Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Biggest Challenges In Crafting & How To Overcome Them

Well, with my laptop blowing up on me last week, it's put a lot of my crafting plans on hold. My main priority right now is getting our homeschooling, personal files and all my blogging/crafty business stuff accessible again. While that is critical, it means life is a little more stressful and a lot less creative at the moment. This roadblock got me thinking about the challenges of crafting in general and some of the ways I'm trying to overcome them.  Maybe you are too.  

Key Note: Obviously this list is opinion based and my solutions are what seems to work for me at this moment.  I'm hoping by sharing this, it'll get some dialogue going with even more thoughts & ideas on gaining and enjoying time to make things we love.

Finding the time:  We all get pulled in so many directions with kids, work, the home, etc. Is it any wonder it can take weeks or months to finish something that would take maybe just 2-3hrs if we had uninterrupted time. Personally speaking, I find I tend to guilt myself into trying to get everything more important "done first" and, big surprise, it's never all done. I push off my projects until after everything else and then feel frustrated there's barely any time to do them.  So when are we supposed to get all crafty when everything else is a bigger priority?

Possible Solution: 

Since we set the clocks back around here, I've been going to bed & getting up a bit earlier so I can get more of my daily to-do list done before my main distractions (aka kids) are all over the place.  It's a small thing, but it's helping.  Cleaning, bills, computer stuff - all the things that can suck up time in a big way - get tackled when it's quiet and before I'm pulled in 5 directions at once.  It's made it easier to grab a little time later in the day to work on creative things I want to do.  

Breaking projects up can also make it easier to make progress. When I did the labor-intensive George Washington costume for Halloween, I cut the paper pattern pieces out while watching tv one evening, cut out & marked the fabric up in a 20 minute block the next day and then tackled the actual sewing on the weekend.  It was a lot easier to get the grunt work done in some brief free moments and then save the more detailed attention stuff for when I could really focus on it.

Running out of ideas?  While I'm sure the original intent was to inspire, a five minute browse of Pinterest usually makes me feel pretty uncreative.  It feels like nearly ever idea has already been done and in such a polished way it can seem pointless to even attempt something.  

Possible Solution: 

Ignore the noise of the media feeds, Pinterest, craft stores, etc.  I talked about this a bit when I decided to Quit The Craft Blog Rat Race.  I find my own creative ideas flow best when I'm not looking at a bunch of other people's stuff or the unsubtle pressure of popular themes (like the myriad of Christmas crafts everywhere before Thanksgiving's even hit us).  Finding inspiration away from the internet - nature, the current season, things my family wants or needs.  Ideas that make me feel enthusiastic because I like them, not because I'm racing to catch up with what everyone else is doing.  

And as far as the "been there, done that" crafts, if you really want to make something, go for it.  Maybe the internet doesn't need a new tutorial post for the 1 millionth DIY camera strap cover or burp cloth ever made, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't sew one if it strikes your fancy.  Crafting should be about enjoyment of the process and learning new skills, not impressing strangers online.  Besides, sometimes the best new ideas come by putting a unique spin on an old idea or figuring out a way to put it together that's different from the rest.   

Not being in the mood?  This challenge is my biggest weakness.  So often I wait all week for a window of time when I know I can get in my craft room or get back to working on something.  Then the time comes and.....I totally don't feel like it.  I'll procrastinate or get sidetracked on something else until I've got about 15 minutes of real craft time left and then feel guilty that I wasted it.

Possible Solution:

I'm starting to tell myself to tackle some easy win or easy stop projects when I'm feeling sort of unmotivated - things that aren't a big hassle/mess or can be set down and picked up again when I'm not really feeling it.  It's got a more positive outcome than frittering away the time and then wishing I'd done more.  I've also realized using my personal best time of day makes a huge difference.  Even though I might have more uninterrupted time after the kids go to bed or at the crack of dawn, I'm usually too tired and it takes me longer to do just about everything or I'm more prone to goofing things up.  I'm starting to use that open time for other things so I can free up other times when I'm still fresh.

