Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Makes a Monster a Monster?

The Monster Pouch Swap is now open for sign-ups on Craftster--yay!--but it closes on Saturday morning, so hurry if you plan to sign up.

While writing the information about the swap, and sewing the two pouches who will serve as our "spokes-monsters", I had to ask myself, what exactly is it that makes a monster a monster?  Here's the first one I made:

I made it using the pattern for the eyeglasses case I showed you last week.  Thinking back to the Hungry Monsters we made last August, I added lots of teeth.  The eyes needed to be monstrous, so I made them different sizes.  It still needed something, so taking my cue from Susan's rendition of my mystery critters, I added some scraggly hair, by sewing on some short scraps of embroidery thread (that really cleaned up some of the mess around my sewing chair!)

But I wasn't completely happy with the eyeglasses-case-monster, so I went back to the first monster I ever made:  good ol' Zipper Face (below)!  The zipper is the perfect monster mouth, especially when you use a constrasting color for the zipper and the inside of the mouth.  The eyes are especially good on this one too, because they are both very different, and one eye has an orange spot around it, sewn on with random zig-zag lines of stitching.

Using Zipper Face for my guide, I made this new monster pouch, below.  Yes, that's better! The two things that bothered me about the eyeglass-case-monster were the teeth (just a little bit of overkill there) and the matchy-ness of the fabrics I used.

So here are the ingredients for a pleasing monster pouch:
1.  A mouth with a zipper or teeth (just not too many teeth).
2.  Eyes that don't match, plus some added detail, like a spot around one eye, or layered buttons for one eye.
3.  Mismatched fabrics (but not so many different colors that it looks like a kindergarten exploded!)--strong colors seem to work well, and a print that could be monster skin is especially awesome (of course, fake fur is the ultimate monster fabric!)
4.  An extra detail or two, such as wonky hair, a tongue, or arms and legs will go a long way in making your monster pouch really unique and special.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pincushion Surprise

Over at Craftster, there's always something fun going on; a few weeks ago a challenge was issued, to do some sort of Random Act of Crafty Kindness, and then post about it on the challenge board.  Here's what I did:

I made a TON of these cute little tie-on pincushions (based on these at the Better Homes and Gardens website).  Here they are, in-progress.

and I mailed one to each person who signed up for our Fabric Basket Swap. The picture below shows some of them, ready for mailing.  I sent them anonymously, but about half of the recipients knew they were from me!  (I didn't know it would be so obvious!)

The picture below shows the three stages of construction:
1.  Cut out 2 heart-shaped pieces from wool felt, and choose two scraps of felt for the leaves and flower.  I cut the leaves and flowers free-hand.
2.  With embroidery floss, sew the leaves and flower in place; add a button to the center of the flower.  Choose ribbon for the tie, and embroidery floss for the stitching around the edges, in a color that will add a little contrast.
3.  Blanket stitch around the edges.  When you come to the top of the heart, tuck in the ribbon and anchor it with a couple of extra stitches.  When there is only a small opening left to sew, stuff the heart with fiberfill, and continue stitching to close it up.
4.  Give it away, or enjoy it yourself!

These were a big hit with all who received them; their happiness and excitement made ME happy and excited!  It is so fun to do something nice and unexpected for other people!

If you didn't receive one of these from me but wish you did, you still have a chance!  Starting on March 17th I will be hosting a 7-day-long celebration of both my birthday (yeah, I was a St. Patrick's Day baby!) AND my 1-year anniversary of blogging (I started last year on March 28th) AND having 100 followers (okay, okay, as of today I only have 90...but that's pretty close to 100!).  For seven days in a row, I will be giving away stuff I have made and brand new fabric fat quarters to people who leave a comment on that days' post!  It's going to be great!  I can't wait!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Eyeglasses Cases

The last pair of sunglasses I bought came with a horrid vinyl drawstring case.  I promptly threw it away.  Later, when I flew to Arkansas to visit my mom, I put the sunglasses in my carry-on bag; unbeknowst to me, my nail file was right next to the glasses.  Emerging from the airport several hours later, I put on my sunglasses, and wondered what was wrong with that left lens...yeah, the nail file had rubbed against the lens the whole time, and the sunglasses were ruined.

That won't happen to me again, because I have vowed to always carry my sunglasses in a case from now on!  When this package of fabric arrived last week (from Sew Mama Sew) I knew that some of it would be perfect for glasses cases.

