Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thinking out of the box challenge - complete!

As per my previous post, I finally selected the project I will make for Kate's (http://curiositys.wordpress.com/) Thinking Outside the Box Challenge!

I survived working with RED. I survived mixing bright colours that don't match (according to me). I managed to follow Nikki's Belle bag pattern without any major problems. Whew! So, here she is! The brightest bag in town!

I think the little Belle bag is quite cute! I would love to make another one with some of my favorite pink fabrics. I would however use firmer interfacing next time.
I wish I had a different colour bag handles to use, but this is all I had. Since we are thinking outside the box, I suppose it does go!

Very roomy inside despite it looking so small from the outside.

At least I managed to line them up pretty well. This is the bottom outside of the Belle bag. I adore Nikki's (http://nicolemdesigns.com.au/) patterns! I think I will buy a few more soon!

Of course, my "STOP" button is out of order, so whilst I was on a roll, I made another bright bag! This cute little mini-bag is not any specific pattern or design. Not sure if I will ever use it. I'm sure it will become a present!

I still need to sew a button on to the little flower. I used very stiff interfacing and added a large pocket inside.No more RED for a while now, thank you....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box Challenge Update

Red. Not my colour at all! But Kate's Challenge is all about crafting outside your comfort zone. I HAD to go all the way though. Not only am I using RED, I am also combining bright colours that aren't a perfect fit AND I am taking on a challenging handbag pattern I have not used before! Is that enough challenge for you?

So, here is a picture of the beautifull Belle bag pattern from the talented Nikki at http://www.nicolemdesign.com.au/, the bright fabric that includes RED and the pattern I have already traced off. Will I pull it off? Will I be able to finish this bag before I go crazy?

Crocheted coin purses

As you know I am participating in Kate's challenge to sew something you normally avoid. This weekend I was trying my best to avoid starting my project. I did however select the pattern and the fabric I would use. I got a headache just looking at the fabric! More about that later.

So instead, I played around with making some crocheted coin purses. I have quite a few metal purse frames I ordered from Etsy and I always feel bad because I don't use them often enough. Now that I am hooked on crochet, I decided to crochet one. I searched the internet but could not find exactly what I am looking for. Remember that although I have been knitting and crocheting since I was a child, I am still a complete novice! I can do both, but can only do basic stitches, no fancy stuff. I am hopeless at following even the simplest pattern! I always end up with more stitches, or even less, than the pattern. So, I decided to make my own pattern!

I have a few of these very small metal purse frames that have holes to handsew the fabric to the frame. This is the first time I am using one of them. What a pleasure to use and so cute! I used some of my lovely Sublime angora yarn for this one.

I also made this one to fit a bigger frame. This frame is about 3.75". I have compiled a PDF tutorial for both of these crocheted purse frames and will post it as soon as I figure out how to upload a PDF to my blog! Any advice would be welcome!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Completed felted bags

Finally! I have finished the two felted bags. This is my little basket bag from a pattern in Crocheted Pursenalities, although I did omit the basket "weave" effect. Really love how the handles came out with the plastic tubing inside. I added a magnetic snap under the flower on the flap. It is a small bag, but can still hold quite a bit.

I am proud to announce that I attempted the circular needles (torture sticks) again and this time - success! What a pleasure they are to use. I found a shorter pair (60cm long) and it worked much better. And just look at this felted bag - no seams to sew! This is a variegated wool from Elle and felts like a dream. I finished knitting the entire bag in two evenings, threw it in the washing machine two nights ago, and tonight it was dry. A very simple bag. All I did was to sew a button on the flap.

Now I am just waiting for my brown wool to arrive from Thimbles Quilt & Knit in Cape Town and i can finish the striped bag I am busy with. I used dark brown, green and yellow in a random pattern. Love the effect.

Oh, and I spent this evening trying to crochet a coin purse to fit into a small metal frame. Not as easy as it looks! I am battling to find some simple patterns on the internet. More on that soon.

I cannot wait to start on Kate's challenge tomorrow night! Nothing like sewing a new bag.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thinking outside the box challenge!

