Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! It took 30+ shots, but we finally managed to take an acceptable photo of our first real Christmas tree. We haven't collected many interesting ornaments yet so we just bought a lot of balls (not very exciting, but they do the job!).

I've been working on my first major project with my new sewing machine and I think I've bitten off more than I can chew! I can't say more than that right now since it's a gift for a friend but, assuming I'm able to finish it (and I'm not too embarrassed by the finished product!), it will probably be my first post of the new year!

Non-crafty website of the day: The Flick Filosopher. This is the website of MaryAnn Johanson, a film critic from New York City. I'm always on the lookout for critics who share my taste in movies, and when I read her review of Master and Commander I knew she had excellent judgement! We only seem to differ when it comes to Judd Apatow films - she hates them, I like them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Furoshiki - Japanese Cloth Gift Wrap

Prompted by an article in Shojo Beat magazine, I decided to use furoshiki to wrap gifts to my family this Christmas. Furoshiki, originally from Japan, are reusable cloth squares of various sizes that are used to wrap objects.
To make my furoshiki I used an inexpensive cotton fabric in a pattern that was not too Christmas-y, so they could be used again for other holidays or birthdays. I started out sewing them using instructions from a blog called Mommy Cooks. But hemming so many squares was taking forever (fold, press, fold, press, unfold, clip, fold, press, sew!) so I switched to sewing a straight stitch near the edge of the square and clipping close to it. Not as neat, but much faster!
I have also discovered that bandanas/handkerchiefs make good furoshiki for smaller items, though they can be a bit more expensive than making your own. You can find them at craft stores or even Wal-mart, which usually puts out Christmas-themed bandanas before the holidays in the purse section. At Wal-mart they're normally $1.00, but because they're not kept with the rest of the Christmas items in the store they often go unnoticed and there are usually a lot left by the time they have their 75% off after Christmas sales. I can pick up whatever they have left for $0.25 each.
To fold and tie the furoshiki, I followed an instructional sheet (in English) from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment. I then made an easier-to-print version of the instructional sheet (the original is white text on a green background) and included a copy when I mailed my gifts, so the recipients would be able to reuse the furoshiki.
As you can see from the instructional sheet I used the Otsukai Tsutsumi (basic carry wrap) for most of the gifts, but I was able to do the cool-looking Hon Tsutsumi (two books carry wrap) for one gift!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quick Hanging Christmas Card Holder

I made this hanging Christmas card holder Friday afternoon - mostly on my back patio, as you can tell from some of the photos in the instructions!

Project Name: Quick Hanging Christmas Card Holder
Time Taken to Finish: 1 hour
Materials Used: 10 clothespins, 6-7 feet of decorative gold cord, gold spray paint, 10 miniature ornaments
Special Tools Used: hot glue gun
What I Liked About the Project: Super fast!
What I Didn't Like About the Project: If I did it again I might use red or green spray paint (or both!). The gold doesn't stand out as much as I would've liked - it almost looks like I didn't paint them at all.


1. Spray paint the clothespins.

I wanted 10 pins for my card holder, so I sprayed 12 pins (in case I messed up). Feel free to make more if you want a longer card holder. Be sure to paint all sides of the pins and let them dry thoroughly.

2. Use the hot glue gun to attach the miniature ornaments to the clothespins.

The ornaments I used

They look like they're made of Sculpey. If you can't find miniature ornaments you could also use fake holly or other small Christmas decorations. After removing the hangers from the ornaments, run a bead of hot glue down the back of the ornament and then place it on the clothespin (the mouth of the pin should be facing down). Once it is in place, press the ornament to the clothespin firmly and hold until it has cooled.

Ornament glued to the clothespin

All the completed clothespins

3. Tie the clothespins to the cord, about 6-7 inches apart. You don't have to tie them on, but if you're using a thin cord like I did they may slide around. If you do tie them on, make sure that the decorated sides of the clothespins are all facing the same way.

