Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another Completed Project!


At the same Bead & Button show I bought materials to make a Hallowe'en necklace, I bought some other things. One of them was this pretty little raku pendant with some gorgeous purple and blues in it. The back is stamped "Rama" but I can't find the cards I grabbed from the vendors so I'm not sure if it's the same Rama that's from Olympia, Washington or not, if Rama is even the name of the business, or if they're still in business...

ANYway, back in August/September when I attacked the basement, I bought a bunch of little storage containers to keep pieces bought for specific projects together. Yesterday, I decided I was going to finish one of them.

I had originally made loops in the necklace that the ribbon fed through, but decided I didn't like the way it looked, so I restrung it, and left the ribbon mostly loose. It's attached at two points at the top, and goes through the beaded loop that I used to attach the pendant.

I'm pleased with the colors, loving purple as I do, but I suppose that the beads of the necklace could be a bit smaller so they don't overwhelm the pendant. I'm going to live with it as-is for now, and if it truly bugs me then I can do something that will draw more attention to the pendant. But considering that this project has gone unfinished for probably close to a decade, I'm quite happy with the fact that I have something that's wearable after all this time.

This also gives me validation for the work I put into organization. I was able to go straight to where the bits were, grab the little container and get to work, and finish a UFO once and for all. If I could consistently do that once a week, I'd have a lot less stress about the whole thing... Now, I should add, one of the reasons for some of these UFOs is because they stalled in the process. Somewhere I got derailed -- I couldn't find the "something" it needed, I wasn't happy with the direction it was heading, I didn't have the skill set to do what I wanted... For this necklace, it was as simple as restringing it to remove the loops that I just wasn't satisfied with. With a little luck, I'll be able to finish some more this way.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Making Simple Things More Difficult

Here's Matilda modeling the poncho, and Agatha modeling the beret.
So nice to see the girls cooperating.

What can I say, it's a gift.

I decided that I needed a beret to go with my poncho. There was a large enough piece of the border material to make a circle, but then my beret would have had stripes, and that wasn't the look I wanted. So, I folded the pattern piece into quarters, scanned and printed it out. I wasn't sure I could do what I wanted, so I printed out three more so I could place the pattern pieces on the material -- and learned I didn't have enough material to do it that way. Folding the piece into eighths made it possible to use the largest amount of the bordered material, and use only two wedges that used very little of it.

I added a half-inch seam allowance to my pattern wedges.
Also, printing on "draft" uses a whole lot less ink.

Wedges cut out and arranged before pinning.
At the top, there's a bit I need to hand-sew, because I wasn't able to get the sewing machine to get all the way down, once I had several wedges sewn together.

I can stick my finger through the hole in the center. Easily fixed.
I think I need to sew in a basic lining, because the inside is kinda ugly.

I did stitch down the edges at the base of the crown, and considered doing that to the wedges,
but didn't want to stiffen the softness of the upper crown, or make it look too tailored.
A lining may be in order.
All in all, I am enormously pleased that my idea worked as well as it did, since I was pretty much winging it. I think this is a pretty sweet use of the bordered material I love so much.

So that was my Sunday evening.

On Saturday, I made this:

The pattern came from Fleece Fun, and is super-easy. Unfortunately, I learned that I have good reason to hate and fear buttonholes. Because I suck at them. I ended up sewing a tight zigzag instead, and it worked pretty well.

I'm happy with how the hat turned out, but I think I should have gone with a medium instead of small, as it's a bit snug (even with the ribbon untied). For reference, my head measures 22". Unfortunately, as cute as it is, I don't think I like the style on me. It's basically a cloche, and not my preference. I hemmed the edge with a zigzag stitch, but I think it would be really cute if it was hemmed with a short straight stitch, stretching as you sew, making a lettuce edge.

Anywho, if you haven't yet visited Fleece Fun, go. She has so much there -- for free! -- that you're crazy not to check it out. Her satin hair flowers are going to end up on my thrift store hat redo, as soon as I get some more satin.


I lined the beret and it looks much better. I was concerned that it might change the way the hat lies on my head, but it doesn't appear to have done so.

I also ripped out the zigzag hem of the leopard hat, and restitched it with a straight stitch, pulling the fabric as I went to ruffle it slightly. It's cute. :)

From the Basic Hat with Ribbon pattern available at

Monday, January 14, 2013

You've Got Mail!

