Friday, 8 November 2013

Lepidoptera ISS

Karen Nyberg will be returning from the ISS in a couple of days. While on board she experimented with weightless crafting (video here). Now she's inviting quilters to contribute blocks to be combined with hers (flyer here).

I know I'm a bit ahead of the game (the deadline is next August), but I got excited about the project, and finished it!

The flyer calls for a "star-themed block". I guess it might be cheating a little, but I went with an image of the ISS. I've enjoyed watching it zoom by a few times, and I always describe it as looking like a very fast, very bright star.

I based my image on the patch for Karen Nyberg's mission to the ISS. It came out looking a little moth-like (which is appropriate enough), so I call it Lepidoptera ISS.

It took me a while to figure out how to do the stars. I would have liked to mimic the style from the patch a little more closely, but I couldn't get an effect I liked. So I used two different circles that my machine does automatically and added crosses in straight stitch.

The dimensions are 9.5" x 9.5", which is just a bit too large to fit into any of the envelopes I have. I was quite pleased with the solution I came up with for posting it.

I have a watercolour pad with nice thick sheets of about 9.75" square, so I took two of those to make an envelope. I didn't want to risk the fabric sticking to the tape though, so I added "cuffs" of standard-thickness paper. I was trying to figure out how to tape it all together without getting any glue on the block, when I realised that the cuffs don't actually need to attach to anything.

So I sat the block on one watercolour sheet, popped the cuffs on the four sides and sat the other sheet on top.

Et voila.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Display Case

I collected some lovely bits and pieces on my recent trip to Newfoundland. It was such a wonderful holiday, and beachcombing was an integral part of it. I was originally thinking of making jewellery from these bits, but I have a terrible habit of losing and breaking jewellery. And besides, one of the pieces was much too big to wear. So I decided to frame them!

I found a nice deep frame in Ikea, though it's designed to hold a picture at the front, so it required some modification. Here's a photo of the frame with the glass and mat board clipped down.

I used PVC glue to stick two layers of fabric down to the back board. I chose an aquamarine fabric to contrast with the rust of the largest beach find (see below). The cream was necessary to stop the wood effect of the back from showing through.

Once that dried I trimmed the edges.

Then came the turn of the glue-gun. It might have been wiser to practice more, but I totally got away with it. The glue gun stuck each part fast to the surface below it.

Next, I needed some spacers to hold the back at a distance from the mat and glass. I have been saving almost all of the cardboard that's come into the house for several months now, so I was able to just cut some pieces of nice thick cardboard for the purpose.

I was very haphazard about cutting out the pieces, but they worked out fine. They're also glued on with the glue gun. Possibly overkill, but I had it right there ready to use.

A little black poster paint, in case the viewer should get an angle where the spacers become visible.

For some reason, I've only ever seen masking tape hold backs on pictures. I don't know why that is, but I didn't see any reason to break with tradition. It's not terribly neat, because the only masking tape I have available is a very wide roll, but then again, it is the back.

Et voila!

Quick hit: superhero cape

This one is fairly self explanatory. Ingredients*: one old t-shirt, one snap fastener

It makes a great superhero cape and requires the minimum of sewing ability. I was tempted to just leave the neck of the t-shirt whole but then I though "strangulation hazard", so I added a snap fastener. I didn't even bother sewing up the edges, t-shirt fabric pretty much doesn't fray. Five minutes work!

* I did a latin course with the Open University a couple of years ago. There were a few delightful moments of recognition, like the time I realised that "ingredior" is the verb meaning "I go in" -- hence "ingredients" == "things that go in".

Monday, 9 September 2013

Quick hit: pleated skirt

This is a prototype for a skirt I'm planning for a costume.

I didn't take many process shots (do I ever?) but it's a very simple design. A rectangle of fabric about 115cm by 35cm. Folded into pleats about 5cm deep. The pleats are folded together in pairs. It's actually quite difficult to describe in words, but hopefully it's fairly obvious from the picture. 

I added an elasticated waist-band. It worked out okay, but it's not what I'm looking for. Another prototype will be coming along shortly.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Mermaid tail

I'm so happy with this simple method for making a mermaid tail that I can't wait to share. The basic idea is to take a straight skirt, gather the bottom into a tail shape, with a gap at the side for the wearer's legs.

