March 31, 2008

Shirts, Soup and Students

I just wanted to give a shoutout to my flute students-- as I was reminded today, they're such a wonderfully creative group of kids! And not just with music...
This isn't actually from today-- it was part of a Christmas gift that one of my long-time students gave me this past year. I'm not sure if she or her mom did this one, because they're both kind of crafty, but I love this thing. It's basically just a little cardstock sleeve for a pack of post-its, held closed by a little teeny piece of velcro. I love the play on words with the music stamp, of course. And I'm trying to protect it in my bag as much as possible, because I seriously want to keep using this thing once the post-its are gone!

This is what made me think to blog about them-- I teach once a week after school at a private school in the area, and they've been on spring break for the last two weeks. One of my girls went to Flordia over her break, and she came in today and announced she had a present for me. So I opened it up to find this-- a handmade necklace of a seashell on braided embroidery floss. She immediately said I didn't have to keep it as a necklace if I just wanted the shell, but as I told her, I love seashell necklaces so this is perfect. (Tried it on and it's a good length, too, so I'm definitely keeping this as is!)

I figured while I'm at it, I'll also share one of my favorite soup recipes. I love this because it's easy and rich and has a bunch of vegetables in a way that I don't mind eating them (I do try to eat healthy, but seriously lack a natural inclination to eat veggies!) I adapted this from a recipe in a make-ahead-and-freeze cookbook that my mom brought home for me once (I'm chronically in need of things I can just make and stick in the freezer for when I get home from teaching and I'm starving and/or have limited time to eat before teaching again.) So without further ado...

Beef Barley Vegetable Soup
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lb beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized cubes (and I cut off as much fat as I can too)
1 bell pepper, chopped (I like the red ones, but you can do whatever color you like best)
1 c. carrots, chopped (or you could probably use the pre-chopped frozen ones)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
4 beef boullion cubes (I actually use this beef boullion paste stuff in a jar instead-- sooooo much better than the powder stuff!)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2/3 c. uncooked barley
1 c. frozen green beans
1 c. frozen corn

In a medium soup pot, heat oil. Brown the beef stew meat over high heat and remove with a slotted spoon. Turn heat down to medium, then saute the bell peppers and carrots in the soup pot just until tender. Return meat to soup pot. Add 5 1/2 c. water, thyme, bay leaf and beef boullion; simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Add tomatoes (with juice), barley, green beans and corn, then simmer for another 25 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

The original recipe called for chopped onion too, but I'm not a fan of onion so I replaced that with the carrots. You could add them though, just saute them with the pepper. I also cut back on the original amount of tomatoes and had to add more water than it called for. Seriously, you could probably add whatever veggies you want. It's a very thick, hearty soup, and freezes great, and is perfect for a quick meal (once it defrosts) on a yucky, cold, wet day like this that makes me think that weather that's warm enough to allow me to wear my recent sewing projects is never going to get here!

Speaking of sewing, I started sewing on my adaptation of BurdaStyle's Azalea dress yesterday afternoon. I'm making mine as a tunic top, so I eliminated the underdress (the drapey top stuff is thick enough to not be see-through, and if I'm going to be wearing this as a summer top I don't want an extra layer that close to my skin! Not with Mid-Atlantic humidity!) and shortened it a good bit. It's been a pretty easy sew so far-- the thing that took me the longest was the zipper, and that's because I'm trying a new technique to do lapped zippers instead of a center one in the side seam. (Not definite yet, but there's a chance I might be teaching a friend's daughter how to sew with patterns-- the mom can sew, and the girl has her own machine and can make simple things like quilts and pillows, but she really wants to learn how to make clothes. So my friend said she doesn't know how to use patterns very well, and I offered to help out. If that's the case, I want to see if this type of zipper is easier than the centered ones, because I remember when I was a kid, zippers were the most frustrating thing to sew ever. Sometimes they still are. And the lapped ones look nicer anyway. Not that I'm going to let her start with zippers, mind you, but you know it's only a matter of time before she wants something that involves one.)

Anyway, I'm nearly done with the tunic already-- still have to finish the yoke (ran out of time and bobbin thread around the same time) and then hem it. And then I have to make a belt, because it looks like a serious maternity top without it. I saw one in Threads that looked interesting-- a bias-cut tied one that hugs curves very well, which might be perfect to cinch it. But I need to see how much fabric I have to deal with, because I decided that I wanted to make a shrug out of the yoke/belt fabric as well (since I'm an ice queen and get ridiculously cold in over-air conditioned spaces. Which, around here, is pretty much any building that's not my house. Plus then I can wear it sooner, because that will make it good for spring as well.) I don't have a pattern for the shrug-- my plan for now is to stick the Azalea on my dummy and drape something with kimono-like sleeves and see if I like it. And if I don't, it's off to dig through the pattern stash.

But first, off to actually sew!

