Sewing away

I am hooked.  Or should I say fully stitched in.

A while back, I had taken the beginner and advanced sewing class over at  Mood U which gave me the basic skills to operate a sewing machine and pull together a fabric tote and a coat.  (Yes, a coat.)

So since then, I’ve managed to collect quite a stash of fabrics (a post or two coming on that), and have been mining the web for free patterns, sewing tutorials and ideas in general. For a novice sewer like me, all this feels like a kindergartner let loose on the playground during recess. There is just so much to learn and try.

I am a novice at this and thoroughly enjoying myself. How I envy all those seasoned seamstresses who impart their sewing knowledge as experts. But sewing, like most other skills, is learnable and doable. I have my sewing machine and an openness to learn that comes in handy when I start thinking of embarking on a project.

What encourages me is the dream to come up with wardrobe that fits me well, as I am not a perfect size anything. I’m one size from the waist up, and another from the hips down. While I would normally fit into a normal size, certain cuts become iffy. And there’s always the incentive of wearing something stylish without breaking the bank.

Being crafty like I am, I know I can do well in sewing if I put my mind (and heart) into it. Like most things we have to take time to learn, it takes practice and a lot of trial and error. But I’m loving it! My seam ripper is now my best friend. The web is my classroom. I keep getting ideas on how to make those patterns work for me.

I’m finishing up my first project based on a pattern that is one among many free patterns offered online. I will get to writing about that in time. Meanwhile, I’m back and hopefully will be here more, chronicling my sewing journey.

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Hello, 2018!

I always greet the new year with optimism, because it always brings in a new beginning.  In my mind, no matter how chaotic or tumultuous or completely bland the year that just ended was, there is that forever hope of things getting better, more so as we restart the clock so to speak.

So happy new year.

I’ve been ramping up my creative streak of late and can happily report that I have managed to finish a winter hat, a pair of hand warmers (only because I don’t have an existing pair of the ones I did last year!) and my embroidered scarf is almost “almost there”.

My new slouchie beanieYet another slouchy beanie.  I have spools and spools of yarn that are begging to be knitted or crocheted, and in the midst of tidying up, I actually came across a few skeins of pompom yarn that I had meant to work with as an embellishment to a white or black slouchy beanie.  Even if it took forever and a day to decide between using black or white for the actual beanie, the process of actually crocheting the hat was rather easy because I worked with an existing pattern.  Then there was the actual figuring out of (1) how to incorporate the pompoms, and (2) the placement between stitches — or how close or far I would put them together.  But voila!

New hand warmersPink hand warmers.  When fall came, I actually couldn’t remember where I put my leather gloves.  I did find my hand warmers, but only one of each pair.  I could pretend I was being funky and wear a different pink on the left and another on the right.  Besides, does anyone really pay attention?  (Yes, they do.  I know because I do.)  And again, maybe because of last year’s practice but I nailed this one despite the unstitching every now and then because I was working freeform using the fan stitch.  (Not quite sure that’s what you call it.)

At first I thought 30 stitches for the actual cuff was too tight, but then again, crochet stitches actually stretch as you pull on it this way and that. It worked well enough because I meant for the warmers to reach up to just beyond my wrist, and not all the way up my arm. That’s another project maybe for another winter.

I know it’s February and I’m going to start drafting my next post the moment I hit send.. more, more, more!

Getting organized

Getting organized: headpinsI came back from Sydney midnight Saturday, so this weekend is my first full weekend home.  I jumped back into work the Monday after and tried my best to cope with the jetlag, surviving it by sheer will and a judicious use of caffeine.  Not too much, not too little.  

Despite the stopover in Manila before and after Sydney, I didn’t bring a ton of supplies back — just three bags of headpins I had requested my sister-in-law to grab for me last minute, because I didn’t really have time to do any shopping.  

Friday night, I psyched myself up that I would just stay home this weekend and allow my body to rest and recover.  I stopped short of making plans to go this way and that and instead allowed myself the chance to just chill.  I decided to organize my head pins and eye pins and I am almost done with the two bins I focused on.  That was my idea of relaxing.

