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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Repurposing My Way to a New Ironing Mat

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
My jumbo ironing mat!
Semi-interesting fact: I've never owned a full-size ironing board.

Not sure if that's unusual, but all I've ever had is the mini table-top version. And since the one I have was not constructed with a steel base, it's gotten warped over the years.

The advantage of one of these things is that it can be placed virtually anywhere and doesn't take up a whole lot of space. Ever since my sewing journey began, my little board has had a home in my sewing room, on top of a shelf in front of the window.

My sad little ironing board...

If I had a full-size ironing board, you can be assured I wouldn't have it sitting out and open all the time.

When I recently made the decision to improve my ironing station (after purchasing a new iron), I pondered whether to make a large pad that I could put on any surface, or turn the top of this shelving unit into a larger ironing "board".

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After mulling it over — and ordering a yard of Insul-Bright — I thought, why not do both?

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Gathering my materials to make an ironing mat...

Easy to use...
A yard of Insul-Bright comes in a 45" width, so it's a decent size. Combined with still more of that duvet cover fabric after last week's sewing machine cover project, I added some extra padding and protection to the mix by re-purposing a blanket (last used as a substitute for Flex Foam or Soft and Stable on my Summit Pack).

Therefore, this qualifies as an recycling project. A quick visit to your nearest thrift store should yield inexpensive bed sheets, duvet covers and blankets if you don't happen to have any at home that you can repurpose.

The result is a fairly large mat that can do double duty as a topper for my shelf as well as for a large counter or table top. (On the shelf, the excess part just hangs off the back against the wall.)

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
My expanded ironing "board"...

For this project, I didn't even bother measuring any of the materials. I just used the Insul-Bright as a template and cut around it. (The fabric was cut about half an inch larger all the way around.)

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Stacking the four layers...

The four resulting pieces were then stacked in this fashion: the blanket, the Insul-Bright, the top fabric piece (right side up), the bottom fabric piece (right side down).

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Then it was just a matter of pinning and sewing all the way around, leaving a turning gap. After turning, I closed up the opening and topstitched all the way around the perimeter.

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Closing the gap...

And of course, it sounds easy, but when dealing with something of this size, the layers are bound to shift. I probably could have gotten better results by basting everything first, but in the end, it's just an ironing mat and I wasn't seeking perfection.

My first instinct was to use binder clips to secure the mat to the top of the shelf, like this...

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Trying out some binder clips...

They seemed too strong, however, so I attached four sets of adhesive hook and loop "dots" instead.

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
...but adhesive velcro dots come to the rescue...

Despite being "just" adhesive, these things hold quite well to fabric. They'll do the job in this situation and I don't have to be concerned about something being permanently fixed onto the shelf. (By the way, I do keep an old towel underneath to absorb any excess moisture that comes through during steaming.)

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
My new ironing station ready to go!

Quite happy with how this turned out. Not only do I have a larger surface on which to iron — three feet by almost four feet when laid out in full — it's actually flat and not concave! (I've seen smaller projects made with strips of magnets for securing to the tops of washing machines, which is another handy idea.)

Oh, and given the recycling factor, my only real cost associated with the project was $11 CDN for the Insul-Bright.

Do you do your sewing related ironing on a traditional ironing board... or do you have something a bit different?

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Making a Custom Sewing Machine Cover

Sewing Machine Cover crafted by eSheep Designs
My sewing machine finally has a cover! ("back" view)
It was September 21 when I made this; the last day of summer.

It felt, however, more like the last day of fall, with a persistent drizzle of rain and a daytime high of
4°C (39°F). Small wonder I was inspired to make a "coat" for my Kenmore... even it must have been cold!

Kidding aside, I've known for a long time that it's a good idea to cover a sewing machine when it's not in use, to prevent dust from settling into all the various nooks and crannies. The very act of sewing — in and of itself — already creates dust, so having additional ultra fine dust added to the mix just by being exposed to the elements inside your dwelling is probably something to avoid.

So have I ever covered my machine? No.

My Kenmore comes with a rigid case that's essentially used for transporting it from one place to another. Without removing the top thread and various other "things" that I have in and around the machine, however, the cover is more or less useless. And if I have to dismantle and put stuff away in order to keep the dust off, well, let's just say that there's a darn good reason why this sewing machine hasn't been covered for the past five years: I couldn't be bothered.

Okay, so maybe that's not a good reason... hence this project.

