Friday, August 30, 2013

Very British bears

Fridays with Friends is taking a holiday this week, folks -- I have a few really good people lined up for the coming weeks, though, so please check back!

I finished another set of bears this week.  They go much faster when I do them in groups, and it saves me from the hell of remnants.  Of which there are too many already.

These little guys are made from a wool/rayon blend houndstooth -- a lovely remnant, and I so wanted to make it into something for myself, but my original idea was bears, and I have more than enough clothes. The contrast fabric is a lovely tan wool remnant given to me by a friend.  Their bow ties are a dark red / maroon satin, though (as red always does) they show up brighter in the photos.

I think the hardest thing about bears is trying to get a photo that shows some personality.  There are a lot of bears out there, but finding something you click with involves being able to see something beyond just a pretty face.

These are, of course, listed in the shop, along with a variety of others.  I sometimes look at the bear listings and flinch, and pray for Christmas - these boys are cute, but they take up serious space in my house!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not so Mellow Yellow

Yellow is one of my favorite colors.  Not to wear -- yellow makes me look yellow, and not to decorate with (although our bedroom is a deep dijon-mustard gold), but just as a color in general.

It's happy, it's cheerful, it's . . . a difficult color to wear.

And because of that, I'm always on the lookout for yellow garments at the thrift store to incorporate into my work, and I hardly ever find any. You would think that someone out there would have bought a gorgeous, but unflattering, yellow dress in her time - and gotten rid of it.

But no.

Recently, a couple of sewing friends came to town and we went on our annual fabric pilgrimage.  The place is wholesale, but will do retail if you show up and ask nicely.  Since most of their stuff is high end, I tend to stick to the remnant boxes in the front of the store.   (They're appliance boxes, so plenty of room for remnant goodness!)

One of the first things that I saw, which made me do a total happy dance, was a chunk of brilliant, sunny yellow cotton. The next thing was a second chunk of it.

My day was made.  (I'm easy, right?)

All this yellow goodness was going to last me for ages.  It was going to be incorporated into a dozen different projects, accents on dresses and strips in patchwork, a little everywhere, to make it last.

Which, of course, is why the first thing I did was to cut out a dress.

The appliques are made from  some Hawaiian shirt fabric brought back from a co-worker's vacation (I asked her for fabric, and she brought 4 fat quarters of different colors -- pretty, but never large enough to make something from).  The green stems are from a set of lime scrubs from the thrift store.

Red and green ornamental stitching at the hem, red buttons, green buttonholes.  Obnoxiously charming, or charmingly obnoxious?  You tell me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday with Friends: Amy LaRoux

I have something a little different for you this week.  After two consecutive Fridays of fabulous jewelry, we've got ourselves a fiber artist in the house!

Amy LaRoux is a fellow Philadelphian and member of the Handmade Philly team on Etsy, and I've been a fan of her gorgeous knitted creations since I first saw them on Facebook.

I suffer from fear of yarn (or rather fear of yarn stash), so I've never learned to crochet or knit, but looking at Amy's work really makes me wish I knew how.

Her pieces range from cowls, shrugs and cardigans to accessories and tank tops, made from alpaca, mohair, angora and every other fiber under the sun, apparently.

There's just something so delicious about luxurious yarn -- you just want to reach into these pictures and pet the pieces, and then put them on.

And you can:  Amy's Etsy shop is right here!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Knit Critters: Lucky Elephants

I said there were elephants, didn't I?

And they're not pink elephants or anything, but real gray elephants.  I'm calling them Lucky Elephants.  Because.

These came about when our housemate brought home a charcoal gray knit shawl / wrap that she'd found.  It was a lovely color, a good weight, and had a few moth holes.  Those disappeared after a proper washing and shrinking, which I was very pleased to see.

The shawl was pretty large, so it came out to be 5 elephants.  I used the same pattern as for the other Knit Critters, but tweaked the head until I had an elephant trunk that I liked.  I tried it both ways in muslin, and the end result is 3 elephants with up trunks and 2 with down.

