Viewing entries in


I'm Even Sewing For The Dog Now

You know, this blog is looking more and more like a sewing blog and less like the yarn-appreciation site it is meant to be. The sewing projects move quickly and get photographed and make my bloggy life easy. I promise there will be yarny goodness soon. Until then (SURPRISE!) more sewing.

I think good crafting ideas absoltely must be shared. Not necessarily ideas so good you could patent them and have yarn money for life, but all the little things we think of that might make someone else's handmaking easier or better. I had one such idea. 

A little backstory...

I have this dog, you see. Loki by name, pain-in-the-ass by game.

This is Loki and his sister as puppies (left). I thought you'd like to see something cute. You're welcome.

This is Loki and his sister as puppies (left). I thought you'd like to see something cute. You're welcome.

His favourite napping spot under the sideboard didn't look particuarly cozy, so I decided to get him a bed. I searched tirelessly, dear readers, for the right dog bed. It needed to fit my budget and fit my small to medium sized dog. It couldn't have stupid paw-print or fire hydrant upholstery. It absolutely was not allowed to look like a tiny couch or armchair. It had to be flat because he sleeps all stretched out. Above all, it had to be washable. Of course, it didn't exist.

How could something so simple not exist?

How could something so simple not exist?

Luckily, I remembered that I am a fair-to-good seamstress, and that I had the perfect fabric. What could I stuff it with that would have lots of volume but could easily be washed? Most stuffings get lumpy and awful if you machine wash them. And then it happened. The Idea. What is soft, cushy, completely washable, and can be easily found at a thrift store? A bed comforter! How had I never thought of this before? $14 later, I had a good sized, quality comforter that had already successfully been washed many times. I folded it into a Loki sized square, took some measurements, cut two pieces of fabric of the same size, and sewed a giant zippered pouch. If I hadn't had a perfectly sized zipper handy I could have put buttons or ties on the open end. It's essentially a giant pillowcase. In went the comforter, on went the dog, and voila! Canine coziness! Even better, he can ooze any kind of liquid he likes on it and I can just pop it apart and wash it.


If you want to make a comforter-stuffed dog bed of your own, I have a few tips for you. 

1. Use a washable decor-weight fabric. I used a cute striped denim from Ikea. I had originally bought it to make a dress, before the early 90's called wanting their tacky denim jumpers back and I thought better of it. Ikea's decor fabrics are fantastically priced and a delight to work with.

2. Once you've sewn the pouch and turned it right side out, topstich around the three closed sides, and on either side of the zipper. It will add strength to your seams and make the whole thing look more professional. 

3. If you're buying a thrifted comforter, choose one you wouldn't mind using as a blanket, because it's always good to have a second use for the things you buy. Choose one with a cottony looking outer fabric (for washablility) and lots of loft. Shake it out outside before bringing it in and wash and dry it on hot right away. You may not live in a city infested with bedbugs and fleas, but I do, and it's worth a litte extra care.

4. If you want to de-stink your dog a bit, throw a lavender sachet in with the comforter, or put a few drops of essential oil in the centre of the folded blanket. Of course, make sure that your dog won't be harmed by your chosen scent, and that he isn't repulsed by it. Go easy on the scent, as his nose is way better than yours, and it's his bed.


There you have it folks! My not-genius-but-still-useful idea is yours to play with. Enjoy!



Sweater Shoulder Surgery Success!

About a year ago I showed off my Monami Cardigan. It's a beautiful pattern, but my attempt had a few serious flaws. I never did fix the overly small shawl collar, because I decided that some things aren't worth the effort and it didn't need to fold over after all. The worst fit problem, however, was this weird shoulder poof in the sleeve right at the top of the armscye. I wasn't sure what caused it, and I assumed it was because I did a poor job of setting in the sleeve or because the sleeves were too narrow for my arms.

I was watching episode 79 of the Stockinette Zombies Podcast and Amy's new cardigan had the same problem! They discussed possible causes and solutions - and it turned out that row gauge was the culprit in my goofy shoulder problem (I think the shoulders were too wide at the seam as well, which made it impossible to hide the sleeve lump). The sleeve piece just gets way too tall as it narrows, meaning it can't fit in the armhole. It looked like ripping back was the only real option - so, on a whim, I did!