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While acknowledging that there are likely all sorts of free patterns for sewing machine covers to be found, I didn't even bother looking this time. I figured that an upside down tote bag without handles would do the job. (The design would also be uber spartan as I didn't see the point of embellishing it with pockets and such.)

Of course, a decent amount of fabric is needed to pull off a sewing machine cover, so I immediately thought of repurposing my old black and white Ikea duvet cover. This fabric originally appeared on the first bag I ever made "from scratch"... the Make it Yours proof of concept bag. The $9.99 twin size duvet cover set came with a pillowcase that had a smaller version of the overall geometric circles print; that was what I harvested for the outside of the bag.

What you see here comes from the actual duvet cover. It's not often that I get the chance to use something featuring a large print, and this one worked out even better in terms of the finished product because it's non-directional. Had I not wanted to add the black contrast band at the bottom, I could have just used one big piece of fabric for the entire exterior.

Sewing Machine Cover crafted by eSheep Designs
A sewing machine cover is an excellent opportunity to use a "large print" fabric... ("front" view)

In the above picture, the pointy part at the top of the cover is due to a thread cone still being in place on the spool pin. Couldn't have done that with my hard case cover.

So how did I go about constructing this relatively simple item? After taking measurements for height, depth and width (using the rigid case cover shown below as a point of reference, but also accounting for the fact that I may keep a large spool of thread on top) and adding seam allowances to the equation, I arrived at a requirement for two 29" wide by 44" high pieces of fabric.

My plan was simple: for each of the lining and exterior, I would fold the fabric in half (lengthwise, of course), sew together the two side seams and box the corners. Then I'd drop the lining inside the exterior and join the two by sewing up the top (or, the physical bottom ) seam.

Kenmore Sewing Machine Case Cover
This cover attaches to the bottom of my sewing machine platform...

The fabric for the lining came from the pillow that I had ripped open in order to reuse the polyfill for my throw pillow projects. (So that pillow is now 99% recycled — yay!) However, by the time it was trimmed and squared up, it would only yield 28" by about 42".

No matter; I was determined to make it work. My original dimensions were generous, so going to 28" wide wasn't going to be a big deal. I decided to address the shorter length of the lining by folding some of the exterior fabric back to the inside along the bottom edge. (This would be easy to do considering that my original plan was to go with a simple "drop in" type of lining and not a "turn right side out through a small hole" type of lining.)

Sewing Machine Cover crafted by eSheep Designs
Now I don't have an excuse to leave my sewing machine "naked" when I'm not using it...

The pieced exterior fabric — the main fabric is trimmed at each end with black cotton twill measuring 5" x 28" — was interfaced with fusible fleece to add some body to the cover.

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The boxed corners at the top are 7" wide. To prevent the lining from separating and dropping away from the exterior, the corner pieces (that would normally be trimmed away) are attached to each with stitching as shown below.

Sewing Machine Cover crafted by eSheep Designs
I sewed together the two triangular corner pieces on each boxed corner
to secure the lining to the exterior fabric.

It's probably hard to see here due to the black fabric, but my solution for the bottom (to address the matter of the lining being shorter than the exterior) involved folding the exterior fabric to the inside and then creating a rolled hem to trap the raw edge of the lining fabric inside.

Sewing Machine Cover crafted by eSheep Designs
Using the exterior fabric to enclose the lining...

All that's left after pinning is to sew all the way around.

Sewing Machine Cover crafted by eSheep Designs
A final stitch all the way around and it's done!

Even with the concessions I had to make with the lining fabric, it fits perfectly. I can keep various tools (like my sewing light) attached to or on the machine and it's not an issue to cover it.

Works for me! (And I've used it consistently in the weeks since, which is the main point.) I like that there are projects like this where you can just do it and not worry about perfection or preciseness.

Is your sewing machine covered when not in use? Did you make the cover? If so, did you just wing it or use a pattern?

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Avoiding Social Media & Staying Real

Evaluating the digital reflections of our social media "selves"...
Today marks the start of year four for this blog. It's now survived well past the "average" lifespan of a blog, which was not something I was able to envision four years ago.

Oddly enough, I'm commemorating the event by posting something that I started writing back in early 2014, probably around month three of blogging. This post was meant as potential filler for when things got slow on the sewing front.

Turns out that even though my sewing pace is slow, I've had enough other topics to write about that this post has sort of been forgotten.