They also went out to the back yard for their photo shoot, and they're seen meandering up the gravel path and through a bed of coral bells.  It's not the jungle, but you take what you can get as a backyard photographer.  It was better than the tomato plants!

These little guys also got the iron-on felt eyes (I'm loving these, I have to tell you -- so much easier than embroidery and they have exactly the look I want.  I get them from Flying Felt on Etsy).   I also gave them each a neck ribbon, going by direction -- pink for up, green for down.  Mainly because I had more pink ribbon than green in my dwindling ribbon stash.

Must find a good sidewalk sale soon with some ribbon.  I hit one this past Saturday with great crafting deals.  I love it when people price things at "I don't want to take this back upstairs."  I got a 2 yard piece of batting for a quarter, and a few packs of rickrack (which I use all the time on the baby dresses) for 10 cents each.

Okay, and a few pieces of fabric, but I'm trying not to think about that.  Fabric is the one thing I probably don't need any more of -- at least until I find some.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vintage Quilt Hobo Bag

I bought two pieces of vintage quilt at a sidewalk sale recently.  The sellers said she'd purchased them  years ago with the intention of making something from them.  I took them home with the same idea in mind.

I knew they wanted to be a bag, but I couldn't decide how to best take advantage of the piecing.  There were a few "bald patches" in the quilt, and of course they were in prominent places.

The pieces got set aside to marinate, and the other night, when the bar down the street kept me awake, I went into the workroom and started in.  I don't necessarily recommend working when pissed off and sleep-deprived, but on the other hand, by the time it quieted down and I could finally get some sleep, this is what I had on my hands.

When I woke up the next morning, headachy, stiff and still quite annoyed at being kept from sleeping when I wanted to, I was almost afraid to go into the workroom and see what I had done.  I was so tired by the end that I literally didn't remember some of what I did, so this could have been really good or really awful.

I'm tending to think it's really good, but maybe I'm biased.  Or still delirious from lack of sleep.

Listing is here.

Very Interesting

When I first started my handmade Etsy shop, several sewing friends, Elizabeth among them, reminded me that I'd always said I'd never want to sew for a living because it would take all the pleasure out of it for me.

I stood reminded, and said that I remembered saying that, but I was going about this by not sewing the kinds of things that I enjoyed sewing for myself -- there would be no women's clothing in the shop, for example, and the bulk of it would be things I wouldn't have a use for and therefore wouldn't want to keep.

Except I've made several pieces of women's clothing for the shop now, and even sold one.  And I liked all of them.

And, worse yet, the other day I made something I'd really like to keep.  It's kind of strange, because it's totally not my normal style, but I really like it.  I also know that someone else will, which is why it's been listed anyway; it's not like I don't have enough bags of my own (made by me, for the most part), and I think this definitely has Etsy appeal.

I'm just trying to figure out why it appeals to me so strongly.  I think there's a weird subconscious thing going on with this one -- I knew when I found the quilt pieces I wanted to make a bag from them, but I thought it would be kind of kitschy/weird.  Then the other night, the bar at the corner was hopping and there were drunken couples fighting in the street under my window and the police weren't responding to noise complaints, so I got up and went into the workroom from midnight until nearly 3 a.m.  (Don't worry, no actual sewing occurred, other than some hand stitching.  I was tired and pissed off, but not stupid enough to rev up the machine at 2 a.m.)

By the end, I was so sleepy that I couldn't think straight.  I'd cut out the quilt bag,  complete with lining, strap, embellishments, pulled together the rings I wanted to use, and embroidered the denim appliques.

I also cut apart four old bags that haven't sold for two Christmases running, found zippers for them and recut them into new shapes and did all the pinning.

I found my idea notebook and drew out 4-5 sketches and a bunch of notes.  I went on the computer and drafted the Etsy listings for all my uncompleted work for the night.

