Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Year Review: Crafting, Knitting, Sewing

I wasn't going to do one of those year end reviews because I don't think anyone cared. Plus, I didn't think 2012 had been that great to me, sewing or otherwise.

But then I started thinking about everything I've accomplished and I was completely wrong! It may not have been the bang up year that I was hoping for, and I may not be close to where I want to be in life, but I certainly accomplished a lot!

On a professional level, I worked on some pretty amazing jobs. I was lucky enough to be able to be fairly picky about what jobs I took, and as a result, I only worked on fantastic jobs, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. I also worked on jobs that my friends created, and I ended up loving all of those as well. Slightly unsatisfyingly, I've been brainstorming this past year on what I want to do with my life, and I think I've finally got the answer, though since it involves a career change (and more money to go back to school), I'm not sure it can happen anytime soon. But we'll see.

On a personal level, my boyfriend and I moved in together and our relationship is much more solid than it was a year ago when we were still figuring things out. I suppose figuring things out in any relationship never goes away, but we're closer to being on the same page. We need more conversations, but we're slowly planning our future together, and it should be exciting.

On another personal note, I was sick for much of the year, and I finally figured out (in October) that it was my stupid birth control going haywire. I'm not sure if it malfunctioned or if my body just started rejecting the hormones, but I'm now feeling MUCH better, and hopefully that'll lead to a more productive 2013.

OH AND I GOT TWO ADORABLE KITTENS!!

Now for my creative review, I feel like I grew leaps and bounds in 2012.

I never considered myself creative. Perhaps I'd even go so far as to tell people I was the opposite, not so much because I couldn't come up with grand ideas - I've always had a rich imagination - but because I couldn't carry through. My writing is fairly juvenile and anything I wanted to create physically ended up a terrible disaster.

One of the biggest things holding me back was my belief that if someone else could do it better, what was the point in me doing it?

Clearly this is wrong. Do I need to explain this to anyone? Because I could write a whole post on it if necessary.

So now I'm creating, my results and other people's creations be damned. And my results just keep getting better and better!

(Also, not all of my 2012 projects are up yet on the blog so the list is a little incomplete! I may update this page throughout January - or maybe not...)

Crafting:
Generally I like the idea of pinwheel, but not how it's been carried  out. Perhaps I should paint over it and try again?
Ditto with this pixelated one. I loved the idea behind it, but it seemed rather lackluster once completed.
 I also tried my hand at crafting clothing. The skull tshirt was nice in theory, but I'm too pale and small to wear a white, oversized tshirt. I am still interested in this concept, but perhaps with more fitted, darker clothing.


Onto the good parts of crafting! While not technically a skill I learned this year, I did learn it December 2011 so I'm counting it! Memory candles are perfect for everyone. You can put anything on them, and I chose to put nice memories on most of mine and hand them out as gifts. Of course, I didn't photograph THOSE, just this one with my sister and mother in our 80s glory.


I consider gardening to be like crafting in that I've never really been good at it. But I do love plants, so this year, I grabbed my plants before they could die, and put them in jars. Terrariums are fairly simple and look beautiful. I can't wait to make more next year!


Does this count as crafting or sewing? Does it matter? I took a plain bulletin board and figured out how to make it pretty. Or at least, prettier. I just love the cover around the bulletin board, and I'm so glad my mind is now working in ways to conceive of this idea!


Knitting:

I love sewing and crafting (who knew?), but they can be very solitary activities. Obviously crafting begs people to come over and help and have fun, but it can be difficult in NYC to cart around a huge box of supplies from house to house. I was very hesitant to take up knitting because it seemed so awful and I was sure I couldn't get the hang of it, but it's fairly easy, I have a new, productive way of hanging out with friends, and I don't have to make the awful projects if I don't want to. I've only been knitting for a month, so these are some of my basic beginner projects.

My first two projects were the cat blanket and the bunny filled with catnip. You get no close ups of the blanket because of all my mistakes, and there are no features or embellishments on the bunny because I was 100% sure the cats would rip it apart within a day. They did not. (They also love the blanket.)



