VisibleBlue

Silk Jammie Pants to Ruffled Scarf November 5, 2013

Filed under: DIY — VisibleBlue @ 2:40 pm
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DIY Pajama Pants to Ruffled Scarf

A few years back, my sister gave me some nice silk pajama pants for Christmas. After a lot of wear and tear, they developed a pretty big hole in a place too risque even for lounging around the house, so I retired them. It seemed a shame to throw away such nice fabric, so of course I had to think of a way to upcycle them!

Inspired by this blog post I found on Pinterest, I decided to try and turn them into a ruffled scarf. One pair of pants will make two scarves. Here’s how I did it.

First, I trimmed off all the hems and waistband, which left four vaguely leg-shaped panels.

Pants, trimmed of seams

I stacked the four panels and trimmed the wider parts until I was left with congruent rectangles. A rotary blade makes this pretty easy. The angle of the photo makes them look wider at one end, but try to make them roughly the same.

Long rectangles

 

Sew two of the panels together at the short sides into one long panel. The seams will not be very visible in your finished scarf. Don’t worry, when you add the ruffles, it’ll shrink considerably! Mine was about half the length after adding the ruffles. If you’d like a longer scarf, consider using three of the panels.

One long panel

At first I tried using all four panels, but it was too long – four are shown sewn together in this photo.

 

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this, but I finished the edges of the scarf with a rolled hem. You can do this on your sewing machine with a rolled hem presser foot, and it looks really nice on a lightweight fabric like this. If you need some instruction, here’s a nice video that should help. If you can’t do a rolled hem, a regular one should be fine!

Sewing rufflesThe final step is to sew the ruffles. The easiest way to do this is by using elastic thread on your bobbin (hand-wound, not too tight, not too loose!), with thread that matches your scarf on the top. Sew a line straight down your scarf, right side up, about one-third of the width of the scarf away from the edge. Repeat on the other side. Repeat in between your two lines, and you’re done! With three lines of elastic thread, my scarf is about three feet long. The more lines you sew, the shorter it will get. This lightweight scarf makes a great accessory for fall or spring.

 

Bowser Costume, Part 3 – The Head October 25, 2013

Filed under: DIY,Kids — VisibleBlue @ 12:13 am
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Alright, we’re in the home stretch now! If you missed part one (the body) or part two (the shell) of the Bowser costume series, head that way and we’ll meet back here! If not, welcome to the most nebulous, frustrating, and free-form part of the costume – Bowser’s head! If I were to do the whole costume over again, I definitely would have started with this part, when I had some momentum! Now, a week away from Halloween, I just want to get the damn thing done. And sadly, it shows. Oh well, here we go!

Remember our Simplicity 2506 pattern? We’re going to use that again for the head. Use the pattern for the dragon head – but don’t include the spikes. It’s basically just a regular hood.  Make sure you use the green fleece for his head – it’s not gold like the rest of his body. (Yep, I ended up making two hoods for that reason.) Also, cut out and sew the horns (using the cream felt) from the devil costume. Stuff, pin, and sew them onto the hood. You should set them slightly wider apart than I did.

Draw the hair shape, but be sure to leave room for the seam allowance!

Draw the hair shape, but be sure to leave room for the seam allowance!

For Bowser’s hair, draw a shape on the red felt that roughly follows the curve of the hood, with spikes on top. Make sure to account for seam allowance on the spikes when you draw them. Stack two layers of the felt and cut out your shape. Clip and fold up the bottom 1/4″ for a nicer finish (see fig. 1). Sew along the the top of the hair, turn, and press.  Stuff the hair with polyfill and pin to your hood. Faster option – instead of the spikes included in the pattern, cut out the shape of Bowser’s hair and sew it in the center of the hood, just like the pattern does with the spikes. All that hand sewing takes quite a lot of time.

Fig. 1 - Sew along the unfolded edges.

Fig. 1 – Sew along the unfolded edges.

Yes, astute reader, the hood should have been green! That is why it looks like an evil rooster.

Yes, astute reader, the hood should have been green! That is why it looks like an evil rooster.

