The Gift of Warmth (282nd new thing).

February 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

I knew I would be making and gifting circle scarves for the ladies in my life, but I didn’t have an idea for a homemade mens present. That is, until I stumbled upon a tutorial on making rice filled heating pads. You know, the ones that you can either pop in the microwave to warm up or lay in the freezer for an ice pack. On Day Two Hundred Eighty-Two I once again pulled out my sewing machine (which has been seeing more use this year than ever) and set to work to make a heating pack.

There are many different tutorials online to sew your own version of the microwavable warmer, and I looked at several different ones before starting off. I ended up simplifying all I had read into an easy, streamlined process.

Ready to go fabric.

Most of the tutorials instructed me to create a simple pack of linen or muslin, and then sew a washable cover for the outside. Yeah, that seemed like too much sewing, so instead I just used the fabric. I bought some of the “fat quarters” found in any fabric store and folded the large rectangular material in half, ironing it flat to erase creases. Then I folded it in half again and re-ironed. It was a good size for a neck warmer, and without having to measure or cut anything, I was happy.

The machine does its work.

Next I sewed the folded over edge of fabric and one end to create a tube once it was all turned inside out. Now I could fill it with rice, scented with a touch of relaxing lavender oil I had leftover from some other random craft project.

Once the rice was added I sewed up the final opening, folding the seams inward and ironing for a flat surface. I added a finishing top seam on the other end for balance, et voila! My own rice heating pad!

A chair of rice pads.

I tested it out on Patrick and it seemed to work very well. The double thickness of fabric made it feel sturdy and didn’t allow the initial heat from the freshly microwaved pack to burn the skin. The lavender scent was pretty awesome too, although maybe a touch strong.

And everyone marveled at my craftiness come Christmas. We sat around the house with our heating pads draped around our necks, relaxing under the lavender warmth.


Pattern Hell (190th new thing).

October 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Earlier this year, after my camera/iPod case sewing experiment, I had bought a “Sew Simple: One Easy Project” skirt pattern to save for a rainy day. While it was reasonably sunny on Day One Hundred Ninety, I decide to take a stab at following a sewing pattern before it became too cold to wear a skirt in the summery patterned fabric I had purchased.  This process is best described in 25 easy steps.

Step 1: Open package with pattern and instructions and briefly glance through it all.

Step 2: Follow the measuring directions included with the pattern to determine that you are a size 16. The largest possible size of the pattern. Twice what the stores may say, but perhaps sewing patterns are just different like that.

Step 3: Pin roughly cut pattern pieces to the fabric laid out on the floor. Cut around the dotted lines to create weird shaped fabric scraps with a perfectly shaped tissue pinned on.

Step 4: Upon realizing that the numbers on the tissue paper pattern are meant as quantity and not order, sigh in exasperation and repeat Step 3 until the appropriate number of pieces are in hand.

Step 5: Check the instructions for the next activity. Stare at the instructions for five minutes trying to figure out how to replicate the image of pleating next to the word, “Fold fabric on hash marks in pleats.”

Step 6: Mark the top of the fabric in a similar manner to the image on the instructions. Fold fabric over and iron in place. Think hard for five minutes about what “basting” is and then look it up online.

Step 7: Realize that your pleats are not correct. Refold the fabric in a different manner and re-iron.

Step 8: Come to the conclusion that you did indeed have the pleats folded correctly and revert to that manner.

Step 9: Forget what basting means, and just kind of run the pleats through the sewing machine, getting the fabric stuck twice.

Step 10: Look at the fabric cut out for pockets and decide that your skirt really doesn’t need pockets. Throw the offending pockets into the corner of the room.

Step 11: Stare at the instructions in a confused state of mind until you come to the conclusion that your skirt doesn’t really need instructions either. Crumble up the instructions, pattern, and any other distracting piece of material and with a loud scream of frustration, hurl them into the corner with the pockets.

Step 12: Realize this is quite possibly the most frustrating activity you have attempted and that you can never get back the three hours of your life that was spent on steps 1 through 12, mostly spent on figuring out pleating.

Step 13: Sew the front and back panel of the skirt together on one side. Wipe away the tears beginning to form at the corners of  your eyes. Something finally went easily.

Step 14: Pick up the crumbled instructions from the corner of the room and attempt to decipher how to turn two long thin pieces of fabric and a yard of elastic into a waistband.

Step 15: Decide that you are too smart for this shit and return the instruction paper back to its rightful home in the corner of the room.

Step 16: Fold over the fabric that will soon be a waist for your skirt and iron it. Repeat with the second strip.

Step 17: Attach the waistband to the skirt material by creating an assortment of temporary creases which can, at any moment, become completely uncreased and make you realize that all that careful ironing you did for twenty minutes was for nothing. So work fast.

