Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chinese Leftovers - Tutorial Part 2

So, full of ideas, I choose my fabrics from the stash for the Chinese takeout box purse.

The first step is to make sure they're well pressed. I'm also careful to lay them out right sides together - the pattern isn't perfectly symmetrical, so that's essential to making sure I'll have the right side of the fabric showing on both sides.

Cutting them out, I eyeball a seam allowance of about 3/8 inch and add it.

When I cut out the interfacing, though, I trim it to more or less the original pattern size. This reduces the bulk it will add to the seam allowance. Fuse the interfacing to one piece of your fabric. It should be a relatively heavy weight woven fusible interfacing.

Right sides together, stitch the two pieces together in an approximately 3/8" seam, catching in the edge of the interfacing and leaving as small an opening for turning as your patience will allow for.

Before you turn, trim the corners at an angle and clip to the internal points of the design. This will help make your corners more crisp and precise.

Turn the project right side out through the opening you left. A tailor's awl is helpful for making sure you're not missing any corners. Another useful trick? As a final step before pressing, insert your scissors, blades closed, and run the back of the closed blades firmly - but not too hard - along the entire perimeter of your seam. This will give you a more exact line and will coax out any stubborn bits that haven't properly turned.

Press thoroughly on both sides. Topstitch around the outer edge, catching in the opening you left to turn the work.

Now the challenge is to duplicate the folds of the box. I decide that as a baseline, I should topstitch an outline of the base through all the layers of fabric. To do that I need to transfer those four points to the fabric without the residue of the box coming in contact. So, I use my awl to poke a hole in each corner position on the original box, making sure the holes are larger in diameter than my pins. I layer the box, external side down, on top of the fabric, being careful to match them correctly (remember, it's not symmetrical), and pin through the hole into the fabric and the ironing board below.

This gives me my four points. Using a ruler and tailor's chalk - which I can brush away later - I connect the dots for topstitching.

With the topstitching done, I can begin to press in the fold lines, using the original box as a guide. I start with an up fold on each of the rectangular lines I just stitched, providing the basic outline of each box side. Then I press in the other direction the two "wing" sides that fold across and are attached to each other to hold the box in shape.

A quick pin test tells me this is working out.

Leaving the pins in place, I further establish the box sides by pressing from within the box on each side in turn.

A final bit of pressing creates guidelines for the top folds of the box. Voila! Looking pretty good!

At this point, if I wanted to have only one side ever be the "out" side, I could stitch the sides together - perhaps with a decorative button on either side - and add a handle and closure. But since I want this to be reversible, I have a few more steps coming up tomorrow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chinese Leftovers - a *Tutorial* in Progress!

For reasons which escape me, the rest of my family appears to be congenitally unable to close the recycling loop and actually put the destined items IN the recycling bin, even though it's only a few short steps from the kitchen to the utility cupboard where it lives. Today, though, this was good news, because it's inspired me to undertake a sewing experiment.

As an activist for peace, I fold a heck of an origami crane, and one of my specialties is making them out of fabric - stiff interfacing fused to the back of the fabric, a precise square, and a hot iron to press each stage of the folding into shape, and they make wonderful holiday ornaments, be it just as they come in a festive print, or embellished with beads and bits of trim.

I haven't applied this approach to anything larger than a crane yet, though. I've made fabric-covered puzzle boxes and picture frames before, but those have always been using double-sided web to fuse the fabric and batting to a cardboard base.

Seeing this next image, though, forlornly waiting by the sink, got me thinking...

It should be more than possible to apply the same techniques here, and end up with a unique purse or cool gift bag, right? So I brushed away the last traces of pork fried rice, removed the wire handle, and opened 'er out.

Of course, I don't want to stain whatever fabric I end up using, so I unrolled a length of freezer paper and traced around the box, omitting the little hook that closes the top so that I can substitute another type of closure.

This pattern will become the template for both sides of fabric - because I want it lined, of course - and for the interfacing that will go between for stability.

When I find myself between projects or waiting for dollhouse paint to dry tomorrow, I'll choose some fabrics from my sizable Asian stash and experiment. Also...I'm thinking I have a way to make it reversible. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Can't Believe I Didn't Think of this Sooner! Flannel Slip *Tutorial*

by Kimberlee

There are just some moments in life where I slap my forehead and say, "It's so simple!  Why didn't I do this sooner?!"

