Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Recovering cushions

There are things I plan to do "someday" and then I put them off for ages.  These are things that I'm not totally familiar with or only have a vague notion of how to do them, and uncertainty/fear paralyzes me.  Then, I finally do them and I kick myself for not having done them years earlier because they were so frickin' easy.

Recovering cushions on chairs was one of those things.

We bought some furniture from a neighbor who was moving away last summer, and it included a desk set with a cushioned chair.  The fabric wasn't terrible, but it was a bit faded and was nothing special.  We have been on a big home improvement kick the past few weeks (tearing down miles and miles of wallpaper and actually painting rather than just whining about how ugly the walls are), and I was suddenly inspired to tear the seat of the desk chair off and try my hand at recovering the cushion.  It turned out great!



No, I didn't take a "before" photo because I had no idea how it would work out.  I also didn't take a gorgeous beauty shot (like, without the tools and crap in the background) because I am lazy.  I just helped finish creating the elementary school yearbook (yet another reason the blog and sewing in general has been on hiatus, since all my creative energy has been poured into that instead) and I'm kind of taking a break from photography and photo editing.  Cell phone pics will do the job.

I got that fabric from an awesome fabric stash that I inherited from Corey's grandmother when she had to downsize.  It's a nice heavy home decor fabric.  I used Corey's heavy duty stapler and fell in love with it.  (He may never get it back -- kind of like his big metal l-shaped woodworking ruler that I have absorbed into my sewing tools collection.  And the retractable tape measure I cut up without his permission.  Sorry, honey.)

We also were the happy recipients of some furniture from Granny's condo, including a hilariously awesome chair with lion's heads on the arms.  The fabric on that cushion was old and faded, but I was nervous about recovering that cushion because it also had piping.  Turns out that was actually not a problem at all!



The fabric looks way more royal blue than it looks in real life.  It's really more of a dark slate gray/blue and beige stripe.  The piping was actually just stapled on rather than sewn into the cover.  All I had to do was tear apart the old piping and repurpose the cord inside to make some new stuff.  I have made my own piping before a couple of times and it's really a simple process.  The hardest part is cutting the darn fabric on the bias, but I used a great big square clear ruler (another hand-me-downfrom Granny!) that has diagonal guides on it that I could match up with the stripes.  Easy peasy.

The fabric is also from Granny's stash.  The chair is sitting next to a table and stools (also from Granny!) that she had covered with the same fabric.  Luckily, there was plenty left over for the seat of the lion head chair )as we have been calling it).  Now it's all matchy matchy!



Rocky the cat's new favorite place is under the stools.  I totally don't blame him.

Next up, I'm going to try to recover the cushion of the old rocking chair in my bedroom!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Birthday party goody bags

Charlotte's seventh birthday party was last weekend!  I sewed some goody bags for the party guests (and one for Charlotte, because she would have been incredibly sad if she didn't get one too) out of all of my girliest fabrics.  They're just very basic drawstring bags with the inside raw edges pinked to minimize shredding.



Inside, we put some Hershey's kisses and gummy bears.  Charlotte really wanted a "crafting" party, so the girls also went home with glittery bracelets, decorated cardboard letter (the first letter of each of their names), and some ribbon and paperclip bookmarks.  I forgot to take a good photo of Charlotte on her birthday in her "7" shirt, so I will have to post a shot of that after I wash it this weekend.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Ice Cream Social Raffle Baskets

The elementary school's big fundraiser this season involves raffling off baskets full of donated goodies at the Ice Cream Social.  I'm heading up the basket for my daughter's first grade class, and my neighbor, Heather, is coordinating the basket for her daughter's kindergarten class.  I made fabric baskets for both our classes because (1) I have an obsession with sewing fabric baskets, and (2) fabric baskets are way cooler than crappy wicker baskets from a craft store.

Heather's basket has a Michigan foods/drinks theme, so OF COURSE I had to use cherry fabric.  [I'm being a little bit sarcastic here.  Everyone in Michigan is convinced that they are world-famous for their cherries even though neither Heather nor I had any idea of that "fact" until we each moved here.  We're happy to go with the theme though.  I'm probably going to be kicked out of the state for saying that, actually.]  Anyhoo, I used the Crafty Hipster Featherweight Tote tutorial (adding Peltex and using duck cloth for the lining).



