Crafting, Family

Princess Bubblegum Hat

The toddler is Princess Bubblegum for Halloween this year, and I got a BMO dress off of Think Geek. For the record, Princess Bubblegum is pretty much the only princess I’ll ever allow.13bubblegum

I used a pink dress she already had in her closet, and made a quit hat with some fleece I’ve had in my closet for years, so the costume cost zero additional dollars, which is my favorite amount.

The base pattern for the hat is this earflap hat pattern, I just extended the ears to be longer and added a panel in the back. I freehanded the crown (which is a separate, removable piece) and stuffed the top of it with bits of scraps so it would stand up. I hand sewed the “jewel” on afterwards, but if I did it again I’d probably do it before sewing it together. The whole project is a little slapdash (and turned out a bit too small because I didn’t measure properly) but not bad for a quick costume.

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Crafting

Some sewing projects

I’ve done a little bit of sewing lately, nothing too crazy but a few new projects.

We got a wagon seat from my parents, it was my mom’s in college, and are using it for a toy box. It’s so nice to have all the toddler toys away. The cushion for it was a little sad so I made a new one using foam and fabric from Joann’s. The foam is pretty pricey normally but I was able to use a 40% off coupon. I even sewed a zipper in the back! There are still a few items that don’t fit in it, but it’s a great improvement over the pile of toys we had before.

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Next I made a baby onesie out of one of my old T-shirts. The pattern claims it’s a 6 month size, but I think I printed it wrong because it looks like it would fit my two year old. The design is on the back and I used some scrap black knit fabric for the binding. I’m borrowing a friend’s serger and still getting the hang of using it.

Onesies

I ordered a bunch of spandex to make running/circus tights, but now that it’s getting hot my desire to sew long pants is waning. Also my desire to serge compound curves in stretch material is approximately zero regardless of the weather.

The onesie pattern came from here and for the cushion I used the zipper tutorial here.

Crafting, Hacking

Project Blinkenpants

Inspired by my friends’ work with the Brooklyn Ballet I decided to make some blinky pants for my student performance with the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. The idea was to create pants that “twinkled” in time with movement.

Costumes for aerial silks have some very specific requirements. Outfits must be skin tight as any loose fabric can get easily caught. They need to be made of fairly strong fabric to withstand the silks (which are really nylon) rubbing against them. And of course I need a full range of movement, nothing stiff or restricting.

Running Leggings
Test pants, with stripes!

My first attempt was to hand-sew conductive thread into a pair of store bought running tights. This failed for three reasons:

  • The conductive thread, sewing with a running stitch, kept shorting out when I sweat
  • Having an electrical short across your leg means you’re being mildly electrocuted
  • Because the thread doesn’t stretch at all three of my lines snapped the first time I tried to climb and invert

The next idea was to machine stitch the conductive thread in a zig-zag. Since I only have a standard free-arm sewing machine this meant I would have to make my own pants from scratch.

After 2 different patterns and 5 different pairs of test tights I had something I liked the fabric and fit of. I went with Fehr Trade’s PB Jam Leggings and JoAnn Fabrics’ Sew Classic Spandex. The PB Jam pattern runs a little small compared to what I’m used to, I’m a US size 6 and I found the XS size was the best fit for me.

The best way I found to deal with the conductive thread was to couch it to the pants fabric using a zigzag stitch. I sewed the side seams of each pant leg and then drew on all the traces. One by one I very tediously sewed the conductive thread onto the pants, leaving a long tail at each end for hand sewing the electrical components in place.

The circuit itself is very basic. There is a PWM twinkle sequence which starts off a new twinkle every half-second. For the sake of simplicity I only wired up one axis of the accelerometer, and tried to trigger a twinkle every time it detected movement. Unfortunately I never really got it working right, it was always too sensitive or not sensitive enough. I ended up pulling it out of the design. One less thing to deal with.

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There were a few spots where it was impossible not to cross wires. Since conductive thread isn’t insulated I had to use a small scrap of fabric to make a little bridge for the wire to safely cross over.

Once I had the leads roughed in I stitched the front, back, and leg inseams. I confess I didn’t hem the bottoms, but I should have. From there I began the joyously tedious task of sewing in the LEDs and Lilypad. Each connection was secured with a lot of Fray-Check.

