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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Turtle Power... or more specifically, Halloween 2017

Halloween appears to be the only thing that can motivate me to be consistently crafty. Actually, I recently started crafting again with a group of girlfriends with the plan to get together once a month to socialize and work on projects that we haven't been making enough time for. That has definitely been a step in the right direction to getting back on the crafting train. But every year now, around August, I get the bug to start working on Halloween costumes.

This year, I had big plans.

When I was a kid, my mom made all of my Halloween costumes. One particularly memorable year, I wanted to be a ninja turtle. She showed me the pattern envelope (Butterick 5143) and I confirmed that it would be the perfect costume. See below. Can you blame me?

Front of the pattern... I still think my confusion was very warranted.
Little did I know that the front of the envelope looked much different than the costume itself. Mainly, the 'mask' of the turtle involved your head being the mouth of the turtle.

Clearly, you can see how I wasn't expecting this from the front of the envelope.
When it came time to don this outfit, I was not impressed. I looked enviously at the other kids in my school that had their store-bought turtle costumes  and was so envious.
Clearly, I was pleased.
Now, older and slightly wiser, I still look back at that picture and laugh. So it's only fitting that I wanted to have my kids wear that same costume, especially as I've been brain-washing them into loving the ninja turtles as much as I did. So I hunted down the original pattern. Thankfully, eBay had several sellers offering it. My plan was to make a whole set for the family in time for Halloween.

Unfortunately, I dragged my feet on starting the costume. While I purchased my fabric pretty early on, I waited until mid-September to start assembly, thinking a month would be plenty of time. But our weekends are pretty jam-packed already, as are weeknights with my teaching schedule. So I waited until my mom came to town and we cut out and assembled the main jumpsuit for the boys. I had already traced out some pattern pieces on Swedish tracing paper so that I could use the various pieces over for each size variation. The boys could both be based off of the smallest pattern size, and James and I could use the largest for our accessories. I purchased a separate pattern for our jump suits.

In the time it took from me purchasing the fabric and beginning the assembly process, I apparently forgot what was required. My mom and I put together the jumpsuits in a thick dark green fleece. Later that week, after she left, I went to work on their shells... only to realize I had used the shell fabric for the jumpsuit and had a whole, unused bolt of a lighter green cotton that I was supposed to use for the main body piece. Much cursing ensued.

Fitting for the costume. The head wasn't stuffed yet but a view of the shell.
I salvaged what I could of the dark green fabric and thankfully, having already made the main pieces two times, the next two went much faster. Overall as I made each pattern section the second, and then third time, I became much more efficient... though it was still one of the most time consuming clothing projects I've done. I have so much respect for the amount of time my mom spent on our costumes. The hardest part was probably the hood, though the shell was the most time consuming due to the amount of hand-stitching required to baste the designs into the shell.

I ended up finishing the costumes for the boys on Sunday the 21st. I was so disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to make our costumes in time for Halloween festivities that Friday, but especially mine as I wanted to recreate my original Michelangelo costume. I decided to bite the bullet and go for just one more. I ended up working on it all day Sunday and then Monday and Tuesday evenings. There was no way that I could finish the fourth turtle so I went ahead and ordered the villain, Shredder, from Amazon. I think if I had a complete full day again in addition to the evenings, I would have been fine but our next weekend was already booked with costume instances so there was going to be no way to get that time. It ended up working out perfectly and the boys loved having the 'bad guy' to mock play with.

The boys loved following along with my progress and trying on the pieces as they were completed.
I wanted to take some pictures of the family all dressed up in some sort to urban or sewer/tunnel type setting. Obviously without going into a sewer. I had thoughts of a few tunnels I go through on regular weekend runs but my friend suggested the Free Expression Tunnel on NC State's campus. It's not too far from us and online pictures looked promising. We headed over there on Friday afternoon after the school Halloween parade.

I was not expecting it to have quite so much foot traffic. While the tunnel was really cool, and felt like the perfect backdrop, it was a steady stream of students walking around campus. I almost called it quits but after a quick texting session with my friends, they convinced me to do it. The kids had so much fun during our little photo shoot and didn't want to take their costumes off after. We received plenty of stares and laughs from the students, most of which seemed to be quite familiar with the ninja turtles.

We have a few more Halloween festivities coming up so I'm looking forward to getting as much use out of these costumes as possible.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A mouse took a stroll through a deep dark wood...

This post is late. More than late... It's two years overdue. But as they say, 'better late than never...'

Back in good ol' 2015, I had a two year old and a 7 month old, and was wondering what I would dress them up as for Halloween.

