Monday, September 19, 2016

No Longer a Virgin

That's right, I am not longer a Wolltraum virgin. I just finished my first project made from the oh so exquisite and awesome Wolltraum yarn. I have been stalking this yarn for ages via Facebook and Ravelry projects and so many beautiful blog posts, but I could never quite justify the cost of paying $17 - $22 a skein for yarn plus whatever it would cost to ship from the UK. A month or so ago, Wolltraum in their deviousness sent me an email announcing the release of their Halloween themed yarns. I couldn't resist any longer. They broke me finally, and it didn't even take water boarding or the removal of any fingernails. All it took was an irresistibly gorgeous colorway called "This is Halloween."

So, I ordered it and waited. Waited impatiently ... checked my email every day for a shipment update, checked my Facebook for an update, checked my PayPal account to be sure my payment wasn't cancelled ... did I mention waited IMPATIENTLY? I got my shipment notice! Yes! Oh, and then I had to wait some more for it to arrive. Anxiously, impatiently (yeah, it's a theme). And then it arrived. 

It was even prettier than the online picture. The yarn was sooo soft and delicate. The colors were super vibrant. The skeins I ordered had a 4ply, 50% cotton / 50% Acrylic make-up. Wolltraum wraps their yarn in a round cake that unfurls from the inside middle rather than the traditional skein shape. The colorway started out as a soft lemon yellow in the center and gradually transitioned to mango orange and then pink and then purple. The ingenious way the transitions were handled changing first one and then two strands and so on until the color hand changed completely alters how you think the colors will appear from just looking at the cake of yarn. The mix of yellow and orange created areas of gold and the orange and pink looked more like a soft red when it was crocheted out. The purple is so dark it looks black until you get close up.

I decided to use the yarn to make a virus shawl because I knew from the hundreds of projects I had perved on various sites, Wolltraum is a favorite yarn for those. My other reason for choosing the virus shawl pattern was that I didn't want anything that would stitch out in horizontal or vertical stripes. I wanted the transition from color to color to be as subtle as possible, and I have seen quite a few striped patterns end up with very abrupt color changes when using long run variegated yarn.

This particular type of yarn seems to be one that people either love or hate. I've read a lot of blog posts complaining about it being too thready since the individual threads are not wrapped together into a single rope like most yarns. I didn't have any problems working with it, but I could see me having more of an issue if I had decided to knit something with it instead of crochet. I may have to try that next just to see.

I absolutely love the finished product! It is full of firelight and flames. I ended up naming the finished piece Phoenix Rising because it reminded me of a phoenix rising from the ashes. I've posted the finished piece up for sale on my Pandora's Handmade Etsy page, but I think I will hold onto the second cake of yarn to make something for myself.

P.S. Each cake of yarn comes with a little metal charm. One of them had a jack-o-lantern, and the other had a skeleton bone.

Crocheted Wedding Bouquets

Working up crocheted daisies and sunflowers for two friends' wedding was how I spent the last  several months. It was time consuming and labor intensive, but I promise it was a labor of love. Seeing how everything came together at the end to form the bridesmaid and bridal bouquets made it all worthwhile.
My wife, Stephanie, was asked to be a bridesmaid in Cass and Torrey's wedding, and I was asked if I would help Cass crochet flowers for the bouquets. It was really nice to have something I could help do for the wedding. We live just under five hours away from where our friends live and where the wedding would take place, so we weren't able to participate in and help with a lot of the prep work for the wedding.

Cass and I pieced together the patterns for the daisies, buds, button flowers, and sunflowers by taking little bits from this pattern and that pattern that we liked. Cass made the button flowers and buds, I made the sunflowers, and we both worked on making the daisies.

After everything had been crocheted, stemmed, and beaded, we set aside a weekend a few weeks before the wedding to assemble everything. We ended making a trip to the craft store for silk greenery to fill out the bouquets once we started assembling them. Then, we wrapped the stems in burlap ribbon and attached cotton lace as an accent. I think they turned out beautifully! They really looked fantastic with the green bridesmaid dresses, and the bouquets will be a wonderful keepsake for each attendant.

