Wednesday, December 24, 2008

see you next year!

were you naughty or nice?

Merry Christmas, and Happy 2009!

We are heading out to spend some time with family and friends, my favoritest way to celebrate the holidays. That, and eating too much buttery food and drinking too many frothy coffees. Mmmcoffee.

Looking forward to another year of crafting and blogging with you.

God bless us, every one!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

well, it took me long enough.

Finally finally finally. Katy Kitty's PDF format pattern is available in my new etsy shop. Hopefully in time for you to make some for gifts. As a bonus, I'll include the double-breasted coat and scarf PDF pattern I just finished for her.

The coat and scarf will also fit your Molly Monkeys! Also exchangeable are the shirt details and the shoes, which will go fine with either pattern.

Thanks as always for your interest and inquiries and encouragement. You guys are the best.

Monday, November 3, 2008

tooth officer

I made this tooth pillow for my nephew's 5th birthday party, which had a policeman theme. His mouth is the pocket for teeth and the loop is for the doorknob so the tooth fairy does not have to enter the child's room to retrieve the teeth. Or dig under their pillow for a tiny tooth, which always seems a bit risky to me.

In true Larissa fashion, I procrastinated making it until the morning of the party. Well, 2 hours before the party, really. If you'd like to make one, I'm pretty sure you could make it in very little time, because in that two hour span I: designed it, sewed it wrong, ripped out the sewing, fixed the strap, redid the sewing, fixed the strap again, stuffed it, and finished the face. All with time to spare for things like showering, dressing, making a handmade card, wrapping the rest of his present, and taking the eye makeup off my four year old that I forgot to take off last night.

I don't really recommend a schedule like that one. I actually had some chest pains as I was dressing. Here's a quick PDF pattern I made for a basic tooth pillow (policeman elements not included), if you'd like to download it and make your own version. If you like the police theme, the hat, belt and badges are easily made with some basic shapes. Enjoy!

NOTE: This pattern was updated on 2/10/09 with some minor improvements, so it won't look exactly like the image below. It's better!

Monday, October 6, 2008

in which I choose a winner randomly and ramble on about crafting

Ok. I wanted to GIVE YOU ALL a Katy Kitty. I wish that were possible. I found your comments so inspiring and encouraging, to say the least. THANK YOU, to everyone.

After using a random integer generator, the new Katy Custodian is: MommytoAva.

Congratulations! Green Katy is all packed and ready to go to her new home. Molly and Red Katy will miss her. Please contact me within a week with your email address so I can get her to you.

On the subject of 'What got you into crafting' I'd like to join in by saying I owe all my craftiness to the creative women in my family from a couple of generations ago until now; and I'm happy to say it is carrying on through my nieces and hopefully my own daughters. The urge to make things just runs in my veins. That certainly sums it up. So, you could stop reading here. (The rest is just me going endlessly on and on and on.)

My sister, Leigh, sporting the scrap-pieced house robe made by our Mema, circa 1977

One of Mama Graham's quilts and my Raggedy Ann doll, made circa 1980

My dad's mom, Mema, who had no money, would piece together bathrobes from scraps and crocheted endless hats for gifts. I remember my Mama Graham (my mom's mom) giving us grandkids handmade Christmas gifts, like this Raggedy Ann. Which I am utterly, completely ashamed to say I thought was so lame at the time. Okay, I just cannot admit that without pausing to mentally smack myself upside the head. *WHACK*

I now treasure those things and those memories, and appreciate the time and love it took to make them, as well as their desire to give a little of themselves to me. Mama Graham's scrap quilts are beautiful and all done by hand, and I'm lucky enough to have a couple. She passed on her sewing talent to her two daughters, Violet and Jackie.

My Aunt Violet started sewing at age 12, when baby sister Jackie arrived. She would go pick cotton in the fields, then use the money she earned to buy fabric in order to make dresses, bonnets and little outfits for my mom. At 84, Aunt Violet still sews handmade gifts like baby blankets and pillowcases, which we are so lucky to receive.

