Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Quick Update!

The cone of shame. The shaved belly of shame. Sigh.
He just climbed into my lap and started hugging my thigh.
Also, now you know what my pajamas look like. 

Thank you all so much for your kind words for Walnut! I'm busy with an end of the year commission, but I wanted to take a quick moment to tell you all how grateful I am that he has so many well-wishers all over the world. The surgery went smoothly and Walnut was grouchy and klutzy post-anesthesia, but quickly returned to his affectionate self; in fact, he's been more affectionate and snuggly than ever.

He'll get his stitches out in a week, but in the meantime he either has to wear a cone to stop him from licking the incision site, or we have to supervise him constantly. Maybe we're weak-willed cat parents, but it makes us so sad to see him crashing into everything and struggling to eat with the cone on, so I've been doing lots of cat watching instead of sewing, blogging, or grading papers. Well, there's been a little bit of's a preview:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Have Yourself a Mordor Little Christmas?

I really didn't intend for there to be any more Tolkien-related posts this year, but when the creative juices flow, well, you just have to run with it, right? Last year, Emily and I "built" a pathetic little Christmas tree; this year we decided to dream big and build Barad-dur. We used a few boxes from Costco, an IKEA Rutbo lamp, several yards of black butcher paper, and quite a bit of tape. As with most of our crafts, my mom was dubious when we began, but conceded that the final product wasn't half bad. I'll let you judge our work for yourselves, geeky readers:
Left: before decoration. Right: all decked out with tinsel, lights, ornaments, and presents!

We did our family Christmas pictures by the "tree," the way you're supposed to.
We couldn't get a picture where Walnut looked normal. 

And just to top it off, Emily and I made a crango (cranberry-mango) cheesecake for Christmas dessert:

With the help of some judiciously placed mini chocolate chips...

Yup, that's just the way we roll. It was quite tasty and I'm sure I could spin it somehow to say Christmas is about the triumph of light over dark (we destroyed the eye of Sauron by eating it!), but I'll just leave it at this: I hope you all were able to eat good food and enjoy being creative, and that you had as lovely a time with your dear ones as I did. Oh, and totally independently of our dessert choice:
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned...For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." 
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

I actually intended to post this before Christmas, not after, but Walnut had other ideas. Our darling fur baby decided that Christmas Eve was a good time to start peeing blood; a panicked trip to the vet revealed that he has a couple of bladder stones. He's going to have surgery to remove them tomorrow, so if you think of him he could use your prayers and good wishes for a smooth procedure and quick recovery!

Poor guy has no idea what's coming to him. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Cat Sweater Finale

And now, to close out Put A Cat on It! week, is there anything that screams winter holidays! more than a red sweater with black velvet accents?

I originally wanted to have each of my cat pieces this week utilize a different technique (I've used fusible web applique with machine stitching, fabric marker, and applique with hand-stitching), but I couldn't keep it up. In the end, machine-stitching an applique is just so much easier and faster, especially when a shape is this large and simple. Stitching the tiny cat applique was tricky because of all the tiny points of "fur" on the silhouette, but this cartoonish cat shape was a breeze to do.

I traced this shape onto 1/3 yard of black velour, then pinned it to the front and stitched around the edge with the machine. I didn't want to fuse the whole thing since I was afraid it would ruin the lovely soft drape of the sweater, so it's slightly saggy in the middle. If you want to make your own large cat sweater, download the file here!

This sweater is another one of my mom's cast-offs; it's a lovely soft cashmere that unfortunately had a large stain on the front and a couple of moth holes on the cuffs. I did my best to patch up the holes and covered up the stain with a black velour cat. I also found the original turtleneck to be chokingly tight, so I cut off that ribbed portion, folded over the edge, and stitched it down. I love it when sweaters show just a little bit of collarbone, even if it's impractical for winter weather. Also, to add just a little bit more Christmas feel (because black velvet bow = festive?), I added a back cutout and a ribbon.

Unfortunately, I fail at tying the ribbon such that the velvet side stays facing out.
Close-up of my dubious ribbon attachment. I cut a slit down the back after hemming the neckline. After I attached the ribbon, I cut out the rest of the keyhole and turned and stitched that down. My original inspiration for the back cutout and ribbon came from this pin

When I modeled the finished sweater for my brother, he looked dubious and pronounced that well, it wasn't actually that ugly. I think he thought that it was meant to be an Ugly Christmas Sweater that failed at being ugly, and not a Wearing It Seriously In Real Life Christmas Sweater. Ah well. Boys.

