Thursday, March 31, 2016

Two more Ts: The Lane Raglan V2 by Hey June

Tees are such fun to sew... especially when you have a great pattern!


This is the Lane Raglan by Hey June patterns, which she recently updated. I actually hadn't gotten around to making any basic Ts before the update came out, so I can't give a side-by-side comparison. I did use the old Lane Raglan to make a sweatshirt, which I love, but that isn't really a good test since the fit of a sweatshirt is pretty fluid.

The new version comes with a Full Bust Adjusted (FBA) pattern piece, and since I'm a C cup, I used this. I cut a medium top and graded to a large at the hips. The fabric I used wasn't very stretchy-- the black version uses two remnants, the grayer black is a hemp jersey and the sleeves are cotton jersey, no spandex. The fit is pretty good with no adjustments. It is a little loose, but I'm fine with this in a casual T, but if I was using a stretchier spandex jersey I might size down one size.

I sewed it up with no pattern adjustments, but really didn't like the shaped front hem. The shaped back hem is great, but I thought the shaped front increased the illusion of belly roundness. I don't need any help in that department. I guess the shaped hem would be nice if you wear your Ts tucked, but I almost never do. So I pulled the hem, cut it straight across, and re-hemmed it with my twin needle.



The one other thing that I didn't like on my first version was how wide the neckline is. Most of my bras are racerback, and I don't like how wide necklines show my bra straps. So on my second version, I added 2 inches to the neckline on the shoulders, and one inch in the front and back. I adjusted the neck band to fit by using the measured length of the new neckline and subtracting 3 inches.

This gray leaf print jersey T shows those changes to the neckline, and I'm much happier with the fit. This version is sewn in a very lightweight, non-spandex jersey.


I definitely think I will get a lot of mileage out of this pattern. I'm loving the raglan sleeve right now, and there are lots of fun options to play with, including a hood and cuffs with thumbholes. I think this T would also look really snazzy in a rayon-spandex jersey, sized down one size.

I think I have my new favorite T pattern... what's yours?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Flower Print Eggs: A Natural Egg Dying Tutorial



I've been a bit obsessed with decorating eggs with natural materials and dyes this year. It's great to do with my four year old daughter. I also love how they capture some of the ephemeral beauty of spring!



The most beautiful results have been with flowers. I had no idea they would turn out so beautifully!

Here's how you do it. It's very easy, a great project for kids or adults.


You need:
--Nylon pantyhose
--String
--Eggs (You can use blown eggs or raw eggs)
--Flowers
--Natural dye plants-- this year I used red cabbage (1/2 head), yellow onion skins (from 3 lbs of onions), and powdered tumeric (about 2 tablespoons).
--White vinegar

Where to get flowers in early spring? This year in the Finger Lakes we found hellebores, crocuses, and snowdrops in the garden and in the nearby woods. If you are gathering wild flowers, make sure to only pick a few so that there are lots left to make seeds. You can also use store bought flowers-- supermarket bouquets that are a bit past their prime (and on sale) would be perfect.


Position a flower on your egg. Use water to moisten the petals and help them to stay in place.


Wrap the egg with a piece of nylon pantyhose. Pull it tight around your egg, holding the flower flat against the surface. Tie with a piece of string.




Prepare your natural materials. For the onions, peel off the outer papery layer. For the cabbage, tear the leaves into chunks, or roughly chop.

Purple cabbage and the nylon wrapped eggs in the stock pot. Those blown eggs want to float!


Place the dye material in a large stock pot, and fill with cold water so that the eggs are covered. Bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for at least 1 hour. After one hour, turn off the heat, add 2 tbsp of vinegar per pot and allow the eggs to sit in the colored water until the desired color is reached. If you want a dark color, you might need to let it sit overnight.

The added benefit of this method is that your raw eggs will be hard boiled without an extra step. If you are dying blown eggs, you might need to put something on top to keep the eggs submerged-- a lid from a smaller pot might work.

Then, cut the nylon and peel off the flower to see your beautiful results!

Alternate method (or a method to keep the dying fun going): Boil the dye materials in the stockpot until reduced to about 1 quart of liquid. Strain and reserve the liquid. To dye your eggs, submerge for a couple hours or overnight, depending on how concentrated the liquid is and how dark you want your eggs.

Dying eggs in canning jars with the strained liquid. Left to right: onion peels, tumeric, purple cabbage.
Here are some results to give you an idea of how your eggs will turn out.



