Category Archives: Sewing

Embroidered Blocking Mat Storage Bag

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This week was the Summer Solstice for Earth’s Northern Hemisphere and we sure are feeling the heat here in the Northeastern United States! Temperatures of 98*F and plenty of humidity to go around.

As a knitter and crocheter, one of the final steps to finishing a piece is blocking. This does not need to be done with all projects, but definitely with some. For example, due to the pattern stitch and yarn used for this cream criss-cross scarf I made for my sister, you can see how the edges curl under a bit and the shape is not quite right. This is because the piece was never properly blocked to define the shape. I never block scarves, frankly because they are SO long that I don’t have a surface big enough to use for blocking!

Blocking boards are pretty expensive and normally I would make a board, but again – most pieces I don’t block are things like very long scarves and I didn’t want to take on a DIY task like that. Then I came up with a solution: foam floor mats! You know, the kind you fit together like a puzzle that you typically see all colorful on playroom floors or the black version on workroom floors? You can determine the size and the shape – and because they are foam they won’t mind getting a bit wet or being stuck with pins. I thought it was the perfect inexpensive solution for my blocking board problem. I settled on these double-sided blocks from Amazon: Norsk-Stor 240151 Reversible Recyclamat Multi-Purpose Foam Flooring, Multi-Color/Gray, 4-Pack


Photo Credit: Amazon.com

My birthday was in May and my parents are kind enough to get all of their kids a couple of things that we want or need every year, no matter how grown we become. This year when my mom asked what I wanted I sent her the link to these mats. In anticipation of their arrival I decided to make a storage bag for them. I knew that the mats would be sitting around gathering dust if I didn’t so I went ahead and stitched up a bag based on the measurements from Amazon’s website. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s pretty close. I guess that’s what happens when you make a bag to fit something before you have the actual item you’re storing!

I used Kona Solid Cotton color Sand. It’s a very basic bag made of two fabric pieces sandwiched together, corner seams to make the base, and a few pieces of tonal velcro hand-stitched at the top hem for closure.

My favorite touch is the embroidered yarn ball that I decided to add. I went ahead and free-handed my sketch. Since this was a big item and I wanted some great texture I decided to embroider the piece with yarn instead of embroidery thread. I used 100% Cotton that I had in my stash (do you recognize the color from my niece’s worm pillow’s stripe?).

I love the golden yellow – it is bright and sunny and I think it complements the neutral fabric quite well. It also gives you a hint of the bright colorful mats that are stored inside.

For some interesting info about the Summer Solstice, check out this National Geographic article.

Guest Spotlight: Handmade Summer Belt + Tutorial from Sew Paint Create

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Summer’s official start is not until June 20th, but I’m already feeling the spirit. I was the lucky recipient of a fabulous custom-made summery belt from fellow blogger Pétra of Sew Paint Create!

I was excited even when the up-cycled, bird-stamped, machine-stitched package arrived (completely my style). When I opened it and saw the belt things just got better. It was like pulling a piece of the sea out of the envelope. The fabric is lovely in its aquas, white and sea-toned greens.

The belt is lightweight, perfect for summer, and was made exactly to my size. Even on those days I can’t make it down the shore this summer I can take it with me in my wardrobe. Thank you Pétra!

The best news of all is that Pétra has posted a tutorial today on how to make this belt! Please be sure to visit Sew Paint Create to check out her great tutorial and while you’re there take a look at her quilting and other crafty endeavors.

Cable Knit Bag

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You may remember my post from July about the cable knit handbags I made for my sisters. Well, one of my cousins saw that post and absolutely loved it. She asked me to recreate a version of the bag for her daughter. My cousin that would be wearing the bag also spends her time in the city and I had her choose the color of the yarn (Forrest Green) – from there I decided to do an Asian-inspired lining and trim.

I went to work re-creating the pattern of the bag. Once the piece was knit up I created the lining with a beautiful fan-printed fabric. I just loved the gold metallic in the fabric. It does not show up very well in the photo, but trust me – it sparkles.

A removable base was added in, a magnetic snap closure, a pocket, some bamboo handles… and I made a pin for the front to match the lining. It has some beautiful fish (or maybe they are serpents) and the coloring matches the lining.