Because they loved the catnip bunny so much, I made another toy. I do have 2 kittens after all, so 2 toys are necessary. Enter: the mouse filled with catnip.


I decided, beyond cat accessories and the usual beginner project of scarves, that coffee cozies were my best chance of learning to knit so I made quite a few.

Enlarged XO cable knit coffee cozy (with hot chocolate inside!)

His (basketweave) and Hers (XO cable) cozies
Sewing:

The real reason you're here, I'm sure. This was the year I properly learned to sew. I had taken a costume class in college (aka 6 years ago), but I had never drafted anything or really even completed an entire project, unless you count the doll's dress I finished for my final project. And since it was so long ago, I was pretty much relearning everything all over again.

My very first skirt! It turned out nothing like the pattern, but I love it anyway and wear it all the time.


This was the second thing I tackled this year, for the Mad Men Sew-along, and I consider it a failure. I loved the fabric, so I bought the dress incredibly large with the goal of fitting it to me. Technically, it fits much better than before (when it was a tent), but I had never worked with linings or invisible zippers before this, and it didn't turn out as well as I think it would if I re-did it. It hangs in my closet, utterly useless. Perhaps I need to move it to my projects bin in the house...


Another failure was this purse. Generally it looks cute, but something went horrible wrong with the straps and  they're slowly coming apart. The lining also had issues and doesn't exactly fit. Nor did I insert it correctly... It was meant to be a mock-up of what the purse could be, but I felt very uninspired afterwards and did not attempt again.


Hello oversized bow that I still don't know what to do with!
 Luckily I got my act together once the warmer months arrived and started cranking out nicer things!

Instead of tossing, I tailored this dress and continue to wear it all the time. Also, mandatory pics of Grayson and Franklin.
This was supposed to replace the dress I was going to toss (above), but then I ended up keeping both. They're different enough that I don't think it's too strange that I have 2 yellow sundresses in my wardrobe.

Self drafted 1920s inspired dress
1950s vintage dress
 And then I started nesting and churning out home decor:

Curtains
More curtains
Not quite home decor, but I feel like baby things should be in a similar category. I made these for a baby shower, and my gosh, baby clothes are so tiny (and tough to sew)!

Baby things!
Whew, so that's it for 2012.

I'm looking forward to see what I can accomplish next year. My mother purchased a dress form for me for Christmas, so I can't wait to put that to great use.

Already I'm working on a (replacement) purse for my sister, another jersey dress for spring/fall, a knitted sweater, more curtains, and probably more curtains since I'm getting asked to make them for other people. I really want to make a few more everyday dresses for my wardrobe, a swimsuit, and a cloak for next winter.

Hope everyone continues to have a great holiday! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Finished: His and Hers Coffee Cozies


Notice: These knitting patterns are based on the cozies I previously completed from Twisted Fibers Designs, whose website and ravelry page have been down for over a year. These are my versions of the patterns based on what I remember.

These are both really quick and easy basic cozies, and I really love them. They're really perfect for gifts or if you like sitting in front of a window/fire during the winter.

I first knitted these as a beginner and I found them terribly hard and confusing so don't be put off if you're also new and can't get the hang of it - it's the perfect project to learn how to cable, knit, purl, and switch back and forth between them all.


The "his" is the basketweave cozy and the pattern is easily adapted if your mug is larger than mine.


The "hers" is a cabled XO pattern with a cute border around the edge.


Both can be adapted fairly easily and certainly one is no more masculine or feminine than the other. You know, just in case you weren't sure. :-)



This is the first time I've ever written a knitting pattern so please let me know if something is unclear or if you have any questions.





Basket-weave Cozy
I didn't do a gauge for this, nor do I have recommendations for yarn or needle size (though I did knit this originally on straight needles size 6, worsted weight yarn). This can all be adjusted depending on the size of your mug. If you want to add width, make sure you add in sets of 4. (For example, to go up a size, cast on 16 stitches and add an extra alternating block.)

Cast on 12 stitches
Rows 1: K4, P4, K4
Row 2: P4, K4, P4
Repeat rows 1 and 2 six times.

