Tag Archive | trial and error

I feel it coming together

Warning: The following post may result in the theme song from “Fame” playing endlessly in your head for the rest of the day.

We had a dilemma here in the Gren household. Rana and Granota enjoy wearing skirts and dresses. They do not, however, enjoy wearing tights. Once the cooler days start kicking in, there is a lot of wailing about the atrocities of tights and the unfairness of having cold legs whilst wearing skirts. This happens every year. But this year, I made the decision not to entertain the inane Cold Legs vs. Evil Tights debate. Usually, the main complaint is that the girls don’t like how the waistband of the tights compress their bellies (I haven’t told them about control top panty hose yet; they can make that discovery on their own). Rana also gets upset about the toe line that makes funny little squares on the sides of her feet which then bother her in her shoes. So they want to wear skirts and have warm legs, but nothing touching their bellies or feet. It’s almost a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too situation. But there was one solution.

Enter: The legwarmer. And 1982. Hey, we’re gonna live forever.

I chose to use a knitting loom rather than crochet for good stretchiness in the finished product. The yarn I chose was some kind of soft, bulky wool from Michael’s; it’s almost like roving, but it’s washable.

Once you know the circumference of the leg you’re warming, choose the loom that most closely matches that measurement. My girls’ legs are about 10 inches around, so I chose the blue loom. From there, you’re basically making a tube, so there’s not a lot of “pattern” needed (unless you want to get fancy, which I didn’t this time around). I found these instructions which were great for getting me started, especially since I use the round looms so rarely, I couldn’t remember how to cast on.

Enter the Vortex

Enter the Vortex

There’s not a lot to say about the actual process. It’s repetitive and somewhat therapeutic. One thing I did learn the hard way is that finished length does not correspond well to measured length on the loom. Each girl ended up with one legwarmer longer than the other; good thing they’re stretchy (the legwarmers that is — not the girls). So my advice is to count rows, as tedious as that is, rather than to rely on a measuring tape.

A little strategic stretching and ta dah! They're the same!

A little strategic stretching and ta dah! They’re the same!

The other thing I learned is that the bind off video that is recommended in the above instructions results in a tight, unstretchable cuff. I did a little looking and found this Super Stretchy Bind Off video that worked much better for this project.

Ribbed cuff

Ribbed cuff

I kept waiting for the girls to both wear their legwarmers on the same day to get a good picture, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon. Rana was happy to pose for me, though.

You ain't seen the best of me yet

You ain’t seen the best of me yet

IMG_2905

Baby, remember my name.

 

One jacket, comin’ up!

The boy needed a jacket. Or a sweater. Or something. The mornings are getting colder and the poor little guy needed some warmth for chilly fall days without hauling out the serious winter coat. He did have a jacket, but it’s faded, a size too small and covered in wood chips after Konik helped Mr. Gren bring in firewood a couple weeks ago. Yeah, I could wash it, and yeah, I could spend half an hour picking off splinters, but that still doesn’t make it the right size.

There is a cute little sweater in my knitting board book, but my knitting board is currently occupied with the very tedious and mundane project of making myself a shawl to wear over my baby bump. I really need to finish that, but there are so many more interesting projects to work on. My second thought was to crochet him a little sweater-type jacket. First was a vest and no matter what I did, it was going to turn out huge. Tore that out and found a crocheted hoodie in one of my magazines. I got about halfway through the back panel and realized that the gauge was not coming out right. Ah, using the wrong size hook. Ripped it out, started over with the right hook, and it still didn’t look right. Konik got a little fed up with me calling him over “just to measure.” Saturday morning, I sat there looking at the partially finished back to this sweater and weighed my options: 1) Tear it out and start over — again — rewriting the pattern as I went in order to come up with something that would fit him. 2) Find another pattern. 3) Forget that business.

I chose #3.