Edit, 9:57 PM: Oh, this could be bad. I sewed the wrong straps together, so the armholes are in the front and back instead of the sides. And I did some major trimming/corner chopping. Oh, I hope this is fixable without redoing the entire yoke....

March 29, 2008

Oh baby!

After a rather nightmarish trip to Babies 'R Us to buy a shower gift this afternoon, I'm determined to avoid that place as long as I possibly can. I hate the combination of their registry system and the layout of their store more than words can describe right now. That being the case, that puts me in a new crafty dilemma.

I have two friends who are currently expecting (well, a lot more than that, actually, but this one specifically concerns two of them.) The first woman is one I've known for several years from my Bible study-- she's going to have her fourth child in about a month or so. I got invited to a joint baby shower for her and three other women from church who are all pregnant with their second children, but I can't go because I don't get done teaching until after it starts. I still feel like I should give her something though. Out of the four of them, she's the only one I feel like I'm close enough to put the time into making something, plus she's crafty too so she'd probably appreciate it more. But since it is her fourth, and her third girl, I'm not sure what she would actually need at this point (unless I just made something little so the girl could have something new of her own.)

The other is my best friend from high school, whom I've kept in touch with and still see a couple times a year, when she and her husband come out here to visit her family. She'll be having her second child around the end of the summer. And I definitely want to make her something, but I don't know if she'll be having a boy or girl (and she's not planning on finding out until he or she is born), so I'd have to make her something gender-neutral.

Not being a mom myself, or anywhere close to being a mom, or even someone who spent very much time babysitting as a teenager, I'm finding myself at a current loss for ideas, despite the number of people I know who have kids. (I'll admit it... since most of the moms I know apparently forgot how to converse about topics other than their kids, I've developed a rather bad habit of zoning out once the kiddie talk starts. Probably not the best thing to do... I guess it's just a single girl survival tactic.) So consider this a general plea for help...any ideas?

March 28, 2008

Friday Favorites, Episode 3

Good morning, and welcome to my weekly tour around the crafty blogosphere! (I feel like such a tour guide typing that... oh well.) It's kind of funny-- nearly everything I found this week consisted of turning stuff that would otherwise get trashed into fun crafts. So I guess this is the Almost-Green Edition.

1. This week's first item is technically from BurdaStyle, but this time I saw it first at KOTI*KOTI, one of my recent acquaintances from there. As those of you who have been reading this for awhile have probably figured out, I have a weakness for Asian- inspired things, and this kimono-style jacket is no exception. The fun thing about finding it at Koti's blog is that she was the original designer--several months ago, they had a call for members to submit designs for their "Alice in Workingland" contest, and she was one of the winners, so at this post you can see her original design and the results after BurdaStyle adapted it for a pattern.

2. Over at Nest, this week's show for was on DIY lighting, so there's a neat tutorial about how to re-cover crappy old lampshades to make them fun. Or at least match your room better. Yay recycling! (I have to admit that, when I saw the "freeze frame" on the video before starting it, I was hoping they'd also show how to make those paper lanterns, since I love those things--again, my Asian-inspired thing. But no such luck. She did give several sources for them, though, and showed how to hang them.)

3. Behind the Seams gave a review on these Jalie patterns. I'd never heard of the brand before, I have no idea how they are to sew, but they look like really good knitwear patterns. Might have to check these out at some point, once I master (or, um, even attempt) knits on my serger.

4. Karyn at Trail Mix Designs made some magnets out of Scrabble Tiles. Simple and easy, but oh so fun, because I'll admit it, I'm one of those kids who never grew up. Plus I couldn't help laughing at her comment about only having crappy letters, because that's what happens to me every time I play Scrabble, either in real life or the Facebook version!

5. Crafting a Green World had a doozy of a post this week-- several links worth mentioning. The first is this "Dress of Many Scraps", in which a girl decided to design an outfit solely for the purpose of using up her scraps (a problem I can definitely relate to.) The results were just amazing, it reminds me of something that would be seen on Project Runway (if the designer had way more time to execute her design.) Another fun thing on there was this bottle lamp kit from RePlayGround-- basically, they supply the wiring, you supply the empty glass bottles, and then you end up with a funky recycled lamp. They also have some fun DIY directions on the site, like making a glass bottle into a beaded vase and ransom-note-looking magnetic poetry tiles.

March 26, 2008

Fun with embossing powder

I worked some more on those little journaling booklets for my road trip album tonight. I liked the buttons, but it still needed a little something. I have to admit that I was pretty much snooping around for travel-related scrapbook supplies as soon as I knew the trip was definite. I'm generally not one to buy embellishments, though, unless it's something that I can use for multiple things. Like I got some letter rubber stamps in a font I really liked, but thought would be versatile enough for use for multiple things. I guess I prefer to invest my money in things I can get a lot of use out of, like tools, and I'd rather make my own embellishments out of stuff that I already have when I can. (Which is why things generally take me so long, but it does save me money. Except when I blow it all on patterned paper, which is my scrapbook kryptonite.)