A few of the clothes sewn by my mom

My mom, Jackie, sewed gorgeous clothes for herself and all her little girls, of which I am the 5th. She also enjoyed making tablecloths for each season and holiday. She sewed in the evenings after we had gone to bed. I remember the beautiful purpleish-greyish velvet suit (wish I had a picture) she made my sister, Lita, for her high school senior portrait. I still can't believe I didn't seize the opportunity to learn to sew from her while I was still at home. *WHACK WHACK*

Of her five daughters, three of us were bitten hard by the crafting bug. The other two, Lita and Libby, not only avoided the bug, but actively tried to squish the bug with their shoe. But I know the crafting gene is in there somewhere, waiting until it is safe to come out. However, I must say despite not being crafters, they are all-around super swell and talented gals.

Just some of the numerous handmade necklaces my sister Lori has given me.

Of the bitten, my sister Lori started crafting as a kid, and has a talent for drawing, painting, handmade jewelry and who knows what else. I have a vivid memory of when I was four and was propped against the table in our finished basement in Maryland, watching her draw a picture of a jungle girl. It was a Pivotal Moment. I suddenly thought to myself, "Cool. I want to do that."

My sister Leigh made these baby quilts for my two girls,
with scriptures written in the squares by my nieces and nephews

My sister Leigh is now a phenomenal and prolific quilter and sewer and crafter of all things (as well as quilting teacher), who never goes anywhere without a work bag. She's tried every craft known to man since she was a wee tot. As a kid I vaguely remember her decoupaging with recycled greeting cards, making mounds of potholders, cross stitching, knitting scarves, crocheting, and making pottery. She's been a huge influence on my adult crafting life.

Me and Libby drawing with clay chunks on our driveway.
When you don't have chalk, you improvise.

For myself, it all started when I was very little with a desire to draw the perfect horse. I went through stacks of used typewriter paper my dad brought home from work. Somehow the quest to draw the perfect horse became a desire to draw everything. Perfectly. Then came the desire to make toys from paper. And modeling clay animals and space aliens. And pointless spoof comics inspired by Star Wars.

All this made a horrible mess, and eventually I was banished to the garage with (my first crafting studio!) a square of leftover carpet, a table and shelves. I spent hours at a time there, making jointed dolls and animals from paper, thread, and yarn, and furnishing a doll house with paper and cardboard furniture, complete with tiny cereal boxes (promotional ads included on the backs) filled with even tinier paper cereal.

As a teen I took pride in giving my family hand-drawn cards, emblazoned with my logo on the back (Larissa Cards, Inc. "When their very best isn't quite good enough"). Also I added fake UPC codes and exorbitant prices.

After a few years of that, I went to college, purchased the requisite long, black trench coat and majored in graphic design. I was introduced to the Mac computer there. (I'm so old, the screen was maybe 6 inches square. And black and white. Seriously.) It was instant crazy love with that little thing.

After graduation, I worked as a graphic designer a few years in the field, then at home for myself. Then, two years ago I closed up my shop (mostly) in order to home school my girls. Somewhere in there I took up sewing. I am still compelled to create, and crafting is my creative outlet. I can't live without it. Or my Mac. Or coffee.

Then one day my bosom friend, Robyn, said, 'Hey, did you know there are a bunch of craft blogs online?'

Another one of those Pivotal Moments.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Yet another Molly Improvement

Ok, sorry. I promise this is the last time. Again with the legs. The whole pull-the-limbs-out-the-back method was indeed an improvement, however sewing the body together even while using this method can be difficult if the legs are stuffed tightly.

Sooooooo, another way to do it and keep your sanity is to NOT stuff the legs prior to sewing the body (suggested by a cool crafter who wishes to remain anonymous). You'll still be leaving an opening in the back, per the instructions. Also leave little openings in all the limbs (you can still stuff the tail before sewing) and wait to stuff them AFTER you turn the body. Simple! Then you stuff the limbs to the desired blimpiness and stitch your limb openings closed.

I hope this helps! Go forth and maketh more Mollys.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

6 monthiversary. time for a giveaway!

(Thank you, everybody. Comments are now closed!)