When I fell into bed at 3 a.m., I was exhausted but happy, and when I got up the next day, it almost felt like the elves had been in the workroom but I literally couldn't remember doing half the work.  I even went on the computer later in the afternoon and drafted the Etsy listings for all the work I'd done the night before, and then realized that I'd done that already and completely forgotten.  I'd even used most of the same words in my descriptions, so apparently some part of my mind was functioning.

Just not a part I'm very familiar with.  Maybe I should try this sleep deprivation thing more often.  It's very productive, in a hallucinatory kind of way.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Knit Critters - Adventure Puppies

So I have a few new members to my Knit Critter family. These little guys, who I'm calling Adventure Puppies for no better reason than they look pretty adventurous up there in my lilac tree, are made from a felted navy blue argyle sweater.

It started out life, according to the tag, as an XL.  By the time someone had put it in the dryer and forgotten it, it might have fit an XL child.  This was not the intended wearer.

So it ended up with me, and I took a feel of the lovely texture of the wool and I cut it to pieces.

The pattern is the same as what I used for the gray Knit Critters, just slightly different ears this time -- and I gave them each a tail, since I remembered it while the butt seam was still open.

Using found clothing is always a challenge.  You'll note that one puppy is fully argyle on his back and head, while the other merely has argyle "cow spots" and a tail.  That would be because the sweater was only argyle on the front.  I debated making them identical, each with an argyle side and a spotted side, but that didn't work for me.  There'll be someone who likes each of these little guys as they are.

I didn't bother with noses this time around; I thought that red would just be a little too much with the blue and ivory, and I don't tend to have a lot of felt around the house.  I think these guys work fine with just their ironed-on felt eyes and an ivory grosgrain neck ribbon.

In addition to puppies, there are now . . .  elephants.  Coming soon.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Manly Bear

I have a good and patient husband.

When I first started making bears, my prototype was much larger -- about 20" tall.  I liked it, but I thought it was too large to sell well, it would dwarf small children and, at the time, I couldn't get its arms and legs threaded with the long darning needle I was using.  So I stitched its arms and legs on and used him as a display piece at craft shows.

We went to Walmart recently because I needed more poly fiberfill, and while I generally avoid Walmart for all the usual reasons, I can't argue with a 10 lb. box of fiberfill for their kind of price -- about what 4 lbs. would cost at Joann's. Plus it's made in the USA, which means I can feel vaguely better about it.

On the way out of the store, we passed through the craft section, and my eye was caught by a pack of needles.  "Doll needles" they were called, and the longest one was at least 1.5" longer than my darner.  Not only that, but the eye was big enough to thread with the hemp cord I had sitting at home in a big ball.  Double plus.

This past weekend, the bear got taken apart and strung up properly.  He's much happier.  Originally he had black button eyes, but I recently found these googly eyes with button shanks, so Mr. Bear got an upgrade all around.  He's now listed in the shop.

And my husband made the mistake of picking him up to move him this morning, and I saw the combination of teddy bear, Pink Floyd t-shirt and obviously male forearms and ran for the camera.

He's a good and patient man.  I think I should make him a shirt for this.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday with Friends: Gaia's Reflections

This week's featured artist is Michelle Tulumello, the talented creator behind the Etsy shop Gaias Reflections.

Michelle began making jewelry while staying at home with her young children, but her skill says this is something that will remain with her long after the kids have grown up.

We're on the same RecycleParty team on Etsy, and Michelle is dedicated to recycling, repurposing and re-using anything she can get her hands on.

This is from her shop announcement on Etsy:  "I am not afraid of new mediums, and being an artist at heart, I am always experimenting. Much of my experimentation results from my desire to avoid wasting materials and make effective use of every scrap. I try to use as many environmentally friendly and repurposed objects as I can, and I also focus on making my work durable and wearable, because it is better to buy a one of a kind thing you really love than 5 cheaply made things that will fall apart or break."

Amen, my crafting sister.  And please, keep making beautiful things.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Next up

Coming soon, another Go West Craft Fest on September 7, 2013.  This will take place once again in Woodland Cemetery, which is a really great venue for an event like this - despite being a historic (and still active) cemetery beyond, there is plenty of open space at the front where vendors can set up, performances can take place and vendors can sell their food.

