08 December 2011

I am in LOVE

I don't think hubby will mind at all ... I finally got brave enough to take Camster for a spin and WOW!  The difference between her and old Anchor are like night and day.  Here she is, all "loaded up for bear" as the saying goes:
Kenmore 1803 Camster loaded up and running
The focus is a bit funny in the pic, so I labelled the little seam allowance magnet ... it was still clinging faithfully to Anchor when I opened him up.  I can't use it on my computerized Brothers, and I haven't even tried it on poor Timex.

Ya know, if I had sewed on something like Camster instead of Anchor as a kid, I might have stuck with it instead of thinking I was a failure at sewing (Anchor still has way too much "get-up-n-go" off the line, as I discovered with the linen hat).

A couple random notes: I pulled a plastic bobbin out of Camster's holder ... at her age I don't think she ought to be playing with little plastic things.  It also didn't look like the metal ones that were in a plastic baggie that came with her, which makes me wonder if this is why she ended up in a garage sale with a paltry $10 price tag on her.  All the metal bobbins had who-knows-how-old thread on them so I had to unwind one to reload ... which drew an audience of cats who seemed to be amused that I was doing it "wrong" and they probably could have done it faster ...

One reason I took so long to fire Camster up is Mom told (ordered) me to not mess with her until I read the manual, because this is still a very nice machine ... and I have no doubt Mom would hop into her car and come confiscate it from me faster than I confiscated Camster from Dad's wife.  I'm pretty sure there is still a drool-stain on the corner of the cabinet from when Mom inspected it before letting me abscond with it.

I can't believe just how quiet Camster is, especially after giving Anchor a spin this summer.  Totally amazing both machines were on the shelf in Sears at the same time.  Last night I was asked if I'd be getting an "upper-end" machine anytime soon, and I replied I already have one (Camster).  Last night, I was joking ... today I am NOT joking about it.  If I could have found a heart-shape in Gimp, there would be little red hearts all over this pic of Camster!

Oh yeah, that is indeed my B5662 fitting muslin under her presser foot.  The seams are now stitched up, and I need to duct-tape cable ties and baste on a zipper and lacing panels now.  That will get its own post, though, probably after my appointment and errands ... or tomorrow.

02 December 2011

B5662 Let the corset-fitting begin again

I am slowly pulling myself out of my sewing slump with (what else?) my new corset I now very much need.  I have been wanting to try out the Butterick 5662 released earlier this year, and here it is cut out in striped cotton for the fitting muslin.
B5662 fitting muslin cut
I've already started basting the seams (in black thread).  I'm planning to thread up Camster and put her to work so I can also use a simple yet truly wonderful tool: a magnet for seam allowance.

I had more to say, but the guys are home now and the thoughts left.

15 November 2011

New cast iron!

So I might as well toss a few cooking posts on here while I'm at it ... it's maggie's fault of course for asking me to share how I make chicken stock.  Heehee ... maggie "blames" me for so much nowadays it's running joke that any time she claims something is my "fault" I automatically tell her "You're welcome!"

So for the past few weeks hubby has been debating the merits of getting a griddle so he can make more than one pancake at a time.  Last week I came home with a cast iron double-sided griddle, and found out he had an electric griddle in mind .... Bah!  I am making great progress in turning him into a cast iron convert.  Here is my stove top cast iron now, with the addition of the griddle (in this pic, he just finished pancakes plus eggs for breakfast).
new cast iron griddle plus my 3 trusty skillets
The other side has diagonal ridges to cook meats like hamburger patties ... or chicken breasts for sandwiches over the weekend.  I demonstrated both for hubby, and yesterday he started using the ridged side to whip up chicken breast sandwiches for our lunch.  He figured out that it's better to do bacon on the flat side of the griddle, though.

The truly cute thing about my new piece of cast iron is just how long the ridged side keeps my dog's attention (once it's cooled enough for the doggy to pre-rinse).

One thing I won't bother blogging about is cast iron care because Gloria already has some excellent posts on it!  Much easier to just link hers since I would only be repeating what she has already written.

13 November 2011

I NEED a new corset!

I simply must break this sewing slump, and what better way than a badly-needed new corset?  Y'all recall how proud I was back in the spring when I did the denim Butterick 4254 mid-Victorian?  And how comfortable it was at the time?  Yeaaaahhhh ... it's now too big for me.
denim B4254vD after 6 months' wear
While the fabric probably stretched a little, the simple fact is I have lost weight over the summer, and can no longer pull the lacing tight enough to be an effective back brace.  According to my doc's scale I have dropped 13 pounds in three months (June versus September) ... unplanned, unintentional, and I am still trying to figure just how.  Ladies, please do not flame me for this, but the weight loss is actually very annoying!  I need to refit all my patterns.  Custom-fitting regular garment patterns is hard enough with a stable target, but fitting a corset while still losing weight is cuss-worthy.  Adding salt to my wounds, all those measurements my Mom took for me in June?  Useless!

Lacing gap ... it wasn't really there back in the spring, as y'all might recall, and I should have kept working on fit instead of getting impatient at the time.  Then again, my weight was still stable in the spring.  I didn't start needing a belt for my jeans until late July or August, and only dug out my formerly-too-small jeans from the donation bag this past month.  And yes, I seem to still be losing weight, so I will NEED to make sure I have a two-inch lacing gap for this next one (and hope the weight comes off evenly).

