Tag Archive | stash busting

Comfort on the road

A couple of weeks ago we returned from our 3000 mile journey down to Colorado and back to see my family. Growing up, my family often made the reverse trek from Colorado to see my dad’s family in Oregon. Even with generous 80 mph speed limits in Idaho and Wyoming (because really, who wants to linger there?) (don’t get offended Idahoans; I lived in Southern Idaho for four years — you and I both know there’s nothing to see) (I’d soothe the egos of Wyomingites, too, except, well, I’m pretty sure there are more cattle than people) (Utah, you get a pass because, even though your scenery isn’t fantastic in that particular corner, it’s better than hundreds of miles of flat scrubland) — what was I saying? Oh yeah, even at 80 mph, 3000 miles round trip is a lot of ground to cover in a car with a seatbelt digging into your shoulder. We needed seatbealt pads and STAT!

This sounds like a job for…


Not that a few seatbelt pads were going to eliminate much of my fabric scraps, but I’m all about cheap as free and saw no need to buy new stuff when I could just as easily make it at home with the stuff I already have. Except for the Velcro. I ran out of Velcro.

I wanted a fabric that was soft yet sturdy (it’s going to be sliding up and down on a seatbelt and needs to not wear through), which is how I landed upon the sizable scrap of corduroy which you may recognize from this dress. It’s all well and good until the day when I wear that dress in the car and get stuck to the seatbelt like some kind of Sunday school flannelgraph. We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

Next order of business was to measure the width of our seatbelts. I used my soft measuring tape to measure across the front, around the back, and then allowed one inch overlap onto the front for attaching the pad to itself around the belt and came up with a measurement of 5.5″. I think most seatbelts are pretty standardized nowadays so you could use that, too, if you want to follow along and make your own.

So the finished cover is going to measure 5.5″ wide, but we need to account for seam allowances (of which I used a skimpy 1/4″, but you can add more if you want, just adjust all the measurements all the way around), giving me a width of 6″. Length of the pads is a little bit subjective, but I went with 7.75″ which seemed to cover the area that the seatbelt would come into contact with.  Got all that? I’m gonna apologize up front for the pitiful lack of in-progress photos. I swear I took more, but I don’t know where they are. Apparently figments of my imagination. However, it’s a pretty simple project and I have faith in your ability to follow step-by-step instructions.

Materials: thick fabric; quilt batting; Velcro
Finished cover: 5.5″ x 7.25″
Cut two rectangles of fabric and one of batting: 6″ x 7.75″
Cut two Velcro strips: 2″ (mine were 1.5″ only because I was trying to eke out as much from my Velcro remnant as I could)

1. Sew the batting onto the wrong side of one of the fabric rectangles.


2. On the right side, sew the two soft Velcro strips 1/2″ away from the top and bottom edges and 3/8″ from the left edge.

seat belt cover diagram

3. On the other fabric rectangle, also on the right side, sew the two scratchy Velcro strips 1/2″ from the top and bottom edges (be sure to line them up with their counterparts on the other piece of fabric) and 1/2″ from the left edge.

4. Place the two fabric rectangles right sides together (the soft and scratchy Velcro will be on opposite sides, NOT hooked together) and sew around three sides. Trim corners. Turn.

5. Press the seat belt pad and fold in the seam allowance on the unfinished edge. Sew closed.

6. Wrap around the seatbelts in your car and travel in style and comfort!


Yay, Wyoming.

Yay, Wyoming.

