Saturday, January 30, 2010

t-shirt transformation #1

I stopped at the library on my way home from work the other day.  I had zero time to browse (I wasn't really supposed to stop), so I picked up one of the first books that saw in the sewing section that was clothing related.  I was hoping to stumble upon a jewel about sewing bags but no such luck.  Instead I grabbed Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt by Megan Nicolay (this book was published in 2006 but I see now that she has a new one with 120 more ways!)

Now, I have been thinking about how best to use my old tees--you know, the kind that you only wear to bed because they are in no way flattering at any other time but you can't give them away because they either mean too much or no one would want them because your name and high school softball team schedule are plastered on the back?  Well I have plenty of those and so does my husband--but it will be a cold day in you know where before he lets me transform anything of his into anything else . . . he is kind of a pack rat.

I have pondered making pillows or even baby tees for my little guys with my old shirts, but when I found this book it hit me.  Why not transform my tees into something I will actually wear?  I rarely clothes shop for myself so this would be a good way to update my wardrobe without spending any money.

So here is my first go.  Although the hub did admit that he likes the transformation, he also cracked a joke about how I spent the time transforming a work shirt (they give out free stuff sometimes and it's not in my nature to pass up free stuff).  But if the transformation went terribly wrong, I didn't want to shed tears over my favorite Shawn Michaels tee now hacked to shreds.

This is how the shirt fit before the transformation: frumpy in all the wrong places (it's a mens large) . . . I really have to enroll my 3-year-old in a photography class.

I cut up the sides, swooped the neck, and cut off the sleeves.  I even trimmed off the hem at the bottom.  Then I narrowed the sleeves (and could probably even have shortened them more) and sewed them back on.  I've never sewed jersey knit before, but I LOVE it!  Because of the stretch, the material is very forgiving.  The sleeves were just a tad too big for the holes, but I was able to make it work by stretching the sleeve openings as I pinned.

I added these snazy drawstring casings for an extra detail.  I'm extremely happy with the look.  I also like that they don't go all the way to the pit, but I would probably only go as high as the belly next time because I don't really like how the shirt bunches up around the torso.

See?  Much more attractive.  This is definitely something I would wear in public now.  I can't wait to do another one!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

my first messenger bag

I made this for a friend at work.  Since I completely forgot to get her a Christmas present (yes, I believe she still does want me as a friend), I wanted to make her something for her birthday that she would really appreciate.  After nixing the idea of a scarf because it would take me way too long and would probably not be up to gifting standards since it would only be my second scarf ever (I still haven't learned to purl), I decided on a bag--bags I can handle.

I thought about going with the traditional tote, but again, I wanted it to be special and something that she would really enjoy.  She's not what I would characterize as a girly-girl, so I knew the design had to be sort of gender-neutral with a hint of femininity.  While surfing blogs one night, I came across this messenger bag and knew that I had found what I was looking for.

I scoured the fabric store for a plain fabric, but I wasn't limiting myself to a solid.  I was almost resolved to solid black since nothing else caught my eye until I found this solid green.  I guess you could call it hunter green.  Then I found the lining and I knew it was all perfect.  Luckily the recipient agrees.

I found a few good tutorials online--this one in particular--but nothing I found was exactly what I wanted, so I just created it in my head with inspiration from the tutorials I found.

I decided to go with a clip like the one in my inspiration photo because I thought it added a neat touch.  But this one from JoAnn's was made from cheap plastic (for $4 I expected it to be pretty great . . . I'm a thrift shopper) and didn't open or close all that well.  So next time I would get a more heavy-duty closure.  I also forgot to attach it to the top flap, so I had to rip and resew at the end.

I tried fleece in the strap to make it more robust.  I liked the feel, shape, and sturdiness of it so much that I wish I had insulated every part of the bag with fleece.  Oh well, there's always next time and, with this project, I am certain there will be a next time.

And I had to include this photo because it explains why photo shoots take me so long . . .

Sunday, January 17, 2010

pink baby bib

This was my Sunday project.  Friends of ours are due in February and I wanted to make them something special.  The hub wanted to get the gift out soon, so I knew that I didn't have time for a blanket or quilt.  I had to go with something much simpler which is actually better because I have so many projects I want to get to.  I knew that a bib would be simple and I decided to make it even more fun by personalizing it--the baby's name is only 3 letters afterall, so I knew I wouldn't get overhelmed.

I have seen a few tutorials online for making bibs, but I couldn't remember any of them and didn't want to take the time to look (rather, I know myself and I would venture to projects beyond bibs and end up with an even longer list of projects).  I basically made a quilt bib without the quilting . . . hopefully that works because I'm a little nervous that the layers will shift around since I didn't quilt them together.  I did manage to quilt a few triangles in the center to reduce the chance for this to happen.

