Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Project Update: Kitty Rug

Well, I finished the latch-hook pattern this past Monday, just a few days later than I had expected. It reminded me of painting by numbers, but I still think it's cute. I'm not sure when I'll get to turn it into a rug (I'll need to do some research first), but I wanted to show you the completed pattern. I have no idea what the red thing hanging on its neck is supposed to be, since it doesn't look like a collar or a bow. Any other ideas? O_o

xo, Gladys

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gifted Quilt

I don't come from a crafting family. My parents and siblings were/are accountants, MBAs, and educators with artistic talents in dancing and singing. None of us grew up sewing clothes, making origami or homemade cards, or even playing instruments. It's only since I met my now-husband (almost fifteen years ago when we were basically still kids) that I became interested in making things with my hands. Right after we married, a friend taught both of us the basics of knitting. I kept making the same easy and boring pattern -- a little triangle shawl -- while he figured out how to make the most incredibly-complicated patterns. When he found the pattern he wanted, a beautiful and very large Irish shawl, he set about making it, spending almost a year knitting and knitting and knitting it until it was finished. He gave that piece of art to his mother.

This made a lot of sense because she's the reason for his crafting heart. He was a Boy Scout, built model and RC airplanes, went to summer crafting programs, grew up with a piano in the house (he took lessons, and two of his older brothers excelled at piano), played the trombone, and entered adulthood with a general and constant desire to learn new things to do and make with his hands --  mostly because of his mom. Over the years I've known him, he has taken up not just knitting, but also origami and wood-working, and he has made some amazing things. He made me a beautiful secret box on my birthday a couple of years ago that I will have to show off here one day; it has a tiny teal-colored rock that he shaped into a heart and set into the wood. I'll also find a photo of that shawl he made for his mother.

His mom grew up poor, so she had to learn how to sew her own clothes. When she retired from teaching, she took on quilting and has since made dozens and dozens of fantastic quilts every year. We have at least seven or eight of her quilts, some of them just "practice" or random patterns she decided to try out. She makes a quilt for each new baby in her extended family. This past weekend, she gave us a new quilt as a housewarming gift, a bedspread. Late last year, after I chose the pattern I liked, she and I picked out the materials together, and the final product turned out beautifully.

Here are some details of the pattern:

I swear, these pictures don't do it justice. The maroons and purples are vibrant against the greens and pinks, and they give the classic pattern an edge that I love. Both soothing and energizing at the same time. I also love the individual patterns of the different fabrics; the paisley one is my favorite. My husband remarked that he didn't realize how much he missed colors in our bedroom until we replaced our old comforter with the new bedspread. I was thinking exactly the same thing. Since we moved in just a few months ago, we haven't done anything with our bedroom. But now I'm totally inspired to fill the walls with complementary art pieces!

xo, Gladys

P.S. We woke up to find snow covering the backyard and melting from the roof. I guess winter came to southern California overnight. It did rain a bit yesterday, but now it's lovely this afternoon, super bright and sunny with a crisp cool breeze. I don't think California knows what winter means.

Monday, February 27, 2012

15 of 30: Red Sweater

Ah, another 30 for 30 outfit. Finally! It's been so long since the last one that you can see how much my hair has grown.

I've been meaning to post a photo of this sweater for the past month; it isn't one of the 30 for 30 items, but I threw it on to get it in the photo. I got it on clearance from ModCloth, and boy was it worth it! Shape-wise, it's rather dowdy and meant to be oversized, but the color and pattern definitely bring it out of the realm of dowdy. The red isn't too bright for my eyes, and I like how the stripe pattern isn't uniform in width. I've gotten compliments on how interesting it is. Most importantly, it is very soft and enveloping, just the kind of comfort I need during cool-weather days or when it gets cold indoors in the evenings.