Clothespin tied to cord

4. Finally, tie a loop at each end of the cord and use thumb tacks or nails to hang your Christmas card holder from the wall!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Peppermint Felt Christmas Tree Skirt

Here's a very basic Christmas tree skirt I finished today, along with my poor lumpy fiber optic tree. I was going for a peppermint-stripe effect!

Project Name: Peppermint Christmas Tree Skirt
Time Taken to Finish: 3 days
Materials Used: at least 2 yards of white felt, less than 1 yard of red felt, white thread, read thread
Special Tools Used: sewing machine
What I Liked About the Project: The sewing went really fast with my new machine.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: Arranging the stripes on the skirt - it took forever to get them spaced correctly.


1. Cut a large circle out of the white felt (as big as possible). To do this, I followed steps 1 and 2 of these tree skirt instructions on I would recommend practicing the circle-cutting technique on some paper or scrap material first, until you are sure you can do it correctly. The first few times I tried it on a piece of paper I messed up badly. Once I ended up with two half circles and another time I ended up with two identical smaller circles! Once you have cut out the large circle, keep it folded for the next step.

2. With the large circle still folded, use the same technique from the step above to mark and cut out a circle with 3.5 inch radius in the center of the large circle. This will be where the trunk of the tree goes.

3. Use a ruler to mark a straight line connecting the outer edge of the skirt to the hole in the middle. Cut along this line to make a slit so the skirt can be opened up. Now you have a basic solid-color tree skirt (note that none of my diagrams are to scale):

4. Cut out inch-wide stripes from the red felt. They need to be long enough to go from the outer edge to the hole in the middle, with a couple of extra inches so you have some room to work with. In my skirt this distance was about 23 inches so I made my stripes about 26 inches long. Since the yardstick I have is about an inch wide, I just lined up one side of it with an edge of the felt and then cut down the other side. Cut out as many stripes as you'd like - I made 15.

5. Pin the stripes on the skirt. For me this was the hardest part! It took a long time to space them evenly. They are spaced about .75 inches (3/4 of an inch) apart at the top and about 10 inches apart at the bottom. Pin the stripe to the skirt, making sure that you have an inch or so of stripe overhanging the skirt at both the top and bottom.

6. Sew down the sides of each stripe, but do not sew across the top and bottom yet. I used white thread to sew a zig-zag on each side of the stripe. Trim your threads (but not the excess red felt yet!).

7. After all the stripes are sewn down, use red thread to sew around the entire inner and outer edges of the skirt (see diagram). Again, I did a zig-zag stitch. This will give the skirt a decorative edge as well as sewing down the tops and bottoms of the stripes. Trim your threads, then trim the excess red felt so that the edges are even with the edges of the skirt. You're done!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My new sewing machine!

My new sewing machine is a Viking Platinum 755 Quilt. I bought it at a store called Sew What's New in Las Cruces, New Mexico (they also have a store in El Paso). Even though it was heavily discounted (because most of the Platinum line is being replaced with the Sapphire line), it still cost twice as much as we were planning to spend! Hopefully it will end up being worth it.

Before I actually visited any shops my two top choices for manufacturers were Viking and Bernina. But after seeing dealers for both, I found that the Bernina machines were more expensive and had fewer of the features that I wanted. At the Viking store I was torn between the Emerald 183 and the Platinum 755 Quilt. They had almost identical features and the prices were pretty close (the Emerald was a bit cheaper). I eventually decided on the Platinum 755, mainly because it was manufactured in Sweden and has a 20 year warranty (the Emerald 183 was made in Taiwan and had a 10 year warranty).

Roni Hardin, one of the owners of Sew What's New, must have spent over 3 hours helping me pick this machine and then showing me how to use it. I even came to her with a page of questions I thought of while researching on the internet and she very patiently answered every one. If you're looking for a sewing machine in the Las Cruces/El Paso area I would definitely recommend visiting her store!

