29 March 2007

My First Treasury

I'm too excited not to brag: My Cows on the Farm Bib was featured in a treasury today. I am so excited!

As an aside, Staci Rose Designs, the curator of the list, makes some incredible earrings. I'm wearing a pair today, and I have to say they are some of the best crafted, most beautiful earrings I've ever had. I love, love, LOVE them. So go buy a pair, and support some San Franciscan talent!

28 March 2007

Showers of Flowers (the store and my latest project blitz)

I don't know if I've made it clear that I've been trying to destash my stash of yarn. Figuring out ways to do this has produced some fun projects (like the rash of purses I just completed) and some projects that may never get blogged about. But one day, wandering through Etsy's Time Machine 2 and my favorite yarn shop, Showers of Flowers, I figured it out.

I would make flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.

You see, flowers are ridiculously easy projects that use up even the smallest little scraps of yarn. They're fun, they're fast. You can make 20 in an hour. And so I set forth on my flower-making project.

20 flowers later, I'm looking around my stash for more flower-making fodder. I've already used some of my flowers as promos in my sales packages. I'll be sending some off through EtsyFAST to be part of the street team's goody bags. They're perfect for things like that. I can even sell them for $3-6, depending on quantity and materials used. Mine are bigger than most I see on Etsy (ranging from 2-5") and I use the good stuff - alpaca, mohair, wool. Okay, I also delve into acrylic and cotton, since I have scrap in that, too. And I needed a vegan-friendly stash.

Flowers. What a wonderful use for scraps!

26 March 2007

Customizing the little things (a new RAINN-y Day Anklet)

Sometimes it's the little things that need to be done to make a project perfect for a person. Case in point: I got a convo this weekend from a woman who loved my RAINN-y Day Anklet, but wanted it to be "more sturdy". The bracelet by nature is not very sturdy because it's a lacework piece. It's designed to be worn out on the town, but not for everyday wear.

It made me think of how I to sturdy it up. I decided that upping the size to 28-gauge wire and using a clasp more secure than toggles would probably be the solution. That way, the wire would be more flexible and sturdy, the clasp would be less likely to unclasp, and it could still retain its lacy look. It was worth a try.

It only took me one strand to realize that this was a great idea. The strand was more pliable and less brittle. It felt heavier and more substantial. But it didn't lose any of its lightness. Adding findings were a completely different story. I don't really care for lobster clasps; no real reason, it's just personal preference. I needed to get some jump rings in there to ease the strain on the wires. But I was able to get it together without any problems.

Lessons learned:
1) Heavier wire = sturdier project (duh)
2) Heavier wire = easier attachment of findings (double-duh)
3) I (still) love doing custom work over general work

The bracelet spent a whopping 10 minutes in my store before being claimed by its new owner. This is my first sale that I've included my new freebies with - I'll let you know how that goes over. :)

19 March 2007

Hail Eeyore Full of Grace (The Earred Grace Hat)

About 10 days ago, I get an Etsy convo from a sweet Canadian asking if I can make an Eeyore-esque hat that she saw on Will and Grace. I figure I can definitely do that. I had never seen Will and Grace, nor did I really know what she meant by Eeyore hat, but I was certain it was something I can do.

A few days later, I had a link in my mailbox to a YouTube clip featuring bloopers from Will and Grace's 3d season. And there it was. It was nothing like I'd pictured it. It was a big crocheted hat featuring a blue scully with a white border (not a folding headband, but a simple white border) and two tiny ears attached to the top. It was adorable. After I saw it, I knew I could do it.

We hashed out fiber (superwash wool over cotton - good choice, I might add) and I set to work. She liked the original colors, which posted the first challenge. Superwash doesn't come in the same range of colors as regular wool, cotton, or cheap acrylic. But only superwash has the beauty of wool with the ease of care needed for a hat. I found a blue that as just slightly deeper and a pink just slightly brighter.

The hat took two tries. The first hat had ears that were too long. They were the perfect length for Eeyore, but not for Grace. I sent the image along anyway, just in case she decided she wanted it more Eeyore and less Grace. Once we decided we needed a Grace hat, I halved the size of the ears and put them closer to the top.

I have to confess that I love both hats. They both make me chuckle every time I see them. How can you not smile at an earred hat?!

Lessons learned:
1) Chunky yarn is wonderful to work with
2) Superwash should really come in more colors
3) Ears are hard to make
4) Ears are even harder to attach
5) Custom projects are so much more fun than any other project

So the Grace-Eeyore hat is (of course) reserved for the lovely Canadian, but the Eeyore-Grace hat will be up on Etsy for everyone to chuckle at in the very near future. I couldn't resist putting pictures up of the EG hat with ears in both positions because both are so cute!