Are you my mommy?

Whoohoo! Here's part of the fun stuff aforementioned. Time to celebrate six months of mmmcrafts. Leave me one comment and you could be the new owner of this Katy Kitty that I made with my own two little bony hands. While you are at it, tell me what got you into crafting. If you are into crafting, that is. Which you don't have to be. So, Lita and Libby, if you are reading this, you too are eligible.

I will choose the new Katy Custodian by using a random number generator on October the 6th.

Looking forward to your comments, and to the next six months of mmmcrafts.

P.S. I've been asked by some of y'all when the Katy Kitty pattern will be available, and my answer is, er...soon! Sorry for the delay! Hopefully I'll dig out from under some urgent stuff and be able to tackle finishing that in a week or so, in plenty of time to get kitties underway for Christmas.

Monday, September 22, 2008

baby bonnie bunny

Here is a softie I designed for a baby shower gift. She's a sleepy baby bunny, sporting a cloth diaper. I've got the pattern on my computer, just need to write it up to make it available. I'll just add that to the top of the teetering stack on my desk.

Her tail is another yarn pom pom I made using Bella Dia's method. Besides being cute, it helps Bonnie to sit up when she is not propped against something. I had fun embroidering the little baby-to-be's name on Bonnie's fanny.

I wanted her ears to look a little droopy, so I ended up tacking one to the other to make it look flopped over.

Hopefully she'll inspire future baby Bailey to follow suit and take a big, long snoozer for Mommy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

make a coin charm bracelet

When I was about 14 my parents came home from a vacation from Europe with all these cool coins. I had to find a way to wear them, so I rummaged around in my mom's old 'dress up' jewelry box (items she donated to us girls to wear for playtime) and found this fantastic, hugely long silver necklace like they wore in the 70s. It had double links and a heavy feel.

So I took it downstairs and frankensteined it into a bracelet at my dad's greasy workbench in the garage. I chopped it off to bracelet length and re-attached the clasp. I'm sure my method left a lot to be desired, and I knew absolute beans about making jewelry, but the end result looked and functioned like a bracelet and I was quite proud of myself.

I had to ask my Dad to drill tiny holes in all the coins and he obliged. Then I attached them all to the bracelet using additional rings I cut off the leftover chain. I remember a lot of perspiring, finger pinching, and muttered epithets during the construction (all I had was Dad's needlenose pliers and industrial sized wire snips), but I was so happy with the result. I wore it a lot.

And if I say so myself, this bracelet still rocks, 24 years later. I don't know what they made costume jewelry out of way back when, but this stuff never tarnishes. I recently re-discovered the bracelet (and the rest of the necklace, can you say Pack Rat?) in the depths of my jewelry box. It has a very cheerful clinkety clinkey sound when you wear it.

If you have a collection of coins sitting around doing nothing, I'm sure you could do a much better job of putting one together than I did, if you have some basic jewelry-making tools (and skills). I still know beans about jewelry making, but it's on the list.

Anyone know of a good introductory book on jewelry making, with pictures? We are talking BASIC here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Molly Monkey Pattern Improvement

I love you guys. All you brilliant crafters out there who are constantly coming up with cool stuff. Especially stuff that helps me out! I learn so much from you.

Crafter Nzaloo wrote me to suggest an easy solution to the tight tangle of limbs as you sew Molly's body back and front together. This can be especially difficult if you stuff the limbs very firm. My original Molly has nicely squashy arms and legs, so it was manageable, but this suggestion will allow you to stuff your Molly to whatever firmness you like without wanting to strangle me as you sew it. Here it is!

Instead of leaving an opening in the side, leave an opening in the back seam above the tail. That way, when you sew the body front and back together, the arms, legs and tail can stick out that hole and leave you with a lot more room to maneuver. SO MUCH EASIER! Brilliant.

UPDATED NOTE: This trick along with leaving the limbs unstuffed before you sew improves the situation greatly. See details here.

Thanks, Nzaloo!

