Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fabric, Check. Paint, Check. Time. What time?!

First of all, a big thanks to the lovely folks who weighed in on my kitchen fabric dilemma a few posts ago.  Your votes and another trip to my favorite fabric store confirmed my choice.

I bought a couple yards of Waverly's Small Talk Blackbird this weekend.  The good news is that I love it even more than I did the first time I laid eyes on it.  And once I had enough yardage in my hot little hand to hold it up in the window of our new kitchen to get a feel for what it would look like curtain wise, I loved it even more still!

Mr. Skooks and I evaluated what felt like millions of paint chips (but was probably more like 20) and settled on our kitchen paint colors.  Those cans are sitting on our new kitchen counter waiting for us to come back wielding our brushes.  Seriously, those beige walls won't know what hit 'em!

Would you love to eat in a kitchen sporting paints like "Spiced Applesauce" and "Happy Times" on the walls?  You better believe you would!

Confession time.  My mind *may* have been made up just a bit before the poll closed.  Subconsciously or not, I procured these little lovelies with the intent to design a yellow, black, and white kitchen.  And that kinda knocks out I dunno, ALL the other fabrics I picked.  Just about.

P.S.  Finding these little guys eased the pain of losing out on my chance to get those red canisters I put on my b-day wish-list.  It's all good though.  I have some plans to incorporate red into the new sewing room so stay tuned for that.  ;)


Friday, May 21, 2010

You Asked, I Answered: How to Make a Mermaid Tail

Ok, yes.  I concede that this is a somewhat random type of request.  But I am the answer man.  Or answer woman.  Or I wish I was.  Or something.


I got an email from a mom needing help to make her daughter's 5 year old mermaid birthday party dreams come true.  She writes:

I am soon to be planning my sweet middle's birthday party. The theme has now been switched from fairies to mermaids. And she wants mermaid tails. Yep, mermaid tails. I can see them in my head, but I am wondering if you have seen anything anywhere resembling a pattern for such a thing. In my head it is made similarly to a cape, except with a taper in shape (instead of taper out) with a fin on the bottom. What do you think? Could it work?
The short answer: YES!

You wanna know how I know?

Because my little sis was a mermaid for Halloween WAY back in the day.  My mom used a pattern which I actually have sitting in my stash here at my house!

In the spirit of everyone at the party being able to get in on the fun, however, whipping out legit mermaid costumes a la McCalls Mermaid and Princess Pattern M5498 or Simplicity Pattern Mermaid Costume 4043 seems a wee bit on the EXTREME side.

Here are a few modifications I think could be made ahead of time for any reasonable number of guests SANS store bought patterns.  The good news is, I think you could repurpose some old bedsheets to make the fabric cheaper or if you must buy you could get away with some of that cheap $2.49 fabric that is sold in a variety of colors at Jo-Ann, Hobby Lobby, you name it!  With this kind of project you could make it as elaborate or as simple as you want.

[Here's the part of the post where I tell you that I don't have time to actually try this because I've already packed up my sewing stuffs for the move - - yes, we close on our house TOMORROW!  Woot!  But, I am nearly certain that these instructions are goof proof.  NOT that the asker of this question is an goofus mind you.]

Welcome to HOW TO MAKE A MERMAID TAIL by looking at VERY BAD DRAWINGS I scrawled on a piece of scrap paper!  (You know you love it.)

So, you've been approached by your dear sweet child who wants to be a mermaid.   

OF COURSE she does.

What is she thinking?

The way I see it, you've got 3 choices.  All require a different level of commitment both in time and quantity of fabric.
The first is the bootleg approximation of that Simplicity pattern.  This is the one I'm recalling from my childhood when my sister morphed into the Little Mermaid for Halloween.

