Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shaggy Chic Chenille Clutch

Every year I tend to get involved with some sort of monthly project series.  Usually they have been associated with specific retail establishments like last year's failed Fat Quarter Club at The Quilt Room.  The club didn't failed but I dropped out after unsuccessfully trying to balance it with the monthly Knitting in Kingwood meetings.

This year I am returning to an online, monthly sewing challenge.  Africankelli (aka Kelli Donely (probably spelled incorrectly)) chose Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders for the challenges.  I had previously participated in a similar challenge from the original One-Yard Wonders book by the same authors (Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins) and, although the projects were quite interesting, the use of basic cotton fabric limited the scope of the projects.   This new book seeks to explore different fabrics and pairing the fabrics with appropriate projects.  Like oil cloth for an umbrella, and fleece for truly cuddly stuffed animals.  Surprisingly linen is not included although cotton, voile, fleece , flannel and othersl are all included.

I got my copy of the book from Amazon and eagerly sat down to work on the first project, the Shabby Chic Chenille Clutch.  The chenille is created using flannel and I just happened to have some high quality flannel hanging around the house waiting for some quilt inspiration.  Here is what I came up with by following most of the instructions in the book:

 As you can see, the final project does not look like the original fabric at all but you still get the red, white and blue theme.  

I did not follow the well written instructions completely....what a surprise!  First of all the pattern called for nine layers of flannel for the chenille fabric.  The flannel I used was so thick that I could not imagine my heavy duty sewing machine making it through eighteen layers of it for the final seaming.  Nine layers would have exactly used up one yard of the fabric but I used only six as I was under no constraints to follow the instructions precisely.

Other changes include the final size.  The pattern assumed that the washed fabric would shrink slightly from a twelve inch square to one about half an inch smaller.  My chenille shrunk unevenly and I needed to square it up before the final construction.  My clutch ended up based on a ten and a half inch square.  The only other change was the handle (off to the upper right in the photo).  The pattern called for contrasting  ribbon while I used a bit of ragged self fabric.

I do have one beef with this project.  The final product did not mirror the written instructions.  Essentially chenille is created by sewing parallel lines through all the layers of fabric then cutting through all the layers of fabric but the bottom two.  The instructions called for cutting though the fabric between each of the sewn lines but the picture definitely showed cutting though every other section.  I know its a small thing but one that should have been mentioned in the instructions.

This book is well written and gives some great information on how to handle each type of fabric.  I wonder what the next project will be?

Oh!  Just in case you are wondering about my New Year's resolution to no longer create useless little projects, I intend to use this clutch for lunch out with friends so that I carry the essentials without taking up table space with cell phone, keys and wallet.  This clutch holds just these three items and sits safely in my lap.  All the non-essential junk can stay in the car untilI might possible need it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Charity Knitting

Yesterday I took the opportunity to join other members of the Knit at Night Guild (KANG) in a charity knitting event at Central Market.  Central Market is one of those fancy grocery stores where, instead of Saturday tastings being some frozen concoction, they sample home made marshmallows.  They have a wonderful meeting room on their second floor, next to their cooking school, and about thirty of us met on Saturday for some knitting for charity.

This group is one of the classiest craft guilds I have ever belonged to....and I think I have been a member of about 99% of them at one time or another.  Everything you could possibly need to be successful at the chosen projects was provided including wonderful food (catered by the store) and endless, excellent coffee.

Two projects were presented.  One is a blanket buddy from Lion Brand Yarns and the other was a selection of facecloths.

Each participant received a kit that included the pattern(s) for their chosen project(s), sufficient yarn to complete one or more of the project and knitting needles to make the project.  The needles were a thank you gift and are high quality bamboo ones.  There were fabulous door prizes including a book (with supplies) for knitting with wire.  I did not win anything but those that did were very pleased.  (Check out this site for great prices on quality needles.) 

I chose the blanket buddy project which is basically a knitted square with a bunny head and arms.  The instructions required a little interpretation and mine came out like this:

Pretty cute, yes?