Row 9: P4, K4, P4
Row 10: K4, P4, K4
Repeat rows 9 and 10 six times.

Repeat the above until your cozy reaches the desired length. Bind off. Sew a button on one end.
Create an I-cord long enough to loop around the button and sew it on the opposite end.
And there you have it!
(I hope.)


XO Cable Cozy
Like the above, I do not have a gauge or any recommendations. The pattern below fits a smaller mug, but I adjusted it to fit a larger mug (seen here) by adding extra purls on either side of the cable.

C4B: Put two stitches on a spare needle and hold it in the back. Knit two stitches, then knit the two stitches from the spare needle.
C4F: Put two stitches on a spare needle and hold it in the front. Knit two stitches, then knit the two stitches from the spare needle.

Cast on 16 stitches
Row 1: K2, P2, C4F, C4B, P2, K2
Row 2: K4, P8, K4
Row 3: K2, P2, K8, P2, K2
Row 4: K4, P8, K4
Row 5: K2, P2, C4B, C4F, P2, K2
Row 6: K4, P8, K4
Row 7: K2, P2, K8, P2, K2
Row 8: K4, P8, K4
Row 9: K2, P2, C4B, C4F, P2, K2
Row 10: K4, P8, K4
Row 11: K2, P2, K8, P2, K2
Row 12: K4, P8, P4
Row 13: K2, P2, C4F, C4B, P2, K2
Row 14: K4, P8, K4
Row 15: K2, P2, K8, P2, K2
Row 16: K4, P8, K4

Repeat the above until you've reached the desired length. Bind off. Sew a button on end.
Create an i-cord long enough to loop around the button. Sew it on the opposite end.
And you're done!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Finished: Catnip Mouse

If you recall, one of the first projects I finished when I first started knitting was a little bunny filled with catnip. It was very simple, and I didn't do any of the details because I was pretty sure it was going to come out all wrong.

My cats loved it, despite the fact that the bunny had no eyes or ears. I wanted to make a second toy since I have two cats, and I was planning on construting a mouse pattern myself.

But then I thought, why on earth should I torment myself on coming up with a pattern when I'm sure there are plenty of free and easy mouse patterns out there?!

I found this post in the Guardian for a basic mouse pattern. The mouse is supposed to have stripes (and eyes), but what beginner has time/yarn for that? 

I'm still working on finishing my second cat blanket so I started the yarn from the other end of the yarn ball and did this in a few hours!




I know what you're thinking. That poor, pitiful looking mouse. If he wasn't made out of yarn, I'd kill him just to put him out of his misery.

Well, it doesn't matter! The cats loved it!


This is the only shot I could get of them playing with the mouse. Franklin thought I was going to take the mouse away, so he carried the mouse around, constantly running from me, while trying to find a safe place to play.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finished: Mug Cozy with Hot Chocolate

Are you all finished with your holiday shopping? I like to give homemade gifts to my friends and family, and it's even better if I can make them myself! Just in case you're struggling for ideas, here's one that I made this. (Don't forget the memory candles from last year either!)


Here's one that I'm so, so pleased with. I only took up knitting a few weeks ago, and really, I only took up crafting a year ago, so the fact that I was able to make this and it turned out so well makes me so happy and proud.



I was looking around for a cable coffee cozy when I found the Hugs and Kisses pattern from Twisted Fibers Design (the link goes to the etsy shop, as the website went down last week). Unfortunately, the cup I picked out for my friend is much larger than a regular coffee cup, so through trial and error, I set about enlarging the pattern. If anyone's interested, let me know and I'll write up the pattern for you!

As I mentioned, I was looking for cables and when looking at the finished product, I didn't notice that it wasn't cable like I was expecting, but an XOXO pattern. How perfect to give to one of my friends!

Here's a better shot of the finished pattern:


 Once I finished the cozy, I had to come up with buttons. It was my first time using buttons in anything, and I really hated the experience. Who knew finding buttons perfect for your project would be so difficult? And who knew that once you found appropriate buttons, they'd be so expensive??