Note: The pattern has been updated with this new method. Get it here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

fabric covered letters

A while ago, I bought some large, resin, 3D letters from Hobby Lobby for my girls' bedroom door. I painstakingly painted and antiqued them and mounted them on the door. I loved the look. See below.
    I failed to factor in daily exuberant door shutting and opening. After glueing the L together twice, then the ampersand falling and shattering in a hundred pieces, I gave up. So I decided to do some letters that were feather light. I absolutely adore the fabric covered letters at Anthropologie, but I don't want to cough up that kind of cash, plus not sure they have an ampersand anyway. 

I puzzled over how to construct a 3D letter out of cardboard to cover with fabric, then gave it up as too time-consuming. I ended up just printing the letters actual size from my laser printer, mounting them on chip board for stiffness, and cutting them out. 

Then I sprayed the front of each letter with adhesive and placed it on the wrong side of the chosen fabric. I trimmed the fabric around the letter to within about 3/8 inch of the edge, then turned the fabric to the back side and glued it. Have I said before how much I adore Fabritac? Dries almost instantly.
   Folding the fabric smoothly around the edges to the back side takes finesse. Just like in sewing, you have to clip the curves and junctures to get the best result. In the photo above, the ampersand is in progress, so you can see there are some allowances that are turned and glued on the back already and some that aren't glued yet. Note how I snipped out the corners to fold over smoothly. Any curves that fold over to the back must be clipped into smaller bits like you see above. The deeper the curve of the letter, the more clips you should make so that it looks smooth. Straight parts do not require clipping.
  The view from the front, above. The result was colorful, feather-light letters that stay on just fine with plain ol' tape. In hindsight, I wish I had chosen less vibrant colors of fabric. I feel like more subdued colors and bolder patterns might have looked better, but these'll do for now. 

It occurred to me belatedly that I could have bought some lightweight 3D brown cardboard letters from Hobby Lobby (local craft store) to cover with fabric, but I'm such a typographic snob, I probably wouldn't have seen any that were just right or the perfect size. Once I get a vision in my mind, it is really hard to shake it. 

I hope this helps if you want to do something similar!

Monday, August 11, 2008

introducing...Katy Kitty!

Katy is the doll I designed for my oldest daughter's birthday. She turned six last week. Way back before May, both my girls requested homemade dolls for their birthday, after seeing little Miss Audrey's bunny in progress. My youngest decided on a monkey, so I came up with Molly. My oldest girl promptly requested a 'red kitty cat'. Why red, I don't know. But her wish is my command, so now here's Katy.

I really enjoyed designing her and making her. I wasn't under such a manic deadline as I was with Molly. Plus, after designing Molly and working out most of the kinks with her pattern, I was able to take it further and embellish it for Katy without coming up with something totally from scratch.

Which gave me plenty of time to make her some cute accessories besides her beret, like her ear bow, her little backpack and notebook, and of course the new little twist on the shoes.

My favorite part of Katy is her shoes. I just love these wingtips, and I wish I could have a pair like them for myself this fall. Have you seen any?

In case you are wondering, Katy's sleeves and skirt are from Tula Pink's beautiful Flutterby fabric line, part of a charm pack I bought a while back when I was designing Molly.

As Molly's pattern is available for free download, I'm planning to make Katy's pattern available as well, although this time for a very reasonable price. Watch for the announcement soon.

Monday, July 28, 2008

drum roll please...Molly Monkey pattern done!

NOTE: Please do not upload my PDF to another server. Leave it right here where it can be downloaded conveniently for free and also updated with any improvements or changes (which it has been, twice at least!). Links are always always welcome, but please do not link directly to the PDF download. Please link to this post. Thank you!

ALSO NOTE: If you are having trouble with the placement for the face, you can print an extra pattern piece for the face, then cut the eyes out and poke holes with a large pin on the lines for the nose and mouth. Then you can lay your template over the felt face piece to draw on the eyes and make dots to guide for the mouth and nose placement with a disappearing marker.

At long, long last, I've completed the Molly Monkey pattern, and it is here for you to download, gratis. Help yourself! It is a zip file that is 1.5 mb. Uncompressed, it turns into a nine page PDF file, which can be opened and printed by a variety of PDF reader programs, like Acrobat Reader.