All the yarn was donated and I received two skeins of DK weight yarn called Jamie.  You use this yarn doubled for the blanket buddy so this toy really has some heft to it. I think I may have enough left over to make another one. So far Alex has not realized that there is a new toy in the house and I hope I am successful in keeping it from him until I can hand it in.

Most of the items made will be donated to Texas Children's Hospital and other local charities.

I must admit I thought this would be a pretty lame gathering and, except for the one woman who kept telling medical horror stories, the group was very congenial and everyone seemed to be having a very productive time.  I left with about a half hour's of work left and some people actually completed their project.  

The facecloth folks were given patterns that could be a stretch for some people as each used interesting and slightly complex stitch patterns.   Check them out -  Lizard Ridge, Darrell Waltrip and Dimpled were all presented.  I am glad I chose the blanket buddy as I was not in the mood to struggle with a new stitch pattern however I really want to try the Lizard Ridge one as it produces such a great result. 

I hope they will do this again and they are looking for a more central location for the next one.  I wonder if I can convince them that Kingwood is a more central location as I know I could get the Elmgrove Community Room for such a great project. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lumberjack Avoidance Technique

Today is the day before the bi-monthly yard waste pick-up in my neighborhood.  It is also the perfect time of year to trim low hanging branches from the Live Oaks and unruly bits from the Crepe Myrtles.  I should be in the yard with a variety of cutting and sawing implements so that I can take advantage of this great opportunity.

Instead I am avoiding this much needed activity to bring you, and only you, a brand new product I found the other day at Hobby Lobby

I originally went into the store looking for alcohol based inks so that I could check out a technique from the latest Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine.  Instead of the inks I found something even more intriguing...Pastel Dye Sticks.

I have played with Oil Paint Sticks but the cost of the sticks ($6.00 and up), the extra long cure time (three days) and the fact that they change the hand of the fabric, have made me a little hesitant to use them in many projects.  Pastel Dye Sticks look like a good solution for me.  Inexpensive ( about $4.00 for a set of fifteen) and quick cure rate (heat set in seconds) make them something I can try out without a huge commitment.

Using an ancient t-shirt as my fabric, a simple stencil as my design, the brown and gold dye sticks this is what I came up with >>>

Since I have had muddy paws on this shirt (and all my shirts!) at some time or another this seemed like a perfect little test project.

Heat setting required a piece of paper over the design and a quick hot ironing.

As you can see the paper absorbed the excess pastel oil base.

The dye did not change the hand of the shirt at all and the shirt is still fully machine washable and dry-able as it was in the past.

I think I am going to try out some more ideas like sharpen the sticks so they are less like crayons , try them through a silk screen and find a better way to keep the fabric taut rather than just my fingers.

Oops!  The trees are calling me but maybe I can do something else to do to avoid using my lumberjack tools....even folding laundry is beginning to look interesting to me today!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gift Copies

Have you ever received a gift that you liked so much you wanted more of it?  

That seems a no brainer if the gift was chocolate.  Who wouldn't want more chocolate?  You can always buy more chocolate as it tends to be within everyone's price range.

But what about a gift that is not consumable?  Diamonds are a great example.  I always like diamonds but probably can't afford many more.  

Some gifts you want more of but not an exact duplicate as what you have already received.  Like a red jacket you would love a duplicate of but in a more conservative brown.

That was my dilemma when a friend gave me an adorable little knitting bag.  Its made out of silk, has an outside and an inside pocket, a great yo-yo embellishment and it is just the right size for a sock knitting project.


Isn't it cute?

I love it BUT there a couple of things that are could be better.  For one thing, the interior fabric is a flimsy, black fabric which means it's probably not very durable and it is very difficult to see any bits at the bottom of the bag.  Dark interiors are not good things.  In addition, I didn't like the button closure which was a little wooden ball.  Since it is right above the pocket embellishment I would have loved a more colorful button.