A friend of mine needed a bit of a pick-me-up, and after I posted an Evil Dead diorama hat on Facebook, she "commissioned" one for Green Eggs and Ham (she's a teacher). I didn't think for a second that she was serious, but I chose to act otherwise, and so I made her a Green Eggs and Ham Hat.

The hat is fleece, with the decorative elements made with felt and accented with buttons. The hat is orange because the book is.

I also sent a Happy Hat, with the instructions that she was not allowed to be unhappy when she wears it.

Also made with fleece, with felt points for the sun rays. Both hats are made from the McCalls pattern I've been using a lot lately.

After a weekend of biting my nails when it was supposed to be delivered on Saturday, it finally arrived today, so I can post this now and not spoil the surprise. I am happy to say that my recipient enjoyed her surprise hats. However, now that she's on to me, I might need to find another victim for my idée fixe de chapeaux.

How My Mind Works: Random Thoughts

So I'm getting the dishes ready for the dishwasher, contemplating how much I loathe it, and pondering the whys of that. Hot water and soap dry my skin out and make my hands hurt, but that's only incidental. I could wear gloves, but the rubber gloves feel awful and make my hands sweat, and I don't have fine motor control (because they never fit properly) which leads to accidents. No, the real issue is with the bits of food, stuck to things, touched by someone else, cold and sometimes slimy. That made me think about leftovers, and why I don't generally care for them, either. Sure, most food doesn't taste as good reheated as it did when it was prepared, but there's the whole "food handled by someone else" thing. That made me think about the word "trigger" and how it's a pretty commonplace word these days -- "Trigger Warning: This post contains ____, which may cause triggers for some people." I swear I'd never heard it used that way until last year... At the same time I'm contemplating all the triggery grossness of dishwashing, I'm thinking about my daughter*, and wondering if I have trouble functioning with all this going on, what's the world like for her??

This wound around to my general processing style of direction-following, and how I just don't do well with directions and instructions. It's hard for me to read them, to understand them sometimes, and I never know if it's because of them being poorly or oddly written, or if there's something wrong in my head that makes me unable to understand what seems like straightforward stuff. A certain frame of mind might suggest that I have issues with authority, and I agree that I do, but I think both issues stem from a different source than defiance. If you give me a task, but don't tell me how you want it done, I'll figure out what seems like the best way, and do it. If you tell me step-by-step how you want something done, I'll have all kinds of problems. Partly because I can often find some way to do what you're telling me to do that is easier, more efficient, or makes more sense to me. Partly because I hate being micromanaged. I don't like being watched or supervised. Let me be and I'll get it done. But here's the thing: I'll probably look like I'm screwing around, futzing with other things, but what I'm really doing is processing in the background. Previously, managers who knew me, knew to let me do my job. Anytime someone new was around, they usually had problems with the way I worked. My stuff always got done on time, sometimes early, sometimes at the last minute, but it got done. This is one of the reasons I don't do well working for other people.

And this little mental conversation happened while I was loading the dishwasher. I think I got it all down. Certainly this is the gist of it.

I feel compelled to point out that I have never had any issue with reading. I read rather fast, actually, but since I will happily reread books, it still makes sense to buy and not borrow. If I'm especially tired, I tend to see "rivers" in the spaces between words, when the rivers are really not that bad. At right is an example of bad typography. Justifying margins produces rivers of whitespace in text unless you hyphenate words. That is what words on a page look like to me when I'm tired, even if they aren't a typographic nightmare like this example. Those rivers are really distracting; my eyes tend to follow them, and then my brain fills in with an overlay of water and sometimes even the sound of flowing water. So one minute I'm reading along, and the next I am entertaining myself with babbling brook on the page.

It's something that can happen to people with dyslexia or other visual processing disorders. There's an animated gif here showing the river distortion, at the Irlen Institute's website -- they use colored lenses to mitigate various problems with reading difficulties. I've never been diagnosed with dyslexia, and the first time I ever heard about rivers in text as something that was problematic for other people was when I was attending an autism conference, and we learned about the Irlen colored lenses that are supposed to help with visual processing issues. It might help me with my migraines, but I don't know that I want to go find a screener. I've been doing fine for 40 years... Except for the migraines, anyway. And that was a pretty big side-track. *wince* On the other hand, it is a slice of my brain. Metaphorically speaking.

* If you're not familiar with other postings mentioning it, or haven't seen that blog or read my bio, my daughter is autistic, and does have some sensory sensitivities.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Not Even Cold Enough

Goofy weather; I finally got an old project completed, and it's not even cold enough to wear it.