17 March 2007

Revamping Regifting (Mini Pink Purse)

At the beginning of this semester, my classmate and friend Sarah brought me back three gorgeous pink ceramic bracelets from India. The only problem is that the bracelets were too small for my wrist. They've been sitting in my car on the shift knob, and their clinking always reminds me of her kindness.

I wanted them to live a better life than one of collecting dust and decorating my car, so I started thinking of ways to make them into something new. Two of the bracelets were a similar thickness and roughly similar patterning. I had just finished making my RAINN-y Day Purse when I got the idea of making a miniature purse. It wasn't until today that I actually got around to doing it.

I headed to my yarn stash to find the perfect fiber, and I found it in Sirdar's Salsa DK in a tweedy pink. The pink almost perfectly matched the bracelets, and the black strands within gave it some depth. I played around with hook sizes and stitches, and settled on a size 7 Brittany hook and plain ol' single crochet.

The purse itself was whipped up during my sewing class, to the admiration of my classmates. They were awed by the fact I wasn't counting nor using a pattern. At the end of the class, I had crappy rolled hems and a perfect little fat-bottomed purse.

I decided to keep this purse unlined, mainly because it seemed wrong to use new materials on a totally upcycled/destashed item. Besides, I wanted to line it with gold lame, and I'm 1) broke and 2) don't have any suitable substitutes for gold lame. The purse itself received its first test when I threw my Motorola SLVR, keys, lip balm, and powder compact into it so I wouldn't have to shove all those things into my pockets (things in pockets when you're 8 months pregnant is a bad idea). Everything fit great. I haven't done a formal measurement of the purse, but if I had to guess, it's probably around 3.5x5.5".

I really can't say I have any *real* new lessons learned, but here are the few observations I made.
1) The more I do this, the less I need patterns
2) Sirdar makes a phenomenal DK wool fiber
3) Small is usually better

As always, look for the mini purse to be added to my Etsy store in the near future.

14 March 2007

Surprise, Surprise (Baby Booties)

I recently ordered some custom-designed labels from JennifersJewels' Etsy Store. They are simple, but (in my humble opinion) gorgeous. They go with everything I make. Best of all, she was willing to trade a RAINN-y Day Anklet for the labels. Two sets. She fronted me a bit of a credit. She didn't have to do that.

So I tried to think of a way to repay her kindness. She was initially interested in baby booties, but I didn't have any immediately available. She decided to hold off on booties in any case until she had a bun in the oven. As I was packaging up her anklet, it hit me: make the baby booties and send them along.

It's hard to make booties for an unidentified child (hence why I've made nothing for my own baby - it's one thing to make something to sell, an entirely different thing to make something for a person with a personality and preferences all their own). I settled on a simple white bootie with a ribbed cuff. Now I just had to find a pattern.

Once again, I was irritated with the patterns I found. Too dainty, too frilly, needs elastic, made in three pieces (three pieces! For a baby bootie!), too lacy, has buttons. You name it, I hated it. I ended up playing with an idea I had when I made my husband's slippers. It called for working the bootie in a single piece, from toe to heel, all in rounds. No seams. No sewing. Just a continuous tube of bootie.

I also had to settle on a size, and I decided that, since I've been told to buy the 6 month size for my newborn, I should make a 6-month-old sized bootie. For those of you who are baby-size stupid (that's me, too, so don't worry), this is about 3.75". I set to work, and had a cute pair of booties together in about two hours. Most of that time was spent experimenting with the cuffs. Once I figured that out, it was a breeze.

The booties are now in a bubble envelope and awaiting a trip to meet their new mommy, who, with any luck, will be a new mommy within the year.

Lessons Learned:
1) Babies have very small feet
2) I have a strong distaste for Red Heart's baby yarns - they split and fray too easily
3) Bernat's baby yarns are much more stable
4) I should write down the patterns I design in case I ever need to recreate the item

I'll eventually get around to making baby booties for my Etsy store, but for right now, these were just a goodwill item that I hope will put a smile on Jenn's face.

My first custom request (Crazy Purses)

I received my first custom requests when I offered to trade something in my store for an adorable handmade puppy dog from Peihan's Etsy Store. Turns out that Peihan liked my coin purses, and wanted a few in a wider color range. It seemed like a fair trade to me, and I was off to make the new purses.

Problem was that I hadn't actually made a coin purse like that in two years, so it was going to take some heavy remembering to get them done. Once we established color and size, I set to work. They came together quickly, as soon as my fingers remembered the motions.

And so, I've posted two "new" items, a mini-purse in black (the size 3 cotton yielded a purse too big to be called a coin purse) and a coin purse in navy blue. I'm pleased.

