This project was inspired by a bout of lusting after all the clothes in Sundance Catalog. All the nice (expensive) basics in that catalog seem to be just good quality but ordinary things with a creative twist that make them unique and special. I was at Costco after drooling over that catalog one day and I saw this pink sweater, which looked to me like something the catalog would have sold, but with cute embroidery along the front and at a markup of about 400%. So I bought the sweater for $29.99 and decided it wouldn’t hurt to try and give it the twist myself. I used Curio yarn from Knitpicks and some instructions from this booklet because I am absolutely not a person who knows how to hand embroider. I had to pick out at least as many motifs as I stitched on, but I was happy with the final product. I probably should have practiced some stitching on something that wasn’t my sweater first, but I didn’t, and really it turned out fine. One of my concerns with this project was how well it would wash, but I did launder it on gentle and hung it to dry and it doesn’t seem worse for wear. I’ve been keeping a Pinterest page now of “plain sweater rehab” ideas, so maybe I’ll do this again on a thrift store cardigan or even a tee. It’s always fun to learn a new crafty skill! I’m amazed by the lovely embroidery that some people can do; I hope to learn how to do it better.
I hope my sister-in-law doesn’t mind her gift sharing a post with a dog collar! Both of today’s items go around necks that are dear to me. Giggle. This is a crocheted necklace I made as a birthday gift. I got this idea from Pinterest, and it originated on Craftsy. I used Gloss lace-weight yarn from Knitpicks because I already had some, then put it on a black metal chain. I felt like it needed to hold its shape so I soaked it in some Stiffy (why oh why is it called that?) that was a little watered down, and now it’s just right. It holds its shape without looking…stiff. Now that I’ve made this and given it away, I sort of feel like making another one for myself. I could just make sure not to wear it where Molly is, right?
I got some new embroidery software for my birthday. My embroidery machine is a simple, inexpensive model (the Brother PE 500), but it does basically all I think I’d want in an embroidery machine. I’ve considered upgrading to a bigger or more complicated model, but I like things that are simple and straightfoward, and I really appreciate owning things I can afford to replace if a rowdy child “accidentally” knocks it across the room. One thing I wished my machine had was more fonts, and the ability to lay out more than one line of text at a time. So for my birthday I got this Letter It! software. It’s great, and it makes me feel like I can now get even more out of my little machine. It works basically like a word processing program. It comes with a nice variety of fonts, and you can purchase and import more if you want. Then you lay out your text just the way you want it to look on your final product–with multiple lines, mixed fonts, and distortions like curves if you wish–and then just save it as a file that you send over to your machine. I tried it out on this collar for my dog Belle. I liked being able to line up her name and my phone number just the way I wanted it, and she likes not having a dangling metal tag.
This is a baby gift I did for a friend who is pregnant with twins. She’s having one boy and one girl, and she likes colorful tie-dye prints and rainbow things. I bought the machine embroidery pattern for the arrow on Etsy, and I knitted the hats out of self-striping, washable yarn. I thought these were so cheery and cute that it almost made me want to have twins. Okay, that’s actually not true at all. But they are cheery and cute!
These are some gloves I made last winter for my niece. She (like every other small girl, it seems) likes to pretend she’s Elsa from Frozen. Since gloves are kind of central to being Elsa during part of the movie, I thought it would be cute to make her an Elsa-inspired pair. I thought the lace pattern from the Edge-of-Lace hat and mitts I’ve made before were reminiscent of snowflakes, so I used it for the cuffs, then decreased to make child-sized mitts. I used acrylic yarn so they’d wash up easily. My niece seemed pleased with them.
The store-bought wallet I’ve been carrying for a while got a broken zipper recently. I’ve made wallets successfully in the past, but I was kind of tired of the same pattern, plus the cards always seem a little loose in that one. I decided to try a wallet pattern in the Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders book. (Am I developing a slight obsession with those books and their yarn counterparts? I hope not, but maybe. They do always seem to be just-the-right-size projects for the time I have available.) This wallet is supposed to be made out of quilting-weight fabric and interfacing, but I had canvas I wanted to use, partly because of the sturdiness and partly because I had this color scheme in mind. I purchased an embroidery file that I thought coordinated with the black and green fabric I wanted to use for the inside.
