Thursday, June 28, 2007

Little pumpkins

Late last October, I ran across my copy of Ann Norling's classic fruit cap pattern. By just purling every eighth stitch, it was easy to adapt into a ridged pumpkin hat that really did turn out to be as cute as could be.

Unfortunately I started the project so close to Halloween that there was only time to churn out one, so it went to the youngest member of the family, my great-niece Abbey. This year, I decided to start a bit earlier. And last week's trip to Florida provided plenty of time to get started.

I used Dreambaby DK yarn and size 4 DPNs for these cute little caps. I'm not worrying too much about gauge at this point - they're pretty stretchy. I have enough yarn to churn out quite a few more, so I'll make some larger, some smaller -- once the family wee ones are taken care of, I'll have some to take to the hospital. Can't you imagine taking home a newborn in late October, all decked out in a little pumpkin hat?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

From big dress to little dress

I knew when I spotted the Liz Claiborne label on this dress at the thrift store Saturday that I had to do something with all this really good-quality fabric. So, I did.

This pattern is so easy -- See & Sew #3889. And the lightweight denim is just perfect for the soft draping of this little sundress. Best part of all was, I used the original hemmed edge, so no hemming! (Thanks, Ms. Claiborne!)
Well, Dan and I are off to Florida for five days, so I'll probably be offline until next week. Unfortunately, it's not vacation, but a vendor mart for the little retail store we own and that Dan operates. (I don't think I've ever mentioned it on the blog before, but we do love birds!) Even though it's work-related, it'll seem like vacation just having several days in a row with my sweetie. Hope everyone has a happy and crafty few days ahead.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Show-and-tell Tuesday: Placemat purse

One of my thrift store finds on Saturday morning was this cheery little 13-cent placemat.

It’s become this cheery little purse.

This was a fun project from start to finish. I had the black plastic handles already. The fabric was a leftover scrap from another purse project last fall. Even the closure was a no-cost feature. I liberated the black cord from the chic little paper shopping bag I got when I bought conditioner at my salon last week (I would have declined the bag altogether, but I knew those cord handles would come in handy soon!)

The big pearly button isn’t a button at all, but an old clip-on earring sewn firmly into place.

The bag was a nice summery addition to my drab black outfit for work yesterday. It also gave me an excuse to wear these fun red espadrilles that I got with my sister in Chicago last weekend. I got compliments on both of them all day long.

The reds don’t match very well. Did this bother me? It did not.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Feeling so thrifty

My daughter said today, "Another great thing about this green movement is that it gives you another excuse to be thrifty."

Wise girl, indeed, although she's never needed much of an excuse. Living in New York City for the past seven years, she's become an expert in rescuing abandoned furniture from curbsides and giving it a new lease on life with a little paint and reinforcement.

But I agree with her that half the fun in reducing, reusing and recycling is seeing what great results you can have for little or no cost. That's one reason I've been utterly fascinated with the projects everyone's doing over at Wardrobe Refashion. Do you read it? I've been lurking there for months, and while I haven't signed up for one of their official challenges, they inspire me almost daily to look at transforming things I already have into something new and useful.

Those clever Wardrobe Refashionistas are always doing things like finding the most amazing printed sheets at thrift stores and turning them into breezy summer skirts and dresses. One gal used an old Harley T-shirt and some ecru crocheted lace and made an adorable baby dress.

I've never actually had much luck with thrift store shopping, but I thought I'd give it a try again as a creative challenge. Lucky me - in the housewares area I found two enormous cotton twill tablecloths in a very cheery lemon-lime stripe. A whopping $3.99 for the pair!

I can't wait to see what these will become. There's nary a stain or worn spot in sight, and they washed up beautifully as soon as I got them home. I may have to make some more little girls' dresses (because, you'll be glad to know, I'm over my angst about sending the clothes I make to the women's shelter. The director there assured me they really do need children's clothes all the time, so I got over my feeling that I was thoughtlessly sending castoff items without regard for need. I really appreciated all of your comments as well. Also, I have another project going for the shelter, too, but more about that as it takes form this summer...)

These tablecloths could also become tote bags or quilt backings - there's a LOT of fabric here -- it'll be fun to see!