When my daughter was a toddler, I bought a pattern, material and thread to make a poncho. The fleece fabric was clearanced, and I just fell in love with it. My daughter is now 15.

Our old house was small, and so in an attempt to make more space, my material got put into one of those Space Bags. Clever me, I even thought to put the pattern envelope, front facing out, in with it, along with sequins I had bought to embellish it and the thread in a small margarine container. Once the air was sucked out, I had a much smaller project, and everything was in one place.

Now that I've gotten more comfortable with the sewing machine, I rediscovered that shrink-wrapped decade-old project and finished it! Huzzah! Thursday night I cut out the pieces, Friday I sewed it up, and this morning I added the darts I should have put in to begin with.

I used Butterick #3649 (©2002, looks like it's out of print), view A, but modified it. The 60" material I bought had a wide border, and that was what I wanted. That view had two pattern pieces, one diamond-shaped front piece, and a triangular back piece (cut two). Bah. That wouldn't have used the border to its full potential, so I cut four triangles, carefully getting a chevron for the front and back, but the chevrons do not match. I would have needed another yard (at least) to do that.

It's a smaller poncho than I typically prefer, but it's probably a better size for me to wear so that I don't look like I'm dwarfed by it. And, after looking at it, and playing with the sequins, I decided not to use them after all. The border pattern is busy enough that it probably doesn't really need anything else. I have a ton of the upper half of the fabric to make a shirt or something, since I only used the border edge, and enough of the border pieces to make a hat, I think.

Fast & Easy: yes it was
Views C & D are basically, "Hem the edge of a huge rectangle,
sew on these leaves (C) or this fake fur (D)." For that, you need a pattern?!
Front and back, respectively. The little pink flowers on the maroon field is what the rest of the material looks like.

Totally do not match, but I can live with it, because my chevrons
line up pretty well in front and back views.
Detail of the darts I added this morning.
I also added some detail to a beret I made on Wednesday, using some wonderful rose-patterned fleece I bought that I didn't know what I wanted it for at the time. I cut out a rose and appliquéd it to the top, quilting it somewhat with a scrap of fleece stitched between my appliqué and the crown of the beret. I also knotted some embroidery thread as stamens for a little more dimension.

So now I have this awesome finished project, and it's supposed to get up to 42ºF (5.5ºC). Hell, that warm in January in this part of the Midwest, it's practically shorts weather! (Why is it that 40º in January is so much warmer than 40º in June? Isn't that a bizarre perception shift?) I suppose I could wear the poncho over a t-shirt... But not with the hat. I have a tiny bit more fashion sense than that. (The colors totally clash. Non-matching patterns don't phase me at all.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January's Hat: Snow

Those glist'ning houses that seem to be built of snow
Oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow
the song "Snow" from White Christmas (movie)

This photo won 3rd place in the local county fair in the category "Shadows."
I was so happy to have no interruptions for the first day when my daughter resumed school after the winter break, I made my January hat. My inspiration, though it's been scarce this season so far, was snow.

It didn't start out that way; it started out as another practice hat. I had tried the video tutorial for making the pillbox hat and it didn't work. I'm betting operator error, but it looked like she was using felt to make the one in the vid, and since it's naturally more structural, she didn't use any interfacing or lining. I lined mine, but without interfacing or some kind of stiffening going on, my pillbox is too soft to hold its shape. Also, her instructions were not all that clear. The sides of the hat have a bit of a peak; the center of the band is taller than the back of the band, but she doesn't say which side to sew the crown to, and I didn't mark it (she didn't) so once it was cut and the pattern piece unpinned from it I wasn't even sure which was top and which was bottom.

I'm nearly happy with it. I think my contrast-stitching has too much contrast,
and it desperately needs something to give it some body, but it almost worked.
Anyway. I decided to modify (again!) that McCall's pattern #2692 from '86. This new hat uses the same pattern pieces as the hats I made in fleece! I reduced the pieces using Photoshop, scanning them in and reducing them 85% and printing them out. The sides were too long to scan, so I folded it at the center and marked that end of my new pattern piece "FOLD."

Scanned, desaturated, and reduced pattern pieces
I found the random polka-dot patterned dotted swiss material, saw how much of it there was, and figured I'd use that, and added medium-weight sew-in interfacing. I didn't line it. After I cut everything out, I machine-basted my fabric and interfacing pieces together. I stitched the short ends together, pressed open the seam (I didn't use her technique in the video of sewing that down). When I started pinning on the crown, it became pretty clear that reduced the same percentage or not, it was a bit too big. I ended up pinning it together from my basting stitch rather than matching the edges, and then trimming the excess and notching it as usual.