As nice as the shaping is on the B4254 pattern, I want to try another (newer) pattern from Butterick: 5662, released this past year.  This time, I will start fitting it four sizes below what their measurement chart recommends, since my B4254 at three sizes smaller (size 14! instead of 20) than the chart is now too big.  So I'll be tweaking a 12 (!!!) considering Butterick drafts with a 5/8 inch seam allowance.

Necessity seems to be the mother of motivation, in addition to invention.  Let the corset pattern fitting adventure begin again.

11 November 2011

Accidental gardener!

Y'all recall my garden box ... how could I forget the good-natured ribbing Gloria gave me when she asked "We wait a month for a post, then you post a picture of DIRT?"  LOL  Well, I have more pictures of my "dirt" which actually contains no soil ...apparently something I tossed into the box as kitchen waste has grown!  And this is in spite of our fourth frost already, and second sub-freezing hard frost.  Whatever this plant actually is, it is quite determined.
growing in the garden box

another pic of my mystery plant
The suspect list is: sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, or acorn squash ... right now I am leaning towards the russet option after a Google image search and given how deep this bad boy is.  I think it may be one of the "bad" potatoes that inspired me to crochet my potato bag ... those were extras from hubby's coworker's garden in the next county.

I am hoping if this is a potato plant that it will survive my lack of attention, as I went out to stir in the last two weeks' worth of eggshells, broccoli stalks, carrot peelings, and coffee grounds (plus shrimp shells for fun).  I was not expecting my compost material to survive the frosts we've had so early.  Last time I stirred the "dirt" I had noticed a couple of the potatoes were trying to send out roots, but the next night we had our first sub-30s hard frost so didn't think much of it the next day.

Now if this is actually a weed, someone please tell me quickly!  Right now I am pleasantly stunned something is growing ... remember, I *am* the one who had mint die on her.

23 October 2011

Making my own chicken stock (broth)

This is the project that's been on my stove since mid-afternoon, and when I mentioned it in chat, Maggie commented that she hasn't "quite gotten a handle on the whole stock-making thing".  So I offered to blog it ... although I don't have pictures of every step since this is quite impromptu.

Start with whole fryers (or roasters or broilers ... a whole chicken that's been dressed out) and cut off the frying pieces (wings, legs) and fillet off the breasts, saving the skin, neck, giblets, and the carcass after you're done cutting off the pieces.  Put into a stock pot and just cover all the parts with water, then simmer for an hour to an hour-and-half.  I've noticed it turns out better doing an hour-and-half on a low simmer.
3 chickens, 2 stock pots
After it's simmered enough to cook the meat tender but NOT falling off the bones by itself, pull out all the chicken pieces, and (AFTER it's cool enough to handle!) pull the meat off the bones, then dice up the giblets.  Toss out the bones and skin.  Set the meat in the fridge, then break out season-stuff that you will be straining out.  In my case, that is onion, celery, and minced garlic.  Slow-simmer another hour.

After the second hour, pour the shtuff through first a wire strainer to catch all the solid pieces, then through cheesecloth (or in my case tonight, cheap cotton muslin because I can't find my cheesecloth).  At this point you can let it cool and put it up in containers, or if like me you made way more than you realized you can simmer it down to concentrate it.  Don't skim the fat out until you are ready to cook with it, as the fat will form a seal over the top.

Here is where I am at right now, simmering it down to concentrate it.  I've managed to get it all in my largest stock pot.
chicken stock simmering down
Just a note: the cheap cotton muslin makes a decent substitute for cheesecloth, so this qualifies as a way to use scraps!

You can also boil down ham bones or do a straight vegetable stock using this method - although straight veggie stock won't form a fat seal on top.

Hope that helps ya, Maggie!

Crocheted bags for around the house

So, I've been quiet again (at least here).  Hubby says I get this way every year - he's probably right.  The good news is that I HAVE been doing shtuff, and am still on my crochet kick, although there is a new box of fabric to fondle for a later post.

As the post title promises, I have crocheted some bags for around the house use!  First up is my potato bag, inspired by an incident involving the potatoes in that plastic bag they come in, the dog's water bowl ... and the dog thinking a cat wanted to play.  The potatoes needed to come out of the plastic and off the floor of my pantry.  Enter a cone of cotton yarn and this crocheted carry-all pattern.  It will hold a LOT!  When I snapped this pic there were still about 8 pounds of russets and another 2 pounds of sweet potatoes (yams) in it:
crocheted potato bag
My only worry is the pantry door knob breaking off since I don't know how old that door actually is.  I debated about posting this pic because it shows what a mess my pantry can be ... but I have warned y'all many times I am a horrible housekeeper, so I guess I might as well prove it to those who have never seen it.  The potato bag crocheted up quickly.

Now for a pair of tote bags that aren't as fast, but I think look better:
Two crocheted tote bags
This is the crochet tote pattern, and the green-blue one is where I mostly followed the pattern, using the hook and row counts, but I couldn't tell if my cotton yarn was the right size or not.  I am thinking not since it turned out smaller than I expected.  For the shades-of-blue one I added rows and went up a hook size until I was happy with how tall it was.  There's actually a library book in the small tote for the pic - the tall hardback Elizabethan cross-stitch book that I am still copying (cross-stitching) from - so even the small tote is big enough to hold books.  Oh, I am working on a third tote from the pattern, using cheaper acrylic yarn (which I really don't like the feel of).