While you have the red felt out, cut out two eyebrow shapes, like this:

eyebrows

Also cut out the parts of the eyes (two of each, obviously.) You’ll need red circles for the irises, smaller black circles for the pupils, and tiny white circles for the “shine”. Cut four sort-of-ovular shapes out of the white felt for the eyeballs. Sew two of them together, leaving space to stuff, and trim the edges. Firmly stuff the eyes and close the gap. I glued the parts of the eyes together, and ran a needle and thread through the iris where the “shine” would be just to ensure that they would stay put. Sew the eyes into place, and glue the eyebrows on top of them. Faster option – 2-D  eyes would be perfectly lovely, too!

The scale will be totally dependent on the size of your hood, but in my version, the irises are a little larger than a nickel.

The scale will be totally dependent on the size of your hood, but in my version, the irises are a little larger than a nickel. Just eyeball it. Ha! Get it?

The longer I look at this, the creepier it gets.

The longer I look at this, the creepier it gets.

Now, the mouth. Ahhh, the mouth, my biggest challenge, and biggest disappointment. I’m sure I’ll spend the next week tweaking it to try and get it to look right, but for now, here’s what I have. I really had no idea where to start. My initial idea of molding felt around ping pong balls didn’t really pan out, so I had a glass of wine or two, didn’t come up with any brilliant ideas, and decided just to make a tube out of the cream felt.  I wanted to at least have some definition in the nose, so I sort of folded the edges in and sewed them in place. This created kind of a “point” at the bottom, which I folded back and sewed down. I wish I could explain that better, but I’m really not sure how.

This is the point at which I knew this would not end well.

Underside of the mouth. It looks strikingly like a sock. This is the point at which I knew this would not end well.

Closer version of the mouth - the blue is where nostrils would go.

Closer version of the mouth – the blue is where nostrils would go.

teethI stuffed the center firmly and the ends more loosely. I cut out three sets of triangles for teeth from the white felt, and sewed them onto the bottom of the mouth, pressing them down at the seam. Then I closed up the edges and sewed the whole thing to the hood.

So here are the problems I’m left with: The mouth is too low and makes it difficult for my son to see out. I’m going to add some elastic to the back of the hood in hopes that it will pull the front up a bit. Also, the mouth is too wide. I want it to fold down in the middle and up at the edges a bit. Tying the ribbons under his chin helps a bit, but it’s not what I had envisioned. Anyone have any ideas? I have a week left – I’d love to hear them!

Doing his best Bowser impression.

Doing his best Bowser impression.

 

Super Easy Play Stove from Food Crate January 28, 2013

Filed under: DIY,Kids — VisibleBlue @ 9:55 pm
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Finished Stove

I live in a small house. It is so easy for my son’s toys to absolutely overrun the living room, and that is why he doesn’t have a play kitchen, even though playing with his play food is one of his favorite activities. Today, while he was unpacking his Melissa and Doug Cutting Food, I had an inspiration. He’s storing his food in this sturdy crate that comes with the food, why not turn it into a stove?

Thirty minutes later, we had a (still slightly sticky) easy-to-store stovetop, ready to make peanut butter-and-zucchini soup, or whatever it is he likes to cook. All it took was some construction paper and glue. There are no three-dimensional knobs, so it stores flat on the shelf, with all the food inside. Of course you could make this with a cardboard box or whatever you have lying around. On another day, I’ll make a little cardboard oven to set this stovetop on, with a door and rack, but this was enough crafting for today.

The whole process is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’d like more detail, read on!

Supplies:Supplies

  • Crate or cardboard box
  • Construction paper: 2 sheets of each – orange, black, white
  • Mod Podge or other glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • Compass (optional)
  • Paint pen (optional)

Cut your white paper to fit the surface of the crate. Don’t worry too much about overhang, you can trim it later (I really should have done that before taking pictures. That’ll teach me to try and crank out a tutorial quickly.) Spread a layer of glue on the surface and adhere the white paper. Try to smooth out any wrinkles (again, I did a horrible job of that.) Paint on another layer of glue.

White/black

Draw a spiral slightly smaller than the black circles you cut out.