While I was sewing my underskirt for the flannel petticoat, I was not only thinking about how much I was looking forward to making another with a different technique, but how warm the A-line underskirt would be in the Minnesota winter.  And while I was making the skirt, I thought, "Maybe a flannel skirt WOULD be nice."  Then it occurred to me that maybe a flannel SLIP would be nice, so all my skirts would be toasty!

I've never seen a flannel slip in my life.  It's difficult enough to find a decent slip anyway, and I'm a big fan.  I COULD wax poetic about slips, and how we should all still be wearing them, but I'll spare you and get to the good stuff.

You'll need
- a slip that you want a flannel version of
- Flannel (I like natural color for this, but heck, use whatever you want)
- Thread (I'm using a contrast color, just for fun
- Elastic
- Craft paper

 Measure your slip and transfer your pattern onto the craft paper.  Cut 2 panels from the flannel.

 Remember to mark the place where your slip has slits, flip panels inside out and sew down to the slits.  I chose to then turn the skirt right side out and sew my hem by folding the fabric under.  Make sure to hem the top of the skirt leaving enough room to insert the elastic, and an unsewn opening to insert the elastic.

slit markings

 I like to measure my elastic by putting it around the place where I want it to fit, and stretching it to where I feel comfy.  This elastic was a little wide for my slip, so I trimmed it down.  Seriously, sometimes you don't need to run out to get something else, especially something that will be entirely unseen in a few seconds.  And you know what to do next - put a safety pin on the end of the elastic and thread it through!  Stitch the elastic, sew up the open hole, and you are done!

 You are now ready to rock the Winter Skirt look much more warmly!  You can certainly cuten up the slip by adding little rosettes, or a bow, ruffle, or whatever else floats your boat.

Thanks, and have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Petticoat Conjunction

By Kimberlee

This project has been an inspired journey for me - recently I failed several projects and have been getting my sewing legs back.  It's bound to happen when you try to take your craft to a higher level, and the success of my last dress has gotten me going.

I've been obsessed with the petticoat created by Alisa Burke and wonderfully interpreted by Britt from Sneezerville, who was kind enough to send me an encouraging note.  So here it is!

These were all my materials - I used natural flannel for both the underskirt and the strips (cut 5 inches wide), natural muslin for the strips, and a deconstructed (Upcycled!) flannel shirt from my wonderful husband.  Unlike Alisa and Britt, I decided to add a zipper to the side of the skirt.

I decided to go for a more unstructured skirt in the style of Alisa's, though I am definitely making another one of these with a big package of men's tees like Britt's.  I want two of these in each style.

The ruffles took some skill to sew without pulling them all over into one direction, but after a while I got the hang of it.  This photo illustrates the wrong way.  I couldn't take a photo illustrating the right way as I don't have 3 arms.

AND HERE IT IS!  I love it, and it's totally warm enough for the Minnesota winter.  This looks great on its own and I'm sure will under other skirts.  When I make Britt's t-shirt petticoat, I'm also doing her over-skirt (I have all the fabrics and notions!), and I'm going to use her idea to use thicker strips than she did.

Thanks ladies, this is my first copy off an online clothing tutorial, and my first "free form" sew.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Auction Goodies On Offer

I'm cross-posting this from Facebook and also from the site on which Kimberlee and I first "met" before we had the pleasure of meeting in person: the Fox News watchdog site News Hounds and its companion Forum. Earlier in the decade we routinely conducted informal holiday auctions of regular readers' and contributors' arts and crafts to raise money to support the volunteer-run site. After a couple of years off, the custom has returned!

Magpie Shinies visitors are all cordially invited to visit the public Facebook album hosting our auction here. The auction has just begun, but we already have a couple of beaded items from me and also some beautiful prints of original paintings by another of our regulars. I daresay we will see, if not specific items from Kim, perhaps the opportunity to commission something from her? New items will be posted as they come in, so check back often. If you see anything that you would like to place a bid on, just read the instructions in the caption to the first image in the album - the "title card" - for the details.

I realize our process is a little more informal and clunky than, say, Etsy or eBay. News Hounds really does run on a shoestring, though, and we wanted to try for an approach that depends on no more investment than the creativity of the donors and the human energy required to administer the project.

Finally, here's one of my first items on offer, to whet your appetite! I have plenty of furnace glass in my bead stash, thanks to last year's Tucson show, so maybe I'll make another one and turn it into a tutorial!