I actually considered sewing on a little gold bell onto the cat, but decided that would be overkill. 

Well, I hope you all enjoyed seeing so many cats on things! I've had tons of fun trying to think of different ways to put cats on my clothes; I've been limited not by ideas, but by how many plain tops that I could find for cattifying. Thanks for all the lovely comments you've left affirming your love of cat fashion and cats in general! Walnut appreciates the love. Kind of. I mean, as much as cats can really appreciate that kind of thing.

Walnut really, really, really did not appreciate being woken up from his nap to take pictures. I mean, look at his face!
Come on, Walnut, Christmas is the time for peace and goodwill! 
How about leaving me to nap in peace, you be-cat-sweatered freak?
Look at how much hair he left on my black cat. 

*shrugs* Life with cats...what can you say? 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

3D Cat Eyes Sweater

This slightly creepy, but also all-kinds-of-cool cat sweater by Pretty Snake has been sitting in my Pinterest inspiration folder for ages, and I finally got around to making my own, slightly more subdued version of it. This sweater was in my mom's donation pile, and I'm pretty sure it's right out of the eighties; it's all oversized and shapeless and had the most awkward sleeve cap/armscye combination ever, but it's also wool and quite warm. I figured it was a pretty good blank slate for a refashion, as it pretty much involved no cost to me. I already had a scrap of black jersey, plus some nice green cat eyes from my shopping excursion with Debi, so I quickly sketched out and cut up a cat face and got to stitching. I used a hand applique stitch that made the edges of the jersey scrap all puckery, which actually helped to make it look more irregular and fur-like.

Before: large, nondescript, and shapeless with an odd, pulling shoulder/armscye/sleeve. After: fitted, unique sweater with an odd, staring cat face. I'm pretty sure that's miles better. 
You can see here how my stitches made the edges all puckery and irregular. And in case you wanted to see what it looked like on the wrong side, there you go -- I used wire cutters to cut off some of the peg on the back of the eyes, then sanded down the edges with a nail file. I had to arrange the cat so that the eye pegs would jut into the gap caused by my insignificant cleavage. Also, the label was in Russian, strangely enough. Elaine translated it for me and said it appears to be wool tricot. 

Should you want to make your own, you can download this drawing and stitching diagram here.

I'm pretty excited about this sweater, as it's just bizarre enough to suit me without being too over the top. Plus, that cat's wide eyes totally remind me of Walnut's. Unfortunately, he was in no mood for a photo shoot, so we had to settle for the other family cats.

I love how the cat on my sweater just looks like it's shocked to see Fenxi. Incidentally, for those of you who were wondering, Fenxi's not an outdoor cat, but he does love going outside whenever the door is open and he can sneak out. This has led to some panic attacks, but thankfully he's never wandered far, nor has he ever been unaccounted for for more than 24 hours. He's microchipped, too, so that's also helpful for our peace of mind.  
Gummy was camped out in his usual spot on top of the kitchen cabinets, so we tried to get him in the pictures too. Fenxi did not want to share the spotlight, even though my sister tried to force him into the picture. 

Speaking of family cats, did I mention that we're back in the city for the next couple of weeks? Any Bay Area sewasauruses want to hang out? Or is it too scary to meet up with somebody who will wear their crazy cat lady status on their sleeve? Errr, chest?

I promise I'm not an axe murderer!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cat Face Sweatshirt

I came across this sweatshirt on Pinterest a while ago and pinned it, thinking it would be pretty easy to replicate with a fabric marker. I was on the lookout for a decent sweatshirt while thrifting, but just couldn't find one that I liked. When I was doing laundry the other day, though, I realized that I already had a sweatshirt I could use! I made this seafoam-colored sweatshirt when I was testing out my Dolman Sleeve Top, but don't wear it much because let's face it, it's just a plain sweatshirt (albeit in a great color). Perfect candidate for Put a Cat on It!

I didn't want mine to be a carbon copy of the Opening Ceremony cat face, so I pulled up a picture of Walnut and sketched a line drawing of his most prominent features: his eyes, nose, disapproving mouth, whiskers, and eyebrowskers (if that last one isn't a real word, it really should be. I'm going to enter it into my Microsoft Word dictionary so that it doesn't get red squiggly lines under it anymore, and then it will be official). I re-drew the face onto a piece of tissue paper, then used a pin to prick tiny holes all along the lines. This way, when I drew over the lines with the fabric marker, they would leave a faint connect-the-dot map on the fabric so that I would know where to color.

