Friday, October 23, 2009

Huzzah for Cameras and Sewing Machines

So now that I have a functional camera, I can finally post pictures of some of the stuff I've been working on!

When my sewing machine tanked, I decided it was time to get obsessed with some small, funky hand-sewn projects. Wrist cuffs were a quick and easy answer. Here's what I did:

This was my first one. It looks a bit wonkier and more "homemade" than I really wanted it to look, but that's okay. I still like it. :P

Argyle! Just because.

This one took FOREVER, but I may be proudest of it because of the time and focus it took. I'm not very good at dedicating time or focus to anything, so this was a change of pace for me.

This one is my favorite because it has this great balance of corporate and punk, which I would like to incorporate more into my wardrobe. That is a functional zipper, but no, it doesn't do anything other than unzip.

Two bracelets crocheted from those cheap plastic leis that are so ubiquitous every summer. It was a great way to use them up, and the results are fun and interesting!
But now I have a sewing machine. No, my existing sewing machine didn't miraculously fix itself, nor did I miraculously fix it with tools. My boss gave me hers.

Yes, that's right. Gave. She said that she used to love sewing when she was younger, but now she spends all her time working and taking care of her husband, who has advanced multiple sclerosis. I tried to protest (admittedly not too hard), saying that she could sell it, or maybe I could try to buy it from her, but she laughed and brushed it off. Apparently she has a little tiny one that she can use if she needs to sew something, but she said she didn't anticipate that happening at all for the rest of her life. It made me tear up a little, but I was happy to accept it. It was a generous gift, and I'm really very grateful to her.
Finally, on the knitting front, I'm knitting a hat for my mother-in-law for Christmas, which is taking FOREVER, but luckily I finished this badass hat for my brother first!
Yes, I know. It is badass. So badass that I'm going to make one for me. This one is made from a chunky charcoal wool and...t-shirt yarn! I knew I'd find a good use for all that t-yarn I made a few months back. Actually, it sort of respawned my interest in the stuff, so I'll probably make more this weekend. So I can, you know, make one for myself. :D
So I think that's all I have for now. That's probably enough, right? :P

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I can do math, and other good news

Last night I cast on Guinan, a really freaking cool-looking hat that has concentric circles of I guess you'd call it horizontal ribbing. It looks like Whoopi Goldberg's hat when she was Guinan on Star Trek. My mother-in-law will LOVE it, everyone insists, even though she never ever wears hats ever. So it said to cast on 90 stitches, which I did, and then I looked at it and thought, "Gee, that's never going to fit around anyone's head!" So I actually...did a swatch. I've never done one before, and I was a bit nervous that it would take forever, but of course it only took a few minutes. And I found that, while the pattern gauge said 5 st/in, I was actually knitting 7. After a few agonizing minutes, during which I was actually almost driven to tears, I figured out that all I needed to do was cast on 126 stitches instead of 90 (adding two stitches for every five in the pattern) and I would get the measurement I needed.

And I was right!

So far that's going extremely well, and I will try to post pictures of that later.

That's the first bit of good news, actually - I found my camera charger. I have lots of yummy pictures to post for you, but I keep leaving my camera at home and then not actually posting them while I'm at home. If I can remember to bring my camera to work tomorrow, I should be able to get them all where they should be.

The next bit of good news - and this one is really big - is that I have a new sewing machine! Okay, it's not new, at all. It's older than mine, and it's a Singer too, but it works better than the one I have. And the best news is, it cost me nothing but a few minutes of my time. I was lamenting to my boss about the death of my sewing machine, and she immediately offered to loan me hers, which had been collecting dust in her closet for years. I accepted happily.

Later, she said that she needed some measurements taken for a custom jacket she was ordering. She had no clue how to do it, so I offered to help. She then said that she would trade me my help for her sewing machine...permanently. I think I almost choked when she said that, but ultimately she convinced me that she would probably never use the sewing machine again. Smiling, she added, "If I ever get inspired though, I know where to find you!"

So I'll post pictures of that beauty later, hopefully in action as I teach Chuck how to use it. He's so excited - he's always designed beautiful garments, and now he'll be able to put some of them together.

I haven't sewn anything on the new machine yet, but last week I went crazy hand-stitching some fabric arm bands, which I also have pictures of on the camera that is currently at home.

So there's my update. Life is good in my crafty world this week. :D

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And the Universe Laughs - Ha! Ha! Ha!