I really hit the jackpot on a table filled with other assorted table linens, too. I was particularly excited about these three cloth napkins for 13 cents apiece. (13 cents? Where'd they come up with that? No matter, I was glad to snap them up.)

These seem to go together so well, I'm tempted to slice them up and combine them into one patchwork bag. Hmm....

I won't post all the other photos of my haul today, because I want to save some for before-and-after photos on specific projects. But I was really delighted with the other things I found, too -- including another tablecloth in an adorable vintage-style red-and-white print, a couple of voluminous skirts in cheery florals, and a Liz Claiborne lightweight denim dress that's sort of sack-like on the hanger. But it's not going to be that way for long...

What did I shell out for this big bag of stuff? Exactly $13.71. And this afternoon, I'm going to get started seeing what sort of transformations I can begin with some of it.

Unfortunately, though, I can't start with the striped tablecloths. Abigail apparently has other plans at for them right now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Show-and-tell Tuesday: Travel tote

I bought a set of funky, vintage-inspired Moda fat quarters a couple of years ago. I think the collection was called “Faded Memories” or something similar. I loved looking at them, but I really had no idea what to do with them. Somehow, they didn’t seem very quilty.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Carol sent me this Martha Stewart link for a tote bag made out of a pillowcase.

A great idea, isn’t it? Unfortunately, any older pillowcases hanging around our house are not candidates to become anything but cleaning rags. So I thought I’d adapt the pattern and use four of my fat quarters instead. Worked out great! I loved the slouchy, relaxed feel of the bag. It was perfect for taking along to Chicago last weekend.

Let’s see if I can recreate the process here:

-- Put two coordinated fat quarters with right sides together, and stitch quarter-inch seams along both long (22”) edges. You’ll have a wide tube.

-- Do the same thing with a second pair of fat quarters.

-- Stack the “tubes” on top of each other and make one diagonal cut through all four layers (see the Martha Stewart pillowcase instructions). You’ll have two pairs of wedges, each with a seam down the middle.

-- Put those wedges right sides together, and stitch quarter-inch seams along each diagonal edge. Handle the bias edges carefully. Leave the long, straight edge open – this will become the bottom of the bag. Turn and press.

-- Fold each lined wedge in half again, and follow the Martha diagram to see how to overlap and fit them together. Stitch close to the bias overlapped edges on each side, being careful to keep each side separate. Turn the bag inside out and stitch straight across the bottom (you’ll be going through about eight thicknesses of fabric by this point, so use a sturdy needle.) I also zig-zagged over the raw edge to keep fraying to a minimum. Turn right side out.

-- Martha’s pillowcase instructions just have you tie the pointy ends together, but the fat quarters don’t give quite enough length for that. I just overlapped the pointy ends by about an inch, zig-zagged the overlap a few times to secure it, and then finished it off with a coordinated tie about two inches wide. This gave me plenty of length for slinging over my shoulder.

Besides the basic travel essentials of wallet, lipstick, glasses and cellphone, this bag had plenty of room for my small knitting project and various purchases at the airport during my layover – some Body Shop lotion, a pair of flip-flops, “spa socks” for my daughter, a banana and a Newsweek magazine. No wonder I didn’t mind my flight delay!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Just need 2 buttons and a sleeve

This blurry photo is me in the Philadelphia airport on Thursday evening. Bad weather extended my layover there by a few hours, but with knitting handy, I had no reason to complain. I still made it to Chicago in time for dinner with my sister, our nephew, and his wife (who is expecting a baby in six weeks -- thus the little blue sweater in progress here.)

And here's how it looks tonight. This DK-weight wool is so sweet to work with, and I'm quite sure that Elizabeth Zimmermann would approve of the simple, neck-down raglan pattern.
I'm glad the sleeves are the final step, because they're my favorite part of all. It's just so easy to imagine those sweet, chubby little fists working their way through the ribbed cuffs. If I calculated right, this should fit Dave and Kate's little fellow by the time he's two or three months old this fall. And just the thought of another sweet little baby joining the family makes me feel warm and fuzzy already!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Reminders to self

OK, so here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about.