That doesn't mean that it's lost any relevancy, however, since I've continued to have the occasional inquiry as to my availability on social media platforms other than Blogger. At year four, you still don't see those ubiquitous social media icons displayed in large format at the top of the page. Am I missing out on opportunities to promote this blog? Maybe. Is that important to me? Maybe, but maybe not.

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By the way, is it just my impression, or has there been an exodus towards "quick fire" social media on the part of craft bloggers over the past few years?

And while I'm asking questions, let me also ask another: am I the only one who cringes whenever someone says "like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter"? To be perfectly honest, it always sounds like a pitiful, pathetic plea... made to masses of people who are only important as a part of an ever increasing number to feed one's ego.

I don't mean that to sound harsh, because as a marketing tool, social media is highly effective when used properly. It's probably a necessary evil to doing business these days. (Doesn't mean that I still don't cringe when a business says "like me", but that's my hang-up, not yours.) On the other hand, for average "Joes and Josephines" — as a teacher of mine once said — it's as though self-worth has come to depend a great deal on numbers that we have no control over... i.e., how many online followers/"friends", how many subscribers/readers, how many visits from how many different places. It's endless. And endlessly troubling.

Blogging even comes with social expectations and obligations that one might not anticipate. For instance, there are those "I just found you at blankety-blank and added you to my blog list... follow me back at such-and-such". What kind of person makes such a request?

my list of tags
Judging by the size of the "promo link"
tag, I actually have quite a few
posts with links to other sites...
My main reason for not officially following any blog is that I don't have much time for blog-hopping. Additionally, I'm a stickler for equal opportunity. It's obvious that there are a handful of blogs that I regularly visit, but I know that if I were to put together an actual list of such places, I'd start to feel obligated to add to that list, whether by guilt or by influence, and a list like that will eventually come to mean nothing. (Some people's blog lists look like indices to major reference books... as in, there is a ludicrous number of entries. These individuals either sit around reading blogs day and night, or they're just pawns to the "follow me" requests and being followed by them means almost nothing anyway.)

Of course, in not having a list, I'm not fully contributing to the "web" part of the world wide web. For that reason, I've compensated by highlighting the specific work of other people/bloggers and providing direct links as much as I can, within my blog posts. (Check out my list of tags on the sidebar... if you filter my posts using the label "promo link", you will see all of the posts in which I mention other sites that have caught my eye. And if they've been mentioned more than once, you can be sure that I am somewhat of a "follower".)

But getting back to my first thought: what about Facebook and Twitter? Not being on Facebook has actually been compared to not having a toilet in your home. I want to state for the record that while I am not on Facebook, I do have four toilets in my home. More to the point, I would admittedly freak out if I didn't have a toilet in my home, but I don't see the day when I'd freak out about not being on Facebook.

As for Twitter, I snagged an account several years ago to claim my name, and did in fact start using it in 2016. I follow five accounts operated by my local emergency and news services and have to say that I really like how efficient it is at aggregating pertinent info. We had crazy weather in 2016, with warnings and watches foisted on us during the summer on an almost daily basis. Twitter was actually the best way to access everything at once. That said, I have neither tweeted nor followed any other individual's pithy chirps. Seeing the crazy conflicts that take place daily on Twitter, not engaging means that I minimize the possibility of inadvertently sticking my foot in my mouth.

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Having avoided Facebook for so long, when I started this blog, I knew I wouldn't succumb to setting up a corresponding Facebook account that would — in all likelihood — replicate what's here and seriously suck my time in keeping it current.

Curiously enough, one of the testers for my Diva Envelope Clutch suggested setting up a Facebook group for pattern testing purposes so that testers can communicate with each other via that platform... after all, it wouldn't require my involvement. (But the idea of not being involved with something that's ultimately mine raises the potential of other issues that I won't get into right now.)

To expand on an earlier statement, we've really lost something with regards to what Facebook, Twitter, et al have done to bloggers who used to post with some regularity. Instead of their blogs driving their social media content, it's now 24/7 natterings on these other platforms punctuated by the occasional blog post. It's unfortunate that some bloggers have diverted their efforts to these other — in my humble opinion — less meaningful pursuits.

It's obviously about opting for an easier way, because — as most bloggers come to realize and some smart readers know — blogging is hard work. It takes time and a huge commitment. It's why those who start off blogging five times a week very quickly find themselves unable to keep up. (Craft blogging, in particular, has to be balanced with actual crafting.) And I'm sure that's the explanation most would give if they had to explain why they've switched from blogging to "that other stuff".