I am focusing on two bins knowing I have at least two more still stashed away somewhere.  I have not had the chance to really get down to organizing them until now, and I think I should’ve dealt with this sooner.  This is what happens when your supplies accumulate through the years, more so when I end up bringing new bins home each time I travel from Manila, and the stash usually stays on those bins instead of landing with like findings.

At the start, I organized them simply as they came.  I love the 1000 pin packs I get from Wellmanson’s in Quiapo (back in Manila), but the packs usually come bent and misshapen, so storing them means taking the time to actually flatten out the pin  Then there are the packs I buy from Firemountain Gems which usually come in smaller batches because they are pricier.  I stash those in a bin with their tags so I know what gauge and size the pins are.  It also makes for easier reordering when I find my stocks running low.  

This time around, I think I have enough of each to actually classify them into gold plated, silver plated, antique bronze and “others”.  (The latter being copper and gun metal.). I keep the sterling silver and vermeil tucked away with some gemstones I have and I don’t have enough of those  to collect into a bin.  Strangely, just going through the two bins has inspired new creative ideas which I will hopefully get to do soon.  And like my bead bins, I actually have a few cups of headpins of all shapes and sizes to go through.   I don’t always get to put them back where they belong when I’m working on projects, so they tend to accumulate in other spaces.

I’m getting ready to start creating again in time for the holidays.  And I’m thinking of new items not just for the shop, but also to give as gifts.  Organizing my current supplies is a step towards a more efficient production line for the coming weeks.  Before you know it, the holidays will be here again.

Winter Crochet Blitz

IMG_1537As of this writing, I’ve made four hats and three pairs of hand warmers.  Documenting them, though, has been a bit of slow, and posting them hasn’t been all that easy– even on my Instagram feed.  I have been happy using my yarn stock (and I am happy they are finally being put to good use!), and I am so thrilled for all the compliments I’ve been getting.  It has so inspired  me to keep trying new methods and stitches along the way…

Temperatures in New York City have been  dropping and rising unpredictably,  and yes, we’ve had our taste of snow. Occasionally, we are back to rain, but the cold sore on my lip is not a welcome occurrence.  These are the things we have to deal with, living here in the big apple.

I am very happy about how my hand warmers have literally taken shape.  Stitching a plain one for my first pair, I did the stitches vertically which helped me lay the foundation for the next.  The idea was to embellish the plain one with separately crocheted pieces later, but I found this too bulky and decided it wouldn’t work.  Maybe I should stitch a design a la embroidery by yarn instead?  I will try that later.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016I did a square pattern as the base for the second, which meant a slightly bigger than desired form.  The hands, after all, are are not without its curves.  They worked out pretty well and received compliments, but they were too wide around the fingers.  I also made the mistake of trying to tuck yarn ends into the beginning stitches of the next spool.  I tried something different for the next which proved to be more helpful and cleaner both on the front and inside of the warmers.

Just remember that I’m doing this without a pattern, same with my hats, and that means undoing rows and rows when the fit doesn’t work out.

Learning from hand warmers #s 1 and 2, I decided to try and work the rows horizontally instead of vertically, starting from the top.  I figured I would have an easier time increasing stitches down the rows rather than decreasing them if I worked from the wrist up.  Besides, the problem was really about the top where the warmers grip the fingers to keep them all cozy.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016The first step was about figuring out how many stitches would be smug enough to hold all 4 fingers.  I settled on 20 using a size J needle.  I measured after the first row of single crochet stitches which I joined to a round to see how it worked out.  (My hands, by the way, are average in size.  When buying gloves, I usually fit nicely into a Large.)  I wanted to use a stitch that I could work with without too much trouble in terms of counting, and which would hug the fingers together nicely when actually worn.  I did a shell stitch using 5 double crochet stitch, and while I had thought the 20 would fall snuggly into that scheme, it left me with half a shell at the end which required some work around.  That actually gave me the idea to bridge that row to the next by completing the shell, giving me the “increase” I was looking for to give my knuckles room.

