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Friday, September 12, 2014

Making Custom Bird Cage Covers

Birds make excellent pets, but they do have a tendency to make a racket in the early morning. The rising sun gets them up, and they seem to have an innate need to greet the day the very second the sun sneaks above the horizon. This can be annoying, but fortunately it's a very simple thing to fix.

If you can convince your bird that it's actually still dark out, he will remain quiet until a decent hour. This is where bird cage covers come in. Sometimes you'll get lucky and have a cover come with the cage you bought. Unfortunately, most cages don't actually come with a cover. This is why I make them for avid bird lovers.

I can make them in just about any color. The first picture is for a parrot cage with a play apparatus on top. These types of cages take a little more measuring and have to be made with a little more care. The fabric is a navy cotton striped with red (though you can't really see the red in the picture). Perfect measurements are the key to this cage.

The second cage, made out of a purple cotton, is more standard. This budgie cage is just square with a handle for hanging or carrying on the top. These cage covers are easier, though accurate measuring is still essential. The cage has to leave room for the hanger, of course, so this is always taken into account when making covers of this nature.

Both styles close easily with Velcro. You can make them yourself, if you're so inclined, with some dense fabric (of a type that won't smother the bird, of course) and heavy-duty Velcro. If you're really concerned about your bird getting all noisy in the morning, line your bird cage cover with either the same fabric or a lining fabric to block out the most light.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sewing a Stitch and Pink Seam

The stitch and pink seam finish is quick and easy, but it's really only useful for fabrics that are tightly woven. Fabrics that fray are not a good match for this seam, and knitted fabrics absolutely should not be finished this way (unless you want your project to unravel). With the appropriate fabric, however, this seam finish will work well enough.

The term 'pink' refers to a set of pinking shears, so you'll need a sharp set for this seam finish. But before breaking out the pinking shears, stitch ¼" from the raw edge of the seam allowance. You can use either a simple straight stitch or a zigzag. Now use the pinking shears to trim the excess fabric away. Don't get too close to your line of stitching or you risk cutting your stitching. If you can avoid this particular problem, your stitch and pink seam will hold as well as any other.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sewing a Pink Seam

There are few seams in the world easier than a simple pink seam, especially because the pink seam doesn't require any actual sewing. This method is fast and efficient, but it's really only designed for tightly woven fabrics that won't fray even when worn several times. If you have a fabric that frays, pick a different seam.

Still, a pinked seam is useful, especially when you're in the middle of a project. To complete this seam, simply press the seam into its open position, then find a pair of good pinking shears. They must be sharp. If they're not, you'll only damage your fabric. Use the pinking shears to trim the seam allowance raw edge, but don't get too close. You don't want to cut anywhere near the actual seam.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Corset-Style Gown for Sale, Black with Tangerine Accents

This corset-style gown spent most of its time in the back room, occasionally being used as a display model(floor model) around Halloween for a few years. It was never worn, but did spent some time on a mannequin. We've changed our Halloween display, and that means selling off the old display items. Also, we no longer have these fabrics available, so there won't be any more of these gowns (in these particular colors) once this last one is gone.

This gown is constructed out of a heavy black cotton blend. The accents are a tangerine damask cotton with an embossed rose print. The roses are hard to see in the photo unless you look closely, but they are there. This gown is corset-style, but bear in mind that it doesn't give any real support. Appropriate undergarments will still be required as the ribbons are for decorative purposes only. The ribbons can be pulled to make the gown slightly smaller than the indicated measurements.

The orange belt in the picture is attached to the gown and cannot be removed. It can, however, be tied either in front of the gown or behind it. Tying the belt in a bow behind the body is a more classic look, but I pulled the belt to the front so it could be easily seen. The belt can help to make the gown fit you more exactly. This gown is designed for Halloween wear, as evidenced by the colors, but you could wear it for other events throughout the year as well.

There is decorative black stitching along the neck and around the sleeves that cannot be seen in the picture. The sleeves are tight until the flounce. The flounce is vibrant and fun and will cover the hand on most wearers.

