Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Gate

When the old gate fell off its hinges and proved unsalvageable, it was time for a new project.

After a trip to the store for pickets, a 2X4, and some hardware (don't buy the prepackaged gate hardware - it's more decorative than functional), it was time to pull out the power tools and get to work.

I love these guys - they're hand-me-downs from my inlaws, older than I am, and tough as nails.

I measured and cut and put the gate together flat on the driveway, laying out the cut 2X4 in a Z and screwing the pickets to it.  After putting the hinges on the gate, I propped it in place with some 2X4 scrap, and 8 lag bolts later, the gate was hung.  Somewhat unorthodox, but it meant I got it done by myself within a couple of hours.  The little helper helped by napping during most of that time.

And because this is a girl's home improvement project, instead of being any old gate, it became a butterfly gate, with the help of google image search and the jigsaw.

 Not as charmingly weathered as the old gate, but infinitely more functional, and, with the new formulations for pressurizing wood, considerably safer, too.  Now I just need a cowbell and an old key to weight the latch-string for the perfect finishing touch.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kaleidoscope in White

Did you know that a swarm of butterflies is called, among other things, a kaleidoscope?

I have long had a vision of letting such a rabble brighten a corner of my living room.  Since we also need some light in that corner, and there happens to be a hook the previous owners installed (from which, co-incidentally, we have hung our butterfly house where countless monarch caterpillars munched and pupated their way into winged glory) it seemed only right to hang a lantern there, and cover it with butterflies, too.

Armed with a friend's Cricut cutter, a few free butterfly svg files, and a dozen sheets of cardstock in "natural linen" and "white gold", I went to work cutting out my butterflies.

I hotglued the butterflies to a paper lantern, and for the wall installation used white poster putty.  Unfortunately the project ground to a halt when I realized I need about twice the number of butterflies to get the effect I want, but had run out of paper, and had managed to empty the local stores' stocks.  It'll take about a week to get the new shipments in, so for now, this is it:

I'd put up a few trial butterflies on the wall late last night, and when I woke up this morning, the 4-year-old had added a couple of spectators:

They are definitely staying up as part of this art installation.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cupcake skirt

Ok, I admit it, what finally got me off my duff and into this blog wasn't anything particularly profound, but rather a need for a place to put a tutorial for making a skirt.  And since using this much lace, ribbon and tulle turns any girl into a confection, I give you, The Cupcake Skirt.

For this skirt, you will need 3 fabrics: material for an overskirt, an underskirt, and two layers of tulle in the middle.  You will also need enough 3/4" elastic to snuggly encircle the waist.  And the best part,  enough trim (ribbon, lace, fabric ruffles, rickrack) to edge the 3 top layers.    For specifics about calculating measurements, I've appended the guidelines I used at the end of the post.

The skirt is made of 4 layers of circles:  the smallest being the overskirt, then 2 progressively larger layers of tulle, then the underskirt, which, when hemmed, should be the same diameter as the bottom (and larger) layer of tulle, once edged.  To make these circles in an easy way without much tracing or measuring, you start off with squares of fabric slightly larger than the diameter.  Fold it as you would a piece of paper you were going to cut into a snowflake:  into half, quarters, eighths, sixteenths, pinning as you go to secure the layers:

Beware of stretching the fabric; since you will be folding on the bias sometimes, this can happen easily,  particularly with the more slippery fabrics, and will result in a distorted shape.

Mark off the desired radius for your circle (remember, radius=diameter/2), measuring along each straight edge starting from the pointy tip.  Then cut along this arc through all the fabric layers at once:

For ease of finding the center of the circle later on, mark a dot at the very tip of the triangle.  When you open it up, you should have a near perfect circle.

Repeat for the other fabrics, cutting circles to specified diameters.  Then layer your fabric to check your work.  The marker dots you put at the center will help you center the circles concentrically.  The tulle is hard to see and even harder to photograph.
At this point you can pin the layers together, cut out the center hole, and stitch them together, or, if you're like me and can't wait to start stitching on ribbon, you can edge the layers first, and then put them together.  Putting on the edging first has the benefit of making the edge of the tulle layers much easier to see and position.

I found stitching the tulle a little easier if you stitch it with the ribbon or lace underneath the tulle, since it keeps the tulle from getting snagged on the teeth of the feed dog.  No need to hem the tulle layers, since they will not fray.

For the overskirt, sewing the trim on with a zigzag will save you an added step of hemming this layer.

At this point you can also hem the underskirt, which I did by just folding the edge over 1/4 inch and sewing a straight stitch, twice.  If you have a hemming foot, so much the better!

Now to put it all together, put together your layers again, and pin them together with the pins pointing towards the center.  Since you will be cutting out the hole in the center in this step, try to avoid pinning around the circumference of the hole you will cut - you'll have to remove the pins later and risk ruining your scissors finding where the pins are.  So pin the fabrics in the very center and along the outer edges of the skirt.

Fold the entire skirt, the same way you did at the beginning, adding extra pins as needed.  This will be a bit trickier because you're working with 4 layers at once.  Then, along each straight edge, measure the desired radius of the center hole, and cut.  Open the circle up carefully, keeping the layers pinned together.  Partly unfolded, it will look like this:

Next, stitch all the layers together along the center hole, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance.

For the waist band, cut a 4" wide strip of fabric to the necessary length (I like to use the selvage for this since I then I don't have to finish the top edge.  With right sides facing, match edges with the center hole of the dress, and pin.  Sew together with a straight stitch, leaving a 3/8" seam allowance. 
With a straight stitch, join the ends of this waist portion to form a tube.  Zigzag all the rough edges.

Almost done!  Fold over the top 1 1/4" of the waist band to make a 1" casing with a 1/4" seam allowance.  Stitch, leaving a gap to thread in the elastic.

Through the gap, thread in the elastic and then stitch the ends together firmly (making sure the elastic doesn't get a twist in it along the way).

Stitch the ends of the elastic together firmly, tuck it inside the casing, then stitch the gap closed.

Last of all, for an evenly gathered look, stitch a straight line down the center of the elastic.  This is a little tricky, since you'll have to use both hands to stretch the waist band out completely while you're stitching (not the easiest to photograph unless you have 3 hands, so the picture isn't quite right.  My left hand was stretching the other end of the waist away from me as I sewed.) 

And then you're done!
Here are another couple of color combinations to inspire you:


Cupcake Skirt Measurement guide

Measurements you need to take (all in inches): 
H = circumference at widest point of hips
L = desired length of skirt (e.g. from waist to knee)

Measurements you need to calculate and cut:
C = center hole radius
U = underskirt radius
T2 = 2nd layer tulle radius
T1 = 1st layer tulle radius
O = overskirt radius

C = H/ 6.28, rounded to the nearest whole number
U = C+L-2” (allows for ½” of hemming and the 2.5” added by the waistband)
T2 = U – ½” (the ribbon edging this tulle will just overlap the hem of the underskirt)
T1 = U – 2”  (this allows for a 1½” difference between the 2 layers of tulle
O = U – 3½”  (or more e.g. 4”, if you are planning to edge it with wider ribbon)

Fabric needed:
For each layer of the skirt, you will need a square of fabric about an inch wider than the diameter of the circle you are cutting.  To save on fabric, you can make this square by sewing two rectangles together.  For the amounts of ribbon, remember that circumference is 2pi*r, or roughly 6.28 X radius.  Since sewing on the bias can stretch fabric, give yourself an extra foot or so just to be safe.  And for ribbons or laces that you want to ruffle, multiply that amount by 2 or 2.5, depending how gathered you want your ruffles.