Anyway, one of the other items I got was a compass rubber stamp, which I am hoping could also be used for multiple applications. So I figured this would be a good one to use it for. I wanted something subtle, so I decided to do the stamping with watermark ink (it's clear, just leaves a slightly darker mark on paper) and clear embossing powder. And the blue thing is my heat gun, since I found it on sale at Joann's once and all my previous attempts to do stuff like this had been with a hairdryer. Which works, sort of, but it takes forever and it doesn't always actually work. This makes it soooooo much easier! Even though I sort of melted part of my bedroom carpet the first time I tried it. (I didn't think it was that hot! Even so, I went to the ceramic-tiled kitchen this time.)

This stuff is really easy to use, actually. You just stamp your paper as desired with ink that doesn't dry terribly quickly (feline supervision optional)...

Pour on the embossing powder, thickly enough to make sure the whole design is coated....

...and shake off the excess (make sure you shake it good, because any powder left on there will melt!) I liked doing this over the cardboard-- the crease where it had been bent into a box made it really easy to pour the leftovers back into the embossing powder container.

Then you take your heat gun (or hairdryer turned to high, in a pinch) and hold it a few inches over the design.

(The feline supervisor wasn't sure what to make of this part.)

See that dark blotch in the middle of the compass? That's the heat gun melting the powder. It's really cool to watch, actually-- you hold it there for a couple seconds and nothing happens, and then suddenly it all starts melting at once, and if you move it around, it just spreads out. It happens pretty quickly with the heat gun, not so much with a hairdryer. But you only want to hold it there just until it melts, because it is possible to overdo it.
And voila! A subtle touch to these little booklets.
They're going to need a slight bit of work when the time comes to actually put them in the album, perhaps... the Perfect Pearls writing was starting to smear a little already, so I went over those with a gold metallic marker, as well as wrote the days on the rest of them with that. But that's not as visible (or as nice a color gold) as the Perfect Pearls stuff, so what I'll probably end up doing is going over the pen with the Perfect Pearls just before putting them in.
A slightly funny story about the rubber stamp introduction to this was back in junior high. One of my friend's moms was hosting a rubber stamp party, and she invited me along with my mom-- I think partially so Kristy would have someone to hang out with, but also because I already had a reputation as a crafty girl. So we got to play around with embossing ink and powders with the stamps, which was fun. Then at the end of the night, the woman who was selling the rubber stamp supplies asked if we had any questions about the technique. Knowing my dad wasn't going to let me use his heat gun all the time (his stuff is hard to find anyway), I guess I was either trying to think outside the box, or just thinking out loud (which can be dangerous, since my mouth doesn't always quite get the "shut up" signal from my brain in time), but I asked her if the embossing could be done in the microwave. She was a bit taken aback by that, but supposed that it was possible. Kristy thought that was hilarious, enough so to write "Can you microwave that?" to me several years later in her senior blurb in our yearbooks (since I went to a small school, all of the seniors got a "blurb" in which they could write whatever they wanted, usually consisting of inside jokes with friends or favorite quotes, along with their picture.) I never tested the microwave thing out, though.

March 24, 2008

all sorts of crafty mischief

Since I have three days of projects to catch up on.

Item #1, completed Saturday night:

Yeah, that's right, another ATC. This one is colored pencil and charcoal on watercolor paper, and loosely based on one of the photos that I took out west this past summer. I think I might do another similar one because I wasn't actually looking at the picture when I drew the tree, and I think I could get it closer. The tree silhouette was really fun to draw anyway. I still need to fix the charcoal, but other than that it's done.

Item #2, completed yesterday:

Does the fabric look familiar? I took a picture of it and used it for my banner. :D Anyway, this is my blouse from New Look 6407, and I'm rather pleased with how it turned out. Though I think if I were doing it again, I'd make the ties longer, because once it was on the only way I could tie them was in a simple knot. No clever names for this blouse yet-- I'll work on coming up with a half-witted one, at least, for the sidebar.

Also showing a pic of the inside here, because I'm so happy with how finished it looks in there! Plus this is the best job I've done with the new serger so far.

Item #3, still not completed but I worked on it tonight....

These little booklets are for my road trip album, specifically for the journaling. I had to assemble the last two albums tonight, and I've been sewing buttons on to act as closures. Only 4/16 done so far. (My mom's thrilled that I'm using up all these buttons from her stash. The covers are 2-sided mulberry paper, and they're bound with hemp.
And I'm using this stuff called Perfect Pearls to put the writing on-- it's basically this clear pen and these powders that you brush on that has resins in it to bind it to whatever's in the pen. (Same stuff I've used on this scrapbook page.) Adds a nice shimmery touch.

