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1  KNITTING / Knitting: Completed Projects / Just Another Star Wars Scarf on: July 17, 2018 08:44:47 AM
So, my sister married a man with half-grown twin sons. For their first Christmas with us, I wanted to give them something hand-made, but the wedding was in September, and I barely had time to make ANY hand-made gifts that year, going straight from wedding crafting to frantic Christmas crafting. But I DO have one of the Innovations knock-off circular knitting machines, which make super cozy scarves. The boys share everything, but aren't big fans of matching stuff, AND they are nerdbabies after my own heart, so I decided to make them a pair of Star Wars scarves, one Alliance and one Imperial, and they switch around as the mood strikes them.

Each scarf is just a little shorter than the boys are tall, so they should be wearable for many years. For the length and fringe they use about 1 1/3 skeins of (I THINK?) Vanna's Choice, just because it was on sale when I needed it, and then scraps of the contrast color, which was done in duplicate stitch after the main body was knitted. The Innovations machine isn't awesome (but I did get it NIB for $10 at a thrift store, so it works exactly as well as I paid for), and I don't have a great setup to be able to properly weight the knitting, but as long as one is careful, and maybe slower but steady, it's pretty easy to grab mistakes as they happen, and knitting a 5ft long scarf takes very little time.

I made up the charts for the symbols based on the gauge I got, which is a different aspect ratio than most handknitting, and with a couple of exceptions I think they turned out great. I don't really like white duplicate stitch on black; it just doesn't look as well as a dark on light. And I would adjust a stitch or two on the Alliance symbol; the outside curve just where the arms start is a little wonky.

15823079_10154968795602164_4365307807818707418_n by Melissa Rotert, on Flickr
15823646_10154973273217164_9060075620887514462_n by Melissa Rotert, on Flickr

2  CROCHET / Amigurumi: Completed Projects / Descent into madness: Small Mice on: July 05, 2018 07:50:18 AM
A couple of years ago I helped a LYS owner to get ride of some old stock of knitting machines and coned yarn, and consequently I have quite a few cones of basically baby/sport weight yarn. I got bored and was playing with some of it, and found this little pattern:


And then this happened:

I gave him to my kid, who named him Squabbles and pinned him to the shoulder of her brownie sprite costume for Ren Faire. (She has since been promoted to a full fairy, and Squabbles has retired to her fairy house.)

But that all got me thinking, and then this happened:

And then, this:

At which point, I was honestly starting to wonder how my life had taken this turn and where I would wind up.

And then I learned.

It is a thormouse.

The fairy mice are all made with base colors from the knitting machine yarn, and wee wings and skirts from scraps and bits of leftover sock and baby yarns. Thormouse is made from a collection of KnitPicks Palette I bought a while back in a grab bag at Goodwill, that sort of obviously was leftovers from someone else making a plushie of some kind. Except the silver bits that hold on his cape, which are just some random metallic crochet thread of which I also had scraps.
3  CLOTHING / Costumes: Completed Projects / Iris Flower Skirt on: May 01, 2018 07:57:25 AM
My kid is a part of the fae cast at an area Ren Faire this year, and the costume is based around a Granny's Cloak moth and a purple/yellow bearded iris. The entire costume isn't yet finished (faire is a WHOLE FIVE DAYS AWAY...) but the skirt part is basically done, and I am really pleased with how it came out. The rest of the costume is a pair of yellow leggings cut off to just below the knee like a pair of breeches, a mid-purple jerkin/vest and a yellow blouse, wings made of custom-printed chiffon from Spoonflower, and a headpiece with custom-dyed ostrich feathers to look like moth feelers, and I will probably post it when finished.

Here it is from behind. The petals sit one over each hip and one like a bustle.

The front is open so as not to obstruct movement too much. Sitting will require a little getting used to, but shouldn't be too bad.

And here's a little bit about how I got there:
I started with plain white polyester satin because that's what was on sale. I got some RIT DyeMore Synthetic, in yellow and purple, and used a Crock Pot dye bath. (I then also set the color with an iron after thorough rinsing and light wash, but this piece isn't meant to be washed, really, so I also wasn't terribly worried about the dye being colorfast during laundering.