I have a few more things already made, but am not pleased with the pictures of them yet, so they'll need to wait for another post.

16 October 2011

Quietly doing shtuff

I've been a bad little blogger lately.  In fact, it's gotten bad enough for not only my mom to email me and ask what I've been up to, but even maggie left a comment asking where I've been and why I've been so quiet.

I've been doing shtuff around the house and yard, just not taking many pics or posting about it.  Here is one yard project from two weekends ago:
garden box in progress
Yes, I am once again attempting to grow plants, but this time I am using a garden box with yard waste and compost and peat moss ... hopefully I can get the dirt good enough to counteract my notorious black thumb.  No, Mom ... I still have not figured out just how I managed to kill the mint.

I've been crocheting as well as sulking about the sewing slump.  Part of the sewing slump is I have unintentionally lost weight and will need to refit all my previous pattern alterations - which I had not nailed down to a really good fit anyway.  I do need to snap pics of what I've crocheted up: a wool hat, another soap bag, more washcloths, a potato bag and now two tote bags.  I just don't feel like fighting with the digicam today (besides, I have another bag to start ... actually two).

I've also been cooking up a storm, scored a bunch of old cookbooks from a new thrift store in town, and found what is left of my formerly large collection of cookbooks.  Hubby and son have both expression a deep appreciation for that little project.

14 September 2011

Simple variegated crochet washcloth

As promised, here is the "pattern" I used for the 80s kneesock colored washcloth.  Pattern is in quotes because it really is a case of this crochet RE-newb playing with stitches until I got something that looked cool.  I recrocheted it in solid blue soft cotton when hubby requested a soft facecloth, and he tried it out this morning and loves it:
Blue facecloth for hubby
No, really ... it IS this simple:
Chain 31
Row 1: sc in 2nd chain from hook, sc across (30 sc)
Row 2-8: ch1, turn; sc in first sc *ch1, skip 1 sc, sc in next* then sc in last sc
Row 9: ch2, turn; hdc in each sc and ch-sp across (30 hdc)
Row 10-13: Repeat row 2
Row 14: repeat row 9
Row 15-18: Repeat row 2
Row 19: repeat row 9
Row 20-27: Repeat row 2
Row 28: repeat row 1, do not finish off ...
Round 1: ch1, sc around doing 3 sc in each corner, sl st into first sc
Round 2: ch2, hdc around ... I did 2 hdc into 2 adjacent sc's on each corner to get it to lay flat, sl st into first hdc and finish off, hide tails.

Almost forgot: I used worsted-weight cotton and H hook for the variegated, and aran(?) cotton and a G hook for hubby's blue one.  I'm still trying to get the hang of matching hooks to yarns, so play with the yarn versus hook until you're happy with it ... and remember my motto: "They're not really pattern instructions, they're suggestions!"  This is especially true in this case.  LOL

I did up the blue facecloth in just a few hours, even with getting supper on the stove, so more experienced crocheters can probably knock it out even faster.  While it looks nice in a solid color, I think I still like it better in variegated:
variegated washcloth in 80s color combo
What can I say?  I like colors - especially these colors.  I think I'll try this out in my other variegated cottons, just for fun.  And get another cup of coffee ... if anything isn't clear, just leave a comment asking for clarification.  This pattern-reading and pattern-writing idea is new to me.

13 September 2011

More crocheted dishcloths

Along with being a great way to practice stitches and (attempting to) crochet evenly and consistently, dishcloths are ridiculously useful around the house, and hubby has requested more - this time to give to his platoonmate who gifted us with a plastic grocery bag filled with fat carrots from his garden plus two bags of potatoes from his neighbor's garden.  Hey, I'll trade a little yarn and practice crocheting for garden-fresh produce!

In my quest for an easy-to-crochet textured dishcloth that looks good as well, I have found a pattern named "Citrus Twist dishcloth" through the Ravelry pattern database that is easy to follow and easy to remember.  I can't declare "the" pattern yet, but I love how it looks in variegated yarn (which I am truly a sucker for!)
Textured crochet dishcloths in almost-solid and variegated yarn
Now I just need to get consistent enough that they come out square (like they are supposed to!).

Marysews, I have NOT forgotten your request for the pattern on the 80s colored dishcloth ... I am starting another to make sure I can duplicate it, as that truly was just me playing around with stitches.  Hubby requested a "really soft" one to use on his face for shaving, so along with verifying the pattern (?) idea, I am trying to keep up with hubby's request list.

10 September 2011

Colors! I'm so HAPPY!

I decided to return to the "scene of the crime" with that cotton worsted weight yarn I've been making so many useful things with ... this time I went hoping to score colored yarn.  I was successful!  Yay!  First up, the variegated yarn in colors hubby calls "80s kneesock colors" and my first thing made up in it:
cotton crochet washcloth in "80s kneesock" colors
Yeah baby!  Pink and purple, with just the right splash of a cool sunny yellow and a green I can wear.  I'm pretty sure I've stated my tackiness knows no bounds, and when it comes to 80s color combinations this is painfully obvious to those who don't appreciate such colors.  While hubby sighs and tries to hide his pained expression, I am REVELING in this very recent reemergence of my favorite colors.  Oh yeah, fair warning: I have crochet thread to make lace in this color scheme.  I'm not sure it matches exactly, but it's close.