March 21, 2008

Mmmm... fake Asian food

Two posts in one day... don't you all feel so lucky? ^_^
Anyway, since I do believe good cooking is an art form, and Lydia so often inspires me with her yummy-looking food posts, thought I'd stick one of my own culinary experiments in here.

Besides my craftiness, I'm also doing the 101 things in 1001 days project, though a slightly modified version (added about 80 extra days-- since I started it on my birthday, I thought a fitting end date would be the eve of my 30th birthday. In theory, I'm hoping that working on this will help me feel like I didn't waste the end of my 20s, even if one of my worst fears comes true and I'm still single by then. *shudders at the thought*) I wanted to add fun goals too, so there are several on there pertaining to craftiness, but that's not what this post is about. What this post IS about is me wanting to learn to eat with chopsticks.

Even though my heritage is almost as white as they come (minus a bit Jewish and possibly a bit Native American), I really like Asian cultures. I'm most familiar with Chinese and Korean, since I've had several flute students who are either first-generation Americans from those two countries, or who moved here from there themselves along with their families. One of these students (who is actually on hiatus this semester) moved here from China with her mom-- her dad is still living in China for work reasons, apparently, but they go back to China every summer to be with the rest of their family. I often ended up teaching her at her house, since she lives very close to a few other students I commute to, and whenever she could, her mom insisted on feeding me. So through them, I got introduced to real Chinese food-- egg drop soup, moon cakes, and these to-die-for pork dumplings. I really want to learn how to make those so I can ensure a healthy version, because I have serious cravings for them. But in the meantime, I was happy to discover they have them at Trader Joe's. (Then why do I need to learn to make them, you ask? Because the closest TJ's, unfortunately, is about a 40-60 minute drive from here, depending on traffic. So I don't get up there very often.)

So, anyway, I think that eating with chopsticks looks fun. So I bought a pair of them on my way home from teaching this afternoon (a simple bamboo pair with a twist near the top to make them fun!) Therefore, I needed food to try them on, and came up with this...

I can't take credit for the dumplings, because they're the aforementioned TJ's brand ones. But the "lo mein" on the side was mine. I've often wished I could just cook things without recipes, and it was a total experiment, but it turned out pretty good. It was easy too. All I did was cut up some red bell pepper and carrot, threw in some frozen peas, and sauteed that in some canola oil while I cooked some broken-in-half spaghetti. When the veggies were a little tender, I threw in some sesame seeds, and then about a minute later, some garlic hoisin sauce that we had around here. Then I drained the spaghetti and threw that in too, and voila, instant side dish.
(Also, for the record, I've been eating this while I've been writing this. I almost made it to the end with the chopsticks... I had to cave and get a fork to scoop up the peas, because they didn't pick up as nicely as the rest of it. I'm proud of being able to use them on the noodles though!)

Friday Favorites, Episode 2

Lots of fun goodies this week!

1. The Little Fabric Flower Box at Creative Kismet. It's fun, it's funky, and the colors are really cheerful. That, and the way she describes how she just had to make it really makes me smile.

2. Sharon's "season transition" skirt. Style-wise, it's a very simple skirt in a rather neutral color (more suited to winter), but the applique makes it so much more interesting and gives it a more spring-like feel. (I'll admit it, I love it when adults don't shy away from clothes that are embellished in a fun way!)

3. Secret Pocket Easter Eggs at Sew, Mama, Sew! I have absolutely no reason to make one, but I think they're adorable. Plus they'd be a great way to use up scraps, they'd look more fun in an Easter basket than the plastic ones, and they're also better for the environment and more young kid-friendly than the plastic ones.

4. Also found through Sew, Mama, Sew! was this tutorial for cd coasters at Scrapdash. I've definitely used unwanted cds as coasters before, but they didn't look nearly this classy. Looks like they'd be really simple to make, too. (Though I think I'm still going to hang onto my pile of old AOL cds that I kept for crafting purposes for now... for years, I've really wanted to use pieces of old cds to mosaic a tabletop or something. That idea's indefinitely on hold until I actually have somewhere to put a table though, so if I ever have a need for more coasters or a quick gift idea for someone with a house, definitely going back to this one.)

5. This wrapped wire necklace at Crafty Daisies. You'd never be able to guess what the silver ring inside the wire is-- just an ordinary washer (like the type you get at the hardware store!) I've been wanting to expand my jewelry-making repertoire to wire anyway (pretty much the only way I can work in metals with affordable supplies), and this looks like it would be a good project to try for it.

6. Not new to me-- this last one, from Angry Chicken, is purely for nostalgia value. My friends and I used to pass notes in class that were folded all cool like this back in late elementary/junior high school.

Well, that wraps it up for this week. Happy spring/Good Friday, all!

March 19, 2008

Chop chop!