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By the way, let's be clear that I am not without some appreciation of the value of social media. I like that when a "bad guy" is out and about, it takes no time for the news to go around the world via those mediums. I like that good causes get recognition and crowd funding through the power of social media.

But on a regular daily basis, I'm becoming more convinced that the bad has totally outweighed the good. Why? I've come to suspect that most of the good effects of social media are more or less accidental, while the bad is intentional.

From way, way back (in the 90s), I've disliked the mob mentality of the internet. But today's real time, rapid fire social media feeds that frenzy in the worst possible ways. People initially gravitate to social media platforms on the premise of joining inclusive communities, on gaining a sense of belonging. But more often than not, the end results are extremely divisive. Never mind that the notoriety that arises from becoming a recognized social media "personality" or online "celebrity" can give rise to a twisted sense of self-importance. It doesn't take much to go from feeling ordinary to feeling entitled and powerful and believing that one's digital reflection is the real thing. As human beings, we are very weak that way.

And I'm not implying that there are sewing blog authors who are megalomaniacs or narcissists (!), just that the situation — wherever and whenever it occurs — is distasteful.

Most of all, I stay away from quickie social media because I really, really, REALLY value my privacy, and need to have as much control of it as possible. (Apparently, studies have shown that I'm giving away my age by admitting to a need for privacy. Whatever. The fact is, once you lose it, your privacy is virtually — if not totally — impossible to get back.)

But really, you already know how many toilets I have in my home. If you get to know much more about me, I might have to come after you. ;-)

So that was a rather long-winded way of saying why I'm still not — after four years — wanting to spread myself thinly across quickie social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

Knowing that I'm in the minority, however, let me ask you this: what is the best thing that social media has done for you?

Saturday, 28 October 2017

See It — Like It — Make It!

Draw diagrams and make notes!
This topic was first introduced in my series of posts about the MyTie Makeover Mini Bag. How do you go from seeing something (that can be sewed) and liking it, to recreating it?

Sometimes the challenge is a significant one (like the tie bag was). Sometimes, it's sort of in the middle in terms of complexity, like the Diva Envelope Clutch. Today's target project probably fits on the easy end of the spectrum. Easy in that if you have the aptitude to do this sort of thing, this one's not that hard at all.

What is it? It's called the Desktop Tote, from Everything Mary. You can find it on Craftsy here.

Everything Mary Desktop Tote
Desktop Tote... image courtesy of Everything Mary

And this is my knock-off, roughly the same size. (I've had no access to the original item; just seen the photos.)

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
My own version of the Everything Mary Desktop Tote...

From the description, the original is made out of some sort of laminated poly. Mine was made with quilting cottons and some stabilizer.

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Here it is filled to the brim. There are two bellows pockets on the front and back, and a divided slip pocket on each side. The interior is just one big open space.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
A handy organizer for all sorts of crafting or hobby supplies...

I replicated the look of the pockets for the most part, with two exceptions. There's no flap since it seemed an absolutely useless embellishment to me (the same me who typically dislikes flaps) and might actually limit what could be put in that pocket, and the full-width pocket across the back — front? — was split into two.

The original item sells for as little as ten bucks USD, so it's not expensive. You'll have no reason not to buy it if you like it. But sometimes it's the challenge that motivates, and an exercise like this is good for the brain cells every now and again.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
It's not that big but holds quite a lot...

The fact is, I don't need this thing. (Or so I thought. Since writing up the majority of this post many weeks ago, this organizer has slowly been put to use and has actually become a handy addition to my sewing table.) My multi-zip organizer is currently doing its job and I never take my sewing "on the road". But for some reason, from the first moment that I saw this, I knew I had to make it.

In case you're ever in that same mindset, let me run through the process.

Establish Size & Fabric Requirements

The first step was to take whatever measurements I could find about the original and work "backwards" from there. Luckily, the overall dimensions were readily available. The unit is 7.75" long x 5" wide x 8.75" high, with a 5" x 7" main interior. To keep things simple, I decided on 8" wide x 9" high.

Once you have the dimensions, it's usually not too hard to figure out the size and fabric requirements of each piece.

We usually have to account for seam allowances, but since this item has bound edges, the main body panels are essentially 8" wide x 9" high. How many pieces of fabric are needed in total? Four: two exterior pieces and two interior pieces.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
It's collapsible!

