Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Easy Cashmere Hat and Mittens (A tutorial of sorts.)

During the gift-making frenzy of Christmas 2008, I tried really hard to come up with handmade gifts for my siblings and children. A few of those gifts were hats and mittens made from thrift store sweaters using a couple of tutorials that I tweaked.

Tonight I got the urge to do this again, but this time for me! My husband and I are going on an awesome date tonight and I am sooo excited! It will consist of a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a cabin in the woods, then a steak and prawn dinner, hot cocoa, live music and story-telling, then another cuddling-under-a-blanket sleigh ride back to our car. Our wonderful friends have offered to watch the kids for us so we can have this one last experience as a couple before we move away from the area.

Anyway, back to the project. I decided I wanted a cute hat and glove set to wear this evening so I dug through my pile of wool and cashmere thrift store sweaters until I found a lovely, soft, oatmeal-colored cashmere one that would be perfect.

(Unfortunately because I took these photos at night under my desk lamp, the lighting is HORRIBLE, but hopefully you'll at least get the idea of what I was doing.)

Here's the sweater. Nothing really wrong with it other than it was too small for me to wear as-is.

After deciding that I wanted 5 sections to my hat, I measured my head and tried to figure out how to translate it into a pattern, then cut out a paper template.

Once you've got your pattern piece, using a washable ink pen, trace the 5 pieces along the hem of the sweater...

...and cut them out.

Pin two sections together, right sides facing and pin.

Starting at the hem, stitch the sections together stopping before you get to the very edge. My sections had a 1/2" seam allowance, so I stopped my stitching 1/2" before the edge.

Once you've stitched your sections together, start topstitching over the seam allowances so they lay flat.

When you've stitched all of your sections to one another, sew the final two pieces together you'll have a hat! Stitch those last two seam allowances down and you're done. You may have a tiny hole at the top where all the points of each section come together. If so just handstitch it closed.

Here's where you can have fun and embellish it with embroidery, a brooch, applique, buttons- whatever you can think of!

Okay, now this is the easiest way to make mittens that I can think of.

Take the sleeve of your sweater and lay your hand on it so that the hem of the sleeve comes to where you'd want the wrist of your mitten to be (i.e. right at your wrist, all the way to your elbow, or somewhere in between). Keep your fingers together and thumb extended a bit, leaving at least 1/8" of fabric between the outside of your fingers and the edge of the sleeve.

Using disappearing or water soluble ink, trace your hand. Don't trace right up next to your hand, but leave some space so that the mitten will be comfortable. This line will be your stitching line.

DO NOT CUT ALONG THIS LINE. Don't even cut CLOSE to this line. Place some pins along the line to keep both layers together then roughly cut the drawn mitten off of the rest of the sleeve.

Sew along the line you drew, backstitching at both sides of the wrist and in the notch of the thumb for reinforcement.

Now you can trim away the excess fabric about an 1/8" away from your stitching.

Repeat with the other sleeve. Turn them right side out and embellish as you'd like.

I have a ton of this acrylic punch embroidery yarn so I used a skein of ivory to do a little X detail along the hems of the mittens and on the hat.

I have a confession: My hat ended up being pretty snug and about an inch too short (guess I didn't do something right with my measurements), so I cut off what was left of the hem on the sweater and added it to the hem of my hat using a zig-zag stitch. The X detail is to sort of cover up my goof. :)
Can't wait to wear them on my date!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas crafts and decorations

A couple of weeks ago we had two parties at church. I was in charge of the centerpieces for the parties and since our budget was pretty tight for both, I had to find inexpensive ways to make the tables pretty. Along with the help of several other ladies who provided centerpieces, we were able to make the round plastic folding tables in the church gym look more festive.

Here are some of the centerpieces I came up with.

Do you know how awesome dollar stores can be? I love our local Dollar Tree. They have these tall glass hurricanes which were easy to dress up. For the middle hurricane I punched a snowflake pattern in some red card stock with my Japanese hole punch.

Since music was a big part of the program for both parties, I used sheet music for several of the centerpieces. This one was the easiest.

Joann had their Christmas ribbon 60% off recently, so I picked up a few rolls of this lovely music print wired ribbon for less than $2 each.

I made a sleeve out of the ribbon for this hurricane.

Each one got a flameless LED candle (also found at The Dollar Tree) for a little ambiance, since real flames aren't allowed in the church building.

This little sleigh was a clearance purchase at a craft store a few years ago, so I added a few "presents".
I wrapped some blocks in craft paper and tied them with ribbon or string.

The Bargain Center always produces interesting finds, including this wreath on a wooden stand. I wove some ribbon through the front and back and along the outside.
The glittery reindeer ornament came in a set of 2 from The Dollar Tree.