I was particularly proud of how the sunflowers turned out. I ripped those devils apart three or four times working and reworking the petals and centers to get them just right. Then I beaded the centers to add a little shine and glitz.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sophie's Universe Crochet-a-Long Blanket 2015

This is what I am working toward. It was made by the lovely Dedri Uys from the website Look What I Made

Project Name: Sophie's Universe CAL 2015
Pattern Name: Sophie's Universe CAL by Dedri Uys
Designer's Ravelry Project Page
Designer's Website (Great Tutorials for each Part)
Craft Type: Crochet
Size: Large (King Size Blanket)
Hook Size: 3.25 mm (D)
Yarn used: 4,851 yards

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Solids
How much? 2 skeins = 630.0 yards (576.1 meters), 340 grams
Colorway: 9712 Soft Blue
Color family: Blue

Yarn: Lion Brand Heartland
How much? 1 skein = 251.0 yards (229.5 meters), 142 grams
Colorway: Joshua tree
Dye lot: 113108
Color family: Green

Yarn: Lion Brand Heartland
How much? 1 skein = 251.0 yards (229.5 meters), 142 grams
Colorway: 105 Glacier bay
Dye lot: 117446
Color family: Blue
Yarn: Lion Brand Heartland
How much? 1 skein = 251.0 yards (229.5 meters), 142 grams
Colorway: Everglades
Dye lot: 111857
Color family: Green

Yarn: Lion Brand Vanna's Choice Solids, Heathers & Twists
How much? 2 skeins = 340.0 yards (310.9 meters), 200 grams
Colorway: 300 Denim mist
Dye lot: 74034A
Color family: Blue

Yarn: Lion Brand Vanna's Choice Solids, Heathers & Twists
How much? 2 skeins = 340.0 yards (310.9 meters), 200 grams
Colorway: 306 Tangerine mist
Dye lot: 51453
Color family: Orange
Yarn: Lion Brand Vanna's Choice Solids, Heathers & Twists
How much? 2 skeins = 340.0 yards (310.9 meters), 200 grams
Colorway: 303 Purple Mist
Dye lot: 73904
Color family: purple

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solids, Heathers & Twists
How much? 2 skeins = 394.0 yards (360.3 meters), 170 grams
Colorway: 140 Rose heather
Dye lot: 74040
Color family: Pink

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solids, Heathers & Twists
How much? 2 skeins = 394.0 yards (360.3 meters), 170 grams
Colorway: 139 Dark Rose heather
Dye lot: 73076
Color family: Pink

Yarn: Purl Essence Sincerely Everyday Solids
How much? 5 skeins = 1660.0 yards (1517.9 meters), 850 grams
Colorway: 103 Sincerely Cream
Dye lot: 7421
Color family: White/Cream

I chose to make the large size blanket, which is suppose to be around 7 ft square when it is done. I did not use the suggested yarn because I could not find it locally. Below are the conversions of the colors from the original pattern to what I used.

Moonstone = Sincerely Cream
Amazonite = Soft Blue
Green Agate = Glacier Bay
Blue Apatite = Denim Mist
Canada Jade = Joshua Tree
Lemon Quartz = Everglades
Deep Amethyst = Purple Mist
Garnet = Dark Rose Heather
Corundum Ruby = Rose Heather
Coral = Tangerine Mist

Part 1: The outer edge of cream that make up the last four rows were a bit tricky. I had to take out the final row a couple times before I got it just right. I do love how it looks though. The flower turned out beautiful, and the high contrast between it and the cream background is really nice. (7 inches in diameter at finish)