Hope to see you at the auction.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sewing Space Mini-Redo, Inspired by Eileen

by Kimberlee

Eileen's post  the other day on her amazing craft room re-do got me thinking.  I mean, I sew & craft on the dining room table, which is lovely, but my stuff was basically in baskets, a dresser, a chest and  various drawers all around the living room.  I sort of had the mindset that  since I didn't have a room I could re-do, what's the point?

That's, of course, bull-you-know-what, so I spent this weekend of raging snowstorm outside cleaning up (and in some cases, out) fabric, baubles and whodits and all that.  I started by tackling the awesome IKEA shelf in the dining room area:

Note the impressive collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books, and my much-loved Sally and Alice dolls.

I relocated all of the paperbacks into the closet's top shelf, where unbelievably they are more accessible than before.  The other books got other homes, and I was left with mostly empty shelves.  I gathered all my height-permissive baskets, boxes and other holders, then separated my stuff into categories like trims, buttons, inside construction (zippers, elastic), pieces that could be made into quarters, and what-not.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out:

This is the astonishing cat-resistant box, the only thing in THE ENTIRE HOUSE that the cat won't mess with.  If you want to keep anything safe, put it in this tiny box.  So the box stays!

All my bigger swaths of  fabric rolled up and out of the dresser.

The Bad Cats Calendar says, "That's Professor Fluffy Butt to you."  The grass baskets (also IKEA) have spools and needles, and the basket in the forefront (made by my late mother) has trim and notions.
I spent a long time going through all my fabric. For my smaller scraps, I cut them into as large of squares as possible.  The Blue Birdy box used to contain Sampo, now it houses buttons.

And now I use the dresser for patterns and other paper:

I'll have to tell the story of this at some point.

And here's the whole room!

There's my table, machine and current project, my inspirational poster, and IKEA bookshelf workstation.  All it needs is a dress form!

Thanks again, Eileen, for the inspiration!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Little Dress on the Prarie

by Kimberlee

I DID IT!!!!!  I finished my very first real live dress.  The design is McCalls's M5925 (without Adding 'McCall's to the M5925, Google gives you strange things,seriously try it), which I bought at one of JoAnn's $.99 sales, and fell into obsession with immediately - moving it to the top of my sewing chart.

hanging out by the porch corn

I used the arms from A and the body from C, though I think I'll go for a straight B or D in a plain flannel or supersoft cotton next time, like broadcloth, rather than the for-quilts cotton I used this time. But I do love the pattern and colors,and I'm sure it will soften up with a few more washes.

PLUS, I really learned how to sew long stitches and make ruffles, not to mention matching nap.  The plaid on both designs was pretty easy, as it was alike both upside down and right side up AND left to right.  But back to those ruffles...

ruffles across the chest, in the sleeves and in the skirt

all across the back!

All in all, I'm thrilled with how it turned out.  I think with all this ruffle practice, I am definitely making my petticoat skirt and a ruffled pillow next.  But before that, let me show you my awesome hat (a friend of my friend Tara knitted the flower).

How much does this hat kick ass?



Tuesday, November 9, 2010


by Kimberlee

I'm ridiculously close to finishing my first "real" dress, so I am super excited about that, so stay tuned!

One thing I love love love are give-aways.  I must go for a dozen a day, if not more, and not only because I love free stuff (though I don't lie, I LOVE FREE STUFF), but also because those of us who make things by hand need to support and pass on the word about each other.  We live in a mass-produced prefab world, so each act of creation is a tiny little defiance of that.  Now, without further adieu, FREE STUFF!!!

Win a cute ampersand necklace at My Lazy Apples .  Jamie creates the most amazing little delicate jewelry in the shape of some of my favorite things; birds, trees, flowers, etc.

Grosgrain, a site I absolutely adore, is giving away a dress from Shabby Apple.  Shabby Apple is pretty much my fantasy wardrobe.  Take a look, both sites will make you swoon.

Crafty Dream is giving away these lovely earrings from Earring Nation.  Birds!  In love!!!!  See, I can't be stopped, it really is an addiction. 

That's all for now.  Stay tuned for the dress reveal!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Crafting Space

One of my big agenda items when we began house-hunting in Canada five years ago was to find a place with enough space for an office area that didn't take up what my husband called "his half" of the kitchen island, and for a sewing/crafting space that didn't have to be crammed into a spare bedroom, and that might even be able to accommodate an actual sewing cabinet, so for a change I wouldn't have to sit on the floor to sew and use my knee on the foot pedal.