Hey, after about five years of seeing only earth tones that make me look like a cadaver available in the retail stores, I think I am allowed at least a little celebration. Besides, the earth tones haven't completely disappeared from retail yet ... they are just being combined with colors I can cope with right now.  Like the blue and green in one of my purchases last night:
Colored cotton worsted weight yarns
I restrained myself and put the lavender-white-green yarn back ... although that was a struggle.  One thing that helped me remember to be restrained was I had just hit the sale table of our local specialty yarn shop and scored alpaca yarn ... enough to make myself a lovely and decadent scarf for the winter!
Wonderfully soft alpaca yarn!
Along with being in "my" colors, this stuff is so soft ... it even beat out silk yarn on the table!  To top it off, back in January I scored some alpaca blend coating in tan.  If I can get my (*donkey*) in gear I will be really styling this winter.  (My thoughts have turned to winter sewing with our first cool-weather cold front.)

Now, a well-intentioned alert for those of y'all who look good in earth tones and love to wear them:  GO STOCK UP!!!  If what I've gone through these past few years is any indication, y'all are going to spend the next three to five years grumping about a lack of colors available that suit you.  For some insane reason, the textile and garment industry has the notion that colors are "trends" and depending on the whims of fashion trends, some colors are "out" while others are "in".  I don't know anyone who can change his or her complexion to match these trends, nor do I know anyone who can pull off all colors ... so for the rare fiber fiend who does NOT already have a stash of fabric and/or yarn in those preferred colors, you'll need to break your no-stash rule or suffer the paucity of good colors!  Check the clearance section first ...

Meanwhile, I'll be the too-happy customer in the stores doing happy dances at all the pinks, purples, and cool blues available - especially if they are all in one item!

08 September 2011

My new dog

As the PR chat room heard last night, I went and got a new dog yesterday afternoon, brought about by my dogsitting last month.  Most (all?) of the chat regulars strongly requested (demanded!) pics of the new canine addition to my zoo ... so to avoid getting virtually lynched in chat tonight I picked up the digicam and made an honest effort this morning.  A couple camera notes: doggie will not stay the necessary distance from the camera, nor does he pose or hold very still unless he is laying on a stained part of the carpet.  Here's the best I can do without hubby's assistance:
Aries, my new dog
His name is Aries, which I find amusing since he is much more loverboy than god of war, and he'll turn two in October.  He comes to us already housebroken and loves being in the house with his family, and keeps trying to sniff and lick our cats ... the feline faction really doesn't appreciate that.  Last night, he and the cuddle kitty took turns next to my chair attempting to "guard" me from the other.

Um, yes ... he is a pit bull.  However, just like other house-pits I've known and the three house-Rotties I've owned, Aries totally blows the stereotype for the breed out of the water.  He's affectionate, adoring towards his special human (and he's chosen me!), responsive, and eager to please ... and is taking the cats' snit fit in good humor.  Aries just isn't too sure about my teenage son and his size 12 shoes ... LOL.

04 September 2011

Useful things for the kitchen

So the dreaded oven/hot mitt is finally finished ... I was stalling because I have learned I truly detest sewing together the fabric-batting-muslin sandwiches.  Now I understand why people pay the asking price for prequilted fabrics!  (Note: If you enjoy diagonal machine-quilting layers of batting and fabric together, all the power to y'all and I wish you bliss .. this just is NOT my thing.)

It won't win any awards, and I will definitely be buying my next hot pad and oven mitt at the store rather than make another, but this one does match my apron perfectly:
Hot/oven mitt done
Oh yes, for a certain chat regular: hot mitt = oven mitt.  Ovens tend to be hot.  This project also has ruined my sense of humor temporarily.

Logistical note on construction: make the inside layer smaller than the outside one.  (Should I make that a Sgt Obvious tip as well?)  Have an extra sewing needle on hand - the batting dulls a needle faster than topstitching canvas and buckram do!

While procrastinating on sewing the hot mitt, I have also been using my crochet hooks to make useful kitchen items:
Lumpy (textured) dishcloths

Bobble/Pop scrubbers

Swiffer pad with textured bottom

Swiffer pad, top
These crochet up fast, are a great way to practice the new stitches I had to learn to make them ... and hubby says we need multiples (the second scrubber and dishcloth are already given away) not just for our house but to give to family as gifts.  I also made a ridged textured dishcloth that ended up being tested in my son's bathroom.  He says it works "very good" and sounded a little surprised about it.

30 August 2011

Block party crochet style

Not that kind of block party - the crochet kind, where I've hooked up 6 lace things and need to block (shape) them.  I'm only going to post pics of two of these items, as the remaining four are intended as gifts for a family member who is subscribed via email.  Whether or not those emails get read, I am not taking chances.

OK, item number one: a doily coaster for my desk that does NOT contain a counting error!  I have one already for my coffee cup that has a counting oopsie, but wanted a correct one for my water glass.  Here it is, pinned out after a short hot water bath.
Lace doily coaster blocked and pinned
It looks a whole heap better now that it's pinned out.  For the record, I did adjust a couple pins after gimping the pic.

Now for a little fun item: a crochet lace snowflake.  This one turned out right with six points ... I already pulled out the counting oops with seven points.  It's a little difficult to see since the foam board is white, so I'll probably snap another pic with a dark background after it dries and gets a starching.
White crochet lace snowflake pinned out
Hubby suggested putting a hang loop on it and use it as a tree ornament.  I told him I left the loop off since I wasn't sure how it would turn out!  LOL - this is definitely my preferred version of a snowflake, since the real kind is accompanied by COLD.