I started by cutting the yarn that seamed the pieces together and opening up the shoulder to just below where the excess sleeve fabric began. I inserted a dpn along a row of stitches at the right height and ripped back to that point.

You can see in the picture how much area the excess fabric had taken up. A lot.

Also - yarn ramen!

Then I simply bound off the sleeve stitches and seamed the shoulders shut again, lining the centre of the sleeve back up with the shoulder seam.

The new silhouette is a little more drop-shouldered than set-in, but the fit is fantastic.

Also, you get to see my dingy bathroom. You lucky duck.



Tutorial: DIY Yarn Swift for under $15, and some helpful links!

I decided (in lieu of my normal Wednesday links) I'd share a tutorial for my awesome DIY yarn swift, as well as the links to the projects that helped me arrive at my final product. This swift combines all the best attributes of the other DIY swifts I liked, without as many setbacks. It's sturdy as heck, spins on ball bearings, adjusts to hold a skein as small as one yard or bigger than three yards (this was a requirement specific to my large skein niddy noddy - enormous skeins are great for dyeing), can be disassembled for storage, and cost me about $12.

Get the tutorial and links after the jump!

You need:

  • A used wooden lazy susan - there were four for under $7 at my favourite thrift store, I'm sure you can find one on the cheap. New ones aren't terribly expensive either, and generally cost less than the hardware required to build one (seriously, wtf right?).
  • Two pieces of 2x2 wood, 42" long. I used the cheapest finger jointed fir - it's a mess to work with, but it's cheap as chips and this swift is very large and isn't pretty enough to leave out anyway. Word to the wise: finished 2X2 isn't actually 2" by 2" - about 1/2" is lost when the wood is milled.
  • Four 8" lengths of 3/8" dowel.
  • 4 bolts about 3" long, with matching nuts and washers.
  • A drill.
  • Clamps, if you have them.
  • Either a saw, hammer and chisel, or a table saw and dado blade.

Start by finding the centre of your 42" 2x2's, and find the actual dimensions of the piece of wood (most likely 1 1/2"). Cut a dado (notchy thing) at the very centre of each piece. The dado should be as wide as the 2x2, and half that measurement deep. The two pieces fit together in this joint and should lie flat. The dado joint for my swift was done (by my dad...) on a table saw, but


swift tutorial shows you how to do it with a handsaw and chisel.

Find the centre of your lazy susan. Draw yourself a guideline along the diameter of the lazy susan, and draw a second diameter line perpendicular to the first. Drill four holes (big enough for your bolts to go through), one on each line, and each the same distance (in my case, 6 1/2") from the centre mark where the two diameter lines meet.

On your 2x2's, measure and mark in both directions from the centre point the same distance you measured from the centre point on the lazy susan to where you drilled the holes. On one side of the bottom 2x2 (I determined which was top and bottom by which side, when they were jointed together, had a slightly nicer finish), drill all the way through at this mark. It's important to drill this hole vertically. Line up the hole with one of the holes on the lazy susan and bolt them together, loosely enough that the 2x2 can swing a bit from the bolted point.

Next we drill the other three bolt holes. Start by lining up the mark you just made on the other side of the centre point of your bottom 2x2 with the hole in the lazy susan opposite the bolted point. Clamp the 2x2 in place, and drill through both the lazy susan and the 2x2, using the hole you already have in your lazy susan as a guide. Slide a bolt in and secure it tightly. Now take your top 2x2 and line it up at the dado joint. Do your best to line up the marks you measured from the centre with the holes on the lazy susan (perfection is optional here - mine is half assed and it works great). Clamp everything, and drill again; use the holes on the lazy susan as a guide and try to drill as vertically as possible. Put in your bolts. This is what it should look like now, from the bottom:

Important step for your later sanity: Mark both the top and the bottom piece with an arrow that corresponds to the same mark on the lazy susan. Unless you are a measuring and drilling genius, it isn't all quite centred and will only go back together after disassembly in one way. Marking the correct way saves you the trial and error later.