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2014-04-24 14.29.29The LilyPad Arduino is sewn to the inside of the waistline, front and center, along with the power board. This was a poor choice of placement, because I can’t actually reach it with a leotard on over it. Turning on my pants was not a graceful endeavor. The whole thing is powered by a tiny 300 mAh battery which I just tucked into my underwear.

The first time I tried on the pants it was obvious they were extremely prone to shorting out. I took fabric paint to the most obvious offenders, scotch taped down a few more spots, but ultimately had to accept that without completely insulating the wires it was just going to be part of the game. Future versions of these tights will use flexible insulated wire rather than conductive thread. Either that or casing the conductive thread inside some bias tape piping.

Because of the hard life these pants would lead I needed to wear a pair of footless tights on top of them. This protected them (sort of) against abrasion from the silks.

Here’s a video of the pants with some maroon tights worn over them.

Despite the tendency to short out, they held up pretty well in performance. Not perfect, but enough that people could get the idea.

Below is a video of my act, the music is a mashup by PomDeter.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how they turned out, but looking forward to improving upon the design in the next version.

Crafting

Sweater Finished

2014-01-18 10.49.28One of my goals before going on vacation was to finish the sweater I’d been working on, so I wouldn’t have to lug a sweater to Florida. I’m happy to say I succeeded!

The pattern is called Antler Cardigan by Tin Can Knits. I knit it out of Ella Rae Classic Superwash. It took about a month, I started it in early December.

I’ve actually been knitting a lot lately, and knit a baby sweater for a friend of mine who is expecting any day now. It’s a pattern called Tiny Rocky Coast and features little mini-cable waves all over. It’s knit in a hand-dyed sock yarn which is a blend of merino wool and nylon.

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I really should work on some of my in-progress projects, but instead I’m starting something new. I’m attempting to draft my own pattern for an irish sweater, having been unable to find any I particularly liked. Just charting the thing out has been daunting, I’m a little afraid to attempt to knit it.

Crafting

Making Toddler Clothes

I put my new sewing machine through its paces making some clothes for Bitmap. I like making toddler clothes a lot better than making adult clothes, because all the pieces of fabric are so small! No wrestling many yards of fabric on my floor, and I can make a dress with 1/2 yard of fabric.

Toddler Dress

The first thing I made is a jumper using the free Vivienne pattern from BurdaStyle. I used a washable Linen blend and added white piping. I am now obessed with piping and will add it to all of Bitmap’s clothing. If you’ve never tried it before there’s a great tutorial here.

This dress was the first time I’ve ever used the buttonhole setting and it takes some practice. Do not look too closely at the button holes,  please. The octopus was hand embroidered, RevolvingDork designed it after I requested a “cute octopus.”

Overall I’m happy with it, though I will probably practice a bit more with the buttonholer before sewing my next dress.

I also made a quick circle skirt to wear over onesies. It’s a good use for fabric scraps. You could probably even use a fat quarter if it’s for a small enough baby. Detailed instructions, including how to get a nice hem, can be found here.

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Crafting

New Sewing Machine

I picked up a new sewing machine from shopgoodwill.com. It was sort of an accident. A friend linked to a knitting machine for sale (cheap!) and I noticed they have a ton of old sewing machines. Most of them are junk but a few are just solid old machines in need of love.

I have two other machines in addition to the one I just purchased, the younger of which is approaching 70. Both work flawlessly. But every now and then I have a need for a zig-zag stitch, and neither machine can do that.

The photo of the machine from the listing
The photo of the machine from the listing

While poking around the Goodwill website I saw a Janome My Excel 4023 for sale. It’s description merely said “works.” I couldn’t find much information about the particular model but I figured for under $50 it was worth a gamble. Even the low end Janome machines are made with metal frames (and then covered in plastic for aesthetics), so as long as the machine was in decent shape it would suit my limited needs.

A Janome JR1012 in a clear plastic case so you can see the metal frame inside
A Janome JR1012 in a clear plastic case so you can see the metal frame inside

$37 later the machine was mine. Goodwill of Indiana did a thorough job packing it up, and sent it along with a scrap of cloth, spool of thread, and full bobbin loaded up and ready to go. I plugged it in, turned it on, and realized I had no idea what half the knobs did. The machine didn’t come with a manual and I couldn’t find one online. So I did the unthinkable: I contacted Janome customer support. 15 minutes later, a PDF instruction manual landed in my inbox. Magic!

