Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Bit of Britannia in Leather

I've been needing a larger purse cosmetic bag for quite some time now -- the little zippered pouch I was using was just a tad too small for my mommy necessities (compact, chap stick, hand sanitizer, tiny hairbrush, bandaids, etc.). A "Mommy bag" was starting to seem more and more desirable, especially now that it's diaper bag season again. The obvious solution was to make one, since I have plenty of scrap everything in my stash. 

But why not have a little fun with it? As a committed Anglophile -- but one whose tastes (and husband!) do not permit the blazoning of the Union Jack all over our dwelling -- the design seemed clear. Originally I planned to make it with fabric, but the more I thought about it, the less I thought that the fabrics I have on hand would be suitable. So if not fabric, then what? Leather, of course!





I was extremely skeptical about how well the leather would work -- especially stitching multiple layers of it together for the Union Jack pattern! I've had limited success stitching leather with my sewing machine, and the prospect of doing it all by hand... not appealing, to say the least. Fortunately, I gave the machine a try. It loved the really thick stuff, and only skipped a few stitches in toto.

I even had a salvaged red purse zipper with a red pull in my stash -- and it was just the right length! The brown suede leather is from a skirt that I bought way back when for $1. It's the skirt that just keeps on giving! The tan suede is from a jacket, and the red leather is from a bag of leather scraps my husband got for free at a local saddle shop. 







The pattern was the same I used for the pouch in my makeup travel bag -- it's half of a sheet of printer paper (i.e., it's 8 1/2" by 5 1/2") with the corners rounded. The sides are 2 1/2" wide, and the whole thing uses 1/2" seam allowance. So the bag's finished dimensions are roughly 4 1/2" by 7 1/2, with 1 1/2" side gussets. I really like this shape for a cosmetic bag; it's easy to access everything, and it's quite simple to construct (the hardest parts are the curves, and making sure the gusset lines up with both sides of the bag).

Do you want a peek at the lining? Of course you do -- or, if you don't, here's one, anyway! *wink*








And here's a better view!







I found the British fabric at JoAnn's (so handy when trends coincide with my interests!), and knew it would be just the thing for the lining. So yes, technically this is not an entirely "stashed" project. But for a few dollars, I couldn't resist. Plus, I now have some of the British fabric leftover for future projects.

You may be able to tell from the picture that it's a tad shiny -- that's because I used some super thin vinyl, leftover from my Peter Rabbit table re-do, as a protective layer. I figure that I won't want to be washing this very often due to the leather outer (though yes, you *can* wash leather on a gentle cycle if you're willing to take the risk), but quilting cotton doesn't exactly repel liquids, lotions, or the other substances that might be stored inside. It gives the bag a bit of a crinkly sound, but it actually worked out much better than I anticipated. I think basting the vinyl to the fabric before stitching it did the trick. 




So there you have it -- a new "Mommy bag" that's the perfect size (probably should have checked that before I made it, but all's well that ends well), while simultaneously sating my craving for British things. A happy ending, indeed!


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Knitting Bag

I don't splurge on expensive fabrics -- but when I do, I use every. last. scrap. The reasonsing is two-fold: if I spent more than usual it's probably because it's a fabric that I love, and having spent more than usual I'm determined to get every last penny out of my yardage! That's why I'm posting yet another project with Birch Fabric's Flight Canvas in Mineral, paired with grey linen.

There are probably thousands of tote patterns and tutorials on the interwebs -- from the very basic to the complex. I usually keep scrolling, knowing that it would only take about 2.5 seconds to find a pattern if I ever neede done. But for some reason, when I spotted the 1 Hour Reversible Tote by Haberdashery Fun, I was taken! So taken that I started one almost immediately. It helped that I've been wanting a dedicated knitting bag for some time now, and I knew this was the perfect candidate.