The gown's approximate measurements are as follows:
  • Bust: 36"
  • Waist: 28"
  • Hips: 38"
Since this is a floor model, there might be some minor markings, but I can't see any. I would consider this gown to be in near-perfect condition These gowns retail for $99.99, but since it's a floor model bidding starts at well under half that price.

I only ship to the US and Canada at this time. Sorry for the inconvenience. Because this is a floor model, you are purchasing it as-is. Returns are not accepted on this item. If you are interested in purchasing this item, check out my eBay listing for Medium Corset-Style Gown, Black with Tangerine Accents.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Large Cloak for Sale, Turquoise with White Lining

This turquoise cloak spent 18 months as a display cloak (floor model). It was never worn, but did spent most of that time on a mannequin. A change in the colors in the shop means this cloak is now for sale. Also, we no longer have these fabrics available, so there won't be any more of these cloaks (in these particular colors) once this last one is gone.

The shell of this medieval cloak is a turquoise damask cotton with an embossed rose print (which is almost impossible to see in the photo). The lining is thick white cotton with an embossed dandelion print. Again, this is hard to see in the photo. Both fabrics are fairly heavy, making this a wonderfully warm cloak. It closes with a pewter clasp and has a lovely drape due to the weight of the fabrics used in its construction.

The cloak itself is large enough to fit most people. I would call it a large cloak, but it can be worn by most adults who wear size large or smaller. It will brush the floor on anyone under 5'6"tall. If you're shorter than that, it will drag on the floor. This gothic cloak is definitely considered full-length. The hood is large and deep (though thrown back in the picture).

Since this is a floor model, there might be some minor markings, especially on the lining. The markings on the lining are not noticeable when the cloak is worn. The shell is in near-perfect condition with no marks that I can see. These cloaks retail for $59.99, but since it's a floor model bidding starts at less than half that price.

I only ship to the US and Canada at this time. Sorry for the inconvenience. Because this is a floor model, you are purchasing it as-is. Returns are not accepted on this item. If you are interested in purchasing this item, check out my eBay listing for Large Gothic Cloak, Cotton, Turquoise with White Lining.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Knitting Patterns: Beanie Hat

I love to knit. It's a great way to pass the time when I'm not in the middle of a sewing project that needs attention. I like to sit and knit while watching my favorite movies. Usually I'm making whatever my kids have asked for. Yesterday, it was a beanie hat, often called a toque. Making one yourself is actually very easy. All you need is a couple balls of yarn, a circular sewing needle (I like US size 7, but you can use a different size if you like), four or five double point needles of the same size, a tapestry needle, and a free afternoon. You'll also need to know how to make a basic knit stitch and a basic purl stitch.

Start by casting on your stitches onto the circular needles. How many you need is determined by how large the hat must be. The hat in the picture was made using a hundred stitches. It fits my five-year-old son. You can make a hat using many more stitches, but make sure the number you use is divisible by four. For example, you can make a hat using 124 stitches, but not 125. Trust me, this is important.

Once you have your stitches cast on, join them so they're in a circle on the circular needles, making sure not to twist the stitches. Also make sure you use a stitch marker so you don't lose track of where you started. Now you can begin a simple rib stitch. Knit one, purl one, repeat. See, simple. Continue the rib stitch for six rounds, more if you want a thicker rib around the base of your hat. Keep your stitch marker in place, making sure not to drop it. That stitch marker should stay exactly where it is until you've finished the hat, so just keep transferring it from needle to needle.

After you've completed the rib section of your hat, you can forget all about having to purl. The rest of the beanie is only a knit stitch. Knit until you are at least six inches from the edge of the hat, maybe a little more depending on the size of your forehead. At this point, you can add the stripes of color seen in the photo. Add two rounds of a contrasting color, then three of your base color, then two more of your contrasting color to get the effect you see in the photo. You can change the patter as you desire, but once you've added seven or eight additional rounds, it's time to start decreasing your hat.