Even though it's only about 10 minutes until the official start of spring, it seems like winter, Delaware-style, is wanting to linger around. It has gotten a little warmer, thankfully, but it's been kind of rainy for the last few days. (Typical February/March weather around here-- cold and rainy.) So it's putting me in the mood for happy warm-weather clothes.
Now that I'm done with the Kaylee, moving on to that lovely piece of cotton voile I got during my trip to NYC's Fashion Week. After much deliberation, looking through my pattern stash, and getting some input from my mom, decided to go with a blouse instead of a tunic. It'll be pretty sheer, but I can wear a cami underneath easily enough. So this is going to be view D of New Look 6407. This is it all laid out (not quite the way the pattern called for-- it seemed like it would work fine without having to fold it two different ways for the selvages). And I got it cut out, along with the interfacing, and all the dots and such marked with thread. So it's all ready to start sewing, hopefully tomorrow.
This fabric may also become the basis for my yet-to-be-made new banner. It's just so happy and springy and happens to have all three of my favorite colors to wear (blue, green and brown)!

March 18, 2008

Kaylee Tunic, and ATC #3

First off, thanks to those of you who offered pointers for my banner dilemma. (Especially that Blogger for Dummies site-- as you can see, now I don't have to limit my "finished projects" because I have scroll buttons!! Sorry.... too many times hearing Strong Bad's "Scroll Buttons" email song on Homestar Runner, heh heh.) Anyway, I will have a spiffy banner up at some point. But first I need to take a picture for it. Which means either I need to clean up my sewing area, or I need to wait for happy springy things to take pictures of. Either way, it could be awhile since winter decided to dig its heels in for one last go at us, and I happen to enjoy making crafty messes far more than cleaning them up.

I finished up with my "Kaylee" tunic yesterday. I'm rather pleased with it, actually, despite the fact that the fabric was a pain to work with because it snagged so easily. I do need to figure out how to get a crisper edge on the lower hems (I guess I didn't have enough heat when I pressed it), but I think it definitely has the look of Kaylee's jacket without being an exact copy-- more wearable for every day. And when I tried it on, it felt like it's going to be a comfy shirt to wear--a bit of a looser fit than I usually go for, but if the seams were any tighter I wouldn't be able to raise my arms. So hopefully the long darts and the length will be slimming enough for me.
I also did the third of my "Crane Wife" Decemberists ATCs tonight. This time the text is from "Crane Wife 3". A little messy on the one side since I originally drew the line too far over, but I really like the crane. I started on another ATC tonight too, this time a magazine collage one, but I'm not going to show it until it's done.

March 15, 2008

Bored with Blogger Layouts

Not really craft-related, but it is creative, so....

Spring's almost here. It's finally starting to get to the point where my fingers aren't icicles all the time. And the grass is starting to get some color to it. I actually saw flowers the other day when I was driving to work in the university town. So I think it's time to change the look of this blog some.

Only thing is, I have no clue how to do it.

Really, I just want one of those nifty banners. I'd like to change the colors too, but I know how to do that part at least. Could any of you more html-savvy people point me to something that might help? Like, you know, "Blog-banner-making for Dummies" or something? (It's not so much actually making the banner as getting it to actually appear on the blog, really.)

March 14, 2008

Friday Favorites

So many of the craft blogs I've been keeping an eye on have weekly features, like Mom2fur's "Sew Crafty Friday", and Sharon's Thursday dog post and "Flashback Fridays", and I've really enjoyed reading those. So I'm going to attempt my own little weekly mini-feature here. But since I do too much crafting to reserve all that for once a week, and "flashbacks" for me would probably consist of vague fuzziness from when I was a kid (or laughing over some of the bizzare things I sewed for myself in middle/high school that I unfortunately don't have pictures of), I'm just going to post about some of my favorite things that I've seen in the crafty blogosphere this week.

1. The Big List Of Sewing Blogs. I've only known about this list since this week, but apparently it knew about me a little longer because somehow I ended up on there! I haven't had a chance to get through more than maybe the first ten on the list yet, but it's always fun to find new people's blogs to get inspired by. (And now that I finally know how to work Bloglines, it'll be a little easier to keep up with reading them all!)

2. Lydia's chicken enchiladas. She always has the most yummy-looking food on her blog, and this is giving me serious cravings for Mexican. I'm really going to have to try this once I have some time to cook. (While I'm at it, I'll just throw in a shameless plug for her blog--I actually knew Lydia growing up, since she's the younger sister of one of my high school classmates and we were in art classes together. Besides her cooking, she's amazingly talented at making cards and invitations and stuff. If I had need for anything like wedding invitations or baby shower invitations, I would definitely order them from her. But I don't yet, so the rest of you should. ;-)

3. Sweet Pepita's Etsy Shop, as seen on Crafting A Green World. She makes infant through toddler clothes from recycled T-shirts and organic knits. It makes me seriously wish I had a baby just so I could tote him or her around in a recycled Counting Crows shirt and laugh at all the shocked faces of my Baby Gap-shopping friends with kids. As it is, I'm trying to figure out if I can afford one of these for my high-school best friend (whom I still keep in touch with on a regular basis), since she's pregnant with her second child and she's the type who would appreciate the recycled/organic thing.