Part 2: Round 13 was a tough one to get exactly right. I almost whooped with joy when my stitch count was still right on the last stitch. I had never done a picot stitch before. I am not totally sure I did it correctly, but I liked the way it turned out. The two shades of rose add a nice complimentary color to the cream and blues. (13.5 inches in diameter at finish)

Part 3: I love the pops of light green and blue that were added during part 3. Getting the V shape right was tricky, but it wasn’t too bad once I was able to visualize what to do. The trickiest thing about part 3 for me was the last row of crab stitches. Crocheting backwards takes some serious concentration. (20 inches in diameter at finish)

Part 4: Part 4 is taking much longer than the other parts to finish, but I’m getting there. My beauty is growing exponentially in size, and there are so many color changes in this part. It finally has at least one row of every color that will be used in the blanket. Opinions are still out on if we like the contrast that that coral/orange color brings to the table, but I don’t hate it. More to come as I finish the last couple of rows, block, and take pictures.

Whew! Part 4 is finally done. I stopped around row 32 to make a few hats and a blanket for my dad because he’s going through chemo treatments, but I just picked it back up a couple days ago. The contrast between the jewel tones and the cream is really nice, and I really like the optional flowers. My count is still spot on!!! I was really afraid it wouldn’t be. Now on to part 5. (26 x 26 inches at finish)

Part 5: Round 41 = UGH! This is the first time my count has been off … by 1. Insert sad face here. I did find out the problem and was able to pretty easily fix it. Thank goodness! I finished my first skein of Purl Essence Simple Cream (332 yds.) about a third of the way through the last round. This is the first color that I have finished a full skein of so far. I haven’t blocked anything yet. I think I will do that after part 6. (30x30 inches at finish)

Part 6: The last row of part six (round 53) made me question if I was doing it right. I took the first side apart a couple of times. Because of the way the arches form, it causes the edges to curl in a bit under the tension, but I think it will all lay flat again after the first couple of rounds of Part 7 are stitched. So far that is how it has always worked out with previous rounds I have questioned due to curling. I have faith that it will all lay flat again shortly. Otherwise, this part of the blanket went very smoothly if slowly (slowly not due to the difficulty but because I took some time off to make crocheted wedding bouquets for a friend). I am almost finished with my second skein of Purl Essence Sincerely Cream at the end of this part. I have just a tiny ball left, maybe a yard to a yard and a half of yarn. Lots of cream in this section! (36x36 inches at finish).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What We Do In Minnesota During the Winter ... An Adventure in Cosplay Costuming Pt 1

As we have already seen temperatures dipping into the negative double digits here in Minnesota this year, our scheduled outside activities are dwindling to a bare minimum. What does that mean? Well, more sewing and crafting, of course. For us this year, winter will be filled with preparation for the upcoming Spring and Summer conventions. That means Cosplay costuming! Last year we made costumes from our favorite geeky movie, Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising. This year we want to tackle Companions of the Hall costumes (for the uninitiated click on the link for more info).

This is the first post of what I am sure will be many in our journeys to become our favorite companions. First up, roll call...

Drizzt  ................................... Rae
Wolfgar ................................ Steffie
Bruenor ................................ Ralene (that's me)
Cattie Brie ............................ Crysta
Rigel ..................................... ???

My character, Bruenor, is a Dwarf fighter in the Forgotten Realms world. And, as we all know, Dwarves are Scottish, right? Taking that and running with it, I've decided to make a caramel brown cotton lolita skirt (pretty plain ... flat waistband, 3/4 circle, with ruffled hem) topped with a dark rose/blue/caramel plaid bustle skirt. I haven't quite decided for sure what I'm going to do with the upper portion of the outfit yet. I have a couple of options. My first option is to make a silver pvc corset, which will stand in the place of a breast plate. If I do this, I will put it over the top of a white, ruffled button down shirt. I've also thought about making a matching, hooded plaid vest to wear over the shirt. Furry brown boots will be a must. I'm also going to accessorize with a bright red cosplay wig and a small pouch made to look like a round shield with a foaming mug of ale embroidered on it.

