Saturday, July 21, 2018

Small Dog Coat

A couple of years ago I ordered a custom dog jacket for my Chihuahua/Min Pin mix through an Etsy store.  Stewie wore it for two winters and it has served us well.  Recently, I saw a pattern for a dog coat and bought it to see if I could make a new one for him myself.  The pattern I used was Simplicity 1239.  The examples are super cute, such as a dog coat made to look like a football and a camouflage dog coat with pockets or saddle bags on the sides... 

Any time that I sew, my goal is to use my existing fabric stash, because I'm pretty sure that even if I lived another 50 years, I wouldn't have enough time to make something out of all that fabric I've bought, washed, and stashed throughout my lifetime believing that "some day" I will make something with it.  After perusing my shelf full of dusty fabrics, I decided to make my dog look like a butterfly...

And I found some bright colored flannel to line the inside of the coat.  The colors match!

My only issue with Stewie's first coat was that it was too short and didn't cover his bum, so I made sure that this coat did that.  Still, I probably could have made it even longer...

I followed the pattern exactly, but the neck turned out to be too tight, and the material is constricting in the shoulders, so I'm going to make some adjustments on the pattern that include the following:

1.  Larger, deeper neckline.
2.  Less hang over the shoulders.
3.  Longer from neck to tail.
4.  Longer straps at both the neck and belly.

It's hard to see, but I sewed a D-ring onto the back to hook a leash up to.  I had fun making this.  It's quick and easy.  I think if I get really good at it and feel confident adjusting patterns to custom measurements, I might open my own Etsy shop selling these creations.  Of course, right now is not the season for it, so I've still got a few months to practice.  I'll also have to find some creations to make and sell that aren't dependent upon it being cold outside.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Two Finished Needlepoint Pillows

I finally did it!  I think it took longer for me to piece the pillows together than it took for me to complete the two needlepoint canvases, but now I have the perfect lap pillows to set my laptop on while working.

The needlepoint canvas on the left is Design Works "Watercolor Floral" 12" x 12" Needlepoint Kit, which contains a 12 count interlock canvas printed in full color, acrylic yarns, needle and instructions.  The one on the right is Design Works "Peacock" 12" x 12" Needlepoint Kit with all the same contents.  Backing fabric, decorative edging, and pillow inserts or frames are not included.  Here's a picture of the backing fabric's I chose:

I'm impressed with my choices, because the coloring, subject matter, and style match the needlepoint images pretty well.  The instructions say to leave one edge open and hand sew it closed once the pillow form or stuffing is put in, but I like to make pockets so that the pillow forms can easily be slipped in and out.  The pillow on the left has a 3" overlay for the pocket, while the pillow on the right has a 4" overlay.  As you can see, the 4" overlay worked out better because the backing sits nicer and doesn't appear to be bulging at the seams.  For my pillow forms I used Acanva Home Collection 12" squares.

My life got turned upside down recently when my oldest mare colicked and had to be tubed by the vet, my oldest dog began urinating and vomiting all over the carpet, and I broke my toe on the shower door railing all within a few minutes of each other.  All that served as just one more reminder (or three) that time is of the essence and I have to get down to business and complete these various projects when I've got downtime and when I have two legs and two arms (and enough digits) to get the jobs done.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Intermission Explanation

I know I'm long overdue for a post.  How is it that sewing together a couple of needlepoint pillows can take several months?  Let me count thy ways...

I did get new eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses from my new optometrist, and they work great for every day wear, but what I really needed for fabric arts and crafts projects were powerful reading glasses so I picked up a three-pack for twelve bucks at the local clothing store.  Now I have a pair next to each sewing and serger machine.

So, for the most part, my eyesight problems have been corrected, but now I find myself struggling with cognitive issues.  For instance, I could not, for the life of me, find the right sized pillow insert for these 12x12" needlepoint canvases.  The websites selling them said to always buy the next size up, so I checked out the 14x14" pillow inserts, and the reviews said they were flat and recommended that you buy the next size up, which was 16x16".  So, I bought that, and it was way too big.  I tried adapting to the large pillow insert by cutting out a 18x18" square of fabric, but could not figure out how to attach it smoothly to a 12x12" needlepoint canvas without gathering the fabric, so I ordered some 14x14" pillow inserts, which were still too big.  I went through the same rigmarole until I finally bought the 12x12" pillow inserts.  Don't listen to what anyone says in those online reviews.  Trust your own instinct.