Now that I have my new machine, I can finally finish the Christmas tree skirt I started last week. I'll do a post about it as soon as it's done.

Crafty blog of the day: Property of Kelly. Written by a graphic designer, it features her adorable illustrations as well as the occasional craft or cooking project.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cool Sewing and Crafting Cart

I just bought a really neat sewing/crafting cart at Walmart! It goes from this:

To this:

We saw it advertised in Walmart's Black Friday circular where it was priced at $75. It was listed as "Sewing Craft Table." I really wanted it but I couldn't get excited about having to fight people on Friday morning to get it. However, I went to Walmart this morning and they already had it at that price! If you're interested, I found it in the fabric department on a shelf below the sewing machines. It's manufactured by Sauder and the product number on the box is 9707-150. Walmart also has it listed online where it's currently selling for $97.42.

It took me about 2 hours to assemble by myself. Compared to other self-assembly furniture instructions I've tried to follow, these directions were detailed and well written. Also, all of the pieces of wood had identifying numbers stamped or stickered onto them so I didn't have to guess which piece was which.

Here's the cart with all my supplies in it:

You can even store your sewing machine on the little shelf in the middle when you're not using it:

That's the only thing I find awkward about it - it's difficult to put my machine down there, and it's a featherweight. Someone with a heavier machine might have trouble getting it down there without dropping it.

I'm so glad I found this - I no longer have to do all my sewing on our living room floor! Now I can wheel the cart out when I need it and push it back against the wall when I'm done.

Here's Lucy checking out the cart:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Advent Calendar Part 3 - Complete Instructions

Note: This is the third of three posts about how I made my felt Advent calendar. For information on how I came up with the idea see Part 1; for information on how I made the ornaments see Part 2.

The completed Advent calendar

I've included instructions below if you're interested in making your own calendar. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment. And if you make a calendar let me know - I'd love to see photos!

Supplies for the calendar:
- 1 yard red felt
- 1/2 yard green felt
- scrap of brown felt
- sew-on Velcro (the prickly side)
- white, red, green, and brown thread
- white felt pre-cut numbers (Numerals should be about 1 inch wide by 1.5 inches tall. If you're like me and don't have access to pre-cut numbers, you can cut out your own using sheets of white felt and number stencils.)
- felt glue (I used Beacon's Felt Glue)
- 3/8 inch diameter dowel, cut to 18 inches long
- spray paint, gold or other Christmas color
- cord, gold or other Christmas color (will need about 2 feet)
- old newspaper
- transfer webbing (Optional but recommended. This is an adhesive webbing that helps the tree stick to the background. If you can't find this, you can use felt glue.)

Tools for the calendar:
- sewing machine (Recommended, but it could be done without one)
- rulers and/or yardstick
- scissors or rotary cutter
- chalk or other removable fabric pen or pencil (for marking on the felt)
- pins
- drill

In making my calendar I also created my own ornaments that attach to it using Velcro. If you do not want to make your own ornaments you could buy ornaments and attach Velcro to them. You could also buy ornaments with loop hangers on them and hang them from buttons, bells, or beads sewn to the calendar in place of the Velcro.

For help making your own ornaments, please view Advent Calendar Part 2 - Ornament Instructions. For information on my inspiration for this calendar, please see Advent Calendar Part 1 - The Plan.

Instructions for the Advent Calendar:

1. Cut out the body of the calendar. Cut out a piece of red felt that is 34 inches long by 15.5 inches wide. This will be the body/background of the calendar. Be careful that your cuts are straight, as the edges of the calendar will be unfinished. This is where a rotary cutter might come in handy!

2. Make a tube for the dowel (see diagram). Measure and mark two inches from the top of the calendar. Fold the top backwards to the mark to make the tube. Pin the top in place and then sew the tube closed.

2. Cut out the panels for the pockets. Cut out 4 pieces of red felt that are 15.5 inches long by 2.5 inches wide. These will become the pockets of the calendar.