Draw a spiral slightly smaller than the black circles you cut out.

Cut out four identical circles from the black paper – you can use a compass, or trace something round like a small bowl. My circles were about 4 3/4 inches in diameter. Glue these onto the white paper. Draw a circle of the same size onto the orange paper. Inside this circle, draw a spiral, freehand, keeping the negative space slightly larger than the desired width of the finished “coils.” Cut along your line. Don’t worry too much if it’s not so smooth – you’ll even it out in the next step. After your spiral is cut, trim a small amount (enough to let the black show through all around the coils) from both the inside and outside edges. Center your coil on one of the black circles, and glue it all down. Repeat for the other three coils.

This cap is around an inch in diameter.

This cap is around an inch in diameter.

For the knobs, I just found an object roughly the size I wanted (I used a lid from an almond milk container) and traced it onto the black paper. I cut all four out at a time and glued them to the bottom. Afterward, I gave everything another nice thick coat of Mod Podge. When it had all dried, I marked “hi” and “low” on the knobs with a white paint marker.

All glued!

 

Tutorial: Tablet Cozy November 17, 2012

Filed under: DIY — VisibleBlue @ 10:28 pm
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Our wedding anniversary was this week, and my dear husband got me a Nexus 7. (As well as a custom app that tells me how long we’ve been  married – 7 years, 4 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes, and 50 seconds as of this writing.) With a toddler in the house and a notoriously cluttered purse, I knew I needed a protective cover of some sort if it was to survive until our 8th anniversary. Enter the DIY tablet sleeve.

You’ll want a little more room for seam allowance on the side.

I’ve had some lovely, soft, green minky in my fabric collection for some time, earmarked for baby blankets but sadly neglected. I paired it up with a pair of scrap-pile flannel pajama pants. I wanted a little padding for the case, so I also grabbed some leftover thick fleece to go between the layers. You need very little fabric to make a sleeve for a small tablet like the Nexus 7 or iPad Mini, so scraps are great for this project. You will obviously need thread as well, and a closure of some sort and interfacing if you like.

The first thing you need to do is cut out your fabric. If you’re using a rotary cutter, you can cut all three layers at once. I was constrained by the width of my pajama legs (I wanted vertical stripes) so I had to cut it really close, but you can measure your tablet, double the width and add about an inch for seam allowance and ease, and add about a half inch to the height. For the Nexus 7, that’s about the size of a sheet of paper.  If you’d like to use a tab closure, cut a strip about 1 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long from the lining, outer fabric, and interfacing. (I didn’t use interfacing, but I wish I would have. This tab will take some abuse.)

Stack order and orientation

Stack the three pieces of fabric that will compose the body in this order: padding on the bottom, lining (RIGHT side up) next, and outer fabric (WRONG side up) on top. If you’re using snaps like I did, you will want to put the snap on the body at this time, before you make any stitches. This way, you can put it only through the outer fabric and avoid having the hard back rubbing against the screen of your tablet.  Put your tablet on the fabric and fold it over to determine where the center (and thus the snap) will need to go.  Don’t forget to account for seam allowance along the top! Make sure to position the snap with the business side down, like in the picture. If you’re using a magnetic or hook and loop closure, you can do those the same way. (Curious where I got these snaps? I’ve ordered from http://www.kamsnaps.com/ and have always been happy with my experience. If you’d like a referral to be used toward a future purchase, let me know in the comments!)

Topstitch it if you’re good at that sort of thing – I’m not, but I did it anyway.

You will also need to make the tab at this time. Fuse the interfacing to the back of one of the pieces. You can add the other half of the closure at this time, if you want it to be invisible, or wait until everything else is done in order to line them up exactly how you’d like. With right sides together, sew close to the edges on the two long sides and the top. You can make this a curved edge or leave it square. Trim the seam allowance to make it easier to turn and less bulky. Turn the tab inside out and press. I chose to topstitch, mostly because I didn’t want to iron, but that’s optional.

Brought to you by a litre of beer.

