Working with Sari Silk Ribbon

There are times when I see some material that just calls out to me even before I know what I am going to do with it.  Sometimes I am prodded to buy something with an end product in mind.  I’ve found that it’s a little dangerous to do the former more often that not, because you end up with something you end up not using.

I can’t remember now what brought me to sari silk, but I do have quite a stash.  I think it was all those beautiful ideas for incorporate a piece of ribbon or a strip of this and that in my research.

Over the previous weekend, I came up with this new idea to actually wrap some brass bangles bought at a deep discount in one of the many accessory stores here in NYC — and that was just for starters.

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These are bits of literal saris that have been cut and repurposed to form continuous strips of say 10 yards and color coordinated to provide a colorful ball of fabric yarn.  The edges are not finished, but the raw quality actually lends a bohemian feel to the material.  The width of the strip varies from batch to batch and is not straight, so it makes for a very versatile ribbon.

Sari Silk yarn

Looking back now, I seem to remember the idea I had in mind was to actually use these to string beads or to provide a necklace for a pendant.  They are available in single colors of varying or solid hues, or in combinations like the above.  Pretty, don’t you agree?

They come in batches of 10 yards and that’s plenty for a necklace or two.  I have even tried crochetting with it, but it’s a little difficult even with the bigger chunky hooks, and the end product is a tad stiff.  So that one, I think I will need to develop first.

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In addition to my sari silk ribbon, I had also acquired some hand-dyed silk from a local designer here in New York, one time she was trying to get rid of her fabric scraps.  I used her silk scraps for the rightmost bracelet you see in the picture above.

I am definitely not done yet with these bracelets, because even from the get go, I had made up my mind that they were just base bracelets I will decorate and embellish.  I’m thinking about adding freshwater pearls, gemstone chips, and some hammered wires.  I’m taking it slow with the creative process here because I want to come up something fun and happy and colorful yet something that makes a statement.  (Now, that’s a bit of pressure there.)

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These gorgeous pinks were part of another batch of sari silk yarn.  The baby pink was actually sewn into the batch and while I could’ve easily cut it and start wrapping the bracelet from where the magenta began, I thought it would be a fun way to actually blend two different shades into one piece.    I think it came out pretty well.

So let’s see how these bracelets end up in, given a couple of days or maybe a week or two.  I’ve been carrying them in one of my vanity bags for inspiration.  If they don’t make it to the store, I might actually end up wearing them.  How’s that for some happy arm candy?

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!!

 

Sew trying hard

Week 4 at #MoodU's #IntermediateSewingClass and my #robecoatproject is taking shape thanks to @benjamin_mach and his team of #fabAssistants... Always excited to #learnsomethingnew... #sewingclasses #learningtosew #needleandthread #crafting #moodfabrics

Pardon the pun in the title but I am in the midst of a sewing crisis with my robe/coat project hanging in limbo.   I actually spent a fair amount of Saturday evening on to Sunday morning trying so desperately to make this pattern work — I ruined two sets of one face of the robe but I am NOT giving up.

The project.  We were asked to choose between a skirt, a men’s shirt, a wrap dress and a robe which can be tailor fit into a coat for women.  I chose the robe precisely because I had been wanting to make my own coat for ages but just don’t know the first thing about sewing one.  Part of our enrollment for Mood Design Fabric’s MoodU Intermediate Sewing Class was the pattern for the project we chose.

After taking basic measurements, we determined the correct size according to the patterns which came in a range.  On the second week, we cut the cloth (which I missed) and then on the third and fourth week we started sewing.

Materials.  While I can sometimes take an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out my fabric and the color, this time around, it wasn’t quite as hard being the pink lover that I am.  I had decided early on I would do a heavier fabric because I wanted it to be thick enough to keep me warm, but I couldn’t do anything stretchy as that would be a challenge to sew.  Sometimes having too many choices can be such a hassle because it makes one even more fickle-minded about which one to take.  Fortunately, I opted to go with my other fabric store where there was quite a pool to choose from, but at a reasonably smaller scale.  So pink wool is what I went for.

Cutting the pattern.  This was my first time to work a pattern with a size range, so I was made to do one basic measurement, which was around my bust.  In hindsight, I realize now I should have taken more precise measurements.  I am seriously considering getting the pattern in a smaller size than the one I got, because the shoulders would be too droopy.  On the other hand, this size was comfortable as far as the hip was concerned my pear shape.  I went for the smallest size in the range, so to downsize further would mean getting the next smaller pattern.

We were told to find the correct line pattern for the size and cut away, so cut away I did.

Cutting the fabric.  Very important: Follow the direction of the grain line on the pattern when cutting based on one.

One, I had to overcome my fear of “ruining” the project by cutting it wrong. Two, you need a flat surface (i.e. Cutting table) to lay out the fabric with the pattern on it.  Three, as long as you follow the grain line, you need not follow the cutting diagram (how the pieces should be pinned to the fabric) to the letter.  Four, if you must shorten the project as against the actual length on the pattern, fold the pattern do not cut it.  You never know if you will need the pattern at the longer length.