I've been sewing like crazy trying to build up stock for this one - I have a new range of bears, which seem to sell better at shows than online; my new Knit Critters, which are soft and safe stuffed animals for babies (no button eyes or moving parts), and I'm trying to finish off a few more dresses.

There are sufficient embroidered pieces, which sell far less frequently but with great enthusiasm when they're found by the right person.  The potholders come and go (first two shows quite well, last show none at all).

I'm looking forward to shows closer to the holiday season as I have quite a pile of stockings ready.  Bring on Christmas!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

No more pillowcases

Instead, they've become dresses.

I'm pretty happy with these two.  The motifs on the pillowcases really lent themselves to becoming dresses.

Not as happy with the photography on the bottom dress -- the blue facing doesn't show half as much straight on; for some reason, flash or no flash, it's much more obvious in the picture.  Grr.

The only other "grr" moment -- going through SIX boxes and cans of buttons and not being able to find eight pale blue shirt buttons.  Which I know I have a boatload of, because I used them when I made a shirt for my husband a year or so ago.  (And no, I didn't scavenge the buttons off his shirt, though the thought did occur to me.

These dresses are now available in the shop.

Monday, August 12, 2013

So it's not another tablecloth

But do pillowcases count?  I found these two embroidered pillowcases in deep, family-inherited stash, and (1) I know I'll never use them on my bed, and (2) I just can't wait to cut them up!

I can use the same basic A-line baby dress pattern that I used for the tablecloth dresses (which have all sold!), so that I can feature the heavy embroidered borders of the pillowcases as the front hem.  The back will be solid white with just the edging.  Since the cases are different, I didn't have the moral dilemma of deciding whether or not to put the motif on back and front.  Instead, I'll use matching pale blue buttons and do the buttonholes and topstitching in pale blue thread.  The fabric is pretty opaque, so I might even do the facings in pale blue, if I have something in stash that would work.  And I think that I do.

Because of the width of the pillow cases, these will both be size 1, and will be listed in the shop when they're finished.

Yay for more embroidered linens!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Fronts of both pieces
Quite literally, that's what these are.

We were coming back from our weekly Saturday trip to the farmer's market -- peaches and string beans and mushrooms, oh my! -- and we happened upon a sidewalk sale.

This is not uncommon in my neighborhood, and I was happy to see that it was a house I'd stopped at before, and a woman whose craft materials seemed endless.

Today was no different.  I picked up a few pieces of vintage jewelry for my other Etsy shop, but my main focus was on these two pieces of patchwork quilt that she had rolled up on the table.  When I asked about them, she said that she'd bought them years ago, at a sidewalk sale, but had never gotten around to using them and felt guilty.

Backing of one piece; front of second piece
Let's just say I alleviated her guilt, and also lightened her table of a piece of blue and white cross-stitched trim that looked like it was from a kitchen curtain (it has coffee grinders, spoons, pitchers and teacups on it).  Not sure what I'm going to do with that yet, but these quilt pieces have announced loud and clear that they want to be turned into a hobo bag, preferably in combination with some faded denim to coordinate with the faded blue of the cotton.

We all know not to argue with the fabric, don't

More later, and hopefully a bag photo to post.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday with Friends: Jerica's Jewelry

Pink Glass Flower Earrings
I'm introducing a new feature on the blog this week -- Fridays with Friends.  I know so many talented crafters, in person, through Etsy and Facebook, and I want to a little time each week and share the love.

This week I'm featuring my real-life jewelry-making friend, Jennifer Erica Sweda, otherwise known as Jerica's Jewelry.  You can find her shop here on Etsy.

Her jewelry is all hand-crafted, and she uses sterling silver in most pieces, unless noted in the listing.  Her pieces are a lot of fun, and I admit to owning a few pieces from the holiday show myself.  She's also working on some new pieces which I really hope to see in her shop very soon.