I put a lot of crazy hours into the pattern and doll design, so please never sell, publish or distribute the pattern. That is a violation of my copyright.

Wonderful and intrepid volunteer crafters, Olivia and Chandra, made Mollies from the first draft of the pattern so that you could have the much-improved second draft. See their Mollies below: Chandra's is the Molly with the pink beret, Olivia's is the Molly with the blue beret. I was so excited to see their creations!

Chandra's Molly
Olivia's Molly
If you find any errors, be a pal and make a comment to me here. Feedback is most welcome. I've already had several suggestions to improve the pattern and I've been updating the PDF file as I get them. Thanks y'all!

If you make a Molly and would like to share your photos, I'd really love to see them. Pleassssse post them here in my Molly Monkey group on Flickr.

If you are just ecstatic with your pattern, perhaps you will click the donate button on the right and zap me a few dollars with PayPal. It would be most appreciated!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Katy Kitty in the works...

the design is mostly done...
and the fabrics are picked out.
daughter's birthday deadline approaching! can't find red corduroy! aaaaaaahhhh!
(edit: yes, I found some at Joann! whoo hoo!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

make a headband cover

I don't know about you, but good-fitting headbands are hard for me to find. They often give me earaches and headaches. Also, those elasticized headbands that go all around your head just don't stay on me well. They keep slipping off the back of my head. Maybe because I have such a freakishly high forehead. But I'm loving all the cute, wide, fabric headbands out there right now and I need some.

Soooo...recently I bought my daughter a handful of those el cheapo thin, flexible plastic headbands and noticed they do not hurt my head. So, I thought, why not cover it with wide fabric? And make it so I can switch covers at will?

So I stole a flashy gold one that she doesn't like for me to use. I measured the circumference of the headband with a measuring tape, added a bit for breathing room, then drew out a silhouette of a wide headband that tapers to a point just behind the ears. (sorry I didn't think to take photos of the whole process, but it is pretty straightforward, and there is a free pattern included below in case your headband is the same kind as mine)

I added the seam allowance, cut out two from my fabric*, and stitched it all around, right sides facing, leaving 2 inches open for turning. (before stitching, you could add interfacing too if you want a stiffer look).

*Savvy crafter Olivia offers this improvement: before you stitch, replace the slit with a buttonhole and you won't have to dab it with Fraycheck like certain impatient crafters named Larissa.

I turned it, then topstitched the opening closed. You could topstitch the whole thing if you were so inclined and liked that look. Then, on the bottom side, about an inch or so above one end, I used my seam ripper to cut a slit about half an inch wide in one layer of fabric, so basically I had a slit to feed in the headband (skip this slit/fraycheck step if you already did Olivia's buttonhole idea). I dotted Fraycheck around the cut to keep it from fraying.

Then I fed in the thin plastic headband through the opening until it was all inside. Voila. Instant, comfortable, wide headband, that I can switch out whenever I want with the other fabric covers I plan on making. You can see a lump where the thin headband is inside, but to me that just looks like a wrinkle in the fabric, kinda the look I was going for.

Pretend there is a Heather Bailey-esque arty photo of me wearing it here. Not happening.

Do you want to make one? Here's my free pattern, although you should measure your headband first to make sure it will fit. Make sure the pattern prints at actual size, not 'sized to fit'.

Friday, July 18, 2008

make your own shoulder bag

I made this messenger bag a while back out of Jade Somerset by Braemore. I found the pattern free from the good folks at Sew Young, Sew Fun. Sadly, their site no longer exists.

However, there are plenty of other options out there for a free bag pattern, including:

this tutorial by Tiny Happy,
this hobo bag at JCarolineCreative
this one on the Robert Kaufman fabric site
this free yoga bag pattern from Amy Butler (navigate down to free patterns, then scroll)
and this one from Craftbits

(Late note, I eventually posted my own version of a free messenger bag pattern since I can't point you to the Sew Young Sew Fun version. Here it is.)