4. How to make a "slack dress". Leave it to ThreadBanger to take a pair of men's pants and turn them into a dress. This one looks rather nice, actually, and like it would be easy to customize, so I'm tempted to try it. Of course, I'd have to fiddle with the actual directions a bit...unlike the girl who demonstrated how to make it, I would need darts.

Anyway, that's it for this week's edition. And since I have some time to kill before I go teach, I'm going to go resume work on the Kaylee shirt.

March 13, 2008

The Sidonie Hiking Skirt, Part 6-- the finale!

That's right, I got it done this afternoon!

View from the side with the cargo pocket...
...the outside...
...and the inside.
Only problem is, I can't seem to get it uploaded to BurdaStyle! Hopefully the site will stop bugging on me so I can get it done within the deadline!

March 12, 2008

The Sidonie Hiking Skirt, Part 5, and another ATC

Actually, the skirt itself is done. I sewed down the yoke this afternoon, as well as hemmed it. And I added the closures-- took awhile because I had to try to figure out how to install the snap at the waist. Fortunately, I tried it on a scrap because it didn't work, so I ended up doing a button and buttonhole instead. I did discover a bit of a problem with the twill tape-- it doesn't stay put for adjustments at the buckle. Will have to try and think of a way around it that doesn't involve restitching with a double layer. I really don't think that would work. Anyway, all I really have left to do is the cargo pocket, which I'm hoping to get done tomorrow. And then it's just making the cargo pocket how-to and uploading all the pics and stuff.

I think I've been bitten by the ATC bug. I actually ordered some art supplies today, after checking my old stash to see what I still had--some colored pencils (since nearly all of mine were lent out to an interior-design major friend, never to be seen again) and watercolor paper. I figure if nothing else, the paper is acid-free and so both can be used in scrapbooks. But I've got all sorts of ideas of things to draw and stuff now-- we'll see if I can carry them out!
I drew another card tonight. Same Decemberists album ("Summersong" this time), same style. I don't like this one as well, honestly-- drawing people was never my strong point, and her lips and the side of her face are all wrong. I probably should have done it in pencil first instead of just sketching with pen. But with the hair, I think she looks stylized enough that it's not horrendous. I think my favorite part is the text in the water.
I have enough of this particular scrap of cardstock left to do one more. I might have more of the same color in the bin, but a series of 3 seems like a good way to do this. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking I might want to do one of the actual "Crane Wife" songs. I have 3 to pick from, so surely I can find an inspirational lyric in one of them!

March 10, 2008

The Sidonie Hiking Skirt, Part 4 --now with pictures!

Hurrah! It's working tonight! So now I can finally show my process a bit.

After ripping the "muslin" apart, this is approximately how my main pattern pieces looked. This is the inner wrap, the back....

... and the outer front.

So yesterday I got the skirt pieces sewn together and topstitched, and the buckles and velcro tabs all sewn on...

...and the outer yoke sewn together/topstitched.

Tonight's progress: Skirt and outer yoke sewn together (that took awhile, because it kept puckering on the inside edge. I think the yoke was a bit too big. It's still not perfect, but since it's inside the wrap it won't be seen so I'm not going to sweat it.) Also sewed together the fuzzy inside yoke pieces and got that sewn onto the outer yoke at the waist edge. I also edgestitched the inside so that it would have a nice clean line. The other slightly time-consuming detail was the belt loops (I decided, for the sake of my baby pattern-drafting skills, that I would just do belt loops instead of an all-out casing like the original skirt has.) But you can see a closer-up view of those on the next picture.
So now all that's left (which will most likely wait until Wednesday, since tomorrow's back to my usual later teaching schedule) is to finish sewing the yoke down (at the sides, and the seam between that and the skirt, though I'll likely have to do the latter by hand), determine placement for the snap and velcro at the waist (actually, I may need to do that before finishing the yoke so that the velcro stitching won't have to show on the outer skirt), add the cargo pocket and hem it. The hem may have to become a little more in-depth, though. I realized once I sewed the skirt pieces together that I completely forgot that I was going to add some length to the back. So what I may end up having to do, if I try it on and it's too short, is cut an extra band for the bottom, sew that on to add some length, and then pretend I did it on purpose as a design detail. ;-)

March 9, 2008

The Sidone Hiking Skirt, part 3 (and a new diversion)

I got several hours' work in on the skirt this afternoon. I used the muslin to make corrections to the paper pattern (because the fabric was already beginning to fray since it was cheap polyester, and since I'm pretty sure that if this works, K. will want me to make her one. Since her skirt fits me just about perfectly, I think we're probably about the same size.) I got it cut out of the real fabric (a black quick-dry nylon and some green moleskin-type stuff for the yoke facing), and got some rather large pieces sewn together.