What's a girl to do?

Put up with the defects? (too irritating)

Remake the parts that are bothersome? (too much effort)

Hide it in a drawer never to see the light of day again? (but it is a great size)

Well this girl decided to make her own copy.

I have made two cousins of the original.

The first copy used simple geometry to produce a copy.

Here's how it turned out:


Boring details:  the fabric is a Michael Miller fabric called called Flora and Fauna Blossoms in raspberry.  The orange button is from the stash.  The interior fabric is the same as the exterior and the interior pocket has an orange zipper closure.  

When compared to the original though there is something our of whack.  
(sorry about the poor color correction)

After remeasuring everything I realized that I had got the length of the straps wrong.  The originals are 22" long while the copy has them at 12" long.  The big problem is that the pointy bottom part is not a ninety degree angle but more like one hundred and ten degrees.  In addition, the pocket turned out too short due to that miscalculation.  The original is more like a fat Buddha like bag while my copy is more like a skinny Fifties like bag. 

Here is my second try:

Boring details:  the fabric is a washed dupioni silk from the stash and backed with a lightweight fusible interfacing.The pocket embellishment is part of an old thread painting class.  The 'button' is an old Chinese coin, some wooden beads and a strip of the silk fabric.  The interior is a striped cotton from the stash and the interior pocket has a cream zipper.  Wanda McKnight (the hat stand) likes this copy the best as she is pretty conservative.  Almost forgot...I added some lavender buds between the exterior and interior so it smells as good as it looks. 

Now I have three new knitting bags - one the original gift, one a skinny replica and the third an orange silk Buddha bag.

If you would like copies of the patterns I created for these bags, please let me know and I'll scan them into a file for you or we can hook up and I can give you a hard copy.

Now I need to get back to my knitting so Paul can get this year's Christmas present this year:-)   

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

In some ways I am really glad to move away from 2011 and move onto 2012.  I think I have shared in the past how, as a child, I couldn't imagine living to the year 2000 whereas now I wonder how I can make it to 2050!  

The baby Kimora
2011 was marked by the sudden and horrific passing of Kimora, Kelis's sister.  Kelis still looks for her at Paul's house and at the vet's office.  Even Alex, who only seems to live for treats, belly rubs and naps,  has become a little hysterical when we visit the vet's office since her passing.  They know something horrible happened and that the vet was involved.  On the other hand Kelis has adopted some new habits, like learning how to steal bones from Alex, and my little escape artist has not made any attempts to leave the yard since it happened.   

On the other hand, 2011 had many moments of personal satisfaction for me.  The wheel chair and walker bag project has been taken up by a couple of churches here and we were able to supply a local nursing home with 200 bags this summer.  I even had my name in a Methodist church bulletin, very odd for someone with my mixed religious roots.  I just about burst with pride when I saw the bags in use and that they really worked.  In addition, although I have never sought recognition for these projects, the Kingwood Area Quilt Guild honored me with a Silver Thimble Award this September and you couldn't get the grin off my face for weeks.

On the project side of the ledger I have changed my habits quite a bit.  I noticed that, in the past, I made a lot of things (totes, purses and other accessories) just to test out a book or a technique.  I ended up with a lot of little useless things.  I learned a lot from these projects but it seemed like a waste of time and effort.  I have tried to become more focused in my sewing and knitting and have tried not to add to the UFO pile.  The whole upstairs of my home has become more organized for creative work and I have become morefocused because of it.  My unorganized mess has become restricted to just one closet and even that has become less cluttered as I have sorted out its contents.

 I have no specific goals for 2012 but Alex and Kelis have made some specific requests.  Their requests run something like this...More walks, more treats, more naps, more belly rubs, more quilts and, most of all, more bones.  I think I can handle these without breaking the bank or my back.  For myself, just waking up everyday is wonderful with everything following that a bonus.  I intend to make the most of those bonuses and who knows where that might lead me (besides the pet store)?