She received the bag on Christmas and loves it! If you see a fashionable girl wandering around NYC and B’klyn with this one-of-a-kind bag, that would be my cousin!

Handmade Rag Dolls & Monsters

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…are taking over NYC! Well, not really but the photos of the dolls were taken against the city backdrop (from my office window).

I made a little rag doll for my 9 mo. old niece for Christmas. When my friend saw it she wanted a couple to give as gifts – including a boy doll for her son. I thought a monster would be much cuter than a rag doll, and it turns out she affectionately calls her son a ‘little monster’. Perfect fit!

I had already made a pattern for the rag doll when I did my niece’s, but the monster pattern had to be created.

He has a nice plump body and some skinny dangley legs and arms. I gave him playfully ferocious teeth and spiky hair – and of course a set of angry red monster eyes!

The dolls were also customized with colors and style – and later personalized. The first doll had a pastel color theme with dark hair.

The second doll was also a brunette and had a cute girly dress that matched the one I made for my niece’s doll.

I was pretty happy with how they all turned out – and even better, my friend was thrilled! They are great personal gifts that I hope the kids will enjoy.

Baby Pumpkin Costume

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For my niece’s first Halloween, my mom wanted to make her a pumpkin costume. Seriously, how cute is a little six month old dressed as a pumpkin? My mom tackled the pumpkin body while I worked on the little stem “hat”.

The body was a simple silhouette – two rectangular pieces, gathered with elastic at the bottom and top, seamed at the sides with space for armholes. She was plumped up with a little tissue paper stuffing.

I created the stem / leaf topper by first sketching out on paper, then cutting out of felt. I stuffed the stem with fiberfill and hand stitched the stem to the leaf portion. Both elastic and a ribbon tie were fastened so my sister-in-law could determine which would work best once she tried the costume on. The stem hat looked great on my Cabbage Patch Kid model while I was constructing it, but it was way cuter on my niece in the end. My niece is the cutest pumpkin ever! Please forgive her blurred out face but I wasn’t sure if my brother and sister-in-law would want her photo posted online otherwise.

Handmade Bat Napkin Rings

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Halloween is just around the corner and I decided to create a little decoration for my mom. I love bats and wrote a pattern to create a no-sew napkin ring all with one piece of fabric. Awesome. Check out the little winged creatures:

What I’m listening to as I write this post: The news on TV (so sad, they are talking about Steve Jobs)

Handmade Bird Cage Cover

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I have a little Australian Grey Cockatiel named Bird. He is the cute guy with the yellow head that you see in a photo off to the side of my post.

Bird has had a few cage covers in the past including old sheets and fabric that was intended to be sewn into a proper cover, but never was. Exhibit A (piece of fabric):

I took a trip to the store recently in search of 2 fabulous fabrics, one for the lining and one for the shell (that would match the new drapes). I couldn’t find anything with little birds on it for the lining, but I did find a cute fabric with bird houses. It would have to do. For the shell I picked out a pale green with an off-white floral pattern. Why line this piece? Because I was using a lightweight cotton-poplin and wanted to make sure there were two layers to avoid too much light coming through the cover.

I started by drawing a rough sketch of the cage and taking some basic measurements. I wanted to create something fitted that would keep him covered at night, but that could also be folded back and left on the cage during the day (especially in the Fall/Winter to help avoid drafts and give him a nice shady corner for napping).

I laid the fabric out and drew the back piece to the shape of the cage, using the measurements I took as a guide and factoring in seam allowance. Next I marked off the two side panels. I cut all three of these pieces out (both fabrics at once for consistency and efficiency).

Finally I needed to create the two front flaps. I took my back piece, folded it in half, marked the fabric and cut it out. Then I adjusted the fold to be slightly larger than half and cut out a second piece. Why slightly wider for the second flap? So there would be an overlap and give a nice closure to the piece.

I decided the easiest way to do this would be to sew the lining together, then the shell together, then to sew the two pieces together.

Lining: The two sides were attached to the back piece (try on cage for fit before adding the remaining pieces – looking good!), then the two front flaps were sewn on. Shell: Repeat steps from the lining assembly.

When I had sewn the two sets of five pieces together, I ironed flat all of my seams. Then I turned the shell right-side-out and placed it over the lining piece making sure the seams were aligned.