Perfect, indeed! The size and shape are just right -- not overly large for small projects, but big enough to tote a medium sized project. Granted, mine is not reversible -- primarily because I decided to use a brushed white cotton duck (from a salvaged Pottery Barn curtain panel) as the lining. But I wasn't really interested in reversible, so that worked out just fine! I put in a little pocket just for kicks; sometimes it's nice to keep little things from to the bottom of one's bag.




I am definitely running low on my Flight canvas (I've already made a stroller canopy and a diaper clutch from the 2 or 2 1/2 yards I bought), so I ended up piecing the front panel to make it work. I'm actually glad I did, because I think it looks better that way and I like the topstitching on the linen!





With no webbing on hand and no patience to wait for my next fabric store trip, I used extra linen for the straps. I'm using this as a knitting bag, so I have no concerns about durability! The linen is definitely a tad "floppy" (though I could have stiffened it with interfacing if I'd felt like it), but I like it. I didn't interface the canvas and linen, either, because the lining was so stiff, and it seems to have just enough structure for my purposes.







I think what really got me about this bag was the handle construction -- for some reason, I love the slight curve in the front, and the way the binding creates the handles. It's so simple (much easier than the average tote bag handle construction, in my opinion), and is just a little something special. All of the topstitching is in a thread color that matches the canvas; again, a decision I made out of laziness that turned out well!





 Now that my knitting projects have a reliable mode of transportation, the only question remaining is,  "What am I going to do with the two 8x14" pieces of canvas that I have left?" Oh, the possibilities! *wink*

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Last Maxi

A few weeks ago, I whipped up the last maxi -- well, the last maxi skirt for this pregnancy, anyway! Maxi skirts are so fabulous for transitional clothing; they span normal, maternity, and post-partum wardrobes with ease!

My dear mother knows me so well. She did not buy me a maxi skirt. She did not buy me fabric with which to make a maxi skirt. She bought me a knit dress that I could upcycle into a maxi skirt! She found a rather hideous J. Crew "tube top" dress at a local charity shop, and saw the potential at once. The color of the fabric is gorgeous -- it's a bit more muted than it shows on my computer monitor, and has a lovely hand. It's actually been in my stash for months; I'm still not sure why it took me so long to tackle this, since it took all of 15 or 20 minutes to complete.


Baby bump at just shy of 35 weeks!

After cutting off the bodice, I gave the rectangular skirt a bit of an A-line silhouette and attached a waistband. I ended up using one of my salvaged lycra maternity panels, trimmed down to about 4" (in other words, eliminating the curved bit in the front). The panel is beige, which actually makes it less visible under a white top than a self-fabric waistband would be. And hurray for pre-existing hems!

The white ruched tank top is one of six by Oh! Mamma that I bought this pregnancy (two white, and one each in black, grey, fuchsia, jade, and burgundy) -- they've been life savers, and are perfect for layering with non-maternity cardigans! This particular cardigan is by Style & Co., and was a clearance find at the Navy Exchange -- my mom gave me one in a lovely mocha/mushroom color for Christmas, and I decided I'd like one in charcoal, as well. They're super comfortable and have a nice feminine look. I love using non-maternity pieces whenever possible! I've done that more with this pregnancy, and I'm looking forward to (hopefully) less wardrobe drama in the post-partum stage. Of course, all of my winter layering pieces will have to "hibernate" during our stay on Guam...

At any rate, I'm enjoying this latest stash-reduction/wardrobe amplification!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A New Activity Gym for Our Little Laddie

My first homemade activity gym left me hankering for more -- and when the mat from the first one began to disintegrate (thanks to my less-than-ideal piecing), I had the perfect excuse to remake it! I stayed with a woodland theme, but took the opportunity to change the style a bit.




First, I decided to opt for a square mat this time. I'm not exactly sure why, but I do feel it might offer a bit more room for the baby and will be more functional if I want to use it with the gym arches.




I found some darling fox-and-owl fabric at JoAnn's, which I combined with stash mocha linen ($1 thrifted jacket), a brown quatrefoil cotton, and a sage dot cotton.





