Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The "Wendy Works Her Butt Off" T Shirt Quilt

The narcissist in me wants to start this post by getting excited about the fact that I said my next project would be this quilt and it actually was. I've been saying that for at least a year.

More importantly, and for sure more interestingly, my mom's story. My mom's a camp person through and through. As a little girl, she went to camp far from home and over time made her way from a camper to a counselor, to a supervisor (wonder where I got that from). Because of this my brother and I were fortunate enough to go to camp from a pretty young age, and my mom works in schools so instead of taking the summer off, she always worked where we attended. First day camp, and then when we were each around 9 we found our summer homes in the berkshires. His in Great Barrington, and my mom joined me in West Stockbridge. Our first year at Crane Lake Camp was 2001 where she started as the "Nature Lady," or, the one who tends to the llamas and puppies and lizards and pigs and you name it.

Its been 13 years since then and she's worked 5 different jobs on camp, although I hear she's still the best at catching a runaway llama. Each summer, staff members get shirts to wear with the camps name for opening days and such. In addition, groups like to make silly t shirts. In addition, sometimes there would be one made with everyones name on it. In addition, my mom now works in the office and she may or may not have keys to where they keep the SWAG (Stuff We All Get, not THIS kind of swag. She couldn't keep that locked up if she tried AM I RIGHT) but we'll account those "extras" to laundry accidents.

If you're super into T shirts, it must be cool to have that many. (I am, and it is.) However, the reason I made this blanket isn't because she has too many shirts. Its because my mom is an amazing powerhouse and lost an astounding amount of weight in the past few years. I'm so proud of how far she's come that I even went to a few spin classes with her. You know how cute kindergarten kids look when they wear their parents shirts as smocks in art class? Thats how my mom looked in her own camp shirts when she went to the gym. SHE LITERALLY WORKED HER BUTT OFF. So I confiscated them. Not all, I let her keep a few, but MOST.

I started out with 28 shirts.

They either had a logo across the chest and back, a small left chest logo and back, or random sizes who didn't quite fit in. I made templates out of poster board so they would all be even and I'm about to praise the lord and build a shrine to rotary cutters because it would be dreadful to cut all the pieces with regular scissors. This is the kind I have. They were the cheapest ones on the notions wall at Joann a few years ago and they've never let me down.

I laid out a blanket I already had a size guide but didn't follow it too much. I put the odd shapes in the middle, and used the chest logos to fill the gaps and played around with the big pieces after that. 

Here's a look at the fuzzy stuff I got for the other size. Its simply sandwiched between some bias tape. 

Check it out, I learned mitered corners! On my way to being a quilting superstar. I watched a few videos on YouTube about how to best sew them and made my own lazy girl's version. What I learned from the videos is that its extremely simple and you could figure it out by accident while playing around with bias tape. Technically, you're supposed to pick up the presser foot at the corner before you fold the bias tape. But like I said, I did lazy girl's way which is to pre-fold so that I can pin down all of the bias tape in one shot and sew it the same. I ended up reinforcing the corners with a zigzag stitch when I was finishing it, because that was more logical to me. 

and lastly I love my mom and I know gifts should be wrapped, but we had no appropriate wrapping paper. Although I can picture my mom laughing her ass off if I brought her a a lumpy thing covered in dreidle gift wrap for her birthday that is 2 weeks from now. So yarn bows are cute enough? 

This past weekend I got to visit camp for the first time this summer with two of my best friends. I decided I wanted to give my mom the blanket early because her birthday is the last day of camp and I can imagine she would like to use it for cold berkshire nights, and lets be honest, to brag about it for the rest of the summer. Or maybe a bit of a conversation piece? Who knows. Either way it was exciting to see her light up when she saw me bringing it into her office. 

Its hard to say what the best part of this weekend was. Maybe spending the night before talking with my friends Sophie and Talya so much for so long that my throat and contacts dry up. (ew, but you know that happens.) The rush of excitement of the mountains swallowing me up. The feeling of driving on to camp with the familiar sights and memories filling me. Maybe the roller coaster of nerves and fear and excitement and excessive hand squeezing as we finally got out of the car. Seeing my camp friends not on twitter, instagram, or facebook...but in person face to face and arm in arm. The double take my mom did when she realized I was standing next to her and not on the other end of FaceTime. Maybe having my most recent camper's eyes light up and group hug me or chatting with my first ever campers and seeing them thrive as successful counselors. Maybe our perfect dinner outside that night or finally buying myself a beer in a townie berkshire bar. Or the next day's lunch with mom at a forbidden pizza joint. Maybe the hour I finally caught up with Melissa over tea as she passed through town. It could have even been the free hot dogs and Twix back on camp though, now that I think about it. 

