Monday, November 25, 2013

State of the Art

The other day, my friend Natalia posted a picture on her Facebook account of a lovely and whimsical drawing of her home state of Massachusetts.  Natalia has lived in various nooks and crannies all over the world, and her creativity and love of eclectic pieces are always inspirational.  When Natalia posts pictures, you pay attention.  There's usually something artistic, beautiful, inspiring, or just happy about her images. 

I saw the drawing, and as usual, my creative juices started flowing.  The normal first thoughts to pop into my head were:

1. I can do that.
2.  Do I already have some of the supplies needed for this project? Pretty sure I do.
3.  What else is on my agenda for the day that I can scrap in favor of fun projects?

I rifled through my craft closet and found my sketch pad, but still needed to make a trip to the craft store.  Off to JoAnn's I went, with coupons in hand!  I bought a 4 pack of drawing pens with various thicknesses, as well as a mat-less, see-through frame.  I had several 40% and 50% off coupons that I was allowed to use, and the frames were already at 50% off.  JoAnn's was even having a "secret" sale yesterday- anyone with a Teacher Discount Card was given 30% off of their total purchase as opposed to the usual 15%.  SCORE.  The sales girl whispered this discount addition to me as she rang me out so as not to alert and anger the hordes of other shoppers in line who were unlucky enough not to possess such a plethora of discount gold. Only suckers pay full price at JoAnn's.  I laugh with glee at you.

Here's the materials I ended up needing to complete this project:
1 9x12 drawing sketchpad (I used an 80 lb. weight medium thickness paper)  
1 pack of drawing felt tipped pens (I had various thicknesses from 01 to 08)
1 bright light
1 Clear Rubbermaid container or file bin with a piece of glass on top
1 Printout of state outline
1 11x14 frame

Step 1: Gather those supplies, and fan them out on a pretty carpet.

First things first- I needed to make a light box for tracing my image.  It's difficult to trace images when using higher weight drawing paper unless it's illuminated from below.  I used a hanging spotlight that I keep in the basement for this project.  A small lamp would work just as well.  I put the light inside of the file bin, put a piece of glass on top, and homemade light box was done.

Classy, I know.

Next, I used my printout of the lovely state of Michigan and put my drawing paper on top.  I used the thickest drawing pen (08) to trace the outline of the state.  

Outline of Michigan.

Beginning to trace the lines.  Kindergarten skills at their finest.

Tracing complete.  We're already halfway there!

After that, I plopped my behind on the couch to watch t.v. and got creative.  I free-handed swirls, shapes, and patterns inside of the border of the state.  I also drew a heart over my general location to add a little personalization. 

It's getting there!

Ooh, fancy.

When I was done, I popped the drawing into a mat-less, see-through frame, and my masterpiece was done.  How easy and cute is this?? 

Done.  Contemplating tearing around the edges
of the drawing for a more organic look.

Super cute, right??  The paper itself is actually off-white, so in real life, it doesn't look quite so, "I drew a pretty picture on printer paper and stuck it in a frame".

Thanks for the inspiration, Natalia! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I'm a liar. Sorry.

Well, I promised in my last post that I would share some details on curtain making in this post, but I lied.  I'm not going to.  I know I took pictures of the process over the past few years, but can't find them in my photo files for the life of me.  So, instead of reading about curtains, how about a nice little piece about cold, blustery weather, cozy sweaters, and my dog? 

Sound good?  Great.

Several years ago, Margot received a few sweaters for Christmas.  If you're scoffing at a dog receiving Christmas presents, then we can't be friends.  Dogs are family.  Plain and simple.  We tried to make Margot wear the sweaters, as she's always either shaking, curled up in front of the heating vents, or wrapped in a blanket during winter.  Unfortunately, she thought the sweaters meant playtime, and ran in circles, jumping and writhing to bite and get them off.  So disappointing.

UNTIL.....this fall.  Margot has accrued some wisdom in her advancing age.  Those silvery whiskers under her chinny chin chin must have caused a revelation, because I attempted the sweaters once more, and Margot was suddenly digging them.  It's like a light bulb clicked in her little doggy brain that realized, Hey, if I keep this on, I won't be so cold! 

Sitting regally in a warm sweater on top of warm laundry.

While Margot likes the comfort of the sweaters she has, she wasn't digging the pink paw print one.  She's not a pink paw print girl, apparently.  So, I decided to make a pit stop at my local thrift shop to pick up something to fashion into a doggy sweater.  Bingo!  Half off day, which means I got this lovely little sleeveless sweater for $1. 

Cute, right?  Maybe I should have just saved it for myself...

I started out by measuring the pieces of the current doggy sweaters I have- there are only three distinct pieces of fabric used, so it can't be that hard to make a similar one, right?  I cut the first/largest piece from the bottom of the original sweater (which will henceforth be called the OS), and made sure to keep the original hem at the bottom- use what you've got, right?

Roughly the same height, and then further cut to mimic the width of the pink sweater.

I then cut a piece for the neck portion of the sweater, and used the cowl neck of the OS.  Last, I used the armhole hem to cut a portion for the underneath part of my new doggie sweater.  Now, because the OS was already stretchy, I didn't worry too much about using the same exact measurements as the prototype sweater.  I figured that if that sweater fit, so would mine. 

The smallest piece for the neck is folded over in this picture.

