Maybe Matilda: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sharp Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway!

This is pretty cool, guys. And by pretty cool, I do, of course, mean dang freaking awesomazing (thanks for that fun new word, Michelle--the Urban Slang Dictionary strikes again!).

Have you ever thought about crocheting edgings onto fabrics? Maybe you've seen cute pillowcases or dishtowels with crocheted edgings, or baby blankets or even gloves with a crocheted border?
(left to right: source, source, source)
I've been interested in trying this out, but it sounded like such a labor-intensive process . . . I just like the crocheting itself, but you have to make the holes first to crochet into using an awl, or an unthreaded sewing machine needle, or by trying to jam a small, blunt-headed crochet hook through the fabric. Way too much work for me. I just want to crochet, and I want it to be quick and painless.

Enter Jessica and the Sharp Crochet Hook!
Jessica solved this problem by creating a crochet hook with a sharp, pointed head--perfect for gliding straight through fabrics. It completely eliminates a step when crocheting through fabric . . . there's no need to poke holes before beginning, because you can do it while crocheting the edging! I'll let her tell you more about herself and the hook:

I am a wife and a mom to three daughters. I live in the freezing cold part of northern Utah. I crochet to stay sane. Have you heard the saying "Keep calm and carry on"? My personal saying is something like "Keep calm and crochet on!" I love to create new types of crochet projects that have a more "modern" feel . . . I don't make typical grandma creations, no offense Grandma!

I recently finished a zebra print apron. It was soo easy to make- I just bought a 99 cent handkerchief from Hobby Lobby, crocheted an edging on one of the sides with a Sharp Crochet Hook, and then crocheted a wide edging (about 3") with black crochet thread.

Then I made about a 3 foot long chain and then folded the top of the handkerchief down about 3 inches and used the Sharp Crochet Hook to crochet  a "hem" across the top, then made a3 foot long chain so I could tie it around my waist. It took less than an hour and I didn't even need to pull out a sewing machine (hello, easy Christmas gift for a friend!!)

I also love making baby blankets. Here is one I made for my daughter. The pattern is from my Crochet Edging Handbook.
Another favorite, now that it is cold outside, is making a crochet edging around cheap gloves. You know those one size fits all gloves that are only about a dollar per pair? The pattern for this is also in the Crochet Edging Handbook.

So, when you think about crocheting, remember it doesn't have to be dusty and old fashioned. You can have a lot of fun making modern looking items with the Sharp Crochet Hook!
Jessica kindly sent me a Sharp Crochet Hook and the Crochet Edging Handbook to take for a test run.  Very convenient timing, since we're only one month away from welcoming a new nephew into the family! I picked up a yard of baby flannel when it was on sale recently and got to work.
The hook worked like a dream--instead of working my way around the fabric, poking holes along the way, I just started crocheting right through the fabric. The hook is teensy and sharp enough to go straight through the fabric. And honestly, I feel like this would be the perfect get-your-anger-out activity. Punching that little hook through the fabric was very satisfying.
I used one of the three patterns that come included in the hook's packaging (with a slight variation) to create this adorable, simple scalloped edge around my flannel blanket:
The pattern was simple, clear, and easy to follow, and this was a very quick (and inexpensive!) project to whip up. Perfect for a last-minute baby shower gift, or a thoughtful handmade Christmas present for a new baby!
I can't wait to try more of Jessica's patterns--I particularly love the wide white border pictured above, wrapped around her sweet little girl, and the handbook has so many beautiful patterns, from simple edgings, like my little scallops, to wide and elaborate lacy edgings (that you can even weave ribbons through--beautiful!). The Sharp Crochet Hook made what would have been a drawn-out, elaborate project very quick and simple. I'm so excited to make more--pillowcases, dishtowels, aprons, maybe even a little edging along a little girl's top or skirt . . . plenty of adorable options!

This would make a great gift--buy one for yourself (they're only $6.99, and you can purchase a combo pack of the hook and the handbook full of great patterns for $10.99!) and create beautiful handmade items to give away, or give the hook and pattern book to a crochet-loving lady!

Now for the really fun part . . . one of you will win a Sharp Crochet Hook of your own!
****GIVEAWAY CLOSED! Thanks to all who entered!****
Here's how to enter--please leave a separate comment for each entry method that you complete, and make sure to include your email address (if it's not connected to your google profile!).
2) Write about this giveaway--including a link to this post--on your facebook page and/or twitter!
3) Hmmm . . . running out of ideas. How about pinning one of the pictures from this post to your Pinterest with the caption, "I want to try out the Sharp Crochet Hook for an easy way to crochet edgings onto fabric!

