Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Father's Day

For Father's Day, I usually clean the garage for my husband and organize his tools. This year I was finally able to put up some shelving in our new garage addition (which we are still insulating and drywalling: ah, construction is slow when you do it yourself...). The shelves are made of pieces of our old bed, and the lower shelf is held up with decorative brackets I bought from Lowes several months ago and never used. (I did buy 89-cent brackets for the other shelves, spray-painted black.) An old ladder that has been in our scrap pile for years became a table with the addition of old plywood on top and cinderblocks below, and I leaned a wrought-iron fireplace door against the wall to hold sunglasses. (Okay, I mainly did it because it looked pretty.) I was pleased when a strip of short coat pegs found a new job holding hammers and the cordless drill.

Even if garages can't be particularly pretty, at least they can look slightly decorative. Happy (belated!) Father's Day to all our husbands and fathers out there!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dyeing Day: Microwave!

What's more invigorating than a quick craft project on a summer day? Due to an oversight, I accidentally dropped one of my baby's white (actually dingy gray) Trumpette socks into a dyebath. So I had one blue and one white sock. I decided to dye the other one to match. For fun, I decided to dye an old silk scarf too. (I also thought it would absorb some of the dye and keep my baby's sock from getting too dark.)
Fortunately this past Christmas my friend Andrea taught me how to dye in the microwave! So this was all I had to do:
First I soaked the sock in some sodium bicarbonate (soda ash) from the hardware store. This enables the fabric to absorb the dye and "fixes" it. I put about a quarter teaspoon of Dharma Trading's turquoise blue dye in a heavy zip lock bag.

Next I mixed the dye with about a quarter cup of warm water until it was well dissolved. I put both the sock and scarf in the bag, closed it, and squished the bag for a few minutes to coat the scarf and sock evenly with the dye.
Then I mircowaved the bag for two or three minutes, checking to make sure that the bag didn't fill up with too much steam and explode open (you have to stand and watch, just like microwaving popcorn).
Then I just rinsed in the sink, and threw both the items into a hot wash in the washing machine with a little Synthropol (textile dye detergent) to finish! Professional dyeing has never been so easy!
So now I have two blue socks, and a blue scarf as well, and I am very happy. :)

In my opinion, vat dyeing (on the stove or in the washing machine) produces darker and richer color that lasts longer. But for a small job like this, the microwave saves a lot of chemicals, trouble, and mess. Which means, more beauty for less work! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Random Moment of Beauty: Diet Desert

For those of you who've been wondering, I'm still trying to follow the diet that I started last summer. I have quite a bit of my accumulated "baby fat" (from several babies!) to lose, and sometimes the going is hard.
When I succeed in following the plan (and manage to avoid the nightly family bowl of popcorn, the hardest hurdle of the day) I reward myself with a cup of herbal-and-berry tea and a quality chocolate. A good book and an early bedtime are further helps towards eating light.
Wish me well!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Smocked Summer Dress

While shopping with my guardian angel and praying for a good deal on a limited budget, I found some already-smocked fabric at WalMart on clearance and used it to make matching skirts for myself and the older girls. I had lots leftover, so I made dresses for the two younger girls. This one turned out particularly well.

I just used two rectangles of cloth to make a bodice, and attached it to a gathered skirt, which I stretched out while attaching it so that the fabric gathered. Thus.
After I attached the bodice, I gathered the neck and armholes with elastic and presto! A dress!

The material was so gauzy that I put an underskirt of dark blue cloth trimmed with cotton lace eyelet at the bottom to weight the skirt a bit. I love when a little effort produces such a charming result!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Purse Diary: Patching

When I started this blog, I promised myself I wouldn't apologize for a lapse in blogging. After all, isn't the whole point of an "occaisonal project" is that it's "occasional?" But I really enjoy keeping this photo blog, and I feel like I do want to apologize after all for being "gone" for so long.

But I have been working on my patchwork purse! Despite the fact that I could do it by machine, I've been doing it by hand again. In this photo, you can see my portable quilting kit. Liberty of London tana lawn is so thin that I can fold several squares into a coin purse, with enough room for a folding scissors, needle case, small spool of thread, and thimble (this one is a wooden one from Russia I stole from my daughters). Here is the progress thus far. I'll let you know when I have more done!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

William Morris Girl

My one daughter serves as my tiny fashion model: she's so diminuitive my husband calls her his "elf maiden." But she loves clothing, and I had to snap a picture of her in this homemade dress of discontinued William Morris fabric. I didn't make the dress: a friend found it in a thrift store (ah, guardian angels!). But if I had one of my own, I would wear it!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Purse Diary: Nighttime Sewing Marathon #2

So my nighttime purse-sewing marathon continued. As I said in the post two days ago, I tucked the corners of the sqare inside and sewed them, to make something resembling a cloth paper-grocery-bag.
Then, to give it shape, I made a deep pleat in on each side (I was copying the side pleats on the red bag in the photo, btw). Fortunately this matched the design of the lining I had gutted from the other purse.

I pinned the purse to the lining, right sides together, sewed all but one side, and then turned in right side out. Ta-da! A purse with three compartments!
Then I had to rip the whole thing apart and do it over because I realized I forgot to put in the straps that held the handles on. Which after an excruciating process, you can see below. (Sorry I forgot to take more pictures: it wasn't a very Christian part of the sewing). BTW in the picture above, you can see I pinned the pleats to the middle zipper section: I had to sew them by hand (and sewing through naughahyde without a thimble is rough, I'll tell you!). Later on I hand-sewed the pleat together that is pinned in the picture below.
When I was finished, I decided I really liked the brown and would probably use it in the fall. However, my outfit for the conference was blue, so I started making the button-on cover out of a favorite piece of Liberty of London fabric. Again, I started with a double square, sewn like a pillow. Here it is, fitted over top of the purse (which is upside down).I tucked in the corners and sewed them, as before, then sewed pleats in the sides to make it the same shape as the brown purse. Later on (on the plane, actually) I sewed four buttons onto the brown part of the purse to button the lining onto. I wasn't done the patchwork part of the lining, but for the conference, I had a purse! I hope this process was somewhat coherent! More to come....!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Purse Diary: Nighttime Sewing Marathon #1

"When it's time to go... you don't sew," my husband intones to me when we're getting ready for a trip. Since we were going on vacation right after a conference, I knew I had to get my purse made ahead of time: no sewing marathon the night before we left! So I worked late into the night several nights BEFORE we left. :) I'm sorry I haven't had time to post these pictures till now!

First I took some purses that I had bought for .75 apiece at the thrift store and looked at them. I hate making all the small compartments with zippers, yet I need my purse to have them. So to save time, I decided to gut an existing purse. I decided that the one on the right would do nicely.

So I took scissors and cut the lining out of the purse. A little tricky, but I did it!

Here's the lining! It had three compartments and I decided I liked the size and shape.

So I put it on some scrap upholstery material I had, and "wrapped" it to make a bag.

Here's the bag: it's basically a rectangle folded in half with the sides sewn. I put the lining inside it, and then filled it with the contents of my purse, to make sure everything would fit and that it was big enough. Do you see the corners sticking out at the base? My next step was to fold those corners inside and sew them down, so that the purse had a box shape, like a grocery bag. I'll post some more tomorrow.