I intended to zigzag them to the bib, but after practicing on some scraps, I realized it was not going to turn out well.  So I simply sewed them on with the smallest stitch length.  The edges will fray and the interfacing that I used to strengthen the appliques shows though slightly, adding an interesting outline.  I really like this look--kind of shabby and definitely a touch of crafted-by-hand-with-love.  (I am a bit of a perfectionist, so it surprises me that I like my crafts this way.)  Hopefully the parents will appreciate the effort . . . that's who we make these baby items for anyway, isn't it?

The fabrics for the main parts of the bib were remnants from Hobby Lobby that I picked up last week in Michigan. The letters were cut from one of the fabrics I took from my mom's stash. I had pink thread and some leftover batting, so the total cost of the project came to around $2.50 and I still have plenty of fabric left.

This is the back . . .

It is both thrilling and frustrating thinking of all the possible ways to put something together.  I knew exactly how I wanted the front to look, but the back took much longer because I couldn't decide on a design.  I went with something very simple, but I went though at least 10 different possibilities before settling on this . . . and this is just a baby bib.

And these are 3 little outfits that I picked up at Carter's a couple of weeks ago.  I think they coordinate well with my bib. 

Too much pink, though? 

Nah, not possible when you're constantly wrapped in a world of baby boy blues.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

craft supply score in michigan

When we went to Michigan last week to visit family for the holidays, I didn't take any crafting materials with me.  I don't get to see my family or my inlaws that often so I decided to concentrate on spending time with them.  But as I mentioned in my previous post, I did teach my self to knit--I can't stand being "unproductive" for too long.

But another thing that I thought would help satisfy my craft addiction was to visit a few fabric stores.  I found a quilting store online just down the road from my inlaws.  This was my first trip to a quilting store, so it was a bit overwhelming (not to mention more expensive than I'm used to paying at JoAnn's but I expected that).

After about 40 minutes, here is what I came out with . . .

The green fabric was cut from the bolt, but I can't remember the designer.  The others are fat quarters.  I bought the green and blue fabrics with the intention of making a carrier for the Wii, but now I think they will make a much better knitting bag for me.  The brown and pink I bought to make myself a purse.

I also found this fabric.  Again it's a fat quarter, so I don't know the designer.

My sister, Laura, loves stuff like this.  I'll figure out something.

Our trip to see my family also paid off quite well.  Instead of hitting a quilting store there, I decided just to visit Hobby Lobby.  There would be something for everyone there. 

This is the loot . . .

The large cuts of fabric are for my dad's Stars & Stripes quilt.  I the remnants are for a bib for a friend having a baby soon and the ribbon is just for fun--it was 50% off.

My mom then asked me to go through her bins of fabric and take what I wanted to reduce her stash.  Man, that's the ultimate request.

I did find a few large cuts that she bought for a purpose and never used.  The others were scraps, many at least half a yard.  In addition to these fabrics shown, I also scored some solids including lots of versitile black.

My great (and perhaps great-great) grandma gave my mom some fabric many, many years ago that she never did anything with.  I took most of that, too.  Some of it I would never have picked out myself, but it might look nice in small chunks, like in a quilt or something.  I am also not one to pass up free fabric because I can always use it to practice new designs.

And these were my great grandmothers which will come in handy someday . . .

She also gave me all of this to support my newest medium . . .

and these, which will save me a ton of money . . .

Now I really need a knitting bag!  So a special Thank You goes out to my mother who gave me the supplies to keep me interested in sewing, knitting, and crocheting for long time--at least until our next trip to Michigan.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

learn to knit :: check

Look what I learned how to do on our 8-hour trip to Michigan! I figured that learning to knit would come sometime later in my life when I was tired of every other medium; the perceived tedium of knitting never really sparked my flame. And then I realized that I would have to go 11 whole days without crafting . . . not exactly my idea of a vacation.

So after reluctantly dismissing my well-thought-out plan to lug my sewing machine, fabric and accessories with us, I had an epiphany: knitting is the perfect traveling craft! I only needed a set of needles and a ball of yarn (okay, and a knitting book since I hadn't the slightest idea how to begin) which could easily fit on my lap or next to my feet in the car. At JoAnn's, I picked up a solid light blue acrylic yarn for practice and a 100% wool multicolored yarn that matched Logan's new winter coat.

And my plan worked perfectly.  I didn't get much time to practice my newfound skill on the way there (I learned the basics but didn't turn out any real product) as I was tending to two youngins who, although were exerting no energy riding in a seat for 8 hours, constantly needed snacks and attention.  I had more time at the inlaws to practice, and practice I did.  After casting on 55 stitches on the blue yarn and knitting 6 rows, I decided that the piece was too long (time consuming, actually) to be anything but a scarf for Buzz Lightyear--I'm sure Space Rangers need extra warmth in the winter too. 

So after teaching myself to bind off, I moved straight to the yarn I bought to match Logan's coat.  I suppose that multicolored yarn is a great way to add interest to a product without the hassle of using additional yarn, but I'm not in love with the pattern it made on the scarf. I think I also thought that there would be more green. But who cares . . . I added a medium to my repetoire and Logan has a new item that I handcrafted for him and he can't get enough of those (that attitude won't last forever so I will exploit it while I can).