I added toy tethers between some of the squares, which means toys will be less likely to end up all over the rest of the floor! That was one thing I really regretted omitting from my original mat.


This is actually my first (too-short) attempt for the crinkle teether, but it will get some use, after all!

I had leftover fabric, so why not make a support pillow, too? It's sort of a "mini Boppy," (hopefully) perfect for tummy time or a little bit of propping. I've seen these in some retail activity gyms and thought it looked like a good idea.




Some of the toys from my last gym are still going strong...





... but I decided to update a few. Namely, a little owl in the mocha linen. Oh, and I added bronze-colored KAM snaps to the ribbons so that toys would be easier to attach.




I couldn't resist a little more fun! I was actually in need of a few drool bibs and a new pacifier tether, so it worked out beautifully! I tried out one of my new enamel pacifier clips -- I like them so much better than the metal suspender clips I usually use.




A few details from the bib -- a copper snap, and a totally pointless linen pocket!




And here's the reverse of the bib:




Now to while away the weeks (days?) until these can actually be put to good use!


Monday, February 16, 2015

UnStashed

The past two weeks were a bit of a "forced" interlude from full-on packing, while Pablo was away for some military training. I took advantage of this time to finish up as much sewing as possible before both a newborn and a 1000+ mile move took over my life! My specific goals were to finish all of the baby's accessories, make our 2nd set of linen sheets (I've had yards of linen cluttering up my sewing room for months!), and de-stashing a bit while simultaneously filling out Rosa's summer wardrobe.

One de-stash project was a $1 navy linen Talbot's dress that I found at my favorite local charity shop. It's now a much, much smaller dress:





You probably recognize the oft-repeated, much-loved Izzy top by Teri at Climbing the Willow (you can see my others here). I love that this pattern can be made as a tunic or a dress -- or can turn into a tunic after a growth spurt! -- and can transition from warm to cool weather with the addition of a cardigan. 

This time I added a little ruffled "placket" to the front. And finally, finally, I got to use some of the buttons I've been hoarding for quite a while! I purchased a garment at the charity shop -- I don't even remember what it looked like, now -- just for three buttons fashioned from the ends of spoons.







I used one of the buttons for the back closure, but I still have one more to use when I find another *just right* project.




So I suppose this counts as a double de-stash/upcycle, since both the fabric and buttons were thrifted items from my stash. I have a feeling I'll be glad to have some dresses ready for the Spring and Summer, since the new baby is likely to limit my sewing time -- a most welcome interruption!

And now, off to pack some more!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Shale Blanket for the Little Laddie

As I was learning to knit, I was eagerly anticipating knitting blankets for hopeful future babies. When we found out that we were expecting, one of my first orders of business was finding the perfect baby blanket pattern. It didn't take long to settle on the Shale Baby Blanket by Jared Flood!

This was, by far, the largest knitting project I've yet undertaken:




Large, but very rewarding. I really liked having a long-term project that I could take with me -- and it didn't take long to memorize the pattern, making it the perfect "mindless" project. The yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Cobblestone Heather. We knew the baby's gender before I made my yarn purchase, but I still opted for a neutral color; I didn't want anything too bold, and I'm very happy with the color. It's lovely and soft after blocking, and was fabulous to knit with (very little twisting while knitting!).




Well, sort of mindless. My biggest grief with this pattern is that unless you're very on top of counting sttiches as you go, you don't discover your mistake untill four rows later -- at which point it is virtually impossible to fix said mistake. Can you guess how I know that? It actually took me quite a while to get the hang of the pattern in the first place, to the point that I almost gave up. Fortunately, I persevered, and after frogging back several inches and restarting the lace pattern, it finally stuck. I had my share of mistakes along the way, but this is probably my first "perfect" project because I took the time to fix each one. That sounds as if I exercised great strength of character; in reality, the pattern just doesn't tolerate mistakes!