For the sewing portion, I sewed the largest portion of the sweater to the neck part.  What I forgot to do was leave an allowance at the end of each neck piece to attach the bottom portion of the sweater, which would have created a full turtleneck effect.  Whoops.  It was 8pm, give me a break- I was working without directions here.

Yep, that's a placemat.  My sewing machine has been sitting on the
dining room table for about 4 months now.

Next, I used a zigzag stitch on all of the remaining cut fabric edges to prevent fraying.  If I had a serger, I would have used one, but alas, my craft corner does not have that piece of machinery (yet). 

Then, I attached the bottom portion to the sides of the large piece of fabric.  I left several inch slits open to allow for Ms. Margot's front legs to slip through.  All this sewing took 10 minutes, tops.  I then tried the sweater on Margot, and realized that instead of leaving my whoops! mistake top collar portion open, I could sew two lines to my bottom fabric piece in order to cinch it together a little bit more.  Done. 

Sorry, I get sewing and forget to stop for pictures along the way during the process!

Margot then barked at me to let me know that she thought the sweater needed some bling, so I dug into my button bin and found three flashy little gems, which were promptly sewn onto the back of the sweater.  Don't worry, I checked to make sure they were in a location that she couldn't twist herself into a pretzel and bite them off.

A luxurious stretch in her new sweater.

With that, Margot's chic new sweater was finished.  Twenty minutes, and $1 spent.   Margot is now on the prowl and looking for dates.  Any takers? 

A VERY unclassy pose in a classy sweater.  I don't know what kind of mutt she's trying to pick up with this pose.

MUCH better, Margot.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cover Up, Will You?

I haven't done a sewing blog post in awhile, so let's talk about curtains.  I've made the curtains for most of the rooms in my house, not because my windows were oddly sized (which CAN happen in old houses, am I right oldhouselovers?), but because I just couldn't find the fabrics and colors that I wanted.

Anyone who knows anything about home decorating will always tell you to pick your fabrics first, before picking your paint colors. Matching paints to fabrics is SOO much easier than doing things the other way around.  Problem is, when you're moving into a house that sits empty, yet needs new paint on every single paintable surface, chances are you're going to paint first and decorate later. 

SO THANKFUL they left the lace curtains and house phone.
Phew.  Close call to having to buy these gems all over again.

Thankfully, none of the paint colors I picked were so crazy that I couldn't find great fabric to make curtains out of, but it did make it difficult to find pre-made curtains that I liked.  With a little sewing knowhow, you don't have to worry about pre-made curtains, though- just DIY! 

First things first- decide on the length of your curtains.  I really love floor length curtains, so I mostly went with that. Personal preference, though- you decide.  As for curtain height placement- I really prefer to hang long curtains somewhat close to the ceiling.  Hanging the rod a few inches below the ceiling is a pretty good rule of thumb, but again, personal preference.  The higher you hang your curtains, and the longer they flow, the more dramatic the look (as well as the taller your ceilings look!)  It's all a Jedi-mind-trick, people.  Keep in mind to just be consistent with your hanging height between your rooms that flow into each other!

The additional top down/bottom up curtains are a necessity when you have a
dog that thinks all forms of life outside the windows are possible invaders.

As you're deciding your curtain length, you also will need to decide how in the heck you plan on actually hanging these curtains off of the rod.  Will they be hung with grommets, with rings, with loops that keep the rod hidden?  You'll need to decide this before you calculate how much fabric you'll need.  (You'll need more fabric if you decide to go with grommets, by the way). 



Hidden backside loops.

 I would also HIGHLY recommend buying some white fabric to back your curtains with.  I know I said it in an earlier post, and I will say it again:  Whether you use the curtains for decoration or for function, they should appear uniform from the outside, no mix of stripes, patterns, and colors should be visible.  Lucky for me, I have a big fabric warehouse in my city that sells curtain backing fabric at ridiculously low prices.  If you're not lucky enough to have one of these places, go to your local Homegoods, Target, or Marshalls.  You should be able to find a cheap white sheet set that'll work just as well, and will be plenty big enough to back your curtains with. 

(See last picture for curtain backing example).

Once all of these HIGHLY IMPORTANT DECISIONS are made, make your calculations and buy that fabric!  It's not as hard as you think, I promise.  You're sewing rectangles.  Really can't get any easier than that. decide to throw a wrench in the works and sew Roman shades.  I do not care what Pinterest tells you- do not believe the posts that say, "Oh, Roman shades are soooo easy", or "No Sew Roman Shades".  BULL.  There's a lot of measuring, double measuring, and letmemeasureoncemorejusttobesure going on that really eats up your time.  Plus, no sew curtains?  Bound to look absolutely terrible from outside of your windows.  People can see that shit.  I've now sewn roman shades once, and they turned out great, but they were nowhere near as easy as good old solid floor length drapery panels.  I'll take you through my drapery travails in part 2 of this post, I promise.  This advice column of a post has gone on long enough, wouldn't you agree?

Look at those pleats.  Sends a shiver down your spine, doesn't it?

Perfection comes at a price.  It's called YOUR TIME.

Whatever you choose, just remember:  If you can see other houses from your windows, they can see you, too.  Cover it up, unless you want your neighbors to see you naked.  In that case, by all means, leave your windows unclothed.  I'm sure the creep down the street will appreciate it.