Lessons Learned:
1) Fiberfill should come in more colors than white, because white fiberfill is very noticeable on dark yarns
2) It takes awhile for your hands to become reacquainted with a size 7 steel hook after using size I wooden hooks for months
3) Taking a decent photo of stitch detail on a dark, small item is nearly impossible
4) Custom projects are infinitely more fun than regular projects because you know who they're going to, what they want, and how they will use the item. Very fulfilling

I posted these items to the new "Reserved" section of my shop. If you would like me to make one for you, or want any other sort of custom work done, just drop me a line!

10 March 2007

Ghosts of Projects Past II - Head to Toe

My second Ghosts of Projects Past feature is dedicated to the presents I've made for the mamis in my life. Specifically, my Mami and my mother-in-law.

The first is a simple modified cloche I made for my mami just after Christmas 2004. She wanted a hat to go with the scarf I made for her from Trendsetter's lovely Sorbet line. I decided on Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride for the body of the hat, and used my scrap Sorbet to trim the hat. The cloche can be worn with the brim up or down. The hat came together relatively quickly, and I eventually fulled it lightly to give it a more solid feel.

The second is a pair of felted slippers I made for my mother-in-law on the drive home from Kansas in August 2005. This one actually took some trial and error. I used a Fiber Trends pattern as inspiration, but used a different yarn weight, a two-tone style, and a modified fastener. The fiber here is (once again) Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride. The first pair came out of the washer huge, even after three cycles. They would've fit a clown. The second pair came out perfect on the first cycle. I was incredibly pleased, and hopefully my mother-in-law is, too.

I haven't played around with felting for nearly two years now, but I hope to have another felted project in my portfolio soon. When I do, you'll see it here!

Ghost of Projects Past I - Bra Purses

The Ghost of Projects Past will feature projects that have long since moved on to happy homes. Sometimes I find these pictures on random flash drives or CDs. Others come from appreciation photos I get from happy friends and family members.

From 24 December 2004, are two bra purses I made for my two favorite professors. The black purse was for my elegant, articulate mentor and professor, A.J. It was fashioned from a black sateen 36B bra, some beaded fringe, lace, ribbon, and flowers. The denim purse was for the happy-go-lucky, open, friendly professor I TA'd for, Chris. She is a graduate of Colorado State University, a podunk little cowtown-turned-college town. It was fashioned from a denim-cotton blend 38C bra, some leatherette fringe, bandana trim, some denim-toned appliques, rivets, beads, and conch ties. Both received uber-compliments arnd requests surrounding the purses.

The only "Lesson Learned" I remember from these projects is that a cheaper sewing machine lacks the foot clearance to handle a padded bra. It was this project that started me on the path to my new Janome QC6260.

Now a secret... I have another bra purse in the works. Stay tuned for more!

Things are starting to look up...

I've been on Etsy for nearly a month now, and I've already started to field some custom orders. Nothing incredibly special when compared to more experienced sellers, but exciting for me nonetheless. Some of my recent requests include:

* Making a new BBB Layette with different thread accents
* Designing an Eeyore-style crochet hat
* Making different colors and sizes of coin purses

I was also fortunate enough to stumble upon an old friend whose boss owns a small boutique. With any luck, a few of my items may start appearing in local Denver boutiques. I just hope that my uncontainable excitement about the prospect doesn't jinx my chances of it happening.

So, although business is still small and based on trades and friendly conversations, it is going very well. I'm creating something new every single day, and thoroughly enjoying myself in the process. You can't get much better than that!

09 March 2007

Prayer Flags Phase II - Sewing and Stringing

I've finally finished my prayer flags. They are (in my humble, yet incredibly biased opinion) *sweet*.

When I last blogged about this project, I was planning on using my rolled hem foot to hem each one of my panels. That didn't happen. Instead, after much fighting with my trusty machine, we came to an agreement - the rolled hem foot is not something I should ever use again. Partially because the silk was too slick to run under the foot to the feed dogs. But mainly because it was easier to do it by hand.

In any case, I decided not to hem at all. A bit of background on prayer flags. The flags themselves are designed so that they will fray. Yes, they are *supposed* to come apart. As the wind and time pulls the fibers apart, your prayers are carried to the gods for fulfillment. Cool, huh? I felt it would defeat the point of having prayer flags if your prayers were trapped by a rolled hem.

That left a new problem: how to get them strung. After playing around with some casing options, I settled on something much simpler and sturdier. I decided to use cotton wide bias tape to add a top casing. The cotton is more sturdy than the unhemmed silk, and it preserved more of the original panel art to add the tape to the top rather than fold the silk down. So I sewed the bias tape to the heads of the panels.