Here are the basic steps:
  1. Lay your child down on some butcher paper, poster board, tissue paper or something large enough to make your pattern pieces.  Come to think of it tissue paper could go either way in being useful.  If you've got hardwood floors it should work ok, just use care when tracing so it doesn't rip.
  2. Leaving about a half inch or so to give room for a seam allowance, draw around your child's legs from the waist to the knees and then make the rest of your pattern in the shape in the drawing.  
  3. Cut 2 pieces of this pattern out.
  4. Sew right sides together up to the tail cut off on one side and where you need the skirt to stop on the other side.  Make sure you sew all the way around the fin area  Don't sew the top of the fin closed!
  5. Sew a casing for your elastic OR if you really can't be bothered with it, you could try sewing your elastic right to the inside of your waist opening after you hem it.  Hem the raw edge on the bottom of the skirt (or just use some bias tape to seal in the edge from fraying.)
  6. Turn it right side out.  Stuff the tail with some polyfil or make an insert with posterboard to help maintain the shape of the tail.
  7. Sew the opening of the tail closed.
  8. Attach ribbon or invisible thread to the fin and wrap and attach the other end of the string to a bracelet (a shower curtain ring could work in a pinch!)
Option 2 is more of an homage to the McCalls pattern named above.  For this one you will have 2 pattern pieces.
  1. Same deal with tracing around your child to get started.  This one should go pretty much floor length to get the desired effect.  The main pattern piece is going to be shaped just as you see on the drawing.  Cut 2 of those.  The side flares on the bottom are basically 2 wide triangles that will fit into the space between the front and the back when you turn the sewn main pieces on their side so the hem is facing you.  Cut 2 of those.  You could switch it up with the colors here or go for darker shades of your main fabric.
  2. Place the main pattern pieces right sides together and sew down the 2 long sides.  Leave the top and bottom open.
  3. Reconfigure the main skirt part so one of the side hems is facing up.  Lay one of your large triangle pieces right side down and sew along the top 2 sides.  
  4. Repeat this on the other side.
  5. Sew a casing for your elastic waist.

By FAR your simplest option (and the one I *think* that was being eluded to in the question) would be to make a cape for your little one that will sit around the child's waist.
  1. Draw your basic tail shape making sure it will be long enough to brush the floor (you may not want to make it TOO long so the kids don't step on each other's tails, but that's your call.  It could either be good comedy for the adults or LOTS of bumps and bruises for the little people.)
  2. Cut 1 piece.
  3. Hem all the way around.
  4. Make a casing for your ribbon (make sure it's long enough to get around the child's waist and still have length to tie it)
  5. As I scribbled on the drawing, you could consider doubling the pieces and sewing them right sides together and then stuffing the fin so it has some weight to it.  Otherwise, you might not get a super great effect with the tail just flapping behind the kids.  
Then again . . . most kids don't need things to be super realistic to use their imaginations!

Well, I'm sorry this was a bit bootleg, but it's all I could do while the sewing stuff is all packed away.  I hope at the very least, you were able to find some humor in how terrible of an artist I am.

Have you got a question?  Send an email to skooksplayground[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll do my best to make you laugh get an answer for you!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Calling All Lovers of Handmade Goods . . . Stand Up and Fight!

Remember that whole CPSIA thing that everyone in the handmade world got all up in arms about awhile back?  I read a lot of handmade lovin' blogs, and it doesn't seem to be talked about a whole lot anymore.

Don't let that fool you into believing that the fight is over.  

I would encourage you to read the following article to re-familiarize yourself with the situation.  And get involved!  Contact your Representatives.

Because sitting around wishing things would change for the better changes nothing.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Bamboo Shades and Giveaways

Posting has been a bit spotty lately as Mr. Skooks and I have been anticipating moving our entire household. Can you believe it, we're set to CLOSE ON OUR HOUSE on Friday?!

We spent some time at the new house this weekend (always helps when the seller just gives you the key code to the lock box and you can jump in there at will) measuring all the windows and rooms and strategizing furniture placements and paint colors. Little Miss was bouncing off of absolutely every wall in the house and Kee-ku had no idea what to do with himself on a carpeted floor (our present abode sports all wood floors throughout the house and he's more of a "scootcher" than a "crawler").

I'm leaning heavy towards going with the Blackbirds for my kitchen but haven't actually pulled the trigger on buying the fabric yet. Still letting those last few stragglers get their votes in. ;)

Oh and speaking of window treatments, if any of you are in the market for some bamboo roman shades for your windows I found the best deal on them at Overstock.com. We have all these odd size windows in our house and I thought we were going to have to go all custom order when I came up empty after visiting Walmart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and World Market (decent price but scant size selection). Sears, Lowes, and Home Depot all do have the blinds as well in a plethora of sizes but they are way over our budget for window coverings and thus were out as well. So yes, Overstock will hook you up if you want to cover your windows in bamboo like I do since I am not so much a fan of mini-blinds and plain white roller shades are just . . . boring. (Thrifty disclaimer: Had either of those options actually COME with the house we probably would have kept them and switched them out over time, but the windows are bare nekkid so we figured we may as well get what we like.)

I had intended on participating in the Sew Mama Sew giveaway day by actually giving something away, but I was so consumed with house-y stuff this weekend I just didn't get around to pulling it all together. It's still QUITE worth checking out though. Last I read they already had something like 250 giveaways set up! Surely you or I must be able to win something good, right?!

