Month: February 2013

baby steps

After my last sewing debacle (shudder), I wanted a quickie project with simple construction to rebuild some of my flagging confidence with the sewing machine.  I chose a sewing machine cover in some pretty mermaid cotton that I had in my drawer of fabric-hoarding.  The project is from One-Yard Wonders, a really great crafting book with simple sewing projects using (dur) only a yard of fabric.

The idea of a sewing machine cover seemed a little silly to me at first because a) I already have a hard case for it, and b) it’s a MACHINE, not some delicately-constitutioned Shih-Tzu and it can sit on my desk without getting the shakes or whatever.  But!  I was swayed by the included pocket because whenever I leave projects in the middle to go do real world responsibilities like understanding how the kidneys work, I just leave my seam ripper, scissors, ruler, marking pencils, thousands of pins (sorry David), etc strewn all over my desk. That is so not zen/Raven.  Also sometimes my machine does get a bit dusty (not out of neglect but just because I am too lazy to Lysol wipe it down) but – man I just realized I have been justifying this project to myself/my readers for a decently sized paragraph.  Time to stop babbling.

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Nude no more!

I’m relatively happy with the construction – I took my time with this one and tried to make it as straight/precise as possible in an attempt to prevent against future errors in tricker projects.  I do wish it was in a bit darker of a pattern because this baby is just BEGGING for me to spill tea or Diet Coke all over it, but whatever.  It’s on my desk and I will enjoy it! And maybe my sewing machine will enjoy it so much that it starts being nicer to me.

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great expectations

A few necessary words from Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Gasp – does this post mean that I’m implying to the Internet at large/the four people that actually read this blog that I have good taste?  Anyone who has seen the clothes I wear (without the tiniest hint of irony) could convincingly argue otherwise.  But this is something that I think I need to regularly remind myself of, especially right now, and this is also part of the reason I started this blog.  I have so many ideas and spend so much time making grand plans for theoretically awesome craft projects that never come to fruition, only because a little voice in my head tells me that I won’t be able to meet my own expectations.  It’s a waste of time, and also a waste of money because I usually buy a bunch of supplies but then get too nervous to start because I know I’ll just mess it up (the most damning piece of evidence? the contents of my fabric drawer).  I can only get better and stop mentally beating myself up about my abilities if I practice.

That being said, school is taking over my life.  I’m sitting on (almost literally, my desk is that messy right now) at least four different projects that I can’t wait to write about.  But first I need to work up the courage to finish said projects, even if they aren’t mind-blowingly awesome in my eyes. Ugh. Deep breaths.  I can do this.

love, in an anatomically correct fashion

Being a studious/lame medical student who obviously only ever thinks about school and success and boards and whatnot, when I started brainstorming valentine ideas for my family of course I immediately gravitated toward anatomically correct hearts. Sigh. The predictability is almost overwhelming. HOWEVER, I am really excited about how these turned out and I wanted to show y’all how to make some classy looking nerdy valentines. 

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You’ll need: Card stock, tissue paper, heart template (see below), X-acto knife, cutting surface (a cutting board works just fine), glue dots (photo adhesive dots that can be found at any craft store – but if you’re careful you could also probably just use a glue stick).

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To get started, save and print out the heart template.  If you want to make lots of different sized hearts, then you can resize it up or down depending on your preference.  On the cutting board, position your tissue paper over the template and gently secure around the edges with some scotch tape.  

Carefully cut out the holes (it’s easier to cut the chambers and teeny vessels out first when the large majority of the heart is still attached to the sheet of tissue paper), and then cut around the edges with your x-acto knife.  

Once the heart is gently extricated from the tissue paper, use the glue dots to adhere the back of the heart (no situs inversus!) to the card stock. BOOM (or should I say LUB-DUB?). Valentine complete. 

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you’re dalektable, and other valentiney puns courtesy of DW

Everyone (okay maybe not everyone, maybe just Doctor Who fans who spend too much time on the Internet (aka my demographic exactly)) has seen those charming “INFATUATE” Dalek valentines.  But why stop at infatuate when you have a whole world of ate-y rhyming things at your fingertips?  Behold are some of my modifications on the typical Dalek valentine, with a Cyberman thrown in for bonus (sorry for the relatively poor quality of that guy – I drew him super quickly before I went to class). Ugh! – Daleks and Cybermen working together just reminds me about the season 2 finale – excuse me while I go ugly cry about Rose and Ten for twenty minutes. Anyway enjoy the valentines!

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can’t stop won’t stop

Making and eating these bad boys.

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Seriously! So delicious, so EASY. Dangerously simple, even.  All you need is a few ingredients and a shield from the oil, if like me you are incapable of frying anything without a near-death experience (recipe found here, but you’ll have to develop your own roundabout oil-aversion techniques).

Another thing I’ve been up to: visiting Uncle Fun and buying wind-up animals for no apparent reason and then gifting them to people who may or may not find them as charming as I do.

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Speaking of toys, I’m going to play with my brand new Lego set: Bag End.  Be jealous.

