couch cover – one down, one to go

couch_sewThis is what it looks like when I’m making a couch cover. There is a whole lot of fabric to maneuver.

In our living-room, there lives a couch that we didn’t buy new. Since we didn’t buy it new, we kind of didn’t choose the multi-colored, fading stripes that adorns it. So, enter my sewing skills and a little bit of seat-pants-flying: I’ll just make a couch cover to, well, cover the couch.

This project has been several months long, from start to finish. After deciding that we needed couch-covers for both of our non-new couches, we had to decide on a fabric. Unfortunately, there wasn’t nearly enough of my first choice, a nice, textured, light green-grey twill, to cover both sofas, so I had to get an additional fabric to match.

couch_beforeThe fabric is just a tad busy. On the seat are the panels of fabric all cut out and folded. It doesn’t look like much, does it!

Also unfortunately, there was almost not enough of the green-grey twill to cover even one of the couches, so some serious mathematics and planning and visualizing had to be done to make it work. I think this was actually the biggest part of the project – just figuring out how big each panel could be, without running out of fabric. For the most part, the sewing went pretty easily. Since almost all of the panels were rectangles of different sizes, there were a lot of 90° angles to deal with, but with some planning and some patience, they stayed pretty squared off.

couch_afterAaah, much easier on the eyes!

The twill was a bit denim-like, so to finish off the couch-cover and give it a little extra something, I top-stitched the seams with a heavy-duty yellow thread. I like the fun little detail! I made some pillows to match as well: for one I used the leftovers (wrong side out) , pairing it with an orange flower-patterned linen to match the yellow top-stitching. The other is made from the fabric I bought for the second couch-cover (an armrest of that couch is visible in the picture), with a green zipper across.

couch_detailPillow & topstitching.

I invested a whopping $12 dollars in the twill (yey sales!), and even if I include  a dollar for the zipper on the pillow, that’s still a pretty cheap couch-cover! Now I just need to recover a bit before I tackle that second couch…

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underwear, v2.0

I’m back with the underwear! This was my first attempt, and I’m happy to report that they are all still in commission. This batch is the new and improved version, and this is what I got out of a nice, soft, size M, cotton t-shirt:

underwear_all

So, to sum up, I learned a couple of things from sewing up the first round of underwear (hence these new ones being improved).

  • Pick t-shirts with care. Stiff is not so good because of the lack of give, soft is good, but supersoft is not better. Supersoft often means superthin too, which tends to make for a weaker fabric.
  • Avoid a lot of stress on the seams. Which sounds silly because it’s underwear, and should be able to put up with a lot of wear and tear. For the first batch of underwear I attached the binding by sewing right sides together, flipping over and around, and stitching in the ditch to secure the backside of the binding. This however, meant that there was a lot of tension where the binding and main fabric were joined, especially since I used a straight and non-giving seam.
  • Lay pattern-pieces on the grain. My thrifty self wants to get every use out of that t-shirt, but you will end up with a stretchier piece of underwear that doesn’t twist if you actually go with the grain, rather than randomly squeezing things in.
    .

underwear_lineOps, I got the inside and outside mixed up on this one. See the zigzag-stitch on the binding?

Let’s get technical (skip this if you’re not too much into underwear construction!):

I used the same patterns as for the first pairs I made. The one for me has four pattern-pieces, and the one for the boy has six. For mine, there is the front and the back piece, and two identical gusset lining pieces. I sandwich the front piece between these two smaller pieces first, and sew them down. Then there is a little moebius-like magic, as I twist the smaller pieced layers before matching them up with the edge of the back piece. Doing it this way makes all the seams completely on the inside, nice and tidy. I use the neckband of the t-shirt as a waistband when I can, and since they usually are ribbed, they stretch and fit quite nicely. Similarly, I use the hem from the sleeves or the body for the binding as well. They all have a crease running down the middle already, which is convenient for matching up the fold with the top of the main underwear piece. For these pairs I sewed down the edges right sides together with a zigzag, before doing the matching up and tucking under (on the wrong side), and using a twin needle to secure the overlapping parts. This might all be a lot clearer with an image-heavy tutorial, I think! Perhaps I will do one if there is desire and interest for it?

The boy version is in many ways much easier to sew. First the two smaller front pieces go together (four pieces cut out, so two identical sets when this step is done), and then that is attached to the large front pieces on either side. The back seam is next, and at this point, I do a double top stitched seam on all seams, meaning that I sew a straight seam to either side of the pressed open seam. It’s not terribly functional, but it looks very nice. Now I add the second layer of the front piece, but seam allowances of these front panels facing each other, so it’s as nice and tidy as can be. I couldn’t find a way to tuck the edges of this piece under without making it bulky, so I left them raw and uncovered. They seem to be doing just fine – t-shirt material doesn’t really unravel. Almost done! After sewing the inseam, the hem is turned up and zigzag’ed (a twin needle would also work), and then the elastic waistband is secured with a zigzag-seam as well.
.

underwear_detail

Waistband made from the t-shirt neckband, and a nice double seam on the binding, courtesy of the twin needle.

There we go, new underwear! And what have I learned?