I knew my time in selecting their costumes without a fight or their opinions was pretty limited, so I wanted to make it good. We had been reading a lot of Julia Donaldson books and...

I wanted a costume due that would work with the two of them, so my heart was pretty set on making the Gruffalo and the Mouse. The problem being, it's a British book/show and I'm in the US. At the time, I believe the film was either pretty new or a little harder to acquire here. And my costume options were looking pretty limited. Those that I could find were going to have to be imported and were pricey, or were for an age and size greater than my two year old. I decided to start checking out Pinterest and similar sites for inspiration and even then, I found it lacking. So I decided to make my own version.

For the Gruffalo, I took the Simplicity pattern 1351, version B (hedgehog) and modified it a little. I used the side spikes for inspiration of the purple 'prickly spikes down his back', and referred to the book for reference to his facial features.

For the mouse, I had a slightly easier task as I could make some minor tweaks to Simplicity 2506, version D (mouse), and just change the coloring and the bowtie.

Both costumes were fairly simple to assemble, with the greatest challenge being in piecing together the Gruffalo from the book. Thankfully, it's beautifully illustrated and the description given is so clear, that it made it easy to pull together.

I started the costumes in August and had more than enough time, sleep-deprived and all, to pull them together. By the time Halloween came, the boys looked perfect and were cooperative in their costumes. I used felt as the main material for both costumes which is perfect for how our Halloween's have been trending here in North Carolina. Not too cold, but it definitely starts to get chilly at night. The Gruffly has definitely gained in popularity since then so is a bit more recognizable, but I'll admit that at the time, Big Fig was dubbed 'a cute monster' by most who saw him. But I was so pleased with the outcome.

I'm excited for this year. I went shopping today for the materials for our Halloween 2017 costumes. Yes, 'our'. I'm going for a whole family theme. We did one last year and it was a lot of fun. They were all store-bought but the process was still pretty stressful, which encouraged me to try making them myself this time. That and once again, I'm thinking my influence on costume selection is limited. This might be the last year I can sway Big Fig into his costume choice so I'm going big. So stay tuned. I promise to update soon with more details, this time as I actually piece it together.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Quiet Book: Mr. Potato Head

One of my crafting challenges that I've set for myself this year, aside from just getting back into crafting, is to create a quiet book for Ian. If you've never heard of a quiet book, it's essentially a book, usually made of felt, that has little activities, puzzles, and games for your toddler/preschooler to play with.  It's great for car rides and I think the original purpose was for kids to have something to keep them quiet at Church.

There are some amazing quiet book inspiration pages out there and I have a whole Pinterest page dedicated to it. You'll also find a lot of blogs with instructions or whose sole purpose is the quiet book.  I found one such blog that had fun templates like a Mr. Potato Head activity page.  I decided that seemed pretty simple and would be a good starting point.

You can get the templates to make your own Mr. Potato Head quiet book pages here.  Once I downloaded the templates, I cut out the various pieces to assemble my quiet book.  I ordered my felt from Etsy - I found they had the greatest selection of colors to choose from and reasonable prices.
I also have a very extensive collection of embroidery thread. This isn't even the full amount - I have a lot pulled aside for current embroidery projects.  I used a combination of hand-stitching with embroidery threads (especially on the small pieces) and my sewing machine on the large pieces.

I made a whole bucket of various pieces to attach to Mr. Potato Head.  They all get stored in the bucket and Ian can pull them out and piece them on to the potato in whatever way he chooses.
My goal is to create one quiet book page or set of pages for Ian a month until his second birthday. By then he should be about ready to really enjoy the quiet book and he'll have a whole set at that point. I've already completed some of the next pages so I'll share those shortly.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ian's Mustache Bash

A few months ago, I shared some of the party preparation I was doing for Ian's first birthday. He's now almost 15 months old, so his birthday is long past, but I wanted to share the final result.  I did A LOT of crafting for his birthday - starting back in November. Yeah, I might have gone a little overboard, but I was so happy with the result.  The final look was everything I pictured it to be (thanks, Pinterest), but above all that, I had a wonderful time celebrating with friends and family.

Almost everything we did for his party was homemade. I made paper chains for behind his high-chair, the smash cake and desserts were made by myself and my mom, the bunting, birthday boy message cards, food labels for the tables... I ordered a couple of things from online, just because I didn't have that time or expertise.  Luckily, my new Silhouette made everything else extremely do-able and fairly easy.  I never thought I would veer from my sewing/needlework crafts, but this machine is definitely convincing me otherwise.