Check out the gobs of giveaway goodies here:

P.S. I didn't get paid by Overstock for talking up their great deals on Bamboo shades, but I probably should have been! :P


Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Asked, Hopefully You Can Answer: More Kitchen Swatches for Your Perusal

[click the mosaic to enlarge]

So maybe I want to mix it up a bit more?  I don't know.  I just can't leave it alone.

After I wrote yesterday's post I spent a large chunk of time today continuing to search for some inspiration for my  new kitchen.

Here's what I'm learning about myself: I am largely being drawn to florals, yellows, blues, and greens.  Only ONE fabric called out to me that had some red in it.  Not sure what to do about that since I am very much leaning towards hitting up the red accents in my sewing room AND I already have a red couch in my living room so I'm not sure if I want to overdo the red thing.  Even though I do like Red in kitchens.  And apparently everywhere else.

After ALMOST being sold completely on my Waverly "Small Talk Blackbird" swatch (still in the running BTW), I stumbled across "Nicey Jane Church Flowers" by Heather Bailey.  Apparently I really like Heather Bailey  A LOT because I now have 4 different "Nicey Jane"s and a "Bijoux Swirly" in the mix.  Yum.  And then there's Amy Butler.  Let's not forget to throw her in the pot and stir.  Oh yes, and add a dash of Patty Young.  Make that 2 dashes.


I am such a fabric-o-holic.  It's a disease really.

I put a little poll up on top of this post so you could help me decide which direction to go.  The pics run in order of the options from Left to Right and Top to Bottom.  I've given you the option to select several if you wish in case you're as indecisive as me!  {Friends using a Reader please click through to take my poll!)

Thanks for the input!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kitchen Color: Let's Swap Inspiration

Just a little question for everyone: where did you get the inspiration for the colors in your kitchen?

For the last few years I have been living in a kitchen that was decorated by the landlord.  I know that doesn't sound promising, but actually it has been nice.  Not completely my taste, but it works for the space and since this isn't my forever home, I felt no need to spend my own money to do new window treatments.  We currently have a black kitchen: black cupboards, black appliances, dark wood trim with touches of olive green and deep purple on the curtains.  It works in here.

My new house?  All white cabinetry, all white window trim, all white appliances.  Well, mostly all white appliances.  The stove and the dishwasher both are a white/black combo platter.

I've been racking my brains and combing through fabric trying to settle on something I could use as inspiration for both curtains and wall color.  The swatches in this post are what I've come up with so far.  The floral is a tad more mod than I was thinking of initially, but it's growing on me.  I'm liking the idea of tying in the soft yellow to the wall color and drawing out some darker yellow with a vintage cookie jar or something fun like that.

What does your kitchen look like?  What kind of colors do you have going on in there?  Any suggestions for a homey and cozy white on white on white kitchen?  My initial thought was to go with red accents, but so far I'm not finding fabric I love that has red in it.  Isn't that odd?  You'd think some nice red would be easy to come by, but I'm just not coming up with it.  Oh, and the super cute canisters I found that were on my birthday wish list were bought up that day (and not by me!)  Guess I don't have to go red anymore.  :(

P.S.  I'm not looking for gingham or anything uber-traditional.

So my little swatches . . . yay?


Monday, May 10, 2010

Made: Flower Girl Dress

Ok, not a dress. Not exactly.

For those of you following along, let me pick back up where I left off here, here, and here.  I've been working (slowly) on a Patty Young (Modkid Boutique) pattern called Emma.  It's actually not a dress.  It's actually a top and a skirt that layered together look like a dress.

I went out this weekend and got some new buttons that hopefully fix my button bleed issue.  These new ones are washable, dry cleanable, have smaller shanks, and frankly are kind of nicer than the ones I had on there originally. 

To finish off each "petal", I had to decide whether to use traditional hems or rolled edge hems a la serger.  Since I *have* a serger (and because I thought it would be *easier*), I opted for the rolled edging.

Before I got to that point it had been a pretty pleasant dress-making experience. BEFORE.

While I won't say I regret doing this (not really), I will say that some not so lady-like mutterings [maybe][possibly] might have been uttered by me once the serging process began.


Well, for one, I think I threaded and rethreaded that machine oh, I don't know, 17 times THE EXACT SAME WAY before it decided to chain off properly.  Ok ok.  It must not have been done the exact same way every time, but heck if I could tell you what the difference was between the first attempt and the 17th attempt.  I think that's probably the most infuriating part of it.  Just not knowing the difference so I could say, "OH!  So if this happens again, I just do THAT and all will be well!"  Grr . . .