TARDIS mittens pattern

Doctor Who has been my most recent television obsession, occupying most of my non-crafty free time (and let’s be honest, eating up some of my not-so-free time) over the past few months.  The whole reason I got started was because of a dear friend who also happens to love the Doctor and suggested the show to me.  To thank her, and to also make her a charmingly belated Christmas present, I decided to knit up some TARDIS mittens.  I didn’t find anything particularly to my satisfaction so I thought I’d make a pattern. Ta-da!

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don’t blink! (ps – click for a surprise)

This is a big deal, guys.  I have never made a pattern before.  Heck, just a little more than a year ago I could barely follow a pattern and considered myself to be a super accomplished knitter because I had finally figured out how to knit in the round. So, if anyone ever actually reads this thing or uses this pattern, please let me know if this made sense or if I am even using the right knitting lingo.  If you are just starting out knitting, I would say that these mittens are fairly easy to knit up and things like thumbs and flaps are nowhere near as intimidating as they may seem (that being said, I recommend that you do have at least a little bit of experience with working in the round before doing these guys). But you can definitely brag to your friends and say it was super hard so they admire your street skills even more than they did before.

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You’ll need: 2 sets of DPNS (I used 5 and 7), about 100 g of a good TARDIS-y blue yarn, worsted weight (I got mine from Knitpicks.com – it’s Wool of the Andes in Winter Night), and a bit of white, also worsted.

Cuff: CO 36 st in smaller needles with blue yarn. Work in k2, p2 rib until cuff is approx 2in long (cuff length can vary depending on how long you like your mittens – I like them to be pretty long into my coat sleeves (insert your own “it’s bigger on the inside” joke here), but this isn’t an opinion held by everyone).

Mitten body: Switch to larger needles.  All work is done in blue yarn (main color) unless otherwise noted.  (I will be pretty obvious about when you need to switch to white, and if you know your TARDIS, it should be pretty obvious when you need to do so).
Rounds 1: K all st
Rnds 2-9: K2, P6, K2, P6, K20
Rnds 10-11: K all st
Rnds 12-19: K2, P6, K2, P6, K20
Rnd 20: K all st

On Row 21, make the thumb as follows:
Left: K2, P6, K2, P6, K13, sl 7 st onto scrap yarn and CO 7 st.

Right: K2, P6, K2, P6, K2, slip 7 st on to scrap yarn and CO 7 st, K11.

Continue.
Rnd 22-29: K2, P6, K2, K6 in CC, K20
Rnd 30-31: K all st

At this point you’re going to switch back to your smaller needles and work in K2 P2 rib for about an inch and then BO.  If you are a huge freak and don’t enjoy the use of your fingers for things like using your keys or flipping off taxi drivers who almost kill you when you have the right of way, you can ignore this and just proceed to finishing the TARDIS pattern, which picks up after the CO instructions for the flap in the next section. 

Flap: Look at the mitten so the front of it is facing you (that is, the 18 stitches that make up the TARDIS pattern).  Pick up those 18 stitches onto your larger needle and also CO another 18 stitches.  Join to work in the round.

Rnd 32-36: K2, K6 CC, K2, K6 CC, K2, (K2, P2 rib for the rest of the row)
Rnd 37-39: K2, K6 CC, K2, K6 CCK20
Rnd 40-41: K all st
Rnd 42-44: K4, K10 CC, K22

Begin decreases as follows.
Rnd 45: (K2tog, K8, ssk) 3 times. 30 st.
Rnd 46: K all st
Rnd 47: (K2tog, K6, ssk) 3 times. 24 st.
Rnd 48: K all st
Rnd 49: (K2tog, K4, ssk) 3 times. 18 st.
Rnd 50: K all st
Rnd 51: (K2tog, K2, ssk) 3 times. 12 st.
Rnd 52: K all st.
Rnd 53: K2tog all the way around. 6 st.
Using a tapestry needle thread the end of the yarn through all 6 st and pull tight and secure off with some knots. 

Thumb: Using the size 7 needle, pick up the 7 st from the scrap yarn.  Pick up the 7 st you cast on as a replacement for the ones on scrap yarn.  Pick up another stich on either side of those (kind of in between the cast on and scrap yarn stitches) for a total of 16 st.  You’ll join in the round as you begin knitting.  I think I do my thumbs a bit weird, so I have to purl all the way round to create the stockinette stitch appearance on the outside of the thumb, but maybe everyone does it that way – who knows.  Either way, knit or purl all the way round to your desired thumb length.  To determine thumb length – I usually start the decreases around the middle/top of my thumbnail (or the thumbnail of the person for whom I am making the mitten, because I have freakishly short thumbs).
Dec rnd 1: (K2tog, K2) 4 times. 12 st remain.
Dec rnd 2: K all st.
Dec rnd 3: (K2tog, K1) 4 times. 8 st remain.
Dec rnd 4: K all st.
Dec rnd 5: K2tog 4 times. 4 st remain.
Use a tapestry needle to pull the end of the yarn through the remaining stitches.  Secure.

You’re done!  Now go forth and have an adventure that would make the Doctor proud (while wearing your mittens, of course).

