Sunday, January 22, 2012

Can't-Get-It-Out-Of-My-Head Project

Do you ever see something, and then you can't get the idea out of your head until you make it? That happened to me when I saw this Rainbow Poncho Cape on Etsy.

This is what I ended up with:

(apologies for the lousy cell phone pics - I didn't get any with my camera)

I could NOT stop thinking about how cute it was, or whipping out my phone and showing it to other people... finally I decided I had to make one. I even made some sketches of different ways to style the poncho, since I don't love the classic poncho look. I wish I had my sketches to show you (not 'cause they're awesome - they're kind of sad, really - but because I was going to town with ideas!)

I had the basic poncho. One with slits for your hands to come out. Pocket on the front, pocket on the inside, pockets in both places. (I totally wanted to make it reversible, but knew Goose would probably always want it rainbow side out, so why bother?) I had it in my mind to make it more fitted than the big circle, maybe even using two tiers and having her arms come out between the tiers. I have a big problem with getting ideas in my mind to actually work in the physical realm, so I decided to keep it simple.

Clicking around yielded many, many poncho tutorials. Then I realized that I didn't have a big enough piece of pink fleece (yup, it was requested to be pink) in my stash to make a huge circle (I wanted it to be pretty long on Goose, both for warmth and room to grow!) So I rounded the corners and cut a neck hole - which ended up being too big, oops. The length turned out pretty well, though - it hits Goose around the knee and the width is just right as it's a bit past her wrists, so her hands can come out the sides.

Initially, I started to trim the shoulder part in to make it more fitted but realized that was a lousy idea, so I stitched back in the part I cut out, which is why it has "sleeve" seams. I wish they weren't there, but I don't notice them as much as I did at first.

Next, I cut the rainbow and stitched it on, and it's actually bigger than it looks because every color except red extends a couple of inches under the cloud. I didn't realize how big it was until I had to put the pocket so far down towards the bottom! (we'll get to the pocket in a minute...) After I had the rainbow on, I made a cloud pattern with paper to check the size, then cut it out but didn't stitch it on.

For the pocket, I used one of Goose's sweatshirts and traced the pocket, then noticed the fleece was folded and doubled over at the openings so I added that to the pattern then a seam allowance. After cutting it out, I folded and stitched the doubled part at the side openings.

This is where it seems to get complicated... since the cloud was going to overlap the pocket, I laid both out on the poncho and pinned the cloud to the pocket where it needed to go, and stitched it on where it overlapped the pocket. I then folded the cloud down toward the bottom of the poncho, pinned the pocket on and sewed the top of the pocket to the poncho. I unfolded the cloud and finished stitching it down (there is a bit of an opening where the cloud isn't stitched down since it is wider than the pocket), then I stitched the bottom of the pocket.

(she's watching TV, by the way - not feeling like posing for photos!)

Using the same sweatshirt, I made a pattern for the hood, though in hindsight I realzied that the bottom of the hood (around the neck area) needed to come in farther - the opening is too wide. (especially since I cut the head hole too big. I tried to go back and take it in, but it just didn't look right.) I cut the outer hood from the same pink fleece and the inner hood from some pink polka dotted fleece and stitched them right sides together, leaving the whole bottom open. I turned it right side out and top stitched, and I also stitched down the center seam to help it hold together better.

Instead of making it reversible, I decided to just line it so that it would be warmer. The only color of which I had a large enough piece was white, and as it turns out, I really like how it looks. I laid the white out right side down, and laid the poncho on top, right side up (wrong sides facing). I pinned the heck out of it, and cut the white around, leaving somewhat of an allowance. I then unpinned and put the right sides together, then I *really* pinned. I was thankful for the allowance because it isn't perfectly symmetrical (shocker, I know...) and I trimmed the extra white.

I sewed all the way around, leaving most of the back open for turning. It's been my experience that you can pretty much always tell where it was left open to turn, so making it teeny tiny doesn't really change that it stands out. Leaving the turning hole super big makes it far less frustrating, and actually I think it blends in a little better! Again, I top stitched around the edge so the white and pink would hold together, and carefully pinned and sewed my turning hole shut at the same time.

To attach the hood, I cut basically a slit in the white, since I knew I'd cut the pink too big. (side note, I do most of my sewing when Goose is in quiet time after lunch or in bed at night, so she isn't around all the time for me to try it on her.) I think I folded the white under when I stitched the hood in, but I can't quite tell. :>) I also think I did it in two steps - first I sewed the hood to the outer pink part (centering the hood seam with the center of the poncho and using lots of pins - do you see a pattern here? USE LOTS OF PINS!) then I folded, pinned, and sewed the white lining. I made a loop out of bias tape and added that to hang it up, by the way.