Here’s my first attempt at trying to do a pattern:

Row 1: Chain 21, join last stitch with first.  (Leaves you 20 free.)

Row 2: (Shell Stitch) make 5 DCs on Ch3, skip two and connect shell to Ch6, SC.  Repeat until end.

Row 3: connect 5th DC into DC3 of row 1 shell, do all stitches, end row correctly. (No overlap)

Another thing I wanted to do was to be able to incorporate a change of colors in the design.  As you can see, I used three different yarns to make this particular pair.

One issue I have with the stitch is that it left open gaps were I did a shall on shell to create a round design, but I’ve found that even with those little holes, the warmers serve their purpose well.  Your hands will keep warm even with the fingers extending out like it did.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016The third was definitely an improvement on the second, and I am still looking to improve the stitching.  I might just end up undoing the first because I think it’s been shown that the better direction to go would be horizontally stitching rows to give it its proper shape.  Here are the two that I’ve worn and which people have seen.  Even shapewise, the one on the right is less clunky, and it definitely wears more comfortably.

I stitch a round of 10 single crochet on all my hanwarmers with no decrease.  You really need more allowance where the thumb is because of all the directions it moves in, more so when texting.  Besides, the stitching eventually pulls at each row making it adjust.  Any more even just by 2 and it would be a tad too wide.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016This is how it actually looks like on my hand. Not bad, don’t you think?  I’m almost afraid to try and make another one because I just loooooove the pink of this one.  Keep warm, everyone..

Looking for the right hat

Slouchy Beanie #1 in Heathered Grey yarn. Pic looks black and white but the speckles are actually more colorful. Been wearing this as the temperatures started dropping here in #NYC. Finally a beanie that doesn't give me hat hair, and hair finally longWith Fall here and winter just around the corner, the temperatures have started dropping and we’re pulling the coats out of the closet along with the usual cold weather accessories that we all don this time of the year.  If you’re like me, there’s the perpetual search for the right head gear that will keep you warm and not give you the dreaded “hat hair”.

Last year, I resumed knitting and crocheting which led to a lot of craft experiments.  (Translated: I didn’t quite finish a project.)  A year later, I’m actually hoping to make better progress.  For starters, I’ve found a crochet pattern for a slouchy beanie which I hope I can finish and wear.  I have my coterie of crochet hooks in all sizes and quite the healthy stash of yarn.  I picked out a spool of tweed yarn this morning and started the so-called “magic loop”.  If it’s as easy as it’s touted to be, it shouldn’t take me long to find out if I’m going to make another one.

Choosing a hat can be quite the dilemma.  I have no problem with wearing beanies because I have a perfectly round head (being a c-section baby), but then I have a round face and my hair used to be perpetually short which wasn’t quite flattering underneath any sort of headgear.  That’s changed a bit now with my shoulder length hair.   I also quite like the look of slouchy hats which aren’t as snug on the top of your head, giving your head room — literally.  We will see.  I haven’t seen any slouchy hats to try on so I’m making one.

So for starters, I reviewed if I am doing my double stitch right and found that I have been actually doing an extra pull all these years.  This video was helpful in reminding me how it should be done.  The pattern only uses the single and the double stitch and switches between two crochet hooks but only at the end.  The increase in the stitches in the first 9 (original) and in mine (8) are pretty straightforward and a no-brainer to follow.

I started crocheting and finished this in less than a day, and I know I would’ve been able to finish it sooner if I wasn’t doing it during breaks only.  I followed the pattern to a T and used the two hooks specified, but the hat turned out to be too big.  Following the suggestion from JennyLikesYarn who authored the pattern originally, I undid the stitches to the rows where the increases stopped and am working on 64 instead of 72 total stitches in the final rounds.  This was the second to the last row before you worked without increasing the rows.  I am also trying to gauge how much of a slouch I want my final product to have.

Although the first was obviously too big, I liked the way the adjusted hat sat on my head and yet felt warm enough to cover my ears in a comfortable yet snug way.