This is where being able to divide your stitches by four is essential. Knit one more round, but count out your stitches, adding three more stitch markers as you go. You should end up with four stitch markers evenly spaced. I like to add a fifth stitch marker to the first one so I still know exactly where I started. This keeps your hat nice and even as you decrease.

So, decreasing. It's really not that hard. You'll have to be able to knit 2 together and perform a slip, slip, knit, but you can find videos for these on YouTube. Basically, you knit 2 together after each stitch marker and slip, slip, knit right before each stitch marker. This reduces your total number of stitch by 2 for each stitch marker, so you'll have eight fewer stitches after each completed round.

Continue to knit, decreasing at each stitch marker. At some point, you'll have to switch to the double pointed needles because you won't have enough stitches left to continue on the circular needles. I like using five needles for this, but you can do it with four. It doesn't work with three. Continue knitting on the double pointed needles until you have fewer than ten stitches left.

At this point, you should cut a ten inch tail of your yarn. You won't need more than that to finish off the hat. Thread the end onto your tapestry needle, thread the tapestry needle through the remaining stitches, and tie off the yarn on the inside of the hat (because your hat will look funny if you tie it off on the outside).

You should now have a completed hat. Maybe now you'll want to make a coordinating scarf. I know I did.

And for those who need a little help with slip, slip, knit.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Caring for Wool Sweaters

Wool is a marvelous fiber. It's comfortable, warm, and attractive. However, if not cared for properly, it can shrink, lose its shape and sometimes even unravel completely. In order to prevent this from happening, wool sweaters should be cared for in very particular ways.

Wool sweaters should not be cleaned too often. Excessive cleaning can break down the wool fibers. Only wash your sweater when absolutely required. When you do wash your sweater, it is probably best that you follow the care instructions on the tag. Most tags will indicate that your wool garments should be dry cleaned.

However, it is possible to wash your wool sweaters and other garments in the washing machine. If you choose to do this, use a mild detergent that is specifically formulated for wool. Biological detergents, or anything that contains bleach, will be disastrous to wool fibers. Read all the fine print of your favorite detergent to determine if it’s safe for your wool sweater.

Select the slowest spin speed and lowest temperature possible when machine washing any wool garments. Higher spin speeds could cause your sweater to stretch, while hot water can shrink your garment beyond all repair. If your machine has a wool care setting, use that. Otherwise, a cold water delicate wash will usually suffice.

Do not dry your wool garments in the dryer. Any heat applied to wet wool can (and usually will) cause shrinkage. Instead, lay your wool sweaters flat to dry. You can purchase a rack for drying your sweaters that allow them to be laid flat while permitting airflow from all sides. The wool will dry quickly and your sweaters will maintain their shape. If you notice that your sweater is slightly out of shape, stretch it gently before it’s dry.

Pilling is a common problem with wool sweaters, and it really cannot be avoided. This makes the sweater look untidy and a little ratty. However, when you do notice little pills and bobbles appearing on your sweater, you can treat the sweater by either plucking the pills off with your fingers or shaving the sweater gently. After a few washes, pilling will become less of a problem.

Wool sweaters are very attractive for moths, and once eggs are laid and the larvae hatched, they feed on the wool fibers. Most people would reach for the mothballs, but these can actually damage your wool sweater. Instead of mothballs, consider storing your wool sweater wrapped in plastic and sprinkled with lavender.

For more long-term storage, consider placing the lavender in a sachet with rosemary and dried orange peel. Place this near, but not on, your sweater to avoid any possible damage. Then place both the sweater and the sachet into a cardboard box, canvas or muslin bag, or simply wrap in an acid-free tissue paper.

The better you care for your sweater, the longer it will last. Clean your sweater only when necessary, store it carefully, and rinse any stains immediately with cold water. You should get years of life out of your wool sweater if you're careful.

First published as How to Care for Wool Sweaters