The basket I'm coordinating will have a "Cooking with Kids" theme and will be filled with brightly-colored kitchen utensils and a gift certificate for a kids cooking class.  I didn't like any of the cooking-themed fabrics at the store because they seemed too girly and I wanted the basket to be gender-neutral.  As a result of my new obsession with this cute chevron fabric, I had to use that of course.  I kind of winged the design and finished the top in a similar manner to my Boxy Fabric Basket.



I went rogue on the sides by adding some large grommets and knotting cotton webbing through them for the handles.  This may be my new preferred way to do this!  I also added a layer of fusible fleece in addition to Peltex so the basket would be strong and structured.  The panel on the front is actually a pocket that is divided into three sections.  I plan to stick the gift certificate in the center pocket and a utensil in each of the outer pockets.



Inside the basket, there will be coordinating parent/child aprons.  The front sides of the aprons look like this . . .



. . . and the reverse sides look like that!


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Linking up to: And Sew We Craft, The Stitching' Mommy

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Replacement Frog Princess Bag

Charlotte's birthday is coming up, so she gets to be the "Frog Princess" next week in first grade.  (It's basically a student of the week thing.)  The Frog Prince/Princess Kit came home with her on Thursday afternoon in a ratty old tote bag that had once served another purpose.  If you look closely, you can see that the words "Emergency Kit" have been crossed out with Sharpie.



UM, I DON'T THINK SO!  There was no way I was sending the kit back to school in that bag.  Not when I love making tote bags so much.  (And I have sewn a few things for Mrs. Bayma this year that she uses a bunch, so she probably won't be offended by the switch.  At least I don't think she will.)

I ran to Jo-Ann's and hunted for frog fabric.  I could only find one bolt, and it had frogs with pink hearts.  Not exactly gender neutral.  I did find some flannel, but that just seemed odd for a tote bag and the print did look a little babyish.  I know the bag needed to be tough because it was going to be dragged home almost weekly by a seven-year-old (or soon-to-be seven-year-old!) on a bus, so I chose denim and duck cloth for the main exterior fabrics.  For the lining and exterior pocket, I chose this cool "transportation print" that matched the colors of the stuffed frog.



Because I couldn't find good frog fabric, I made a frog appliqué for the other side opposite the pocket.  I may grab some golden puffy paint and add a little crown to the frog later if I have time.  I don't want to get all cutesy and paint on a face or anything, though.



I'm totally in love with the lining fabric.  I think I'm going to use it for a couple of projects I need to finish in the next couple of days.




The Frog Princess (still in her jammies) approves!  I think if that girl loses any more teeth, she's going to need dentures to tide her over until the adult teeth grow in.



We need to take the frog on an adventure, take a photo of it, and then do a write-up to put in a notebook that stays in the bag.  After that, we will fill the "guessing jar" with small objects for the class to practice estimating.  And then I need to send in a bunch of photos of Charlotte.  And then she needs to fill out an info sheet all about herself.  Sheesh -- maybe I should have been working on that instead of sewing . . .

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Yarn Arts Club for Kids

The librarian at my daughter's school and I are both yarn arts enthusiasts, and when she suggested that we start a yarn arts club for the kids, I was a bit worried that we wouldn't have many kids show up. Do kids nowadays even know what knitting and crocheting is?  Luckily, there is a whole group of fourth grade girls at school who already know how to crochet, and they have inspired a bunch of their fellow students to pick up hooks, needles, and yarn!

I didn't have a whole lot of experience teaching kids to crochet, but during the past 6 months, I have been working with Sonia (my five-year-old daughter) and my fourth grader neighbor (one of the aforementioned crocheters), so I wasn't completely new to it, either.  Sonia lacks patience and stamina (of course), but she makes up for it in enthusiasm. So, about once a week, she picks up her hooks and needles and gets working.  "Mommy, can you help me crochet? Mommy, can you help me knit?"  Of course, I drop everything and run to her side, deliriously excited that she wants to learn.