And--last thing, I promise--you can get FREE SHIPPING on a Sharp Crochet Hook order until Dec. 1st, so get moving if you've just gotta have one!

All right! Go ahead and enter, and start thinking of all the cute somethings you can make using the Sharp Crochet Hook! (Check back on Monday for the winner!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Felt Circle Petal Pillow Tutorial

Between Thanksgiving prep, an impromptu trip to St. George for the holiday, a wreck of a house, attempting to get a head start on Christmas presents, and a pile of shop orders to work on, I'm falling a bit behind. Who wants to come to my house and help me fold laundry? Anyone? Bueller?

So here's my attempt at a blog post for today. Maybe you remember, a few weeks back, Allison from Little Lovelies shared a super cute pillow right here. This post is my project that went up on her blog--we decided to both make pillows, and, without any planning or discussion, we happened to make a set of matching pillows from the exact same material. That is just one of the many reasons I have a bit of a girl crush on Allison--we're cut from the same cloth (get it? get it?!).

I saw this pillow on my sister-in-law's pinterest and thought it would be perfect for my living room. I've been trying to add more color to my home, and my mom, an interior designer, tells me some texture wouldn't hurt, either. Check and check! 

I got to work with some beautiful mustard yellow wool felt from Joann, and created this:

Petal Pillow Tutorial

I think it adds just the dose of color and texture my couch so badly needed. And in case you think the red pillow behind it looks awfully sloppy, it's because it's fake--I just folded fabric around a pillow form for the sake of getting a decent picture. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

The pillow really was not difficult to make at all, but it was rather time-consuming, especially when you count my emergency dash back to Joann when I realized I had grossly underestimated my fabric needs. It would probably be a much quicker project if you bought enough to start with.
I'm not 100% sure how much wool felt I used to make my 16" square pillow cover, since it was divided between two separate trips. I'm going to guess something like 1 1/2 to 2 yards total--all the little felt "petals" sure used a lot of fabric!

Petal Pillow Tutorial

My pillow form was 16" square, so I started by cutting a 17" square piece from my felt (to allow for 1/2" seam allowance on each side). I've read, though, that you actually shouldn't add a seam allowance when sewing pillow covers--they'll look fluffier if you have to kind of cram and stuff the form in. I wish now that I hadn't added the seam allowance, since my pillow is lacking in the fluff department, so I would recommend adding either a very small seam allowance, or just being brave and cutting your front piece to the same size as your form. But my instructions here include a 1/2" seam allowance.

Then I cut about a zillion little circles from my felt. The real circle count was something like 73, or, in diy seamstress speak, "a crapload of circles." I doubled up the fabric to make cutting easier, and used a little can as a template--it gave me roughly 2-3" circles, which was the perfect size:

Petal Pillow Tutorial

I only cut about 20 at a time, and after each cutting session foolishly thought to myself, "Surely this will be enough!" No, it will not. Just cut more. Many, many, many more.

Petal Pillow Tutorial

Then iron each circle in half, making a pile of little taco shells:

Petal Pillow Tutorial

Head over to your sewing machine and start sewing the circles to the square of felt you already cut. I started in the center of the 17" square and worked outwards. Just sew a line straight down the crease line of each circle, then sew down another circle, close to the first one, in a different direction.

Petal Pillow Tutorial

Some tips for this portion of the project: I think it looks best if the circles aren't crammed too close together--leave a little room so they can "fluff" out and the sides won't just be pressed straight up together. I also found it easier to not cut the thread after stitching each circle--I would just backstitch at each end of the circle, lift the presser foot, leave the threads alone, and move the fabric to position the next circle, and keep sewing, then cut all the threads at the end. I think that saved quite a lot of time.

Petal Pillow Tutorial

Keep adding your circles, varying the directions of the stitching as you go, until you've filled the entire square, leaving at least 1/2" open around the edges:

Petal Pillow Tutorial

Now head back to Joann for more felt, because you've probably run out. Come back home and cut a piece 17" high (or the size of your pillow form), but a few extra inches long. I created an envelope back so I could remove my pillow form if necessary, so you'll need to have some fabric overlap to create the opening. Cut your long piece apart into two, and fold over and sew along that cut line to create a neat little hem.

Petal Pillow Tutorial

Sandwich all your pieces with the right sides together, overlapping the two back "envelope" pieces. Your sandwich should look like this:

Petal Pillow Tutorial

The back "envelope" pieces are on the ground, right sides up, overlapping with the sewn seams in the middle. The outer edges of the "envelope" pieces are lined up with the pillow front piece, which is layered petal side down. Pin it all together, and sew with a 1/2" seam allowance around the edges (making sure you don't catch any of the petals in your stitching!). 

