Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Playmat Part 4

Next up were the butterflies. I sewed the big butterfly's wings together first with batting and cellophane inside - actually it's not regular wrapping cellophane as this didn't have a satisfying crackle when played with. I used a Glad oven roasting bag which is slightly thicker, will stand up to being washed and has a lovely snap when ruffled. The wings are three dimensional so they were sewn together then attached to the butterfly body on the playmat which had 4 layers of batting under it to make it really stand out.

The little butterflies were next sewn in place similar to how the flower leaves were. They have a single layer of batting under the wings but not the body...

...which I defined using a matching embroidery floss that contrasted nicely when sewn around the wings.

A little bit of back stitchng to sew the centre of the big butterfly's wings down and the edges are free for bubs to tug on...

...and this corner is complete too.

Next up was to sew all the worm's body segments in place and this went fairly fast. When I came to the blue fur I used a tiny blanket stitch as this is the only piece that doesn't have a folded edge so I couldn't use the ladder stitch and the fur covers the stitching anyway so it can't be seen.

My worm looked a bit naked once finished... he wound up with antennas and feet and morphed into a caterpillar.

Last corner was the tree. The truck and branches were ironed in place with HEATnBOND...

...and then due to the nature of the material used which had such a loose weave that frayed very easily, I used a crossed back stitch with the wrong side of the stitch facing to secure the edges. This brown material has a lovely coarse feeling to it - great for a tree trunk.

And lastly, I secured the base of the felt leaves with a double cross stitch in a matching thread which leaves them free for ruffling tiny fingers through.

So all the hand sewing is finished....

...and now it's back to the sewing machine to add a border, backing piece and cover the half-hoops.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Playmat Part 3

So to recap - I've got all the bits and pieces ready and have started sewing them in place.

The flower stems were ironed on with the HEATnBOND and then I hand sewed all the petals on using a ladder stitch (loveloveLOVE this stitch).

For embelishment, and coz I wanted a bit of texture, I then took some emdroidery floss and using a back stitch variation I added in the veins on the leaves and also a border around the stems and each leaf with a stem stitch.

For more detail on the leaf stitching see the pics below

Next the petals went on...

...stem stitch around each petal to give it definition and then the flower centres were sewn on - lots of pins, I like to know exactly where pieces will wind up...

...and stem stitch around the centres too.

Taa daa!!

I am so stoked with how this came out - love the vibrant colors and the soft puffiness of the petals. Bubs is going to love it too!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lincoln's Quilt

Friends of ours had a beautiful little boy a few months back and after finding out first hand how useful all the playmats and throw rugs that I'd been given are, I decided to make a cot sized baby quilt that can double as a floor mat for little Lincoln to lay, play on and sleep under.

For inspiration I googled quilt blocks and saw examples of crazy blocks which I thought looked great. Knowing it was for a boy, I chose colours in blues and yellows with a very pale yellow for the internal borders to set off the vibrant coloured blocks. The large external border and backing were made from a gorgeous star and moon themed material which I thought tied in perfectly for a cot quilt.

I made cardboard templates for the crazy block pieces and since I only had limited material for some of the yellows I wanted to use, I traced each piece onto the materials making sure I had equal numbers of each shape in each material, and then cut them all out by hand rather than use a rotary cutter. It took a practice go for the first block before I worked out which order to sew them in and which side to iron the seams to. The first block had to be unpicked and resewn but once it was all sorted out I was able to sew the blocks in production-line style.

Since there were so many pieces that make up the blocks, the edges weren't exactly even so I ironed the blocks, stretching some slightly where needed, to all be at least the same minimum width and height and then trimmed the edges so they were all exactly the same size - it made piecing them together with the pale yellow borders so much easier. I laid all the blocks out and spent some time reorganising them like a jigsaw puzzle so that each block was oriented differently to the ones next to them and/or had different coloured same shaped pieces within the block.