I thought the pattern was straightforward and well written -- my only change was to do 52 pattern/row repeats, instead of 58. As it was, after blocking my blanket came out to 35" by 43" (instead of 32" by 40"). I'm glad it came out a little larger than the pattern indicated, and also glad I stopped when I did! By my calculations, there are over 30,000 individual stitches in this blanket -- not counting all of the stitches I had to tear out due to mistakes.




It's satisfying to note progress in my knitting skills as I undertake new projects. When I first started, it was hard to even identify mistakes, much less know how to fix them without just starting over! Now I recognize mistakes much faster (usually before they're catastrophic), and can even correct simple things (like a purl stitch instead of a knit stich) without having to tear out a whole row -- or even several rows!

Now, the dilemma is to know which project to start next! I'm thinking it might be the Fleurette cardigan -- I have a beautiful linen yarn to use, and I think it will be relatively conducive to Guam's tropical climate. At any rate, I need to find something soon; my fingers are itching for something new!


Raveled here.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Wings

This is the cumulative result of the past two years of hard work, training, and sweat on Pablo's part:




He is now an official Naval Aviator! I had the privilege of pinning his wings on at his winging ceremony a few weeks ago, which was probably the most important moment in both of our lives apart from our wedding and the births of our children.


Yes, there is a name on the patch, but the magic of
photo editing preserves our privacy! *wink*

 Winging is a Big Deal in the life of an aviator, and it was such a delight to share in all of the festivities that week. Because we live quite a distance from base, I haven't had much opportunity to participate in the various activities, which made it all the more exciting for me! I felt even more blessed to be married to this man (if that's possible) as I witnessed the respect he's earned from his superiors and fellow officres through his hard work and attitude.

There was a luncheon to put on the week before winging, which I was very involved with because Pablo's winging class was smaller than usual. I had the "brilliant" idea to make enchiladas, rice, and black beans for 90 people -- despite the fact that I've never made enchiladas, rarely make rice because Pablo doesn't like it, and have never made black beans as a side dish. Not to mention that I've never cooked for that many people before! Fortunately one of the other "wingers" helped us assemble the enchiladas and another winger took care of dessert -- and in the end it was quite successful!

The night before winging was the "soft patch," a more casual celebration (i.e., pizza party!) for family where each student aviator's initial instructor takes off their student patch and replaces it with a "wing patch" -- complete with stories, either complimentary or humorous! I was so glad my parents were able to come to both the Soft Patch and the Winging; they have been incredibly supportive through this whole process (first OCS, then several phases of flight training), and it was so special to share this time with them.




Little Man certainly enjoyed the chance to fly "Daddy's helicopter" (just a trainer for now; once we move he'll be flying his designated helo):





And even his little brother had his first "ride!" Though sadly he won't remember it!




And here's the man himself -- and "almost" aviator in this photo, taken the day before winging:


Pablo's CO (Commanding Officer) insists that he has the best hair in the Navy.
I agree, but I'm just a little biased! *wink*

I'm so proud of Pablo's achievements, and so grateful for God's blessings as we've navigated this new phase of life. He has opened door after door, and we can clearly see His guidance in our lives since Pablo first started considering joining the Navy. The road ahead will have its challenges (more training, frequent moves, deployments, etc.), but I am confident that the Lord will give us the grace and strength to tackle whatever He puts before us.

Of the three helicopters he could have been assigned out of flight school, Pablo got his first choice -- a huge relief and blessing! As I mentioned in my last post, we'll be moving to Virginia in a few weeks, and near the end of the year we'll be taking an even longer trek to Guam for about 3 years. I lived in Virginia as a baby/toddler, while my dad served as a chaplain on the USS Wisconsin during the first Gulf War, so now I'll have the chance to actually make some memories there. And my parents and sister lived on Guam for several years in the mid 80's while my dad was stationed there as a chaplain at the Navy hospital. It's one of the few duty stations I "missed" during my dad's Naval career (not having been born yet!), so now I'll have a turn.