There will be pictures of it, hopefully soon. But Blogger's photo uploader doesn't like me on any browser tonight. (Edit, 3/10 9AM: I managed to get it working long enough to get one pic in here. But none of the skirt yet, and it died on me again.)

Also tried something new on Friday night. But there's a background story to this, so here goes.

I didn't originally intend to go into music. In fact, I started college as an art major, with plans to major in photography. I used to do art a lot--along with band, it was my top extracurricular when I was in high school, and I would do it a good bit in my free time too. (Actually, I was voted "most artistic" in the senior yearbook, along with two of my classmates. There were a couple winners in almost every category. I did get "most musical" too. Yes, I was the consummate art/band geek.) And when it came time to decide what I wanted to major in, since I'd given up on my long-term wish to become a veterinarian (I worked in a vet clinic one summer, and while I loved it, having to help with things like euthanizing the animals was just too hard for me), I decided to major in art and minor in music. The reason? I figured there were more jobs available with an art degree, like stuff in advertising and graphic design and whatnot. My flute teacher laughed at me when I told her I wasn't going into music, and it turned out she was right. First semester freshman year was brutal--I was taking the introductory drawing class and 2-D Design, and since pretty much all of my exposure to art was a very small program at my school that was headed by a teacher who was very kind and encouraging, but not very critical of our work, I was having a really hard time with the coursework. And since I'd generally been a straight-A honor student, it was tough on me mentally (and physically) to be staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning on a regular basis trying to get my artwork done, getting up around 6 to catch the bus into campus for my 8 AM classes (I was commuting, and freshmen always get the crappy 8:00 classes), only to manage a B- at best on my drawings. (Or, as happened quite frequently in my 2-D design class, to have the professor decide the entire class's work was sub-par at best and tell us all to do the assignment again.)

Meanwhile, my work for my music minor was going extremely well. I'd gotten into the toughest ensemble (last chair, but when I started, making wind ensemble was rare for a freshman flutist just due to the heavier competition for seats), I got along well with my flute professor, and when I took my introductory ear training and harmony courses over the winter session, I was surprised at how little stress I felt in the classes. When spring semester started getting closer, I started dreading the upcoming semester and what was awaiting me in the next round of art classes. It was one of those God things, really--I woke up the day before the semester was supposed to start with the clear conviction that I needed to switch to music, cleared it with my parents and my flute professor, spent the day running around and changing my entire schedule for the spring semester, and never looked back. The only regret I've ever had about that decision was that ever since then, I just haven't been able to do art. When I was in school I was just too busy, but once I finished grad school I was just too mental blocked for anything other than the nature photography I toy with. That's one of the main things that really kept me doing scrapbooking. Other than needing something to do with the pictures I take and enjoying the writing aspect of it, since English was always one of my best subjects as well, it's really been the closest thing to art I've been able to do in my crafting. But I've found myself missing art and wishing I could find a way to start picking it up again.

A friend and I had a blog conversation recently (on my other blog) about Artist Trading Cards, or ATCs. I'd heard of them before, thanks to, but she's the one who really got me curious. Basically the premise is you make art the size of a baseball card and swap them for free with other artists, so it's a way to encourage people to both make and collect independent art. She and another friend were making some to swap, and since she knows I'm a crafty girl, she asked if maybe I'd be interested in doing it sometime. We haven't made definite plans on that yet, other than it'll probably be inspired by lyrics from musicians we both like, but since I was feeling too drained and headachey from allergies to cut out the real Sidone on Friday night, I stayed in my room and made my very first ATC instead.

Nothing brilliant, of course, it's just basically an ink doodle on leftover scrapbook cardstock and tinted with colored pencils. But still, it's one of the first things I've drawn in years that wasn't just a clothing design rough sketch. So this just might be a perfect way for me to do art again--small projects that take little time and can be swapped. (The text, btw, is lyrics from the song that inspired the drawing, "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then" by The Decemberists.)

March 5, 2008

The Sidone Hiking Skirt, part 2 -- Make It Work!

Since I'm watching part of the PR marathon leading up to the finale tonight, figured it was an appropriate title.

This is my inspiration skirt, kindly lent to me by K. So you can see how it attaches on the inside (a tab with velcro). And the blue stuff inside is kind of like a suedecloth to prevent chafing from the quick-dry, not-so-soft nylon.

I cut out and basted the mockup today. I'm really glad I made a mockup, because the basic concept is good, but it needs some tweaking...

#1: I should have done more of a straight line when adjusting the waist-to-hip sizing difference--the curve was bubbling out horrendously and I had to baste it in a good half an inch in spots.

#2: For some reason, the yoke sits very high in the back. It also gaps a bit, probably due to the fact that I cut the yoke from the bias-cut front. I added the darts that would have been in the back, and will also have to add at least an inch to the hem in the back.

