Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cardboard pencil cases

Lately I've needed to have a couple of freshly sharpened pencils in my purse, which has been a Problem.  Because frankly, does anybody really want graphite marks in the purse lining, or holes poked through it?  Which is why I was attracted to a recycled pencil case project from by Tiffany Threadgould.

Leftover cardboard is so much a better option for getting marked up by graphite than, say, a beautiful fabric pencil case (see objections above.)  I got to the compact version above by adapting the original design to a 1.5" width, which works for four pencils or two plus a pen.

Then I thought of two small friends down the block who might like one too...

... and then a few more people.  The pencil cases are kind of addictive; I kept on cutting after I took this picture.

Some tips:

In terms of sturdiness - Good: cookie boxes.  Better: cereal boxes.  Best: frozen food packaging.  

Check your cutout against the pattern: I managed to cut mine a little short so that they didn't quite fit the length of a new, sharpened pencil.  (solution: sharpen it some more.  nobody has to know.)

When you're scoring the fold lines, do it with the right side up, and congratulate yourself if you cut through the top layer of paper in the process.  It makes the fold SO much cleaner.

The design calls for self-adhesive Velcro, but I found I could just fold the top inside for an equally effective closure.

This project is a great excuse for bringing out Japanese masking tape.  Yum!

Maybe best not to use the box from your favourite cookies for your own pencil case, if you're trying to cut back on desserty things while out and using pencils.  Too much yum!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine Fun: secret message tissue holders

I got a little overenthusiastic last week about making purse-sized tissue holders with my new Bernina, but can you blame me?

This project is from a tutorial for Sew, Mama, Sew! by Jennifer Casa, who offers three different variations on the theme.  Erika (who is responsible for my buying the Bernina in the first place - thank you Erika!) added a twist in the form of a carry strap when she made hers. I added a different one to make them perfect Valentine's gifts:  secret messages.

You want to know how I did it?

First up, I used the alphabet function I couldn't wait to get my hands on to make long strips of cheery words or symbols.

(It's dark in the living room.  I totally need to get this machine some full-time space on my desk!)

You can say anything you like, but I found that 15 characters are the most that's practical for the space you've got.  Both "Have A Good Day" and "Happy Heart Day" work well.  "Best Wishes for Chocolate", not so much, even though I personally would rather read that every time I put new tissues into the case.  I programmed in three underscores for cutting room before and after each message, then let the machine go on and on with it until I ran out of fabric.... and then turned the piece and let it run some more.

* Upcycling Tip *

For both the lining and the secret messages, I used castoff men's dress shirts.  I have a friend who, go figure, won't wear his crisp cotton dress shirts to work after the cuffs have frayed, so I have rather a good supply.  I got 31 lining pieces out of one shirt (see overenthusiasm above), and a ton of messages out of another.

* End of Upcycling Tip *

I cut the messages to leave half to three-quarters of an inch at the top and bottom, and halfway through the six underscores on the sides, so there would be something to fold under and press before stitching the message onto the centre of the lining piece. I gotta say, the ruler on the side of the sewing machine is something I really appreciated for this.

A short message like three hearts can run parallel to the long side of the lining piece:

But the long ones should run parallel to the short.

Trust me on this.

Then assemble the tissue holder according to the tutorial's directions.

Cute, yes?

And... even cuter?

I love these so much.  But I think I forgot to make one for me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Embroidered bookmarks

About a month ago I spotted a clever bookmark project by Heather Hales.  It's similar in principal to the elastic loops riveted onto some of my journals - you wrap them around the hunk of journal between the cover and the page you're marking - but with a felted wool medallion for the cover of the book.  An embroidered medallion.  What's not to love?

I made a pair of my own to donate, along with some bookstore gift certificates, to a silent auction at one of my local schools.  The school crest is wine with gold, so I tried to mimic that with materials left over from other projects and made use of a tool I'd bought for cutting fabric circles (which was not, frankly, all that - I'll try it with some other fabrics and see if it works any better.)

Not to be hampered by my complete lack of fancy embroidery skills, I made do with running stitch.  Similarly, I substituted a blanket stitch border for pretty scalloped one that Heather did.

Then of course I had to figure out how to label them, because I wasn't presenting them with an actual book (sorry, nobody's getting my Judy Boltons anytime soon).  In the end I decided on explanatory tags:

In case you make some too and are in the same boat, mine read rather encouragingly "hand embroidered elastic bookmark - hug the band around the cover to the page you're marking, and rest your book in style!"

They were quick to make - I knocked them off in an evening and about half an hour of the next morning, part of the time having been spent deciding on designs . And I managed to secure the elastic in place with any stitches that ran past it.  You can see on the one above that a whole row of stitches runs along the centre of the elastic.  The one below got caught with every spiral.

I'd do this again I think... but I think they'd be so much cuter with colour elastics.  White is nice in a waistband, but bright orange or red would be pretty fantastic on a book, don't you think?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ten minutes

So: I'm working on small cool sewing projects to get to know my new Bernina sewing machine, which is handy because Valentine's Day is coming up. 

The thing I am most in love with for that event is these adorable purse-sized tissue holders.  Who doesn't need one of those?  and I have a little twist on the design I'll share in a few days.  Meanwhile, I'm still working on the assembly line.

And that my friends is what I want to talk to you about today.  The directions clearly indicate that No, Really! you can whip one of these up in ten minutes.  I am sure that this is so: that one could cut out the pieces and whip one up in ten minutes flat.  Maybe even less if an assembly line is involved and the time averaged out.  The trouble is I am not that one, and OH how I'd like to be.

This is what my project looks like so far.

24 sets of ten minutes: cutting out the fabric (admittedly for 31 tissue holders).  Not counting the time it took to pre-shrink the fabric and iron it all, because that's just stash preparation (easily 12 more sets.)

2 sets of ten minutes: heaving the machine out the closet and over to the table, and going back for all the gear that goes with it.  Then getting out the ironing board and iron.  That's just for doing the aforementioned Little Twist.

1 set of ten minutes: cleaning up the table and the floor underneath it for a pristine sewing environment.

And all of it in installments because my free time gets all chopped up into a few hours at a time at most, and that only once or maybe twice a week.  You'll notice I haven't mentioned how long it's taken to sew the tissue holders, and that is because I'm not there yet.  I still have to finish off the Little Twist.

Ten minutes - wouldn't that be bliss? 

It would mean having a place where my machine could be out all the time... a place where my pretty new-look ironing board could be out all the time... where the cutting mat was a proper Olfa one and not the decidedly inferior knockoff I bought at the office store, so that I'd only have to do one pass with the blade...

Here is what I am thinking.

12 sets of ten minutes:  somehow making space on my little desk for the Bernina to sit out all the time
12 sets of ten minutes: using some of my freshly-ironed stash to cut out pieces for a sewing machine cover so the Bernina doesn't get dusty.

2 sets of ten minutes: finding a functional over-the-door ironing board hanger online so I can get the board and iron securely into my bedroom closet - the next best thing to leaving it out (the local stores' offerings are not so heavy on the functional.)

1 set of ten minutes: whipping up a tissue holder in peace and comfort.

Wouldn't that be a great Valentine to myself?