This first scarf was made using only the knit stitch--thisis referred to as garter, right?  I really like the look of ribs, so I would like to make a scarf with ribbed stitch once I learn to purl (that sounds like a great task for next week while I watch Monday night sitcoms and Logan asks me a bazillion questions about what I and the people on tv are doing, want to do, and thinking about doing). I also think it would be fun to knit a pair of mittens and a hat someday . . . oh, and somesocks . . . and a purse . . . and maybe learn to crochet a blanket . . .

Thursday, January 7, 2010

the laura duffel

It took me a long time to come up with this bag design.  It's nothing new, but my sister asked for a gym bag for Christmas. I struggled with the design because I wanted it to be more like a duffel and less like a tote--totes are easy and I wanted to challenge my creativity. 

I suppose this bag looks more like an overnight bag (oh, a dual-purpose bag, even craftier!) but hopefully not too much like an old 70's flower-print suitcase.  I think the fabric choice suits her.  I especially like the idea of one long strap for a gym bag.  In fact, I would probably like all of my totes to have only one strap to contend with.  With this strap, I used green ribbon to accent and strengthen the underside of the strap.

I added some interior pockets but, per usual, I think I made them too small.  I had in mind that my sister would use the pockets for small things like a wallet, keys, water, membership card (if that's what they give out...I don't frequent the gym scene) but I really should have made them larger.  I'm really not sure that she will be able to use them.  I also used the same fabric that I used to make the lining so you can't really see the pockets.  I didn't mean for them to look invisible, but we will pretend that was my exact intention (I suppose precious items should be difficult for intruders to find).

I'll bet that there is a pattern out there for this type of bag that would have made this project a lot easier.  Instead of trying to find one, I put the design together in my head and began sewing from there. It turned out just like I imagined (so that's a plus), but the top part with the zipper really threw me for a loop. I was afraid that my seam ripper would fall apart it was being used so much.  But all in all, it's exactly what I had in mind and I hope she likes it.  If I would have had more exterior fabric, I would have added an outer pocket for any last minute items or flyers (read: phone numbers) picked up at the gym.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

the year of the quilt?

I certainly wasn't thrilled with my first quilting experience. I loved piecing the top together (it was just a baby quilt afterall), but I was overwhelmed when it came to quilting the layers together. I just couldn't decide how to do it: grid seemed too plain and free-hand and stippling seemed too complicated. I took me a year to finally complete the thing and I figured that quilting just wasn't my niche.

I'm still not sure that quilting is my niche, but after stumbling across an amazing quilting blog I am totally and completely inspired! Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts has an awesome knack for piecing together contempory designs. I love that she rarely uses a border on her quilts, something that most patterns seem to call for but I always thought seemed an unnecessary step and, frankly, a pain in the rear.

Some of her designs are so simple--like this Happy Go Lucky quilt that is mostly white with a few patches of color near the bottom. I never thought to step out of the quilting square and add just a punch of color to a certain portion of a quilt. This type of design would go together so much faster and should, therefore, keep my interest long enough to finish such a large project.

I also enjoy her Quilts of Valor that she completed as a donation to wounded soldiers. This is a great idea for my dad's 60th birthday (which is in a little over a month so I'd better get started). I will use the star idea and squares of stripes--a stars and stripes quilt if you will. I will also include something in memory of my brother who was killed in action almost 3 years ago, but I'm not sure what yet.

Unfortuately, Amanda Jean has decided to discontinue active blogging but stated that her blog would remain in webspace indefinitely. Lucky for me since I just discovered her site and it holds so much useful information and inspiring ideas. It will be a great reference for the quilting projects that I have already committed to: dad, hub, son, sister . . . and hopefully one for me and maybe a couple for gifts if all goes well. I know, an ambitious goal for one someone with a whopping 1 quilt under her belt. But where there's a will (and willing recipients) . . .

UPDATE:  I recently came across this blog about free-motion quilting.  The author, Leah Day, explains in detail with videos a new free-motion design each day.  Although this may not help with my biggest problem of deciding on a design, it offers hundreds of days of inspiration.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

quilted photo bag

I made this bag for my mother-in-law as a Christmas gift. I always give her something that shows off her grandkids and this time I thought I could incorporate a photo pouch into the bag. I gave her a small bag last year (one of my first attempts at bags that, looking back, was actually quite terrible craftmanship). I definitely think that this year's bag tops that one, but it probably could be bigger.

I used this tutorial to make the bag. I found a roll of really neat fabric "jellies" (precut strips of fabric in coordinating colors) to speed along the project. I added the photo pouch on my own using some kind of clear vinyl remnant (like the kind people use to cover furniture) that I found at JoAnn's--I had no idea what to use it for at the time, but for $0.50 I knew I would figure out something. This was my second adventure with quilting and I had much more fun this time probably because this small scale bag was a lot less intimidating than the larger baby quilt I finally finished for Trenton a few months ago.