Drawn on a scrap of tissue paper, then taped to the sweatshirt (don't forget to insert a piece of cardboard inside the sweatshirt to keep the ink from seeping through to the back side!) and pricked with a pin. Oops, my pinhead is the same sea-foam color as the sweatshirt!

Trace over the lines with fabric marker several times so that it bleeds through. 

When you remove the tissue paper, there should be a faint line to trace. I kept my tissue paper taped down until I was sure that I could see all the lines. 

The finished sweatshirt! I used a Tee Juice Fine Point Fabric Art Marker, purchased at Staples; both this and my previous project involving this marker held up just fine in the wash, no fading or anything!

After I heat-set the the drawing, I tried on the sweatshirt and couldn't stop grinning at how silly Walnut's facial expression looks! I know they say cats don't really do facial expressions (almost all of the faces look the same!), but I'm pretty sure my guy is communicating at least as much disapproval as a rabbit.

If you want to make your own Walnut face sweatshirt, either the lazy way (with a fabric marker) or the real way (with embroidery thread), you can download the line drawing here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tiny Cat Appliqued Sweater

Did you know my Dolman Sleeve Top can also be made up in cozy sweater knit? Of course you knew that. I mean, technically it can be made up in any fabric -- you could even make it in quilting cotton if you want; it just wouldn't fit anyone in any kind of remotely flattering way. But I digress. I knew I wanted a more winter-appropriate version of this go-to top pattern, so I made it up in a mystery sweater knit from SAS Fabrics. It's a very normal, eminently practical navy blue, so I decided that it needed a little something to make it special. Solution: put a cat on it!

I cut out a cat silhouette from a piece of scrap black knit, then used Steam-A-Seam fusible webbing to fuse it to the bottom right front. After some very careful stitching around the edges and a generous steaming, I had my own subtle cat sweater! The black cat is so unobtrusive that it doesn't take away from the goes-with-everything-ness of the sweater, but it's there for people who are looking.

If you want to make your own cat-applique sweater, I've made my cat silhouette into a "pattern" that you can download. In case you're wondering, it was actually based on Walnut's silhouette, but slightly chibi-ified/super-deformed.
Walnut doesn't actually sit with his tail up, though. 
My cat is flipped around because I accidentally had the fabric wrong side up when I was tracing the shape it was a design element.

To make the sleeves long enough to keep my wrists warm, I extended the pattern lines out by about ten inches, but also kept them more parallel instead of tapering in. Other than that, making the sweater version was pretty much the same as making it in a regular knit. Since I don't have a serger, I topstitched the shoulder and back seam allowances to keep them from unraveling.

I've bought so many RTW sweaters in the past that hiked up whenever I put my arms above my head, or had too-short sleeves that made it look like I was outgrowing my clothes every time I bent my elbows. With me-made, I can correct for all of those things! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Put a Cat on It!

It seems like the closer we get to Christmas, the more bloggers start rolling out with themed crafts, you know, to prep for the holiday season by blinging out your clothes or using leather to add an unexpected punch. I don't know if anyone's seen Portlandia's "Put a Bird on It!" sketch, but here's my tongue-in-cheek take on themed craft weeks in preparation for holiday gift-giving: Put a Cat on It!

I even made a button! Now it's official. 

I got the idea for this when I came back from my UK trip with the memory of a fantastic cat-print chiffon dress that I'd seen at the Greenwich Market; it was a very simple cut, pretty much a pillowcase with holes cut out for the arms and head and with an elastic waist, so I didn't want to pay $30 for it. I swore I would come back to the States and find a similar cat-print fabric and make my own dress. Well, it turns out that cat-print apparel fabric is hard to find. There are plenty of quilting cottons with cats, but nothing with the drape that I wanted. After months of searching, I finally located this white chiffon with tiny black velvet cats at, an online craft retailer based in China which I had previously ordered a trim sample from. Alas, they only had a yard left, so I had to settle for making a top instead of a dress.

Posing with the cat that looks most like the silhouettes on my fabric.