I'm working on multiple items for use in the kitchen, so that will get its own post soon.

28 August 2011

Hats and buckram

Wearing my grey linen sunhat around has garnered compliments and a sense of accomplishment ... and has prompted a new sewing request from hubby.  He wants me to make him an "Indiana Jones style" hat from the leftover brown canvas to match his coat.

One problem: I am out of buckram.  Hancock says they will no longer carry it, and the buckram at Hobby Lobby is way too thin and light.  I had bought what I had at WalMart ... before they shut down the fabric sections.  There is still one local WalMart that never had its fabric and sewing section shut down, but it's across town and a royal pain in the (*donkey*) to visit, but I am left with no choice but to brave their hosed-up parking lot and screaming howling (*children*) as a last local resort before springing for buckram through online sources.  Can you tell I consider a trip to WalMart to be an ordeal nowadays?  (Insert cranky Mom rant about how I would have been backhanded in public for even the milder half of behavior I see in EVERY WM visit ...)  (Insert car-owner rant about how all but one dent in my vehicle has come from the WM parking lot ...)

I guess for some things, a woman just has to grab her ovaries and do it, ordeal or not - to quote one of my better Sergeant Majors from my army days.  Bleh.

It's either brave WM, or a minimum order of 5 yards of 60" wide heavy millinery buckram for white ... which would probably last me more than a decade.  I'll need lunch first.

UPDATE: Online order it is.  What's left of that store's fabric and craft section isn't worth the drive anymore.

23 August 2011

Lace doily coaster!

I did it!  I just finished up a lace doily coaster from a free online pattern.  The instructions seemed about as clear as mud to me, but I just reread them however many times it took until I thought I grasped the idea ... and while it may not be perfect - and might not even be as the pattern is trying to call for - I am still quite pleased with the result.  Before I steamed it:
Lace doily coaster before steaming
And after a round of coercive steam ironing:
Crochet lace doily coaster after steaming
I realized I needed some scale (after being reminded in PR chat that my last set of lace trim pics lacked a quarter for scale) and I just happened to have a one dollar bill in my back pocket.  I was too excited to notice I forgot to tuck the tails in ... while that is now done, the coaster is already in hubby's glass display case with a leather-wrapped metal beer mug sitting on it from the set I bought him at Ren Faire last year for his birthday.  It is just the right size for his mug, too.

Even with the vague instructions, this took less than 48 hours to crochet ... so I am thinking of knocking out a set of four as gifts.  I have some blue-purple variegated crochet thread that I am just itching to break out and play with ...

22 August 2011

Crocheted hatband on V8405 sunhat

Snapped a pic of my new crocheted lace hatband on the sunhat, and have a couple ideas for more (since I planned for them all to be interchangeable anyway).
V8405 sunhat with crochet lace hatband
My thinnest satin ribbon was too wide to weave through the band part at 3/8 inch wide ... so I will probably make the "bars" taller on the next one since I am still wanting a peekaboo ribbon.  I'm not sure the shade of lavender really matches the linen, though ... but I still have white, blue, and of course pink crochet thread to play with more.

I also need more coffee this morning to achieve actual coherence.

21 August 2011

Kitchen hot mitt: Return of the sewing mojo!

For a few weeks now, I have been saying I need to replace my hot mitt and hot pads since they come out of the wash looking bedraggled ... I am sure hubby was beginning to think I was just talking, but the sewing mojo has returned this morning alongside that proverbial wild hair!  I'm classifying this as a knockoff like my pillowcases since I literally grabbed the old hot mitt, set it on some wrap-paper from Hobby Lobby (they wrapped my glass candle in it), and traced around it with an ink pen.
Hot mitt pattern
I suppose it might be possible to achieve "easier" another way, but for me this was the most convenient.  I added about a 1/4 inch seam allowance around all but the wrist area since I intend to simply use binding to cover that up.

For those who find my handwriting difficult to read: I cut two for the outside fabric, two for the inside fabric, 4 layers of cotton batting, and four layers of thin cheapy cotton muslin to keep the batting out of my feed dogs.  I even cut it out immediately:
Hot mitt layers cut
Now ... which machine to pull out and stitch the fabric and batting layer sandwiches?  I did think of having hubby or son man-handle the Anchor onto the table for me, since Anchor had no problem ripping through linen and buckram ... but I still have black thread in the bobbin and really prefer a drop-in bobbin over wrestling with getting a metal vertical in properly.  Same issue with Timex - vertical bobbin.  So I'll probably grab another low-priced workhorse of mine: my Brother CE5500-PRW computerized that has gone through 8 layers of canvas (and is another one where I don't sew delicate fabrics with).  I've reviewed it over at PatternReview, but haven't posted a pic here on the blog.  I'll try to remember to snap a pic while quilting together the layers before assembly.

Speaking of quilting ... this batting ain't cheap!  And I even waited for the 50% off sale to buy mine.  Then again, neither is the quilting cotton section fabric.  It is also a pain in the (*donkey*) to lay out - the crib sheet sized piece I bought wasn't folded perfectly straight before packaging.  I'm saving every last scrap of it in a zippy baggie to stuff stuff, like maybe a cat toy or a bumroll.