I used the same material for the wide outer border and the backing piece and the quilt was sandwiched with cotton batting inside. Then came all the pinning. I know I could use a basting spray but I like to flip the quilt a number of times when pinning to make sure that I'm not incorporating any bumps and lumps and I lift and resmooth the front and back as needed. And before you say it, yes the basting spray isn't permanent so the material can be lifted and repositioned but I don't trust it to not pull at the batting. I also prefer to machine quilt by sewing in the ditch of the blocks rather than quilting the traditional way by randomly sewing swirls all over the quilt - I don't really like messy look of traditional quilting and tumble drying then puckers it further, detracting from what I really want to show off which is the blocks. As a mum being able to throw things into the washing machine and then tumble dry is almost an essential quality in anything baby related. I also used a hidden knot to keep things nice and tidy front and back. When I get some time to take the photos I'll post a tutorial on how to do the hidden knots.

The reverse side of sewing in the ditch - you can't tell where I started and ended sewing with the hidden knots.

And I completed the quilt by machining the binding onto the front and finishing it off on the back by hand with hidden stitches. Over all it measures about 90cm x 115cm and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I had great fun making this quilt so will definately be making more with crazy blocks in the future.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Playmat Part 2

Cutting out the tree parts was fairly straight forward. I used a heavy woven jacket material with brown and black threads through it for the trunk and branches of the tree, and felt in shades of green for the leaves. I still have to iron on some HEATnBOND to the tree trunk and little squares of it onto the leaves to applique them to the mat. Here are the parts:

The butterflies were cut out of colourful quilting material. The little ones will have a little batting in the wings to create a little dimension and the big blue butterfly will have cellophane in the wings with just the body and the centre of the wings attached to the mat so bubs can play with the crinkly wings.

Since taking this photo I've finished attaching the little butterfly bodies to the wings and have cut batting for all parts that need it. These will all be hand sewn onto the mat.

I've also cut all the pieces for the flowers which will have the petals stuffed with batting for texture. The leaves will also have some batting under them and I'll hand embroider the leaf veins on. The stems will simply be appliqued on so they've since been attached to HEATnBOND too, ready for positioning onto the mat.

Everything is almost done so assembly will soon begin.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Knitting Bag

My current knitting bags are whatever random cloth or plastic bags I throw my needles and wool into but it's not very organised, I'm always losing projects and finding them months or even years later, and the contents of the bags themselves are just a mess of wool tangled with needles, partially finished items, tape measures, pens, scissors, etc. Like a lot of knitters I've always got multiple projects on the go and often like to switch between projects depending on where I'm knitting, for example, on long car trips I prefer something I don't have to look at to knit with a simple pattern I can remember off by heart whereas on a lazy Saturday afternoon I like to tackle the tricker projects which require constant referral to a pattern and have more involved stitches. For a while now I've been looking for a knitting bag to keep everything together but haven't had any luck finding anything which is big enough to hold long needles or have more than one internal compartment so I can separate my various knitting projects. I couldn't even find a pattern for one - most online patterns are for tote bags - so I ended up making one instead.

I wanted it to be long, deep and have 3 compartments with internal pockets. I figured a bag 40cm long x 30cm high x 25cm deep should do the trick. Then I got a little fancy and figured I could throw in tapered sides so it didn't look so much like a giant box so it wound up being 25cm deep at the base and 20cm at the top. Two handles and an external pocket for good measure and I was ready to start drafting the pattern on my trusty roll of greaseproof paper.

As for material, I'd be a fool making this first attempt with nice expensive designer material and Spotlight had a clearance sale on so I picked up some dress material cheap - I don't remember what type, it's the kind you can make jackets and skirts from, drapes nicely but not much body to it for a bag though it does feel nice. I figured I could try to reinforce it by attaching some interfacing and incorporating some thin batting for a little body. Some pink poplin for the lining and a couple of magnetic clasps and my shopping was done...or so I thought. I miscalculated (read: didn't calculate - I guessed) how much lining material I'd need so wound up having to go back to Spotlight - hubby is convinced I did it deliberately so I could go back again and buy more stuff I don't really need but I keep telling him I have no shame and anyway I don't need a reason to shop. Woman's prerogative and all that.

