Tag Archives: projects: small bits

I’m so crafty…

16 Jul

…even my digital devices are hand-stitched.

So, okay, I haven’t cross-stitched since I was probably…twelve years old. Maybe thirteen. But this was still a totally fun little project.


1 plastic cross-stitch iPhone cover (I got mine from “Connect Design”, here.)

1 free download cross-stitch pattern (this one is from here).**

1 small assortment DMC embroidery flosses (mine from the delightful Rittenhouse Needlepoint).

1 needle (included with plastic iPhone cover, above)

1 scissors

Time required: several nice long episodes of some television series of your choice. (I watched The Grand because I’m a big sucker for British period dramas.)

If you weren’t the kind of nerdy kid who did cross-stitch for fun, you can find a good intro tutorial online right here at the Purl Soho blog, who is the original poster of cross-stitch phone covers.

**some other really cool free cross stitch patterns that are both vintage and awesome can be found on the University of Arizona’s “digital archive of documents related to cross stitch“–god, how I love the internet!

Tee Shirt Upgrade

2 Apr

This isn’t really so much a “makeover” as an “upgrade.” It started out a humble tee-shirt, and it ends up…

…a humble tee-shirt, with frills.

I got this idea while browsing a clothing mail-order catalogue over breakfast. I saw a crocheted-edged tee in the catalogue, and realized that somewhere in my stash I probably had some yarn that matched some tee-shirt in my collection, and indeed, there was.)

1) Cut off whatever parts of the tee you want. (I cut out the neckline, cut off the sleeves, and cut off the bottom 6″ of the hem.

2) At each cut edge, fold under 1/4″ of fabric and, with a fat, sharp metal sewing needle, hand-stitch the edge through both layers in blanket stitch. This gives you a neat line of loops along the edge of the fabric, in which to crochet. (at left, below)

3) With a crochet hook to match the weight of your yarn, at a side seam, attach a new end of yarn to your blanket stitching with a slip-stitch. Single crochet one row of stitches all the way around. (at right, above)

Now, what you do after this, exactly, depends on how much you cut off, and how much you need to build back up again. You could build a whole bodice in crochet to go on a tee shirt base. I was thinking for my next one I’ll do a more elaborate lace collar, and then cut away a tee shirt to match it. But for this one, I stayed simple since it’s my first. For the frothy sleeves on mine I used a lace pattern from a book of vintage patterns in my collection.

But around the neck and hem, I made up a simple scallop stitch. It goes something like this:

Row 1: Single crochet all the way around (same as step 3, above).

Row 2: *Ch 6, skip the next 3 sc stitches, sc in following (4th) sc stitch.  Repeat from * until the end, fudging the count a little bit at the end if you don’t have a perfect multiple of 4 stitches in your row.

Row 3: (sc, 6 dc, sc) in each Ch 6.  Anchor your last stitch with a slip stitch, cut yarn, weave in end.

That’s it!

(My original inspiration is online, here. It shows how conceivably, one could cut off quite a bit and crochet it right back on again.)

Wardrobe Hacking

12 Feb

Not purchasing any new clothes has given me the excuse to be ruthless in my own closet. I have too much clothing I’ve been holding on to that I no longer wear, but that I find it hard to part with just the same.  Looking at these items as fabric–just piling it up, looking at it as material rather than finished garments, has completely changed my perspective. I realize that most pieces have great color or texture, some element that I really do like, even if the fit or the style is no longer relevant to my wardrobe.

Sometimes, the “makeover” can be accomplished as simply as taking out a scissors.  I had this stretchy, textured orange Spandex-y maxi dress. (Yes, I know: that description alone should have easily qualified said garment for the donation heap, right there.) But it kept surviving the closet purges. I held onto it, although I know I will never need a bright orange disco-dancing stretch dress, ever in my life (if indeed I ever did.)  But today, with scissors in hands, I was rummaging about looking for garments that might lend scraps of bright color to another project underway.  My hands landed on this dress. And I realized that I kept this dress for many genuine reasons: I love orange, it’s a hard color to find in the right tones, and I love texture–and this fabric offers both of those. I may not want a whole entire head-to-toe arrangement in orange, but it sure does make a good base of color for an outfit.


So with a few snips of my scissors, the transformation was complete.

The 30 minute jacket, a.k.a the Easiest Thing I’ve Ever Sewn.

22 Jan

I’d call it more of a “cardigan” or a “shrug” than a jacket, but I suppose it depends on what material one uses.

The design is from the publication Threads, and it’s free online, right over here.

I made it in a stretchy, snuggly black knit, and while it’s cozy as can be, it will probably photograph like a blob.