As Kenny Rogers so memorably put it, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” It was time to fold and walk away (he was talking about handicrafts, right?). At the rate I was going, the finished jacket was still a few days away, and that was banking on everything working out swimmingly, which — let’s face it — is a special kind of serendipity that doesn’t occur that often in crochet. For me, at least. The kid needed a jacket. So I chose option 3 and left my chair in the living room for the chair in my sewing room. Sewing provides a little more instant gratification than yarn arts.

I had a pattern that I bought at Value Village a few years ago when it would have been useful for the girls, but I never used it and they outgrew it. Good thing toddler sweats are unisex.

Dated 1985

Never heard of this company before. Dated 1985

Last year, I was bequeathed a bin full of various cuts of fleece. Perfect. I don’t have any separating zippers and nothing from which I could cannibalize one, so I needed to make a pull-over style jacket. That actually works out better for Konik anyways, since he has trouble with zippers, but can easily put on a pull-over by himself. And, since it rains 9 months out of the year here, a hood was in order. Oh sure, he could wear a hat, but then the rain would run down the back of his neck and I’m sure most of us have experienced how pleasant that is. Pockets are also a necessity because the boy doesn’t go anywhere without at least one matchbox car. And, yeah, they’d probably be nice for cold hands, too.

As you can see from the pattern, none of the views fulfilled all my criteria. I took the pockets from View 3 and added them to View 4, but left off the collar. No hoods to be found on this pattern, so I traced the hood from one of Rana’s jackets to use as a template.

IMG_2882

Mix and match

In addition to the free fleece, I also had a small amount of rib knit that I had purchased many moons ago to trim the baby sleep sacks I had made for Etsy (those will return someday. I’m still paranoid about getting potential sales items dirty in the cabin). A couple buttons left over from another project and that rounded out my supplies. Six hours later, Konik had his jacket. I love it when I can use items that I already have on hand and produce something useful and attractive. I’ll just say it: I’m pretty proud of myself.

He says it's warm and snuggly.

He says it’s warm and snuggly.

It’s roomy enough to fit easily over his clothes, but not so big that it’s going to swallow him.

IMG_2879For some reason, the way the back looks just really makes me happy.

Button placket

Button placket with a little topstitching

I made sure that the buttonholes weren’t too tight so that Konik could button and unbutton this himself. I’m all about independence, especially on school mornings when I have to get four of us presentable by 8:00. Anything that helps this process is welcome!

Hood action

Hood action

Originally, the hood was just going to be black, but when I tried it on the boy (just the hood, which his sisters thought was adorable and he thought was weird and exasperating), I could tell that it wasn’t going to quite cover his head (strange, since I traced it off one of Rana’s jackets. Makes me wonder how that hood fits her… I’ll have to pay closer attention the next time she wears it). The patterned fleece was just a long narrow strip, but fortunately, there was still enough of it left after cutting the yoke and pockets to make a nice little trim piece for the hood. One thing I didn’t take a picture of is the the little loop I sewed inside at the base of the hood so that Konik can easily hang it up on his peg. You might scoff at that, but, of all my children, he is the one who actually does hang up his coats (and puts his shoes away, and puts his clean laundry in his drawers, and clears his plate after dinner without me asking. Really, this child is amazing).

IMG_2876

This was my first time to use rib knit for its intended purpose as cuffs. All in all, it was a painless experience. I learned to pay attention to the direction of the stretch when preparing a cuff to sew onto the garment. Fortunately, I had enough fabric to replace my goof up. I’m really happy with how it looks.

Hands warm in the pockets

Hands warm in the pockets

Now that Konik is warm and toasty, I need to get back to that dreaded shawl. Hm, wonder what else I’ve got around here I could do instead…?