It all felt something like this:

Which, from what I've been told by everyone I spoke with, is how my mom makes them feel too. I can't even count how many people made a point to tell me that she is their summer mom and how she takes care of them when they're away. It feels good to know that she's getting a little extra love from everyone when she's up there "alone." 

If anyone has a ton of shirts and wants to DIY this, lets chat if you have questions. Or if you have a ton of shirts and want someone to make this happen, I'm your girl. Shoot me an email, facebook message, comment, sky writing, singing telegram, or owl. No carrier pigeons. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

the three year knee socks

This has become the summer of using up my yarn stash and finishing abandoned projects. I've developed an interesting habit of procrastination-cleaning where instead of doing something I was originally planning, I start reorganizing my room for a few hours. As I was getting ready to make my mom a T-shirt quilt (which WILL be my next project. or next next.) I stumbled upon this bag of a knitting project I started a while back. These socks were almost done, and since its a lovely 94 degrees around these parts, it seemed like a good time to knit wool socks. 

My freshmen year of college, I told myself "this is the year I WILL learn to knit!" (By told I really mean "yelled at myself" but somehow telling yourself something is 2% less bananas.) I had once tried to learn when my grandma taught me. She is hands down the goddess of knitting needles. Besides her lifelong career of creating and selling yarn, she could make anything. My mom's favorite way to describe her natural talent is that she could knit a 5 needle cable sweater, watch golf, carry a conversation, and never drop a stitch. The only thing she made my mom do was sew on her own sweater buttons at the end. So thats my end goal. She taught me pretty well and clearly, but when I tried to practice at home, it became a mess. However, I still have that swatch we worked on. I tried once more to learn online a few months after she passed and I still had some trouble understanding the patterns, and I was satisfied by the fact that I was getting to be a pretty great crocheter and so I gave up again. But I kept seeing beautiful knitting projects, stitches, and patterns that I just couldn't duplicate with crochet. The most haunting projects I saw on craft forums came from the book above, Stitch and Bitch by Debbie Stoller. So I bought the book, bought some supplies, sat down and knit a hat. Here's a picture from that year thats maybe one of the 10 out of 300 thats not TOO embarrassing. Luckily I'm wearing the hat.

(if you're interested its the kitty and devil hat)

I started getting better at knitting hats and went on to learn other things, and decided that this time around I'm going to practice things enough to get good at them before moving on to new things so I'd get better at reading patterns. When I was ready for a new challenge I started the Pippi Kneestockings. It was my first time using needles so small (sizes 3 and 5) and also my first time joining elastic with yarn. No matter what kind of craft you're doing, elastic is a little bitch. Yes, helpful, yes, worth it, yes, you figure it out, but never easily.  

The pattern calls for four colors, but I used Patons Kroy Socks yarn in Summer Moss Jacquard, Grey, and Black. I think what took so long was that it is one of those knitting projects that takes bouts of focus, and then long stretches of mindless inches and inches of stockinette stitch. The hardest part was turning the heel, but after Googling parts of the foot, it got a bit easier. I took a break for a few months after the first sock, then randomly picked up the second. I can't remember what happened between then and now, but when I took it out of the bag it only had about 5 inches of the foot to go, the easiest part. (Although, I did have to Google parts of the foot again this time around. Who would guess the instep was the top of the foot?) I finished it in about the length of Disney's Hercules, my preferred knitting background noise. (My personal opinion is that Disney only created that movie to make a ton of puns about Greek mythology, and I APPLAUD them for that.)

It turned out to be an awesome project and I'm so happy I finished them. The only other time I've knit socks is a chunky pair I made for my friend Sam a few Hanukkahs ago, so its nice to have made a pair I can wear when it gets chilly out. 

If you're new to knitting, I would absolutely recommend buying this book too, by the by. Some of the projects are a little dorky but the skills are described and illustrated SO WELL. Its called the knitters handbook because it really serves as a reference for projects within the book and others you find elsewhere. Stitches are shown in adorable illustrations and once you get the hang of it, you can modify the patterns to your taste. PLUS its from 2003, ten years old this year, so its cheap as hell on Amazon. While you're shopping for it, feel free to send me some of the newer books as gifts. But I already have The Happy Hooker, the crochet handbook. Just throwing it out there.

