November 1, 2015

Zipper Pouch Tutorial

I love making zipper pouches like this because they're useful for a wide variety of things. I have one I use as a makeup bag when I travel and another I use to bring my lunch to work.

For this bag, I used the faux chenille fabric I made a few days ago, a pink 9" zipper, and some green scrap fabric for the lining. Cut the fabric the same width as the length of the zipper, including the ends. Make the other dimension the depth you want your bag to be plus extra for the seam allowance.

Start by pinning one piece of your outer material, zipper, and one piece of your lining material material together. The top side of the zipper should face the right side of the outer material.

Once sewn, it should look like the picture above. Pin the outer fabric and lining together, right sides out.

Topstitch along the edge near the zipper to secure the fabric and keep it from catching in the zipper.

Do the same for the other side of the bag.

Unzip the zipper about halfway and pin the outer fabrics together and the lining fabrics together, right sides in. Starting along the bottom of the lining fabric, stitch along the perimeter of the fabric. Stop sewing a few inches before you get to the starting stitches to leave a hole that the pouch can be turned through. Pink or trim the edges, cutting extra close to the corners to avoid bunching.

Flip your bag right side out and stitch the hole closed either by hand or machine.

Tada! A nice little bag for whatever you want.

October 29, 2015

Faux Chenille Tutorial

A few days ago my mom's friend gave me three big bins filled with small bits and pieces of fabric leftover from projects. Almost all of the prints are hideous, which made it a perfect opportunity to try out faux chenille. Faux chenille is a layering technique that showcases the print of the top fabric and uses the rest of the layers to create an interesting texture without being seen.

To make faux chenille, you need 4-5 pieces of natural, woven fabric in order for it to fray nicely when cut. Quilting cotton and flannel work well; I used four square layers of cotton for this piece. I'm going to use my faux chenille panel to make a lined zipper pouch, so I stacked all my layers with the right sides up since the back side of the fabric will be hidden. If you are making a blanket, the fabric that you are keeping intact (the green and white floral in this case) needs to face the opposite way as the other layers since it'll be visible.

After stacking the layers, pin them together and mark a line diagonally from corner to corner. Keeping the layers of fabric you will be cutting through on top, stitch along the line. Using the presser foot as a guide, keep sewing lines across the fabric until the entire surface is covered. Don't bother backstitching, making knots, or trimming thread ends as you go since the whole piece will be trimmed down at the end.

Every once in a while, check that everything's staying straight and that the layers aren't getting too many wrinkles in them. This technique is fairly forgiving if your lines aren't perfectly straight or if the fabric bunches a little.

Use a rotary cutter or scissors to square up the sides and trim away excess thread and fabric.

Cut between each stitch line, snipping all but the bottom layer.

At this point, the fabric doesn't look too exciting. The real magic happens after washing and drying the material a few times when the fabric starts to curl and fuzz up.

The main thing I realized sewing faux chenille is that it takes a loooong time and a lot of thread. It took me about 20 minutes to sew all the lines on a 13" square and about as long to make all the cuts. It's a neat technique that I'll probably try out a few more times, but I don't think I'd ever have the patience to make a whole blanket.

October 17, 2015

Rose City Rollers, Round 2

I liked knitting the Rose City Rollers pattern so much that I knit another pair while on a rockhounding road trip with my mom to Utah last month. They make a perfect travel project since they're so small and packable.

I used Patons Kroy Socks FX yarn in Clover Colors, a nice fall blend of greens and oranges. It has a standard mix of 75% washable wool and 25% nylon but is thicker than other sock yarns I've used. As a result, the socks lean towards slipper-like and will be nice to wear around the house in the winter.

I thought I might be able to get away with one skein, but that was not the case. I got about one and a third socks done before I ran out of yarn.

The color of each skein varies quite a bit but I picked the closest match at Jo-Ann's and the second sock is only a little brighter than the first. I made these ones for myself, but future variations might be making an appearance at Christmas.

September 20, 2015

Koi Dress (McCall's 6887)

My mom brought me this beautiful koi print fabric from Hawaii and I was excited to use if for this pattern. It's got the slightest bit of stretch to it and sews up so easily. After sewing McCall's 6887 the first time, I realized I should probably make a muslin before trying it again so I could get a better fit for the bodice. I sewed a combo of views A and B (sleeveless A-line with no back cutout) in size 20. This time, I modified the A/B cup bodice side front piece to eliminate excess fabric on the top of the bust and the fit is much better.

I didn't have any material that would work for a lining (and this fabric doesn't need it, anyway) so I used a bias facing. I could have been a little more careful about pressing it in further so the bias tape doesn't show from the front, but it's not bad for my first time.