3. Make a pattern for the tree. Take a folded sheet of newspaper and measure 16 inches along the fold, marking each end. From the top, mark every three inches until you have 5 marks. You should still have one inch between your fifth mark and the bottom. Each mark will be one "branch" along the side of the tree. At the first mark, draw a line 3 inches long, perpendicular to the fold. At the next mark draw a line 4 inches long. Continue drawing lines at the marks one inch longer than the last until you have made a 7 inch line at the fifth mark. Now draw in the outline of the half tree. While the newspaper is still folded, cut along your outline. If you're confused, I think the image below pretty much explains this entire step:

4. Open up the tree pattern and pin it to the green felt. Cut out the felt tree.

5. Using the brown felt, cut out a stump for the tree. It should be about 3.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches high.

You should now have the main pieces of your calendar ready:

(Don't worry about the Velcro yet - I took this photo after completing step 8.)

6. Make sure everything fits. Arrange the pieces on the body of the calendar to make sure that there is room for all of them. The bottom pocket panel should line up with the lower edge of the body and each subsequent panel should be placed 1/2 inch above the last. The tree and stump should fit between the top pocket and the tube for the dowel. If your tree is too big, you will need to remake it so that it fits. If everything fits, keep the tree piece out and put the rest aside.

7. Cut and position Velcro on tree (If you are going to use buttons/bells/beads instead of Velcro on your tree, you may skip to step 9.) Cut 24 small squares of Velcro. Save the fuzzy sides for the ornaments, and arrange the prickly sides on the tree. Space them as far apart as possible, but leave room for sewing around the edges of the tree. Once you have the Velcro squares where you like them, pick them up and mark their position with a chalk dot.

8. Sew the Velcro on the tree. Using the sewing machine, sew a square of Velcro over each chalk dot. Trim the thread ends neatly.

9. Sew the pockets to the body of the calendar. Line up the first pocket panel with the bottom of the calendar body and pin it in place. Using the sewing machine, start at the top right corner of the piece and sew a 1/4 inch seam down the right side, across the entire bottom, and back up the left side. Leave the top of the pocket open. During this step, the felt in the pocket piece may stretch so that it hangs over the edge of the body. If this happens, just trim the excess.

Starting at the left seam of the pocket panel, measure and mark a vertical line every 2.5 inches. Sew along each line to create six individual pockets.

Repeat step 9 for the other three pocket panels. Be sure to place the bottom of the next panel 1/2 inch above the top of the panel underneath it. When marking the individual pockets, check to see that they line up with the pockets underneath them.

10. Use felt glue or transfer webbing to attach the tree to the body of the calendar. I didn't use glue so all I can suggest is to apply it thinly on the back of the tree and position it carefully on the calendar. If you want to use transfer webbing, here are the instructions:

Following the instructions that came with the webbing, use a dry iron to attach the rough side of the webbing to the back side of the tree. Since the Velcro makes the back of the tree uneven, make sure you press into all the crevasses:

Next, trim the paper from the webbing so that it is the same shape as the tree:

Peel the paper from the webbing:

If the webbing does not separate from the paper, go over the area again with the iron.

Position the tree on the calendar body, webbing side down. Make sure it is exactly where you want it. Get a thin clean towel and wet it thoroughly. Wring it well so there is no excess water. Place the towel over the tree and iron slowly:

The water from the towel will cause the webbing to stick to the calendar body. Iron through the towel over the entire tree. Re-wet the towel if needed. Check to make sure that all parts of the tree are sticking to the body. If a part is not sticking, go over it again with the towel and iron.

11. Repeat step 10 to attach the stump below the tree.

12. Sew the edges of the tree and stump to the calendar. To reinforce the glue or webbing, use your green and brown thread to sew around the edges of the tree and stump. Sew as close as possible to the edge of the felt. Trim thread ends neatly.

12 1/2. If you decided to use buttons, bells, or beads to hang the ornaments, this would be the time when you could sew 24 of whichever to the tree.