Insert the pillow form through the nice envelope back:

Petal Pillow Tutorial

And admire that beautiful, textured pillow front!

Petal Pillow Tutorial

Searching for a pillow form to tuck inside of your beautiful new pillow? Head to Pillow Cubes and check out their selection!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All Star Crochet Baby Blanket

I finished the little something I've been working on . . . the project you peeked at here.
I've been wanting to crochet Forrest a blanket for months. I made a quilt for him while I was pregnant, which was so fun and fulfilling for me to create . . . and it has never really been used. I think its greatest accomplishment was its brief stint of hanging over the crib rails as nursery decor before Forrest was born. It did a great job, but Forrest has no interest in that quilt, the poor neglected thing. I kind of thought the two of them might have a special bond, since Forrest always kicked around so happily while I sewed it. No such bond seems to have been forged.

He is, however, completely enamored with the crochet blanket pictured below, made for him by my dear friend and former boss back in Iowa:
Merciful heavens, these two are inseparable. Their tender and emotional reunions, when separated by the necessity of an occasional trip through the washing machine, are rather heartwarming. He wants to bring it everywhere, and must have the company of his precious blankie for naps and bedtime. (And you'll notice that he sucks his fingers in every photo taken of him with the blankie . . . it's Pavlovian by now. Blankie in hand --> fingers in mouth.)

And you know what? It kind of bothers me. I mean, really. His very favorite thing in the entire world is a crocheted blankie . . . made by someone else. I know it's petty to feel competitive with a baby blanket, but there you have it. I just want him to love and adore and cherish something that I made for him. Is that so terrible?
I spent--literally--months searching for the perfect blanket pattern to use. Nothing seemed right--I found plenty of patterns that are adorable and sweet and would probably be a pleasure to make, but I was waiting for the one that would really speak to me. I finally found it, browsing through the crochet books at the library (all three of them)--the All-Star Blanket from the book Crocheted Gifts: Irresistible Presents to Make and Give. I assume that each person on earth only experiences a few true epiphanies in life. The moment I saw this pattern was a nearly-spiritual one: this was the pattern I'd been waiting for.
I shut down my etsy shop for 2 weeks to give me time to focus solely on his blanket. It was a relatively simple and straightforward pattern, but I did experience a few hiccups along the way. I think the pattern could have been written more clearly, but I was always able to figure it out . . . until it came time to join the squares. Good heavens. I'm assuming my issues were unique to me--no one else online or on Ravelry seemed to have any problem with the pattern instructions--but for some reason, I simply could not figure out what I was supposed to do. So I kind of made it up. It seems to have worked out just fine.
And I don't mean to toot my own horn here but . . . toot toot. I think I really hit the nail on the head with this blanket. It has exactly the look and feel I searched for in all those weeks of browsing crochet patterns. It's playful and fun and sweet (like my baby!) while staying classic and simple. I love it.

I made it as a Christmas gift for Forrest, but couldn't resist offering it to him early, just to see if it could potentially usurp the coveted spot held by his precious other blankie.
You may have to squint to see my blanket.
Yep, there we go. He obviously loves it a lot. (I don't think blankie #1 needs to worry about being replaced.) The hours hard at work, crocheting my fingers to the bone to create a meaningful piece for my beloved child were clearly well-spent.

Nah, I'm just kidding--I'm really glad I took the time to make this for him. I still treasure many of the handmade items created just for me when I was a little girl (more on those later!). For me, there is no gift more special than one planned out and created by hand by someone who loves me and spent hours hard at work, making something they hoped I would love and treasure. That's what I wanted for Forrest--I wanted to give him something that maybe 25 years from now he'll be wrapping his own little baby in, that will always remind him of how much his mother loves and adores him. Of course he prefers his original blankie now, and I'm happy he has something that helps him feel comforted and safe, but maybe (hopefully) when he's a little older this new blanket will mean something special to him, like the handmade items in my life mean to me.

(Yarns used in this blanket: Red Heart Soft in light gray heather, Caron One Pound in off white, Bernat Super Value in taupe heather and a color I can't seem to find online that I thought was called teal heather, and Sensations Sincerely in sincerely delph blue.)

Monday, November 21, 2011


(Before I jump in here, hop over to Two Girls Being Crafty to see my contribution to their 12 Days of Christmas series!)

There are so many big things in my life that I am thankful for.