I made up my own pattern.  It's just two pieces, the body of the case, and the flap.  In this picture you can see the outside of the case on the left, and the inside on the right. 

The button is just for decoration, since the flap stays closed with velcro.

I will keep one for myself, and take the rest of them to the store where I sell my work.

Problem solved.  Yay!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beaded Hair Pins Mini Tutorial

While looking online for some sort of hair ornament I could make, I came upon this cute little idea at annekata--pretty beaded bobby pins that would be appropriate for all ages.  I love these, because they look great but they aren't too big, and they are really useful too--I frequently use a bobby pin to hold back stray hair, but these will really boost my style quotient!

I tried making them with thread, like she did, but the beads didn't feel secure to me, so I tried again with 34 gauge beading wire (it is as thin as thread so it wasn't too bulky, and it was strong and easy to work with).  I bought my beads at Joann's; I just used two different types, a faceted glass bead alternating with an irregular polished stone.  If you look at Annekata's post, you will see that she used all different types of beads, which looks really great!  I had some beading pliers (I guess that's what they're called!) that I used to pull the wire tight, but they weren't really necessary.  Scissors are necessary to cut the wire. (Obviously, don't use your best pair!)

I used seven beads per pin.

Start by cutting a 20" piece of wire.  Wrap it around the end of the bobby pin, positioning it so that one strand of wire is longer than the other (the short one should be about 6").  Thread the first bead onto both wires, then wrap the longer wire around both the pin and the short wire, 2 times, right in front of the bead.  Continue on this way until you reach the end of the pin.

At the end of the pin, you will need to hide the wire ends, so feed them back through the hole in the last bead, and cut them off close to the bead.

Wrapping the bobby pins with wire had an unforseen bonus:  the pins stayed in my hair much better than unwrapped pins ever have.  A pair or two of these would make a nice little gift, even for someone with short hair.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Strawberry Pouch

I make a lot of zippererd pouches, and I've decided I need to step up my game a little--you can find a basic fabric pouch at every major retail store, so mine should be something unique, something that you CAN'T find at a big store.  That's what hand-made is all about.

I just got these marvelous fabrics in the mail this week (a gift from my equally marvelous friend, Susan!)  I decided to use the cute strawberry print fabric for my pouch.

I found a red polka-dot fabric to add to the front for constrast, and I wanted to do something else, but what?  A button?  Something embroidered?  Taking my cue from the fabric itself, I settled on a felt strawberry on a square background, sort of like a badge or medallion (or maybe a postage stamp?)  I cut the green square using a ruler and my pinking shears; I cut out the strawberry and stem freehand.  Here it is before any sewing has taken place:

Here it is, hand-sewn onto the fabric that will be the front of the pouch.  Isn't it cute?!

This is a medium-sized pouch, measuring 6.5" x 5".  It's a perfect size for organizing the small things in your purse.

I also used the red polka-dot fabric for the lining.

I finished it off with a leaf charm tied with a red ribbon to the zipper.  (I wish I had a strawberry charm!)

It's so exciting when something comes out just the way you want it to!  No more plain pouches for me! 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Favorite Artist

It has occurred to me more than once, that with the word "Art" in the title of my blog, I ought to be showing you more of that!  So today I want to introduce you to my favorite artist:  my daughter, Jenna.  I plan to post her artwork regularly, perhaps once a month or so.

Jenna is currently a freshman in the School of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.  She's always been artistic and creative, and when she entered high school she already knew that she wanted to pursue art as a career.

Here she is at her Senior Art Show last spring at her high school, surrounded by her work:

 She is fabulously talented as a painter on canvas, and as a digital artist on the computer.  On her left you can see a painting of her cat, Q-Tip, done in the style of a painting by an artist whose name she can no longer recall!

Jenna has a unique personal style that is quirky and offbeat.  She doesn't always paint fluffy white kittens; usually the tone of her art is more like these highly-detailed, painted ping-pong balls (which I set on spools of thread so they wouldn't roll away during the photo session!)

Front view:

Back view:

On the left, the Monster from the Black Lagoon; on the right, a "lovely" mermaid:

On the left, a vampire; on the right, a mummy:

I think these are amazing!  I especially love the mermaid, because it is completely opposite of the "average" mermaid, with her missing tooth and over-done makeup.  I'm also impressed with the mummy's wrappings, which extend smoothly around the entire ball.

