Saturday, March 19, 2011

All-Day [Slouchy] Beret

So, I've had a slouchy beret pattern in my Ravelry queue for about a year.  It wasn't until my friend started knitting the same pattern that I really got motivated to make my own . . . and realized I can't knit the same hat as her.  I went back through Ravelry and found Debbie Stoller's All-Day Beret.  The pattern is free from stitchnationyarn.com.  The hat had an open, funky knit pattern that I loved and a great slouchy fit.  The pattern recommends using 1 ball of Debbie Stoller's Bamboo Ewe yarn.  Instead, I purchased 1 ball of Debbie Stoller's Alpaca Love (hey, it was on clearance in a deep wine color).  Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking about the fact that a ball of Bamboo Ewe is significantly longer than one of Alpaca Love (177 yds. vs. 131 yds.).  As such, I had to get a little creative in the finishing. 

The pattern is easy to work and creates a reversible fabric (shown with WS out).  Once I had worked about 7 1/2" in the pattern, though, I realized that I was not going to have enough yarn.  So, I started decreasing rapidly at that point.  I followed the pattern for the decrease rows and sort of skipped the rows in between.  This gave the top of the hat a slighty pin-cushiony look that I actually really like.  Because I had to decrease the depth of my hat, it doesn't have as much slouch as the original pattern would have created.  I have a relatively small head and short neck, though, so the limited slouch doesn't bother me.  Overall, great pattern and great yarn.  There are plenty of other free patterns at stitchnationyarn.com.  Take a browse and give one a try.  Be creative and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Iron Craft Challenge 11: Singin' in my Rain Boots -- Boot Liners

Spring is springing in St. Louis and that means rain.  And every time it rains, I inevitably fall in love with the rubber rain boots I see women sporting around town.  Until recently, however, I resisted the temptation to buy a pair for a couple of reasons: 1) Too many colors and designs . . . it's impossible for me to commit to just one; 2) the taller, closer-fitting boots I love can be really expensive and my husband would rather have food and car insurance than a wife in cute boots.  I saw some solid gray, fleece boot liners at Target over the winter, though, and realized that this could provide a variety of colors and patterns without buying multiple pairs of boots.  I purchased some anti-pill fleece and the cheapest, most sensible pair of black boots I could find.  This week's Iron Craft challenge (to make something in green), gave me the perfect opportunity to try out my plan.

Each pair of boot liners took about 1/2 yd. of fleece (I wear a size 6 or 6 1/2 shoe).  I began by making a pattern for the boot liner on a brown paper bag.  I traced around my foot, leaving ample seam allowance (probably about 3/4" all around).  The rest of the pattern explanation might be a little confusing, so please see the picture with the pieces shown in blue.  I cut out the tracing of my foot and folded it in half lengthwise.  With the piece folded in half, I trimmed it to make the foot symmetrical, so I could use the same pattern for both feet.  I wanted to make sure that there was enough space for the arch of my foot, so I added a triangle on each side of the foot pattern (in the photo, the toe end of this piece is at the lower left and the heel is on the upper right).  Using the boots themselves as a guide for the proper height, I cut a slighty trapezoidal piece for the heel/back of the leg of the boot liner (this is the pattern piece on the far left side of the picture).  This piece was wide enough at the base to follow the curve of the heel of the foot.  Then I drew a piece that mirrored the curve of the toe end of the foot pattern (top right of photo), but would be long enough to be sewn along the long side of the triangle and then meet the long side of the heel piece.

First I sewed the toe end of the liner (see photo).  Then I attached the heel piece to the liner.  Where the long side of the heel piece met the back side of the triangle, I stitched it upward.  At the top point of the triangle, I continued stitching the heel piece to the long side of the toe piece.  I turned the top edge of the liner over about 1/2" and stitched around it.  When the liner was stitched together, I zigzag stitched over the seams to reinforce them, especially at the heel.

Keeping the seams to the outside, I slipped my foot into the liner.  I put my foot into the boot and folded the top of the liner over to create a cuff.  Through sheer luck, these liners fit perfectly--they are tight enough to my actual feet that they don't bunch up in my boots, but in the leg they are a little roomier to allow for my skinny jeans.  I'm pretty sure I couldn't manage that again if I tried, but luckily I still have the pattern I made.  These liners have allowed me to add a little sass to my $20 utilitarian barnyard boots.  I have purchased patterned fabric to make cuffs for my next pair.  There are endless varieties for these liners.  They are also super warm.  I hope you'll consider making your own boot liners and add a little life to your rain boots for just a few bucks.  Be creative and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Iron Craft Challenge 10: Fat Quarter Zipper Wristlet/Party Purse!