Like parents who taught me everything I believe, and who continue to be a source of wisdom, love, friendship, kindness, and treasured advice.
A ridiculous, loving family that knows how to have a good time and spoil family picture day.
A sweet, understanding, supportive husband who has helped me through difficult moments, made me laugh, held my hand, built my confidence, and encouraged me every step of our marriage.
A beautiful, healthy, hilarious, marshmallow-y sweet little boy who somehow knows just when to give a hug and a slobbery kiss (and for the precious, frustrating, wonderful, challenging gift of motherhood that came along with him).
Lifelong friends who make me feel loved and appreciated, supported and understood.

And I'm grateful for so, so many little things.

Like a talent that offers me such a satisfying feeling of creative fulfillment.
A child who loves to take naps.
Tender moments between father and son.
Finally living close enough to be able to spend time with my siblings, who love their little nephew.
 Daily reminders to enjoy life's simple pleasures (like the 30 minutes of fun that came with emptying and refilling this box of feminine items . . . forget toys, this kid's getting a box of tampons for Christmas).

What do you feel thankful for today?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Monster Hoodie Refashion Tutorial

(This post was shared on My Own Road a few weeks ago--I forgot that I hadn't posted the tutorial here until this morning when I was folding laundry and came across this hoodie! I made it right before Halloween but have been really happy with the only semi-Halloweenie look; he's been wearing it since then and still gets compliments on it.)

Now, right off the bat, I'm going to warn you: I'm not one of those ladies. You know the kind, with their houses all decked out weeks in advance of every holiday, thoughtful handmade gifts to give, and clean, well-behaved children wearing home-sewn clothes (probably sewn from home-spun fabric, too). 

So I'm going to lay it all out right now: this is the only semi-Halloween-ish item in my home right now. And it's one of the only clothing items I've ever made for my little boy. And I purposely didn't make it too Halloween-ish, because I didn't want it to be limited to wear for the next week or so, so it hardly even counts as a holiday item. And, to top it off, it's dirty in the pictures (which, of course, are fuzzy). Gimme a break--he's a real boy and his clothes stay clean for all of about 20 seconds. If you're still interested and not completely turned off by my lack of mothering superpowers, maybe you'll enjoy this sneaky peeky monster hoodie refashion I pulled together for my little fella:
I have to admit, I think it's pretty cute! I bought him that hoodie on clearance recently, but he already has a few plain hoodies and I thought maybe he could use one with more character. I reverse appliqued these cute little monster heads onto it, and wild guess here, but I think he might like it!
Here's how I refashioned his little hoodie with some peekaboo monster fun!
You'll just need:
- a hoodie
- knit/jersey fabric scraps (I used squares from old polo shirts)
- sewing machine
- hot glue/fabritac
- googly eyes
- felt

I started by sketching and cutting out the monster heads on white paper. I thought it would be cute to have them "peekabooing," if I can make up that word right now, into the sweatshirt, so I drew one popping up out of the pocket and another poking out from the zipper.
Make sure your fabric scraps are a bit larger than the designs you sketched, and pin everything together. The layering, from top to bottom, should be paper, hoodie, fabric scrap.
Now sew around the shape of the pattern sketches--you're not sewing onto the paper, but using it as a shape/guide to sew around. Make sure you're sewing through both the hoodie and the fabric scrap behind it. Try not to stretch the fabric as you sew, and if you get to points or curves that are hard to navigate, just stop sewing while the needle is down in the fabric, lift up the presser foot, and swivel your fabric, then lower the foot and keep sewing. When you're finished, remove the pins and you should have a nice stitched outline of your sketch:
Here's what it'll look like from the back:
I sewed straight over a fabric fold by accident . . . whoops! No biggie--it's in the back, so I just left it. (Perfectionist? Not even a little. I can thank my mother for that--we've jokingly nicknamed her Kathleen "Goodenough" LastName.)

Now trim away the excess fabric from the back, being very careful not to accidentally cut the hoodie fabric.
This is the part that made my heart race. It's a little scary, so be cautious. Carefully, carefully, cut out the inner monster shape from the hoodie fabric. Make sure you're staying inside the stitching lines, and be very careful not to cut the scrap fabric from the back! It's easiest, I find, to pull the two fabrics apart as much as you can, and use small sharp scissors to start with a little snip in the center of the design:
Then work from there to cut the rest of the fabric away, without getting too close to your stitch line.
Add some googly eyes and teeth cut from a bit of felt, and you're all done! (I used hot glue to attach the googly eyes and felt, and time will tell if that was a poor decision or not. I'm sure something like Fabritac would hold up better in the washer and dryer, so it's possible that my son's hoodie is going to lose its facial features after the first wash. **Update! It's now been washed multiple times, and everything has held up just fine--the eyes and mouth are still firmly in place. Woohoo!**)

Such an appropriate look for him. He is seriously an adorable monster. Sometimes the emphasis is more on one of those words than the other . . . you guess which.
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