For Steffie's Wolfgar outfit, I'm going to make her a similar caramel brown underskirt. Instead of a bustle skirt, I think I will make her a dark brown ruched cotton overskirt with channels and ties on each side so that the hemline can be raised and lowered. I want to trim out the overskirt in a dark brown fur. I've already bought her a ruffled white dress shirt to go with the outfit, and we found an awesome overbust corset from Corset-Story that is different shades of brown with leather accents.She will have a battle hammer as a weapon, and I think I will end up making some fur bracelets and big fur bow for her hair as accent pieces.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crochet Mood Blanket 2014

I saw this post from The Its Bitsy Spider blog, and I think I will do this. It looks like a fun way to use the pretty yarns I have in my scrap bin, and it's something quick and easy to do each day when I have some downtime after work. I will post my squares here as I make them.

Below is a link to the original blog post with instructions on how to participate in the project.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider Crochet: Crochet Mood Blanket 2014: It's no secret that when I have a few minutes down time, I love surfing some good crochet porn on Instagram. Well, last week, I found ...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Win Your Own Copy of Sewing & Fitting with Darts by Heather M. Claus - My First Reader Sweepstakes

Click Here to Buy

I was intending to have this review up and live on May 5th, but with the new job and general costuming and planting craziness of the season, I am running behind. I was recently asked to review this book, and I wanted to share the results with you. I was also given an extra copy to offer to one of my readers as well. So, if you are interested in winning an electronic copy of  Sewing and Fitting with Darts by Heather M. Claus, just post a message below with an email address for contact. I will announce the winner on Friday, May 17, 2013.
This book would be great for any beginner interested in learning how to better fit a garment by using darts. It covers many different types of darts, the areas of the garment that you would use them, and how they will help the garment better conform to your shape.

I have been sewing for years, and I am very familiar with the use of darts to fit shirts, jackets, and dresses. I don't often make pants beyond bloomers for Renaissance garb and pajamas, so it was very interesting to see just how many areas of a pant could be manipulated by a well placed dart. The detailed drawings were very helpful in visualizing where the darts would go and what affect they would have on the garment. She even took the time to create diagrams outlining the proper way to actually sew a dart in the fabric. I can't tell you how much frustration this caused me early on in my sewing endeavors. The seam ripper was a dear friend of mine until I figured it out. When both the right and the wrong ways are printed side by side for you to see, it's very easy to tell why you should be sewing the darts in a particular way. The author also goes over pressing, hiding, and removing darts as well. It really does cover the basics of what anyone would need to know about darts in an easy to ready, practical voice.

There are also helpful links to the 365 Days of Sewing forum where you can ask questions about each section of the book if you get stuck or need clarification. In order to view the discussion board, you do have to register for an account with the website as well as apply for membership for that particular group. It isn't instant access, so it may take a small amount of time for a moderator to approve new members. Please don't get discouraged. Once you are added to the group, you will have access to all of the different discussions from each chapter of the book.

After reading about each of the kinds of darts, I am most interested in trying the radiating dart. It has a very distinctive look, and I think it could add a bit of style as well as fit to a nice jacket or shirt. I am also really intrigued to see a couple of the upcoming volumes listed at the end of this book. The two that really caught my eye were: Volume 2 - Sewing Easy & Elegant Capes and Wraps and Volume 5 - 10 Gorgeous Vintage Details to Add to Your Contemporary Sewing Projects. I can't wait to see what kind of materials are included in these books.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Brother SE-400 Embroidery & Sewing Machine

Stars: 4 out of 5

Brand: Brother
Model: SE-400
Specialty: Embroidery & Sewing


Super Bright LED Lit Work Area
Built-in Memory
On-Screen Editing
Easy Computer Connectivity
Automatic Thread Cutter
Super Easy Needle Threading System
Instructional CD and Written Manual