I decided that I wanted to see stitching on the bottom hem plus on the front flap openings. Once I had the two pieces pinned together I sewed first the flaps, then the bottom hem.

The result turned out great! Perfectly fitted – and this cover is reversible! (Though I do prefer the bird houses as a lining.)

The front flaps close with no gaping as the one piece is about 1″ wider so it can be tucked under the regular-size flap.

Check Bird out all relaxed and fluffed up, enjoying his new decor.

What I’m listening to as I write this post: Patsy Cline

Housewarming Handmade Coasters

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A great housewarming or holiday gift for somebody is some stylish handmade coasters. I made these for my sisters, picking out fabrics specific to their personal taste and living room color schemes.

This first set used fabric to not only complement the light green sofa and chaise in my sister’s living room, but also to incorporate pink which is one of her favorite colors. I used pink contrast thread for all of the stitching.

Paisley is always a great choice for an accessory. These coasters are a perfect use of your “fat quarters” or fabric remnants in your stash.

This second set used a blue fabric to bring a pop of color to my other sister’s living room. Her furniture is a nice neutral color so you could really pick anything to accessorize it. I chose blue since this is a color theme present throughout the room (crocheted blanket, pillows, vase, etc). The contrast thread is a beautiful grey color that complements the outline of the floral stems. This sister is also very patriotic so red and blue are always an appropriate choice.

What I’m listening to as I write this post: The Actual Tigers

Cable Knit Bag

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A few years ago I made all of my sisters knit bags for Christmas. This is a pattern I wrote myself, though it was unfortunately lost due to a leak in my apartment ceiling (more like a rainstorm!).

It was a fairly simple process to knit the bag. I wrote a pattern with cables and ribbing then knit the body as a rectangle. I stitched up the sides about 3/4 of the way. The bag was fastened to the circular bamboo handles with a whip stitch. All of the hard work really went into the finishing.

I found a gorgeous silk fabric in a tiny store in NYC’s garment district. It is a cream color with beautiful cream and pink stitching. This was used to create the lining, the inside pocket, and also to cover the removable-base (made from layers of sturdy cardboard). I added a magnetic snap closure before stitching the lining to the inside of the bag.

The three bags were identical except for the brooch on the outside – my sisters each had a different color and shape cameo brooch as the finishing touch.

Bird Mobile

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I love birds and I wanted to share this with my baby niece. I really wanted to make a bird mobile to hang above her crib so I went in search of just the right knitting pattern.

I came across a Sweet Little Bird knitting pattern from the Knitted Toy Box blog. I knew this would look great in different yarn colors, sizes and textures to give my mobile some nice variety.

I told a friend about the in-progress mobile and he showed me a pattern his sister was using for a friend. This pattern from Spool Sewing blog is for hand-sewn birds that I just fell in love with. I knew I needed to incorporate the fabric & knit birds together on the mobile.

My initial plan was to hang the birds from crossed dowels, but I ended up making too many! I decided to be resourceful and see what else I could find in my craft bin. What did I come up with?

Rings! I had some great small rings that I saved from scarves I bought at Target. Perfect! The birds would hang 5 per ring x 3 rings, all birds and rings at varying heights.

But how would I hang the 3 small rings? I needed a larger ring to solve this. My mom dug into her craft bin and found an embroidery hoop of just the right size. I used the inner ring (without the hardware).

All rings were covered with a beautiful wide teal satin ribbon that I had leftover from a garter belt project (see post from June 25, 2011). I had a thin tonal dark teal satin ribbon to use for hanging the large ring from the ceiling. At the top it is finished with a loop to hang from a ceiling hook and a bow detail.

All of the birds were attached to the rings with invisible thread so they would appear to be ‘flying’.

When my 3-month-old niece came for a visit I had the mobile hanging from a ceiling fan for its unveiling. The expression on her face upon seeing the mobile was priceless; it made all of the hard work worthwhile. She was mesmerized by the birds – the colors, the movement, the shapes, the visual of birds hanging in the air. I hope she will love looking at the mobile when my brother hangs it above her crib.

I love all of these birds! There will definitely be some more bird creation for the holidays as I think they will make great Christmas tree ornaments.