Sunday, December 12, 2010

project: another laptop sleeve


I cannot find the cable that connects my camera to my computer. I knew that technology would be the end of me someday, but I figured it would be dropping the hairdryer in the bathtub or connecting jumper cables to a car battery incorrectly, not misplacing a simple cord. It will turn up eventually--things like that always do--but I have only crappy phone pics to document projects until it does.

I've been busy--not really busy with things in keeping with the theme of Craftology 101, but good things. Milwaukee continues to offer new experiences, as I hoped that it would. I started a job and then started a different job. There have been new restaurants, new stores, new people, new places for walks, new parks, and a new bike. Also, putting together a house after being a traveler for a year takes a long time, especially when working with picky taste (mine) and a limited budget (mine again). Most of the stuff I used to have I just don't have anymore thanks to the pre-flight purge of July '09. I've hemmed curtains and hung curtain rods (with my new cordless drill), framed pictures, scouted for furniture at antique and second-hand stores, organized my new craft closet, and even splurged on a few fancy decorative pillows for my bed that I can't stop touching. (They're metallic! and swirly! and ruffly!)

This weekend, I finally made something from scratch for the first time in a long time. (The promised quilted coverlet in the July 4 post doesn't count because I'm not done with it yet, but it's going to perfect in my gray and white room. The curtain I mentioned below DID happen, and it's hanging in the kitchen window.)

I made a laptop sleeve for my mom for Christmas. She wanted to steal mine when I was home in June, so at least I know that she'll like it.  The animal print fabric is a strong choice, but she just got a brown and white zebra print throw for her living room that she can't stop talking about, so I think I'm safe.

I think I did a much better job this time with the double-fold bias tape trim. That stuff was so hard for me to figure out at first, but I can usually wrangle it without any problems now. I even edged the raw seams on the inside and managed to pull off a mitered corner this time without even looking for instructions!

I usually like to pull out a less dominant color when selecting a complementing trim, but nothing in the fabric store matched the blue, yellow, or green in the flap material. Red was really the only option this time, and I think it looks fine.

The walking foot that I purchased for my sewing machine has become my favorite add-on attachment, and it certainly helped here in quilting the straight diagonal lines. (It's hard to see because of the crappy pictures. Sorry.) The foot is cool because it keeps the layers of fabric from bunching up as they move through the machine, which would be pretty hard to do by hand. (For this project there are three layers--top printed fabric, cotton batting, and bottom printed fabric for the inside of the sleeve.) I guess you could try using the fusible polyester batting if you didn't want to use a walking foot, but that stuff is weird.

Cute, right? She'll be pleased. She loves it when we have the same stuff. (And yes, she sent me a zebra print throw for my living room, too.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

project: fail

I made curtains for my new kitchen this week. I attached the rod to the wall, cut the fabric, sewed the pieces together, and hung the curtains.

They are the ugliest curtains in the history of time.

I will not be including a picture; they're that terrible.

I am not defeated! I will triumph! I will record the success! (Just not today.)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

upcoming project: quilted coverlet

These fabrics, purchased yesterday, will soon be a coverlet for my bed. I can't wait to get started. I'm painting the now-white room, too, based on the colors in this group. What do you think? Cream?

Update (8/11/10): I painted my room. It's now gray (zircon to the folks at Benjamin Miller). Lovely!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

project: laptop sleeve

When I bought my laptop in November 2008, I grabbed a protective sleeve at the store. A plain, white sleeve, which was my preference over black, the only other option. “I need something right away,” I thought. “This'll do for now, but I’ll get a better case soon, something more colorful.” I never did.

Until now!

I made this using instructions from One-Yard Wonders, a book put together by the ladies at Crafty Planet, a fantastic craft store in Minneapolis.

The sleeve fits my MacBook perfectly and is quilted with one layer of cotton batting to protect the computer. If I made another one, I'd use a thicker poly batting or two layers of cotton. The black-and-white material is home decorating weight fabric, which makes the case feel fairly sturdy.

It was very easy and didn't take long at all to finish once I started, but I guess you could say it took me a year and a half to make as I'd intended to come up with an alternative to that sterile white sleeve ever since I walked out of the store with it.