First dye bath was a dip-dye in the purple. (I also dyed a piece of fabric for the waistband and a jerkin/vest.)

Then, a dip-dye in yellow.

Next, I painted each petal with acrylic paint, allowed to dry for 24 hours, and set the paint with an iron. I did not use fabric medium. I wanted to add the bit of stiffness.

I created structures for the upper part of the petals out of Worbla and punched holes in them, sewed a piece of marabou down the center vein of each petal, then stitched the petal to the Worbla using buttons as anchors to prevent stress points.

Then I sewed the petals onto a waistband, again using the buttons as anchors, and the whole thing is further supported by a belt.

All in all, I think it looks quite strikingly realistic.
4  CLOTHING / Clothing for Kids: Completed Projects / Leggings Set from Self-Designed Fabric on: March 15, 2018 09:19:59 AM
When I found out my niece was pregnant, I got a wild hair to design some fabric especially for the baby. We worked at a haunted house together some years back, and my niece's character was an alien, so the fabric turned out to be alien/space-themed. I designed a main fabric and then several colorways of a companion fabric (only one of which I ended up liking at all), and had a swatch collection printed from Spoonflower on the organic cotton knit. I also included a swatch of larger-sized individual motifs to use as patches. Once I was happy with the fabric, I had some fat-quarters printed on the same knit, and I'm working through making a number of pairs of leggings and some little matching T-shirts.

The T-shirts are all from Target's spring 2018 stuff, because the colors were nice.
I used the ToddAh baby legging pattern and tutorial here, in size 18mo, with a few changes: http://toddah.net/little-leggings-tutorial-with-free-pattern/

I used fat-quarters, because they had a sale, and there is VERY little left over after cutting. Plus, they'll turn out to be more of a capri-length, which is good for spring, but also was as long as I could make them.

Changes include: I am pretty much limited to working with a zigzag for stretch fabrics; no overlock, and no fancy stretch-stitches or double-needles. I don't prefer the zigzag for visible stitches, but I don't really have the fabric to spare... it's complicated. But in any case, I decided to do self-fabric or contrasting fabric leg bands, using fabric from the swatch sample, instead of using a zigzagged hem. This also helped me get back some of the length I lost due to the fat-quarters. I did use a zigzag on the waistband, but for the most part that bit doesn't get seen. Also on the waistband, because it made me want to break something, I didn't follow the instructions of folding over and ironing 1/4" and then again the width of the elastic, sewing down and making a casing. Instead, I marked 1/4" on my elastic, sewed it to itself, then sewed 1/4" of the fabric onto the elastic, and folded the elastic over until the edge was hidden, then sewed that down. It worked BEAUTIFULLY. A little ironing did away with the small bit of puckering I got.

And here is the first pair of leggings:

As you can probably tell, and it drives me batty, but I have been assured that normal people will not notice, the swatch fabric was slightly different colors from the fat quarter. Grrrr.

And here you can see the direction I'm going with the "suite":

There will be one pair of the companion fabric leggings and two pair of the alien fabric leggings, only with white fabric cuffs, using blank bits from the swatch collection. I really wanted to do one pair with stretchy lace, but the gal at Joann's looked at me like I was a sex-worker, and that she had a very low opinion of sex-workers, when I asked if they carried any lingerie lace... (They don't have any stretch lace in my entire store?!) I really didn't feel like ordering and waiting for any more bits before this stuff got made. My grandniece is just into the size, and will have a lot of good spring weather coming up for which these will be perfect. So no more putting it off. I have gotten confirmation that they fit perfectly with some room to grow, and I will probably get the other two pair and T-shirt done this afternoon!

ETA: the second and third pair!