This birthday party taught me a lot. The main lesson being that I will never throw a birthday party like this again. At least not until any future babies turn one. It was a huge undertaking and I would totally say I went overboard. It's hard not to get sucked into all of the pinterest ideas out there. I don't regret it, but I don't think it's really necessary in the future.  A couple of things here and there, but I think I'll just focus on activities for kids. At this party we had a little area gated off so that kids could safely play in a small ball pit. I also had a local children's story time performer come in and sing some songs to the kids. I have some great memories from the event and luckily plenty of pictures to remember all of the craziness that went along with the planning.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Crafting Medium: Heat Transfer Vinyl

While I've been quiet on the blogging front, I've been very busy crafting. I've been having a hard time finding the mental balance of making things and actually writing something up about them. I feel like I've taken a lot of pictures with the intent to eventually post something, but I somehow never get around to it.  I'm hoping to write a few posts to be released in the near future - maybe it will help to inspire me again. So, if you're still with me... thanks. :)

One of the newest crafts I've taken on has been working with the Silhouette and therefore: vinyl, heat transfer vinyl, and just a little bit of paper-crafting.  I have enough sewing materials, fabric, patterns, yarn, and books that I don't necessarily want to stock up on all new craft supplies, but I've been able to reign in my Silhouette crafting to a so-far reasonable level.

I started by doing a few vinyl projects. Mainly, labeling my water bottles, buckets for Ian's outside toys, etc, but eventually tested the waters by making HTV shirts for a run that I recently did. Don't act all impressed - it was a beer run. A 4k where at every k, you drank a beer. Classy.  But hey, it got me running.

I ended up making all of the shirts for the ladies I ran with, but it made me want to get a better understanding of HTV.  I was frustrated with the pressing process and about ready to throw in the towel by the time I got to the end.  But, through some of my Silhouette Facebook groups, I found some designs that convinced me that I needed to try it again on shirts for Ian.  I did a bit of research and short of buying a press, I think I found a pretty decent method for applying HTV using an iron.  I may still end up getting a press one day, but in the meantime, the iron does the trick.  But I'm happy to share the method with you.

To iron on  HTV, you will need:

  • the garment to iron on (I stuck with cotton onesies). If you're going to use something other than cotton, you will need to do a quick search to make sure the HTV won't melt it. You press down for a long enough amount of time that you will want to be sure before ruining a garment.
  • iron
  • pressing cloth. I used a piece of scrap, cotton fabric. 
  • firm, iron-safe surface, such as an ironing board
  • your design, printed in reverse onto heat transfer vinyl. For this project, I used the Silhouette brand HTV, but you can use any kind - your press time may vary slightly depending on the type, so check with the manufacturers directions.

First, prep your HTV.  Weed out any designs that you don't want to iron on to your surface. If you have text printed on your design, make sure it's a mirror image as you will apply it in reverse to the shirt - which then adhere's it in the proper direction. Make sense? You'll see.

Then, prep your garment. I did a quick iron of the onesie to release any wrinkles and warm the surface up a bit.  Make sure you only have one layer of the garment on the side of your ironing board. Otherwise, you may end up bonding the HTV through your article of clothing.  To adhere the HTV, set your iron to the 'cotton' setting.

Place the HTV, with the clear sheet attached, to the shirt. I used a ruler to center the design. When the HTV is flipped onto the garment surface, the design is readable. See? Told you.

Lay the pressing cloth on top of the HTV/clear sheet.  Press your iron down on the pressing cloth for one minute*. I turn on the stopwatch on my phone. Repeat this process on various part of the design (depending on how big it is) to ensure that all sections have been adhered to the garment.  Remove iron and let cool for a minute or so before handling.

Remove pressing cloth and begin to slowly peel off the clear sheet from the HTV. With letters and small pieces, you may need to be especially careful. If something is not adhered enough, it may either need more time to cool, or may need more pressing time.

Once the clear sheet is removed, your design is done! I do a quick press with the pressing cloth directly over the design, then with the shirt inside out.

I went a little crazy and made a few designs, including one that layered two colors. I can definitely see this becoming an addiction with customizing some of Ian's clothing.

Have you worked with HTV before? How was your experience? Please let me know if you have any other tips to share.

*I pressed my HTV for one minute. I believe the Silhouette instructions said 20-30 seconds, but that did nothing other than cause frustration.  You may want to test on some throw-away garments or vinyl first, but I found that one minute was the only way to get the HTV to actually adhere to my different fabrics.
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