This is the first one I made. It's tucked in at the hip to give the angle I wanted. This works very well, and I like the look of it, but when I made the second one* I cut it at an angle. The first method is simpler, but there's something unsatisfactory for me about tucking.

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

Step 1:
Cut out a rectangle of fabric, big enough to make an ankle-length straight skirt for the wearer. For a 5 year old I went with 100cm wide, and longer-than-I-needed. You want to select a fabric with at least some stiffness to it, or be prepared to prop the tail end out with something stiff.

Step 2:
Hem rough edges.

Step 3:
Fold in half along the length, right-sides together.

Step 4:
Fold it like a paper fan.

What you see here is the right-side of the unfolded half, as well as the folded part. This takes a lot of trial and error, at least for me**. I ended up with pleats about 4cm wide. Note that the right-side of the folded section is on top. This is important - you want to leave a gap between the edge of the tail and the first pleat.

Similarly, you want leave a gap on the "closed" side, so when the whole thing is pleated there should be a central pleat which you will not sew.

Step 5:
Pin the pleats.

I actually pinned the first half before folding the second half.

Each pleat needs two pins: one about 12cm from the bottom of the tail, and 3cm from the edge of the pleat, and one about 15cm further along (so 27cm from the bottom) and 2cm from the edge. This is what makes the gather narrower near the bottom of the tail.

You should be pinning the wrong-side of the fabric, so the excess fabric will be gathered inside the tail.

Once you have all the pins in, go back and check if you were actually progressing slowly further from the edge (as illustrated above) rather than staying in a straight line.

Step 6:
Sew from pin to pin in a straight line.

You can get away with fudging a bit. It would be very hard to get all the distances strictly equal, and it's unnecessary in my opinion.

Step 7:
Close the tail *wrong-sides together*.

The bottom of my tail is the selvage of the fabric, but if it weren't it would have been hemmed in step two, so there's no need to do the seam inside-out. Anyway, fins should have sharp edges.

Sew from the bottom of the pleats (about 12cm from the bottom) down to the bottom, across the bottom to the other side and up to the bottom of the pleats. Bottom bottom bottom. a heh. It must be getting late. Don't forget to sew back and forth to reinforce the ends of this stitching on the open side, this is going to be under a fair bit of pressure.

Step 8:
Shape the waist.

As mentioned, you can do this straight (and tuck it in at the hip), but for this iteration I had my little model stand on a chair while I fiddled with the skirt till I was happy. I gave it lots of slack around the back to let the tail sit comfortably in front. (I had used the full width of the fabric - selvage to selvage - so I had plenty of fabric to make it the shape I wanted).

I made a wide, double folded hem for the waist, because I wanted to insert a wide elastic at the back. This is one of those parts of dressmaking where I really make it up as I go along. I eventually realised that I needed to add some pleats at the back of the waist to take up some slack so that it could be sewn to the hem. I also ended up fiddling with a pencil to push the elastic down along the hem. Better planning would have made this much simpler, but that's just the way I roll, yo.

Is there a name for this square-with-a-cross for securing ends? Well that's what I used for securing the ends of the elastic in the waist.

Step 9:
Close at the hip.

Once the waist was finished I put the waist right-sides together and sewed from the waist down about 12cm. Again, make sure to reinforce. You need to leave a big enough gap for the wearing to walk comfortably (this was the main aim of this design).

Photography: it is not my thing

Please let me know if you make one of these. I'd love to see pictures, especially if you make improvements.

My next post will be about the hula-skirt of waves I made to disguise the legs that mermaids don't have.

* Kidlet admitted less than a week before the party that she didn't like the colour of this one. She was lucky that I wanted to have another go and this time take process shots.

** When I was in school there were girls in my class who seemed to have a preternatural ability to fold a page into a fan evenly. From this perspective I can see that they had probably just make a lot of fans, but then I felt like I was missing some secret knowledge.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Quick hit: hairband

K has a problem with dresses that tie in a bow at the back. Understandable when you think about how much time she spends sitting in a car-seat.

This particular dress was a gift, and it was only tonight that she explained why she never wants to wear it. As I was offering to cut off the dangly bits it occurred to me that, not only could I turn them into a matching hairband, I could add the rose that was about to fall off the front.