Finally, my inside fabric came out of my scrap bag, which holds more canvas and duck pieces so it will most likely contribute more to the hot mitt/hot pad project as inspiration strikes.

19 August 2011

Hatband pattern to be crocheted!

I found it!  The pattern in the Crochet Edgings & Trims book to make a hatband for my grey linen sunhat!  Here is my test of it in the craft cord:
Romanesque arch crochet pattern - future hatband!
It even looks like the pic in the book ... and best of all, the "windows" below the arches are just wide enough to thread a 1/4 inch satin ribbon through.  I'm excited, if you can't tell. LOL  I'll need the excitement to carry me through crocheting 22 inches of these arches, then adding buttonholes.

Oh, it's upside-down in the pic ... I'll have the arches going upwards on the hat.  I'm doing it up in size 10 lavender crochet thread using my 2.75mm/size1 steel hook.  The crochet thread is a smidge thinner than the craft cord, but mainly because it is spun tighter, but I used the same hook on the test piece.

I think I've discovered where the problem is on the curling - my start chain curls and I am not certain why.  Gloria asked if I was crocheting too tightly in chat the other night, and that is possible although I keep seeing about a quarter of free crochet patterns online having a note about the person writing it saying s/he crochets tightly.

I have more pictures of other designs, but right now am in a "drop everything else and do this project" mood, so hatband it is.  I really want to dump the black satin blanket binding test band.  I also need to give the blocking/shaping/starching idea a go soon.

17 August 2011

First efforts at crocheting lace

While I don't think I'll be mistaken for a lace crocheting prodigy, I will say I am pleased with my first efforts:
First efforts at crocheting lace
The top pink one was my first-and-a-half effort - I pulled out the first version of it when I realized where I was making mistakes.  The pink is craft cord meant for friendship bracelets, and is a bit too big for the hook.  After running to Hobby Lobby to hit a crochet hook sale, I also picked up real crochet thread (in size 10, which is the largest crochet thread? I think) and the lavender middle one is the result of that.  The thread seems to fit the hook, and isn't as fuzzy as the craft cord.

I should have put a quarter in the pic for scale.  I will try to remember that for the new pics.

Although all three pieces spent the night in a book, the bottom super-simple piece does not want to lay flat.  None of these have been "blocked" which seems to involve handwashing, then pinning onto a cloth surface to dry completely for the purpose of shaping.

OK, some linkage for this new project:
Some excellent beginner crochet video tutorials  I used these to learn the stitches I needed.
Pattern directions for pink and lavender lace  A note on the "multiples of 5 plus 3" ... this seems to be crochet-speak for (5x + 3) in algebraic expression.  I am seeing it in several other sources, including a nice book from the library titled Crochet Edgings & Trim: 150 Stitches which is where the little one on the bottom comes from (and I have at least half a dozen more to try), ranging from the simple chain-loop I did in a few minutes, up to complex patterns with 9 or 10 rows with stitches I still need to look up tutorials for.

The small simple loop lace will be perfect to put on a cross stitched hatband, once I figure out how to make it lay flat.

Now, the coffeemaker is finished and calling to me ...

16 August 2011

Band sampler WIP band 7

While I was working on band 7, hubby came in and saw me putting the "finishing touch" on it, and remarked how much he thought said finishing touch added to the design and made it "Wow".  So I grabbed the digicam to snap a pic to share, and am glad I did:
Adding blackwork style detail to band 7
The book mentions backstitching the dark green curlie-cues on, but other sources say a double-running stitch, also called a Holbein stitch, would be used because so many also did blackwork embroidery (which is supposed to look the same front and back).

Hubby's praise for this floral band makes me think I should use this one to stitch up a hatband for my grey linen sunhat ... although I do have another I am also considering, I need to stitch it out to check the scale first.  I don't want it too wide.

Speaking of the sunhat, I wore it yesterday to the library to return/renew/check out more books.  One of the books I returned was titled Hats Made Easy! and when I handed it to one of the ladies behind the desk, she asked if I had made my hat.  I told her yes, but from a Vogue pattern .... the book is actually a good one but mostly focused on drafting your own hat patterns.  Given my stash of hat patterns, this one - while good - is not useful for me at this point.

I'll wait and make a separate post for my lace-making efforts ... and I started band 9 last night on the sampler. It's a little past lunch time, and I feel productive already today ... here's hoping the energy level stays up!

14 August 2011

Torn table runner

This is from my grandma, given to me by my sister who ended up with it even though she had no idea what to do with it.  It's an old table runner, and not in the best of shape (large pic alert):
Grandma's old table runner
Here's the mystery: This grandmother was not the packrat - that's the other side of the family.  Along with the table runner were cloth napkins, and a couple are "orphans" without matches, so she didn't keep things just because.  So why did she hold onto this damaged, torn, and fraying table runner?  Was it made especially for her?  Was it a special occasion gift?  Did someone special give it to her?  I need to email my aunt and ask ...