  • Twin needles are my friends. They make a very nice, evenly spaced double seam on the right side, and a zigzag (and thus stretchy) seam on the wrong side.
  • The patterns should be symmetrical. I haven’t done anything to the pattern since I traced it from an old piece of underwear, and it’s not completely even. I think the pieces will sew together more accurately once I’ve retraced and fixed the pattern.

This is becoming a ongoing project I look forward to doing – it’s pretty quick and easy to do, so it earns instant gratification points. It’s also re-purposing, and I especially like how useful the end product is! With several t-shirts in my pile, it only becomes a matter of picking which color to do next!

homemade herbal shampoo

I’ve come across quite a lot of recipes for all sorts of homemade, natural stuff floating around the web. Well, I guess it’s more that I seek them out – I love homemade stuff in all shapes, colors and forms! Some recipes that have caught my eyes are for laundry soap, natural dyes, deodorant, and homemade shampoo. Petchy of Made by Petchy even posted homemade hair removal wax recently! I decided to try out the shampoo:

shampoo_beforeIngredients I used for my homemade shampoo: Castille soap (I used the unscented Baby Mild Dr. Bronner variety), a pouch of citrus chamomile tea, some loose chamomile tea, a couple of drops of lime oil, and an empty plastic bottle.

I found several shampoo recipes that were similar, so the only way my shampoo differs from the linked one, is the amount of castille soap. I probably doubled the amount of soap, which probably made up about an fourth of the total volume. Homemade shampoo is surprisingly and satisfyingly easy to make – it only really took 1o minutes to make, outside of having to wait for the tea to steep. So, I boiled a little less than a cup of water, poured it over the tea/herbs, and let it steep. In the plastic bottle I poured in a couple of ounces of castille oil, a couple of drops of the lime oil, and then finally the herbal concoction.

shampoo_after

All done, with a fancy homemade label and all!

I must have spilled some of the tea-steeped water as I poured it in the plastic bottle, it didn’t fill quite up. I read some reviews of this type of homemade shampoo online saying it turned out very thin, and with 6 parts water and two parts (very thin) liquid soap, I wasn’t surprised to find that it was indeed a very liquidy shampoo. It works perfectly fine as a shampoo anyways, and the thinness doesn’t bother me as much as my hair feeling squeaky clean after using it (really,  more squeaky than squeaky clean). I think this is a Dr. Bronner thing though, so even though my homemade herbal shampoo has gotten a new life as homemade herbal handwash, I am prepared to try again with a different soap. Plus, it’s so fun to make your own stuff!

tulip-skirt, remade

After a bit of a hiatus on the creating front, I’m feeling like I’m on the way back to my regular craftiness. The middle of winter has seen much more knitting (a couple of big projects are underway), than sewing, probably because it’s much easier to snuggle up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and some knitting needles than it is with a sewing machine!

skirt_main

This skirt has been through several stages of transformations – I finally made the last changes, so it should be quite wearable now! To begin with this was a below the knee, A-line, light dusty grey-blue corduroy skirt from trusty H&M. I wore it and loved it for many, many years before I finally grew a bit tired of it. I had a pile of textiles and clothes I was going to dye a teal-ish color, so I threw the skirt in with the rest. I love the new color, which is more or less just a darker, richer shade of the original color. The pattern is based on the Marie skirt from BurdaStyle. The pattern is wider at the waistline than it is at the hem, so I turned the skirt up-side down so the hem was pleated over and turned into the waist. To make it easier for myself, I kept the side seams and used the BurdaStyle pattern as more of a template.

After wearing the skirt a couple of times though, the waistband stretched, and my high-waisted skirt was no longer so high-waisted! After many months in the ‘to do’-pile (and a cross-Atlantic move!), I finally sat down for half an hour and whipped up a waistband, interfacing it so the skirt will now stay high-waisted. The time spent in waiting must be directly disproportionate to how long it actually takes to fix it!

skirt_photo skirt_reflector

With a photographer boyfriend, anything has photo-shoot potential!

I think I am ready to tackle the rest of that ‘to-do’ pile now!

yarnfest

I’m making myself some mittens, matching these ones that I made the boy a year ago. The colors and yarn are a bit different this time around – most notably the yarn is a little thicker and loftier, so the mittens might turn out a different size than the original pair! The yarn is from Stonehedge Fiber Mills in Michigan, and wow! It is unbelievably soft! I can’t wait to get my hands toasty in this pile of softness when I’m all done.

knit_mittens1

The pattern will be about the same as the finished mittens, but with darker gray on the lighter gray background.

I’m also quite smitten with my first attempts at frogging, or recycling yarn. I came across this concept on several blogs some months ago, so I thrifted a couple of sweaters with the intention of taking them apart, unravelling, and knitting them up into something new, recycled, and lovely. This link gives a great and detailed tutorial on how to do just that. As it turns out, one of the sweaters I got had “bad seams”, or overlocked seams, meaning the yarn would be cut, and not be in one continuous thread. Fortunately, it was an all wool sweater, so it can be felted, and then turned into something lovely.

recycle_yarn1

Two sweaters in various stages of deconstruction, and our bike-wheel fireplace centerpiece (the fireplace is nonfunctional).