Finally, I had to create a stringing system. I had my heart set on crochet, and I had a ball of cotton/linen blend lying around in my stash, just waiting for use. I suspended the flags on slip stitched chains; the panels themselves being held between two simple chains. It's easier to understand by looking at the pictures. To create the tiebacks, I just tied on some extra line and braided the ends. This had a two-fold benefit. First, I didn't have to slip stitch in as many chains, and second, I didn't have to weave in any loose ends.

As always, I'm rather proud of my finished project. Lessons Learned:
1) Silk frays easily
2) Silk does not like feed dogs
3) Linen fibers are not at all smooth
4) Braiding linen is incredibly fun

Look for these soon at my Etsy store!

05 March 2007

Still havin' the blues (Fat Bottomed RAINN-y Day Purse)

As I continue to try and work my through my yarn stash, I am faced with 5 remaining balls of Gedifra Velato (I'd already used 4 on the cowgirl hat). What to do...

I again turn to my pattern collection for inspiration, and face three separate patterns from three different sources. Amazingly enough, they all tend to look alike (furthering the notions that no idea is truly original and that great designs imitate one another whether they intend to or not). The design is for a fat little bag with round handles. I jump at the opportunity to try something new. I have never made a purse that incorporated non-crocheted elements.

Just as with the cowgirl hat, I instantly find things I don't like about the patterns. Single crochet is too dense. Herringbone half-doubles are clunky and create holes I just don't like. None of the bags are lined. All of the bags rely on some cheesy motif for accessorizing. That just won't work for me.

I settle on simple, plain, half-doubles. I decide I'm going to line the bag with blue satin. I'm slightly concerned that some of the blue will show through to the outside of the bag, but I figure it'll just deepen the blueness of the turquoise fibers. I contemplate wrapped brass rings instead of the now ubiquitous bamboo rings, but figure that I'll give bamboo a try for now. Then I set to work.

The project worked up relatively quickly. I had a few issues with sizing; I wasn't sure how wide I wanted it and in what direction I wanted to stitch seams to go. In the end, I settled on vertical seams and a purse around 12x7". It's cute.

Lessons learned:
1) Hand-sewing satin lining into a crochet piece is an incredibly big pain in the ass
2) Cute as this bag is, I just can't see myself using it
3) Figuring out how to accessorize this purse has been difficult. I tried ribbon and motifs, but I think both are too overdone. I think I'm just going to have to keep a lookout for some cute little pin to add to it

Keep a lookout - this should be up on Etsy soon!

04 March 2007

A blue hat is a new hat (Cowgirl's RAINN-y Day Hat)

I decided to use one of the many patterns I've collected over the years and decrease my yarn stash. As an aside, my yarn stash is a little out of hand, and I've been telling myself for years to start making little hats and scarfs to whittle it down.

Anywhoo, there was a pattern in Debbie Stoller's Happy Hooker that intrigued me. It's called "Yeehaw Lady", and it's essentially a crocheted cowboy hat. It's done in red worsted cotton. Now, I'm not a cowgirl (despite living in D-town, a town which has extremely cow-y roots), and I really don't care for Western fashion, but I'd gotten bored with knit caps, cloches, buckets, and flapper hats. So it sounded like a decent hat to try.

A few problems around here. I had no cotton, I don't like working in spirals. I'd rather work in joined rounds - even if it means having a barely noticeable seam on the item; I just don't think that a spiral piece looks as balanced in the end. If you wear the joins in the back, no one is the wiser! But I digress. I didn't care for the crossed-stitch border in half-doubles.

So being me, I tweaked the pattern a bit. I used an elasticized tulle ribbon yard from Gedifra called "Velato". It's a yarn they don't even make anymore, but I've loved. I've made cardigans and camisoles from it and it is amazing. It gives a lycra-esque stretch while holding its form like a cotton-blend. It seemed the perfect yarn to play with for this project.

It took me two tries on this hat, and only because I forgot to take into account the stretch in this yarn. Cotton doesn't stretch much, whereas there's abouta a 50% stretch to Velato. My first attempt turned out bumpy because of this. Once I factored that in, this hat still scared me at times. It looked like a pointy top hat, which seemed hideous. But as I plopped it on my model and shaped the wire-line brimmed, it transformed into an adorable little 1-gallon bucket.

Lessons learned:
1) Remember the stretch of your yarn
2) Don't be afraid to try a pattern just because you disagree with the away the construction was done
3) Floral wire and tulle do not get along
4) Cowboy hats require wearing in order to be shaped right

So, other than the few little snafus at the beginning, I have to confess that I'm pleased with the end result. Look for it on Etsy in the next few weeks!