Kate from http://curiositys.wordpress.com/ is hosting a challenge - Thinking outside the Box! The challenge is to make a sewing project in the next two weeks using fabric or colours (or a technique?) you would normally avoid.
Hmmm...for me it would be using pastel colours, or mixing different fabrics in one project that don't EXACTLY match. I cannot resist a challenge, so here I am, thinking what project to make that I would still use afterwards. I think I will go with mixing bright colours that don't exactly match. Pastels just don't DO it for me and a completed project will find itself at the back of the cupboard to be forgotten very fast. I do not want to waste precious stash or sewing time on something I will not use.
What to make? It has to be a bag of course! This might be a good time to use one of the gorgeous bag patterns I bought from the famous NicoleMdesigns from Australia. One of the patterns is just perfect for this project as the bag has panels. I will post progress on this scary project!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Felted Bag & Weekend projects

Despite many other things I had to do and being out the house quite a bit this past weekend, I managed to finish a lot of projects. My kind of crafty weekend! First up, my second successful felted bag!This is close up view of the bag body and the flower I also crochet and felted. I am so pleased with how the flower came out! There is still some stitch definition on the bag but not much. I used the pretty little basket pattern in my new book Crocheted Pursenalities. I wanted to do a test run of this pattern before I use my horrendously expensive wool to make a grey and pink basket bag as is displayed in the book.

I was concerned that the pattern might be too advanced for my skills, but I am pleased that I could follow it without any help! I went to the hardware store on Sunday morning to get plastic tubing for the handles and I am tickled pink because it came out stunning!

The handles show an almost weave-like pattern once felted. I assume it is because you felt it with the plastic tubing inside.

I also felted samples of some of my new wool. I am a bit disappointed with some of the samples, like the dark grey, top right. I had high hopes for this wool but it did not felt at all. The cheap dark green wool, bottom right, did felt. The light grey, middle right, is the horrendously expensive wool for my next basket bag. It did not felt too great, but I think I can improve on it. The bright green, top left, is local handspun and dyed angora wool. It felted great but shrunk almost 50%! It is also extremely difficult to crochet with all the fluff. I think I will have to knit with this wool as it will be easier to see the stitches.

I also made a few fleece blankets yesterday. I love making these! These are all gifts for some friends and colleagues. The stitching is quick but cutting and pinning takes forever!

Apart from this I have three bags in the making - one knitted and two crocheted. I hope to finish them by this coming weekend so I can felt them. I hope you also had a great crafting weekend!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Torture sticks!

Have you seen these things before? They are called circular knitting needles but I am convinced they are torture sticks! I thought it was the coolest thing to use to knit a bag and most of the patterns I downloaded calls for it. It is not.

Every pattern mentions "be careful so the stitches don't twist...". How on earth can you see if the stitches are twisted if the thing won't stop twisting?! I had knitted for about an hour when I decided to check if the stitches are OK, and guess what? The stitches were twisted! This is after an hour of wrestling with these needles, stretching the knitting and lots of swearing. A whole 10 rows knitted. So, I am back to conventional knitting needles. So what if the bag has a few seams?

I prefer crochet anyway. It is so much quicker and easier. Yesterday was Youth Day in South Africa and I went shopping for books. Again. This is what I found.

This book has 20 fabulous crocheted, felted bag patterns inside! I will post some pics of some of my favorites as soon as I have taken them. I am already busy making one as you can see in the picture in a lovely mustard yellow and rusty brown colour. This is local felting wool from Elle that I found on sale at my local Bernina store on Monday.
Lots of sewing on my to-do list as well, but sewing is mostly restricted to weekends nowadays. Knitting and crochet is quicker and easier to do on weeknights, so I hope to have my two bags finished in time to felt them on the weekend.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Felting success - sort of...

Well, I went to the washing machine with mixed feelings last night when the cycle ended. My first attempt at felting bags was in there....

Success! The Sublime Angora Merino wool felted beautifully! Sadly, the bag is a long sausage shape and the top opening is rather small, but I am still so pleased that it worked! Here is a close up of the felted bag...

Love it! The little bow I knitted also felted beautifully, although a little uneven.

As for the black and orange round bag, not so good...

And this wool yarn is supposedly specifically for felting. Umph! I am also a bit miffed because I only read on a blog today that you must stitch the opening of the bag closed to avoid this gaping. Overall not too bad, but not as good as the first bag.

As for my samples, mixed feelings. The pink is a sample of the 100% wool yarn from Portugal which I had high hopes for, but it did not felt so well. The purple is the same Portuguese wool. It took me several days to knit this piece! The wool is very thick. Felted OK.
These babies are busy drying at the moment and I am planning the next felted bag projects! Hope you have a good week!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend projects

I have spent the entire weekend sitting mostly in one spot and crocheted and knitted. Damn but this stuff takes so loooong! I am however determined to test my fabulous new wool yarn to see if it felts. This is what I made.This yarn is amazingly soft! At almost $8 a skein I expect it to be! It is Sublime angora merino yarn that consists of 80% extra fine merino wool and 20% angora and seems to be made in England. I found a free pattern here http://www.thepurseworkshop.com/felted-crochet-bag-pattern.html. I did not make mine exactly the same as the pattern called for several colours and this was just too much for me being a novice! I had my Encyclopedia of Crochet Techniques handy all the time. The bow is from Nicky Epstein's - the Queen of felted bags - book, Fabulous Felted Bags and can be removed.