I think I need to take a proper serger usage class.  Plain and simple.  Because at the moment Sergei and I are not on speaking terms.

The other *could be construed as frustrating moment* came when Little Miss tried it on.  And then told me she didn't want to turn around so I could see the back.  And then told me she didn't like it.  And then started sobbing when I told her to just take it off already then.  (When I suggested this course of action, she actually told me over and over PLEASE DON'T TAKE THE DRESS AWAY I WANT IT!!" - - Ah, to be 3.)
Hence the model shot:
Oh well.  I like to think the real problem she was having was that it wasn't her uncle's wedding day yet.  She keeps telling me how much she wants to *go* to their wedding.  Like, "C'mon Mom.  Let's go to the wedding already!"


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Button Bleed: For Real?!

This past weekend I started really digging into the flower girl dress I'm making for Little Miss.  It was nice to get back to the machine and work something up . . . sadly it had been awhile.

Things were going along relatively smoothly until I got to the buttons.  My future sister-in-law picked out some simple round red shank buttons to go down the front of the bodice.  I had to attach them by hand before I could assemble the rest of the top.  I have to admit, I wasn't wild about how they were laying there once I got them on.  The shank seemed really too tall and no matter how I manipulated them to try to stand up a bit more straight (these were not to be functional buttons), I still wasn't loving the result.

I pressed on, sure that once it was all together, the buttons would look fine.  As I finished every bit of the sewing on the bodice (except the bottom where I was going to be attaching the skirting) I made a most distressing discovery.

Did you miss it?

Let me point it out to you more clearly:
Um, YEAH.  This is a picture I took of the bodice after I removed the offensive shank buttons that somehow BLED THEIR COLOR RIGHT ONTO THE WHITE LACE that runs directly down the front.

I could have screamed.

I would have, actually, but it was about 4am (the sewing hour as it were) and it didn't seem like a good idea.

So now I need to a) get new buttons and b) figure out how I can salvage all this bodice work I already did.  I have no more lace and I would have to deconstruct the whole thing to get new lace on anyway.

I REALLY don't want to have to do that.

Sewing experts HELP ME!!  What do I do about this?  The top two spots are smallish and will probably be covered over by whatever new buttons I come up with.  The bottom spot is a bit bigger and more offensive.

I am completely baffled as to how this happened by the way.  The buttons were never wet at any point (which is neither here nor there now because eventually this dress should be washable after all).  Who knew that buttons could/would bleed??  Certainly not me!

For real, HELP!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hi, I'm Skooks. You May Know Me from Such Blogs As . . .

Something that makes this whole blog world so fun is the connections we are able to make from here to there.  I can't tell you how many amazing blogs I've found because this one put a link up to that one who put a link up to that other one and what do you know I'm subscribed to over 200 blog feeds?!  Wow.  There are so many amazingly talented and clever people out there blogging up a storm.

Anyway, some really cool people have been giving me some blog lovin' lately so I'm taking my turn to recognize back.  :)

A LONG time ago, Rachel from One Pretty Thing picked up and featured my Recycled Paper Flower Gift Bow Tutorial.  That was so lovely of her, and she did it again just recently when Cynthia came by to guest post with her DIY Paint with Water cards.

Speaking of people who loved Cynthia's tutorial, there have been a-plenty:
I saw a shout-out to me from a blogger in Swedish!  Google translator helped me understand it says something like:  "I am a little weak for flowers in all forms.  But yes, this paper flower, which is made of old paper, beautiful?"  :)
I have only seen it happen once, but I did come across this beautiful rendering of my Recycled Paper Flower Gift Bow.  I meant to give a shout out back to her a long time ago and then promptly forgot.  Check her blog out though, lots of cool stuff on there.

Has anyone else made one of those?  I'd love to see some more pics if you have them.  Join my new "I saw it on Skooks' Playground and had to make it" Flickr group and link your projects up!

Oh, and one more acknowledgment.  I just noticed that Trendy Treehouse is featuring me as their Random Sponsor Pick this week.  So it's random, so what?  I'm random.  :P  (It's the first time I've seen anyone use my little blog button too!)

Anyway anyway, thank you to everyone who has had a kind word to say about my blog, thrown me on your blog-roll, or given one of my projects a whirl.  You're making me feel all glad inside.

Thanks, friends!

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