Fortunately for us, what are known as "legal suites" are popular in British Columbia. These are separate, usually basement areas which are set up so that they can be outfitted as an apartment complete with living area, kitchen, bath and bedroom. Primarily rented to students, they are a great way to supplement your income or help with your own mortgage. The house we found had one such fantastic space. Drywall was already up everywhere but the ceiling, and plumbing was in place too. Even when we looked at it with the bare concrete floor, I immediately envisioned the home office, library, and teen "lair" that would fill the space, and I claimed what would have been the kitchen as my forthcoming studio.

Job one was to get the flooring down. We opted for a woodgrain laminate that husband did a beautiful job of laying down, and I took care of the baseboards. But I hadn't exactly been lazy in the meantime - working from a copy of the original house blueprints and Lynette Ranney's Dream Sewing Spaces, I'd already begun planning.

More than sewing needed to be accommodated. As a quilter, a knitter and a beader...and a rubber-stamper and wheat-weaver and embroiderer and miniaturist and so on...it wasn't just a lifetime's accumulation of fabric that needed a home: it was also yarn, beads, notions, quilting stencils, and books on all of the above. So I began by portioning out the space as logically as I could, with dedicated areas and an eye toward making the most of each and every storage opportunity.

My original idea was to outfit the space with standard kitchen cabinetry, on the theory that this would make it easier to sell the place when we eventually downsize. But even with a discount cabinet warehouse just a few blocks away, this proved to be cost-prohibitive, and not an approach that would get me up and running smartly.

Instead, I opted for pre-fabbed closet units by Debbie Travis that were on sale at Canadian Tire. Shipping from Ontario took forever thanks to a snowstorm, but once they arrived the units were easy to assemble and position around the walls in a free-standing perimeter.

The shelves - with doors to minimize the clutter - would provide cabinet space big enough to handle larger lengths of fabric,

and the drawers would allow me to finally organize my smaller quilting pieces.

Open spaces between allowed for easy storage of button tins, embroidery threads, craft paints and rubber stamps.

I was even able to take advantage of an electric outlet that had been positioned to be at countertop height as a break between units, for hanging ironing board storage. (It's also handy for cord control when I'm pressing, versus a floor outlet.)

In addition to a separate organizer of wire baskets, yarn storage is easily handled in baskets on top of the units.

It was a wonder to actually be able to unpack and organize all my fabrics by type, in a way such that I could see all of them at a glance! For the first time EVER that I can recall, I don't have any of my fabric buried in a cardboard box somewhere.

I lucked out in terms of sewing furniture, too. A local sewing centre offered not only the perfect sewing cabinet (though mine has the drawers on the left, the door storage on the right, and a larger fold-out area at the back for quilting)

but also a splendid cutting table! It's usually open in my space (right now the Georgian Manor dollhouse is on it, though it will move to the folding table shortly for electrics to be taken care of), but can easily fold down if not in use, and the sliding sections and drawers house my fabric embossing stamps, a quilt in progress, quilting stencils and cutting mats, plus odds and ends of miscellaneous projects.

And, then, there were the beads. Small items, but still a big storage need. I ended up finding a solution at Best Craft Organizer when one of their two-pedestal crafters' desks went on sale at 50% off. It turned out that they were just across the Straits in Vancouver, so the components arrived in no time!

The dividers work equally well for vials of Japanese delicas and loose beads

and for sorting findings by type and accommodating strands.

Existing shelves took care of the growing library of craft books. What were intended as hanging rods in the closet organizers gave spools of lace an organized home, and narrow tension-based curtain rods did the same thing for ribbons.

Other miscellaneous trims found homes in tiered hanging baskets, once the ceiling drywall and painting was complete.

The organizer my husband brought me long ago from a trip to Japan lives on the wall behind my sewing cabinet, next to the small computer desk that houses the old PC and the inkjet printer (for projects that require printing on fabric, and for access to my old quilting software).

Another free space is home to sewing-themed artwork and a couple of cross-stitch pieces.

Finally, it came time to pull it all together. I'd left a space between units which I filled in with two blanket chests painted white. One of these contains interfacing, and the other quilt batting. Project Runway themed fabric cushions turn it into a cozy window seat for planning the next creation.

More fabrics from the same collection became valances and were turned into cushions for the two stools that are perfect cutting-table height (using halves of zippers for the ties!)

and to slipcover the task chair I've had forever.

The finished result honestly is the crafting space I've always imagined, with a place for everything and - almost - everything in its place!

Thanks for the post idea, Kimberlee! I can't wait until you come for a visit and we can disappear in here for fabric playtime!