Above: Crocuses with purple cabbage, Crocus on an egg dipped in the onion skin dye then soaked in tumeric, snowdrows on an egg soaked in onion skin dye, hellebores on a egg simmered in onion skin dye. 



Above Left: grass in red cabbage dye, Above Center: leaves in tumeric dye, Above Right: Crocus in red cabbage dye.

Other natural materials work well too! The left egg is myrtle, the other two are weeds in our yard. All of these eggs were simmered in onion skin dye.

It is fun to experiement! This was a very unexpected result... we soaked some eggs in cranberry juice, and they came out not at all red, but etched, looking almost like fossils. Must be some kind of reaction at work, anyone know the chemistry of this? I can't really recommend it thought... the eggs in that batch are very fragile, three have broken already!


Another lovely flower egg: Hellebores in red cabbage dye.


Have fun! I would love to see your results, post them at instagram and tag @unlikelynest, #flowerprintegg.


Friday, March 18, 2016

The Bunny Lovey: A Free Sewing Pattern with Illustrated Instructions


The Bunny Lovey is a sweet little blanket doll. It would be a lovely gift for a newborn! And it is quick to make if you have a sewing machine and some basic sewing skills. 

The pattern is FREE... just sign up for our mailing list on the sidebar. After you confirm your subscription, you will be sent a "Welcome" email that has a link to the pattern. 

With the free pattern, you can make as many bunnies as you like to give as gifts or for charity. If you would like to make bunnies to sell, please purchase the paid version of the pattern from my Etsy Store... it is just $5, and includes the right to sell your handmade creations. 

UPDATE August 2016... the PAID version on Etsy now includes downloadable, illustrated instructions. But once again, you can totally make this for free by subscribing to the newsletter and using the instructions here on the website.

If you sign up for the newsletter and you don't see the "Welcome" email, be sure to check your spam folder or the "Promotions" tab if you use Gmail.



Materials:

--1/4 yard or a fat quarter of your main fabric. I used an organic cotton fleece, but this could could be any fabric that is soft and snuggly. It would be lovely in a french terry or a velour!

--A very small amount of contrast fabric. I used colorful quilting cottons.

--The Bunny Lovey pattern. It is free-- just sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar. After you confirm your subscription to the email list, you will be sent another email with a link to the pattern. It is just two pages, and no taping necessary. 

--Embroidery floss for the eye.

 --Stuffing for the head and tail. I use wool batting or roving, but you could also use cotton batting or poly fill.


Instructions:

Sew all seams with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. 

Print out the PDF pattern on letter sized paper. Make sure the printer resize the page, I always set scaling to 100% on my printer. 

Cut out the paper pattern pieces,and lay them out on your fabric. Make sure the arrows on the pattern pieces align with the grain of your fabric. If you are using napped fabric like velour, the arrow should point in the direction that the fibers naturally lay down. Cut your pieces from your fabrics, as indicated by the directions on the pattern pieces. Transfer markings for the placement of the ears, eye, and tail. 


Sew together the two tail pieces, right sides together. Leave an opening at the base of the tail for turning and stuffing. Sew together the ears with each ear having one piece of main fabric and one piece of contrast fabric, right sides together. 


Clip the point of the ear straight across, close to but not touching the stitching.


Turn the ears and the tail right sides out. If you have hemostats, use them to grab the tip from the inside and pull it through. Otherwise, use your fingers and a stick (like a chopstick). Press them flat. 


Put the head pieces right sides together. Sew around the head leaving the neck open. Clip the curves, being careful not to cut your stitching.


Cut a slit in the head for the ears, where indicated by the pattern. Cut through both layers of the head.


Fold the ears in half, with the contrast fabric on the inside.


Stick the ears up through the neck into the head and through the holes you made. The fold should be to the back of the head.


Arrange the head so that the seam allowance is in the center, and the ears sit flat. The folds of the ears should point towards each other. Sew across the top of the head from ear to ear, catching the raw edges of the slits you made. 


Pull the ears to turn the head right side out. Smooth the seams flat with your fingers. Stuff softly with wool (or your choice of stuffing).


Sew the bunny nose and mouth. I used a double strand of white sewing thread to give just the shape of bunny cheeks and nose. You could also use pink embroidery thread to give a stronger impression of the face. Hide your knots inside the head.

Decide where you want the eyes. Use the markings on the pattern as a guide, but make sure it looks right for your bunny, with the personality you want to give it. I use a pin with a colored head to make sure I like the placement.



