Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Dragon Has Arrived - Review of DIY Fluffies Yoki the Dragon Pattern

I'm naming him Skye Blue (Yes, I am name stealing from Beyonce)
My very first dragon and likely my last.  This was from a pattern, DIY Fluffies Yoki the Dragon.  I paid $9 to find out that I would need to draw in the one centimeter seam allowance on most of the pieces.  What an absolute pain that was!   Some pieces such as the arms and wings could just be traced onto the fabric with that being the sewing line.  Most of the larger body pieces, though, are sewn to other curvy pieces.  The seam allowance is not only essential, but needs to be exact.  Why create a pattern with sewing lines rather than seam allowance lines???  I also needed to figure out placement of the wings, arms, eyes and nostrils--no nice little dots marked on the pattern pieces.  Also no nice little dots to match one pattern piece to another.

After making about 40 stuffed creatures last year, I felt I would easily be up to this, but I found the pattern to be confusing or vague in several essential places.  I finally blew the pattern up to twice the size (if I'm going to do this work, I want a good size beast to show for it),  ignored half the directions, and improvised.  Some of the changes were to make it more kid friendly.  The original seems more like a "I'm going to sit on the shelf stuffie" rather than a "I'm going to get dragged around by the ear" one.  I started to write up the changes and take pics, but this would have been one very long post.  Should you decide to make one and have questions, I'd be happy to share.

This is the third time in the past few years that I've gotten a pattern from a small company only to find that I am going to be doing a lot of work to actually have usable pattern pieces.  Too bad we can't see what's inside before purchasing them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Butterfly Cabinet, A Novel by Bernie McGill

I loved this book despite it's dark theme.  The Butterfly Cabinet is  loosely based on an actual incident that happened in l892 in Ireland.  A well-to-do mother is accused of having caused the death of her child.  The chapters alternate between a  woman, now in her nineties, who was employed in the house at the time of the death and the prison diary of the mother.  While the central mystery revolves around coming to understand what really happened that day, much of the writing brings the reader to understand why it happened, what about these characters brought them to their actions on that day.

To me McGill's is descriptive writing at it finest.  With some authors, you see the descriptive writing.  It jumps out at you.  It is distracting.  I'm usually thinking about the fact that the the author is working at being descriptive rather than focusing on the story.   In this book, however, you see the story.  It unfolds tugging your emotions in countless directions.  Just when you think you know a character, McGill gives you more information forcing you to rethink your previous conclusions.

The only negative for me was that the modern day story (well, if you can call 1968 modern;-})  is hardly developed. The book is comparatively short.  There was certainly room for showing how these past events affect later generations.  The main story line, though, is well worth the read.

It's a great choice for a book club because McGill does not force answers on the reader.  She presents the information.  We decide--and it's not as easy as it sounds.  It's the kind of story you think about long after finishing the book.  I don't often push for books in my book club, but this is one I'd love to delve into with others.  You can click on the book cover below to see what Amazon reviewers have to say.  If you do read it, let me know what you think.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hood from Simplicity 5857

This is what you do when your resident model is still sleeping and you
want to get a photo of the new hood.  Kinda creepy, isn't it?
This hood is from the same pattern I used for the beret last week.  I wanted this to wear with a couple of my jackets that don't have hoods.  I love both hats and hoods, but I tend to lose my hats when shopping.  With this I can just push it back while I'm at the mall or getting groceries.

The pattern called for fleece, but I went with a corduroy and silky lining.  I wanted it to lie flatter when I push it back. While there is no give when sliding it over the head, there was more than enough room for me to get it on and off comfortably.  I will admit to having a bit of a pinhead, though.  If you try the pattern in a material that doesn't have stretch, do a muslin first to be sure it will be okay for you.
Here is it on the in-house model, Melissa.
I love this fabric!  It's from Joann's.  Those embroidered bits look so much better in person.  By the time I went back to buy more, it was gone!  Maybe it will be back next year--I do hope so anyway.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Beret from Simplicity Pattern

You have no idea how long I've been hanging on to this pattern (Simplicity Accessories 5857).  This month's sewing challenge from Sew Much 2 Luv has given me the push to actually accomplish a few things.  All the waiting to do this and it took about an hour from reading the pattern to finishing the sewing.  I used a small piece of leftover fleece from last year's scarf.

Thanks to Melissa for modeling for me as always. There she was trying to eat breakfast, and I have her posing for me. (How does someone look this good right after getting up in the morning?)