All I’ve got to show for myself

Don’t you hate those weeks when you know you’ve been doing stuff and you were pretty sure that you were accomplishing said stuff, but then you look back to assess your progress and…

IMG_2786

Yeah. That’s two full skeins of yarn. I’ve been working on it every evening and it still only measures about 6 inches high. I’ve got four skeins of yarn left, doing a little math… this may not turn out. Well now, that’s depressing. Especially because this yarn has a distinct aversion to being frogged (for the record, spell check does not approve of the use of “frog” as a verb). Wanna know how I know? Huh? Huh? Well, I did read it on Ravelry under the reviews for this yarn — Red Heart Boutique Treasure in “Spectrum.” Also, I have firsthand experience. Because that up there, which is supposed to be this:

From AntiqueCrochetPatterns.com (click pic for linky)

From AntiqueCrochetPatterns.com (click pic for linky)

Originally started out as this:

Basketweave Capelet (Crochet Today Sept/Oct 2009)

Basketweave Capelet (Crochet Today Sept/Oct 2009)

And that wasn’t turning out right, either. I think I keep choosing patterns with too-ornate stitches that just eat up the yarn. The original project used a basketweave stitch, which is really pretty, but that time, two skeins of yarn only achieved about four inches in height. Basketweave is not the way to go if you want to build height quickly. So I scoured CrochetPatternCentral and Ravelry to find a shawl or poncho with a dense enough stitch to keep me warm this fall. ‘Cause let’s face it: with this basketball I’m sporting under my shirt, my regular winter coat is not gonna fit. The current shawl pattern uses a crossed treble stitch to make it nice and thick. And it is! And I think it would be warm!

Up close and personal with some crossed treble action

Up close and personal with some crossed treble action

But I also cleaned out Michael’s for all of the same color lot, so I’m kinda married to these six skeins that I have. One would think that I could produce something suitable out of that. Apparently one would have to do that by making a big, uninteresting rectangle of single crochet. We’ll see.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be ripping out two weeks’ worth of work.

Beachy dress

Apparently I am trying to satisfy some kind of latent desire to live in the tropics with my garment choices of late. Heaven knows nobody can wear this at “the beach” in the Pacific Northwest. We don’t even call it “the beach” here — it’s the coast. And it takes a hardy kind of person to enjoy a day out on the coast, as evidenced by this hilarious commercial put out by a local insurance company.

beach bum

Click to watch the short commercial! You will laugh! Well… I laugh.

I can see the floor-length version of this dress being worn with pretty jeweled flat sandals by a girl with lightly tousled hair and movie star sunglasses as she strolls the hot, sandy beaches of California or Florida. The floor-length version of this dress would not be practical, however, for me as I hike up a steep, gravelly trail through the ferns and firs just to get to my car.

McCalls 6555

McCalls 6555

So, for the sake of practicality and also versatility, I made the knee-length version. My thought was, not only can I wear it during the summer, but in the fall I could put on a cardigan, tights and boots and keep on a-wearin’ it. In fact, that blue Pearl’s Cardigan that I made awhile back might be just the ticket.

IMG_2505

The fabric is rayon challis. As you can see, it is a sort of gussied-up stripe print. As you can also see, I paid not a whit to the stripes when I was cutting the pieces. Never even occurred to me to match stripes. I had extra fabric, so I could have matched them. Alas. For some reason, the print never really registered in my brain as “stripe.” I just saw wild swirls and stuff. Fortunately, I think the print is wild enough that I can get away with mismatched stripes. And if not, just nod and smile and play along.

IMG_2510
One thing about the print that I’m a little disappointed about, though, is that it hides the pleats where the dress meets the yoke. That was kind of the main design element. The dress also hangs a bit more sack-like than I would have preferred, which I think would not have been so noticeable in the floor-length version. A little belt may have to be employed.

Another small disappointment is that the middle of the back gaps.

IMG_2512

This is not the first time I’ve had this problem. In fact, it happens nearly every time I make a dress. Why I haven’t paid closer attention to this phenomenon, I can’t say. But it is apparent now that my back measures narrower than the Big 4 pattern companies think. Obviously, I’m going to have to get a measurement and then compare it to the width of pattern pieces from now on. It should improve the fit quite a bit! What I really need to do is make another duct tape dummy of myself and then make a sloper (a sloper is a sort of base pattern fitted like a second skin to your body, then disassembled and used to adjust the sizing of printed pattern pieces to ensure good fit). All this sewing-your-own-clothes stuff is great and fun, but it’s also a lot of trial and error. I’m glad, though, that there are always new things to learn.