Now I'm in the process of cutting that 18x18" square of fabric down to a 14x14" square of fabric, leaving room for hems, because the fabric is very lightweight and frays easily.  Somehow, some way, I always manage to do my math wrong and when all is said and done with the hems, the square is still too big.  You know the old saying of cutting it twice and it still being too short?  Well, I cut twice and it's still too long.

When I work so hard only to make a mistake and have to do the process again, I tend to walk away from the project either because I have to get on with my life, or because I need a time out from it.  That tactic wouldn't be so bad if I could return to it the next day, but usually some other problem or activity commandeers my time, and before I know it, several weeks or months have passed and my project is collecting dust on my sewing table.

The serger intimidates me.  I had my first thread breakage the other day, and it took me hours to get around to reading the threading instructions and watching a video on how to thread it.  The actual threading repair only took seconds, but learning how to do it seemed to take all day because I had a learning block.  As soon as I started reading the instructions, I fell asleep.  I know that my fear of the serger thread breaking again is a big reason why I keep avoiding finishing the pillows.  I think, "I can finish this pillow in an hour.  I know exactly what I need to do.  But what if the serger thread breaks and I have to re-thread all four threads through the machine?  Then it will take days to get the pillow done."

And that's the point in my thinking process where I start looking around for something more urgent to do.  Besides the intimidating serger, I also just don't trust my brain.  Every time I make a mistake, I'm like, "What the heck was I thinking?"

Then I look in the mirror at myself like I'm a stranger.  "Who ARE you?  You're not the intelligent young woman I used to rely on.  This isn't rocket science, you know."

It's scary when you can no longer do something that you've done a dozen times before because you're over the hill and you brain is slowly dying.  I have stacks upon stacks of fabrics and patterns waiting for my attention, but if I can't complete a simple square pillow, I doubt there's much hope that I will be able to construct some clothes.

I've been anxious about summer coming, because that was when I was in the most pain and the most crippled last year, but it turns out that the heat had nothing to do with my pain levels.  I suspect that my pain levels had more to do with stress and the lack of support I'd been receiving from doctors in resolving my pain and immobility.  Pretty much all I've been dealing with lately is stiffness and a lack of flexibility, but the pain is mostly gone since the steroid injections.  So, the leg pain and the eyesight issues are no longer getting in the way of my craft projects.  It's mainly my cognitive functioning and my inability to concentrate on something for more than a few minutes without getting interrupted.

After my oldest dog passed away, I thought my time would be freed up, but within a few months, my next oldest dog started going downhill and developing health problems that require a lot of my attention.  She is now at the end of her life, and just when I thought my time would be freed up once she passes, my youngest dog developed a health problem that is going to require a lot of my time and the vet's time.  I'm going to have to be taking him in to see the vet every few weeks, and that's going to get to be both time consuming and expensive. I'm planning on switching vets, because my current one is in the habit of leaving me alone in an examining room with my dog for an hour while she chats with her staff.  She clearly has no respect for my schedule.  I just can't figure out how I can be so unlucky as to end up with three dogs with special needs.  I've owned dogs my entire life, and up until these last three, they were all pretty low maintenance.  Now my life revolves around the bladders and bowels of dogs.  Usually, when I am on my way into the sewing room to finish the pillows, I get sidetracked by a dog accident on the carpet.  By the time I'm done scrubbing the stain out, I've either forgotten what I was originally going to do, or I've run out of free time and have to move on to the next task.

So, those are the reasons why it has been so long since I've last completed a project to share on this blog.  As usual, I have high hopes that things will change soon.  Unfortunately, they rarely do.  Until next time...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Needlepoint Projects in Progress

It seems that I like working on needlepoint canvases, but I'm not so keen on finishing the canvas by sewing it into a pillow.  Right now I've got two finished needlepoint canvases and started working on a third.  I've got pillows waiting to be covered, I've picked out matching fabrics and lace, but can't seem to get a big enough block of time to actually sew the finished product together.  I know what to do.  I've done it half a dozen times before.  I just seem to be suffering from a little sewer's block when it comes to these projects.  Here are some photos of what I've got so far...