I shrugged it off and bought some overpriced buttons, only to discover that the color looked awful with my orange yarn. So I painted them. You can see the original color on the bottom right:


After securing the buttons, I made cords to secure the cozy to the cup. There was a bit of a design flaw in my pattern because the bottom of the mug was narrower than the top. I made up for that by making the second cord smaller than the top, which helped secure the cozy in place.


But you can't just give an empty mug to someone!

I couldn't find cellophane paper, so I cut up a sandwich bag to make it stand on end like cellophane would. I added enough hot chocolate mix for the mug and marshmallows and secured it with twine. Just so there was no confusion, I cut out a cardboard gingerbread person and wrote instructions on the back.


And there you go! I think it's just perfect!

Monday, December 3, 2012

So I guess I'm knitting now...

I have had an interesting few weeks, though unfortunately no sewing has been going on.

First the good: I've found a sewing meet-up group, and everyone I've met so far is pretty amazing. I think I'm the most beginner, which is perfect because I can learn so much from everyone. I planned to write up blog entries on what we've done as a group, and perhaps I still will. I just need time!

I was lucky enough to travel home for Thanksgiving, and I got to spend a lot of time with my family (and stock up on 99 cent vintage patterns at Joann's!).

And the bad: The internet has been out at my apartment for two weeks. TWO WEEKS! When I called my provider, I was told the earliest they could send someone out to look at the problem was in four weeks. FOUR. WEEKS. Luckily, it kicked back on Saturday. Hopefully it stays that way, though I will admit finding ways to fill my time sans internet has been fun.

And to top it off, while I was working around the clock yesterday to finish some work that was due today (and would have been done much earlier if I had internet), I got a nasty cold that has turned into a terrible fever. Many of my symptoms have subsided today, thankfully, but the most comfortable position for me to be in is one that is reclined with my eyes closed. I'm not tired, it's just too much work to open them and blink.

Anyway, I'm fighting through all of this to let you guys know that I've developed a new skill: knitting!

I've always been opposed to knitting just because, well, so much of it is terribly ugly. (Though I suppose my idea of handmade sewing items was just as low before I got involved and learned how awesome it could be.)

But in being an awesome girlfriend and letting my boyfriend pick out movies to watch at night, I've discovered how bored I can become. I was playing games on my phone during the movies, but then my thumbs started to ache when I bent them and my eyes started to hurt from the glare. (I'm a mess, I tell you!)

Plus, keeping hands busy while watching news and stuff helps keep your trauma level down, and that's always good, right?. I used to needlepoint in high school, and I figured I'd enjoy developing something new so knitting it was. Plus, since I'm terribly lonely and have no friends in my neighborhood (ahem, now accepting positions to be my new Astoria friend), I thought joining a Stitch n' Bitch chapter might be nice.

Okay, okay. I'm sure that is all terribly boring and you've scrolled down to see what I've made.

The first thing I made was supposed to be a baby blanket, but since I don't have a baby, I made it for my cat! It's small because I only have 3 rolls of this one color, and all the rest of my yarn is very high quality, so I'm using a ball and a half on each blanket.


One is finished, and I messed up a little so you don't get to see any detail pictures until I finish the next one perfectly. The next one is going to be a little shorter in length, so hopefully it will be more square. Regardless, the cats don't care and have been napping on it. Success!


And because I can't just do one project at a time, I also did a mouse fill with catnip. Same cheap yarn. I used the tutorial from Coffee and Cream and I found it pretty easy! I didn't do any of the detailing, like the eyes and the tail, because I figured the cats would tear it apart and mostly I didn't care.



Not even 24 hours later, this bunny has been shown a lot of love, but the ears are still attached! Woo!
Well, the cats have not torn it apart, but they do love it. More than I ever imagined. So I'm going to try and make a mouse, sort of using the same pattern I linked to above, but modified slightly. I'm interested in coming up with my own pattern because a lot of people seem to do it, and I'd like that skill as well. We'll see how it goes!

...and don't worry, I'll resume sewing shortly.