The first week of our Yarn Arts Club (we started in January), about 10 kids showed up, and ever since, we have averaged about 20 kids crocheting, knitting, finger-knitting, and sometimes just messing around with yarn.  Some are beginners who are still struggling with slip knots and chaining, and some are experienced stitchers who show off their finished objects with pride.

Just look at this yarn craziness!!








(Note the adorable yarn bag made of owl fabric that Sonia's Auntie Niki sewed for her!)

Every Thursday morning, after the bell rings and the yarn artists all scamper off to class, I feel like a tornado just blew through the library, but BOY is it a fun tornado....

I wrote out an extremely simple crocheted wrist cuff pattern that I passed out this morning to my budding crocheters, and they all got to hooking.  I'll post the pattern soon in a separate blog post so you, too, can make your very own Lakeside Crocheted Wrist Cuff.

The knitting and crocheting club that I recently joined is also inviting kids to learn how to knit and crochet with an event this weekend held at a public library.  Sonia can't wait to go and show off her skills!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learning to Knit

What's that you say?  You see pigs flying?  Hell froze over?  Well, I might know why.

I LEARNED HOW TO KNIT.

I used to joke that crocheters and knitters were like the Sharks and the Jets (please see West Side Story if you don't get that joke), but then I started "meeting" lots of crocheter/knitter double threats on Ravelry.  Crocheting and knitting are apparently compatible.  Who knew?!  My one disastrous attempt at learning to knit in my early 20's had given me the idea that knitting was WAY harder than crocheting and that I just wasn't coordinated enough to handle two needles at a time.  But, OH!, those beautiful knitting patterns I kept seeing float across my computer screen... After Christmas crocheting season was done, on January 1st, I picked up knitting needles and gave it a try.

My first few swatches turned out great, so I dove right in to my very first dishcloth.  BOY, was that humbling.  It took me FOREVER and I hated how it turned out.  To top it all off, I ran out of cream yarn near the end and just decided to finish it with a different color, making it even less attractive.  Without further ado, I present MY FIRST KNITTING PROJECT:


Oof.  I got the pattern out of my 10-20-30 Minutes to Learn to Knit book, and it drove me nuts, switching back and forth between knit and purl stitches.  My brother suggested that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew with this first project, but honestly, it is the very first project presented in this book, and I think there's no time like the present to dive in feet first.  Still, I took his comment to heart, and for my next project, I found a WAY simpler pattern.

This Basic Adults Knitted Beanie is a fantastic learner project.  You work the hat flat and seam it up at the end (with a yarn needle), so there is a seam that any experienced knitter would consider a pattern deal-breaker, but for a beginner, I say it's fine.  I even bought a Clover brand pom-pom maker after deciding that wrapping yarn around cardboard and then spending the next hour trimming the pom-pom into shape was not good enough for my first knit hat.  Sonia chose the yarn-- can you tell?


I next decided that I wanted to try my hand at cabling.  This simple Diagonal Owl Dishcloth pattern looked like a good idea, but it was poorly written and didn't include any stitch count checks in the middle, so all my cabling, while done correctly, looks wonky due to losing count of my rows.  I gave this dishcloth to Sonia to use in her play kitchen.  Good riddance!


For my next project, I decided to see what my favorite Knit/Crochet designer goddess (Margaret MacInnis) had for me to try.  She teaches people to knit in her Ravelry group, and I have crocheted a bunch of her patterns before (including Niki & Corey's afghan), so I knew she wouldn't steer me wrong.  I found this cool Hazelnut Stitch Dishcloth and gave it a try.  The hazelnut stitch pattern is really beautiful, but unfortunately, I chose yarn that is WAY too busy to show off the pretty texture.


Here's a slightly better picture of the "hazelnuts".  Aren't they cool?


Armed with more knitting confidence, I gave another of Margaret's beautiful dishcloth/afghan block patterns a try.  This time, with a much better written pattern to follow, my cabling efforts were successful!  I can almost hear these owls hooting.