I quilted by sewing on select white lines that make up the flowers using invisible thread. The most challenging part was trying to keep track of where I'd quilted--that invisible thread is almost impossible to see, so I sort of felt my way along. Sewing the double-wide bias tape over the raw edge around the top was also a bit difficult, but I think all of those quilts I've been making lately helped improve my skills with this formerly scary stuff.

One big mistake: I used some Velcro strips that I had in my sewing stash. Normally, this would have been an excellent use of on-hand sewing supplies, but I had sticky-back Velcro. My sewing machine did not like sewing through sticky-back Velcro. I had to attach part by hand. The end result: frustration and cleanup. The sticky stuff kept pulling the thread out of the machine needle, so I'd sew a bit and have to rethread. I figured out pretty quickly what was happening, but I had to clean a sticky sewing machine needle and then clean the needle I'd used for the hand sewing. Annoying, but worth it in the end.

You can see that I used bias tape to cover the raw seam on the inside. I like the clean look of the colored tape and the black-and-white fabric.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

guest post: glass etching

Susan, frequent reader and guest poster two times over, tried etching glass recently, something that I've wanted to do for a long time. Here's how she did it, in her own words.

Q: That's a pretty plain jar. Where'd it come from?
A: It was a peanut butter jar in its former, non-etched life.
Q: Was it easy to etch the glass?
A: Yes. I let the etching compound work for five minutes before I rinsed it off.
Q: Weren't you afraid that the etching cream would etch the bottom of your porcelain sink?
A: You bet I was! But I used plenty of water and it didn't seem to be a problem.
Q: Cling vinyl? Is that sticky enough to stop the cream from oozing under the mask?
A: I was impressed by the performance of the cling vinyl masking material. It really worked! The metallic stickers did the job too, though I couldn't reuse them like I can with the cling vinyl.
Q: Wasn't it hard to get the letters on straight?
A: Oh, yes, but nothing that a few cuss words couldn't help.
Q: It looks like you used a really cheap brush. Did you?
A: Yep; the cheapest I could find. It was perfect. 1" was just right.
Q: I've heard that etching cream is really expensive. How did you afford it?
A: Yes, it is! The bottle I bought was $30 at Michaels, but I had a coupon for 50% off, and my husband went out of town so he didn't know how much I spent on it.
Q: Did you read all the instructions about the caustic cream before you opened the bottle?
A: Yes.
Q: Did you wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection?
A: Yes. (Note: If you know Susan at all, you know that the answer to this question should really read, "OF COURSE! Yes!" --Ed.)
Q: Did you have a window open nearby?
A: Yes.
Q: Did you burn your lungs or go blind or have to drink lots and lots of milk?
A: No.
Q: Wasn't it easier to read the salt jar's contents before when it was written in Sharpie marker on the glass?
A: Um, yes.
Q: Don't you think this would work better for labeling dark substances, like dried black beans?
A: Indeed. Maybe next time I'll use bigger letters.
Q: This is such a cool idea, it can't possibly be yours. Where did you find the idea?
A: My friend Darcie mentioned a ReadyMade blog post she'd read; I used the techniques they used.
Q: Looks like you made a big mess on the kitchen counter. How long did it take to clean it all up? (Or did you?)
A: Yes, I did. My visiting friend set a good example for me and I had everything put away in under 10 minutes. Painless!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

project: bib and blanket set

I probably shouldn't post this until I actually give the gift to my friend, but too bad! These things are too cute to keep to myself any longer!

Remember those bibs I made a few posts back? I made quilted blankets to match.

After finishing that huge, crazy-looking quilt, thereby earning veteran quilter status, I thought this project would be a snap. It was certainly a lot easier than it would have been three months ago. The scale of each of these blankets was much more manageable, and I knew what I was doing, but it still took FOR-EVER. There's just no way to make shortcuts around any of the steps. With the large and small projects alike, I still had to measure, cut, layer, baste, and quilt the blankets and then measure, cut, pin, seam, iron, and attach the binding. Fine, no problem, I love it, but wow--I should have mailed this two weeks ago and I'm just now packing it up to take to the post office. Handmade gifts take time and I rarely leave enough myself enough of it.

I used cream-colored flannel with the red border and white flannel with the blue border. The reason? I had cream-colored flannel in my fabric stash and used it up with one blanket and the fabric store had only white in stock when I needed more for the other. Oh well. It worked out okay; I like the blue with the white and the red with the cream.

