Friday, January 30, 2009

a completed smock

 I finished my project for the Celebrating Handmade swap.  The smock--now reversible and interfaced--is done and I'm quite pleased with it.   I think it will wash decently, in that linen-rumply way.

Here's the back, which gives you a peek at the lining:

I love bias tape.  Once I made peace with the fact that attaching it will always mean a little seam ripping and a little imperfection, I started to use it with abandon.  I am too cheap to buy it so I just park myself in front of the television during naptime and make my own.  This week my bias tape maker went on the lam so I got to spend some extra quality time with the iron, watching Mad Men on DVD.

This week I came to an important, bias-tape related discovery:  using thread that matches the fabric makes everything easier and more forgiving of mistakes, but using contrasting thread looks so sharp.  Check it out:

Sharp!  Actually, even if it looked like crap I'd probably keep doing it because it means I don't have to change the bobbin thread.  Not changing the thread in my sewing machine is basically my religion.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

i have a problem with patterns

This is my creative process:  I find a pattern I like, cut it out or trace it, and then I either
A) get completely overwhelmed by the written directions, or
B) realize that I don't have the fabric or notions called for in the pattern

Then end result is that I always wind up reverse engineering the product my own way.  Written directions make me want to punch somebody in the face. It's not just sewing patterns--I'm mystified by recipes, instruction manuals, directions to people's houses, you name it.  I either need to see really good pictures or a diagram, or see somebody do what I'm supposed to be doing, or just do it myself and figure it out that way.  This is actually what I find fun about sewing:  figuring out how to make it come together. 

Case in point.  I'm making a smock for the Celebrating Handmade swap.  I decided to use the pattern from Amy Karol's Bend The Rules Sewing. After copying the pattern and cutting it out, I went through my fabric to decide what I wanted to use.  This was the combination I decided on:

Red cotton, natural linen, and printed cotton.  I really wanted to use the linen for the body of the smock and the red cotton for the bias trim and pocket, but since the linen is a little too flimsy for something that's supposed to keep a child clean, I decided to use the bear print as a lining and some flannel as a layer of interfacing.  Then I decided that a smock really ought to be reversible, which means the inside seams need to be finished. 

This kind of thing keeps my mind busy and my seam ripper in constant demand.

Monday, January 26, 2009

cloth diaper love

Joseph's attempt to put on his own diaper

I'm getting increasingly bored and embarrassed by the state of my cloth diaper stash.  It consists entirely of worn out, stained, sad pocket diapers; prefolds that are too small to snappi; one PUL wrap with non-functional velcro; a few wool wraps that are too small; and two g-diapers which I use with prefolds after the disposable inserts failed to change our nighttime "sleep" routine.

Jospeh modeling a new cover and making the arm of a chair into a rocking horse

To help fill in some of the gaps, I bought some big-boy sized prefolds and knit a few wool diaper covers.  Here is what I've learned in my (short) history of making and using wool diaper covers
  • sew elastic into the back waistband if you have any intention of not fastening the prefold
  • the brand of merino you get at the big box stores is $4 on sale and produces 1.5 or 2 covers, depending on the size of the baby
  • the best design for us is a sort of hybrid wrap-soaker, with buttons on the side to keep it adjustable and to make it easier to remove during a poop catastrophe.  I've used this pattern with great success, but I add buttonholes on the sides, lengthen the rise, and shorten the tabs.
  • a wool cover with two prefolds is perfect for overnight
"hybrid" soaker:  pull it on, use buttons to adjust size

If I had to do it again (and chances are I will), I would only use wool covers, prefolds, a few pocket diapers (like fuzzi bunz) for long car rides and babysitters, and some fitteds for a newborn.   Cheap and natural. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

spending hiatus

Jocelyn at Simple Lovely has organized a sort of support group for people who want to avoid non-essential spending for the next few months. Scott and I had already decided that we need to be on an austerity budget for a little while in order to do some post-holiday damage control, so this ties in pretty well.

My rule is basically that I am only buying things we need, in other words:
  • Groceries & toiletries are ok, but no prepared foods or fancy soaps or anything.  The goal is to keep the weekly Target/Whole Foods bill under $140.
  • No eating out (I have a feeling this will get modified in committee)
  • I will only buy coffee when I need to use the bathroom at Starbucks or when caffeine is needed in order to prevent grievous bodily harm to myself or others
  • No new clothes, housewares, books or craft supplies
  • Gardening and home repair items are acceptable within reason
  • I'm having a cloth diapering crisis (more on that later, I'm sure) so new prefolds may be purchased
I used to attempt this every February when I was single and profligate (February being the shortest month and therefore the least painful during which to budget) but it never worked, but now I have an audience so maybe I'll be accountable.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

handmade children's goods swap

 playing with a spoon, some dirt, and a dog toy

I should say right off the bat that we definitely have some plastic toys around the house, and we also have loads of non-handmade stuff, and that furthermore Joseph is probably happier playing with a spatula and a binder clip, or a slobbery dog toy, or a few handfuls of dirt, than he is with anything I've ever made him.

Nonetheless, the more aware Joseph becomes of his surroundings, the more motivated I am to make sure that most of what he interacts with is handmade or natural--or at least not toxic, sweatshop-made, logo-emblazoned, or cruddy-looking.  