So why am I so thrilled to have a torn and unraveling table runner?  At one point in time, this was a very beautiful thing!  It has cutwork embroidery all through the cloth section and is bound by what I now recognize as crocheted lace.  I'm not sure if it's linen or not (duh, have NOT done a burn test) but it feels possible.  I'm not sure if the cutwork embroidery is done by machine or by hand, but here is a closeup of it:
Cutwork embroidery closeup
If this was done by hand, the work was very meticulous.  The back side looks very similar to the front, although I can tell a difference between the two.  Now, for a closeup of the damage:
Damage to fabric and lace
I don't think I can repair the damage to this ... but I am wanting to make a replica of it!  I'll need to get a lot better with surface embroidery, practice cutwork satin stitches ... and figure out how to crochet lace.  Here's the funny part - last night I was watching YouTube videos for beginners how-to-crochet, and can't help but feel I have done several of the demonstrated stitches.  I know my mom crocheted, as well as knitted ... in fact there aren't too many textile crafts that Mom hasn't at least learned how to do.  While all the crochet tutorials feel familiar, I cannot for my life remember any object I crocheted.  I do know it was never lace ... I might have kept at it if I had learned to do lace.

So I have a long-term goal of learning enough to make a replica of this table runner.  This should make for an interesting adventure!

11 August 2011

Band sampler WIP

I finished up band 6 this afternoon, and even got a bit of sunlight to snap a pic of it!  This is actually a lot of fun doing all these different border designs, although I am having a bit of trouble starting the bands out because of color contrast, or rather lack thereof.  Some of these borders are shown on colored cloth, which makes them hard to see on white.  So the lefthand side of the sampler has different colors than the right ... I am only showing the right side for now.
band sampler, first 6 rows
Bands 3,4, and 5 use a thicker thread, similar to the more expensive cotton perle 5 I also have, which is matched to colored aida cloth.  I'm happy the white-on-white band 3 showed up in the pic ... it's hard to see even in person!  Those 3 borders are described as whitework, but after the difficulty seeing it in white I switched to colors.

Before I finished up the last few acorns in band 6, I snapped a pic because I wasn't sure the dark green and black for the acorn caps would show up:
color acorn cap detail - black and dark green
My son said he actually likes the colored acorn design (band 6) even more than the whitework style monocolor acorns (band 4) ... just not enough to have me stitch a band onto his new black backpack.

Now, to pick another border design for band 7!

10 August 2011

Summer sewing slump

Last summer I had about a month-long sewing slump during June and part of July.  This summer, it is August ... this month.  This past week has been especially low-energy, low-motivation, although I am have started on the border band sampler idea, which I will post a pic of after I finish the band I am currently working on (#6).  Days that I do have some energy and motivation have been spent on errands, at the library perusing both the sewing and embroidery shelves (and now woodworking for hubby), trying to organize things around the house, and cooking up a storm (like today).

The sewing mojo will return ... I'm just not sure when.  I do know it will probably be another burst of inspiration and activity (like my two-hat weekend?).  Part of my library browsing has been looking at various fitting books - and I will need to work on pants fitting as well as nailing down the fit for tops.  Right now I am still trying to figure where the fit problems are with pants, as I keep pulling my jeans up that I bought retail.

Oh, we're dogsitting for one of hubby's coworkers, and the feline faction in the house is definitely NOT happy.  Maybe I should whip up some more pillowcases just in case one of my furry monsters decides to show displeasure via a hairball on the pillow ...

01 August 2011

Why I am not buying fabric right now

A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say:
Hubby's project: oak bookcase(s)
Ever since he returned from his tour in Korea, hubby has been talking about wanting a small woodworking shop.  When he came back from Afghanistan, this picked up as he was one who helped build a new camp out of plywood and 2x4s.  On the way home from Indiana - without either of the two bookcases we intended to bring back - the subject came up again ... and over the past month of discussion we agreed on a big, fun project for hubby: custom oak bookcases for the living room.

This is the start of the first one.  We wanted to buy enough to do the frame of both, but Lowe's only had two sheets of the 3/4 inch thick oak in stock yesterday.  At the store, and on the way home, hubby was talking about how he'd put it together slowly to avoid mistakes ... that didn't last long and a couple hours later he was asking me to hold the side boards up so he could attach them to the already-put-together base.

This bookcase is 7 feet 8 inches tall and a smidge over 4 feet wide.  It still needs a back, and trim (oh yes, I can pick out pretty trim for it!), and hubby wants to build the second one before staining and finishing so they come out the same shade.  My original request was for "real" bookcases that would last a good twenty years, as I am tired of replacing them every other time I want to move them from one room to another (and that's if they are the good ones!).  Hubby's stated goal: "I want to make them last a century!"  That would be cool!

When both are done, and the books are moved onto it ... I will have two particleboard cheapie WalMart bookcases to store my fabric on in the soon (?)-to-be sewing lair, which will open up floor space that is now occupied by boxes (the wools and silks will still hide in tubs from both cats and insects!).

So right now, my fabric funds are instead buying wood, wood supplies, and of course woodworking tools.  I get oak furniture, and hubby gets his small woodshop.  Sounds like a win-win deal to me!

30 July 2011

Try, try again

As y'all recall, I abandoned the first version of the latest cross stitch design after noticing too many counting errors, and mentioned I would redo it with different colors.  I didn't goo too different on the colors - instead of black and red I used dark grey and pink ... and managed to stitch it out without any (*permanent*) errors this time!
cross stitch counted right this time
Everything lined up this time ... although I will confess I had to pull some out and redo.  However this is an improvement to not noticing the counting errors until it was too late to fix.

So now I am up to four completed squares, although the first one is smaller than the other three.  My idea was originally to do up a small wall hanging with four designs mounted on some cotton muslin ... but that was before Hancock put even more of the small kits on the clearance table for only $1 each.  Now I am wondering if I should do up nine total ... although next I want to start a small band sampler for borders of different heights.