And, because the scrap pile from my cotton jersey sheet to dolman sleeved blouse was sitting there looking at me as I was cutting the others, I made a bonus little pair of shorts while I was at it.
5  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: Reconstructed / Cotton Jersey Sheet Into Top on: February 27, 2018 06:54:01 AM
So, a while back I found some twin-sized 100% cotton jersey sheets at my local thrift store, new in package. They were $4, which is actually more than I usually spend on clothes when thrifting (I'm a sale master), but the pattern was a very pretty sort of cottage chic floral print in nice colors, both sheets added up to a nice bit of fabric, and I can always use extra pillowcases, so it was worth it. (I later learned they are from Wayfair.)

I have also never worked with jersey (or really any knit, so far as sewing is concerned) and I am making a little suite of T-shirts and leggings for my grand-niece out of a custom fabric pattern I designed on Spoonflower. That isn't inexpensive, and I don't have a serger, so I really wanted to get some experience working with knits to avoid ruffled seams and such.

Then this happened:


I totally winged the pattern (get it? winged... because it's a batwing...  ... ) and I probably did everything in the wrong order, but I'm really happy with how it turned out. The only thing I really needed a measurement for was, since I wanted something long that would sort of bunch up at the waist, the bottom is measured around my upper hips with some negative ease, and then just some generous waist length. I don't have anything fancy like a tailor's curve or anything, so the shape of the sleeve is the curve of a 6qt oval crock pot lid, and the length of the sleeves was determined by how much fabric I had. (One twin fitted sheet with the elastic and corners removed, folded in half, and then however wide I could make the pieces out of what was left, basically.) I managed to avoid any real puckering, and the fabric pattern works great for the style of shirt. The neckline isn't perfect; were I to do it over (which I still could, I suppose) I would make the neck a little wider, and I'd make the actual piece of neckline fabric shorter than I did, so it laid a little flatter, but for my first try at most of the things here, I think it looks great. Fits great, too, and now my sister wants me to make her one. Since I happen to have the flat sheet, yet, that's entirely possible. Cheesy
6  CLOTHING / Costumes: Completed Projects / Thor: Dark World Vest on: February 23, 2018 01:04:26 PM
I was asked  to help a guy who looks SO MUCH like Thor make a slightly-extra Thor cosplay based on the Dark World armor, which has a little bit of knot-work look to the design. The guy had a store-bought Thor costume, and other handcrafters made him an actual (very heavy) steel Mjolnir, dragon-scale chain mail for his arms, and hard-leather bracers. I made his vest and cape.

I have never made any cosplay armor pieces before, so I spent a LONG time just THINKING about this stupid thing, and letting anxiety prevent me from starting it. But eventually, I got it done.

And this is what I started with:

First I drafted out a simplified set of shapes for the armor pieces, in layers in Photoshop so I could then enlarge it and print each piece individually at the appropriate size. (For reference, I actually still have this file in PSD format, if anyone were ever interested in my "pattern". It doesn't include everything. There are some hangy-downy bits and a back panel just with belt fastenings. But the basic shapes are there, and it could be made to just about any size.) Then I cut them out of my materials, which were:

Once a month my local Goodwill stores do every item of clothing in the store for $1 each, and that includes leather goods, and on this day, I just basically grabbed everything made of leather in the store. It was $16. It included two leather dusters, both of which had some damage that would prevent them from really being used as coats. I took them apart and of course it was all garment-weight leather, and too thin for this purpose, but a lot of it was not the butter-soft type of leather, but a tougher hide, even though it was still thin. I used that, and folded over, glued down, and stitched most of the edges, and in some cases I also added a second layer of leather, but since most of the pieces were going to overlap other pieces anyway, and there would be multiple layers of leather there, each individual piece was treated differently.

I also bought and took apart an old brass umbrella stand and used that for the brass bits on the front of the vest, and then put the whole thing together with brass rivets from Tandy Leather. I wish I still had a picture of the cape from behind. It's 2 yards of ultrasuede manipulated to drape a certain way, and it turned out great. The sort of pauldron look was accomplished using the BIG foam shoulder pads from the more 80's of the two leather dusters.