Perchance to dream

I’m a bit of a finicky sleeper. It has to be silent and it has to be dark. That doesn’t sound so out of the ordinary, until you realize that I’m talking Princess and the Pea territory. When Mr. Gren and I were newlyweds, he really had to sweet talk me into letting him run a fan in the room at night. Yes, a fan — which most people use to block out noise — was too noisy for me. But he accommodated me by putting up cardboard in the window because the smallest pinpoint of light also keeps me awake. Aren’t I fun? Eleven years into our marriage and I can sleep with the fan on and I’ve adapted to intrusive dots of light by sleeping with a pillow over my head (which helps with the noise, too). But that wasn’t going to work on my recent trip back East, flying red-eyes. I had ear plugs to help with the noise, but I was definitely going to need an eye mask to block out the light. There’s always That Guy who won’t turn out his reading light, no matter what hellish time of night it is. And even if I didn’t get seated next to him, there are plenty of other little lights in an airplane. And that’s just getting there! There’s no telling what the hotel curtain situation is going to be!

Lucky for me, I knew where to find an eye mask pattern. A few years ago, my good friend sent me this book.

Sew Liberated, by Meg McElwee

Sew Liberated, by Meg McElwee

It’s full of lovely patterns, but I hadn’t used it up til now, although I do have a few other patterns mentally bookmarked. This time, I went straight for the eye mask, which had been on my to-do list for awhile. I liked her recommendation of using silk. That sounded nice and luxurious! Being short on time, I crossed my fingers and headed to Joann’s in the hopes of finding actual silk and not some synthetic imposter. They had a small selection of dupioni. Originally, I wanted a midnight blue, but settled for purple instead since the only blue they had was a bright royal blue and I just wasn’t feeling it. When I checked the end of the bolt for price and fabric content, I noticed this little line: “Fabric may crock; dry clean only.” I didn’t know what crock meant, but I do know that wet washing silk — dupioni in particular — can cause it to change texture. Maybe that is crocking? Tra la la. I bought my fabric and skipped out of the store. Or something.

When I got home, I figured I should be responsible and find out what it actually means for a fabric to crock. Guess what? It’s not about the texture. Crocking is when the dye rubs off the fabric, whether wet or dry, onto another surface — another fabric, a tabletop… skin. So imagine this with me: I wear a dark purple eye mask; the silk crocks; I deplane looking like I just got into a bar fight. That’s probably less than optimal. I was going to have to give this stuff a test run before I wasted my time sewing it up. So I rubbed it across my sewing machine. I rubbed it on fabric scraps. I rubbed it on my arms. Then I got it wet and did it all again.

Verdict: No crocking. Phew!

The eye mask pattern consists of the outer, pretty fabric and an inner mask filled with lavender oil-scented flax seed. I didn’t have any flax seed. I do, however, have lavender buds. A few years ago, my sister-in-law sent me a mug and a paper sack of lavender tea. I found it too perfumey to drink as tea, but hey, it was good lavender; there was no need to throw it out! And I’m glad that I’ve hung onto it all this time. I sewed up the little inner pouch and spooned in some lavender. Amount is determined at the crafter’s discretion. I probably went a little overboard because the mask is puffier than I would have preferred. Part of that is because all the lavender settles into the bottom of the mask. Well, of course it does (it’s not my first experience with gravity). What I should have done was quilted the lavender into the inner mask to help it stay more evenly distributed. I think, now that I’ve had the opportunity to sleep in it a few times, that it is annoying enough to merit me opening up the silk mask and fixing up the inner pouch to make it more comfortable.

Mmm, lavender

Mmm, lavender

This is not a challenging project as far as construction goes. What makes it special is the silk and the suggested appliques on the front. The author’s mask shows a little winter forest scene. That seemed a bit weird to me when summer had only just begun. I decided to make something a little more seasonally universal and went with a simple moon and stars theme. Whether it’s nighttime in July or nighttime in December, there will still be a moon and stars. For the appliques, I chose a shiny silver fabric from my scrap stash, which some of you may recognize as being the same as the wings on Granota’s fairy doll. I machine appliqued my moon and stars because: no patience. I had to fiddle with the tension on the machine quite a bit because the silk wanted to pucker underneath. When it was about as loose as it could go, everything worked better.

All done!

All done!