"3 Coins in the Fountain" Bracelet
I've known Jennifer for several years now; we've done a local holiday craft show together a few times, and most recently we shared a very wet tent together at an outdoor craft show.  Not only is she talented, but she made it through an unexpected monsoon with a smile on her face.

These are the kind of friends you keep close.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year

No, not Christmas.  And not back to school, for you exhausted parents out there.


What you see there on the counter is about 30 pounds worth of plum tomato goodness, which will be rendered down into many quarts of sauce.

I tend to make my tomato sauce more liquid - partly because I'm too impatient to cook it down until really thick, and partly because I can always do that later; I like having the thinner tomato sauce on hand for soup base all winter long.  Nothing like a good hearty bowl of tomato vegetable soup in the middle of February.  When you pop the top off the jar, it's instant August.

Depending on how many jars this turns into, I may be doing the same thing again in two weeks.  There's a really good farmer's market in NJ where Mario visits his family, and I don't think you can have too many jars of tomatoes put by.  This 30 pounds cost me $18.  You can't beat that.

Wish my backyard tomatoes looked this good.  They're abundant, and coming along, but still for the most part a lovely shade of green.  The sun needs to come out and stay out.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Making it last

A friend gave me some of her old clothes.  She was going to take them to the thrift store, but decided I might want to go through them first.

As always, I did.  One of the pieces was a cute little denim strapless dress with a tiered skirt, not something I could ever imagine wearing.  It had gotten a little worn and the denim, already lightweight, was beginning to show its age, so into the giveaway bag it went.

Thank you!

That little dress became all the items pictured here, and a bit more - I actually made the denim and striped jumper dress in two sizes, by request.

So one dress = 4 toddler dresses, parts of 3 denim and floral stuffed bears, and I believe there are still some scraps in the potholder pile.

Who says you can't do a lot with a little?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A funny thing happened on the way to the craft show

With a different belt!  This was
just what I had within reach.
I made a dress.  For me.

This is a momentous event, because I haven't done that for quite some time.

It isn't a complicated dress, but it still sat on my workroom table unfinished for the better part of two weeks.

It isn't a complicated dress, but I liked the pattern so much I made it in a Liberty cotton that I've had sitting for several summers.  It's cool and airy and I love it.

The pattern is Simplicity 1609, and I noticed it a while back on Gertie's blog.  I'm glad I read her review of it, because this dress does not have the Big 4's usual excessive ease.  I'm usually a 12 in Simplicity, etc., but I went by my measurements this time and I'm a 14.  I know it looks a big spacious on the dress form, but that's because Evelyn's back isn't as wide and she's somehow not gained an inch or so in the chest where I have.  We won't even discuss her refusal to adjust her waist measurement to mine.

I skipped one step in the pattern -- deliberately because of insufficient fabric, and because I didn't think it would make that much of a difference.  There's a center front seam on this dress, and instead I cut it on the fold, leaving off the excess which would have been the seam allowance.  There didn't seem to be that much shaping to the front seam, and I didn't have quite enough fabric to cut separate pieces.  Next time I'll follow the instructions, because having that seam really would give me the ability to tweak the fit a bit more, but since I wanted this version to be looser and less fitted, it worked fine.

The darts on this pattern really make a difference in the fit.  Even though I like shift dresses, they tend not to be the most fitted things in my wardrobe.  (Yes, Simplicity is calling this an A-line dress, but we can agree to disagree, can't we?  It feels more like a shift when I'm wearing it.)  This has two darts in the front and one in the back.  And if I'd kept that center front seam, who knows what greatness I would have achieved?

Hard to see the detail of the Liberty print in the full size photo
Anyway, quick, fast, cute summer dress - two pattern pieces, facing pieces, invisible zipper.  It shouldn't have taken me any time at all, but I kept getting distracted between steps.  If you need some cute instant gratification, I'd recommend this dress.  But be warned, there's not much excess in this pattern, so if you're not going to make a muslin, go up a size if you have to and work your way back down.  With that many darts and a center seam, you can fix anything - just cut the facing last, after you've stabilized what your size is!