The main compartment of this thing is formed by a gusset between the two body panels. Since it was noted that the interior is 5" x 7", I assumed the gusset would be 5" wide by 7" (high right) + 8" (bottom) + 7" (high left) = 22" long, plus two seam allowances. The fabric — one piece for the exterior and one for the interior — had to have a non-directional print, or would need to be split into two pieces, with a seam at the bottom (which means adding another seam allowance).

That accounts for the main body.

Oh, mustn't forget about the binding. Just add up the perimeter and include another 2" to spare: i.e., 8" + 9" + 8" + 9" + 2" = 36" long. Two strips (up to 2" wide) are needed, one for each main panel.

The next step was to figure out the pockets.

The slip pockets on the side were easy. They are the same width as the gusset (5") and are bound along the sides. They need to be seamed at the top and bottom (i.e., add two seam allowances), attached to the exterior gusset piece along the bottom, and then divided in half. I think I decided on a finished height of 5".

The bellows pockets were more complicated. Here's how I started... with a scrap of wrapping paper that just happened to be on the counter at the time. (Sometimes trial and error is the easiest way to a solution!)

Figuring out how much fabric is needed to make a double bellows pocket...

I folded until I got a double bellows assembly about 7" wide, to fit on the 8" wide front/back panel. When I unfolded the sheet, it gave me the exact width of fabric that I needed, not including two seam allowances. My guess on the pocket height was 5" to 6" (plus a seam allowance).

This pocket requires an exterior and interior piece of fabric, and is seamed along three sides (the bottom edge is bound along with the panel on which the pocket sits). It must also be attached to the exterior main panel in three places, along the outside edges and right in the middle.

By the way, I changed the size of the pockets for the reverse side of this; one is narrower than the other (shown above where you can see my glasses case and a box of pins).

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Account For What You Can't See

Even if you can get your hands on the original item, there are always some things that you just won't be able to see. If all you have to go on is photos, well then, it's a game of "best guess". In this case, I obviously needed to account for the stabilizers to make this able to stand up on its own.

I decided that a medium weight fusible would be needed for the pocket exterior pieces, cut just shy of the seam allowance. The two body panel exteriors were similarly treated. I also thought that it would be a good idea to add a 2" slice at the top edges of the gusset exterior (the part above the slip pockets that's topstitched).

Peltex was my choice of stabilizer to provide firm structure in three areas. The first two are obvious: something sturdy is needed between the interior and exterior of the two body panels. (I cut them a full inch smaller than the panels to ensure that they wouldn't get in the way of the binding.) The third place would be at the bottom of the main compartment.

Figure Out the "How"

After figuring out the "what", it's time to consider the "how". As in, how best to construct it so that it looks like the original.

For example, did you notice how the top edges of the pockets in the original item are bound? In the interests of saving time and resources, I used a method to replicate this look without binding.

My idea was to feature the interior fabric — which was already destined to be used for the binding — along the top edge of the pocket, by cutting it an inch bigger/taller than the exterior fabric. (That is, if the pocket is meant to be 6" high, the exterior fabric would be 5.5" and the interior would be 6.5", plus whatever seam allowance is used.) Once sewn together and folded in half, the top edge would show a half inch of the interior fabric on the outside.

Doing it that way — for all of the pockets — was super easy!

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
I did a horrible job on some parts of the binding...!

The part that wasn't super easy? Attaching the binding, of course. Since I did round off the corners, the binding had to curve around those areas. Also, with all the layers, the bottom ended up being especially tricky to sew. In hindsight, I probably should have gone with a narrower binding (I used a half inch, made up of 2" wide strips of fabric), but that was one of the great unknowns.

On the matter of the Peltex piece on the bottom, I had to keep in mind that the whole thing was meant to be collapsible, so the Peltex couldn't just be fused onto the gusset. My solution was to make a support piece that could be flipped up out of the way.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
A fold-down support piece is sewn into the bottom of this thing...

I folded a piece of matching interior fabric, seamed it on both sides, flipped it right side out, and inserted the piece of Peltex into it. This piece was then ultimately added into the mix when it came time to attach the binding.

After debating with myself over whether I wanted to incorporate a built in "handle", at the very end, I decided to use up these last two silver-toned oval grommets that were rescued from an old purse (and last seen on my customized market tote). Of course, since I left it to the end, I had to cut through the fabric and Peltex, which wasn't fun. So you might want to note that if you intend to make the handle, measure and cut the hole in the Peltex before you insert it.

So do you think this will help you to see something, like something and make something in future?