13. Glue numbers to the pockets. If you need to cut out the numbers, use the stencils and white felt to do so. You will need the following amounts of each number:

1 = 13
2 = 8
3 = 3
4 = 3
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0 = 2 each

When you are ready to glue your numbers to the calendar, position them all on their appropriate pocket to make sure you have them in the correct place (Once the glue has dried they will be extremely difficult to remove). Use a toothpick to spread a thin coat of the felt glue over the back of each number. Smooth the number into place on the pocket.. Don't press too hard or the glue will smoosh out the sides. Once the numbers have dried carefully re-glue any loose edges.

14. Make the hanging apparatus for the calendar. If you haven't already done so, cut the dowel so it is 18 inches long. Drill a hole through the diameter of the dowel 1/2 an inch from each end (the hole needs to be big enough for your cord to pass through).

Sand any rough spots from the dowel. Spray paint the dowel. After it dries, put the dowel in the tube on the calendar. Run the cord through the holes and tie a knot in each end.

14. Ta-da, you're finished with the calendar! For help making ornaments, please view my Advent Calendar Part 2 - Ornament Instructions.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Advent Calendar Part 2 - Ornament Instructions

Note: This is the second of three posts about how I made my felt Advent calendar. For information on how I came up with the idea see Part 1; for instructions on how to make the calendar itself see Part 3.

I finally finished all 24 ornaments for the Advent calendar!

Actually, since I'm making 3 identical calendars it was a total of 72 ornaments!

Supplies for the ornaments:
- sheets of felt (various colors)
- embroidery floss (various colors)
- sew-on Velcro (the fuzzy size)
- batting
- white thread

Tools for the ornaments:
- sewing machine (to attach Velcro to ornament - this could be done by hand)
- large embroidery needle
- scissors

Here's how I made the ornaments:

1. I first came up with a pattern for each ornament. They had to be smaller than 2 inches square so they would fit into the pockets on the calendar. For the easier shapes, such as the heart or the letters, I drew the pattern myself. For the harder shapes, I used Google image search to find a picture of a stencil or cookie cutter in the shape I needed. I downloaded the image and re-sized it so that it was smaller than 2 inches square. I then printed and cut out it out to use as a pattern.

2. I pinned the pattern to two stacked sheets of felt. I then cut out the pattern on both sheets at the same time, creating one front and one back of the ornament.

3. Using my sewing machine, I attached a square of Velcro (the fuzzy side) to the back side of the ornament. I saved the "prickly" side of the Velcro in a ziploc since I would need it later for the tree.

4. Next I used embroidery floss to sew the front and back of the ornament together (right sides out). Before I completely sewed it shut, I stuffed a small amount of batting into it. As you can see from the photos I used several different stitches. Since I don't know much about stitches, I just experimented until I found ones that looked good. The blanket stitch (see "NOEL" letters) worked fine for simple shapes. On more complex shapes I used a running stitch (see the reindeer) or a split stitch (best seen on the car or the mitten).

Next I'll be working on the calendar itself. I'm guessing the hardest part will be making the felt numbers for the 24 days. By my calculations that will be 117 individual numerals to cut out!

Update 11/18/07: I finished the entire calendar! For photos and instructions, please see Advent Calendar Part 3 - Complete Instructions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni Recipe

My husband and I have been searching for an alternative to pre-packaged Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni.  In the past we tried making it from a Campbell's soup recipe and it was not a success.  I came up with the recipe you see below and we tested it last night.  While it wasn't an exact match for the original, it tasted pretty good.  Since we used turkey, I added beef bullion to give it a beefy taste.  I can't be sure exactly how many cups per serving we ended up with, but it made enough for two large platefuls.