Put the tab on the opposite side of your snap, open end matched up with the top of your fabric stack, between the outer and inner fabric layers, with the side you want to face out (contrasting lining for me) facing up. Unfortunately, we went for beer and brats in the middle of this project and when I came back and finished it, my photo-taking suffered. I blame Oktoberfest. Anyway, please refer to the graphic instead. Pin the top edge and fold the outer fabric over, to make sure everything is properly placed and the tab has the correct side up. Unfold it if you’re happy!

Top edge and snap, seam allowance trimmed.

Stitch only the top edge. Trim the seam allowance. Fold the outer fabric over the seam, to encase the padding. Press the seam, and topstitch if desired. You’re almost done! Lay the fabric flat, right (outer) side up. Place your tablet on one side and fold the other side over. Line it up vertically (do you want the top peeking out or hidden?) and pin around the tablet, making sure your closure is centered. Take out the tablet and sew up the side and bottom. Trim the seam allowances and clip the corners. Turn out the bag. Attach the other closure if you haven’t already.

There are a lot of ways to customize this case. You could add a pocket, appliqués, or even quilt the fabric after stitching the top edge. Make a flap or use a zipper  instead of a tab to keep it closed. Add a little charging port. This is a great way to upcycle old clothes – I’m planning on making another from old felted cashmere sweaters. Whatever you use, make sure to use something soft to go against the screen – bonus points if you can use it to clean the screen!

 

Homemade Cookie Monster Costume, Part Deux October 23, 2012

I’m going to go ahead and post this without a proper finished project picture since we’re just a week away from Halloween right now, and some of you (slackers!) might still be looking for resources to help you craft a homemade Cookie Monster costume for a child. If you’re super short on time, just make the eyes and attach them to the hood of a blue sweatshirt, throw on some blue sweatpants, and you’re done!

You will need:

  • Pattern for jumpsuit-style costume with headpiece (I used Simplicity 2506 and modified it to suit my needs)

    Simplicity 2506

    Do you see Cookie Monster in here somewhere?

  • Blue or white shaggy faux fur in the amount the pattern calls for (for my 2T-wearing son, it was about 1 5/8 yard)
  • Notions, as per the pattern
  • Blue fabric dye for the fur, if it isn’t blue already (I used iDye Poly)
  • One set of googly eyes

I was able to find everything I needed (except the eyes) at my local Jo-Ann.

Major disclaimer before we begin – I did end up saving money by making the costume myself, but it was a huge investment of time and energy – don’t underestimate the value of your own time! It may not be worth it to save the extra $10-$20 when you need to put ten or more hours of work into the costume. (I’m a pretty amateur seamstress so your mileage will definitely vary on that estimate. You will need basic sewing skills and the ability to make sense of a pattern.) That said, I still enjoyed this project, and of course I’m happy to be able to say that I made it myself. My mom always made my Halloween costumes as a kid, and I’m glad that I can do the same for my son.

"After" picture of blue fur

Previously white fur after dying with blue iDye Poly

First things first – if your faux fur isn’t blue, you will need to dye it. Since it is probably polyester, nylon, or a blend, you won’t be able to use traditional (Rit) dye. I found some iDye Poly in the dye aisle of the store, picked up a blue pouch, and crossed my fingers. My faux fur was a long-pile, 60% polyester, 40% nylon white fabric, and the dye actually turned it the perfect shade of blue. You need to boil the fabric for up to an hour, however, and it is stinky, messy business. You will need a stainless steel pot big enough to boil the fabric – for me, that was a giant stock pot that we use to make beer. DO NOT let it boil over – you will end up with blue everything. I boiled the fabric for about 45 minutes. After rinsing it thoroughly  I washed it with a gentle cleanser and hung it to dry in my bathtub. If you need to clean up after – my stovetop and bathtub were a little blue, as well as the inside of the stock pot – Mr. Clean Magic Erasers seem to do a good job. My fabric ended up pretty warped at the selvedges unfortunately, but I was able to pull it into shape along the bias well enough to cut out the pattern.