Of course, once I finished the mask, Granota came over to admire it and declared that she wanted one, too. That’s the way it goes around here. Labor over an Axl Rose afghan; the kids want one, too. Crochet a summer poncho; the kids want one, too. Sew up an eye mask; well, it’s just par for the course. I didn’t have time to make the kids’ eye masks before my trip so they had to wait until last week. I pulled out a few suitable fabric scraps (cottons for breathability) from my scrap bag and let her choose. She wanted it to be reversible, so I went ahead and chose two fabrics for Rana, too, since she wasn’t there at the time. I had the perfect fabric for Konik: a car print that I had used many moons ago for his little pillow and the curtains that used to hang in his bedroom once upon a time. He was thrilled to death! He was adamant, however, that he did not want his sleep mask to be lavender-scented. Boys. This time I quilted the lavender pouches like I should have done with mine. To make the masks child-sized, I measured the kids from temple to temple and came up with an average of 7 inches. Then I just scaled down the pattern piece until it fit (with extra for seam allowances).

I made all three masks knowing that Granota was likely the only one who would actually use it and that Rana and Konik merely liked the idea of a sleep mask. At the end of this week, we will be taking a road trip to visit my family in Colorado, so I suggested that even if they don’t like wearing the masks at night, it might help in the car if they want to rest. We’ll see. Granota does wear hers every night, though, which has helped her a lot since there is a skylight almost right over her bed. Even with curtains, it still gets pretty bright in the morning. I should have made these eye masks a year ago!

Sleep masks not advised for sleep walking.

Sleep masks not advised for sleep walking.

Fake snoring and giggles

Fake snoring and giggles

Sweet dreams!

Blue Cardigan F’reals Yo

This is the tale of a crochet book that I owned for two years and never used and the yarn I owned for eight years and could never use up. I’ll give you a hint — it has a happy ending.

Let’s start with the yarn, because it’s older. When we lived in France, there was a tiny sewing notions shop 30 seconds from the front door of my apartment building. The lady who owned it also had a display rack of yarn that she would wheel out onto the sidewalk on nice days. It was basically a many-armed coat tree with bags of yarn in all colors hanging from it. I can’t remember how much I paid for it, but I seemed to think it was a good deal. I believe there were twenty 50 gram skeins of yarn in there. I bought it with the intention of making my mom a sweater. And I did. But there was more. So I made my French friend, Stephanie, a diaper cover for her baby. And there was still more. So I made a baby blanket and a long skinny scarf and there was still more. This was the yarn that would never die. It reminds me of the Bible story where the widow pours out oil into jars and it just keeps coming. No shortage of oil and no shortage of blue French yarn.

Hey, Penguin, you so fine!

The book I bought a few years later was through a craft book club. It’s called Crochet So Fine by Kristin Omdahl. I was captivated by the lacy purple wrap featured on the front cover. I had just been the recipient of two fairly large skeins of hunter green laceweight yarn and figured that this book would give me a good use for it (I haven’t used that yarn yet because I have no idea how much of it I really have and I’m paranoid to start a project and find out it’s not enough). I was flipping through the book again a few weeks ago and noticed that not all of the patterns used thread or laceweight yarn. In fact, there are a few that use DK/sportweight yarn. And one of them just happened to be a cardigan, which I need. I feel weird in church wearing a heavy corduroy jacket over my nice dresses just ’cause my arms are cold.

The pattern I used is called Pearl’s Cardigan. I liked it because it looked feminine and pretty without being overly delicate. I needed it to have enough coverage to keep me warm, but liked the open areas that keep it from looking too dense.

I really liked the way this pattern worked up. It began with the yoke and worked down all in one piece. The sleeves are crocheted in the round directly onto the sweater. No seams whatsoever! I likes it. I did get a little nervous when it came to the sleeves because I was finally (finally!!!) running out of yarn. I managed to eke out just enough, though, by unraveling a solitary sleeve from some other project using the same yarn (two strands together, boo-ya). I spent a lot of time winding little yarn balls for this. But it was enough!

The book suggests running a ribbon or scarf through the waistline to cinch in the sweater.