- 1/2 package Jennie-O extra lean ground turkey (about 10 oz)
- 4 oz Ronzoni Smart Taste macaroni (a high fiber pasta)
- One 10 3/4 oz can of Campbell's Condensed Cheddar Cheese soup
- 1/2 cube Knorr beef bullion
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 4 oz fat free milk

Prepare salted water for macaroni.  While wating for water to come to a rapid boil, brown the ground turkey according to package directions.  Drain turkey (if necessary).  Dissolve bullion cube in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  When salted water is at a rolling boil, put macaroni in and return to boil.  Boil macaroni for about 7 minutes or to taste.  While macaroni is boiling, add cheese soup, beef broth, and milk to the turkey.  Simmer for about 7 minutes (while waiting for macaroni to be done).  When macaroni is ready, drain it and add it to turkey mixture.  Stir and serve.

Note:  Most hamburger helper style recipes have you add the uncooked macaroni to the meat and sauce mixture and simmer it.  I've had problems getting the pasta fully cooked this way, so I just made the macaroni separately.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Advent Calendar Part 1 - The Plan

Note: This is the first of three posts about how I made my felt Advent calendar. For information on how I made the ornaments see Part 2; for instructions on how to make the calendar itself see Part 3.

The project I'm currently working on is an Advent calendar (a calendar that counts down the days until Christmas). I'm using my family's Advent calendar as a guide - it was made for us by my paternal grandmother many years ago.

The original Advent calendar (showing the ornaments)

The original Advent calendar (showing the pockets)

Unfortunately, due to the lack of crafting resources in my area, I'm having to deviate from the original quite a bit. The only sequins I could find in town were white and purple, so I'm having to go without. I was also unable to find red felt by the yard so I'm going to have a white felt background instead. Since the ornaments were my biggest problem I've started on them first. Here are a few of the better ones:

Hopefully they're all recognizable! If not, here they are clockwise from the bottom right: gingerbread man, candy cane, heart, star, snowflake and Christmas tree (in the center). They are made of two pieces of felt, stuffed with batting and with Velcro on the back. I used embroidery floss to sew the pieces together.

The sewing is pretty easy. The hard part is coming up with 24 different recognizable ornaments. Since I'm no good at embroidering details on them (I've tried, but it looks awful!), they have to be identifiable by their shape alone. I'm using the ornaments on the original Advent calendar as inspiration, but some of them would lose their meaning without the details sew on.

So far the other ornaments I have planned are: bell, candle, apple, piece of candy, car, train, ornament (you know, the old fashioned glass ones that are shaped like a turnip), and the letters in NOEL. That brings me to 17, so if anyone has suggestions for other ornaments, I'd love to hear them!

Update 11/15/07: I've finished all the ornaments! For photos and instructions, please see Advent Calendar Part 2 - Ornament Instructions.

Update 11/18/07: I've completed the entire calendar! For photos and instructions, please see Advent Calendar Part 3 - Complete Instructions.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Severus Snape Pumpkin

In honor of the release of the final Harry Potter book this year I decided to carve Professor Severus Snape (as portrayed by Alan Rickman).

Here's the unlit pumpkin, just so you know it's not a Photoshop job:

Last year I did a Jack Sparrow Pumpkin. I think this year's is a bit better. One reason may be that I followed some online instructions on how to make a pattern with Photoshop (instead of making up my own by hand). Another reason may be that I used a Funkin (an artificial carvable pumpkin) instead of a real pumpkin. The carving wasn't really any easier, especially since the "flesh" of the Funkin was thick, hard foam. To get the intermediate shade (orange), I had to cut open the back of the pumpkin and spend several hours with a Dremel tool to make the "flesh" thin enough for light to shine through. Despite the extra work, I think the Funkin gives a cleaner result and best of all it doesn't rot!

Jack Aubrey Costume

Jack Aubrey costume with jacket

Jack Aubrey costume without jacket

Here's the details on the Jack Aubrey costume that I wore to our Halloween party. I made this costume based on the everyday uniform worn by Russell Crowe in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I made everything but the boots from scratch. Below, I'll cover each part of the costume individually.