This pattern is easy enough even for younger crocheters to take a stab at, and it’s a pattern you can do in various colors and dress up with a button or ribbon in unlimited ways.  I’m already thinking of how I can dress up the next version I make.  Just be warned that the size of the beanie changes not only depending on the hook you use or number of stitches per round you use, but the yarn itself.  The nice thing it’s easy enough to make and undo as needed, and you can tailor fit it according to the style you want.  More coming!!

 

Upcycling Holiday Cards from friends and family into Gift Tags

Re y led Christmas cardsGreeting cards have all been sent and received.  Here’s one great way to repurpose Christmas cards from last year: make them into gift tags.

While most of your gifts must have been wrapped and given away by now, you can make a note to save the cards you get this year to work on after the holiday break.  You can even do this with your kids.  You can also watch out for those gift catalogues (like this year’s catalogue from Tiffany’s which came debossed and patterned in gorgeous snowflakes) and then use them before throwing away.  Make a mental note to save the bakers string or yarn that you come across for this very purpose, or watch out for the slimmer ribbons that will accompany the gifts you received.

You’d be surprised at how pretty these can be, more so after you personalize them with a scribbled greeting from one of the younger kids.
Re y led Christmas cards

Crochet Pieces

Disclosure: The post below provides links to the products I am using in my project which will take you to Amazon’s website in case you are interested in looking up the product.  I have also provided suggested sites you can visit if you are interested to learn more about Crochetting or purchasing Crochet kits. Please note that clicking on the link might mean a commission for me if you do purchase it from the vendor.  

Crochet has been a new-found passion the last couple of months.  I have been working on smaller pieces I hope to eventually “stitch together” later into something wearable for the coming fall and winter.  I have actually been knitting and crocheting my scarves in recent years, that is why I only buy fabric scarves, but I haven’t really gone beyond that.

I think I’m finally ready to try and craft something from the bits and pieces I have gathered in various ziploc bags, but I am a bit wary of how it will come out.  I have grouped them into patterns based on color and type of yarn and hope to create a good mix of the many pieces instead of just pulling in similar ones for a project.  I bought a grey fleck (speckled?) yarn that I hope to piece the rounds together with against an all black background.  (I am hoping to post the work in progress after the weekend.)

Meanwhile, I have been intrigued by this Icelandic sweater crochet pullover I’ve been seeing online, but a pattern for which I cannot find.  I am hoping to mimic it for the sweater tunic I’m making out of the Bernat blanket yarn I am experimenting with.  I also stocked up on the Caron one pounder which went on sale over at Michael’s around two weekends ago.  That, plus an additional 25% off coupon, allowed me to buy it at half off the original price.

I try to stick with the cotton and acrylics so that I don’t have to worry about fabric care later on.  When working with yarn, it’s always a good idea to check fabric care before purchasing it so you know it’s I remember knitting with some fancy wool-blend yarn years ago and when it was washed, it became a rag. (I had given it as a gift to my mother-in-law.). Back then and even now, I worked with fancy threads and yarns for my knitting projects because I couldn’t do the complicated stitches.  I would work designs into the scarves by switching yarn or needles.  Crochet is a different matter altogether, because I had learned this firsthand in grade school.  I can even read patterns in both the word form and diagram.

Switching yarns and needles is a little trickier for me in crochet, because I worry about how the finer and softer yarns would hold up against the tension or pull of the actual piecework.  It would be horrible to see parts of the final project fraying or hanging loose because it was carrying too much weight. But then again, I wouldn’t know until I finally pulled it together.  I am trying to confine the finer yarns as embellishments to the chunkier, hardier spools.  The set you see below will be part of a bigger crochet collage.

I will try to focus on getting a “draft” layout of the collage going this weekend, and trying to work piecing them together as I have envisioned it.  Sometimes planning one thing turns out another way when you actually execute it, and I want to see how it works on a small piece before going for the entire thing.  I guess my weekend is cut out for me.

If you’re interested in buying crochet kits, Craftsy has Crocheting kits around $10 or less, excluding shipping!. You can also visit their site below to look at available classes.
Craftsy