I made these cute little cotton sundresses last week, just because I was in the mood to do so. Nobody asked for them. Nobody particularly needed them. I have no little girls at home. I have some young great-nieces, but didn’t make the dresses in their sizes. I simply sewed, without regard for eventual recipient, figuring that somebody, somewhere, could use them. Because they were really cute, right?

Now let me go get my eyes checked, because I somehow failed to see the giant red flag that was waving right in front of me.

Something just felt wrong to me as I was stitching and gathering and hemming. Why wasn’t I enjoying making these little things? Summer fabrics are a joy, and the designs were simple and wonderful. Why did I feel vaguely uncomfortable with what I was producing?

By the time I’d put in the final stitches, I’d figured it out. This was a totally self-indulgent exercise. A charitable donation, perhaps, but not the sort of charity I feel good about. Yes, some little girls who accompany their mothers to the women’s shelter where I ended up sending the dresses will have something new and fresh to wear. But realistically, their mothers could get much more good out of a Wal-Mart gift card, getting children’s clothes and a lot more, too (and it pains me to say that, because I really loathe Wal-Mart, but if you have to make a few dollars stretch a long way, there’s no sense in going anyplace else.)

And the shelter itself could benefit more from a check to help buy the food and repair the plumbing and hire the counselors.

The donation of three cotton dresses and a skirt doesn’t exactly equate to kicking puppies. But I still felt a little uneasy about the thoughtlessness of it. And it was a good reminder to stay on track with what I want to do with such projects. Note to self: Begin with the need in mind. Contribute to an organization like a hospital or well-run agency where they’ve already determined this need. And if they need something hand-made, you'll know that you’ll be making things that will be truly useful.

Best of all, self, stick to making things that aren’t easy to find or affordable to get anywhere else. Specialized preemie garments, bereavement outfits, chemo caps, even the odd catheter bags a group of us made last year – they all fall into that category. So do cool ties for the soldiers, and warm knitted garments for groups like Afghans for Afghans or the Dulaan project, where international shipping regulations are more flexible for hand-knitted gifts than for factory-made merchandise.

In other words, there’s plenty of opportunity out there to serve. Sometime we do it by crafting, sometimes by writing a check, sometimes by rolling up our sleeves to volunteer with physical work. The challenge lies in matching our actions with the greatest possible benefit. If we’re lucky, we get it right.

On to lighter topics next week. In the meantime, I'm off to Chicago for a three-day estrogen-fest with my sisters and assorted nieces. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Show-and-tell Tuesday: Summer dresses

Summer and blue seersucker ... what a cool, crisp, classic combination for a little girl's sundress. This was the first of several dresses I've made over the past couple of weeks.

This one was a total breeze to make, thanks to the easy "Sunny Day Dress" tutorial offered by Erin at the House on Hill Road.

I had this yellow stripe fabric in my stash with the intent of backing a quilt with it. It's much better suited to a little girl's sundress, don't you think? It looks like the yoke seam is going all wonky on the right-hand side, but I assure you it's straight as an arrow...just nudged upward by the evergreen backdrop.

And finally, a three-tiered skirt out of some sturdy cotton from my stash.

I did a lot of thinking while making these cute little numbers. I should have enjoyed the process a lot more than I did, and I finally figured out why. I guess today is the "Show" part of Show-and-tell Tuesday. Tomorrow, I'll tell.

Monday, June 04, 2007


I've had a case of the blogging blahs lately. I've actually been doing a fair amount of sewing and knitting -- just not feeling inspired enough to write about it. In casting around for some variety in my crafting, I find I've gotten a little bit away from the service projects that I really enjoy the most.

I've got more to write on that topic later this week, but in the meantime ... this is what I did on Saturday morning:

I wasn't even going to post about these, but when I was catching up on other blogs this afternoon and saw the very excellent Wool Winder's post about dishcloths, I was moved by the cosmic connection. Cotton dishcloths were the very first thing I made when I re-learned how to knit in 2001 (after not having picked up knitting needles for more than 30 years). Once I started making dishcloths, I couldn't stop -- and I churned out so many of them that my family actually requested that I switch to something else!

I hadn't made any for ages, but the cotton is nice to work with on a hot and humid day, and I needed an inexpensive door prize for a club drawing, so these filled the bill. They may have even helped shake me out of my blogging blahs!