Now, take the bolts out and set them aside, along with the lazy susan. Put your 3/8" bit in your drill (or whatever size corresponds to your dowels, if you've chosen to go smaller) and grab one of the 2x2's. Find out which side will face up when the swift is assembled, and measure and mark  1" in from both ends. Measure and mark a further 3", 6", 9" and 12" in from the 1" mark. Drill about halfway through the 2x2 at each mark - these are the holes your dowels will sit in to hold your yarn, so if they go all the way through, you may have problems getting your dowel to stay in the swift. Drilling 3/8" holes is a pain in the wrist - to prevent your drill from catching and twisting your wrist, you may want to predrill with a smaller bit first. Go slowly and be careful.

Clean up, put your tools away and assemble your swift! Throw some yarn on there and wind away.

Notes about this swift:

  • It's ugly. I know. Put it in the closet when it's not being used - it's easy to take apart. It's a good idea to store the bolts in the holes in the 2x2's - then they won't get lost.
  • It's heavy. This means that when it gets going, it doesn't really want to stop, and the smooth ball bearing action only encourages this. If you need to stop winding, reach out and stop the swift, otherwise it will keep going and snag your yarn. Also, if your kids are about face height with the arms of the swift, for god's sake don't let them near it when it gets going. You'll feel like a jerk, and they'll feel like a kid with a broken nose.
  • Most lazy susans don't have enclosed ball bearings, so yarn could get sangged in there if you aren't careful. Ball bearings are covered with grease. Unless you want your yarn to be as well, keep it away.
  • Those 2x2's will stand you in good stead, come the zombie apocalypse.

Here are a few links to the swift projects I looked at before deciding to make this one:

  • I took most of my inspiration from this tutorial, but I didn't like the point of rotation - not smooth enough for my tastes.
  • This one is awesome and rather pretty, but I didn't have a porch umbrella lying around. It also can't go nearly as big.
  • This one isn't sturdy enough for my tastes, but hey, a swift is a swift and as long as it works...
  • This is certainly the cheapest DIY swift I've seen, but again, not so sturdy. As an indie dyer I wind a LOT of skeins and I needed something that could survive a great deal of abuse.

There! You are armed with all the knowledge you need to have your very own yarn swift, for less than the cost of lunch with the girls.



How To: Turn a Desk Calendar into a Wall Calendar - Framing a Book!

I've been using a day planner for years now, but lately I've learned that I am not the only one in this family that needs a little help staying on top of daily planning. However, keeping a wall calendar is no good, because the little squares are way too tiny to write much of anything in. I'm not into the look of those giant wall calendars with the dry erase pens. I like organization, but not that much. Thus I decided to convert my beloved desk calendar into a wall calendar the whole family can use.

 Ours is mounted on the wall, but it's in the dark, ugly grotto next to the door, so I photographed it resting on a shelf.  Where, I might add, It looks awesome.

Get the tutorial for a wall mounted desk calendar, and for the mods to safely prop it on a shelf in the long term, after the jump!

You need:

  • Your day planner, or any other book you feel like framing.
  • An old picture frame. No glass or backing required. Make sure it's bigger than your open day planner. I found this nice wooden one - oak I think - at the thrift store. I like the wood grain, but if I ever get around to painting our house, maybe I'll paint it to work with the decor.
  • 1/2" wide grosgrain ribbon for the wall mounted version, elastic for the shelf version. Or you could use string. Use what works for you.
  • Strong thumb tacks, or short nails, or screws. As you may have guessed, this whole project is full of variables. Use what you have on hand!
  • Needle and thread.
  • Two small wood screws and some picture wire, if you're mounting it on the wall.
  • A hammer (unless you have thumbs of steel).

If you plan to hang your calendar on the wall, start by putting screws in the top corners of your frame. Use each one to secure down a loop of picture wire. You want the loops to be the same size, so you can easily hang the frame level.

Cut four pieces of grosgrain ribbon just shorter than the height of your frame. Secure them to the frame with your tacks (or nails, or whatever) in pairs. Make sure they are close enough that your opened book will fit between them with about an inch hanging over each side.

The two pieces of ribbon will look like just one when they are tacked down, unless you separate them. Make sure they are quite taut in the frame so your book won't droop.

Lets pretend my nail polish is artsy and fashion forward OK? Normally it doesn't look like that... Really...

Decide where you want the bottom of your book to sit, and using your needle and thread, sew the two layers of ribbon together at that point. Do the same on both sets of ribbons, making sure you are stitching the same height from the bottom of the frame on both sides. As long as your ribbons are tacked down fairly tightly and your frame isn't absolutely enormous compared to your book, there's no need to sew above where the book will go.