After the hood was on, I folded the white down over the pink in the front and stitched it. If the neck hole wasn't so darn big, I think that would about be my favorite part, it looks really nice! I thought about adding some trim around the bottom edge, but 1) it would take a TON and 2) I really like how it looks as-is, and 3) let's not kid ourselves, I'd never be able to decide what trim to use anyway.

The only thing I think I might add is something to fix the too-large neck hole. (Which, actually, if Goose is wearing her stocking hat already, it gives us plenty of room to get the poncho on still. So not all bad.) I'm thinking of making a "scarf" perhaps three or four inches wide (I'll have to measure Goose to be sure) and basically cutting it in half and attaching it on either side of the hood. I can cross it under her chin and tuck in the tails... Or I could make a whole scarf, attach it at the back and bring it around and tuck it in. Any thoughts, anybody?

This project took me six days from start to finish, though I worked on it a couple hours per day maximum. It works great in the car, since Goose is still in a five-point harness (want to see why? read this.) I flip the back up over the back of her seat and buckle the buckles under the front, then tuck the front in like a blanket. I'm probably a little bit too proud of it, but it sure is cute. :>)

I'll be linking to Skip To My Lou's Made By You Mondays in the morning.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Handmade Christmas 2011

What with everything else that was going on, I was quite late with planning out and getting started on Christmas gifts.

Let's start with little people, shall we?

For my nephews, ages 2 and 8 months, I appliqued matching shirts for them (and neglected to take a picture, so perhaps their mama will help me out.) It was pretty standard - iron Wonder Under on the back of fabric, cut out the design, peel the paper and iron onto the shirt, embroider around to help it stay on. In the interest of full disclosure, I tried machine stitching it on like I usually do but kept getting huge snarls with my thread and I punted!

For my older nephew, I made a train/road/farm play mat. I used various ideas including this farm play mat from The Crafty Cupboard, and this DIY Car Mat Backpack from I Can Teach My Child (though I didn't go with a backpack).

Though I used a large piece of tan felt (from a bolt) for the main backing, the rest of the mat is made from fleece, bias tape, and thread. I find fleece to be more washable than felt, and I am not a fan of the felt squares that are so readily available as they seem to pill and fall apart rather quickly. Anyway, I drew out a basic sketch of what I wanted. Right now, O is a huge fan of trains, but I suspect at some point he may branch out into cars and tractors, too. The first thing I put down was the train tracks, which are made of bias tape stitched down. Next, I cut pieces of felt for the road. I made it (and the tracks) rather wide to accommodate big-ish trains and cars for now, and possibly matchbox cars and the like in the future. I sewed down the middle of the road with black thread to help it stay in place better, then went back and made the center lines by zig-zagging with bright yellow thread.

The farm was super fun to put together, if I do say so myself. The yellowish patch is a field. I took strips of felt and sewed them down the middle, then snipped down the long sides. Yup, I should have taken a closer picture so it makes sense, but I used the haystack in the above farm play mat as inspiration so check that out. The barn is red fleece with white bias tape stitched on for doors, and the fenced pen area is just zig-zagged white thread. The house, tree, and dog house are all fleece. I didn't have a good shade of blue fleece for the pond, so I used a thrifted sweatshirt and hacked a piece out of the arm. All fleece shapes were sewn around the edge with more or less coordinating thread.

I then took a piece of Thomas fabric (much beloved by O - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he just used that side to drive his trains on for a while) and added a pocket for trains and cars and whatnot and a fleece O. By the way, it matched the green on the fabric much better before I cut it out and attached it... All along, I intended to add handles so it would fold up and carry a bit easier, so I made sure everything lined up properly. I totally winged the pocket - it's a rectangle of Thomas fabric with elastic at the top and a button and loop closure.

To attach it to the mat, I pinned the handles in place, stitched it to the felt then pinked off the extra Thomas fabric. I ended up getting a serger from hubs (squeeee!) for Christmas and I'd have used that to finish the edges (I think - I haven't learned enough about it yet) if I'd have had it. Except I don't know how that would have worked with the handles...

I went a bit more low key this year for my nieces. The oldest (12) got a case for her phone, of which I didn't take a picture, sigh. There are a bunch of patterns for cell phone cases at Tipnut, though I don't think I really used any of them; more just basic phone dimensions and winging it. (do you see a pattern here for my crafting?) I made a bag of appropriate size with a lining, and put some ribbon at the top. I attached a elastic pony tail holder on one end and a button on the case so it can go on her bag, backpack, or purse strap. I cut her initial out of fleece and stitched it on, then embroidered a peace symbol on the other side. Thankfully hubs pointed out that I forgot to finish it and it was just the Mercedes Benz symbol. (sigh)

The other three (8,7, and 4) got girly spa bags similar to those at Come Together Kids.