Using my sewing machine for free-motion quilting is getting much, much easier. There's definitely a technique to moving the fabric through the machine so that you get an even pattern (without breaking a needle; I've lost only one so far), and I think you can tell that the blue-bordered blanket is more finely quilted. The lines are closer together and the curves are a little more fluid. I like the openness of the quilting on the red-bordered blanket, too, but it was the first blanket that I quilted and I think you can tell. Maybe not. I don't know. I like both of them.

The border is a French binding, which means that I attached it to the front of the blanket with the machine and sewed it by hand on the other side. This is what is killing me. Yeah, machine quilting the blanket takes time (three to four solid hours for a blanket that's about one square yard), but hand-stitching the binding to the back takes me three or four nights sitting on my ass in front of the TV doing nothing but sewing for at least the length of two old movies (both versions of Imitation of Life for my last sewing session), or Casino Royale with commercial interruptions on SyFy. First of all, that's a lot of time; second, it absolutely kills my fingers (needle pricks, cramping, etc.); third, my hands and fingertips get so dry from handling fabric for so many hours a day that I'd resorted to slathering Aquaphor on my hands and covering them with cotton sleeping gloves for at least two nights after I finish a project. Super sexy, friends. For my next quilted project, I'm going to try attaching the binding by machine only.

Monday, March 15, 2010

project: quilt

I can't believe I finished a whole quilt.

Have you ever had a piece of material that you absolutely love? A print that you hesitate to use because after it's gone, it's gone? I had a piece like that--two pieces of the same print but with different color schemes.

I wanted to make something with the fabric, but I didn't have a lot of it (about 3/4 yard of each) and I don't make clothes (yet?), so anything wearable was out. If you follow me on, you'll see that I recently read Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. (Thanks, Jefferson County Public Library!) After flipping through the book for about a week, I eventually settled on the "Summer Breeze Quilt," but I'd use the dance material supplemented by a few things in my stash plus matching bits that were on sale at Hancock.

Two weeks later, I finished.

Go ahead. You can say that it's downright ugly; I won't be offended. Quilting purists would say that my quilt is horrific. To be honest, it's a little busier than I wanted. When first laying out all of the pieces, I was shocked and almost started over, but cutting everything out takes SO MUCH TIME that I sucked it up and continued. Now, after staring at the thing for so many days in a row, I'm starting to really like it. It's hard to think that you are supposed to pick some fabrics that serve more of a background purpose (i.e., plain) and some that are in the foreground, especially when I always want everything that I pick to count.

This was a challenging project. I've never sewn anything so large (twin-bed size) and with so many pieces, and there were things I had to do that I'd never done before. Use the walking foot on my machine. Drop the feed dogs and use the darning foot for free-machine quilting. Make and attach binding. Hand baste the layers together. Work with large swaths of cotton batting.

As it turns out, I messed up a bit. The material that I loved so much? Yeah, I didn't have enough of the pink stuff and ended up patching in some orange floral (see first photo). And the measurements in the pattern were a little screwy, so I also ended up using a big patch of flannel on the back of the quilt because I didn't have enough of the pink polka-dotted fabric (see below). Know what? I LIKE the orange floral. And the flannel patch on the back is really soft on your bare feet. Mistakes? What mistakes?

The most unexpected result of this project is that I learned how to use my machine for free-motion quilting. (See the swirly bits below). That's due to a bit of a mistake, too. I didn't know this before, but with quilt batting, you're supposed to secure it either by making ties through all of the layers with yarn or by quilting so the batting doesn't get all squinched up with use. I'd planned to leave the long strips of pink dots plain (no ties, no quilting), but that would have resulted in a mess in a few months. I didn't want to use yarn ties and I refused to HAND QUILT such a large piece, so I learned how to prepare my machine for free-motion quilting, practiced on some scraps, and ta-da! I'm totally hooked now.

This isn't a speedy hobby. I chose to bind the quilt with a double-fold (or French) binding, which means that while I attached the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, I sewed it to the back by hand with an invisible ladder stitch. A friend asked how long, in television seasons, this project took, and I think was about four and a half seasons of Angel. So, "last minute?" Probably not. But I can't wait to get started on my next quilt.