IMG_2509

Have you learned anything new lately?

And don’t call me Shirrley

A few weeks ago, I bought a skirt at the mall. Shirred waist, nice and swishy, and a print to rival my Jungle blouse. It’s so comfortable, but the print limits what I can wear with it. I needed a skirt just like it, but in a solid color. While I was doing my fabric shopping on Mother’s Day, I made a note to myself to check out their pre-shirred fabrics to make myself a skirt. But Holy Sticker Shock, Batman! $25/yard?! Madness. I decided then and there to do it myself.

Just a little bit of research online to confirm what I needed to know about shirring. No need to reinvent the wheel — check out this site for a good, detailed tutorial if you are interested in trying it yourself!

I got my solid fabric — a black linen-cotton blend that felt nice and had a decent drape. And I got my elastic thread, one in white and one in black. Before embarking on the real thing,  I made a test scrap to see how much shrinkage I could count on once I started sewing. I cut a 12″ length of scrap fabric, hand-wound the elastic thread into the bobbin, set my stitch length at 3 and left my tension at 3. With the first line of stitching, you can see that it didn’t shrink up all that much. Not to worry; that’s what all the tutorials said would happen. It’s the subsequent lines that will really gather up the fabric. Seven lines of stitching shrunk my 12″ piece of fabric almost by half. That’s what I needed to know. I could count on approximately 50% shrinkage.

IMG_2243

On to the real stuff! First, I cut two panels of fabric 34″ wide on the crosswise grain. Why? Because I am lazy. I wanted to use the finished selvage  edge at the top of the skirt. And there was no one to tell me not to, so that’s what I did. The fabric was 50″ wide selvage to selvage and, astonishing as it may be, my legs are not 50″ long, so the selvage on the bottom edge didn’t help me any. I ended up putting in 15 rows of shirring, 1/4″ apart at the top of each panel and those 34″ shrunk down to 15″. Mission accomplished!

IMG_2247

My mall-bought skirt is swishy because it has extra fabric sewn in at the sides below the shirring. I didn’t buy that much fabric for my black skirt. It was going to hang pretty much straight down which didn’t seem like a lot of fun. But you know what was fun? Shirring. So I shirred some vertical lines at four points around the skirt and then scrunched up the fabric and tied it with ribbons. Is it weird or is it cool? I don’t know. It’s unique at any rate.

IMG_2268

I wore it on Sunday and discovered a few things:

  • I could probably stand to tighten up the sides right at my waist (basically over the shirred part); the skirt had a tendency to slip just a little bit. I’d prefer not to have any wardrobe malfunctions.
  • This skirt is not good to wear around little jumpy dogs whose paws get caught in the folds.
  • Nor is it good for crawling on the floor to change diapers.
  • Neither does it fare well when trying to rise from micro-fiber upholstered chairs.
  • If I wear a clingy shirt, the top “ruffle” shows through, creating weird lumps; I ended up folding down the top about halfway so that I wouldn’t have a ripply ring around my mid-section.

IMG_2279

IMG_2259

All those things taken into account, I think I’ll fare a bit better next time. And it really was comfortable, too.

Crayony

After my triumphant return last week, I didn’t want to break the streak. I really have done very little craft-related in the past, oh, I don’t know, four months, so the pickins are slim. Today we will look at some crayon, uh, well “art” is probably too strong a word in this case. “Exercises”? We’ll go with exercises.

You may or may not remember my entry for the GNR fan site avatar contest — it was part of a guitar that I then embellished with a rose and the words “Paradise City.” I did it in colored pencil and it didn’t have the richness of color that I really wanted. I did discover in that process, however, that guitars are fun to draw. I can’t play a guitar and I’m not a big guitar geek who can identify all kinds of makes and models and their significance in musical history. I know just enough to lead people to believe that I know more than I really do, but not enough to maintain that illusion for any length of time, especially if someone wants to get into the technicalities of amps and pedals. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the art of a guitar. And there are some guitars out there that are really quite beautiful. So I drew a couple more.