Another skill I've recently acquired is serging! My mom found a White Speedylock 299D serger at a thrift store for $30 and I picked up four different colors of serger thread from Salvation Army for a dollar apiece. Having four colors helped a ton in figuring out tension settings. I'm using it only for inner seams so it doesn't matter that the serged edge is teal, purple, black, and white.

I got a little scared since everything I've read online about this model says it's one to avoid, but after looking through the manual and watching a lot of Youtube tutorials it's up and running with no issues. It makes finishing seams so quick and they look so much more professional than pinking them, which is what I usually did before. I want to serge everything now!

To fix the issues with the skirt panels, I redrafted the side and back pieces to match the bodice seams. It wasn't hard at all and worked way better than the original pattern. I meant to make pockets but got too excited about serging and finished the side seams before putting them in. Oops! The fit is (almost) perfect and I look forward to tweaking future versions to make it even better. I already have a fabric in mind...

September 19, 2015

Rose City Rollers

After knitting my sister's socks, I had most of a skein left of the pretty Premier Yarns Grand Canyon. I was browsing Ravelry for an ankle sock pattern and the Rose City Rollers by Mara Catherine Bryner stood out. The pattern suggests size 1 needles, but size 2 needles worked fine with the medium size. I really like how the pattern was written and the explanations for non-standard things like starting the round from the side instead of the middle of the sole were clear and well thought out.

I didn't have extra yarn to start the yarn at the same point in the pattern, but by some miracle it worked out and the stripes line up almost perfectly!

At least until the toe on the second sock, where I ran out of yarn and had to finish with a little leftover gray Zitron Trekking yarn.

The roll top is fun and way more aesthetically pleasing than ribbing but still provides enough material to keep the socks from sliding down. These socks are quick to knit up and work perfectly with my hightops and ankle boots and would also look good exposed.

I think one skein of Premier Yarns Wool-Free Sock yarn would be the perfect amount for a pair of Rose City Rollers. I'll definitely be making more in the future, but as soon as I get more sock yarn I want to knit the gorgeous Seed Stitch Socks by handepande on Ravelry.

September 2, 2015

Cutout Dress (McCall's 6887)

I picked up McCall's 6887 a while ago but was waiting on it since I wasn't sure which fabric to use. It's a simple A-line dress with sleeve, pencil skirt, and back cutout options. Instead of doing a proper muslin, I started sewing view A (sleeveless A-line with the back cutout) out of a bed sheet I had leftover from another dress. I should really make real muslins instead of doing these sort of half muslins that I end up making into real pieces of ill-fitting clothing. Someday I'll learn my lesson. Maybe.

My measurements put me between a size 20 and 22, and I decided to go with the 20. I'm glad I did because it's still a hair too big. This pattern uses cup sizes and I was right on the borderline between an A/B cup and a C cup. I cut the C cup size since in real life I wear a DD and couldn't imagine that an A/B cup would fit. I was wrong, the C cup ended up being a bit poochy, especially above the bust. It's still wearable with a padded bra.

However, the back cutout is not compatible with any of my bras. The piece that is supposed to cover the band is wide enough but sits way too high on my back. It wouldn't be too hard to alter the pattern and make it work, but it's too late for this dress since the top is fully lined and installed. I forgot to put interfacing in where the buttonholes go, so I sewed the buttons through both panels. It's easy to slip the dress over my head so this was a non-issue.

The pattern calls for the bodice lining to be slipstitched in by hand which was annoying but ended up looking nice. There aren't great instructions about how to attach the edges of the bodice to the skirt so I just overlapped it a tad and stitched it up. Not the most elegant, but it works and isn't really noticeable unless you're the one sewing it.

The main problem with this pattern is the skirt. Something is definitely wrong with the pattern- I had to cut out 11" from the back of the skirt, eliminating two entire panels and parts of two more. I ended up pinching out the extra fabric, sewing down the middle of the back and installing the zipper there. Not a hard fix but I was glad to be using a bed sheet instead of nice fabric!

Overall, it's a cute pattern and the modifications will be easy when I make this dress with "real" fabric.

August 23, 2015

Self-Striping Socks

I'm sure I can't be the only one who takes a little break from knitting and then suddenly gets an insatiable urge to create something NOW! That feeling took over my brain recently but I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to make. Luckily, a pretty yarn (and, let's be real, the cheap price tag) caught my eye and there was a pattern for basic socks on the label. The yarn is Premier Yarns Wool-Free Sock in Grand Canyon and it's a really cool combo of colors and patterns. I love the turquoise and purple mixed in with yellows and orangey browns and the changes in color made knitting the simple pattern more interesting.

