Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy Blogiversary to me - 10 years!

I can't believe my blog is ten years old. My first post was on February 18, 2004 (the actual first was on the 17th but it was just a "hello world.") In that first post I lamented about having "so many projects", and I proceeded to list them. So let's see what happened to those projects:

Projects from the Past

First up was Burda 2560:

I remember this one. I made the muslin out of a striped cotton fabric from - probably paid $2.99 for it - and hated the result. The fabric was too stiff and the stripes didn't help the look. If it's not in a scrap bag somewhere, then it went into the recycling bin. After that wadder, I didn't try the pattern again, but looking at it now, 10 years later, I think it could be really nice in a drapey rayon, sueded silk or perhaps a polyester blend or a lighter weight cotton.

Next was a fake fur throw. It was already a UFO then, and it remained stuffed in my closet for probably another 8 or 9 years. Pairing a long-pile fake fur with a short-pile fake fur was a mistake. The throw was very heavy and reminded me of those lead aprons they put on you in the dentist office. Not good! So I gifted the two fabrics to my sewing friends. It was decent fake fur but sometimes when a project doesn't work, keeping the fabric is just a sad reminder of that failed idea.

Curtains for the family room. Completed! But this was just a hemming job on purchased curtains. Plus I'm embarrassed to tell you that the hems were safety-pinned for a long time before I finally sewed them.

Pillows for the family room. I never made them. I still have the fabric. I still want to make those pillows...someday.

First Quilt. Nope. Never finished. Guess I'm not really into quilting. But I can't explain why I have a lot of quilting fabric in my stash. Oh, yes I many cute prints. Plus I like the idea of quilting, but cutting lots of squares and strips and precisely stitching them with quarter inch seam allowances...not so much.

Cream and pink knitted baby dress. This UFO is still in storage somewhere. It has sentimental attachment but I think it's time for it to go. I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder...

Off white cotton sweater. In 2004 I hadn't yet gotten into knitting like I am now, meaning that I think I had this sweater and one other UFO (from the 80's!) and a few huge cones of yarn from a store closeout. My knitting stash fit in one drawer. I did finish that cotton sweater about a year later, and it was a disaster. I only had one sleeve left to do but my knitting had changed so much that the gauge was way off. No amount of pulling and tugging and blocking could get the sleeves to match. I didn't even like the darn thing at that point so I frogged it. I recycled some of the yarn as warp for some cotton placemats that I wove. Oh yeah, the placemats aren't 100% finished either. Good grief, only one of these projects was completed!

But I have made plenty of things in the 10 years since then. I won't go into all of them - I'm not even going to list my favorites because it'd take a long time to go back over everything I've made.

Why I blog:

I started blogging back when there weren't many garment sewing bloggers. There were a lot of blogs by knitters, and there were a lot of creative young women making "softies" and other such insanely adorable items and blogging about it. I liked seeing their projects and reading about them so I decided to start my own blog so I could share my creations with others...and my mom, who reads this blog faithfully (Hi Mom!)

The blog has proven itself as a great record of my sewing and knitting projects and of other events -  when I blog about them. I haven't been a very regular blogger. Looking at my archive, it seems I started strong for the first five years with an average of 68 posts per year, but then I dropped off because the next five years only had an average of 28 posts per year. Work interfered, life got busy, and other things that I couldn't post online interfered. We did a lot of remodeling of the house and although I sometimes wrote about it, I didn't want to turn the blog into a home remodeling blog. Same thing with travel. 

I actually started "blogging" wayyyyy back in 1997, but it wasn't called blogging then. I had a geocities site. Remember those? I was in the Yosemite neighborhood because we sometimes went kayaking and skiing. I used the site to post photos - digital cameras were brand new then - and I started a journal to keep my family and friends up to date on what was going on in our lives. This was before Facebook of course! The name of this blog comes from that geocities site. One of my sub-sites was our "monkeyroom" - it represented the idea of a room we would have if we had infinite space and money where we could just collect ridiculous monkey-themed stuff. Instead I collected pictures of the ridiculous monkey-themed stuff and arranged them on "shelves." Another of my sub-sites chronicled my early sewing and knitting projects.

I get visitors!

My most popular post by far is the pincushion tutorial. Oh my goodness, that post has had over 61,000 views! At a very distant second place is my post on how to fix a retractable measuring tape, with 5289 views. I occasionally hear from people that they used this info to successfully fix their tapes - woohoo! But that pincushion tutorial lives on in links all over the internet and the world, and it's on Pinterest too. I didn't blog about this (though I meant to), but a few years ago I submitted the pincushion tutorial to a request for ideas for this book...

...and it was accepted. But the submission request was only for the bonus patterns for the special edition book sold only by Barnes and Noble, so it's not in every book. I couldn't find the special edition on the Barnes and Noble site so I don't know that you can even get it anymore. After my tutorial was selected, I was sent fabric from which to make the sample pincushion, which they photographed for the book and included with all the other one-yard creations on the book tour.