Sweater: Motel Rocks via ModCloth | Tunic: Dani via Amazon | Belt: thrifted | Skinny jeans: a.n.a. via JC Penney | Socks: Sockdreams | Flats: Blowfish via TJ Maxx

And here I am showing a different side of my personality (hubby was behind the camera, and we were, er, bantering):

xo, Gladys

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Snapshots

Lovely Stellaluna

Chili cheese baked potato

Frittata filling: liverwurst, spinach, arugula, tomato (fresh and sun-dried), onion, parsley

Freshly-baked frittata


Snow in the backyard, on a random day

Snow in the front yard

Honey-balsamic pork chops, ready for broiling

Unripe mango and Tajin chili seasoning

Kiddo hiding in the pruned-off leaves

New haircut, just in time for his 4th birthday

xo, Gladys

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Major Distractions

So it's Saturday. I wrote in the last post that I'd finish my latch-hook cat rug "barring any major distractions." In the past few days, I managed to do a few more lines on the rug, but well, several major distractions actually did sideswipe my good intentions.

First was the kiddo getting sick on Tuesday. He vomited in the car on the way to preschool so we had to stop by our nearest friend's house to clean him up a bit before going back home. He threw up again a little bit afterwards but managed to keep bread and some water down. He said he felt perfectly fine the whole day. I think it was a combination of several things: 1) he overate that morning, chasing a bunch of beef jerky with a cup of milk then topping those off with some nuts and M&Ms (I swear he was eating nonstop for a whole hour); 2) he was a bit constipated so the food he had just eaten was sitting pretty high in his stomach; 3) the bumpy car ride didn't help; and 4) he'd been sick the week before and had a lingering cough, which instigated the gag reflex (and the excess phlegm didn't help either, as I noticed some in his throw-up). So really, it was the perfect storm for preschooler vomit. Poor kid. Caring for and coddling him took all of my Tuesday.

Second distraction came in the form of Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009 version). I'd been looking for a new series to glom onto after finishing all the available episodes of Doctor Who (the 2006-present reboot) on Netflix. I love love love Doctor Who, but BSG just BLEW. ME. AWAY. Very different tone, a lot darker than DW, not much comedy, but I love the huge ensemble cast and the man-vs-machine story arc on BSG. Kinda glad I saw DW first since I think the comedy would have fallen a little flat for me after such a huge, serious show. All I can say is wow, and I'm only on Season 1.

(By the way, I watched all the episodes of the DW spinoff Torchwood on Netflix as well in order to satisfy my DW cravings, but it was a poor substitute despite the fact that I ended up enjoying the characters and their quirks. BSG's production value is so much higher, and it really shows. The acting is really great, helped along by the top-notch camera work and moody music.)

Third major distraction was The Hunger Games trilogy. After finishing the first book, I started the second immediately. I'm still working on it. It's quite exciting despite the problems I had with the "romance" in the story and the fact that I couldn't quite believe in the realness of the chracters, but I had to set it aside anyway for more pressing matters -- matters like cleaning up the mess that is my house. We need to get this place in shape for a couple of birthday parties in a week. And it's easier to watch BSG on TV while, for instance, folding clothes. One day, I'm going to get glasses that allow me to do hands-free reading while my hands do other productive things.

xo, Gladys

Full disclosure: I'm a member of Amazon Associates, so if you click through the book link and purchase anything on Amazon, it may result in my earning a small -- very small -- referral fee.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Project: Kitty Rug

Here's a preview of what I'm up to, craft-wise. This latch-hook cat has been waiting to be made for -- yikes! -- almost a decade now. My hubby started it, then it moved with us from Los Angeles to Illinois, from Illinois to No. California, from No. Cal back down to So. Cal, and then twice more since then (from apartment to house to current house). It's almost a miracle that it survived all those moves! Given how long we've had this kit, it's surprising how quickly I'm finishing it. In the last three or so days, I've completed the tail on up (the cat's head was already finished), and I expect to finish this week barring any major distractions. Anyway, when it's done, I'd like to turn it into a little rug. It's such a cute, silly print, and I think it would be perfect for the kiddo's room -- if our cat Stella doesn't claim for herself first. :-)

xo, Gladys

Lady in Red

I recently wore this dress to Taco Night at my house. It was a casual gathering of our local friends for one of the ladies' birthday. There was lots of food and ice cream cake. Yum!