It came out very long and I worried that I will end up with a sausage shaped bag after felting. What would I carry around in that?! But then I read that felting shrinks more in the length than the width, so let's hope it is OK. It is in my washing machine for a second run as I post this. After the first short cycle it looked the same, so I put it in for a longer cycle.

I also crocheted this round bag. I found the idea here http://www.instructables.com/id/felted-bag/. I know this yarn will felt as I have used it before but not in my front-loader washing machine. I read however that you can felt in a front-loader so let's hope!

I also found this fabulous 100% wool yarn in a local shop. It is from Portugal. It also feels so soft but so difficult to knit with as it is double knit. I am trying to split the pink yarn but this seems very difficult as it breaks.

I will post again on the outcome of the felting process tomorrow. Let's hope my bags and pieces felt!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A new hat?

No, this is not a new hat I am (trying to) crochet. The intention was to crochet a large circle with this lovely 100% wool yarn, felt it and make a round bag. I thought I could easily crochet a circle without a pattern, but somewhere things went wrong...

So I have been surfing the internet and found a very basic tutorial on how to crochet a simple circle. It is all about increasing the stitches gradually. The hole is too big as well as felting makes holes even bigger! Best to unravel and start again. I can already see this lovely bright orange and black bag, felted and hanging from my shoulder....although I can use a nice hat as well...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Buttercup fever!

I made another TWO Buttercup bags this weekend! One for me...

In the most adorable lilac, purple and pink flower corduroy fabric I had in my stash! The lining is another lovely lilac corduroy.

Here you can see the magnetic snap and one of the little pockets. Once again I used a light fusible interfacing for the exterior fabric only, not the lining, as well as for the pockets and handles. I think they call it "fusible batting". I love sturdy handles and interior pockets as they take the brunt of everyday use. I still need to sew the decorative button flap on. (The other bag I made is a gift...)

I saw my best friend today at my conference and she is madly in love with my bag. Guess I will be making her another bag the same as mine this weekend! I made this bag to go with my velvet lilac suit I wore to the conference today. A perfect fit! This is such an adorable bag I cannot stop making it. You must however use a small print to make the best of the lovely pattern. See the free pattern at http://madebyrae.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Buttercup Bag

I have made plenty bags but have not made my best friend a bag yet. Shame on me, I know. Problem is that I have actually made her several bags, but none of them were "right". I wanted something really special for her.

A few weeks ago Sew Mama Sew had a Fat Quarter Month and one of the projects featured was the Buttercup bag by Rae of http://madebyrae.blogspot.com/. This is the cutest little bag made from just a fat quarter!

Last night I decided to make a Buttercup bag for my friend.

This little bag is an absolute delight to make! I made a few small changes like adding some interfacing to the outer bag, I sewed the handles on before turning the back out and I added another pocket inside.

Not a great picture, but you can see the contrasting lining fabric and two little pockets for her cellphone and a few other small essential items. Perfect bag when you go shopping and just need your purse, cellphone and a few other items. I hope she enjoys her bag. I enjoyed making it so much that I am busy making another two! One for me and the other is a gift. Thanks Rae for a great pattern!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Storage and...bags?

During my quest to organize my closet, I bought this lovely magazine at our local news agent...

I just love the BHG magazines. Lovely pictures and great ideas, just like their website. Whilst browsing for storage ideas, I spied this...

Yes, I like the gorgeous pink chair, but look what is on the chair! And this...
Lovely pink cushion, but what is on top of it? This was enough to let me forget all about closets and storage! Do I ever NOT think about sewing? I hauled out some of my home dec fabrics and this is what I made...

It started off as the green leave bag on the pink chair and sort of morphed into a pleated bag with side pockets. A lot bigger too. The pockets came from the second green bag. I put knitting needles in the pockets to show it off. Love this fabric! It was the last piece in the curtain department at Fiona's and was rather expensive. I have been saving this fabric for ages. The bag is not finished yet but I love it so far. It is not lined, same as the bag in the picture, but the fabric is very sturdy and this is meant to be a casual bag.
I am also on a mission to make some fabric grocery bags. I am collecting far too many plastic bags! (and fabric too!) Here are a few that I have cut out from sturdy, home dec fabrics so far...

Just need to sew them. Some more of my home dec weight fabrics I plan to use for grocery bags, including the lovely grey fabric I used for the bag above.

I think some of these might morph into other type of bags too. Love the feel of home dec fabric! I do have some stunning Amy Butler home dec fabrics too, in lovely orange and some grey and blue and brown. Hmm...