The oddest thing to me about this jacket instructions (I hesitate to even call it a “pattern”) is how many people get frustrated with the directions. I was thinking about this through the whole…uh, 13 minutes or so that it took to sew the two seams it takes to construct this jacket.  I think the problem is that we think about folding cloth the same way we do about folding paper. If I handed a sheet of paper to someone and said “fold this three times” it’s quite likely that they would fold it either lengthwise down the middle, width-wise down the middle, or from opposite corners, through the center.  Unless we are willfully iconoclastic, most of us think linearly and in a routine fashion, so even a set of directions as simple as “fold, sew” can go radically awry if the “fold” part doesn’t follow one of those three intuitive ways we’d all most likely revert to, when instructed to “fold this”.

So I wondered if I could explain this in a different way that might make it clear, illustrating the way I saw this in my head when I looked at the Threads diagram. (And maybe I can, or maybe I will wind up just confusing the issue further.)

Instead of letters and numbers, I’m color coding it. The colored lines are where you are going to sew: red to red, and blue to blue.

So you take a long rectangle (2 3/4 yards by 25″, but there’s room for variation in all directions) of soft, draped fabric. This softness is the key: your fabric will not fold like a crisp piece of paper!

You’re going to sew the red edge to the red line, and the blue edge to the blue line. That’s all: two whole seams, for an entire jacket/cardigan thing.

To make sense of how it turns into a cardigan, I’ve drawn in a humanoid (sort of) model, keeping the red and blue seam lines:

Your head goes in the middle, your hands go out the openings left at the top edge.  The bottom edge becomes both the back bottom as well as the left and right fronts, once they fold up.

Voilà, a cardigan in two seams. (A red one on your right arm, from those two red lines coming together, and a blue one on your left arm, from the two blue lines coming together.)

Easy. No pattern, no numbers, no letters, no measurements, even: a perfect project for beginners, or for haphazard people who like to wrap fabric around them, stick it in place, and wear it out of the house as if it’s the latest in designer fashion.

If you prefer directions with numbers and letters, I’ve made a version like that, too, as well as the secret to taking it from a 30-minute jacket down to a 13-minute jacket, the way I made it.

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Pincushion Pig

3 Jan

Somewhere, at some time, I lost my pincushion. I’ve been keeping my pins in a little white jewelry box. Which is fine, sometimes…but every now and then my cat will visit my sewing table and oh-so-helpfully send them flying to the floor, or once or twice I may have brought the box over to the rickity ironing board where I was pressing a seam, and done the same thing, myself.  So the other day, as I was picking straight pins out of the carpet for the second time that day, it occurred to me that most people don’t have this problem, because most people keep their pins in a pin-cushion.  (Sometimes, I admit, my learning curve for life lessons is a little less sharp than it might be.)

Then, my impulse solution was to run by the local dollar store and just buy a pin-cushion–everyone has the red tomato kind, perhaps even my local drugstore.  But where’s the fun in that?  I asked myself “Isn’t this project about making things for yourself instead of running out and buying the closest ready-made?”

A pincushion, after all, is just a little pillow of fabric to stick pins into. I could use any old scraps. But just a plain pillow (or tomato-shape) didn’t seem exciting enough. I looked up patterns online, and discovered that there are roughly 19,500 patterns for pincushions, and about half of those are cupcakes. Adorable! But my fabric scraps weren’t saying “cupcake”, exactly, and then I realized another thing: I don’t need any new patterns, I have tons of those, already, too.

And that’s when I remembered my friend Sue Haven’s book, Make Your Own Toys. I’ve been meaning to try out those patterns for a long time, maybe I could find a sort of squat, square choice, and make it up, and use that as a pincushion. How much more charming would that be, on my work table, to look over and see a happy scrap animal than just a plain red tomato, or even a charming cupcake?

So that was what started the Pincushion Pig:

Pincushion Pig is an adaptation, I took the deer/poodle body and added the snout, ears, and tail from the pig pattern. And in typical haphazard fashion, I was unable to find my supply of pipecleaners in my stash of craft items, so instead of a twirly pig-tail, this piggy’s tail sticks straight out behind. (I felt it would be better to have a straight stick-tail than no tail at all.)

I weighted her legs and bottom with dried beans so that she’ll sit upright, and also so if my cat (or my elbow) sends her tumbling to the floor, she’ll likely land right side up.  This was a fun little project to sew, and I was glad to have a chance to actually make something from this book. Pincushion Pig might be a bit overcomplicated, as pincushions go, but it gave me trial run for toy patterns, and now I might just make a few more of these in various sizes for some of the children I know.  The tail, after all, reminds me of a mouse, and I think it would be very easy to take the same basic pattern and turn it into a mouse…or a whole family of them, perhaps.

Pincushion Pig does work very well as a pincushion, as well…but the photographs of her with pins sticking out of her back all akimbo seemed somehow brutal and inappropriate for the internet. You’re just going to have to take my word for that.

Sue Haven’s website is here, if you’re looking for more crafty toy inspiration. I’d also recommend this completely adorable video on how to make your own Patchwork Flat Bear–also good if you’re just trying toymaking for the first time.