Dress: Monteau via ModCloth | Long-sleeved tee: Rubbish via Nordstrom's | Tights: Foot Traffic via Sockdreams | Booties: Blowfish "Hichi" via Amazon

I have the same dress in olive/fern green, and it is fast becoming one of my favorite styles. It's super comfy, very flattering on my body, and interestingly designed with the large lopsided collar and ornamental buttons. Plus it has pockets! Can't get any better than that. Here it is in action, with three of the ladies:

xo, Gladys

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sewing: Cowl Neck Jumper

I found out about this great Heidi & Finn pattern through a couple of sewists' blogs. I fell in love with the dress when I saw little girls wearing it on the blogs, and I thought it would be worth it to buy the pattern just in case I decided to sew a dress for a little girl. (The pattern goes from 12M to 6T so you can make it for quite a range of children's ages.)

I meant to make several of these for a couple of my friends' daughters over Christmas, but I simply didn't have the time to do it. Christmas passed by in a blur. However, one of our little friends is having her 3rd birthday in a few days, so I decided to make this dress for her. I was nervous trying a new pattern and handling knit fabric again, but I'm so glad I did. The instructions included with the pattern pdf were thorough, and I very much appreciated the large amount of step-by-step photos. All I really had to do was the manual labor; not too much outside calculation involved.

The pattern in 3T size all cut out and ready for the fleece fabric

Because of the step-by-step instructions, I didn't have problems figuring out how to sew the arm pieces to the dress body. The first time I tried to make sleeves, if you remember, it was for my nephew for Christmas, and it proved extremely frustrating because I was using a sewing book (Sewing for Boys) that didn't have very thorough instructions despite the particular pattern saying that it was appropriate for beginners. Back then, I had no idea that I needed to create this (upside-down) U shape:

I think I must have made it when attempting my nephew's shirt, but I had no clue if I was going about it correctly or not. I was practically pulling my hair out. Not a very enjoyable experience at all -- contrary to this time. In fact, I do believe I'm getting faster at this sewing thing. Not counting cutting out the paper pattern (which I did the day before), this dress took me about five hours from start to finish, including breaks for eating and watching a little telly. A month ago, it would have taken me maybe twice that long. I was happily surprised by how quickly the project was going since I'd only planned to make the main body of the dress and leave the cowl for the next day.

Dress in process

Main dress body: everything but the cowl and hems

Pinning on the cowl

I learned several things during this project, as I usually seem to do. 1) I'd really like to get a serger. I think I did a pretty good job with zigzagging the seam allowances here, but serged seams would look so much more professional. And I imagine that serging would be quicker than sewing + zigzagging, which is basically doing each seam twice.

2) The hardest part about making this dress was the hemming, particularly the sleeves. Since the sleeves were already enclosed and were too narrow to stretch around the sewing machine "table," I had to be careful to sew without catching the bottom layer. Lots of stopping and going just to sew a short distance. And I had to do it twice each (zigzagging first, then sewing after folding the zigzagged hem under).

It's hard to tell in this weirdly-exposed photo, but I had to carefully keep the bottom layer from getting caught by the needle and threads.

3) Another revelation was how much I like knit fleece. I thought that I would need much more experience before I could successfully handle knits again, but fleece makes it easy because it doesn't slide around as much as regular knit cotton. Thank heaven. Also, individual stitches are hard to see on the right side of fleece, so if the seam is just a little crooked, no problemo! I will definitely work with fleece again.

But I'm proud of myself not only for trying a knit fabric again, but also for finally learning how to replace the needle in my sewing machine. I hadn't replaced it once since I bought my machine last summer. I know, I know. Terrible! But I'm crossing my fingers that it's okay, and I promise to wipe it down and re-oil it soon.

xo, Gladys

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What I've Been Up to

Mostly hanging out with my kiddo, but also making and eating a lot of good food:

I love super-sour mangoes, and these are some of the sourest mangoes I've encountered in the United States. I ate these with Tajin chili mix. (My favorite mangoes are called "green mango" from the Philippines; sadly not available here.)