Update 5/22/08: If you're interested in more costumes from the Master and Commander movie then please check out my photos and drawings of several outfits on display at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Update 9/18/12: Check out some photos of a no-sew Jack Aubrey costume here.


Project Name: Jack Aubrey costume - jacket
Time Taken to Finish: 2 weeks
Pattern: Modified from McCall's 4626, size Men's Small *(See update at bottom of page)Materials Used: Blue polar fleece, cream heavy weight cotton knit (for lining, same fabric used for vest and pants), 3/4 inch buttons, gold fabric, gold fringe, fusible interfacing, blue and gold thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: So that it would resemble Jack's jacket, I modified the McCall's pattern by adding the fold-over lapels (where the buttons are) and removing part of the jacket below the lapels. I made the epaulettes (shoulder decoration) separately and sewed them on at the end. The buttons were cheap white ones that I spray painted gold (the same with all the other buttons in the costume).
What I Liked About the Project: Of all the costume pieces, the jacket took the longest to make but I think it turned out great. It was surprisingly comfortable.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: The weight of the lapels often caused them to roll back and show the lining of the jacket. The epaulettes could have been a little bigger. I wanted to use real brass anchor buttons but it would've cost me around $40 to get them. The spray painted buttons look fine, but those on the sleeves are already starting to get scratched.


Project Name: Jack Aubrey costume - vest
Time Taken to Finish: 1 week
Pattern: Modified from McCall's 4626, and McCall's 4864 size Men's Small *(See update at bottom of page)
Materials Used: Cream heavy weight cotton knit, 5/8 inch buttons, fusible interfacing, cream thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: I started with the pirate vest (McCall's 4626) and modified the pattern by giving it a high neckline. I did that by adding the neckline from the McCall's 4864 colonial jacket pattern to the pirate vest pattern. I also made the vest significantly shorter. Since I don't have a buttonhole maker, I originally considered using sew-in snaps hidden under the buttons. But the snaps could not be hidden well, so I broke down and made real buttonholes by hand.
What I Liked About the Project: Considering that I had never sewn a buttonhole of any kind before, I think they looked very good.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: I wish that I had used sew-in interfacing instead of fusible interfacing. The fusible interfacing under the buttons caused the fabric to ripple. Since the vest was lined in the same fabric as the outside, I was able to turn it so that the ripples were on the inside.


Project Name:
Jack Aubrey costume - pants
Time Taken to Finish: 2 days
Pattern: McCall's 4864 size Men's Medium *(See update at bottom of page)
Materials Used: Cream heavy weight cotton knit, 5/8 inch buttons, fusible interfacing, cream thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: I sewed the pants according to the pattern. The only change I made was in the number of buttons on the legs of the pants.
What I Liked About the Project: It was fast! The pants were the easiest part of the costume to make.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: I should've made the small size instead of the medium, because I had to pin the pants to keep them sitting at my natural waist. Since the pants were white-colored and unlined, they were practically see-through so I had to wear white tights underneath them. Even then you could still see the tucked-in shirt tail clearly through the pants.


Project Name: Jack Aubrey costume - shirt
Time Taken to Finish: 3 days
Pattern: McCall's 4864
size Men's Small *(See update at bottom of page)
Materials Used: White light weight polyester, 5/8 inch buttons, sew-in interfacing, white thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: I also sewed the shirt according to the pattern. Again, I hand-sewed the buttonholes on the neck and wrist.
What I Liked About the Project: The fabric is light and comfortable.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: The shirt was the last thing I sewed and I did not have time to figure out how to add ruffles to the neck (as Jack's shirt has). Also, the shirt tail needs to be made shorter because there is too much to tuck in.