The first one is the same guitar that I drew for the avatar contest, only this time, I was seeking to attain a truer color. And there was a learning curve! Starting at the top of the colored section, if you go around counter-clockwise there are four distinct test patches. In these test patches I was attempting to figure out which colors should be laid down first, how much overlap to give them, how much pressure on the paper, what kind of strokes to use and which direction. Important things to know and many of them were counter-intuitive to other mediums, such as watercolor or colored pencil.

Finally figured it out on the bottom right section.

Finally figured it out on the bottom right section.

One of the distinctive features of this guitar are the “tiger stripes” in the wood and you can see that I was struggling to achieve those, too. In the end, I found that in order to give it the proper depth, I had to draw the stripes on first and then color over the top of them with the main colors. That way they looked more integral to the wood and not merely laid on top.

The second guitar is George Harrison’s Gretsch Country Gentleman. I really had a hard time trying to get a decent color on the pickup plates and ended up with this muddy mess. I still haven’t figured out the right crayon combination in order to get that dull brassy color.

gretsch

You may also notice the logo on the lower right side. I wasn’t paying attention and colored it white at first. Dumb. I tried scratching it off, but pretty much once you’ve put crayon to paper, you’re stuck with it. I colored black over the top of it (like it was supposed to be) and couldn’t even get close to a clean edge. Then the next problem was that I then had to carefully color around the logo on the pick guard which was this light almond color. Another muddy mess. Lesson learned: apply light colors first! Which I should have known, but in my attempt to correct the original mistake, I wasn’t thinking very far ahead.

Another sketch I made is of Axl. I know, I know. I have a book with pictures and he makes a good model because he sits still. For this one, I decided that rather than trying to achieve realistic coloring, I would focus more on getting the values and shading right. So I chose some flamboyant colors. Any person’s skin who is this pink needs to be admitted to a burn unit. Think of it more like pop art a la Andy Warhol with Marilyn Monroe.

axl pop art 2 - reduced

Having learned my lesson from the Gretsch guitar, I colored the white reflections on his hat first, then added the blue and then the black. That actually turned out pretty well. Now the hair… well, I was experimenting with different colors and ended up with too many and so lost some of the depth and definition. And you might be able to tell that, by the time I got to the coat, I was getting bored and didn’t feel well, so it kind of got the scribble treatment. As far as technical prowess goes, I believe the face is recognizable despite it being just a little bit too wide. That happened because I drew the initial sketch flat instead of raised (like on an easel) and it distorted the proportions. It bugs me a little bit that I did that, but eh, I know I can do it right, so I try not to dwell on it too much.

So there you go. Some stuff I’ve done. We’ll see if I can maintain this frenetic pace.

Oh, and in case anyone was curious, my submission did not win the avatar contest.

More from the Underground Tattoo Parlor

Originally, I was going to post today about the little ornament that I crocheted for my friend. But I’m just too dang proud of myself and I have to show off my teeny tiny tattoos. They turned out pretty sweet if I do say so myself. And I do.

I finished drawing on the tattoos yesterday afternoon. Inexplicably, the tats on the second set of arms turned out larger than the first ones. Hm. I was in a little bit of hurry because the clock was counting down to the end of naptime and Granota was chomping at the bit to be released from her room. Apparently when I’m in a hurry I draw bigger.

Fine art. Literally.

Fine art. Literally.

To me, the second girl turned out better, but the first one’s not bad. The other tattoos are all comparable.

Yesterday evening, I worked on coloring them in. What really would have been nice would be fine-point pens in different colors besides the one black one I own. I was digging around in my drawer of craft paint and found some fabric markers that I had forgotten about. I made a little test scribble on a scrap of fabric and initially, it seemed like these might work, although the colors were limited. I started on the Victory or Death tattoo with the red marker and all seemed well, but ever so slowly, the red began seeping into the yellow. I didn’t take a photo of that one; it didn’t look so hot. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. Paint will right those wrongs.

