Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Super Reader Halloween costume

For the first time ever, this Halloween M actually asked for a costume. Although he's into the usual superheroes (he would wear his Spiderman T-shirt every day if he could), he wanted to dress up as an obscure PBS character, "Super Why," a "super reader" from a show for pre-kindergarten kids. I made him a green mask and blue cape. He still wears the cape around for fun, pretending to be a variety of superheros, which of course pleases me no end.

The cape is 20" wide at the bottom, shoulder width across the top, and 24" long from back of neck to bottom edge. I used a single layer of lightweight poly-cotton, so that it would be floaty, and not heavy hanging off his neck.

When I did a mock-up using paper, I started with this pattern in mind, but straighter straps (i.e., parallel to the vertical axis of the cape, rather than inward-curving) lie really nicely around his neck. (The straps on my finished cape do end up curving inward a bit, because of the narrow-hemmed neck edge. Next time I think I'll do a facing at the neck instead of narrow hem.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thrift-shop haul

Lookit what I scored at the Goodwill store on Geary St (SF) yesterday:

Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong. Its previous owner had torn the covers off, hole-punched the pages, and put them in a 3-ring binder.

I did the same thing with my calculus textbook way back when, to avoid having to lug the entire 50 lbs. of it around.

I also got a kids' crafting book, a chocolate brown sheet and a yellow-with-white-polka-dots sheet. Books and linens were 2-for-1, so I paid only $8 for everything! SCORE!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The secret life of Sew-sew Crafter

I think about knitting all the time. This is my fantasy life: to knit things. to completion. I've collected all sorts of knitting patterns (mostly free) and tips and websites and blogs and online yarn stores. I read knitting books from the library all the time, and I keep a list of knitting books that I want to borrow as soon as the library gets them. I have a stash of yarn that I have no idea what I'm going to do with. I have straight and circular needles in every size (ebay & yard sale specials). However, I have only actually knit:
  • 1 sweater (it took over 5 years (I am not exaggerating), and I want to frog it because I don't like the style anymore), and
  • 1 scarf (a gift, started last fall, finished this March, just in time for the warm weather in DC).

Now you know the skeleton in my closet. is made of yarn.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Another vintage skirt

Vogue 7218. Waistband piece was missing, but using the photocopier to enlarge the drawing of it from the instruction sheet worked surprisingly well.

(Blurriness due to photographer being 4 years old.)

I've had the fabric for over 20 years--originally intended to be a 3-piece suit.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Vintage wrap skirt

Simplicity 5084, original price 50 cents - I love the way the v.2 pockets pooch out a bit at the top edge.

My version could use some bleach pen decorating, I think.

Next time:
- Make flat butt adjustment: cut waistline at center back 1/2" lower (tapering to nothing at sides).
- If using lighter weight fabric, interface waistband.
- Don't attach waistband wrong-side out.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Loop-through bag

The Lucy Felted Bag really grabbed me (from a Lion Brand catalog) but I figured it would be a lot easier to make one from one of big M's old J.Crew sweaters. But first, a mock-up:
It has a long strap on one side and a much shorter strap on the other, through which the long strap is inserted to close the bag.
Cute idea, but...
the design flaw becomes obvious when you put stuff in the bag and wear it: it doesn't hang straight. The side to which the shorter strap is attached will always hang lower, which makes the bottom of the bag jut out.
Possible solutions:
1. A velcro closure at the top of the bag, to keep the top edges even. But for this style I like the idea of having no closures (other than the inter-looped straps). Also, it would make this particular bag non-reversible (not an issue for the sweater version).
2. Wear it the other way around. That just doesn't look good to me.
3. Cut the back side shorter than the front?
- The pieces measure as follows (includes 1/2" seam allowances):
14.5 x 14.5" - cut 2 from denim, 2 from floral fabric
14.5 x 28" - cut 1 from interfacing
long strap 3.25 x 23.5" - cut 2 each from denim/floral/interfacing
short strap 3 x 8.5" - cut 1 each from denim/floral/interfacing
- 1.5" deep box bottom, rounded off the corners.
- The 2 halves of the long strap are seamed at a slight angle, to fit the shoulder.
Next time (if there is one):
- Add an inner pocket
- Make the small loop narrower (~1.5")
- Velcro or button closure?
Sure glad I didn't spend 5 years knitting one.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Spinosaurus tote bag

Bookbag for Sunday morning Chinese school.