After the fabric has completely dried, follow your pattern to make the jumpsuit portion. As I said above, I used the Simplicity 2506 pattern and modified it. I used the jumpsuit from style E without the tail, the headpiece from view A without the ears (which ended up being oddly small, and I will need to go back and fix,) and made the booties into spats, without the soles. I sewed a piece of elastic to the bottom to keep the toes of my son’s shoes covered. Make SURE to follow the nap of the fabric when you cut out the pattern pieces – otherwise, the fur won’t lie the same on all pieces, and it will look weird.

The final step is to attach the eyes. (If you missed the post on DIY googly eyes made from ping-pong balls, click here.) I used my Dremel to make two small holes in the bottom of each eyeball and sewed them to the headpiece with embroidery floss. They move around just the right amount when you walk! Now all you need to do is get your child to practice saying “OM NOM NOM!”

Finished Cookie Monster Costume

My husband suggested that this would make a great Cookie Monster-skin rug when Halloween is over.

It was 39 degrees and raining. Couldn’t get the head on while he was wearing the hood, but at least the dye stayed fast and he didn’t come home all blue!

 

DIY Googly (Cookie Monster) Eyes October 17, 2012

Filed under: DIY,Kids — VisibleBlue @ 4:41 pm
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As I’ve said before, my son is a little obsessed with Cookie Monster. Naturally, this was his choice for a Halloween costume. I could spend $45 and buy one, or I could try to make one myself! (Though I’m halfway through the project now, and thinking buying was the smarter option.) I’ll blog the rest of the project another day, but I wanted to hurry and get these eyes out there in case someone else needs to make them before Halloween.

*Part 2 of the project is available here now.*

These are super simple to make, and only a few items are needed:

  • Compass (the kind you use to draw circles)
  • Three white ping-pong balls (an extra or two if you want, in case of mistakes)
  • Craft knife
  • Black paint/paintbrush
  • Two tiny screws and appropriate screwdriver

Handy to have: sandpaper or a nail file and a vice to hold the ping pong ball as you are cutting, though I made do without.

Draw the circle

How did I keep my ping pong ball still? A jar opener and the container the balls came in!

Using the compass, draw a circle the size you want the pupil to be on one of the balls. The balls I used had graphics, but they were easy to avoid.

CAREFULLY cut around the circle with the craft knife. I shouldn’t need to say this, but

Cut out the circle.

For some reason the inside of the ping pong balls smelled awful, like mothballs!

obviously you’re using a very sharp instrument with a small and smooth object, so it’s really easy to slip. I suggest using something non-living to hold the ball firmly in place. After you remove the circle (this is now the pupil), you can sand the edges to make them smoother. I used a nail file.

Punch a hole OFF CENTER in the pupil. If your hole is dead center, the pupil won’t appear to move. The closer you get to the edge, the wilder the movement will be, but don’t put it so close that it’s structurally unsound. You’ll likely need to widen the hole so the pupil swings freely on the screw. You will also need to punch a hole in a fresh ping pong ball. I used the sharp end of my compass. If your balls have logos like mine did, make sure that the part you will attach to the costume (or whatever) will hide the logos, and place the pupil appropriately.

Attach the pupil

These tiny screws were left over from a computer build or something, but I imagine you could use the kind found in glasses.

Insert the screw into the hole you made in the pupil, and make sure it doesn’t stick when you shake it around. Then screw the pupil into the eyeball, stopping before you tighten it all the way (or the pupil won’t swing.) Shake it around again to make sure you’re happy with the movement. You may need to trim some from the pupil if it gets caught.

After the pupil moves like you want it to, unscrew it and paint it with black paint (I used acrylic Paint the pupilscraft paint.) Make sure not to paint the hole closed. You may need two coats. After it’s all dry, put the eyeball back together. You may want to paint the end of the screw to match the pupil.

That’s it! Attach the eyes however you want. I haven’t done it yet, but I plan on putting two holes in the bottom and sewing them on, or if I’m feeling particularly lazy, maybe I’ll just hot glue them.

Finished project

The more I look at this picture, the more creeped out I get.