I purchased a set of canvas bags and used the above-mentioned Wonder Under method to put their names on, though this time I was able to machine stitch. Note to self, though - it would have worked MUCH better to have stitched the names to a piece of fabric and THEN stitched the fabric to the bag. I did finally figure out that I needed to pin the bottom strap out of the way and pay attention to where the top strap was... I only had to take stitches out once because of that!

I then used fabric in a favorite color (pink is shown - there was another pink and a blue as well) to make smaller bags. As I was making them, I thought how nice it would be to line them with flannel, so I did. And they are nice! One was filled with body stuff like lotion, body wash, lip balm, bath fizzies, a pouf, and an eye pillow. For the eye pillow, I just made a little rectangular bag and filled it with rice then sprayed it with some lavender spray that my sister in law bought me last year.

The nail bags were a trip to put together. I started by making the mat, though I did it a bit differently than the other site. I didn't have any oilcloth (at least I think that's what she described) but I *did* have clear vinyl. I didn't want to be looking at the wrong side of the fabric, nor did I have enough fabric to have two pieces that size.

Enter the thrifted fabric - again. I had several panels that may have been intended for quilting or embroidery or... something, so I used those. I put the fabric wrong sides together and the vinyl on top, and pinned it all together. I then trimmed everything so it was the same size and ran bias tape around the edges and pinned the heck out of that. I stitched the bias tape down then flipped it over and stitched again to make sure that I didn't have any loose edges. It was a pretty long process, but I was pleased with how they turned out. Because of the size of the panels, my mats turned out to be about 19x23".

Also in the bag, I included two or three bottles of nail polish , a bottle of nail polish remover, and a package of cotton rounds. Oh, I guess I didn't mention - the little bags were drawstring, and I didn't want the ribbon to get pulled through so I either stitched buttons on the end or put beads on the ends and tied knots to keep them from sliding off. (Yep, the whole entire process really was that much work.)

Ooh, I almost forgot, I made a hair stuff bag for each girl. I bought some pretty clips and pony tail holders, I made some more tulle pom pom pony tail holders, and I also made some headbands.

Come to find out, my nieces have pretty much collectively chopped their hair off and pony tail holders are on their way out. Oops. So I was glad to have the headbands. I bought a three pack of wide black headbands - one I left plain and hot glued some pretty beads on it. Another I covered with white ribbon (which was a process, whew) and then I strung some flower beads together and glued them on the white. I covered the final headband with blue ribbon, glued a flower on it, and glued a gem in the middle. I've seen them on a head several times already, so I'm overall pretty pleased.

I also freezer paper stenciled some shirts for Goose and her papa. I am quite enamored with this technique because it's pretty easy - and it'll be even easier now that I have a Silhouette craft cutting machine! (another squeee!! Christmas present! It wasn't looking like Hubs was going to come up with a gift for me, so I ordered myself one on ebay using some paypal money I had built up.)

It's a bit hard to see the detail on Goosie's shirt - it's a girly font plus I stitched a little pink bow on the C and used a button as a dot on the i. Papa indulged me by wearing his shirt and matching Goosie at our family dinner on Christmas Day.

My one last homemade gift was a button bracelet for one of my sisters-in-law. I got the idea from this button bracelet, but instead of attaching so many buttons to a chain bracelet, I used jump rings to attach buttons to each other. I put a jump ring through each hole and then attached those rings to each other with another ring. (Not nearly as complicated as it sounds, but no picture, sorry.)

And that pretty well sums it up for this year. Did you make anything fun? I'm thinking I'll link up to Skip To My Lou tomorrow, since it's been a while.

Explaining Death To Little Ones

As you may remember, my father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in August of 2010. He passed away on December 2 of this year. This picture of him and Goose in their overalls was taken in September, just before his health really started to decline.

Blessedly, his death was quite peaceful. I used the concepts from the book What Happened When Grandma Died to explain things to Goose, though I didn't read the book to her because she is quite literal right now and I think she would have been confused trying to make the switch between Grandma in the book and Grandpa in our life.

It basically says that when we die, we leave three old things behind and get three new corresponding things: our body, our home, and our work. The book goes into much more detail, of course, but it provided for much discussion and an opportunity for Goose to ask many (MANY!) questions. I'll admit I had some trouble being patient answering the same thing over and over (AND OVER!), but once I realized it was her way of processing things, that helped. And it also warmed my hear to hear her explain to her 2YO cousin where Grandpa is. (in heaven, and also in our hearts)

I know that many of you have been praying for us, and I can't tell you what that means to me. I hope you have had a very blessed Christmas and I wish you all the best in 2012! (better get used to writing that now...) I'll be back in a bit with my Handmade Christmas 2011 post, which I meant to get up a long time ago, but better late than never.