It's been a cross stitch week for me, not only because I felt so determined to do this design correctly, but because I have sounded like a bowl of Rice Crispies ("Snap-Crackle-Pop") pretty much all week.  I do have a sewing project ready to cut after trimming the pattern and picking out the mockup fabric ... I just haven't felt up to cutting it out yet.  So, once again, I am saying: "Hopefully tomorrow!"

Now for the close-up of the latest cross stitch for those interested:
Cross stitch - it reminds me of wrought iron

26 July 2011

Cross stitch ain't always easy

... and I take back what I said in chat about counted cross stitch being more forgiving than freestyle/surface embroidery now.  Even threatening to take my socks off to count (since all my fingers are busy with cloth, needle, and floss) didn't help on this project.  I managed to pick a design even more intricate than the thistle flowers on my English rose design ... and while I messed up one corner design I figured I could just get the other three right.  Oopsie!

Here's the pic of the piece I am abandoning due to multiple mistakes (marked by red "X"s)
multiple counting errors in cross stitch
So I have a new square of Aida cloth hooped up to start this one all over.  I am going to use different colors, as I discovered I don't have as much black floss as I thought in all these clearance cross stitch kits.  Hopefully I get this new version counted correctly, because I really do like the design and want an example/sample of it.

Since I call my mistakes "learning opportunities" what have I learned other than counted cross stitch isn't always easy?

  1. I need to stick to easier designs when on my good pain meds.
  2. Dark color charts are difficult to read ... I may need to get one of those magnetic boards with a line bar magnet to keep track of where I am on it.
  3. On difficult or dark (or both) charts I should probably count three times instead of two.  Then again, even that doesn't help when I accidentally skip a line.
  4. Definitely let the floss untwist more ... those twist-tangle knots are extremely irritating.
On the bright side, I received my own copy of The Embroidery Stitch Bible.  I like it enough to buy one, and returned the library's copy yesterday while renewing the Elizabethan Cross Stitch design book I am working out of.  I checked out another embroidery reference book to peruse, Embroidery Techniques & Patterns by Marie-Noelle Bayard.  So far I've only skimmed the table of contents, so no opinion on the actual book yet.  If any of y'all have it or have read it, I'd be interested in your opinions of it.

Now to choose a color I have a lot of on hand this time ...

24 July 2011

Renaissance flat cap S4059

Feeling good today and trying to make up for a week of no sewing ... the flat cap from the Simplicity 4059 (men's costume) has been both cut and sewn!  Y'all will recall I made the doublet for my friend the history professor to wear the Ren Faire this year, but didn't get to the hat ... now it's done and I need to call him up and have him look over my small ribbon stash to see if anything tickles his fancy since I used up the Christmas-green velvet ribbon on the doublet trim.  Here's the plain Jane version:
Simplicity 4059 Renaissance flat cap
If he doesn't have a feather plume suitably fancy enough, there is a vendor who has been there every year I've gone who sells hat feathers on pins (versus the "cut a slit" method the pattern recommends!).

Folks, don't fear making a flat cap - they are super-simple.  About the only style easier would be a beret, which is so similar in both pieces and construction they ought to be related.  Two pattern pieces, a handful of seams, and you are done.

Now ... about the pattern and instructions ... "one size"?  Really, Simplicity?  And that "one size" is snug on me??  I just made up the medium in the Vogue hat yesterday ... so I don't have a large head by men's standards.  In fact, my army soft cap was a little size 6-7/8!  It's a good thing I not only had my friend's head circumference measurement, but also my own.  I had to sew the brim-to-crown seam three times before I had it big enough, using "ye olde tryal-ande-err" method.  It's now a size too big for me, which should fit my friend just perfectly.

Oh yeah, that reminds me.  Flat caps were not only worn by men, especially by Elizabethan times.  Women wore them also!  I have my red one, and since it's snug plus the construction method ... I strongly suspect it was made from this pattern.

Wearing V8405 sunhat and test hatband

OK, I have a pic of me wearing my new linen Vogue 8405 view C sunhat now.  And a test hatband for it (this is only a test):
Vogue 8405 view C sun hat
As many of y'all know, I tend to regard pattern "instructions" as more like suggestions ... so no big surprise when I ignored the call for interfacing and used buckram in the crown, top, and back brim ... then used 14 count Aida cloth when I ran out of buckram and Hancock's was also out.  Then, I ignored it's instructions to fasten down the hatband with the button.  Instead, I put the button on first this morning, and after hunting through my small ribbon collection without satisfactory result, grabbed some satin blanket binding, eyeballed the length (no way this hat needs a whole yard of ribbon!) and put a buttonhole on each end so I now have the ability to change out hatbands.  It's a good thing - the blanket binding is a bit too wide (whereas all my 1/2 inch ribbon is too narrow!).  I'll be digging into the scrap bag to find some more suitable hatband fabrics ... I'm pretty sure I have enough of the light pink linen/cotton from last year.  Plus there is the leftover silk charmeuse from my tunic.

Overall, I am happy with it, even though my teenage son keeps saying it looks like an Amish bonnet (HA!).  And now for a pic of just how short of a haircut I got this past Tuesday:
Yeah, I cut it way short!
This is as good as the pics get while it's still morning here.  LOL  Now hubby wants a hat to go along with the shirts I still haven't cut out this summer (yet!!).