Jack of All Trades, Master of None: We're so bombarded with new tutorials, new products and the throng of blogs that appear to know how to DIY everything these days, that it's easy to get caught up in the endless cycle of trying to craft it all and end up spending more money or loads of time on loads of things without really learning much about any of them.  What's the point of having a bunch of supplies if you don't really use them?

Possible Solution: 
I recently started thinking about getting into needle felting.  I was all set to start buying the supplies and dive right in, but then I paused.  I got a few books from the library to learn more before I did anything.  Looking through those made me realize that I didn't have a particular thing I wanted to create and I still had loads of other craft stuff I've barely touched, so I'm holding off until I have something specific in mind I really want to do.  When the times comes, maybe I'll start with a small kit just to see if it's something I like doing instead of spending a small fortune or overcrowding my limited storage space.

I'm also trying to get away from the trap of having a bunch of projects going at once.  When I first started sewing I couldn't understand people who had several projects at various stages at any given time.  I literally focused on a single project at a time and wouldn't even think about starting another until it was done.  These days, I've got a bunch of semi-started stuff, some lurking around for a year (or longer).  I remember being excited about them when I started, but letting them sit zapped a lot of the enthusiasm, so I'm now making myself finish things before I jump into something new.  Concentrating on one thing means I'm putting more effort into it and then have a clearer mind for the next thing.

I'm not sure if these changes will all work, but I'm willing to keep trying so the satisfaction & relaxation crafting used to provide doesn't get stifled or kicked aside anymore.  

Do you run into these same issues?

What are your biggest crafty challenges and how are you tackling them?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Computer Craziness, Giveaways & A Craftastic Monday Link Party

This week the blog may be a bit crazy, so I'm going to apologize in advance for my lack of organization.  My trusty 5yr old laptop decided it wanted to abruptly retire and has left me scrambling to set up a replacement in my "oodles of free time" (note my computer hostility/sarcasm).  I knew I was pretty computer dependent, but the past week has been ridiculous.  Technology makes life so much easier...until it doesn't.  

So besides forking out $$ for a new laptop, my husband & I have spent ages trying to transfer files, reinstall software and move thousands of photos to some new network storage, just to get back to where I was last Monday.  And so it won't happen again. Ughhhhh.  As a result, most of my crafty blog plans have been tossed aside to deal with my disorganized computer mess.  On the plus side, it is not messing up the super duper FABRIC giveaway that will be coming up in the not-so-distant future.  So while I get back up to speed, you'll get a chance to score some lovely new fabric.  Free fabric always makes me feel better:) 

And speaking of giveaways....

November is full of them over here!  It's time to announce the winners of the StraightGrain Pattern & Cloud 9 Fabric giveaway:

Jane DeLorenzo - Lua Pattern+Fabric
Kathleen Dries - Lua Pattern
Paula Lemos - Lua Pattern 

Congratulations ladies & a big thank you to StraightGrain for providing these wonderful sewing prizes.

Today's the last day to enter my giveaway for my new Sanity Saving Training Pants Pattern.  If you know a little someone ready to potty train - this pattern is a must!  This one is also open worldwide:

Plus the rest of this week there's another giveaway for a winner's choice of 3 fashion patterns from Seamingly Smitten Sewing Patterns (also open worldwide) HERE:

Get some FREE advertising for your blog/shop!

This party's got more to help your crafty talents show.  After linking your latest project posts below, head over to the Sew Can Do Facebook page to join in the Craftastic Monday Mixer.  It's a way to let even more people see your site or its FB page and find some new sites you might love at the same time.

How It Works:
Instead of a specific post, share your blog, crafty shop or Facebook page link on the Sew Can Do FB page.  More exposure for your crafty site every week!  Click HERE to go link up now!
Now let's see some Craftastic picks..

Scattered Thoughts of A Crafty Mom shared this pretty girl's peasant top tutorial (and free pattern):

Delicious and DIY showed how to makeover a terra cotta bowl in a colorful ikat-style:

Keeping It Real turned a wooden fruit crate into this cute doll bed:

Get a jump on the holiday crafts with the clay reindeer how-to from Despina's Studio:

And With A Blast gave this plain glass vase some leafy charm using just Sharpie markers:

If you're one of this week's features, be sure to grab my Featured On button over on my Buttons Page to share the good news.  