The dangly bits in question were very conveniently designed for my purposes. I was able to slide a broad elastic* inside with the aid of a ruler; like so:

The end of the elastic is folded over the end of the ruler, and then the fabric "tube" slides on over.

Then I just
a) secured one end of the elastic at the end of each tube,
b) brought the two "open" ends of the tubes together in the middle, neatened them up and sewed them down,
c) secured the two ends together,
d) added the rose.

I added the rose at the centre, rather than over the join, in case I want to adjust the length.

Et voila:

* I had to measure this against a hairband she already has. For some reason my husband doesn't like me to excite the children while he's doing bedtime.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Bacon chop stew

Those of you who know me will probably be surprised to see a recipe here. It's true that I don't often like to cook: a tendency that is compounded by picky children. Once in a while though, I am seized by a muse.

5 bacon chops (these look like pork chops, but I think the dish benefited from their saltiness)
1 tin of tomatoes
1 small tin of coconut milk (160ml)
1 big sweet potato
soy sauce

Heat the oven to 220C (428F)
Heat a griddle pan nice and hot
While it's heating, pop some thin slices of sweet potato on (this has the advantage of letting you know how hot the pan is, while simultaneously frying them a little)
Get a nice big baking dish, big enough that the meat will be in a single layer
Spread the tinned tomatoes on the bottom
Pour on a good measure of soy sauce
Do the same with the honey
Add a single layer of lightly browned sweet potato
Brown the meat on both sides, and put it in a single layer on top
Add another layer of sweet potato
Pour on the coconut milk
Stick it all in the oven for about an hour

The top layer of sweet potato burned a little, but it was so crispy good.
I melted the coconut milk by leaving the tin in hot water for a bit before I opened it.
No photos because photographing food is hard, and because we were hungry and it was good.

Bon apetit!

* I did a Latin course not so long ago, and I was delighted when I realised that "ingredior" is a verb meaning "I go in", hence "ingredients" -- "things that go in". You're welcome.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Top-tip: thread storage

I wanted to come up with a better storage solution for my thread spools (better than in a big pile, that is), so naturally I went to IKEA. I just had a feeling I might find something there I could re-purpose. Check this out:

I'll give you a chance to guess what it's supposed to be, and just leave this link here.

As you might be able to see, the red and blue threads at the top of the image don't actually slide all the way down the "spikes". I've been wracking my brains trying to figure out ways of paring them to fit the narrower spools on. I'm thinking there might be a way to mod a pencil parer, but I'm open to suggestions.

Other than that I'm really pleased with these things as a solution. They also come with a free scissors basket:

I have a magnetic knife rack that I'll be installing soon as a new home for my scissors collection, and then I'll have to find some other use for the basket. I doubt that will be a problem though :)

When I get around to hanging the magnet I'll also hang a couple of hooks for the spool racks. The Happy Room also gets used for sawing and drilling occasionally, so I'll have to come up with some kind of dust cover for the spool-racks.

There's always more to do!

Dungarees, maps and pirate-treasure

Forgive me, vast audience, for I have sinned. It has been four months since my last blog post. I have been a busy bee for the last few months with non-craft things, and have only been getting little bits done in my Happy Room.

I finished the dungarees, but the top is too small. Note to self: measure, and do a mock-up. (Yeah right. That's a pair of lessons I never learn).

They're reversible, and I really like the simple appliqué, so I'll definitely put some effort into salvaging them.

I made a Map to go with Backpack for each of the kids for Christmas. I'm glad I did it, but they haven't taken as much notice of it as I'd like. There's no accounting for kids :) I considered a few options, and in the end I decided to get a local t-shirt printing place to print my drawings. I did four different maps, then sewed them together with a padding between. Lining them up was a pain in the face, but I got it in the end.

 (Yes, that's a Pathfinder rulebook and a pile of dice in the background).

I'm working on a new project that may end up being epic. It starts with a ship's steering wheel for my kids' bedroom wall, and hopefully ends in an epic treasure hunt. I'd love to hear any suggestions for what they should find in the treasure chest at the end.

I'm about to make some changes to my hosting setup, hopefully you won't notice a thing, but I know how many of you are waiting with baited breath for my every update (*cough*) so I wanted to give you a heads-up.