Which got me to thinking...why must it be so hard for us cat ladies to find appropriate clothing-based ways to proclaim our craziness? I mean, there was the Miu Miu collection a couple years back, and then the Charlotte Olympia kitty flats that I copied last year, but those are all super expensive. You can print your own cat fabric for a cheaper option, but I wanted some less messy/involved options too. So here's to Put a Cat on It! week, a slightly silly, but also secretly serious attempt to bring more cats into wardrobes across the world. For the rest of the week, I'll be sharing my feline-focused projects...stay tuned! Or, you know, unsubscribe for a week (if you haven't already done so because of the slew of hobbit-related posts) so you don't have to be subjected to any more cats, because goodness knows there are enough on teh interwebs as it is.


Fenxi attempts to make his getaway. 

Oh, and this top? It's essentially a square top with a slightly longer back hem and a pussy bow (because cats! Get it? get it??) neck tie thingy.  There's really no shaping to it, so I'll only ever be wearing it under a cardigan, but it adds a fun detail for those who are on the lookout for cats.

And yes, I'm well aware that cats are not the reason for the season, but if there was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus, why couldn't there have been a cat or two? 

Also, congratulations to Louise for being the winner of the Hobbit-themed giveaway! Email me as soon as you can so that I can mail you your goodies!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thrift Store Dress to Elven Gown

As refashions go, I'm pretty sure this is my favorite. Who knew an 80s-tastic, frumpy granny dress would make such a lovely elvish gown?
Before and after! 

Apparently, this year is the year where all my Tolkien-related dreams come true: first my birthday party, then the line party for The Hobbit, and now, it looks like Elaine and I are actually going to go to The One Expected Party on Oscar night in February! When TORn held its Oscar party for ROTK, I was still a college student on limited funds and my dad said we were not the kind of people who dropped that kind of money for celebrity parties, so Elaine went by herself and came back raving about what a great time it was. Well, now I am an independent woman, and gosh darn it, if I can't do this kind of thing now, when will I? Especially since after this year we are moving away from TCOCC and thinking about making small human beings and all. So even though it was still a significant splurge, I figure it's worth it for this once in a lifetime experience. 

Of course, this kind of thing practically requires a fancy costume. Elaine found this dark green velvet dress at a thrift store and thought that it would make a good elven gown, with some changes, of course. Since the front had buttons, I decided to have the final gown go backwards. While this made the lower armscye fit a little funny, Elaine said that it wasn't significant enough to warrant redoing the sleeves. I cut off the sleeves at the elbow and took out about two inches of ease at the underarm seam, then added bell-shaped chiffon lower sleeves from Simplicity 4940. The chiffon is slightly iridescent, which makes for a nice effect in person, if not in pictures. I also cut the neckline down significantly to get the wide, almost-falling-off-the-shoulder look that Arwen has going on in a lot of her gowns. I added a bunch of gold trim, roll-hemmed the sleeves in gold and tada! Instant elven princess!

Showing off her new sleeves.
Just because she's a princess doesn't mean she's not capable of giggling madly or stealing Gandalf's staff. 
Buttons and trim really do a lot for changing the look of the whole gown!
Enormous sleeves = enormous fun. 

Fabric: 2 yards of iridescent green poly-chiffon, but I have about half left because the funny shape of the sleeves required quite a bit of yardage, but left large scraps.
Notions: 2/3 yard of wide gold trim for the sleeves, 1 yard of narrow gold trim for the neckline, 4 new buttons to replace the hideous clear plastic buttons that came with the dress.
Hours: Two! Even my rolled hems didn't cause me grief, which was frankly quite shocking.
Will you make this again? I'll be perfectly honest, I'm tempted to raid all the local thrift stores for long velvet gowns that might make even remotely decent elven gowns. For such a quick project, this was remarkably satisfying. 
Total cost: About $25. The gown was $5, the trims were another $5, the buttons were $4, and I used about $10 worth of chiffon.  
Final thoughts: Both Elaine and I were extremely excited when I finished this gown, and we had entirely too much fun taking pictures of her swooshing her sleeves around. I love that such a simple refashion can have such grand results! 

I can't wait to get working on my own gown for the party...the trick is, I need to pull an epic gown out of thrifted bed sheets! Tempted as I may be to run out and buy a used velvet gown, I really want to make a Rohirric shieldmaiden gown, which eats up yardage like no other. I've managed to find three matching queen-size sheets, so here's hoping that that's enough!