Why is it that, less than two weeks after deciding that I would finally start sewing again, and what's more, running a blog about it, my sewing machine craps out, and then my camera does the same.

Okay, that's not true. What is true is that my camera is old-fashioned and requires a docking bay, that must be plugged into both a computer and a wall socket for the battery to charge. We have the docking bay, and we even have a computer somewhat situated near an empty plug. What we don't have is the cord.


Okay. So, I have all these things that I've made, this great t-shirt necklace from the Generation T website, and several wrist cuffs, some of which suck and some of which totally rock. I've made lacey fingerless gloves in chocolate-brown fingering weight yarn. I want to show people these things! I want to post pretty pictures and make this blog a photo log as well as a written log of my handmade adventures.

But perhaps that's not what my hell wants.

Who knows? I don't.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Sew without a Sewing Machine

So from the looks of things, my sewing machine is probably screwed. I don't know if that's a bad thing or not, to be honest. I've had the damn thing for almost two decades, and it's held up well enough. While I do have some sentimental value attached to it, I also have memories of hours and hours of frustration and agony associated with it, so perhaps just giving up on the damn thing would be best. I'll keep tinkering with it, of course, and maybe I'll happen across some magical tool or technique that will fix it, but for now, I think it's time to start saving up for a new one. I have my eye on a couple already, although it may be "too soon."

That said, I will have to resort, I fear, to entirely hand-sewn or no-sew items in the future. For knitting, this should be simple. For some small sewing, such as the many fabric wrist cuffs I hope to make throughout this week, hand-sewing shouldn't be so bad. I may even be able to pull off my Ursula costume with minimal sewing, although I'll need a bit of time and patience for it.

So this has led me to the wide, wonderful world of no-sew T-shirt Surgery. There are a ton of sites, such as Livejournal's T-Shirt Surgery community, which outline in usually detailed tutorials how one might take a huge, baggy t-shirt and make it flattering and cute with or without the use of a sewing machine and various other interesting notions. My problem, of course, is that I work in an office. As a receptionist. And although The Company is very good about allowing me to express myself through my dress, there are some t-shirt surgeries - many, in fact - that are simply not work appropriate.

Therefore, it stands to reason that my new challenge simply must be to create several no-sew or little-sew shirt surgeries and other reconstructions that I can wear to work, and that won't make me look like a loser or a teenager.

Meanwhile, I will continue knitting through my ever-growing Christmas gift list to keep my spirits up. I get sad when I fail at sewing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Does One Do Now?

So I had a random weird experience today.

First, I was sewing along happily, my stitches were even and clean.

The next time I sat down, just minutes later, my needle thread kept breaking. I rethreaded it, lowered the tension a smidge, and replaced the bobbin (it looked like the needle thread was getting trapped around the bobbin case). That solved the thread-breaking problem, but then...

The needle thread kept loosing itself from the needle. I'd get about six or seven stitches in, and it would just fly out for seemingly no reason at all. I replaced my apparently dull needle and rethreaded the machine, and that problem was fixed, but then...

My stitches started birdnesting behind my fabric. I rethreaded it again (discovering that the thread hadn't fully engaged in the tensioner), and that problem went away, but now...

It just won't sew anything at all! I mean, it goes and all, but there's some big disconnect between the needle thread and the bobbin thread or something, and it just rolls along, needle bobbing up and down, but there aren't any stitches being made.

The Singer website offers no remedy for such a problem, and in fact does not even include this problem in its list of common sewing machine problems.

What is happening here? I've had this machine since 1992, but I haven't used it too intensely. Is it mad at me? Did I break it somewhere between problem one and problem two? Has it "had it"? Is it trying to commit suicide?

I've posted this problem on three different forums, hoping for an answer before Halloween. I'd hate to have to...*shudder* my Halloween costume this year.

Oh well, at least I finished a whole pair of lacey fingerless gloves this weekend, demonstrating my awesome badass powers of knitting. That makes me feel a lot better about being a shitty seamstress.

Off to cast-on...something!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Knitwear To The Rescue

Thankfully, through all my sewing abominations, there's knitting. I love knitting.


Knitting is so nice and relaxing, and I can do it anywhere I want. The instructions are so very precise and you can't make a mistake unless you're not paying attention. And when you make a mistake, it doesn't royally suck to fix it (at least, I don't think it does. I know some people disagree). And it doesn't expect too much out of you. And with minimal knowledge, you can make some really awesome stuff.