I'm looking forward to our tropical adventure, partly because it's far from my "comfort zone." The beautiful scenery, waterfalls, and snorkeling sound great. The abundance of snakes and spiders, not so much (though I wouldn't really mind the snakes at all if it weren't that they are somewhat dangerous to children). It figures I would get really into knitting shortly before moving to an island where the record low is in the mid-60's and the average temp is 75-85. I'll have to put my wool on hold and stick to lace knitting with cotton and linen yarn! At least I'll be spared the trouble of putting together winter wardrobes for several years -- and I'll probably have very little to store, since the children are more likely to wear their clothes out  when they can wear them year-round.

Well, that's enough "news" for now! Hopefully our little chap will arrive in a few weeks -- because we need a little more excitement, you know?

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Taking Flight -- Car Seat Canopy, Diaper Clutch, & Accessories

With the baby's due date looming, I decided it was finally time to unpack our car seat. I purchased it several months ago because I found a fabulous deal, but left it in the box in case a better deal popped up between then and now. Apparently I can't beat that price, so I finally gratified my nesting instincts and pulled it out! I was excited to find that adding a set of straps with a buckle makes it work with the Graco adapter that came with our Bugaboo Bee. 

After that came the matter of making a car seat canopy with some of my Flight Knit in Mineral from Birch Organic Fabrics. I've never had a "real" canopy, having always used a blanket or my nursing poncho. But I really liked the idea of a canopy that would stay put, would be the right size (no corners dipping into puddles!), and wouldn't interfere with the car seat handle.

I looked up a few tutorials, but ended up pretty much winging it. I wanted a canopy with a placket that opens in the front (easier to check on baby without lifting up the whole canopy), and I was also working with a knit fabric instead of the traditional quilting cotton. 




Due to the shape of the car seat handle, I placed the canopy straps at a slight angle. It was quite helpful having the actual car seat present during the construction process! 




I didn't end up lining the canopy, because I wanted to keep it breathable -- the knit I was using is quite sturdy, so I'm not worried about it stretching out or being too thin. I think I'm going to really like having it open in the front. For the hem, I started with simply rounding the edges. But a test run proved that the corners were still too long, so I ended up marking the hem with pins. After smoothing out the shape I cut the excess from the corners and stitched a double-fold hem. 




Some silver gray KAM snaps secure the straps to the handle...




And I still had some knit left over for a few other accessories! I didn't have scratch mittens with my first two, and always regretted it. Hopefully my self-drafted design will work. An extra strip of knit turned into a toy tether, just because. The hat is made with  Zaaberry's knotted baby hat pattern, and the bib is made from Purl Soho's bib pattern (scroll down to find the link to the PDF). For the bib, I rounded the back edges and elongated the pattern slightly.




The reverse of the bib is the same grey linen I used to line my stroller canopy -- this is meant as a "drool bib," so I'm not super concerned about absorbency. Another KAM snap serves as the closure!




With a little Flight canvas to spare, I also made up a little diaper clutch. My diaper supplies usually end up spilling into my purse, making changes a pain! I looked at a few ideas and came up with a simple design. 




I was sure to include a wrist strap with a snap, to make changes on the go simpler. That, and I love using those little KAM snaps whenever and wherever I can! *wink*




My homemade Baby K'tan (or "X-back baby carrier") is complete and ready for a tiny occupant -- no pictures yet, as it's remarkably unimpressive when not actually being used. As our house begins moving towards a state of moving chaos, it's been quite soothing to prepare things for our little one (who is feeling not-so-little any more!). 

And for those of you who might be wondering, we found out that we'll be stationed in Virginia for most of the year, and then we'll be heading to the tiny island of Guam! It should be quite an adventure! Soon I hope to share a few pictures and tidbits from our recent doings; it's been an eventful few weeks, to say the least.

Here's hoping you're having a simply lovely day!