Sew the eyes with embroidery thread. I used blue on this bunny, but I also use brown or pink (albino bunny!). You could also just leave the eyes off to make a super minimal bunny. 

Hide the knots inside the head. Here I have knotted my strands, then threaded both ends through the needle and pulled them back through the head. I'll clip the strands close to the head and the ends will disappear into the stuffing. 


Attach the tail to the body. Cut a slit where indicated on the pattern, about two inches from the bottom of the bunny. Stuff the tail.


Slip the tail through the slit, with the tail of the tail on the inside. Sew across the base of the tail from the inside, catching the raw edges of the slit. Taper to nothing on either side of the tail. 


Sew the body together. Leave about two inches open at the center of the neck for turning and inserting the head. Clip curves.


Insert the head into the body. Push the stuffing up into the head so that the neck is as flat as possible. Make sure that the raw edges of the body pieces are turned to the inside. 

Starting about 1/2 inches before the opening in the neck, sew cross the base of the neck, catching the turned under edges of the body and the neck. Sew past the opening by 1/2 inch. I use a zipper foot on my machine to get as close to the head as possible. 

And you are done! You now have a beautiful toy that you can feel totally good about giving to some little person you love. 

Oh, and please send me pics if you make one, I would really enjoy seeing your creations! You can send me an image, or post on Instagram #bunnylovey








Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to get a stuck filter off of your camera lens

Allow me to diverge from my usual sewing chatter to talk about something rather techy. We all take photos, don't we? Well, doesn't this photo make your heart skip a beat?

You can see the impact on the lower right side, and the lines of the shattered glass radiate from here.
This is my Canon 24-70, and it was on my camera, in my camera bag, perched on top of the luggage for a family trip to grandma's house. The phrase "baggage may shift during your flight" comes to mind. Guess what happened when the hatch was opened? Crash!

My camera bag is one of those trendy cool bags where the padding all comes separately. Hence, it has no padding. The camera fell right onto the lens and the filter cracked.

I set my dad and husband to the task of removing the filter, but alas, no one was able to budge the broken filter. I tried myself, but that is a measly attempt since I have very little brute strength in my hands, I can't even open jars of marinara in the kitchen. I probably couldn't strangle a mouse if I tried.

Another view. Ugh, it makes me shudder!

It looked like the filter took a hit on one side, and was probably just a touch out of true. But there was no visible dent, so it must have been just enough to prevent the threads from turning.

Meanwhile, the camera and lens seemed to function perfectly fine. Autofocus worked like aways, and the lens felt solid, no unusual play in the motion. Shooting through the broken glass, pictures looked perfect except when the light hit the crack in funny ways and left artifacts on the pictures.

Of course I scoured the internet for solutions, and very little came up. This was 2 years ago! I tried rubber bands, pliers, plumbing tools, and pieces of rubber drawer liner. I even tried heating the filter up with a hair dryer (not bold enough to try a heat gun!)

This is a freakin' expensive lens, so I thought I would do the right thing and send it to a professional. I was willing to pay a couple hundred for some professional assistance. The estimate blew my mind, upwards of $500. They quoted me the flat rate for the lens, assuming that there was other damage. I just wasn't willing to fork over that amount. I researched other options and had it packed up to send to KEH, whose flat rate fee for lenses is half that of Canon's. I would have sent it except when I took it in to UPS, they refused to insure it for the amount I requested unless I used a box that gave 4 inches of padding in all directions. I took it back home and it sat around while I waited for the right box to come my way.

Then I went to a conference, and the trade fair both for Canon featured a real, live tech. I should have brought the darn lens! Instead, I chatted with the tech. So, beyond rubber bands and rubber drawer liner, apparently the tactic is to break the glass on the filter and then cut it off with nippers, all the while trying not to damage the glass on the front element or to further damage the threads on the end of the lens.

I guess I thought the pros would have some magical tool.

In any case, I was emboldened, and when I got home I pulled out the hammer! As carefully as I could I tapped a hole in the lens, and picked the pieces of glass out, like an archeologist excavating an artifact.


I DO NOT suggest you do this at home. Take your lens to a pro!

But, if you are going this crazy route, keep in mind that the filter on may be VERY close to the lens element. Also, lens elements are rounded, so there will be more room to play on the edges. My filter was nearly touching the lens element at the center, but on the sides there were 3-4 mm of space between the filter and the lens. Once I got wise to this, I used a screw driver like a chisel, tapping the end of it near the edge of the circle, then prying bits of crumbled glass away from the lens element.