Some less than scrupulous companies are selling digital copies of the PDF, despite it being freely available from Janome. If you are looking for a copy you can download the Janome My Excel 4023 for free.

It’s an all-mechanical machine. Each of the 24 stitch patterns has a little metal disc with grooves for the needle positioning. I did a test swatch of each pattern on some scrap felt.

A swatch of all the different stitch patterns on the machine.
A swatch of all the different stitch patterns on the machine.

After a quick cleaning everything looks to be in good shape. The My Excel line was made in the 90s, so I’m guessing this machine is 15 years old, and is in incredible shape given that. It barely looks used and could probably use a professional once-over, but for $37 I feel like I got a really good deal.

 

Crafting

DIY Needlepoint Ornament Finishing

Many people who do needlepoint don’t ‘finish’ them themselves. Instead they do the stitching, and then send the stitched canvas to a finisher to be turned into an ornament or a pillow. It’s not cheap – even a small ornament will set you back $30 for finishing, and the turnaround is incredibly long. The finishers used by my local needlepoint shop take months to return an ornament. So if you want it ready by Christmas, you need to finish your stitching by early fall. Eugh.

I was taught how to finish needlework in college, by a professor who forbid us from taking shortcuts like using glue, and absolutely considered the back-side of your stitching when grading. I looked at the little ornaments coming back from the finisher and thought, “how hard can this possibly be?”

needlepoint bird ornament

As suspected it’s not that hard. A little tedious, but it’s absolutely something you can do yourself. I found a number of ornament tutorials online, although none of them was exactly what I wanted, so I made up my own by combining techniques I liked from each one. Here’s the result:

Needlepoint Christmas Ornament

I think they both came out pretty well. I’ll need a little more practice to get the cording / seam perfectly even, but I think DIY finishing is well within reach for most people who do needlework.

Crafting

Billington Bag Knit-Along with The Tangled Web

I’m organizing the Billington Bag Knit-Along with a local yarn store, The Tangled Web. It’s a felted bag that’s fully lined, and I finished the knitting yesterday.

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Their version
My version, unfelted
My version, unfelted



It came out super huge, but I think a lot of that will felt down in the wash. We have a front loading washing machine so I’m a little nervous to try felting in that. The disadvantage of front loaders is that you can’t open them mid-cycle to check the progress of the felting. I may end up going over to a friend’s house to use their top loader.

It used 2 skeins of Ella Rae Classic worsted. Ravelry users can follow the project here.

 

Easy to knit baby sweater made from a free pattern
Crafting

Striped Baby Cardigan

Sweater!

I knit this for a friend of mine’s baby, and my daughter was kind enough to model it for me. It uses the Little Coffee Bean Cardigan pattern, which is a free Ravelry download. I modified the stripe pattern a bit to give it a sort of stained glass motif.

Easy to knit baby sweater made from a free pattern

Each color block is 6 rows, with 1 row of black between each color change. It’s knit in Caron Simply Soft 100% acrylic yarn, which is a fairly heavy worsted weight. The 6 month size came out a little big on my 9 month old. Total yardage used was roughly 420 yards.

Colored stripes like these are a great way to use up odds and ends from other projects. You can make the stripes thicker or thinner depending on how much you have of each color. Just make sure to plan ahead so you don’t run out!

Looking for more details on the exact colors used? Check out the ravelry project page for this sweater.

Crafting, Family

Sick Baby

Poor Bitmap has a cold, she’s been bringing them home from daycare on a regular basis. Which means that I’ve also had a cold pretty much nonstop for the last month. This one has hit her the hardest, she spent most of yesterday snoozing.

Bitmap and her dad

 

I did finally get around to making her a new hat. She outgrew her biggest one months ago, and I’ve been getting lots of dirty looks from nosy mothers who can’t believe I have her outside without a hat.

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The good news is that Bitmap is sleeping much better these days. She goes to bed at 9 and usually sleeps until about 5am, when she nurses and then goes back to sleep until 8. So I’m finally starting to get enough sleep to think straight. Which is good because I’ve picked up some more freelance WordPress dev work.

Aside from bringing home every germ on the planet, she’s really liking daycare. She’s pulling herself up to standing, and can walk around if she’s got something to lean on.

We still spend Mondays together, and maybe if it stops raining today we’ll go on a walk through the neighborhood. I can’t wait for spring.