I found this rusty pitcher at a local thrift store and just filled it with some silk poinsettias that I already had and attached jingle bells (also from The Dollar Tree) for some extra detail.

This weather-worn lantern came from the Bargain Center as well. It had apparently been used outside, but all I had to do was clean it up, scrape the wax out and add a little LED tealight inside. I love how rusty and battered it looks

Target had these mini trees in their Dollar Spot so I picked up 3 and just had fun decorating them. This one got some mini bulbs (also from Target's Dollar Spot), a pom-pom garland from The Dollar Tree and a little banner that I made.

The white tree is my favorite. The mini star came from Michael's...

...and I made a banner for this one, too. (It says "rejoice", in case you can't tell.)

I made the garland from string and faux pearl beads, ornaments from thread and mother-of-pearl buttons, and tiny curly-cues from strips of sheet music.

Finally, another pom-pom garland...

... some button ornaments and a "peace" banner with a button star on top.

I got kind of carried away with trees while I was working on these projects.

The mercury glass tree on the left was a Bargain Center find, and the one on the right was an old book that I cut the cover off of, trimmed down with my Exacto knife, curled it into a cone and secured it with a paperclip. The wire star is my lame attempt to make something from only what I had on hand.

Another tree! This white ruffly one is just a Styrofoam cone covered in folded coffee filters.

Okay, I guess that's all of the centerpieces I took pictures of. Now I can show you a little of the Christmas decorations I've put out lately. I've tried to keep it minimal since we're gearing up for a move at the end of the month. But there are a few pretty things here and there.

I came across this beautiful vintage sled at the consignment store when I was dropping some things off.

Isn't it cool?!

There's no telling how old it actually is, but I love how weathered it is and the fact that the decals are still visible.

Meet Rudy. He's our helper elf that Santa sent to keep an eye on our kids. He decided to hang out on the sled the day I took these photos. Isn't he cute?
This "rejoice" banner is similar to the "boo" banner I made for Halloween.

How cute is this little wooden family of deer? Also a Bargain Center find!

My mirror got swagged with some faux greenery and these pretty bulbs that I found at a thrift store the other day.

My apothecary jars are filled with mini pinecones and tiny gold bulbs.

This is as much of a nativity set as I have- just the wise men and Mary with Baby Jesus...

... but at least I have the most important One.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Tree 2010

Once again, I've been gone too long. Things around here have only gotten crazier since I last posted, so I've been forced to neglect this little blog of mine. But don't think I haven't been crafting! Ohhhh, have I been CRAFTING. One of these days (if the sun ever comes out again) I'll take some photos of what I've been doing. LOTS of Christmas stuff has been springing from my desk. For right now, though, I'd like to share our Christmas tree with you.

First, let's have a look at last year's woodland-themed tree.

This year's tree is quite different.

Silver and white is big right now, so I thought I'd jump on the trend. I also added touches of gold to warm it up a bit.

I bought a few new things, like the sparkly branches, the ribbon and these glittery birds.

Joann has a lot of their floral items at 50-60% off, so I got a few of these feather and tiny bell picks for $1 each.

These clear plastic ball ornaments were from Michael's (also 50% off) and the glittery snowflakes came from Joann for around a quarter apiece.

I can't find a box with a lot of my ornaments in it, which includes my sentimental ones. So the tree this year is missing some of its usual nostalgia. But I did manage to find a few ornaments that make me smile, including this one painted by my husband for our very first Christmas together ten years ago.

And of course there are the photo ornaments that I adore.

Remember this one?

At first it looks like our tree has no star, but it's nestled up there among the highest branches.

I didn't have a tree skirt to go with my color scheme, so I had to come up with something easy and cheap to cover up this monstrosity.

This tree turned out to be REALLY heavy and while we were trying to stand it up it fell over (before decorating, thank goodness) and bent one of the screws in the base. Long story short, we got the base on as straight and tight as we could, then I chopped up a chair to raise it (last year we used my wreath box) so there'd be room for the presents, and then used some cardboard to tilt the whole thing so it'd stand up straight.

Anyway, back to the skirt. Here's what I came up with.

I bought a couple packages of this cotton craft batting at Joann (40% off with a coupon) and after doing some measuring I started cutting out my scalloped pieces.

I just butted the edges of each piece against one another then zig-zagged them together.

I zig-zagged along the top for added stability then attached ribbon to either end to tie it onto the tree base. EASY.

While I do miss my childhood ornaments and the other sentimental ones that are usually present each year, I really like how the tree turned out. It's sparkly.