Sunday, December 29, 2013

ted d. bear

This year I almost didn't bother to make any gifts for Christmas. It's too stressful and time-consuming, right? But, if you think about it, handmade gifts are totally forgiving. Even if the receiver isn't smitten with the item itself, or it's something they would never think to get for themselves, they tend to be more likely to appreciate the gesture even moreso because it's handmade. For example, you can just buy an ole teddy bear anywhere, so it's not that interesting of a gift on its own. They sell teddy bears in airports, hotel gift shops, Amazon, in line at the CVS Pharmacy, Wal-Mart, Goodwill (#bedbugs), and even at the fabric/craft store. There is no shortage of teddies in any shape, size, or color. But a HANDMADE teddy bear? Oh c'mon now, that's special. ...Right?

I made this particular bear for my two-year-old niece for Christmas. I know a two-year-old doesn't care whether something is handmade or not, but her parents know and hopefully they'll tell her about it one day. I've mostly made clothes for her in the past (see the robe, dress/cardigan, and jacket), but making garments for an ever-growing child who is disinterested in clothes feels like too much of a risk. I decided this year that I should still make her something, but something that she can love for longer. I saw the bear that Lisa G made for her daughter recently, and decided to try that same How Joyful bear pattern and tutorial because they were free (here), and the finished product looked cute instead of creepy. It's 16 inches tall, sits up on its own, and is readily posed for a big hug. I followed Lisa's lead and made it a showcase for a cute fabric print.

The How Joyful Bear tutorial seems to be a popular post, but I could only find a handful of other people online who posted about their finished bears. The consensus seems to be that it's a difficult tutorial to follow. I agree that it's not explained very thoroughly, and it lacks photos of steps that could really use accompanying photos, like where the seams of the feet pieces should meet and how. However, the pattern pieces are labeled with letters on each corner so you know how they should line up with other pieces, which certainly helps because the bear's shape was not intuitive for me to figure out the construction order on my own. I wouldn't say it was difficult to make this bear, because it can be completed in one evening even with unpicking and some frustration about seams not matching up. It's just different than what I'm used to since it's a more complex curved 3-D shape than your typical knit dress.

I actually sewed this bear up once before this one, but the fabric I chose (some bathrobe-type material) shed like crazy, even after it had been sewn up, which made it very impractical for dragging around the house. Here's what I was dealing with:

Plus the first bear just turned out ugly. My second time around, I used better fabric, colors and accessories, and smoothed out some of the curves of the bear's head and belly so he wouldn't end up as grotesquely fat as my first one did. For this guy, I used light grey anti-pill fleece for the bear body and navy floral flannel for the contrast pieces. I didn't want to use a set of "animal eyes" because they kinda gross me out (don't ask), so I just sewed on black plastic buttons. I first tried fabric-covered shank buttons, but the fabric attracted lint and the buttons flopped around making the bear's face look insane. He's much more charming with these eyes, and I think I like that it gives off a hint that the bear is handmade instead of storebought. I cut the nose from felt and hand-stitched it on. The whole thing is stuffed with polyfill bought in a bag from JoAnn's.

I took a few photos of my niece opening the bear on Christmas morning. I think she said "Wow" and then kissed it (on our command), but since it's just a stuffed bear, it doesn't really provide endless opportunities for entertainment for a small child. I just hope she'll hang onto it for awhile and grow to love what Aunt Andrea made for her. Teddies are timeless! And this one has flowers on its face!

And yes, she and her daddy (in the background) were both wearing cowboy boots. Did you forget I'm from Kentucky?

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. Did you, too, make something fleecey for a special niecey?

Monday, December 16, 2013

archer appreciation pt. 5

I made this Archer before I even knew December was Archer Appreciation Month. Yeah, I've been that behind on blog reading and that sugar-high on pumpkin pie lately. But since I pull out this pattern every month or two when I realize I have hardly anything else to wear on Casual Friday, the chances were good that I would accidentally stumble my way into this bloggy sew-along led by power duo Rochelle and Erin.

This is my fifth time making the Archer shirt by Grainline Studio. If you know me in real life, you've most certainly seen me wear this stripey version. A lot. It's my favorite so far, because the fabric is made from rayon, which I lurv. I think this pattern is well-suited for crisp shirting fabrics like cotton (see Amy's), linen (see Lori's) and flannel (see Lauren's), but also works in more fluid fabrics like rayon, chiffon or silk (see Jen's, Lizzy's, or Stevie's). It means my collar stand doesn't actually stand up and the collar won't roll to save its life, but the general style of this pattern is pretty relaxed anyway so I'm fine with the pancake collar.

Sewing a button-down shirt with vertical stripes makes it laughably easy to neatly cut and sew those button plackets and line up buttonholes. Okay, maybe not laughably easy. The only time I "laugh" when making buttonholes is in maniacal rage after ripping them out for the thousandth time. But as I recall, I had no such issue with this shirt. 

I changed nothing about the pattern except lengthening it to cover my bum and omitting the cuffs because I always wear my sleeves rolled up. Always! From the looks of it, I should have added another button on the bottom, but, uh, I've gained some weight recently (see: pumpkin pie) so I don't think the shirt would close at my hips anyway. Ouch, that hurts to admit. 

I haven't really seen too many striped Archers around, so I'm glad I'm contributing unique content to the world even though I feel like I'm constantly blogging about this pattern. I love playing with stripes but didn't want to make it too dizzying in this case, so I only added one feature with horizontal stripes. I guess it's effective because people are always like, "I like your pocket" and I'm like, "Aw shucks."

There's not much left to say that hasn't already been said about this pattern. If you still haven't made an Archer shirt for yourself, December is the time to do it... when you're not too busy sitting in traffic in the mall parking lot or whatever. ~ 'TiS tHe SeAsOn ~ 

Jen, Grainline Studio's fearless head honcho, did a full sew-along for this shirt awhile ago, so check out those posts (in reverse order) here. And if you want to get neater results on your collar stand, check out my own tutorial about that here. I've loved hearing success stories from those who tried it out! 

Read more about #archerappreciation here or here.

In knitting news, I've finished a hat (that I've already lost, dear god), cowl and sweater since I took my beginner knitting class. If you live in Philadelphia and are interested in learning the basics and more, I'd definitely recommend the beginner knitting class at Rosie's Yarn Cellar in center city. It's a six week class and we learned how to cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, knit in the round, use double-pointed needles, cable, read patterns and charts, bind off, and -- most importantly -- fix most of our mistakes. We got to use the beautiful yarns in their shop to work on a ribbed hat and cabled fingerless mitts. I do feel like I can tackle a lot of patterns out there now.

The pattern above is Lara's Cowl in bulky Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn (from Joann's, not Rosie's, gah). Quick, easy and warm. I wear this cowl because the color complements my plum coat as well as my navy Minoru jacket.

Duh, this is the Owls Sweater by Kate Davies. I've finished it since I took this photo but I honestly don't really like it because of the high crew neck, bulky shoulders and the super fuzzy roving yarn I chose. And after blocking the sweater, the yarn now seriously smells like a sheep's ass. So, it makes me look like an adorable owl-clad linebacker who smells like I slept in a barn all night. Such a bummer.

How's your December making going?