I also feature these projects on Sew Can Do's Craftastic Picks Pinterest board 
AND share each of them on Twitter too for even MORE exposure!

Follow me there to see more great projects (and see if yours is one of them)!   
Follow Me on Pinterest

Ready to link up your crafty creations?

Party rules are simple:
  • As long as it's crafty, and made by you, it's Craftastic (no links to giveaways, shops, link parties or other people's work).  Add the link to your specific post (not the main page of your blog).
  • Grab my party button & put it on your post or blog somewhere.  The code can be found HERE.
  • Check out some of the other fabulous links and share some crafty comment love.  We all love getting comments!!


    An InLinkz Link-up

Friday, November 14, 2014

3 Looks 1 Pattern & A Seamingly Smitten Pattern Giveaway!

It's great when you find a fashion pattern you like, but how do you keep it fresh so you don't end up with a closet full of the same thing?  Today I'm sharing how changing fabrics, and a few small details, gave me a bunch of new tops from one pattern, but don't look overly same-y.  And I've also got a giveaway for a choice of 3 patterns from Seamingly Smitten to get more of those sewing ideas brewing!

You may remember my first try with this pattern a few months ago.  I shared my review of Seamingly Smitten's Women's Raglan Top pattern and how to do a few modifications to turn it into a whimsical ringer tee here.

I took the pattern and curved the side seams inward to make it a bit more fitted, added fold-over cuffs and a folded neck band.   I've worn that top so often I decided it was time to make a few more and switch 'em up a little each time. 

Ready for a little raglan top fashion show?

For this version I used an organic cotton knit print for the body plus some ribbed cotton for a contrasting trim.  

I finished the neck on this one by doing a wide binding over the raw edge with some of the ribbing (and yes those are fun little mushrooms!).

I also added no-fold banded cuffs and a hem band to make it more of a tunic length.  It's got a kind of ModCloth vibe to it, but without the usual crazy high price tags of that site.

This third version was made with some mini ruffle fabric and cotton fleece. I think that cotton fleece is a great winter fabric - thick but not heavy and very warm.  It's name is a bit misleading to me though, because while yes, it's fuzzy on the wrong side like fleece, the right side is definitely a sweater-y knit which is quite un-fleece-like, so it has a very different look than the usual polyester variety.  I'm really pleased with how well these two go together though.  Very designer boutique.  I've been doing Stitch Fix, the fashion subscription box thing, for a few months now and I feel like this looks like something I'd normally get in there, but it cost me under $20 to make!

FYI the cotton fleece didn't have enough stretch to use to make a collar or do binding - and you can't really fold ruffles under on a curve without them looking crazy - so I cheated.  I just cut a strip of the ruffle fabric, cut the ruffles off and then used it wrong side out to do the neck binding.  The amount of stretch was ideal.  Perfect color match and no need for a third fabric = win!

Confession time: This was my first try using ruffle fabric.  I know, I'm kind of behind the times.  I'd gotten this last summer and some other colors nearly a year before but kept hoarding them until "the right" project came along.  I finally realized the hoarding wasn't getting me anywhere, so don't be afraid to use those special fabrics - wearing them is much better than keeping them on a shelf.

The ruffle fabric itself was pretty easy to use, but you do want to make sure you cut pieces evenly so the ruffles line up with seams are matched and that the ruffles are all laying in the right direction as you sew so you can get a nice finish like this:

Now how about a chance for you to win this pattern and/or a few others 
from Seamingly Smitten Patterns?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you want to get sewing this weekend and get a great deal, through the end of today (11/14), you can use the code SEWHAPPY55 to save 55% on all patterns in the Seamingly Smitten Etsy shop.

Happy Sewing Everyone!!

Seamingly Smitten is a paying featured advertiser at Sew Can Do.  The opinions are completely my own, based on my honest experiences using & purchasing patterns from this shop.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tutorial Time: The Best DIY No-Leak Wet Bag

I know the title of today's project is a bit boastful, being called the best & all, but after years of using and making wet bags, I think I've hit on a foolproof design for making these babies kick leaks to the curb, so it deserved more than just "wet bag tutorial" as its name.