Watching my baby grow up. This was definitely a kairos moment.

My first-ever frittata: spinach, leek, prosciutto, sun-dried tomato, Parmesan cheese, goat cheese

Leftover chili -- mmmmm...

I thought this was kind of brilliant: the 3-year-old built a tree by balancing some blocks meant to make a castle. I hope this bodes well for his future intelligence!

xo, Gladys

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Project: Joanne's Headbands

Pardon the messy hair and knobby knuckles. :-)

When my dear friend Joanne -- who, incidentally, introduced me to Fluevogs almost two years ago -- asked me to sew her up some imitation Sweaty Bands to keep her hair contained during her workouts, I was happy to say yes. I mean, she changed my life with Fluevogs; I have to pay her back somehow. ;-) But I couldn't not help after I found out how expensive Sweaty Bands are. Um, $15 to $18 for some ribbon and elastic? Say what? Worse yet, she would have ended up paying more because she needed to have them custom-made. So what's a girl to do? Well, she found this tutorial online, and when she asked me to take a look, I thought it was definitely doable.

Here's the basic outline of how to make the headband:
  • List of items needed: decorative ribbon, velvet ribbon (so the headband will stay in place on the hair), and elastic.
  • Step 1: cut the decorative ribbon and the velvet ribbon to the desired length, singe the ends, and pin ribbons together with wrong sides facing each other
  • Step 2: with the velvet side facing up, sew the edges of the ribbons together, beginning with a long edge (don't forget to backstitch at the beginning of your stitches to secure the seam)
  • Step 3: turn the corner at the first short edge, and insert the elastic in between the two layers of ribbon; sew over the three layers, backstitching at least once to fully secure the elastic (I stitched forward, then back, then forward again)
  • Step 4: turn the corner and continue sewing the second long edge
  • Step 5: turn the corner when you reach the second short edge, and insert the other end of the elastic in between the two layers of ribbon; sew over the layers, once again backstitching; this should result in the circle headband
Since we couldn't shop for the materials together given that she lives 400 miles away, she prepped everything herself. She bought the decorative ribbon (2 each of 4 designs for a total of 8 headbands), the velvet ribbon, and the elastic. She measured and cut them, singed the ends, pinned the layers together, and marked where she wanted the elastic to be inserted into the ribbons. She made it all super easy for me. (Yay for Type A personalities! Lol) The package was so neat and good-looking when I got it in the mail that I'm sorry I didn't take any photos before digging into the project.

She also chose some gorgeous ribbon. Seriously, just look at these!

When I did my test run, I found that I needed two things: 1) Fusible interfacing to bind the decorative and velvet ribbons to each other (using the heat of an iron) so that I had a stable piece when sewing the edges. (Indeed, Joanne conveniently sent me a roll of interfacing in case I needed it.) I hate crooked seams...which leads me to:

2) Invisible thread, which is basically clear polyester in thread form. I found this brief tutorial on invisible thread really helpful. For one thing, it made my life easier by telling me beforehand to pair regular thread with the invisible thread rather than trying to sew with the invisible thread on both the spool (top) and bobbin (bottom). IMPORTANT NOTE: because I was sewing with the velvet underside facing up, I needed the invisible thread on the bobbin (as the bottom thread) rather than on the spool (as the top thread). That way, the invisible thread would appear on the decorative ribbon, which is where I wanted it.

For the spool thread that will be visible on the velvet side, I would suggest using a color thread that also blends well with the decorative ribbon since tiny dots of that thread are visible on the decorative side. Here are two examples: I used white thread for the spool when sewing up a design with a white background, and you can see the white thread on the black velvet underside. For a design with a black background, I used black thread, which you can see completely disappears into the black velvet.

With Joanne's generous permission, I decided to keep two of them. The first one was my test run without the invisible thread, and the second one had a slight burn on the velvet when I turned the iron up a little to high. Oops. But they're definitely cute, and while I can't take any credit for choosing the designs, I'm glad I was able to help a good friend save some cash. :-)

xo, Gladys
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