew Grateful Week - Scrapbusting Project: Water Bottle Carrier

Did you know that it is Sew Grateful Week? This link party event is hosted by My Happy Sewing Place, and it involves crafters from all over the world. There are dozens of generous giveaways, and it's a great way to connect with some fantastic bloggers in the online sewing community. Today is the projects link party, and I would like to show my gratitude by creating and sharing another craft blogger's tutorial.

I have been obsessed with interested in scrap/stash-busting ideas lately, which has added quite a few projects to my, already lengthy, list. One of the tutorials that I came across recently was this Water Bottle Carrier at Pink Chalk Studio.

The reason that this project jumped to the top of the list is because:
A - It is quick.
B - I need it.
I am VERY familiar with being everyone's camel during the hiking/biking/festival months, and when I saw this simple solution I was like, "Hell, yes! So smart!"

Unfortunately, I don't stock any insulated batting and I would have to travel a few hours to get some. So, I started hunting around my house for an alternative.  My husband actually came up with the idea of using one of his neoprene-like Under Armour shirts. I was like, "Cut up clothes? Totally!" I know that the shirt isn't the same when it comes to retaining the cold temperature of the water bottle, but I don't care about that. Water is hydrating whether it is cold or warm. I just needed something that would keep the condensation from making the carrier a soggy mess, and this should work fine for that.
I wouldn't recommend this tutorial for beginners because of the french seams and attaching the circular bottom, but an intermediate sewer could handle this without an issue. I cranked these out, assembly-line-style, in just a couple of hours.
Besides the insulation, I followed the specifications of the tutorial exactly. I thought the process was explained really well, and the design was genius.  I actually had a lot of fun machine-quilting these carriers. It was my first experience with this technique, and I love the freedom and creativity of stitching my own shapes.
These make great gifts for just about anyone since they are handy for so many things - hiking (my son), biking (me), trips to the zoo (my nieces), metal-detecting (my dad), or just taking a walk around the neighborhood on a warm day (we will have warm days again, wont we??).

I am "sew grateful" to all of the creative, brilliant, inspiring, dedicated bloggers out there that post free tutorials. I know how much work can go in to drafting patterns or instructions, and I love the feeling of community I get when people share their efforts with the rest of the world. It makes the internet seem a little cozier. ;)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's not you...It's me...

In an average day, I peruse dozens of sewing/craft blogs and one of the things that I notice is that everything looks so PERFECT. Now, I can confidently say that there is no sewer/crafter on the planet who doesn't struggle regularly with flaws and imperfections. We are often dealing with things that don't work out the way we want them to - our tools go wonky, inconsistencies in our materials, etc... But, no one wants to post their failures on the internet, right? We want pictures taken in the perfect light, at the perfect angle, hiding that errant wrinkle or jagged stitch. We want people to "ooh" and "aah" over our skill and creativity even though, in reality, our skirt hems are often jacked up, and our fabric was chosen based on the "what coordinating fabrics do I have the most yardage of?" criteria.

Well, folks, I'm not feeling it today. I am tired of all of the perfection making me feel like I'm not good enough. We learn best from our mistakes, and I think that we should showcase those every once in a while- in the interest of being real with each other.

My biggest failure during the past month of making girl's dresses came from this pattern that I LOVE:
The styles are all classic and versatile. There are a million fabric choices and embellishment opportunities. The skirts drape like a dream (no gathering!!), and the design is fast to sew.
Unfortunately, this pattern never sews up the way that I expect it to. The bodice always looks too wide (even though there are darts in the bust), the straps never line up right (even though I match up all markings), and I can't keep the hem from flipping up in random spots and needing to be pressed down again (repeatedly).

In my most recent attempt at it, I chose a white textured fabric that was absolutely see-through even with 2 layers. So, I selected a pink cotton to line the bodice. Smart, right? No. It looks...weird. I probably should have lined the bottom flounce as well, but I wanted to keep this summer shift as light and airy as possible.
Also, I had toyed around with several different strap closure ideas (attempting to make the straps adjustable), but in the end I just attached them to the bodice without any adjustment capabilities. Of course, I had already sewn up the bodice, so I had to seam rip and top stitch and reinforce the straps. Yikes.