Next time I will show you a couple of Jenna's sculptures...they are really cool...!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Making Pillows

I really have pillows on the brain right now, because I'm in the Cushion Cover Swap at Craftster.  I wish I could show you the one I'm working on for my partner because I like how it's coming out!  But it involves a lot of handwork, so it will be another week or so before it is done (and then I have to wait for it to reach my partner in England before I can show it here!)  So instead, I will show you two scripture verse pillows I have just finished. 

I love making these pillows because I love scripture, and beading them is really fun! 

I make the tops just like a mini quilt, layering the front with batting and a backing fabric.  Then I do a little hand-quilting, and add all the beads.

Here's my secret for making a nice smooth pillow:  I also layer the back of the pillow like a mini quilt.  In this picture, the pillow front has been trimmed; I will just flip it over onto the layered backing, pin it, and take it to the sewing machine to sew it all together.

I leave an opening for stuffing, turn it, and fill it with polyfill.  Sew up the bottom and ta-da!  Finished!

These pillows are about 9" square, and make a wonderful little gift.

These could be made with any quote on the front; I add the words with a sakura micron marker and a light box.  They are really versatile that way, and could be personalized to anyone.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day


Yesterday I whipped up the "love" hearts in this picture so I would have something appropriate to post today, and to add a few more hearts to my 365 sewn hearts total.  As I was making them, I realized I had a sewing tip I would like to share with you.

I used red thread to sew the felt letters onto the fabric hearts on the sewing machine (I wanted to hand-embroider around the edges but I ran out of time).  Normally when you sew on the machine, you backstitch at the beginning and end of your line of stitching to secure the thread.  I didn't want backstitches to detract from my red outline, so here's what I did:

I stitched all around the letter without backstitching, and I left a long tail of thread at both the beginning and the end.

Flipping the heart over, I pulled the loose threads from the front through to the back (with the help of a pin).

Then I just tied them in a knot to secure the threads.

There--a nice neat outline!

I happened to have some  red polymer clay beads that I made a while ago and never used--they were perfect to put between my hearts!  Then I used a long doll-making needle to string everything onto a length of embroidery floss.  This is the hutch in my dining room; I think the little "love" garland fits in very well.  (The strange glow in the lower right is the reflection of my computer screen from the other side of the room!)

Have a happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Zakka Sewing Book

I may have mentioned my awesome friend Susan before; in her regular awesome manner she sent me a great book for Christmas called Zakka Sewing.  Zakka projects are functional objects to use in the home, meant to add an element of style and individuality to the environment.

Susan sent the book in this super cute bag she made!

We both love the "shabby chic" style, but Susan is more successful at it than I am; it's hard for me to let go of finished edges and 90-degree angles!  She knows I love pink, and hearts; look at how fun and raggedy this heart is!

Okay...getting back to Zakka Sewing...I decided to choose one of the 25 projects in this book to make and show you.  Here's what I made:  the "Flower Corsage Pincushion".  It is a wrist pincushion meant to resemble a wrist corsage.  Mine looks just like the picture in the book--success!

My one complaint with this project is that the flower patterns in the book are not full size; the directions tell you to enlarge them on a copy machine by 200%.  Well, I'm at home in my pajamas, and my scanner doesn't enlarge like a copy machine...so with a lot of scanning, editing and printing, I finally got the flower patterns to approximately the right size (the larger one is about 3" across, and the smaller one is about 2 1/2").  Would it have killed them to include full-size patterns???

After tracing the flower outline onto the fabric, you are supposed to cut it out and then sew around the edges (which are left raw).  Since I'm always thinking, I decided to sew first and then cut out the flower.  It was quick and easy this way.

Here's the flower, it's almost done!

After making the flower, you make the wrist band; that part is very straight-forward.

Sewing it all together (by hand) took a little figuring out; you layer the flower and wrist band with a felt circle and a plastic disc (cut from a milk carton or a random lid) and blanket stitch it all together on the bottom.  The stuffing is actually inserted here, underneith the wrist band (which seemed weird, but it works out okay).

 I have never used a wrist pincushion before, and I am super excited about this one--it is so cute and feels so nice when it's on (it's just like a fabric bracelet) that I hope I will use it a lot!  Once I got past the pattern-enlarging issue, it went together quickly; there is no interfacing or anything tricky, and I had all the materials on hand (you probably do too).  I can see that this will be a perfect little "extra" to add to future craft swap packages on Craftster!

There are several more projects I would like to make out of this book, and I plan to show you at least one more.  Which one will it be--the bunny pencil case, the slippers, or the sashiko pouch?