This week's Iron Craft challenge was to create something using a single fat quarter (other non-fabric materials allowed).  I didn't have any fat quarters on hand, but since they measure about 18" x 22", I made sure the amount of fabric I used did not exceed that.  I have been thinking a lot about law school graduation (by which I mean obsessing), and I plan on having a good time on graduation night.  Dancing, drinking, karaoke-ing?  Who knows, but I decided a tight-strapped wristlet is essential if all of my necessities (ID, cash, cards, phone . . .) are going to make it home with me at the end of the night.  Like mittens on a string, I figure the wristlet will keep my stuff together while my mind is otherwise occupied.

I started with some of my husband's old dress pants (out of the same stash I made my draft dodgers out of).  I cut four rectangles, each 4 3/4" x 6 1/2", and stabilized two of them with interfacing.  I rounded the bottom corners of each rectangle.  I sewed the two stabilized piece together, wrong sides facing out; I stitched along one short side, along the bottom and up the other side, leaving the top open.  I repeated the process with the other pair of rectangles.  I turned the stablilized layer rightside out, then tucked the other layer inside.  I used seam tape to finish the raw top edge.  Using a small, silver belt buckle I bought as part of a lot in a thrift store, I created a leather strap.

It took me a while to decide on the adornment for the outside.  I thought about some sort of flower (although I didn't want to break the Iron Craft rules by using more fabric) or maybe some buttons.  I wanted something more dramatic, though--I'm only going to graduate from law school once, after all.  I love the look of the zipper details that I've been seeing on the necklines of dresses and shirts.  I bought a heavy duty jacket zipper with silvery teeth and unzipped it before starting.  I basically just curled, looped, and folded the zipper until I got a shape that I liked, then hand-stitched it.  I made the entire zipper detail before attaching it to the purse.  I tacked it into place with hot glue, then stitched it down.  I haven't decided on a closure for the top of the purse, but I'm leaning toward a simple invisible zipper.

I love the way this wristlet turned out and I can't wait to use it.  This process could also be used to make a camera case, small makeup bag, or a coin purse.  Also, the zipper detail could be slapped on about anything (shirt, cuff, headband?).  Be creative and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Iron Craft challenge 9: Customized Locavore Notebook

This week's Iron Craft challenge was to create something inspired by a movie.  I love movies--lots of movies--so it was difficult for me to narrow down my selection.  Films inspire me to make things all the time; I can't watch a BBC production of a Jane Austen novel without wanting to take up embroidery.  I dreamed of pies for days after watching the movie Waitress for the first time.  For this challenge, though, I really tried to think about a movie that has inspired me in a more meaningful way.  Almost two years ago, I saw Food, Inc. on PBS.  It's one of the only films that has actually changed my life.  I have always loved food, cooking and eating it, but I just didn't give a lot of thought to how it is produced.  After seeing Food, Inc., I was inspired to learn more about the people growing my food, and the impact such production has on human health and our environment.  I started thinking about ways that my legal education could relate to food systems; I am in the middle of a year-long writing project on farm-to-school programs that integrate local food into school meals (and the ways that law can support such programs).  Through this process of becoming more a conscientious consumer, I have found farms, markets, shops, and restaurants that produce and sell the food I want to eat.  As a result, I have purses full of scraps of paper with phone numbers and business names hastily scrawled on them.  Tidbits passed along by friends.  Random business cards and pamphlets.  News clippings.  So, I decided it was time to create a better way to organize them.

I started with a basic composition notebook.  I used spray adhesive to attach a partial map of Michigan (which I hope to soon consider 'local' once again).  I wrote two phrases on the cover and drew a heart around Genesee County--home.  I used the same letter stamps I purchased for the zombie Valentines (see previous post) to stamp my notebook divider phrases (food, farms, shops, notes) on blue card stock.  I cut them out and folded them in half so that they could sandwich a piece of notebook paper in the fold.  I used packaging tape to attach the tabs on the appropriate pages.  I also stamped food categories (beef, poultry, dairy, eggs, berries, greens) on the cardstock and glued these to the cover of my notebook, a reminder of the broad array of food that we can get from within 100 miles of our homes.  Once I was satisfied with their placement, I covered the front of the notebook with clear contact paper.

I used spray adhesive to cover the first page of each section with cardstock. Then I attached an envelope to the cardstock to hold any brochures, fliers, business cards, or scraps of paper I still find necessary.  I also figured that if I carry the notebook with me, I can jot myself notes about local producers and stick them in the appropriate envelope until I have time to check them out.  Within the "food," "farms," and "shops" sections, I stamped letters (from a-z) on the tops of the pages so I could easily find the alphabetized entries.  I figured the last section, "notes," would be a place to write down the simple recipes people share at the market or promising food leads I may want to follow up on.  I'm so excited to start filling out my notebook!  It's so easy to turn a basic, cheap composition notebook into something to suit your needs.  Redecorating a room?  You could have sections for paint colors, fabrics, flooring, contractors.  Planning an event?  Need one place for family recipes?  I hope you'll make a personalized notebook to help organize your special project.  Be creative and enjoy!