Done! Hang your frame on the wall using two nails, corresponding to the two loops of picture wire. (you don't want it swinging around when you need to take your agenda out to turn the page or pencil in an appointment).

OK, you say, but I want to prop mine on a shelf.

In that case you'll need something to keep the book from flopping backwards and slipping out of its loops - normally, the wall provides this service. I solved this by substituting elastic for ribbon. Fix it down under tension, but not so much that it doesn't have the ability to stretch a bit more.

Take the two back pieces of elastic, one from each side, and attach them together in the centre of the frame. I used a safety pin here because it happened to be near my hand when I discovered the floppy book problem. It works just fine and is completely hidden. If you prefer a more professional look, sew them together.

There! Your book is safely suspended and can be set in its frame on a shelf!

The ribbon version does look tidier, but the elastic version is easier to use. If you have kids who will be taking the calendar down to enter their appointments, it might be best to use elastic so they don't destroy the whole thing.

If anyone has tips on how to get forgetful spouses to remember their appointments for long enough to get them in the calendar, please let me know.



How to: Make a Flower from Recycled Knitwear

Remember that sweater vest that I made into a dress for Rei? Well, it also yeilded a pretty fabric flower!

I love this - it has a wonderfully distressed yet feminine edge, and it's so versatile! I still haven't decided if it wants to be a hair bow, a brooch, a purse accessory, part of a necklace, or an accent on a dress. Currently, it lives on my desk, waiting for the perfect home.

Get the tutorial after the jump!

You need:

  • Ribbed edging from an old sweater or shirt. I used the sleeve edging from a sweater vest. A cuff or ribbed hem would work too. The key is that your material must be fairly narrow, stretchy, and have one finished edge.
  • A strip of tulle about 1/2" wider than your ribbed edging, and at least 2 1/2' long. Longer is always better.
  • A button, stud, or other cool found object for the centre of your flower.
  • Sewing stuff and hot glue.

Start by sewing a decorative stitch along the finished edge of your ribbed material. I chose a daisy-chain-lookin'-thing (sure, it might have a real name) in keeping with the floral theme, and because it's a stitch I've never used on my still fairly new machine. Experiement with colour! I went for a monochromatic look for this flower, but there's no reason you should have to, if you are feeling a little more bold and bright. A simple zig-zag, or even a straight stitch would be fine, if that's what your machine does. The trick here is to go fairly slowly, stretching the fabric as much as you can. This stitching is going to lengthen the finished edge of your ribbing.

Just beginning to gather up the ribbing - there's still a long way to go here.

Using a good strong thread, machine baste along the opposite side of your ribbed material. Set your machine to the longest stitch possible, and leave long tails of thread at both the beginning and the end of your stitches. Pull the top thread tight (leave the bottom one alone) and gather your fabric along this edge. Unless your material is very thin, you'll need to gather from both ends. You want it to be as bunched up as possible - reaching its saturation point, if you will. This may take some fiddling. You'll end up with a seriously ruffly bit of fabric, a few inches long at the gathered edge. Once you have gathered to your satisfaction, tie the top and bottom threads together at each end to lock everything in place, and snip off your excess thread.

Do the same (baste and gather) with your strip of tulle. Tulle is the ultimate gathering material - the gathered edge should end up less than an inch long.

Fold the edges of your ribbed material to the back and secure with hot glue. Coil it into a rosette, with the gathered edge as the centre. It will most likely need to be coiled into a spiral shape, which gives your flower multiple layers of 'petals.' There will be a small hole down the centre (make sure it isn't much bigger than a pea). Secure your rosette with hot glue. I used a bit at each end of the strip, and then in a few more spots where it wanted to spring apart. Coil up your tulle as well, just barely overlapping the two ends. It should make a fairly flat disc (of frothy ruffle goodness), also with a small hole in the centre. Glue it to the back of your rosette, lining up the centres.

Glue your pretty button to the centre to hide the hole. I used a 1/2" pyramid stud (I have almost a thousand of the buggers lying around... Lesson for the kids: only buy something in bulk if you're 100% sure you'll be using lots of it) to keep with the monochromatic look and give my flower a little punk rock edge.

Glue a circle of felt to the back to hide the hole and give you a flat surface to attach a backing of your choice.

Wear your creation!