Captain Aubrey in action!
* Update 8/22/08: I just found out that McCall has discontinued both of the patterns I used in my costume (4626 and 4864). They're still available in the "Out of Print" area of their website but I'm sure they won't be around much longer. However, I recently ran across Butterick pattern B3072 which is really a better match for all the pieces in the costume than the McCall patterns. The Butterick pattern has the jacket, vest, shirt and pants all in one package. If you're looking to make your own Jack Aubrey costume I would definitely suggest starting there!
Update 10/4/08: I've uploaded several high resolution close-up photos of the jacket. You can see them here:

Gregory House Costume

Kevin and I hosted a Halloween party this year, which gave me an excuse to wear a costume!  I went as Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).  Kevin went as Dr. Gregory House from House MD

The Gregory House costume was pretty simple since Kevin already had the jacket, shirt, jeans, and sneakers.  For House's Vicodin, I got an old pill bottle and put Tic-Tacs in it.  The only part of the costume I actually made was his flame cane (see project description below).  I searched all the area thrift stores trying to find a wooden cane but no luck.  The drug stores had metal canes but they were expensive.  They actually sell the real flame cane online at several cane stores (only about $25) so if I had the time I guess I could've ordered one.  But since Kevin was only going to use it for one evening it wasn't really worth it!

Project Name: Gregory House's flame cane
Time Taken to Finish: 5 hours (not including drying time)
Materials Used: A 7/8 inch wooden dowel (cut to the correct length for Kevin), a ping pong ball, a black 7/8 inch rubber chair tip/foot, black spray paint, clear coat gloss spray paint, acrylic gesso, red, orange, and yellow acrylic paints, white glue
Special Tools Used: drill, paint brushes
What I Did: To make the knob on the top of the cane, I cut a 7/8 inch hole in the ping pong ball with the drill.  It was hard to do and the hole was a little ragged but it was adequate.  I put a generous amount of white glue on one end of the dowel and stuck the ping pong ball over that end.  I then spray painted the whole thing black.  Once the spray paint dried, I used chalk to draw the flame decal on the lower end of the dowel.  I then painted in the chalk outline with gesso (basically a white primer).  Without the gesso, the black would've shown through the yellow on the flames.  Then I painted the flames over the gesso.  I let that dry and then gently wiped it down with a wet paper towel to remove the chalk and other debris.  Next I spray painted the whole thing again with several coats of the clear gloss.  I let it dry overnight, then added the rubber chair foot.
What I Liked About the Project: I think the flames turned out alright, considering I painted them at about 11 p.m.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: I really would've preferred a "crook" cane (hooked top like a candy cane) for accuracy, but they were too hard to come by and, with my experience, would've been impossible to make!

Since the Jack Aubrey costume was so complicated, I think I'll give it it's own post.

P.S. - If anyone noticed our blooper, Kevin has the cane in his left hand but House actually holds his cane on his right.  But since I have never seen Kevin wear so much as a funny hat, his wearing a full costume was a unusual event and I wasn't going to push it by telling him to switch hands!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ugly Blanket, Cute Kitty

Project Name: Ugly Blanket
Time Taken to Finish: 4 days
Type of Yarn Used: All my bulky weight leftovers, mostly Lion Brand Chenille and Red Heart Light and Lofty
Amount of Yarn Used: Hard to say...probably the equivalent of 3 to 4 skeins
Needles Used: US size 35 needles
What I Liked About the Project: The big needles made it a very fast knit for the size - I had originally started out with size 13 needles and only managed to knit about 5 inches in two days!  At that rate I probably wouldn't have finished it before Christmas, so I bought some bigger needles and started over.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: The big holes in the Lion Brand Chenille rows (blue and green).  That yarn seemed to knit more loosely than the Red Heart Light and Lofty (cream and orange) and the Lion Brand Baby Chenille (purple).

I decided to make this blanket when I was trying to think of a project that wouldn't involve small needles (they give me hand cramps) and would use up some of my leftover yarn.  I think the mixture of clashing colors and its gaping holes make it obvious why I call it ugly.  But it's soft and (mostly) warm, and Lucy enjoys getting her claws into it.

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