Books Galore!

I am a little ashamed of myself as I went on a book-buying spree a few weeks ago...As it takes 2-3 weeks for books to ship to South Africa, I started getting my books late last week and this week.

Impressive stack, isn't it? Some of these titles I have been yearning for, for ages! Of course we are all familiar with Weekend Sewing from the fabulous Heather Ross and Sewing Green from the smart Betz White, but if you are seriously into sewing clothes, here are the books to buy:

Sew U: Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin of the Built-by-Wendy fame is a genius. This book is all about sewing knits and have some fabulous free patterns inside. She also shows you how to alter the patterns to make even more fabulous clothes. There are many great reviews in blogland so google the title and you will find it.

DowntownDIY Sewing is not a picture book. If you want lots of colour pics, this is not the book for you. It does however have some fabulous sewing projects from clothes, bags and accessories in. Simple instructions and free full-size patterns make this inexpensive book worth it.

But, for the ULTIMATE sewing book, for sewing clothes that is, THIS is the book to buy!

I LOVE this book. I only received it yesterday and i have not put the book down often. Chic & Simple Sewing by Christine Haynes is fabulous! For a great review visit http://www.craftypod.com/2009/05/04/review-chic-simple-sewing. I cannot do a better review. While you are there, check out her other book reviews. I want to make everything in this book. Honestly. Great patterns, full-size, and stunning designs that are simple and elegant. Watch this space for my projects from this fabulous book.

Knit, felt, knit, felt...

I am back on that crazy horse called FELTING! As if I did not have enough of it last year and I had the blisters to show. With the lack of Thrift stores selling wool and cashmere sweaters in South Africa, I consulted my lovely book, Easy Felted Accessories.

This book suggests knitting by hand or machine, felting the pieces and then cutting and sewing the fabulous projects featured. The projects range from hats to gloves, a blanket, needle book, slippers, scarves, corsages and other quick and easy projects.

Knitting goes fast, not so? I can quickly knit a large piece and make this fabulous bag by Saturday night!

Off to the Yarn shop I went Saturday morning and guess what? They had a SALE! I found the most gorgeous Portuguese 100% wool yarn, the purple yarn featured in the first pic of this post, and some lovely local felting wool yarn.

Enrhusiastic, I strarted knitting away. Knitting is NOT fast. It is NOT easy on my poor hands that are not used to this exercise either. By Saturday night, this is how far I got, as you can see in the first pic of this post. How do knitters DO it? Wish I had a knitting machine. Or better, can find some wool sweaters for cheap. Ah well, I'll get there, maybe by Xmas?

Just look at these fabulous felted rose corsages. Another quick project in this book. These will look so stunning on my knitted, felted bag!

And don't forget my knitted, felted Russian Hat! I want one!

With our sunny, warm weather in South Africa, we do not wear wool and cashmere sweaters, so the shops do not sell much of it. If you do find it at upmarket stores they can cost about $90 each. I do own a handful of cashmere sweaters, but at that price I will not be cutting them up!

I am on a mission to find some cheap wool sweaters and surfing the internet is high on the priority list. No luck so far, but I am determined. Knit, felt is clearly not the way!

Lavender and closet organization

Every morning it is a battle of wills to find anything in my overflowing closet! At least once a week I find an item of clothing that I have not seen in years. Does this sound familiar? I know I have too much clothes to begin with, but I am in desperate need of a closet re-organization. So I browsed on the best website ever - Better Homes and Gardens - and found great tips.
Of course, it did involve some sewing and fabric from my stash! After measuring the shelves, I cut some of my beautiful oilcloth to line the shelves. I used a stack of baskets I bought on 50% sale on Sunday morning and best of all, I sewed some lovely lavender sachets from the loveliest lavender sheer fabric with stunning lavender ribbon...my closet smells heavenly and i can now at least find my shoes, underwear and make-up. I still have lots to do, only finished one closet, but who knew organizing your closet could be fun?!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Giveaway results - 100th post

Thank you for participating in my 100th post celebration! I put all the names in a hat and got a colleague to draw the names.

The winner of the bag made by Pinktulip is Jacqueline! Congratulations, Jacqueline! Thanks for your inspirational comments and visiting so often. I will be in contact to get your details and start making your bag soonest!

As promised, there were two other prizes of a local craft magazine and some African fabric as well. Although the intention was to just draw two other names, for some reason Lola's name card kept attaching itself to the names being drawn! Talk about persistance to win!

So, we now have THREE other winners: Gingini, MilliMollyMandy and LOLA! Congratulations! I will be in contact to get your postage details.