Included Accessories

4x4 embroidery Hoop

Embroidery Arm
Soft Cover
Free Arm Accessory Compartment
Accessory feet:
Buttonhole foot
Overcasting foot
Zipper foot
Button fitting foot
Monogramming foot
Blind stitch foot
Embroidery foot
Embroidery bobbin thread
USB cable
Power cord
Accessory bag with seam ripper, needle set, cleaning brush, screwdrivers (2), touch pen, spool caps (3), scissors, bobbins (3)


I received my Brother SE-400 as a birthday present from my parents, and it has been extremely useful over the past 10 months or so. I kind of compared this model to plug and play hardware/peripherals for your computer. It really is good to go as soon as you set it up. The written manual is easy to read and organized very well to take you step by step through the process of your first embroidery project. If the manual bogs you down, you always just pop in the CD and watch the tutorials instead. I haven't watched all of them, but the ones I have used I really liked.

There are 70 built in embroidery designs, 67 built in sewing stitches, 5 embroidery fonts, 98 stitch functions, and 120 frame pattern combinations. The build in embroidery designs are pretty basic (floral scrolls, country kitsch stuff, and some decorative flourishes). I have used quite a few of the decorative stitch functions on the sewing side of things. They are great for adding little decorative trims to the edges of sleeves, collars, skirt hems, etc. It also does smocking, buttonholes, and stipple quilting to name a few.

Aside from the decorative stitch functions, there really isn't anything particularly special about the sewing machine functions. It's very similar to every other sewing machine that I've had as far as the way it operates with a couple exceptions. I love, love, love the needle threader. It is super easy to use as long as you remember to always have the needle in the uppermost position when pushing the lever to operate the threader. If the needle is in the wrong position, it will not thread properly. I also really appreciate just being able to push a button to cut the thread. Another nifty little extra is an on-screen message that pops up to let you know that the bobbin is running low on thread. This is particularly useful when doing embroidery because you can't see the bobbin once the hoop is in place. A second built in cutter is up on top where you wind your bobbin. It makes it very convenient to cut thread when the bobbin has finished.

As far as the embroidery functions go, I have been super impressed with this machine. It's on the lower end of the scale for pricing. When I got mine, it was on sale for about $460. I noticed this Christmas they have lowered the regular price down to $399. Considering that most of the embroidery machines range from $800 to multiple $1000, this one is a great deal for a beginning embroiderer. Regular, all purpose thread doesn't work so well in embroidery mode. It will work, but I have found that there is a lot of breakage and bunching of thread overall. It really is worth the investment to get a set of embroidery thread. If you search on Amazon, there are some really good deals on sets of up to 300 colors of thread. Well worth the investment. Also, stick with bobbin thread for the bobbin. It really does make a difference. I don't know what about the bobbin thread is different, but it just works so much better with far fewer hitches. If you follow those couple of tips, the operation is really smooth and hassle free.

This machine will only use a 4x4 hoop. You cannot use anything larger than that, so it does eliminate some of the bigger embroidery designs. Luckily most doesigns are readily available to fit a 4x4 hoop. While it doesn't come with a wide variety of built in designs, there are TONS of free and low-cost embroidery designs for download online. I have literally hundreds of free designs I have downloaded. One of my favorite places to buy designs is the Urban Threads website. Once you have the designs downloaded onto your computer, you just connect your computer to your sewing machine via the included usb cable and transfer the files. Your computer will recognize the sewing machine as an external drive just like it does for a flash drive. You can save up to around five designs on the built in memory of the machine. I rarely save a design unless I am making multiple items using the same one. I just delete them off the machine when I am done so that way it is empty each time I transfer a new design over for use.

As a final note, I would say this machine is a great value for someone just beginning to use an embroidery machine. It's great for embroidering hand towels, baby bibs, diapers, purses, and other small items. It's easy to use and affordable. Keep in mind that if you ever play on being able to create your own designs or make major edits to existing designs, you will need to purchase additional computer software to do that.