I also went about my unravelling attempts all wrong, according to the online tutorials – starting at the bottom. Every step should be done (or undone I guess) in the reverse order, so this explains why I had such a hard time getting the sweater apart! The first one is a cotton/wool blend in a tweedy black, begging to be turned into a more shapely sweater than its ultra-baggy XL original self. The second one is a denim blue, soft wool/nylon/angora blend. The yarn is quite thin, and breaks a little too easily, and from some unpicking accidents a lot of the yarn is coming out in shorter lengths (ops!). I’ve scrapped the idea of turning it into a new sweater – I don’t think there is enough yarn left at this point, but all of a sudden it became obvious what I should make, and for whom. I adore when projects just pop up fully fashioned like that! Well, in my mind, at least.

Now that the semester is at an end,  and more time is on my hands, I feel some creativity urges coming back in time for the holiday season. Still, this will be a very low key Christmas when it comes to gifting. I might take my tendency to send off gifts a little late a step further, and just send out handmade things randomly whenever the ideas are conceived and realized. Perhaps that’s the way things should be.

nostalgia and spinning

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. I think I would love walking around wearing many layers of skirts, having to hike them up while walking stairs – thank you for that, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don’t think I’d mind going back in time to, say, the 1860s for a couple of days, but I’m not so sure I’d want to stay there.

Maybe its more admiration than nostalgia I feel for the people of that era, and their self sufficiency. I am impressed by all the skills average people had, allowing them to raise, slaughter, prepare and make use of their own animals, building their own houses and clothe themselves. While I don’t necessarily feel that everything was much better in the olden days, I am sad that skills like these are not commonplace anymore.

Anyone who are skillful at what they do are impressive to me, but I am easiest to impress when it comes to handicrafts. Show me a talented and dedicated cobbler, or a bookbinder, or a glass-blower or piano-tuner, and I will be in awe, or want to be like them! I’ve had so different jobs on my “what do I want to be when I grow up”-list, but they are much alike – they are all about creating, one way or another. I too want to know my craft, and be really good at it. Now, I’m not planning on spinning being my trade, but that doesn’t need to stop me trying it!

spinning….

… and carding wool to be spun

The spinning wheel belongs to my work, a museum, and a co-worker showed me how to use it. Mom had some wool lying around at home that I could use, and she also let me borrow her hand carders. As soon as I started using them, I remembered the technique – I think there was some wool carding and crafting in my childhood that my hands remember!

It’s a fairly simple concept: the spinner pulls a section of the prepared wool apart, and the strands of fibres gets twisted to create yarn. How thin the wool gets pulled apart, affects the thickness the yarn gets. This is pretty much all the variables with a drop spindle; it’s all about the yarn and a weight and the weight set in motion. But add the foot rhythm and hand-eye-foot coordination of the spinning wheel, and it takes some trying and yarn breaking before it all comes together! Now that it’s going better, I’m finding the process quite meditative – I think it’s the rhythm of the pedal and the whirring of the wheel that does it.

As with other crafts, I get excited about the usefulness about this – I could technically go from cutting the wool off the sheep (for now I’ll leave the shearing to those who know how), to carding, to spinning, to finally knitting a sweater. Now, how would that be for “I made this myself”?

i make underwear

Yes, underwear! I made these. They used to be t-shirts, and now they are fully functional, very comfortable underwear. And happily quick to make.

(click the picture to get the back view)

The first thing to do, is find some suitable t-shirts to cut up. I’ve used gifted and thrifted t-shirts, but my closet is under close scrutiny at the moment. I prefer my cotton straight up, no synthetics, and the softer (and thinner), the better.

As I’m no genius at pattern-drafting, I thought sticking with my favorite pair of undies as a model was the best bet. It was quite finicky to make this not-so-big 3D garment translate in to a 2D pattern, but it’s perfectly doable, especially with a little patience and persistence. In cutting the pattern pieces out of the t-shirts, I’ve generally just squished them all in there to get as much out of my t-shirt as possible, but in the future I am going to put down the pattern pieces horizontal on the t-shirt, to get more stretch in the underwear. And this I know from experience now: some t-shirts are naturally quite stiff and has very little give, and that means there is a greater chance of seams tearing, so stretchy t-shirts are good (I guess better luck next time in making underwear for the boy).

(It’s a moose. Too bad Guttkes Fritidsstugor printed his moose on such a stiff t-shirt.)

I’ve even managed to use the neckband of the old t-shirts as waistbands for a couple of the new undies. That makes me quite happy. Also, I’m quite happy with the stitch-in-the-ditch sewing and nice seam finishing on some of these, most visible on the brown underwear in the picture below:

For those who suddenly got an urge to get up and make themselves some underwear, there are some patterns and tutorials out there, like this one at Supernaturale, and this one over at BurdaStyle.

The color scheme of my underwear collection was in no way planned, but brown is a very good color. I’ll end with a picture of the very first undies I made. It looks like the t-shirt would have read ”Alabama” at some point, but it really didn’t. The word was ”Alaba”. Huh.

(eta: thanks to the boy for the pictures)