So I cut all the pieces out, including batting pieces and then spent the next 2 days waiting for my back to stop hurting - heavily pregnant with related back problems and standing for hours measuring and cutting material apparently don't mix. Go figure. Anyway yesterday I started sewing it all together beginning with the outside pieces and promptly got stuck trying to figure out how to sew a square corner the inconvenient way, i.e. without simply sewing the sides together, then sew and trim the corners off thus creating a boxed corner. I instead had separate pieces for the sides, front, back and base. Sewing the front, back and base together was easy but how to sew the sides on since they shared seams with all three pieces ?? I eventually figured out that due to all the seams I'd be creating I couldn't just sew continuously and pivot at each of the corners. I'd have to sew one seam, reinforcing both ends of the seam then cut the thread and the begin again with the next side starting exactly where I'd finished the previous side only on the other side of the seam I'd just finished at. Clear as mud, right? Basically it worked and this is what the inside of the exterior looks like:

The front pocket was sewn in when I joined the front and base pieces and it shares side seams with the front and sides.

Next I sewed the handles by folding the material in half lengthwise and pressing, opening the fold and folding each half lengthwise again to meet the middle crease, press again then fold once more on the first fold line. Sew very close to the edges to close it all up and done. Then came the lining which was way more involved. I started with the internal pockets which would sit against the front and back pieces. I'd cut the material 10cm longer than the width of the bag so that I could use some elastic to gather the opening of the pockets

and pleated the bottom of the pockets.

Next I sewed together the pieces to separate the compartments and then joined them to the front and back pieces with pieces of base between each. Then using the same technique as for attaching the sides before, I attached the side segments to the lining pieces...and discovered a blunder in my measurements. I didn't make the lining sides high enough so had to improvise by adding in a piece.

See the 2 separators creating three compartments. What's the name for those anyway?

Ok, lining was done, now to put it all together. I was worried about the lining moving around too much inside the bag so I tacked the lining and exterior together at the corners which meant I couldn't simply sew the inside and outside together leaving a gap to turn the whole thing inside out. Again I did it the hard way which was to put the lining inside the bag, wrong sides facing, and fold down the top rims to enclose the raw edges before very carefully sewing them together, incorporating the handles where needed.

Interior pockets - plenty of room for bulky things

Outside pocket for books and such

The finished product

I'm pretty happy overall tho I do have 2 niggles with it. First, I can't create crisp edges as this material drapes too loosely and won't be pressed into shape. My fault for choosing an inappropriate material. Secondly, the bag is a little too soft and floppy as you can see in the pic above. I would have liked it to be stiffer and stand up on its own more. I do have some Pellon stabilizer but with this material I don't think even it would help. The pattern though is a success (except the lining sides but that's easily fixed) so I'll definitely be making more of these in more suitable material as I can think of 2 ladies (the 'Mothers') who would love one for their own various craft projects - Christmas gifts coming right up!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Playmat Begins

Been a busy month and not much of that was spent on craft, only a little knitting and some planning of different projects I hope to start before bubs is born. I've begun the baby playmat and yet again think I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I've decided on sizing and drafted a design, cut my hoop in half for the overhead toy dangle framework (there's got to be an easier way to say that), and bought what I hope is all the material needed so now comes the interesting part - putting it together. I say interesting because I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to do all of what I have grand plans to do but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. I love projects that make me think, puzzle solve and learn a new technique or two along the way.

I wanted bubs to play in a sensory playground so I've decided that in the 4 corners of the playmat to have different things to touch and play with while overhead there will be other toys to dangle and entice. For the corners I've chosen:

  • a big worm whose segments are made of different materials such as fur, tule and spotted puff paint

  • 2 flowers with puffed petals

  • a tree with felt leaves to ruffle little fingers through

  • butterflies with crinkly wings

  • Here's a pic of the templates I've drafted for each of the bits I need. (Apologies in advance - these pics aren't the clearest as they were mostly taken at night and the lighting and focus are off - I still need more practice with my camera)

    I've started work on the worm and have all the parts ready for assembly. The blue fur was easy, a simple cut, as was the green tule over some green cotton homespun. The next two segments took me two nights to complete as I hand sewed tight rows of hot pink strung sequins and of orange feathers wool onto the segments. Then I spotted yellow puff paint onto the yellow segment which gives it a nice bumpy effect. I've decided not to activate the puff paint and it feels nice as it is.

    Each of the material segments ready for embelishing....

    ...and handsewing in the sequins to make sure none of the little suckers get loose.