The pattern was easy enough to follow, and I thought the machine embroidery turned out well, and did coordinate with the lining fabric. The problem came when it was time to topstitch around the whole almost-completed wallet. The bulky ends of the my canvas made the edges of the wallet too thick for my machine to sew over. I tried it anyway, and it looked awful. Then I realized I also didn’t have enough room to slide my cards inside. I followed the pattern and the seam allowance faithfully, but perhaps my canvas added too much bulk in that regard too? In any case, I had to rip out all the black topstitching around the whole wallet. It was a beast, and it caused snags in my fabric in several places and even one tiny hole in a prominent corner. Sigh. And I’m out of the lining fabric again. Seam-ripping is the worst! The wallet still functions acceptably well, and the places that were damaged due to my ripping out the topstitching could pass as minor wear marks, which a wallet would certainly collect quickly anyway. I’m going to use it for now, and see if my motivation comes back around to try another one in a different style (and different pattern) sometime soon.
I’ve been a busy elf. Not the cute kind with the ears and the pointy shoes, but the kind with dark circles under her eyes who knits after everyone else goes to sleep and occasionally skips real meals in favor of bourbon and cookies. But a happy one! I love this time of year and try to relax my standards for everything else instead of aspiring to holiday and household perfection.
I bought a set of dishtowels to use as hostess and similar gifts this year. They seem to be a nice weight for both actually drying dishes or hands but not obscuring the embroidery. I like to actually use my towels–not just hang them up for show–and I assume my recipients do too. I put the embroidery design directly onto some of them, and then one I did like an applique and sewed it onto the towel. I like how both turned out. I’ve blanked out the names in some of the pictures so I don’t spoil my own surprises.
The pillowcases are for the throw pillows in my living room. I was down to just scraps of fabric that match this room, so I made what I had left go pretty far on these. The embroidery files on the pillows and one towel include the adorable deer file which is free on Emblibrary this month, and a set of vintage-inspired designs I bought. I colored in the Santa with permanent marker to make him stand out a bit more. Don’t want Santa to fade into the background!
Since last spring I’ve had this niggling feeling that I should better organize our math manipulatives. We use the homeschool math curriculum Right Start Mathematics, which is a good fit for me and my third-grader, and it comes with lots and lots of little bits and pieces and sets of cards. I have a small secretary desk in my living room that is dedicated to holding our math supplies. The problem was that I couldn’t close it anymore because it was so crammed full with our manipulatives, cards, and the various sandwich bags or dog-eared envelopes I was employing to hold them. I bought some white zippers in bulk and used canvas left over from our field trip bags to make 13 zipper bags for our math supplies. I took the time to embroider a label onto each bag, which seemed like “OMG, have I really become a person who embroiders labels on to homemade canvas bags to hold math manipulatives?” but yes, it seems I have. Assuming we stick with this curriculum, I’ll be using these supplies for many more years, and I’d have been mad if my previous disorganized system had caused me to have to re-purchase supplies I could have kept track of better. I am not, under any circumstances, going to follow this project up by crocheting a cozy for our abacus. So here we go. Hopefully these bags and I will have quite a future together, and it’ll be worth the time spent when my current toddler learns her fractions with their help. And if there is just a little voice in the back of my brain that says, “really? You made special bags to hold math supplies?” I’ll just tell it to shut up. In Latin, because that’s all homeschool-y, right?
These towels were a just-for-fun summer project. I get tired of our standard, Costco cotton towels. I love things that look old, rumply, beautiful and real, like vintage linen hand towels. So I bought a yard of stonewashed white linen and had fun making eight new towels with a vintage look. They come out of the dryer just as they are pictured–rumpled but not wadded. They are very absorbent and dry quickly. I used my embroidery machine to embellish four to match my upstairs bathroom, and another four for down. (I don’t think they all showed up for the photos.) I don’t do laundry quite often enough for these to be our only hand-towels, but they are all in frequent use and it makes something as ordinary as washing my hands into a nicer experience. Why not?