I broke a sweat taking this picture and thats embarrassing. 

Lastly, I'm really jealous of people who are great at creating fun stuff on Vine and this is my attempt to be a part of that club. 


PS if you're wondering how my garden is doing (you are) here are some updates:

Everything is getting bigger! The tomatoes come up to my thighs so they're about two and a half feet tall. The tomatoes and pepper are starting to produce veggies and the zucchini has some flowers. Technically, squash flowers are edible so I'll say those are producing too. According to all of the labels, in the next few weeks I should be able to eat a few things and see veggies all up on this patch. I'm still looking for a good wood seal to waterproof my labels, if anyone can recommend some I'd be eternally grateful!

A lot of Google Reader users switched over to Bloglovin at the start of this month so if you're one of them, or are otherwise interested in getting updates, follow me HERE on Bloglovin!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Life's A Beach and Then You DIY

Alright, look how much fun they're having in those swimsuits. Its probably something to do with not spending a year's paycheck on one back in the day. Or because the beach is awesome, and reading is fun, and god look at that sky. Go outside.

ANYWAY. Swimwear isn't quite like it used to be. Which is great because there's some cool bathing suits out there, but also a bummer because looking for a high waisted bikini lead me down an upsetting path. My options were: 
  1. Spend $30+ on just one piece of the boring suit at a retail store (not insane, but again, I'm broke and not spending money on boring)
  2. Spend $90+ on the beautiful, amazing, brain meltingly fabulous ones on Etsy. (my Favorites is cluttered with fantastic handmade bathing suits)
  3. DIY the shit outta this thing. 
Clearly, I'm going with 3. My first idea was to trace some underwear to make a pattern and add a few inches. I googled around and found some good ideas for altering a one piece (which I'd like to try next), altering a very popular BurdaStyle underwear pattern (also on the list), and like my own idea, drafting a pattern from something you already own. 

Here's how it went down:
I bought about a yard of fabric and half a yard of lining fabric, both in the swim and dancewear section. My fabric store only had solids, but there's great places to buy patterned fabric online, I got some nylon lyrcra type fabric. I also got a few yards of braided elastic, and a roll of matching thread. I already had a stretch needle, but if you're thinking of trying to sew or alter some swimwear, save yourself the stress and disappointment and splurge the few bucks on the right equipment. Especially with stretchy fabrics, the right needle matters. My receipt came out to $19.35 for everything.

Here are the shapes of the pieces. The wine glass like piece is the front, the little one is the crotch piece for the liner, and lastly the tush shaped tush piece. 
The way mine worked out is that the front is about an inch narrower than the back, and when you look at the finished piece its the same way, but on your body the seams will be along your sides. If you're tracing underwear like I did, don't forget seam allowance.

1. Cut out pattern pieces!

I cut two pieces of both the front and the back, and only one of the crotch lining. 

2. Create the lining! Sew crotch lining to front lining piece. You can see that they're shaped similarly on the bottom. I didn't take a photo of this step, but when you have the pieces in your hands, its pretty self explanatory. Pin the smaller side down to the front lining facing UPWARD, the opposite way its actually going to lay. Then sew that seam down using a stretchy stitch (I have a mock serger stitch on my sewing machine, but otherwise you can use a plain zig zag or a lightning bolt shaped stitch. avoid a plain straight stitch), and flip the piece so that the seam is hidden and the shapes are now matching. Pin the back piece to the front, sandwiching the crotch liner in between the two, and then pin and sew that bottom seam. Sew up the sides of the liner, but don't go into autopilot and sew up the leg holes! (you've done it, come on.) Huzzah, you're done with the lining. AND its already inside out and no flipping. 

3. Create the shell! This one is much easier and faster, only 3 seams. pin the front piece and back piece together, right sides facing together. Sew up the sides and the bottom with your mock serger, zig zag, or lightning bolt stitch. Flip it right side out. Prouda you! Almost there hombre. 