Step 18: Once you’ve sewn a waistband onto the skirt, begin trying to thread the 3/4 inch elastic through the seemingly 1/2 inch opening. Revert to all manner of tools and doodads found in the house including a bamboo skewer, wire coat hanger, and even a few clothespins.

Step 19: At this point, you should have threaded the elastic through the waist of the skirt. A tight fit, but it’s in there. Now don’t let go of the two ends of elastic or…oh, you let go. And now the elastic is stuck somewhere around the belly button should you be wearing the garment. Repeat Step 18.

Step 20: Now comes the point where you try on the skirt, holding the ends of elastic, ends of the fabric waistband, and unhemmed bottom of the skirt in position. Remember in Step 2 when you measured yourself and found out you were a size 16? You were wrong. But since you have made it all the way to Step 20, maybe having a skirt that hangs around your knees is a new fashion.

Step 21: Now that you’ve gotten this far, all that remains is to stitch the skirt together along one final seam, to close the loop. Run the two ends of fabric through the sewing machine, making sure to sew the waistband and its elastic several times over, clogging the machine with thread in the process.

Step 22: Clear the stray threads from the machine by opening up the bottom compartment and taking everything out. Refer to the manual that came with the machine for instructions on putting it all back in. But we know how instructions go, and they tell you nothing. Plug in the “Intro to Sewing” DVD that came with the instructions. Pause several times as you try to decipher the order in which the small parts return to their home. Look carefully in the background of the shot, behind the model’s fingers which are clearly showing you something completely different. After about half an hour, everything should be back to working.

Step 23: Repeat Step 21, and then Step 22 until the seams of the skirt are sewn together.

Step 24: Hem the bottom of the skit, eyeballing the length for consistency. You’re almost finished

Step 25: Congratulations, you’ve sewn a skirt from a pattern! Sort of. Model the skirt and take a picture. Promptly toss the garment in the recess of your closet, never to be seen again. Unless, of course, you gain a lot of weight and need to wear a size 16. Open a bottle of wine in celebration of a task accomplished.

Hemming and Hawing (166th new thing).

September 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

I had worn my folded cuff capris several times since originally trimming the leg wear from jeans. On Day One Hundred Sixty-six, it was finally time to ditch the cuff look and hem them, something I had never done before.

I started with a pair of Patrick’s shorts that he wanted shortened. If I messed those up, at least it wasn’t my favorite pants, right? Fortunately, I did ok. I folded up the bottom cuff and ran the fabric through my sewing machine. The additional fabric at the new hem felt a little heavy, but I thought that was an easier method then breaking the factory seam and starting from scratch. He seemed pleased enough with them, so I continued on with my own clothing.

I folded the bottom (now slightly frayed) material twice and ironed the crease. My method wasn’t very precise, so I hoped that the resulting lengths of the legs would match. And then I ran the fabric through the machine, just as I had Patrick’s. I stuck with the white thread because I was too lazy to change it I thought it looked alright. Kind of like it was an intentional design element.

They turned out well enough, especially since this was my first attempt at hemming anything. The length of each leg was about the same, or close enough to not draw attention to the discrepancy. And the white thread looked pretty good. The only real problem was where I hadn’t included the very bottom of the fabric in the fold over/ironing process, but I remedied that over the next few days by sneakily cutting off the offending frayed material hanging out. Very DIY.

I feel a bit proud, walking around in a garment I had some sort of hand in making. Even if it was just a chop, a fold, and a sew.

Ninety. Sew What?

June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

I received a sewing machine for Christmas well over a year ago, but had yet to use it. I attempted to set it up at one point in the last year, but without looking at the directions or how-to DVD, I failed miserably and ended up with a big mess of thread spun around the needle. So on Day Eighty-Nine, I decided to revisit the machine and attempt to sew something.

I popped in the DVD at sat down behind the sewing machine. I managed to load the bobbin and get everything working after a few rewinds and pauses of the video. It was, in fact, as easy a it was supposed to be. Apparently I had just been a bit too spontaneous before.

I decided to make a little fabric case for my point and shoot digital camera. It so often hangs out loose in my cluttered purse, open to any dust, debris, or random item floating around in the depth of a big bag. In my excitement to begin, I used no pattern, but rather cut fabric around the camera and started to run the seams through the machine. Doh. I was on the zigzag stitch, whose symbol I didn’t recognize on the stitch selection knob (hint: it’s not a zigzag). But I thought it looked OK, so I continued to use it for hemming and decorative purposes.

Unfortunately, once I had added my hems and zigzag decorations, the little sewn purse was way too small for my camera. Determined to find a use for it, and not wanting to begin again, I scoured the house for something to put in side.

Turns out, it worked great as an iPod holder. So on Day Eighty-Nine I didn’t actually make a digital camera case; I made a purse for my mp3 player.

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