While I was doing these other knitting patterns, I was lurking in a knitting thread on Margaret's Ravelry groups' discussion board.  I watched as knitters posted pictures of this Turtle Ford dishcloth/afghan block pattern that Margaret presented as a mystery knit along.  After I finished the waffling owls dishcloth, I screwed up my courage, bought the turtle pattern, and got to knitting.


How hilarious is this little turtle?!?!?  He pops right off the dishcloth.  At the request of the teacher, I brought him in to show Sonia's kindergarten class, and the kids were enthralled.  They just finished up a learning unit all about fabric, so I was showing them how I knitted my own fabric.


Ok. So, I think I'm hooked on knitting.  I still love to crochet a lot, too, but expanding my yarn-maniuplating skill set to include knitting is absolutely thrilling.  Margaret put out a call for testers on a new series of garden-themed dishcloth/afghan block patterns, and I shyly put up my hand an asked if I could help.  She kindly let me join in the fun, and I dove right in.  These patterns are beautiful, amazingly written, a ton of fun to knit.  And, just for kniter/crocheter double threats like me, Margaret includes an optional crochet boarder for each pattern!  Here are my attempts at knitting the Garden Series:

Block 1: Beetle Mania


How cute are those beetles?  Hilariously enough, the back of the dishcloth is just as cool as the front:


Block II: Raindrops (don't look too closely-- there are several mistakes-- but at this point, I hadn't yet learned how to rip out my mistakes without having to start the block over from scratch, so I left them in)


Block III: 'Brella (loooooove the purl stitch rain drops!!)


Block IV: Picket De'Fence (v1) (I somehow forgot to take a picture of it after it was done, so here is one taken at the 99% point.)


Block IV: Picket De'Fence (v2) (Margaret changed the pattern to add pickets to the tops of the fence posts, so I re-tested this block.)


Block V: Lattice Bud (soooooo pretty!!)


Block VI: Sculpture (This one is absolutely gorgeous when knitted well, but I had a bit of trouble with a few of the stitches.  I am SO trying this one again once my knitting skills improve a bit.)


Aaaaaaand, there's more knitting to come!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Puzzle Balls, a Doll, and an SNL Character (oh, no!)

I received a copy of Dedri Uys's incredible Amamani Puzzle Balls book for Christmas, and I am IN LOVE with these patterns.  They are complicated to make, but Dedri's tutorials are amazing and I think all crocheters should give these a try.  I just can't believe how adorable these amigurumi puzzle balls are!!

Elephant Puzzle Ball:


Dedri designed the pattern so the entire thing is crocheted (NOT WHIP-STITCHED!!) together.  Even the adorable ears and the cute little tail. I don't mind whip-stitching here and there, but like most crocheters, I would much rather use my hook than a sewing needle.




The cute little feet make me smile.


Here is the "puzzle" aspect of the puzzle ball: it comes apart into three pieces!  It's a little complicated to put together, so before I give this to someone as a gift, I think I might make a YouTube video showing how to do it.


Because the entire puzzle ball is crocheted together, as long as you use tough yarn (like 100% acrylic), these puzzle balls can withstand a lot of pulling and smooshing as you disassemble and reassemble them. Amazing!!

Turtle Puzzle Ball:


How handsome is this dude?  I didn't get a great picture of his nose to show the absolutely perfect shaping (there's a slight point at the tip), but trust me when I say that Dedri must have studied the turtle form for a long time while designing this guy.  So stinkin' cute!


One of my mother's life-long friends, Sharon, commissioned me to make another of Nipiti's My Summertime Dolls, and I think it turned out SO adorable. Sharon chose great colors and I really enjoyed watching this little doll take shape.  Nipiti's pattern is so fabulous!  I have a third My Summertime Doll about 75% done and will post pictures of it when it's finished.  It might be the cutest one yet!





Weeeeeeell, this last amigurumi isn't all that recent, but I'm going to mention it anyway.  This past summer, to thank my dad for all the work he did on our new (to us) house, I free-handed an amigurumi of one of his favorite Saturday Night Live characters of all time: Mr. Bill.  The reason that I haven't posted pictures of this little dude yet is that I wrote down the pattern and have big plans to present it for free here on Roonie Ranching, but I haven't yet sat down and typed it up.  I'll get on that soon, I promise.