I am most grateful for the help of Ms. Joyce, the more senior assistant in the class — because she helped me to arrange the pattern pieces to maximize the fabric saved.  She also helped me determine by how much I should shorten the pattern and advised me to fold and pin the excess and cut around it, instead of cutting the pattern to size.  (Just in case I will need the full-size pattern for another project later.)

After pinning the pattern to the fabric, I cut the various pieces required for the project piece I wanted to work on.

Strengthening, reinforcing, edge stitching and all those other nuances of sewing garments.  The advantage of being in a class is that you get the benefit of an actual demonstration beyond the instructions that come with the pattern.  Besides actual demos that are projected onto two large screens to the right and left of the classroom, the assistants are available to give advice and help novice sewers like myself to get things right.  Despite the diagrams and instructions on the pattern guide, there is still a lot that needs figuring out which can be challenging for beginners like me.  Also, the diagrams are a little small and sometimes difficult to discern.

So there are certain “tricks” to preparing the fabric for stitching together, like reinforcing certain portions to ensure that they don’t stretch under the weight of being sewn to another piece.  After trying to stitch the neckline and the front and back of the coat no less than half a dozen times, I finally decided I would do better to baste the pieces by hand which proved helpful.  I am just not quite there yet with sewing pinned pieces together — perhaps in time.

Piecing the project together, as instructed.  This is where I valued the instructions given in the class by people who actually have the  sewing experience to back it up.  There are many ways to work around stumbling blocks which I just wouldn’t be able to do without actual personal instructions or guidance.

I am always nervous after I start putting pressure on the pedal and the machine starts to move.  Like I’ve told my friend, Willa, my seam ripper is now my best friend.  It’s a joke we share with much gusto, along with our newfound passion for learning to see.

So the project isn’t quite finished yet.  I have unstitched the lining and will hopefully get to work on it before the last class.  My coat is beginning to take shape, although there is a lot more tweaking left to be done.  I’m getting there, like I always say…

Back to Sewing School

A few months ago, I enrolled in the Beginner Sewing Class of Mood Fabric’s MoodU.  I took the six week course successfully and came out of it with a refresher in basic machine sewing and a tote bag.  I have always enjoyed learning new things and this was even doubly fulfilling because I came out of it with a new bag to lug around.

Summer came and with impending travel, I missed the succeeding session and decided to wait for the next round of classes.  Last Saturday, we had the first of six new lessons in Advanced Sewing and my sewing bag is back in use.  I do the lessons with a girlfriend and we were both excited to start this weekend routine again.  It’s the build up of the anticipation to being able to do something that gives you a concrete result you can actually use later.

For the first week, we were asked to choose which piece of garment we would take on: a skirt, a wrap dress, a men’s polo shirt or a robe which is the same pattern for a coat.  I picked the latter — because “coat” beckoned to me.

I’ve always found coat shopping a bit of a challenge, and I’ve been wanting to find a nice fitting coat in a more non-traditional fabric.  Another project brewing in my head is jazzing up an existing coat with embroidery or embellishment.  A recent scan of some magazines showed me some garments in painted denim which made me go “hmmmmmmm.”  But first, the robe.

Having measured ourselves and and then trying on the sample pieces of our garment of choice, we were given the pattern of the project we chose in the approximate size.  This class, by the way, is being taught by Benjamin Mach once again, which makes for an additional perk.  I like the way he teaches and the humor he wryly injects in between instruction sessions making the lessons even more enjoyable.  He is assisted by a very eclectic mix of competent sewing teaching assistants who add not only a lot of color but a ton of sewing experience to help us navigate our way through the project.

You receive the pattern in a range of 4 sizes and in several variations of the garment you are trying to make.  The thing is to identify your size and the kind of dashed line referring to it and cut the patterns out.  I didn’t even get to finish cutting my pattern and am going to do that during my lunch break.  There are just too many pieces and I need the room.

This golden girl is getting ready to sew!   Pattern to be cut and fabric to be chosen… must do in the next 5 days before next Saturday’s class.  Can’t wait!

Setting up shop again

#tags #branding #props #paperKrafts #store #etsystore #etsyshop #mybrand #bygothamchick

Resurrecting the shop seems to be taking a little more effort than I had expected.  Once upon a time I had opened PaperKrafts which, as the name implies, was all about papercrafted items.b in the short run that the shop was active, I think it did pretty week with the 8 sales I managed, and then it faded into oblivion.

I’ve been making cards for friends and have developed a new line of paper embellishments and have found myself with a bunch of untouched artisan handcrafted paper.  Add to that a newfound love for using pressed rose paper petals as elements for floral collage.. My crafty side kicked in and I decided I would give the shop another try.  

I have the first dozen cards ready to post, and I’ve been refining my write up template. I have also had to rewrite my shop policies and other shop sections, and that has taken a while to whip into shape. I want everything to be ironed out before I post anything, rather than post my items for sale and then backpedal to fix the parts of the shop that need fixing.