Honestly, it is not the pattern's fault that I am a hot mess with this. It's me. I think that I need to set it aside until I see how these dresses actually fit my niece. Once I can visualize the drape on a human body, I may be able to construct it more effectively.

The point is, my mistakes and imperfections encourage me to do better. Perfect pictures may inspire us, but knowing that we are not alone in our flaws provides the comfort that we need in order to push through the creative road blocks.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Girl's Reversible Wrap Dress

A few weeks ago, I found a tutorial online for a girl's reversible wrap dress. The instructions involve altering an existing a-line pattern. Usually, I have to pass on girl's dress tutorials because my nieces live 1200 miles away, but I was fortunate to have taken measurements at Thanksgiving, and I had an a-line pattern that I used for the holiday jumper that I made for my niece.

This tutorial was really easy to follow, and it was super fast to make. Generally, I try to follow the directions exactly on patterns that are new to me, but I did make one minor alteration to the original design, and that was using bias tape for the neck. I felt it was easier, and I had the coordinating bias tape on hand. It worked out really well, and saved me some trouble.

One thing that I didn't anticipate with this reversible wrap dress design is that it eats thread like a starving man at a buffet. Holy cow! I had just enough pink thread on my spool to complete this garment.

Since this is a stashbusting year for me, this project was perfect for using up some yardage. I think I used almost 3 yards (including the ties)! I would definitely recommend this to other stashbusters, as well as beginning sewers. The pattern drafting is very easy, the sewing is all basically straight lines, and you don't need any advanced finishing skills to have a polished result. I can't wait to make this again, but for my 3 year old niece.

Have you used any apparel tutorials? What is your opinion on them?

Anyway, I have officially completed my niece's birthday gifts. 2 skirts, 3 summer strap dresses, 1 Easter frock, and a reversible wrap dress. Phew! Some of the garments are not my favorite, but I'm proud of what I have accomplished. I really nudged the edges of my creativity on some of the embellishments, and I took risks that I normally wouldn't have.

I also got some sewing books in the mail this week, and I am really inspired by the projects that I am perusing. There are so many ideas being added to my "to do" list that I don't know what to get to first. I guess we'll see what gets posted next week!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Early Easter Frock

Exciting news! After 6 years of sewing from dress patterns, I have finally figured out what "understitch" means. For years, I have been trying to decipher the vague instructions and obscure picture.
Up until now, I have just topstitched during that step of the construction project. But, while assembling the newest frock for my niece, the instructions magically made sense. I couldn't believe that I had been confused about something so simple for all of this time! Have you ever had a sewing "aha" moment?
Anyway, that tremendous discovery was the only good thing about constructing this dress. "Fast & Easy" my foot.
Selecting fabric became a nightmare when I realized that I only had about a yard of the green contrast. Since the skirt trim is cut on the bias, I didn't have enough for the long tie straps that the pattern calls for on the back of the dress. But, with a 16" zipper closure on the back, the tie seemed redundant. So, I say "phooey" to that.
If I had followed the instructions, there would be almost no exposed seams on the inside of the dress. Since I have a serger, that part of the construction design just ends up being more work, and more fabric, for me. In the future, I will alter the pattern pieces in the following ways:

  • No tie backs (redundant)
  • No sleeve lining (skipped it this time because it seems silly to have lined cap-like sleeves)
  • Cut the trim length in half and do a regular hem

This project took about 5 or 6 hours from cutting to completion, which is not "fast" for me. I like to finish dresses within about 3 hours or so. And, having to slipstitch the lining to the seams is for chumps. Unfortunately, I have yet to master the skill it takes to perfectly measure and fold so that the lining is flush enough with the seam to just topstitch.

On the other hand, I just love the neckline on this dress, and the way the skirt is full and twirly pleases me. I will probably make this again.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Homemade Face Paint - DIY Tutorial

Forgive me for the non-sewing-related post, but I have been researching homemade face paint for my son's school valentine party this week, and I am having a hard time finding TESTED techniques. So, this is my gift to the frugal/crafty parents of the internet.