Once I got it all sewn together, I turned under the raw edge and checked the height, turned it some more, adjusting the size of the band until I was happy with it. That got stitched down twice, which gives it a little more firmness as well as securing hem. Most of the side band is now doubled fabric and interfacing, making it pretty sturdy.

Thrilled with my creation, I used matching ribbon and white tulle to make a pouf for the side (sewing the ribbon to the tulle, then gathering the opposite side), securing it with a silver and light blue button from my stash. It still needed something, so I looked to see if I had any white sequins the right size, thinking I'd sew them onto all the smaller dots on the sides. I did have, but didn't like the way they looked, but found some flat clear sequins that I used instead. Each one sewn on using two stitches of white thread... that took far longer to do than sewing the hat! I tried to keep the thread from showing where I could, going between the layers of fabric to the next dot. I could have skipped that and gone faster, but it looks nicer and the threads are not in danger of snagging and breaking.

I have not yet decided what means I will use for securing it to my head, and I'm not certain that it still doesn't need something -- it still looks kinda plain -- but I'm calling it 97% done.

To me, the white spots on an aqua field on dotted swiss looks like snow falling from a blue sky. So, my inspiration, born of a casual "eh, I'll use this," turned into something I'm really quite proud of.



left side

right side
Making it up as you go is kinda fun!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Insanity Is Progressive

So I've made a few hats, and it was fun. Thinking about modifications, different materials, embellishment... I swear, it feels like my brain is on fire. I went to two different fabric stores on Friday, and Friday night I also hit a thrift store. I have more than enough stuff to keep me busy for a while, but I am dying to get into the garments I bought to remake into hats.

I found three blazers, three blouses and a skirt, and have already deconstructed one of the blazers (saving the lining to line the hat!) and will hack up the others soon. Because they are fitted, I don't have large seamless pieces to work with, but I think I can still manage.

Here's my haul:

I also bought Vogue patterns 7890, 8681, 8869 (left to right, below) and already had McCall's 2692 (see the Hats post from a few days ago). Plus I found an excellent video tutorial for a pillbox hat that I really want to try.

I'm going to use the instructions from the pillbox video first, on some scrap fabric before I commit to something I really want to turn out right. I want that practice hat to be something I don't mind if it doesn't work -- but that I'd still wear if it does! Once I know I can make it work, I'll use my fabric salvage. Then I think I have to make that patchwork beret; love that! And I'm pretty sure I must make some more of those little top hats.

I had a crazy thought this morning, before the caffeine hit my bloodstream: Wouldn't it be awesome to make a hat a day? Then I realized how insane that would be; 365 hats?! Even if I gave a bunch away, what it the hell would I do with them all? OK, hat a week, then, my idiot brain says. No -- 52 hats is still unmanageable. Fine, how about one a month? Fine. Fine. OK! (Ahem... everyone has conversations with themselves, right..?)

SO! A hat a month, and if I make more, fine, but I want to do one "official" hat each month, that will be meaningful in some way to me regarding the month/season/holiday.

Yes, indeed. Insanity is progressive. By the end of the year, I'll need a fetching canvas-and-leather chapeau to go with my straightjacket. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Broken Promises

Resolutions are a way for humans to punish themselves for being human.

No, really! You make grand plans for a new year -- losing weight, quitting smoking, finishing a project... Then when life happens and you can't/won't/don't follow through, you punish yourself and heap guilt on your head and label yourself a failure, or weak, or whatever. Bah!

This year, I am making no promises to myself. I hope to help my daughter become more self-sufficient. I hope to finish the basement, and get that wall painted finally. I hope to make it up to Ontario this year, and see my friends, whom I miss terribly. (OK, that's not really along the same lines as a resolution, but still...)

I mostly quit smoking last year, back in March, though I lapsed in December with the xmas stress making me crazy. They tasted so awful... I think this time I can make it stick. I need to pay more attention to my health, and work on making myself healthier. That includes losing some weight, and that particular hope/goal scares me most of all. I have a love/hate relationship with food and how it relates to my body. Unfortunately, I no longer have the luxury of youth to let me slide through poor decision-making. Added to the physical need to lose weight, my mental health is also suffering, and that may be a more critical reason.

This year has the potential of being a triumphant return to health and happiness, or an abysmal failure that will cost me a great deal. All I really want from 2013 it to survive it.