I’ve been into zippered pouches lately. It all started with the purchase of a colorful zipper assortment from an Amazon.com seller, and then kind of took off. I’ve made medium-sized bags for my mother and mother-in-law, cute little boyish belt packs for a couple of Worth’s friends, a beach coin purse for myself, and this little zippered purse for a friend’s one-year-old. Somehow I only managed to snap a photo of this one. It’s fully lined with the same fabrics as the exterior and should be just right for stashing all her toddler sundries. Babies love bags, and zippers too.
I made another composition book cover like the ones I did as favors for Worth’s birthday party, this time covered in exterior decorator fabric and embellished with the recipient’s name. I like this as a gift idea because most anyone of any age could use a pretty composition book cover, whether they are headed to third grade or to a meeting.
I also got a little crafty with the idea of reusable gift bags. I saw these hefty vinyl bags at the Dollar Tree. They are the size of small gift bags, but made out of the same stuff as the reusable shopping bags. I laminated a gift tag and tied it to the bag with ribbon, then wrote the appropriate names in dry-erase marker on the tag. I’m hoping it can be regifted many times.
For Mother’s Day we used this Pinterest idea and decorated pots for the grandmothers. The big kids painted the sky and clouds, then Daphne lent her wee little footprints as the butterfly wings. I thought these turned out to be quite charming gifts and I liked that they involved all three kids.
My blog is not among the things foremost in my mind lately, in this season of snow and ice and ballet lessons and diapers and learning phonics and fixing hot meals and gluing Valentines and getting babies baptised and preparing for birthday parties and reading novels late at night and watching my daughter sew and…you get the point. But I’ve carved out a little moment in this coffee-fueled afternoon to prove to myself that I have something to show for my labors, besides the usual (and priceless) web of love and connection that I’m always working on but can never photograph.
We aren’t big television watchers at my house, but do enjoy keeping up with the Olympics. Through some combination of moments of prime-time viewing on our rarely-used antennae-powered basement tv, online video streaming, the newspaper, and a homeschool unit I designed on the history of the Olympics with a bit of Russian history thrown in, we’re enjoying the Sochi Games. (Aside: what it is with me and run on sentences today?) It feels a little sketchy that we enjoy watching great feats of strength, grace and athleticism while sitting on our own bums eating pretzels, but it does provide some inspiration anyway, right? It’s like the Pinterest of sports. We’re just browsing, but it reminds us of the grace and strength our bodies (or at least some people’s bodies!) are capable of. Dorothy and Worth have enjoyed the spectacle of the opening ceremonies and have each “adopted” an athlete to follow. They’re becoming aware of sports they don’t ever see here in Kentucky, and of the rush of competition. I saw an online advertisement for Team USA t-shirts and was inspired to provide my little Olympian-wannabes with some home-team shirts of their own to support their patriotic spirit. These are just store-bought shirts that I’ve embellished with scrap fabric and my embroidery machine, but they were fun to design and create. Daphne also got little red and white bloomer-style pants, based on a pattern in Making Baby’s Clothes.
A friend of mine recently asked if I’d like to contribute baby bibs to a fundraiser she was hosting for a charity in Africa. I was glad to, especially since bibs are easy to do assembly-line style and I could use the opportunity to get all the baby bibs done I had in mind for my new one at the same time. I chose some global-looking batiks (all are reversible) for her fundraiser bibs and embroidered the cheeky message “Give peas a chance” on the top one. I hope they sell well!
For my own girl, I made a set of five bibs in the bright little birdie fabrics I have used for her crib bedding and quilt, then I made five more in novelty prints (ok, mostly travel trailers!) to round out her collection. These are all just basic cotton bibs that fasten at the top with snaps. I don’t remember exactly where I got the pattern, but you could cut around your own favorite baby bibs just as easily as using a pattern. The only trick to them is to clip the seam inside in plenty of places so it presses out smooth around all the curves. These are all similar to the bibs I made for Worth a few years back, but are cut a tad longer to catch more spills. These are so much softer than plastic bibs, and they hold up well to normal messes. If they get super gross I just give them a quick rinse and hang them to dry over our kitchen laundry bin before tossing them in. Otherwise I just add them in with our rags and towels as-is. They also fold up small so it’s easy to keep one in my purse once the baby’s big enough to be eating meals out and about. I won’t use any of these until she starts solid foods, but I’m glad to have them done and ready now.