So here are some knitted wearable items I've put together recently:

Some knitted lace-wrist Victorian fingerless gloves, pattern from I wore these as part of a semi-steampunk costume at San Japan this year, and I've worn them a few times to work, etc.

My first real pair of socks, made from 100% cotton Lustrado in Nougat. A few things I will never do again? 1) I will never knit socks with 100% cotton yarn again. It hurt my hands, stressed my needles, and feels horrible when I wear them. 2) I will never knit socks with nougat-colored yarn again. So. Boring. 3) Actually, I may never knit socks again, period. It was extremely time-consuming, and while it was a good project to carry with me in my purse for my bus commute and what-not, it was just, you know, not very fun. Now, I did end up knitting my husband some ninja tabi socks later, but those didn't count because they were worsted weight and, you know, fun.

Lime green worsted weight fingerless gloves. These took maybe an hour, and only because I'd just made a really badass scarf with this yarn and had a bunch leftover. I still have some leftover, along with some black worsted weight leftover from the tabi socks, so I'm thinking of combining the two in some beautiful way. Like maybe making a Space Invaders scarf or something.

My Neo-Victorian Opera Gloves, made from a pattern on Ravelry. The pattern itself wasn't that great, but these were kind of fun to make, and even more fun to put on. That's t-shirt yarn I'm using as lacing there, and the black and green bit is from the screenprinting on the t-shirt I cut up. Anyway, I think they have a funky, punky kind of look and I'm really looking forward to having an opportunity to wear them.

It occurs to me that I've made a lot of gloves, which is weird on two levels: first, I don't like gloves that much. But they sure are fun to make! And second, I live in South Texas. I have to wear gloves for all of six weeks in this city, and even then, fingerless gloves don't cut it - I need full coverage to protect all of my appendages from the absolutely brutal wind and rain we get here around Christmastime. So fingerless gloves=for fashion only, which I guess I can live with.

I was about to cast on my second of ten or so Christmas presents I'm knitting this year (the first was the badass scarf) when my five-year-old daughter insisted that I never make anything for her, which is kind of true. So I felt guilty and put away the second Christmas present and knit her up some really cute striped fingerless gloves. When I was done with those, I looked at how much yarn I had left. Long story short, I clearly had to make her a matching scarf. Then I'll almost certainly have to make my son some gloves as well and possibly also a hat.

Then I'll finish my Christmas knitting.


(Do they celebrate Christmas in hell?)

Sewing Exploits Lead to Striped Skirt

Sewing has never been my strongest skill. In fact, I recently gave up sewing FOREVER.

This skirt is the result of that decision.

Okay, it's actually the result of a ton of really wonderful chicks over on who gave me some badass advice about how to construct a garment. I put those tips to the test and came up with something that, once it's actually finished, could become a pretty awesome addition to my wardrobe.

Since this photo was taken, I've finished the hem (which is dangling free as a bird here), but I have yet to embellish the shit out of it. I don't know if I'm going to add anything at all, actually, but without embellishment, it just seems kind of...boring. The last thing I made out of those red-striped Ikea curtains was a plastic bag dispenser for a swap, and I added some light blue felt chidori (bird silhouettes), and it looked really good. I may consider doing that. Maybe I'll just baste them on and wear it out once or twice. If it looks like crap, I'll take them off again.

Magic Waistband janked from the Fisherman Thai Pants Concept:

So yay for a finished skirt. It did build my confidence a bit. This weekend I think I'm going to try reconstructing a dress. know. Something easy to make.

First Post from my Handmade Hell

In my opinion, hell (the non-Christian interpretation anyway) is a place where you cannot escape that which drives you the maddest. In my case, my own personal hell lies in the realm of handmade (or "DIY") clothing. For over twenty years I have beat my head against wall after wall in gritted-teeth inspiration and impassioned impatience trying to create something - anything - that I could wear beyond the bounds of my own bedroom. So far, those attempts have not yielded me the 100% handmade wardrobe I so crave.

Realistically, of course, 100% is an outrageous and idiotic goal. I'd settle for being able to wear one handmade item every day without repeating myself too often. And as far as the definition of handmade itself goes, I'm fairly flexible there too. Reconstituted, reconstructed, deconstructed, reworked, resized, it all counts. Any time I can lay my hands upon a scrap of fabric, a yard of lace, a spool of thread or a sadly out-of-date garment and create something wearable, I'll count that as being happily handmade.

So welcome to my handmade hell. Things can get a little crazy here, so you might want some safety goggles. And some leather gloves. And something to defend yourself with.

Like a sword or something.

Or some mace.