I left that set of arms alone (the reason I made sets — which right now are attached together with thread — is because the hands didn’t all turn out the same due to variations in cutting the pattern) and pulled out the other one to paint with the miniscule tips of my new paintbrushes.

And it worked like a charm. Even my little GNR egg people look pretty good.

In living color.

In living color.

The cutest little rocker skulls you ever did see.

The cutest little rocker skulls you ever did see.

IMG_1383

Purple eyeshadow and semi-crossed eyes, just like the real thing. I’m really proud of that blue rose, though.

You better believe it.

You better believe it.

The cross tattoo is the largest measuring 1 1/4″. The smallest is the rose which is only 1/2″. The rest are all 7/8″. That’s little, folks. The hardest part was the thin yellow stripes on the cross; I had to do a little touch-up on those. They aren’t perfect, but it’s late and I figured I had better stop before I did any more damage.

If all goes well and children go to sleep on time tonight, I’ll be able to finish up the other arms and then get back to constructing the doll. I’m still trying to decide if I want to use embroidery floss or yarn for the hair. I did a few searches online and it seemed that the only doll hair that matched the color of Axl’s was either curly or only came in Barbie doll quantities. Besides, with the way Falilla the Fairy Doll has been shedding over the last year, I think I need something that I can sew on a little better. Any opinions? Yarn or floss?

(No) Slip sliding away

Doesn’t sound like I’m about to introduce you to my new blue cardigan, does it? Well, you’re right. I’m not. Mr. Gren has been working a lot of evenings lately, so hasn’t been around to take any pictures for me. My next option would be to let Granota do it since Rana’s at school, but … she’s 4. Any photographs she takes tend to have an abstract vibe.

So instead, I’ll show you what I whipped up on Friday!

A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law got the girls little soft fleece slippers for Christmas. They loved them and wore them. And loved them. And wore them. To death do them part. I finally felt bad seeing those raggedy little things on their feet and Granota’s toes poking through the end and decided to do something about it. I’m not sure where SIL got the slippers, but I have plenty of fleece scraps and decided to just make some new ones myself. How hard could it be?

There are approximately 63.75 internet tutorials on how to make little slippers like this, all of them seemed to be for baby sizes, though. I studied the shapes of the pattern pieces and decided to just try my best to replicate that. First things first, I traced around Granota’s foot and based the rest of my pattern from there.

“Pattern” may be best interpreted loosely because, although I added a little bit of wearing ease and a seam allowance, the slippers still turned out decidedly narrow. Lucky for me, I have a little boy with very narrow feet and, doubly lucky for me, that first pair of slippers wasn’t in girly colors.

Konik models his new slippers that he will probably never wear because he insists on shoes at all times.

Take 2 involved adding even more ease and a larger seam allowance until the resultant newspaper pattern was a grotesquely large version of Granota’s little feet. I was dubious, but trial and error on the first go-round had already proved to be Error, so I may as well proceed with the new “pattern.” I have plenty of fleece scraps, so that was of no concern to me. However, the grippy fabric (which I had forgotten to list in my thrift store finds from last week) was more limited. It turned out to be enough and this second pair of slippers, while still not perfect, did fit the girl and I only had to use the seam ripper 3 times. Of course, once Rana got home from school and saw that her siblings had new slippers, she demanded new ones, which I knew she would. With slightly more slipper-making knowledge under my belt, I traced her foot and set to work. I think each pair of slippers ended up taking about an hour to make and there’s possibly enough grippy fabric left to make one more small pair. Not a bad day’s work.

Granota (right) and Rana (left) show off their new slippers.

The kids are happy, but I have to admit that it really wasn’t a very enjoyable day for me. I really dislike fudging around and making multiples of the same object to finally settle on one that is closest to my vision. I much prefer to have a clean, workable pattern where somebody else has already taken all that time to measure, experiment, etc. What about you? Be it sewing, crochet, cooking, fixing a car, whatever — do you like the tinkering process or do you prefer to have things already mapped out so that you can dive headlong into it?