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Note: The general flap engineering portion (how to do the CO and joining) of this pattern is adopted from this mitten pattern on Ravelry. It’s also an excellent (free!) pattern and is the first pair of mittens I ever made.  I really recommend it if you feel like knitting some non-Doctor mittens as well.  Also, you should check out Nicola’s (the designer’s) blog!  She designs other cool knits, makes patterns, and sells stuff on Etsy.

Note part two: If you have a weird white line in the middle of your mitten on the third row (see below), don’t despair!  This happened to me too.  I think it’s an artifact of carrying the floats of white from working in color.  You don’t want to NOT carry them, because mittens have fingers in them and fingers are annoyingly snag-prone.  I fixed this little boo-boo with a little fidgeting and stitching a bit of blue yarn over the white.

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hello, sewing. we meet again.

I’ve been working on developing sewing habits/abilities/habilidades (see what I did there?) for about a year now. I have to say, sewing is DIFFICULT for me.  If I don’t think about it, I screw up.  If I do think about it, then I really screw up and end up with my dress all wonky so that one half of it is always inside out no matter what I do.  My seam ripper is actually dull from overuse.  Yet…I haven’t given up.  Sometimes it takes me weeks to start projects that just sit dolefully underneath my craft cabinet, waiting as promising bits of fabric, but I haven’t forsworn sewing, much to my own surprise.  This is a surprise for me, because I hate hate hate not being good at things and I tend to stop when I know I’m kind of rubbish.  But yet, I keep going!  And now I subject everyone to it.

ANYWAY, it’s been awhile since I sewed anything other than a straight line, and I figured that I had better fix that.  My first get-back-on-this-sometimes-frustrating horse was a deceptively simple-looking tunic dress from a Simplicity pattern, so I’m not going to make a boring post about how I did this because, duh, instructions exist. (Although, I have to say, the instructions for this pattern were not good. Anything that repeatedly tells you to sew the facing on top of the facings (WHICH FACING IS WHICH, YOU JERKS?!) and expects it to make actual sense is really barking up the wrong tree.)

This dress, like many of my other sewing endeavors, did not go well. At all. I can honestly say that there are approximately one million reasons why I will probably never wear this thing.  Even though I knew that fact sometime around the second or third time I redid the shoulder straps (I just kind of gave up the re-doing of bits at take #5), I kept going.  Why? Still not sure.  I did get into a huge funk and just feel like crap about the fact that I can’t do things like match simple dots, or even probably attach the interfacing to the right side of the fabric/notice that I attached it to the wrong side before it’s too late, and the list goes on. And on. But it’s done.  And that’s that.  Below are two things: pictures of my shame (I didn’t even think the dress was worth a legit photo shoot), and a short list of the sewing lessons I have gleaned from this endeavor.

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not sooooo bad, right? just wait.

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my face in this photo succinctly describes how i feel about this endeavor.

  • On the positive side, gathers are so not scary! I vaguely remember, once upon a time, talking to my mother as she made a beautiful period piece costume floor length gown-thing complete with a corset.  She said that she thought gathers were horrible awful no good things.  I suppose they are, if you are determined to make sure each gather is spaced perfectly evenly and whatnot.  But, if like me, and you are just starting out with gathers and just want to successfully complete them but not to diamond-cutting precision, they are totally fine.  IT CAN BE DONE.
  • Pick the right fabric.  Don’t do something with light fluttery always too-wrinkly satin (which not-so-coincidentally sounds a lot like SATAN) unless you like to torture yourself.
  • Iron with caution. Iron with caution. Iron with caution. And then when you don’t iron with caution and you kind of melt a weird dime-shaped hard lump into the fabric that’s supposed to go right on your boob, keep going anyway because it is a good learning experience and you can just slap an interesting brooch on it.  (Also, crowd sourcing – is it brooch like pooch, or brooch like roach?  Help me here, classy brooch-wearing folks.)
  • Even when you already have learned one lesson from throwing ironing caution to the winds, do not accidentally get glue ALL OVER YOUR IRONING PLATE.  That stuff is no joke.  But when you do, handy tip (thanks Internet) – placing the hot iron on a dryer sheet will actually melt that stuff right off (and make your apartment smell AMAZING).  But if you do that put some newspaper or paper bags between your ironing board and the dryer sheet otherwise you will promptly ruin your ironing board while fixing your iron.  Life is a cycle of cruelty.
  • Even when you screw up to a permanent, non-fixable magnitude, lessons can still be wrought from even the most devilish of projects.  Even if the only lesson is humility. Or learning not to exasperatedly scream at such a high volume.  You will still (hopefully) love yourself even after a ginormous disaster, and oddly enough you might look forward to the next project, where you (hopefully) won’t destroy another potentially beautiful and wearable item of clothing.  Or where you vindictively rip apart the dress to turn the fabric into lining for a purse.  To each his/her own.

Next up – a dress that hopefully I will ruin to a lesser degree so I can wear it in clinic and give myself a wardrobe option besides shirts that I never iron quite correctly!