 

 

Square Foot Gardening – a Revelation August 1, 2012

During the dead of winter I was at the library with my son, in the kid’s section. I spotted a book on the reshelving pile called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew. Intrigued by the picture on the front, I picked it up and glanced through. I was impressed and curious about what I saw inside. I took it home with me and waited impatiently for the growing season to begin.

Square foot gardening is a re-engineered version of the traditional home garden. It has a few major tenets:

  • Gardens are built in raised boxes with a grid divided into one square foot sections
  • A special soil mix fills the boxes – you don’t use existing soil, which means you can put your garden anywhere you like, with minimal digging/weeding/etc.
  • The garden is located in an often-used part of your yard
  • You plant only the seeds you need, and store the rest for following years
  • Plants are grown in groups of 1, 4, 9, or 16 within the square divisions, not rows

Some of the major benefits of square foot gardening are space conservation (plants grow in 20% of the space required in a traditional bed garden), water conservation (only water the roots of your plant instead of the entire garden), easy upkeep (weeding takes very little time, and doesn’t need to be done often, since you’re using brand new soil), and natural crop rotation (when one square’s crop is done, replant with something else!)

I live in a fairly urban area, so my backyard is about the size of Buckingham Palace’s bathrooms. In past years, I tried to garden on the side of the house, but you know what they say – out of sight, out of mind – and by midseason, my garden would invariably be a tangle of weeds and crowded, sickly plants. Last year I attempted to do all my gardening in containers on the deck, but that failed even more miserably as I wasn’t able to keep them watered properly. I assumed gardening just wasn’t for me and that I would never grow more than a few tomato plants.

SFG Garden

Sorry for the cell phone picture!

When I decided to try SFG, I opted to put the boxes on a patch of weeds and bone-dry dirt between my neighbor’s fence and the path to our garage. Nothing would grow there anyway, and it was heavily trafficked, so it seemed like an ideal location. The area was almost exactly 3 feet deep, so I built two 3′ by 4′ boxes. The cost? Nothing, I just used some lumber we had sitting around in our garage. I’m no carpenter, but I was able to build the boxes in an afternoon mostly by myself (I needed a hand cutting the lumber to size.)

The soil, Mel’s Mix, is a blend of 1/3 each of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. The vermiculite and peat moss I was able to buy at our local nursery, and we’ve been composting kitchen scraps for years, so I had no shortage of compost. You fill the boxes and affix some sort of grid to the top. I stapled mini-blind slats to the boxes to create my grid – each box held 12 1′ squares.

In addition, I built trellises for each box for vertical gardening. I made these out of electrical conduit, cut to size, and attached at the corners with some plastic plumbing parts. Each trellis was slid over rebar hammered into the ground, which both keeps them vertical and gives you the option to put the trellis away when it’s not in use. Finally, I tied nylon trellis net (available at garden centers) to the top and sides to form the trellis itself. These fixtures are extremely strong, and have held up in 70 mph+ winds. Here is a great video tutorial on building your trellis.

Now, we’re mid-summer, and here is a list of things I have successfully grown in just 24 square feet of previously unused yard space: kale (2 plants), basil, cilantro, peas (16 plants), carrots (2 squares), onions (2 squares), tomatoes (4 plants), nasturtium (2 plants), microgreens, green beans (3 squares), lettuce (3 squares), squash – but I’m not sure what kind yet, they were volunteers – pumpkin, maybe?, Serrano peppers, and spinach. The kale, tomatoes, and squash have done particularly well – my tomato plants are over 12′ tall, and just LOVE the trellis. I’m harvesting at least 20 cherry tomatoes a day off a single plant. The squash has sort of taken over – it covers the entire trellis and has moved on to the rest of the yard and is trying to annex my neighbor’s yard as well, so I have to keep it in check. At the moment I have about 6 empty squares just waiting for fall’s crops to go in.

If you’re interested, the best place to get started is Mel’s book, but there are lots of resources available online to help you, too. One excellent reference for plant spacing and other information specific to SFG is My Square Foot Garden. So, what I’m trying to say is that I can’t believe this gardening technique isn’t more popular. I haven’t even listed half the benefits – it’s amazing what a little fresh thinking has done to revolutionize what is a centuries-old process.