You can join the challenge any week this month.  No need to do it every week.  Give it a go if you have some sewing project in the works or just go see what everyone's been up to.  I've gotten so many great ideas and found great new blogs while wandering through the entries.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Gym Bag is Finished!!

I'm trying to do the after Christmas sewing challenge with Sew Much To Luv.  I did NOT think I'd pull this week off, but I did it!  This is from a Mackerilla Design pattern called Cruzer and Little Cru.  This is the Cruzer version.
I love this bag!  It has an open pocket divided into two on this side. And the other side has a zippered pocket--first time I've sewn one.  Not hard at all.

 There are side pockets for my water bottles/glasses/whatever-I'm draggin'.

You can see the zippered top flap and lining in this pic.

This is a great pattern on so many levels. It's a great bag with all kinds of pockets.  It can be used as a backpack or over the shoulder.  The instructions are simple and detailed enough even for the pattern-challenged like me.  This pushed me into trying new techniques and working with new materials including a couple of stabilizers. (It doesn't require multiple kinds of stabilizers.  I just wanted to try a few out.)

The only problem I had was finding the hardware.  Heads up:  go find the hardware before cutting the material for the straps.  Changing the width of the straps to accommodate what your sewing center has available is much easier than trooping off to every possible store and combing the internet to find the right size.  I could not find  1-1/4" loops or sliders. I could have purchased them online, but the shipping charges were outrageous.  One inch sliders worked, but I couldn't get one inch loops in the same color.  I finally used one and a half inch loops that are fine.  I'm sure that no one will notice that the loops are slightly too large and wider than the sliders but me.

Join in the challenge!  Click here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Storing the Christmas Tree

Do you know how many years I spent sorting all the tree branches into piles according to the color on the tips before I could set up the tree?  I'd tell you but it would be embarrassing.  Now I do this:
When I take the tree down, each color set of branches is tied together with twine.
All the red branches are together, all the blue, and on and on.
So much easier to set up the next year.  Tie it with a bow so that it is easy
to undo next year.

So get out the supplies:
You all do have your string in a nice little plastic container with a hole in the
top already, right?  If you're smarter than me, you will only need to
do this once.  You will store the string  in the empty box for reuse
when taking down the tree rather than misplacing it.
Press all those branches together so they store compactly. (You are going to have to fluff them out next year anyway).

Make sure to fill the sides of the container not just the middle!  Push the set in there to the side and squeeze in the next set.
See all that wasted space?  Press this one to the side and put the next one in
that space.  They will hold each other in place.  

Let's talk tree storage container now.  We used the original box for our first artificial tree for a couple of years before it fell apart.  Then the hubster built a beautiful scrap wood and particle board box.  That was great until the pipe broke and flooded the basement.  Wood and water are not a good mix.   Now we use two large plastic boxes.  You need to be sure at least one of the boxes (if you need more than one) is long enough for the longest piece of center pole.  Remember, though, that the pole pieces can go in diagonally up and down with the branches stuffed in around it.  Measure the inside of the box inside diagonally before buying it.

If you have a minute, let me know when you take down your tree in the comment section.  I've been accused on doing it too soon.  I try to have it down by the first.  Too soon???

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Storing Christmas Lights

Often Christmas light come crammed in little boxes that will never again hold them.  I bought more lights this year, so I thought I would show you my solution for keeping them tangle free:
Take one of those many corrugated boxes that are left from the holidays and
cut out a nice square that is strong and not bending.  You want it to be pretty
 solid.  Mine are about 15x10 but they can be a little longer or shorter.  Be sure
they are  not so long that they bend, though.  Then cut two slits about
2-1/2 inches long on each end.

Now fold those center flaps you made under on each side.  I don't cut them off
because I don't want to chance weakening the edge pieces.
The edges will keep the lights from falling off the board.  You certainly
could cut them if you prefer it.

Cut a small slit into one of the uncut long sides, and slide the beginning of the
light string in it.
Now start rolling in that center cut section.  Just walk around the tree and roll as
you go.  You can fit quite a bit on.  
Once it's full, make another small cut in the side and slide in the end piece.  I
have it marked with"start" to make it easier to know where to begin unwinding when hanging
lights the next year.

They may look bulky, but they unroll easily.  When I'm putting the lights on the tree,
I unroll  a bit and stick the cardboard piece between the branches until I'm ready for more.
Hopefully this will make the "undecorating" just a bit easier for you!