4. Sew the elastic to the leg holes! Slide the lining into the shell and pin in a few places at the top. This isn't for sewing yet, just to hold it into place while you make the legs. While stretching a bit, sew the elastic down to both the lining and shell from the inside using the lightning bolt shaped stitch. From the top, it should be elastic > lining > shell. When you've made it around one leg hole, cut the end of the elastic where it meets the start so there's little to no overlap. Fold the elastic over once so that its hidden and with the shell on top this round, over stitch it with a plan old zig zag. Repeat on the other leg! We're in the home stretch (SEE WHAT I DID THERE)

5. Sew the elastic to the waistband! I did the waistband the same way as the legs, except I tried it on first to make sure I liked the length of it first. On mine, I had added too much and wanted it to be around belly button height, so I trimmed off an inch all around first. 

AND YOU'RE DONE! Ready to swim, unless you can't in which you really should sign up for a lesson or two but you'll still look great all summer!


Looking back, I'd try some things differently. I purposely over purchased fabric for some room for error and experiments which I'm glad I did because its been a super fun project so far. I might cut out the waist band and reattach it with the elastic threaded into a fold over band instead, or make a whole new one once I get more elastic. I bought a twin needle to try out soon, I'd like to try to get some patterned fabric online and do some panels instead of a basic shape and color eventually, I definitely want to try the Burda pattern, and my eyes are peeled for some swimsuits in good condition to alter. If you've sewn with elastic before but are not quite ready to start from scratch, Google around for examples of how to do this. Basically, just cut the top of a once piece off at the height you want, add a waist band, and TA-DA! you have a high waisted bottom. 
I should also throw it out there that this is a very homegrown self taught beginner version of pattern drafting and swimwear making. If you're more advanced, challenge yourself to alter a real pattern and give us all some tips and whatnot. 

Aaaaaand if you wanna buy a great retro swimsuit from Etsy, let me live vicariously through you, ok?

Sunday, June 2, 2013


This summer will be the longest I've been home in about thirteen years. Between going to sleep away camp, working there, and traveling, I haven't been on Long Island for more than three weeks of the summer in a long time. But now I'm living at home post graduation and reminded of the sweet summer smells of salty air, fresh flowers, and an Oceanside classic; hot garbage.

To keep busy (read: sanity), I've thought up a few projects for myself this summer. As of now, the top three are learning to bake pies, grow a vegetable garden, and get this blog going. Conveniently, and intentionally, they all work pretty well together. If I could get good at these three hobbies, and ideally a job too, I'd see this summer as a success. Additionally, I'm starting grad school in September, so I need to learn how to bake pies and have extra veggies on hand for the ultimate stress eating I'm planning on doing.

So! Gardening!

My experience is limited, but my mom knows a lot about it, so we made a plan together, bought some plants, and started digging. Many years ago, and for most of my childhood, we had a pool and our entire backyard was centered around it. Our deck lead off to it, and the rest of the grounds were covered in pebbles and stepping stones leading up to it. BUT my brother and I started going to sleep away camp, my mom worked at the one I went to, and my dad enjoyed his alone time every summer, but decided that the pool was less fun alone. We got rid of it, but suddenly our whole backyard was unbalanced. Cut ten years and it looked like this:

oh, and I forgot to mention we left the pool ladder anchors in the deck because they look HILARIOUS out of context. Right?

Our game plan started with trimming away part of the tree to get some extra sunlight, clearing out the old pool area, and adding top soil. This took the whole morning, and we had some surprises along the way. 
  1. The whole area is a combination of soil and LOTS of sand.
  2. Things grow really well in sand; there were all kinds of plants and roots and weeds, and even our newly transplanted rosebush clipping had toughed it out through the hurricane. 
  3. 90's Radio on Spotify is great work music. There's no motivation like Britney, bitch. 

This round, we planted eggplant, zucchini, straight cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, snacking peppers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, big beef tomatoes, basil, peppermint, orange mint, and cilantro. (PHEW) We planted the herbs in a window box both because the mint is invasive and would conquer the whole backyard, and because it'll grow sooner and be nice to have it closer to the kitchen. We laid down some weed blocking cloth and from then on the rest of the day moved pretty quickly. Luckily there's a ton left, and I'm looking to add some snap peas later on so it won't go to waste. 

My last bit of set up was plant markers. Although not at all necessary, how could I resist an opportunity to use paint pens? ya girl loves paint pens.