TA-DA! No more glass!

Lens with the broken filter still attached, but no glass!


It seemed to me at this point, there might be some hope of removing the filter without cutting. Without the pressure of the glass against the circle of metal, perhaps there would be some additional play. I couldn't budge it... but my husband, with a bit of effort, was able to twist it off!

Ugly broken filter. Most of the visible damage is from trying to remove it with various unsuitable tools.
Finally, my lens is free!

Lens with no filter! The rim and threads are undamaged. The front element looks pretty clean... 
So, I ran the lens through its paces with a downloaded resolution chart. I checked all of the focal lengths, and just for fun, all of the f-stops. I will decline from showing you all 20 or so test shots because they are wonderfully dull. It is universally sharp within expected tolerances.

Just one test. I think this is at 35mm, f-16. Don't quote me on that though, they almost all look the same: darn sharp!
Methodically testing the focal lengths and f-stops with a chart was actually a good exercise. I've never bothered before! I had known lenses fall off towards the far ends of their focal lengths, and it was interesting that I noticed almost no distortion at the wide end, only a bit at the edges at 50mm, and just a bit more at the edges, along with some chromatic fringing (cyan) at 70mm. Another interesting result was that at f-2.8, it seems that autofocus is unreliable. It is totally sharp if I manually focus, but it will produce results from totally sharp to unacceptable blurry with autofocus. When I did a quick search of this problem, it seems that other people have observed the same issue, and sending it to be serviced did not help.

I'm pretty sure I was having this problem before the impact that caused this 2 year saga-- I frequently shoot at 2.8 because I love shallow depth of field and are frequently shooting in low light, and I recall being disappointed with the sharpness of some of my images. According to my tests, I'll probably be happier with my results if I stick to f-4 and above, using f-2.8 only when I really need it, and perhaps using manual focus.

The other thing that this experience has taught me was that I really love shooting with a fixed 35mm focal length lens. It is light and versatile... works great for nearly all of my blog shots, family photos, and the vast majority of the other art photos and video that I shoot. Before my EF24-70 was out of commission I was lugging it everywhere (it is HEAVY), but now I'm much more comfortable going out with just the 35mm, which is much better for the tendons in my overused right hand and my back.

So, I hope that this helps someone else out there. I'm totally thrilled that this lens is back in action- it is a great lens and for some situations, having access to this range of focal lengths is fantastic.

Okay, done photo geeking. I promise.





Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Paprika Jasper Sweater in Striped Bamboo and Organic Cotton French Terry

Sometimes one just needs to do some selfish, satisfying sewing. You know the feeling, I'm sure.

This is the Jasper Sweater from Paprika Patterns. I've been wanting to make this for well over a year. The design appealed to me immediately... casual, but not sloppy, with nice details. 

I found the perfect fabrics for it at Marcy Tilton's online fabric shop. The striped fabric is a bamboo/cotton french terry, and the solid black is an organic cotton french terry. I don't see either of these in her shop right now, but she does have some lovely bamboo blend fleeces.



The pattern calls for a fabric with some weight and structure, especially for the collar area. I used the cotton french terry for this area because the bamboo terry was a bit drapey. 



The welt pocket was surprisingly un-fussy. I didn't even break out the interfacing, although I was tempted. There is a tutorial on the Paprika Patterns website that guides you through the process. I've never done a welt like that... good to know for all those times when you want to make a single welt kangaroo pocket ;). 



I cut the cuffs and bottom band on the cross grain to play with the stripe direction. The bamboo french terry had plenty of stretch, so I wasn't too worried about it. 


The fitting of a sweatshirt isn't too complicated, but I'm pretty fussy... and this one fits my body perfectly, with no alterations whatsoever. She provides two separate patterns for sizes 1-6 and 6-10, and with a 39 bust and a 40inch hip, I'm the size 6 that could go either way. Apparently the difference is that the 6-10 is drafted for a C cup, so I went with that.


My fabrics are a bit on the light weight side for this pattern, and the 6 fits me pretty closely. I could wear it over another shirt since it has plenty of stretch, but it works rather well as a standalone piece, and the terry is luxurious against the skin. 

From taping together the PDF to digging to power serging the cuffs took about 5 hours. Probably not such a good idea, since it means I didn't get much sleep. I did get my sewing fix though!

I'm already thinking about fabrics to make another version!