So.  In the spirit of celebrating beautiful, safe, lovingly handmade children's toys and other things, I'm really happy to be able to participate in bird and little bird's handmade children's goods swap.  The idea is to get the stuff in the mail before February 10th, the day that law goes into effect.  I'm so looking forward to an excuse to do some sewing other than the pile of very boring mending I have sitting next to my machine.

Friday, January 16, 2009

bird city

Part of a mural I've been working on in Joseph's bedroom--it seemed appropriate here.

It's been rainy for the past few days so we've been enjoying watching the birds hunt for worms. This morning we saw a flock of hundreds of robins.  I was practically giddy with excitement.  Then a cardinal landed on the fence and I could not have been more impressed if it had been an alien space craft. 

We have loads of birds in Jacksonville. Every day we see geese, hawks, crows and vultures as well as finches, sparrows and all the usual little peeps, and nearly every day we see herons, ducks, cormorants, gulls and sandpipers.

Reason number eleven billion why I love the internet is how easy it is to figure out what bird you just saw.

For Christmas, my parents got us a finch feeder, which we placed outside our dining room window (where the dogs don't have access to it). Joseph waves hello to the birds when he sees them. He also waves hello to random things like socks, so I'm not reading into the gesture a love of nature or anything.

Joseph & Indiana watching the birds.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

sippy cup cozy

Because our straw-topped sippies seem to drip a lot, and because everything needs a sweater in January.

Cast on 32 stitches using the long tail cast on, join in the round, work k2p2 ribbing for three or four inches, loosely bind off. I used worsted weight dishrag cotton, size 7 circulars, and the magic loop method. 

This fits all our sippy cups, and was super fast & easy.  I think it would fit bottles and could be sized up to fit pretty much anything else. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

magic $2 skirt

I think $2 is a fair estimate.  The fabric cost about fifty cents.  It is of unknown fabric content but it feels pretty nice, and I have loads left over which will probably become something embarrassing for Joseph to wear. The trim (velvet rick-rack, who knew?) and elastic are from JoAnn and the hem facing was from a friend's stash.

The pattern is really similar to the famous five minute skirt, but narrower and with darts added in the back. I've used this basic template a few times before, and at some point I cleverly transferred it to nice thick poster board which miraculously was not lost during the move.

The real adventure was figuring out how to simultaneously attach the trim and blind hem the skirt. I also kind of wanted to figure out how to do a hem facing. I used this excellent tutorial and followed it to the letter, except that I sandwiched the trim between the layers of facing and skirt, sewing right down the middle of the trim. I had to try it on scrap fabric a few times before I got the trim positioned the way I wanted it, but it was not complicated or fussy at all. 

Here's the inside:

I like how the facing 1) is less clunky than my usual turn-under-twice type of hem and 2) looks kind of neat peeking out.  Yay.

Friday, January 9, 2009

how to make non-embarassing scarves for the men in your life

I made a scarf for my dad for Christmas, just something he could wear to golf or rake leaves or whatever and not look silly.  Something like the Harry Potter scarves (but fringe-less):  wide stripes, no fancy stitches, vaguely preppy.  To me, this is the platonic ideal of scarfness.

Since my dad is a confirmed wool-hater, I used Berillo Comfort DK in maroon and gray.  I used size 8 needles, which seems huge for the weight of yarn but it was just right (the ribbing keeps things tight enough, and you want the scarf to be drapey anyway, not too firm).  All I did was cast on 54 stitches and work four inches of K2P2 ribbing, then work the rest of the scarf in K1P1 ribbing, alternating colors every four inches until the scarf was long enough (about 60 inches), and then work another four inches of K2P2 ribbing in the same color I started with.  

The only tricky bit was how to address the edges. I feel like generally the edges of anything I knit look sloppy, and I had read that the solution is to slip the first stitch of every row.  But when I did this it looked like crap.  Check out the stitches toward the left here:

Super sloppy.  The stitches toward the right are where I didn't slip a stitch, but just worked the entire row in the normal K1P1 pattern, which is what I wound up doing for the entire scarf, after ripping out the two feet of rows where I had slipped the first stitch (boo).  I'm not sure what I did wrong--is the problem that I was ending each row with a purl stitch?  Who knows.  The scarf turned out pretty damn well, which is good when you spend six weeks knitting something. 

How awesome would it be if I had a picture of the finished product, complete with staticky dog hair?  But I finished the scarf on Christmas eve, too late for photos, and then failed to corner my dad for a photo shoot the next day.

Anyway, this project:
1.  Kept my hands busy for six weeks
2.  Cost about $12, which is pretty great for a gift
3.  Will not embarass my father, which is also pretty unusual for a gift
4.  Does not feature any photographs of Joseph, which is extremely unusual in gifts these days
5.  Is probably machine washable

Hooray for me. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

the christmas card

Make that "new year's card." Because I didn't send them out until January 5th. The upside is that now family & friends get to see this photo of Joseph and the dogs on Christmas morning. Note that all the subjects are looking at Scott, the light of their world. Also, Indiana needs to be in the foreground of every picture taken in this house.

Joseph's favorite present was an elephant push toy. The elephant claps cymbals when you push him, so it was very important to push him around obsessively all morning. My favorite present (of Joseph's) is the backpack he's sporting below. Toddlers wearing backpacks: hilarious.