People may think running an online shop is done with just a click of a button and then a few keystrokes here and there, but a lot of thought and planning, usually by one person (me), goes into each and every listing. For now, my biggest hurdle are the photographs which I’m trying to produce, and which aren’t quite as simple as just taking a regular photo. You think of components to make up the entire presentation beyond just putting the card against a plain background or what not. So what to do?  Everyone is harping on natural lighting.. And that is what I am working with.

There’s also the hurdle of figuring out the correct shipping charges. While Etsy now offers calculated shipping, there is the problem of figuring out the initial package weight to start with.  This may seem such a small facet of the listing but I had to learn how important it was the hard way.  A recent sale in my other shop resulted in my absorbing a shipping cost way more than I had allocated as part of the shipping and handling fee.  When that happens, I have no choice but to cough up the difference as part of good customer service.  

While postage is non-negotiable, I am trying to keep the cost down by being creative with the shipping packaging.  The card itself is professionally packaged in a cello bag, but my cardboard backing going into the envelope is recycled Manila folder or other chip cardboard.  The envelope, I have announced, will be handmade packaging made out of colorful newspapers or magazines or Kraft paper and packaging inserts.  I just love how major retailers are now shifting from plastic bubble wrap to ecoFriendly paper stuffing.  

It’s not really a matter of creating everything from scratch.  Like I told my good friend, EhawkinsIllustration, there is a lot to be learned from others already selling on the site.  I encouraged her to view other listings and look at “Terms of Use” documents to be able to define her own.  And her shop is up and running.  Of course we all want to add a personal touch that is truly our own into our shops — and we all do that, but it is never a bad thing to learn from others.

I like browsing other shops, not just to look at what other sellers are doing, but also to find out what other have created and are offering for sale.  I am not just an etsy seller — I am also an etsy shopper.  We have a not so small community of small businesses that share a passion for the crafts that we pursue, as well as the entrepreneurial vibe that inspires us to try and make a dent in this world of thousands of like minded business men and women.

I often feel envious of those entrepreneurs who have quit their day job and are able to sustain themselves through their Etsy stores.  But I am also well aware that that jump requires a huge effort to make the running of an Etsy Shop seamless from posting to shipping, and of having a consistent presence online not only on Etsy but in the other channels of social media as well.

As far as that last bit, I’m trying.  I’ve learned that the “social” in “social media” actually means real-time socializing.  You cannot just sit on your account and expect others to follow you or bump into you through your hashtags and awe-inspiring tweets or photos on Instagram or Pinterest.  So I ventured out and found others, and while I haven’t quite topped even a 1000 followers in either forum, I’m learning that follow for follow actually works, and helps you to grow your network faster.  It takes effort and time, but it does produce results.

I’m working on it.. and I’m hoping to post soon..rebuilding the shop one brick at a time.

Growing my flower garden

I have been busy growing my paper flower garden for months now.  I have to admit that I often “get lost” in the midst of drawing and cutting and assembling my pieced paper flowers.  I would tell myself I will sketch one sheet and I end up doing three.  I cut one piece off and I just have to cut up everything drawn on it.

My Paper Flower Garden Series
Why do I draw these flowers anyway… it’s not so much a question as a statement.  I find it very relaxing and it helps me to unwind.  At the same time, it fulfills a need to create and do something artistic even if I have always considered myself a crafter and not an artist.  I kept drawing not knowing what use I would have for these flowers exactly.  While I had started drawing them for my Thank You Postcard project which has not really gotten off the ground, I have kept on going and I’m still drawing.

Each piece is hand drawn on a copy of a background I had once created through watercolor or acrylic paint.  There are sheets of paper towels I had used as catch cloth for ink spray projects, or sheets I had used to wipe off my work surface.  Even those have come in handy and very useful.  The randomness of the way the colors got layered and settled next to each other have always been a source of wonder for me.  And then mixing up the papers through the various layers I pull together gives me a new creation each time.  Forget that the strokes and shapes I draw are the same.  The randomness of which layer goes with the next makes for a unique flower each time.

I would carefully fill empty spaces with dots of swirls and spirals to form the stamen of the flower, or that central dot from which all the petals and layers emanate from.  I just can’t stop drawing more of them in the spaces between, and every time I cut them up I end up making new sheets of flowers and so on and so on.

I have marveled at how the flower itself has gained volume even when the sheets are 2d and really one dimensional.  I guess it’s the way the flowers are sketched, or just the way I draw them.  I had gone on and on, drawing with no particular use in mind for these, until an idea hit me just a few days ago.

Blank cards.  Greeting cards.  In two sizes, possibly three.  Gift tags.

You purchase an original work each time you buy one of these.  They are not printed in multiples.  Each layer of each flower is drawn individually, cut and pasted onto the next layer.  Developing these designs has been a continuing learning process for me.  I have seen my first attempts grow into something more fluid and more naturally drawn.  While variations have been difficult to come up with, they are slowly but surely finding their way into the designs.  One at a time.