Word on the street is that its gonna be a lot harder for plants to grow this summer after Hurricane Sandy, but we're starting from scratch, so we're banking on it a little bit of luck that the veggies will thrive anyway. I look forward to all of these plants getting big and eventually bearing veggies so I can make delicious things from them.

Lastly a big thank you to my mom for her knowledge and patience, and to my brother for figuring out the labyrinth of hoses in our garage!

oh, and feel free to vote for who has the best Humidity Hair in the comments. (HINT: TOTALLY ME JUST SAYING)

Thursday, May 9, 2013


the good news here is that the ball is rolling! My talented room mate is designing the last bits left to make From Two Hands beautiful and ready to be used, I started listing some ideas of tutorials and recipes to share, and I bought a spankin' new camera to do so with. Things will be happening soon, but here's a haiku for the road:

peanut butter and
pepper jack cheese together
try it sometime, ok?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Short and sweet, I like to make things. In fact, it makes it hard to choose a blog name when I can't decide if my favorite thing to do is knit or bake, to sew or cook, to embroider or to repurpose things. Alright maybe my top two are knitting and cooking.

Lets moonwalk back to yesteryear, when I realized MY two favorite things were besties: crafting and the internet. In the magic land of the interwebs, there were people like me but with a million times more knowledge and experience, not to mention fantastic cameras and resources, all over craft forums. If I wanted to make something but wasn't sure the right technique, there was a way to learn how. (My first revelation: the zig-zag stitch actually has a function. Duh. Thank you internet.) From that, I learned that its really rewarding to show off new creations and get helpful feedback from friends. Not to mention, the first time one of my tutorials were featured was a pretty cool feeling.

The more pieces I made, I realized I should somehow log them all in one place. This is when I first should have started a craft blog. But I didn't. I started selling on Etsy, and that has in a way served that purpose, but I sent the idea of a blog to the back of my head. I crafted my way through high school, started college and finally make the leap to learn to knit. I was pretty good, and again I had a spark of an idea to start a craft blog. But I didn't. Sophomore year went on and I made a ton of cool stuff posted it all over social networks and everyone said I should start a blog, but no blog. Junior year I SWEAR it almost happened, but I couldn't think of a name and here I am about to graduate my senior year and I made the leap. 

All that said (rambled), I should admit that everything I have tried I have also miserably failed at. At this point, its just funny. The truth is, if you're gonna make things, theres a big chance you will too. Maybe just the first time. Or second. But it will be funny. Eventually though, you'll get it right.
So here are my top four most hilarious failures to get this thing rolling. 

  1. When I was a child, I desperately wanted to "make" something new to eat. I told my mom, and she doesn't remember this, but she told me to open the fridge and make something. So I made a glass of iced tea and put parmesan cheese in it. I don't know why. I took one sip and immediately regretted it and shamefully spilled it out. Lesson learned. 
  2. My first wearable sewing project was resizing a t-shirt. (I had sewn pillows and stuffed animals and when you mess up you don't really notice.) But I saw a tutorial in a LiveJournal community called "tshirt surgery" about how to make a giant shirt smaller and add on new panels to spice them up. I hacked up an old volunteering shirt and added a polka dot panel of fabric to the bottom. The fact that I didn't add seam allowance in addition to sewing it with the straight stitch on my machine AND the polka dot fabric wasn't just...didn' get it. Bad.
  3. A few months ago I saw an awesome velour skater skirt online, and told myself I could "totally make that!" like we always do. Well math is hard and circle skirts are math and it fit my waist but the skirt had twice as much bulk as necessary and it was knee length and worth a hearty laugh and a little shame. I ended up buying a velour skirt later on. (When I just told my roommate, Kristin, that I was writing about the skirt, she described it as "pretty bad.")
  4. Lastly, over winter break I decided to focus my extra energy towards Bikram Yoga and knitting my first sweater. I found a fantastic pattern on Etsy for a Weasley Sweater from a shop that gave me tons of advice and got to work. I guess the yoga got to my brain because I realized 9 hours and 3 skeins of yarn into the process that I had one normal sleeve and body sections, and then one triple size sleeve. How bad could it be? I could fit my torso in the second "sleeve." Luckily I'm fast at frogging out mistakes and my mom is fast at rolling yarn back into balls. Many hours later it worked out, and heres some proof: 
Still not a Weasley, but definitely a real knitter.

A good quote from a friend to sum it all up is "Dare to fail gloriously!"
So lets do this.