One of my biggest challenges with needlepoint as of late is my eyesight.  When I complete all the sections of needlepoint, I start noticing stitches I skipped that reveal raw canvas, and I have to go back and do one stitch here, another stitch there...  It's very time consuming.  I got tired of tucking in heads and tails, so I ended up just stretching the yarn long distances across the back of the canvas to get from one missing stitch to another.  Very unprofessional of me, but who cares?  It's going to be hidden inside the pillow, right?  These are just for me.  I'm not planning on entering any contests, so all is good.

Oh, and I've got an appointment scheduled with a new optometrist next month.  Hopefully, they'll be better than my current dentist who called me in today to fill some cavities, and then told me to go home because I didn't have any.  There was a miscommunication between the dentist and the assistant and hygienist.  And before that I had requested a female hygienist, and someone switched me to a male hygienist at the last minute without my permission, so I had to pitch a fit to get the one I requested.  They also called me while I was sleeping early in the morning to try to move my appointment up earlier in the morning when I had specifically told them the only time I was available was in the mid-afternoon.  The list goes on and on with those people, so I'll be switching dentists soon too.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Painted Rocks

About a year ago I found a local rock painting group through Facebook that paints rocks and then hides them around the community for people to find.  It's a good will type of action meant to bring a smile to someone's face or delight a child.  The finders of the rocks can keep them, leave them where they found them, or hide them someplace else for someone else to find.  The rocks are labeled with the group's name, the artist's name, and instructions to post a picture of the rock to our page on Facebook so that the artist knows that his or her work was found, and hopefully appreciated.

I liked the idea for a lot of reasons.  First off, it was a small, but positive way to make an impact on people.  For those who like to find the rocks, it feels like Easter every day.  My family has always had a lot of fun organizing and participating in Easter egg hunts.  We often found candies from past hunts at unexpected times, but most often when we cleaned house or moved furniture.  The kids would be talking about it for weeks afterward, because it was always special to find a treasure when you weren't even looking for one.

I find painting rocks to be relaxing.  I can make mistakes and no one cares, because it's not on a $100 canvas with expensive oil paints, but just a rock and a 99 cent bottle of acrylic.  Plus, if I make a mistake, it's easy enough to cover up with the next layer of paint.

Around the time I found the group, I was at the beginning of my battle with arthritis along the right side of my body.  I needed to exercise every day or my leg would lock up and I'd be crippled.  However, I was bored taking walks near my home, and this group gave me the incentive to get my exercise at local parks so that I could look for painted rocks along the way, and hide my latest batch as well.  So, rock painting has become my most recent craft of interest.  Here are a few photos of some rocks I've painted in the past.

What's really fun is when some rock I painted months ago that disappeared suddenly shows up in circulation again.  We call those "recycled rocks".  People find them and keep them to enjoy and show around for a while, and then they put them back out into the community for someone else to find.

Monday, August 21, 2017

My New Workspace

I meant to take pictures of my new sewing room a few months ago when I first set it up, but forgot.  In fact, I haven't even used it much since I put it together.  I've been in so much pain lately that it hurts to do anything physical, and my frustration level gets pretty high as is when it comes to sewing.  Imagine having to constantly undo what you just spent hours doing because you made a mistake.  Now imagine the same thing, but while you are experiencing relentless pain.

Yeah.  Like that.

Previously, my sewing supplies were scattered all over the house wherever there was a little space to set them up.  I could never complete any big projects, because I spent all my time running around the house looking for items I needed.  So, when it became apparent that my son was never going to move in with us ever again, I decided to turn his bedroom into my new sewing room.  I knew it wasn't big enough to fit everything in there, so I just planned to keep the essentials together.

First, we had to go through everything my son left behind and box it up.  That was mostly books.  Although, I did keep some of his books, especially the classic literature, on the shelves.  I also kept our record album collection in the room so that it wouldn't have to be stored somewhere hot where all the discs would warp.  I left enough room for my quilting books, button cases, and thread stands.