#3: On the outer wrap, the yoke needs to be angled up a bit more so it'll line up with what's going on underneath. To fix this, I basically based a 5/8" dart for 4 1/2" , taking part of it from both the yoke and the skirt and tapering it into the seam that was already between the two. I'm also having to move the tab down and trim part of the skirt accordingly.

#4: The inside wrap goes over too far-- almost to the seamline. This would probably be ok for a regular wrap skirt, but since I do want the front to close in the center, this needed to get trimmed down. I took about 1 1/2" from the top and then tapered it into the pre-existing edge. Also ended up having to take a dart between the yoke and skirt on this side.

(In the meantime... Project Runway finale time!)

Can it be? Am I hearing this right? Christian just said nice things about Rami and Jillian's collections? Especially Jillian's? Now I know he's stressed. It's making him have a personality glitch.

Wait, no, he's back. Let's see... Jillian's stressing over models, Christian's snarking about her, Rami's being pretty quiet.

The collections:

Jillian-- I liked several pieces. That grey-and-red coat. The short blue dress. The gold dress. Some of them I thought were kind of odd, and I'm not totally convinced the striped sweater fits. That, and the sleeves make me think of a mop.

Rami-- Has some good color. Not sure about the gym bag with the pink skirt look. I do like his army green pants outfit a lot. And the woven corset wit hthe draped skirt. The two evening gowns were just stunning. Looks like the big poofy coat didn't make the cut, but that's probably good since it was highly criticized.

Christian-- No real woman would be ble to wear that first look-- too tight in the chest and big on the hips. Some of his jackets are good, though a bit neo-Victorian for my taste. Not into the poofy ruffle coat. Or that ruff that makes it look like her neck got eaten by a bridesmaid gown. Oh look, it's a Musketeer! Yeah, these big ruffly tops and tight pants are just not cool. And I'm really not just saying that because it's Christian. I will admit I like the blended-color chiffon looks though. It's kind of neat how they change colors.

I think I want Rami to win. Jillian would be my second pick.

Judgment time! Jillian is commended for her attention to detail, knitwear and innovation. Nina thinks it was a bit disjointed. Christian is "fierce" as usual (or "major" according to Victoria Beckham), but Michael and Nina thinks he had too much black and repetition. Heidi likes Rami's weaving too, as does Michael, though Michael's not a fan of the color choices. Nina commends him for having a strong point of view.

Ok, here we go... Jillian is out. And GAH!!!! I knew Christian was going to win, just because it would drive me crazy. If I hear that something is "fierce" for the next six months, when it doesn't involve, say, a wild tiger that's about ready to pounce, I think I'm going to scream.

Anyway, back to my project. Here's the mockup as it stands now, from the front....
...and the back....

...and the side. I'm going to be using twill tape for that one tab there. It really is laying better with the dart, so I'm not sure how they got it to work on the original without it. Once I'm satisfied with the fit, I'll have a couple more additions to make. I need to add a belt casing for the webbing belt built-in to the waist, as well as a belt loop for the end of it. And I want a zippered cargo pocket on the non-wrapped side. I know I'm not going to have time to sew tomorrow, but I can hopefully get enough to tweak the fit and maybe trim the seams and rip it apart to use as the pattern if I get home in time for Lost or something. At any rate, I will have Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday afternoon, and I'll have to wing it from there. But I got the basic skirt sewn together in less than an hour. Even with the extra details, surely I can get this done before next weekend's deadline!

March 3, 2008

The Sidone Hiking Skirt, part 1

No pictures today, though I did take a bunch. K. did bring me her skirt yesterday, so I spent awhile studying it and taking all sorts of measurements after trying it on to confirm that yes, it did fit me. I didn't get very far in the pattern modification due to spending part of yesterday with several friends belatedly celebrating my birthday, but I spent about the last 2 hours working on it tonight. The reason for no pics is I'm going to throw together a quick mock-up to test it out before cutting into the pricey/hard-to-get wind/water-resistant nylon stuff, so I want to see if it works or if I have to redraw things before dealing with the how-to!

Anyway, the quick run-down of attempt #1:
  • Used just the front and back skirt pieces, completely ignoring the lining and waistband.
  • Used the bias-cut front as the basis for a yoke for both the front and the back, since on the hiking skirt, the yoke is cut on the bias and the lower sections are cut on the grain. I'm guessing for ease of fit/movement.
  • Eliminated the back seam for the lower back skirt, using that back piece for it.
  • How it stays closed: A velcroed tab on the inner wrap connects to a piece of velcro near what would be the side seam (on her skirt, there's actually two side seams from an inserted panel, but I'm just going to do the regular side seam and add a zipped cargo-type pocket on top of that.) A piece of velcro and a snap close the top. On the outside, there's a piece of twill tape connecting a buckle to a closure near the side skirt seam. In other words, with that look, it would also be good for a punk-looking wrap made out of plaid with heavy metal buckles or something. Too bad I'm not punk at all (and that I have no plaid) or I would so test it out with that look.