Teeth added by special request.
Straps had to be adjusted longer after the "try it on" photo above.
Made from 70s green corduroy, cotton print, and $3 thrifted Alexander Julian men's shirt.
(Notes to self:
1. Interfacing is good!
2. Stitch in the ditch at upper few inches of each side seam, to help keep lining inside.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Laughing baby (video)

This video made me smile big time (found at It's Knuttz)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pink is for boys too

We took Little M to Staples the other day to get a loose-leaf binder for Chinese school. He chose a pink one. I tried to steer him to a green one instead. Was that wrong??? It felt wrong. But I'm willing to bet that at least one of the other 4-year-olds in his class has been told that "pink is for girls." I didn't think fast enough to explain that it's cool that he likes pink but that there might be some narrow-minded people who don't agree. "I like pretty colors," he said. We ended up with a red one and he seemed OK with that. Red's his favorite color. sometimes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Crochet-bottom bag (how-to)

This is how I made the little oblong-bottom bag. (Picture of bottom, above.)

For the crocheted bottom, I used Lily Sugar 'n Cream and a size G (4.5mm) crochet hook (Clover soft-touch hooks are great if like me you crochet til your hand starts to cramp).

Foundation chain. Chain 14 (for a foundation chain of 12 chains, plus 2 chains for turning--the last 2 chains constitute the 1st stitch in round 1).
Round 1. Hdc (half double crochet) in top loop of 3rd chain from hook (12th chain of foundation chain) and next 10 chains. 5 hdc in last chain.
Now, turn your work upside down (so that you can crochet back over the foundation chain, through the bottom loops this time): Hdc in first 10 chains. 3 hdc in next chain. Slip stitch to connect to 1st hdc of this round. (The 1st and last chains of the foundation chain each have 5 hdcs in them.)

Round 2. Ch 2 (this is the turning chain & the 1st hdc of this round). 2 hdc in the stitch directly below the turning chain (together with the turning chain, this makes the 1st "corner"). 1 hdc in each of the next 12 stitches. 3 hdc in the next stitch (2nd corner). 1 hdc in the center stitch at this end. 3 hdc in the next stitch (3rd corner). 1 hdc in each of the next 12 stitches. 3 hdc in the next stitch (4th corner). 1 hdc in the center stitch at this end. Slip stitch to connect to 1st hdc of this round.

Round 3. Ch 2 (turning chain & 1st hdc of this round). 1 hdc in the stitch directly below the turning chain. 3 hdc in next stitch (the middle stitch of the 1st corner of round 2). 2 hdc in next stitch (1st corner of round 3 completed).
1 hdc in each of the next 12 stitches. 2 hdc in next stitch. 3 hdc in next stitch (the middle stitch of the 2nd corner of round 2). 2 hdc in next stitch (2nd corner of round 3 completed).
1 hdc in the center stitch at this end. 2 hdc in next stitch. 3 hdc in next stitch (the middle stitch of the 3rd corner of round 2). 2 hdc in next stitch (3rd corner of round 3 completed).
1 hdc in each of the next 12 stitches. 2 hdc in next stitch. 3 hdc in next stitch (the middle stitch of the 4th corner of round 2). 2 hdc in next stitch (4th corner of round 3 completed). 1 hdc in the center stitch at this end. Slip stitch to connect to 1st hdc of this round.

Round 4. (Start crocheting up the sides.) Ch 2. 1 hdc in back loop of each stitch (this makes a subtle edge around the base). Slip stitch to connect to 1st hdc of this round. Don't turn.

Round 5. Repeat round 4.

Round 6. Ch 2. 1 hdc in each stitch. Slip stitch to connect to 1st hdc of this round. Turn.
Round 7. Ch 1. Single crochet in each stitch. Slip stitch to connect to 1st hdc of this round. Fasten off. Weave in ends.

To determine measurements for the cloth part of the bag, fold crocheted piece in half and measure the width (W) across the top. Cut 2 pieces of cloth measuring (W+1) inches by the finished height you want the bag to be.

If you want to add a pocket, best to do it now. (wish I had.)
Sew the side seams, to ~2" from the top edge. (Zigzag seams and lower edge to prevent ravelling.) Press seams open. At lower edge, press ~1/4" under (you will sew this to the crochet bottom).
Make casing for drawstring by pressing the top edge under ~1/4", then another ~5/8". Stitch along the first fold.
Hand sew to the crochet bottom.

For drawstrings, crochet 2 chains each a little longer than the bag's circumference (or use ribbon). Thread each length through the casings and tie the ends together to make loops.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Gifts for a little girl

I've sewn quite a bit, though not terribly well, and other crafts are fairly new to me. (Hence the name of this blog, so-so crafter.) So it still amazes and exhilarates me when something turns out as I envisioned it, such as this bag.