And yeah. So there's that. It might be one of my best costumes yet.
7  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Leather Sporran on: February 23, 2018 08:50:57 AM
I am making a leather knife roll for my husband, who is a chef, and to practice, I made a sporran for a friend of mine using a part of the hide I bought for the knife roll. It was my very first leather project. The leather carving turned out pretty badly, but I also only had two leather-carving tools, and the rest, including the scoring, was entirely improvised.  All in all, the rest of it turned out rather well. I was pleasantly surprised that my hand-sewing skills translated as well as they did. I made the pattern myself after looking at about 7 different tutorials.

8  KNITTING / Knitting: Completed Projects / Paw Stocking on: February 23, 2018 08:23:13 AM
I designed a paw stocking for my sister's puppers. It uses short rows for the toe/paw shaping, instead of working flat and then individually shaping each toe and having to weave in ends, and it works pretty darn slick! Then there's a two-color fulled patch too. I love the way it turned out.

9  FIBER ARTS / Weaving: Completed Projects / Fingerloop Braiding for Tunics on: February 22, 2018 02:05:28 PM
I've been fascinated with Fingerloop braiding lately. It's a technique I learned sitting in my best friends' bedroom as a tween, making friendship bracelets a NEW way. Little did I know that 2 decades later, I'd be researching this authentic 16th century trim-making technique for ren faire costuming applications. I love that 12 year old me was carrying on a centuries old oral handcrafting tradition without even knowing it.

My kid was a brownie sprite in a local ren faire for a couple of years, and I made most of her costume pieces, and since I could, I decided to weave up some trim for the two tunics, quick like a bunny, and this is how it turned out.

10  CLOTHING / Costumes: Completed Projects / Easy Fancy Cape Tutorial on: February 22, 2018 10:06:14 AM
Some time ago I made a cape for a friend's Little Red Riding Hood costume, but it needed to really use the fabric to it's every advantage, because she couldn't afford to spend too much on yardage. It didn't have to be especially long; in fact it was a sort of Victorian-themed costume, so a shorter cape was appropriate. Here's what I came up with:

This uses exactly 2 yards of 54" wide wool blend suiting material. Below is a diagram, and below that is an explanation of the diagram, which may or may not be self-explanatory.

So. Most wool-blend suiting comes in the approx 60" widths, which are usually closer to 54" to 56". Buy 2 yards, and make sure you get a cut that's as close to the grain as possible, but everything is approximate anyway, so there's wiggle room.

Start by cutting your fabric as long as it is wide. set aside the extra, which should be about 18", and then even up the square, and either deliberately fray all four edges (this is what I did for this example), or hem or fray-check them, or add any edging decorations. From one corner, measure 18" up both connecting sides, then mark an arc from point to point, with an 18" radius. Set this aside for now.

Now, with the bit you cut away: Cut into three even strips. If you can get three strips 6" wide, then great, but it's more likely you'll get 4" or 5" wide with some scrap left over due to evening out the store cut, etc. Sew these strips together into one long strip. Edge them however you want; ribbon edging, frayed, pinked, etc., but keep in mind they will be gathered a LOT. (In fact, you CAN just use 2 strips, really.) As with the other edges, I left mine frayed.

Now, you're going to run two rows of gather stitches equidistant from both edges, and between 1.5" and 2" apart. (So, if you have a 5" strip, run gathering stitches 1.5" in from both edges, leaving a 2" channel down the middle.) Now, this is a little finicky, but you're going to gather these up to slightly different lengths. Lay your strip down so that the center of the strip lays along the arc you marked on your square of fabric, and gather until both ends of your strips butt up flush with the edges of the cape, and the ruffles lay flat in a smooth arc, always with the center of the channel running along the marked arc. Pin well, and sew the gathered strip down along the gather stitches. (Later, if you have patience, you can pull the gather threads out.)

You're basically done. I just folded the point back about 6" and tacked it down, then ran a big ribbon through the gathered channel and tied in front. It's a super quick project if you just need a "plain" cape. It turns out something a little fancy and swishy and ruffly, without even adding any additional decorations. But simple steps to fancy it up even more include running a fancy edging along all the sides, sewing in a lining in the hood part (inside the arc) or just use two squares of fabric to line the whole cape, adding a tassel to the point in back, etc.
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