As much as I like the colors and the end result, there were a few annoying things about the yarn and pattern. Some strands of the yarn kept getting bunched up and it was a real pain to readjust the tension every few stitches. There's also an error on the pattern printed on the yarn wrapper in the first row of turning the heel (It looks okay in the online version). I tried turning the heel about five times before using a different pattern and realizing it was the pattern that was wrong, not me. Even after these frustrations I'm happy with the end result, and I'm sure my sister will be even happier to wear them!

April 22, 2015

Lactose Free Pancakes

The Joy of Cooking basic pancake recipe has been my family's go-to as far back as I can remember. There's something about the thin, vanilla-scented pancakes that is super addictive. But like most pancakes, the recipe has plenty of milk and butter. Since high school I've become increasingly intolerant to lactose, a sugar found in milk and most dairy products. Of course I still want to have pancakes for breakfast every now and then, so I modified the recipe and came up with an equally delicious, lactose free version! 

Lactose Free Pancakes
Adapted from the "Basic Pancakes" recipe in The Joy of Cooking
Makes about twelve 5" pancakes

Combine in a large bowl
1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Whisk together in another bowl (or if you're lazy like me, dump straight into the flour mixture)
1½ cups lactose free milk or other milk alternative
3 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 eggs
generous ½ teaspoon vanilla

The coconut oil will probably harden when it's mixed with the cold liquids since it becomes a solid below 75°F. If this happens, break it up into as small pieces as you can and don't worry if it stays a little lumpy. Pour the liquids into the flour mix and stir until just combined. 

Heat a little coconut oil in a frying pan and pour about ⅓ cup of batter to make one pancake. Cook until you see bubbles on the top side of the pancake, then flip and cook until the other side is brown. These pancakes are so good I usually eat them plain, but syrup or yogurt doesn't hurt! Yogurt is naturally low in lactose, but there are a fair number of totally lactose free options including Yami and certain Yoplait yogurts.

April 9, 2015

Hot Dog Princess Amigurumi

I've seen a few episodes of Adventure Time and it's the type of show I know I'd be into but never get around to actually watching. I love the style and color palette so when my sister requested a Hot Dog Princess amigurumi I started crocheting, freehanding the pattern as I went. I know the colors are a bit off (she's more orange in the cartoon) but she turned out pretty darn cute! I can foresee an Adventure Time crochet collection in the future...

Rhubarb doesn't know what to think

Hot Dog Princess in her new home


There have been a number of hummingbirds frequenting our feeders, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures. The setup that worked best for me was putting the camera on a tripod, manually setting the focus, and using a remote to take the picture. The hummingbirds don't mind the camera too much but they get agitated if a person stands close to the feeder for too long.

What are you looking at?
I'm pretty sure this is the one we named Junior Mister
Swooping in
The male showing off his gorgeous gorget

March 12, 2015

River Rapids Socks

After knitting my first simple pair of socks last time, I was looking forward to trying a more complex pattern. I went with the River Rapids pattern by Sockbug on Ravelry. It's not hard, but the faux-cabled lacy pattern looks fancy. I made the socks shorter than the pattern calls for since I was worried about them being too tight on my calves, but I don't think they would be. Overall, it's a really nice pattern that's not too difficult!

February 25, 2015

My First Socks!

My grandma taught me how to knit over 15 years ago, but I've never quite had the patience for intricate projects. I usually tend towards small, quick projects and I've whipped up a lot of iPod cases, doll clothes, and thick, lacy scarves over the years. But I recently happened upon some really nice variegated orange/red/purple Fortissima sock yarn for $1 a skein (it had a sticker giving the original price as $20.95!) so I decided it was time to knit my first socks.

This yarn is a washable wool/polyamide nylon blend and it has a really nice feel to it.

I picked the simplest pattern I could find, but even that gave me a run for my money. I probably could have knit a pair of socks in the time I spent messing up and ripping stitches out of the first sock. After that the second sock was a breeze and I feel like any future sock knitting endeavors shouldn't give me too much trouble.

Done! And (almost) the same size to boot!

February 20, 2015

Otama Obsession

I found this pattern in the depths of Ravelry while looking for an amigurumi crochet pattern to make for a friend. From there I found the Facebook page associated with otama and scrolled through hundreds of pictures of these weird... things. There are photos of otamas at the bottom of the ocean, resting atop animals, disguised as rasta dudes, arranged on skewers in a field, the strange list goes on. From what I can gather, the pattern was made by a Japanese man named Koji Takamiya and it's supposed to be a tadpole character.

Otama at the Ballard Locks
I made one just for fun and quickly got hooked (lol crochet jokes). I don't really know why this pattern of all things became the one I make over and over... I guess it's the mixture of how easy the pattern is, the cute factor, and the mysteriousness of why they even exist.

Otamas on the beach at Discovery Park