These gifts are for a little girl in M's preschool class whose favorite colors are pink and neon green. I wanted to make a bag with a crocheted, oblong bottom, but I couldn't find a pattern so I made it up myself. (My very first, very own crochet pattern! I'll post it next time.) My inspirations for the bag were this pouch (which has a round, knitted bottom), and a classic oval-bottomed Coach purse I've had for 20 years.* I made the mouse and her bed from this really cute tutorial, and they fit cozily in the bag. It was really fun making something for a little girl for a change.

* I used to have such an obsession for Coach bags. Remember when it cost excactly nothing to have your Coach purse repaired? And they would repair almost any condition (even worn binding)? You could almost justify paying hundreds of dollars for a purse.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Penguin stuffie

Little M was nearly 4 before he started to show any interest in drawing, and I was getting a little concerned, because neither big M nor I am artistic. But once little M started drawing, he was a machine. I was pretty excited about this picture, because I really liked how he captured the essence of penguins. And because the things he usually draws aren't immediately identifiable.

He said the big one was a boy and the rest were girls, and one was a kid. The big one inspired this "stuffie" (what softies are called in his preschool), which I made late last night.

I initially cut it out of a heavy grey denim (the wings are denim & quilting cotton) but the beak was simply impossible to turn right-side-out, even after trimming the seam allowance to nearly nothing. So I put the pattern on a double layer of felt and stitched around it, then trimmed the seam allowance to 1/8" all around, and didn't have to turn it.

Little M was a bit upset at first that the feet weren't "flat". Making them "flat" didn't even occur to me; I like its overall 2-dimensionality. Plus which, "flat" would have been a lot harder to do.

Tonight little M and I were talking about how scarves keep you warm by warming your neck, so I knit big penguin a red scarf.

(Bob was a bit leery of big penguin and smacked it a few times before sitting himself down next to it to make sure it wouldn't suddenly come to life.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Cardboard Castle

Our 4-year-old has been invited to some pretty extravagant birthday parties, with live entertainment, bouncy houses galore, the run of a "farm" with ponies and other rides, catered food. Each time I can't help guesstimating the cost of these parties. It's certainly way more than I'm willing to spend on a party for anyone under the age of 60.

So, for a party for our son, we built this castle from scavenged refrigerator boxes, using plans and rivets from Mr. McGroovy's. This photo is the calm just before the storm. We had about 20 kids aged 3-4 running through the castle waving inflatable swords and screaming with laughter for 2 hours. (And then they had cake....)

The point is, with a little effort (this took us 5 nights to build) and creativity (Mr. McGroovy's, in this case), it is possible to throw a fun, memorable party that doesn't cost a lot. I can't afford to keep up with all the Joneses. Equally important, I don't want to teach my child that lavish spending equates in any way to fun or happiness.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Year of Living Frugally

This year I am trying to be greener, more creative and more frugal. I haven't purchased any new (unused) clothing since January 23, other than necessary exceptions: I bought new tights and socks, which I needed, and which cannot be made by (my) hand nor purchased secondhand (non-stretched-out black tights? in the Bay Area? not likely). My Jan 23 purchase was shoes, if you must know. Admittedly I haven't needed new shoes since the early '90s.

I made this knitting needle roll for my sister from a thrift-store pillow sham. The needles were a yard sale find--a big box of knitting needles & crochet hooks, all sizes, for only $1. I imagine the previous owner must have been a prolific crafter to have had such a complete set.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Crochet basket

Made this basket from Donna Hulka's pattern, using mystery twine from St. Vincent's and a size N hook. Halfway through I realized I'd been making double-crochets instead of singles and had to start over. urrrgh.

The turquoise-looking beads are from bracelets I got in Tibet. The silver-colored ones are from Joann's.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Crochet squid

Here's the squid I made from Jessica Polka's nicely designed pattern. It took me a few hours. I'm really happy with the result. And even happier that my 4-year-old wanted to take it to school for show-and-tell.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Simplicity 8125

S8125 sz12-14 B34-36
Originally uploaded by sew-sewcrafter
How cute is this 'jiffy' reversible wrap dress, from 1969? Only 3 pattern pieces. But is it too cute for a woman in her early--alright, mid--40s?

Monday, June 25, 2007

McCall's 7212 Shift Dress

Having grown up on the East Coast, I'm accustomed to having real seasons - hot humid summers and cold winters with ice and snow. So, even though I would have to wear this dress with a jacket or sweater here in South San Francisco, even in June, I couldn't resist. $4 (plus $2 shipping) on ebay. Strangely, though, the yoke is in the front only. The back is plain, with center back zipper and shoulder & waist darts.