I thought I took a picture of my pages from my copy of the book, but I can't find any. I don't know why I didn't blog about this when it all happened in 2011. But looking back, that was a busy year - busy at work, overseeing some major home remodeling, and we managed to squeeze some travel in too.

Speaking of travel, I've been very blessed to have the opportunities to travel like we have. Not just while we're living here, but over the last 10 years as well. I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of my favorite photographs from these trips - at least the ones I've blogged about.


I intend to keep blogging on this site and I hope you keep visiting. I know some people have switched over to Facebook or Instagram to showcase their creations, but I'm not interested. Facebook is great for short and quick posts, and that's where I usually post my travel photos first, but I only sometimes post pictures there of the things I've made. Besides, it's much easier to find my old posts here than on Facebook. I haven't explored Instagram but I don't think my brain can handle another site for sharing and organizing pieces of my life. Let's see, there's Facebook, Flickr, Ravelry, Patternreview, Twitter, LinkedIn...

But that reminds, me. I need to back this blog up. I wouldn't want this documentation of 10 years of my creative life to vanish!

Hopefully I'll get to some sewing tomorrow. I have a jacket for my nephew almost complete, and I have fabric washed and ready to cut out to make myself a robe.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A shark and a penguin

Last year when we went skiing with our friends and their two boys, we saw a skier wearing a helmet cover that was an animal of some sort (I can't remember what it was). Anyway, my friends know I sew, and they casually asked if I could make such a thing. "Of course!" I said, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. "What animals do you want?" The younger boy wanted a penguin and the older boy wanted a shark. I do try to follow up on my promises.

The boys, aged 7 and 10, loved them, and they received comments galore on the slopes. Nearly every lift operator said something (or at least smiled in delight) as well as other skiers. We were skiing in France, and my French isn't very good so I didn't exclaim that I made them or anything like that. In addition to being a fun accessory for the boys, the unique covers made the boys very easy to spot on the slopes. For part of the day, the younger boy skied behind me, matching me turn for turn, proclaiming that "Penguin is ready!" when he was ready to ski again after a break.

I used the Green Pepper "Tuck Away Balaclava", pattern number 550 as a starting point for making the ski helmet covers. The fabric for the penguin is microfleece from Joann's with 2-way stretch. Joann's was out of the gray microfleece so I used some wickaway fabric with fleece on one side that I had in my stash. It's 4-way stretch, which was a good thing because the older boy's helmet was quite rounded and actually larger than my own helmet, which I used to help size the covers during construction.

The only difficulty with the covers is that they easily slide off of the slick helmets, especially when the goggles are moved up onto the helmet. I made two slits in the back of each cover so that the straps that help secure the goggles could go through the covers as well. No one wanted to lose these covers in a brisk wind! My husband came up with a great suggestion to add some elastic on the inside of the covers - I would use either clear elastic because it has some tackiness or the grippy elastic that I've used on the bottom edge of bicycle shorts I made for my husband years ago. So I might borrow the helmet covers back to make this modification. But all in all, I think they turned out great. My friends think I should go into business making them - easy to say but I'm not sure I want to turn my sewing hobby into a business. Besides, the helmet covers certainly aren't a novel idea. I searched for "helmet covers" online and found plenty of images to help me construct these.

Here are some more pictures and my full review:

Ski helmet covers  Ski helmet covers
Ski helmet covers

Ski helmet covers

Pattern Description: Tuck Away Balaclava - Hat with optional face mask that can be tucked up inside hat

Pattern Sizing: XS (20" head) through XL (24" head)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? A little, but I modified the hat part and made the balaclava part separate.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I used them initially for the hat to test it on the helmet and I found them very easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It gave me a good starting point for the helmet covers. I used the largest size because these fit over the helmets.

Fabric Used: Microfleece for the black and white, a microfleece wickaway for the gray (from my stash) and an IKEA fleece blanket for the little bit of orange. The IKEA fleece was stiff and not very useful for anything else, so I used the rest to make bags for the boys' helmets.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I sewed up the hat and after pin fitting it to the helmet, I reduced the size and rounded off the top of the hat considerably. I determined that the balaclava wouldn't work attached to the hat because it would also be too large and stand away from the face too much to be effective. So to make the balaclava separate, I extended the back of it so that it would meet behind the head. Not knowing the exact size to fit the boys, I made it attach with Velcro rather than be one continuous piece. This will make it much easier to put on and take off when their helmets are on. For the other parts (shark fin, teeth, beak, etc.), I made paper patterns first to get the size and shape I wanted. Fleece doesn't fray but it can get a little ragged at the cut edges, so for some pieces I cut two and seamed them and then straight stitched it on top or included it in a seam. For other pieces, like the eyes, I cut a single layer of fleece and zigzagged close to the edge. The shark fin is stuffed with some fleece scraps and then I had to do some hand sewing to make the base a little wider since just sewing it in the top seam of the hat made it flop too much.