At first, I was just going to buy some face paint to use on my son's class of 18 children, but now that I live in Timbuktu, WY instead of Chicago, my only retail choices are online. Amazon had very few options, and the one brand that was well-reviewed would have cost me just over $15 for 2 kits, NOT including shipping. I say, "meh" to that. Not only did I scoff at the cost, I was worried about transit time since I live in a rural area.

This lead me to Pinterest, where I found only 2 real options:
#1 - Cornstarch, cold cream(Desitin/Milk/Lotion), food coloring, water mix
#2 - Washable paint & lotion mix

I found the measurements for option #1 - HERE. But, there were no comments or reviews. My main concern was the food coloring. Cuz... you know... STAINS??
Fortunately, I have cornstarch and food coloring, but all I had for Pond's products was Dry Skin Cream. I have no idea what the chemical difference is between the 2 products, but I wasn't going to blow $5 or $6 on cold cream that I will never use for anything after this experiment.

Option #1 Review:
I followed the measurements and instruction provided at the above-referenced site, and the mixture came out very smooth.
 I had no issues applying it to my skin with a thin paintbrush, and and the excess rinsed right off the brush with just a quick swirl in the cup of water that I had on hand.  The "paint" dried on my hand within a few minutes, and showed a soft "matte" shade of the mixed color.
BUT, once it is dry, the color has a chalky surface texture that rubs off very easily.

Also, after washing my hands with soap and water, there was still a faint trace of the color on my skin. As I had feared, the food coloring component of this "paint" lightly stained my skin.
*Overall* - I would not use this on children's faces. Not only are you limited by the range of food colors available, it will come right off with rubbing or sweat, and they may have "shadows" of color tattooed to their skin for a few days. Fail.

Option #2 Review:
First of all, I made sure that my washable paint was non-toxic, and I chose a fragrance-free lotion (that Pond's smell from option #1 was overwhelming!).

I used a 1:1 (ish) ratio of washable paint to lotion, and the mixture looked slightly "grainy" as I mixed it.
The thicker consistency of this mixture made application a little more involved, but it adhered well to my skin and rinsed off the brush easily. The "paint" dried on my hand within a few minutes, and showed a fairly bold "matte" shade of the mixed color.
Once it is dry, it does NOT rub off the skin at all. I even scratched at it lightly (trying to recreate how a child treats their face), and the paint stayed on well.  And, although it washes off effortlessly with soap and water, I think this would hold up amazingly to sweat.
*Overall* - Washable, non-toxic paint is used in daycares and schools every day. Kids get this stuff on their clothes, hands, and faces constantly. I feel safe putting this on my son's skin, and the addition of lotion seems to keep the paint from cracking or flaking once it is dry. This mixture is far superior to option #1, and it is cheaper than the purchased face paints available to me. Also, it can be mixed in smaller amounts, so there is less waste.

Please let me know what YOUR results have been with either/both of these options. Or, do you have another suggestion for making face paints at home?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Skirts and Sewing Slumps

I feel like I have been a real sewing slacker this week. Although I have completed several projects, including a couple of skirts and a load of hand sewing, it felt like I was a sewing robot. Like I was just doing things to get them done, rather than enjoying the process.

This skirt started the slump for me. I loved this fabric before it was put together, but once the skirt was finished I was pretty "meh" about it. Seeing as how this is for my soon-to-be-7-year-old niece, I felt like it needed some pizzazz..
As you can see, I pulled out my BeDazzler to add some studs to the hem and waistband. I thought it would make the garment look a little edgier, but I am not satisfied with the results. The skirt still looks plain, and I have no idea how to fix it. In these situations, I am capable of getting stuck on little details for weeks, so I decided I'd better move on to the next thing.

I thought that getting another skirt done would whip me back in to shape, but I was wrong. The embellishment on this one makes me happier, but I think that I am over this pattern.
I'm glad that I used up some fabric that has been gathering dust on my shelves for awhile, but there is not enough "whimsy" in this design to keep me interested. Have you ever struggled with a dull design? How could I have spiced these up more?

In other news, it sucks feeling so uninspired now that I FINALLY got my fiber fill delivered!
I am hoping to have my motivation back by this weekend so that I can crank out some neck pillows, which should strike that creative spark that I need.

How do YOU get your motivation back when you are in a sewing slump?