We had to take most of his furniture to the dump.  Then I replaced his uncomfortable twin bed with a comfortable full bed that my daughter was selling, so that we could also use the room as a guest bedroom in case my son and his girlfriend came to visit.  From there, I situated bookshelves, trunks, storage, and sewing tables around the edges of the room.  I managed to squeeze all three sewing machines and a serger in there, and bonus!  Because the new bed came with giant storage drawers underneath it, I was able to store most of my supplies in there rather than having them cluttering the table tops.

Here are some pictures...

This is Why I'll Never Be a Fashion Designer

Ha ha ha!  Fortunately, it hasn't been sewn yet -- just pinned.  The other good news is that I have learned never to sew until I look at the big picture and try it on.  Ripping out seams is a major hassle.  Although, pinning that seam wasn't easy either.  I was trying to get the pleating even all the way around, so it took me half an hour to pin it.  I actually did a decent job making it even the first time, but because I was so focused on that, I pinned the inside of the top to the outside of the skirt, and now I have to take out all the pins and start over.  Waaaaaah!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cross Stitch Bookmark

I found this cross stitch bookmark that came with the canvas and instructions in my stash.  I thought it would give me something to do with my hands while watching TV during our down time in the evenings.  For the letters I used a metallic thread that was difficult to work with.  It kept fraying and breaking, but I had enough of it to complete the project.  I chose not to outline anything, because I liked it the way it was at this phase and didn't want to add in long stitches that could get snagged on book pages.

I have a lot of leftover thread from old cross stitch and needlepoint projects.  I also created a stash of thread several years ago when you could buy a skein of DMC floss for just a few cents.  It was better than candy and lasts a lot longer.  I've been trying to find needlework projects to do that will allow me to use all that thread.  This was one of those projects.  I also bought some blank cross stitch and blank needlepoint canvas and have been printing out free designs from the Internet.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fitting Fiasco

For years I've owned this wonderful, shapely cotton knit top that was my all-time favorite piece of clothing, because it not only had a flattering cut, but it was comfortable in any temperature, long enough to cover my bloating belly at the wrong time of the month, and dressy enough to wear in public, but not so dressy that I couldn't wear it while doing barn chores.  I wore it so much that it began falling apart at the seams.

Each time I went to a clothing store, I'd look for something like it, but could never find anything that came close.  I finally decided to recreate it myself.  I set it in my sewing room and spent about a year shopping around for the correct material.  I finally found a fabric that would work, but I wasn't sure where to start.  In the past, I always sewed clothing with the help of a pattern.  In this case, I needed to make my own patterns out of computer paper.  For about a year, I had crafter's block and did nothing.

I finally got on the stick and cut out some paper patterns molded from the shape of the top.  I then began cutting out the fabric.  After I cut out the back, I held it up to myself and thought, "This can't be right.  This is way too small."

Granted, I was holding the pattern for the back up to my chest, but I could still tell that it was way too small.  I then held the piece of fabric I just cut out up to the back of the original top, and it fit perfect.  It took some thinking, but I eventually figured out that I should try on the original top.

Holy smokes!  In the two years that it had been sitting in my sewing room unattended, my body had changed so drastically that it no longer fit me.  The top had a ribbon of material wrapped around the rib cage right underneath the breasts.  However, now that I am a middle aged woman going through menopause, my breasts have drooped to the tune of about three inches!  Which meant that I had to lengthen both the back and the front of the patterns for the new top by three inches in order to not have that ribbon of material running right over my breasts.  I would have looked pretty silly wearing that in public.

So, another lesson learned for the fabric design world.  Make sure the item you are using as your example still fits before cutting anything.  Had I kept going, I may have been able to finish the product, but I would have had to find someone who was my size from two years ago to be able to wear it, which would have defeated my entire purpose for starting this project in the first place.  I wanted the top for myself.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stitch & Zip Coin Purse

I just completed the Stitch & Zip preassembled needlepoint coin purse / credit card case.  This is model SZ215 Modern Tulip.  The finished size is 4-1/2" x 3-1/4".  As usual, there was plenty of floss left over.

I love these little projects.  They are so much fun, and since I don't have to constantly be consulting a legend to know what kind of stitch and what color thread to put where, I can easily needle my way through one of these while watching TV in the evenings.

I'm setting it on my coffee table, and first house guest to admire it gets it.