    Then onto the face which I forgot to buy material for so I've improvised. I wanted a pale pink cotton but the lightest I had was lolly pink then remembered that I had some sheer pale pink organza which I layered over white cotton homespun. Into an embroidery hoop and I sewed the eyes and mouth with some glossy black embroidery floss. So once they're pieced together it should look something like this.

    Next step is to cut out the tree parts and the butterflies.

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    1st baby quilt fix

    My sister makes quilts and she's self-taught for the most part. I think a friend of hers may have given her a few pointers but basically she worked it out herself and makes some lovely colourful quilts. As a result when she taught me how to make quilts, I didn't learn how to finish them properly as she hates hand sewing and prefered to machine sew the binding on as tho it were bias binding. So one weekend in January 2008 we sat down and I made my first ever baby quilt with a very simple design of squares in yellows and greens.

    Here's the bias binding look. Not the neatest of finishes and over time the binding tends to fold back on itself.

    Recently I made another baby quilt for a friend and since it was to be a gift, decided to learn how to finish the binding on the quilt properly (I actually don't mind hand sewing). I found a number of websites with tutorials and fiddled with how wide I wanted the binding to be, learned how to mitre the corners properly and then found a video by Marci Baker which was brilliant in learning how to easily join the ends of the binding together so that the join isn't visible, or at least no more than any other join along the very long strip of binding. And it was so easy to do that I decided to replace the original binding on my first baby quilt.

    I started with unpicking the original binding (tedious, tedious job), ironed out the bias binding folds along the binding strip, folded it in half and attached it to the edges of my quilt. Then sewed it on, folded the binding over the edge and hand stitched it in place. I used a ladder stitch which I found to be the easiest hidden stitch for me.

    It took me most of the day, on and off, to hand stitch it in place but I wasn't in a hurry and had the little one to run around after. And it's so satisfying watching it come together so neatly. No more lazy bias binding dodgy jobs for me - this isn't difficult to do, just takes a little extra time and looks so much better, as you can see.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Kiddies Art Smock

    I've started sitting the little one down to try drawing (read: scribble back and forth on anything in reach) and while it all washes out of clothing, hair and skin, I was getting tired of soaking clothes each time we had a drawing session so I needed to make a smock. I had some soft demin left over from an attempt to make a baby sling (little one hated being in it so never got around to using the rest of the material) so decided to try making the art smock out of this.

    I modified a pattern that I found here. The original pattern is for a size 4-7 and my little one is still a size 1 so I got out my trusty calculator and measuring the lengths, widths, etc, I resized the pattern to 82% of the original and redrew the whole thing on greaseproof paper. I didn't bother with the applique, sewed straight to the edges of all parts and didn't bother cutting nicks in the material to join the arms to the body and in the end it made no difference, the smock still came together very well without the extra fussing. I did however zigzag the edges of each piece because as soon as I cut them out they started fraying. Oh, to have an overlocker. Sigh.

    Three done, one to go.

    I found the corners really tricky as my machine kept eating the fabric whenever I started the next side. Here's my solution:

    I used a needle and thread to hold onto the fabric (inserted needle and pulled thread only half way through then grabbed hold of all bits of thread/needle) while I sewed to the end of the current side, spun the fabric 90 degrees and started the next side. I used the thread/needle to help pull the fabric through until it cleared the presser foot and then just pulled the needle and thread the rest of the way through the fabric to remove it. Worked like a charm and saved much frustration without having to break the thread between sides or getting the fabric gobbled.

    The end result:

    Tried it on the little one and it fits perfectly but I'll need to make another larger one to use in the near future. Also I'll cut the back in half lengthwise to make it easier to get on and off and make it more comfortabe to wear with the extra length I want in it, so it's less dress-like and more smock-like.

    And now the best part -we can start playing with more of the messier activities, like finger painting and I can't wait!

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Kiddies Couch Cover

    Finally finished the couch cover for the little one. WAY bigger job than I thought it was going to be. I think it's taken around a month (I put it down to sew a baby quilt in the middle) and I don't know what possessed me to make it as a patchwork. Overall I'm happy with it. It's a bit puckered where the arms meet the backrest but I had no idea how to sew those weird corners and it works so who cares. I'm not likely to make another of these again, I just wanted a spare for when the little one spills things on it. And yeah I could have bought one but where's the fun in that?

    Couch and cover.....

    ....and fitted, front.....

    ......and back.
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