In case you're wondering "What's a wet bag?": Wet bags are useful for any time you want to transport something wet or damp without it soaking everything or everyone near it: cloth diapers, potty training accidents, bathing suits, laundry, etc.  The best part, besides keeping wet stuff contained, is how they can be tossed in the wash with the contents, which makes cleaning them a breeze.

Not only are these bags handy, but they're a relatively quick sew too.  I'd made the usual basic single layer versions over the years & they'd worked pretty well, but with the kids having weekly, year-round swim classes, I found they all started to leak or wick around the seams over time. Even stripping (a cloth diaper washing technique for removing leak-causing build-up) didn't help.  I like making them, but didn't want to have to make new ones every couple of months! 

Then I thought that making a two layer bag might work better - especially if the seams of the layers didn't match up and BOOM!  This no-leak powerhouse wet bag design was born.  It doesn't matter if I put wet suits in them or leave them sitting for a bit before tossing in the wash.  The outside still stays nice & dry because there are two separate waterproof layers, plus the inner has no bottom seam to minimize any damp seepage.  Now let's get to some bag making so you can make some too:)

Materials Needed:
- PUL fabric - 1/2 yd each for lining & outer (or extra large diaper cut for outer)
- 24 inch piece of grosgrain ribbon between 5/8 inch to 1 inch wide
- Sewing notions: rotary cutter/shears, safety pin, clips, marking pen

My finished bag dimensions are generous enough for several bathing suits, clothing items or diapers.  I always love whimsical prints on my fabrics and these cuties didn't disappoint - I loved these jolly gnomes+hedgehogs & tuxedo-wearing bulldogs with pipes I bought over at Diaper Sewing Supplies.

Cut the lining piece to be 12 inches high by 32 inches wide and outer to be 17 1/2 inches high by 23 inches wide.  PUL has a 4 - way stretch so there isn't a grain direction to worry about.  

Fold the outer fabric in half width-wise, right sides together and clip.  You don't want to use pins with PUL since those leave permanent holes (you want this baby to be as watertight as possible!)

Measure 1 1/2 inches from top and mark along side edge.  Make a second marking 1 inch below that and stitch the side with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving that gap open.  To keep the shiny side of the PUL from sticking to the presser foot, run a bit of clear lip balm along the fabric.  It's easy to wipe away after & won't damage your machine (sewing through tissue paper or using a Teflon foot are other options, but this is SO much simpler & cheaper).

Open the seam allowance and stitch around the gap that was created - this will make it easier to snake the ribbon through the casing later.

The bag will now be a tube.  Flatten so it will have the side seam along the center as shown below and clip along bottom edge, then stitch bottom closed.

Now it's time to square off the bottom corners to create depth.  Pull out each corner to a triangle point, with the bottom seam in the center of the triangle.  Measure two inches across, mark and stitch.  Trim off the excess.

To make the lining, fold the fabric in half, right sides facing out and stitch along both sides. Square off bottom corners & trim off excess as done previously.

With outer bag right side out, insert the lining (shiny side in), into the outer bag.  Press the bottom corners of outer and lining together with your hand or a ruler.  Use clips on the corners of the outside to hold the layers together so they don't shift while sewing.

The top edge of the lining will be shorter than the outer:

Fold the outer edge down, over the lining and clip all the way around:

Stitch all the way around 1/8 inch from the raw edge of the outer fabric to create the bag's casing:

Turn bag right side out.  With one end of the ribbon attached to the safety pin, insert into cases and snake around to the other side.  Use a lighter to seal the ribbon edges (to prevent fraying) and either double knot ends together or overlap the edges and stitch together, then shift the ribbon so the stitching is hidden inside the casing.

Toss the bag in the dryer on hot for about 15 minutes to heat seal the stitching holes and the bag is ready for whatever wet wearables need containing.

And if you're looking for patterns for items to go in wet bags, check out my Sanity Saving Training Pants pattern (+ pattern giveaway):

and my Bathing Beauty Bathing Suit Tutorial

Happy Sewing!


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