Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Calendar: Part 1

While browsing through projects on, I found this adorable baby sock advent calendar and decided that I was going to make it.  Well, something very like it.  We have tons of out-grown baby socks floating around the house, so I decided to put them to a new use.

First, I soaked them in diluted bleach to soften their colors. I rinsed them thoroughly to make sure I got out all of the bleach, then proceeded with the rest of my project.

Yep, I picked up "scarlet" and "kelly green" Rit dyes to try out. I've never dyed fabric before, so this was a fun project.  I decided to try making some stripes by wrapping some of the socks with rubber bands since the socks were kind of boring.

Then I weighed how much dye was in each package and halved it since I was only doing 13 socks in each color. The packages said they could work for 3 pounds of fabric and I didn't even have a pound.

I covered my work area since I didn't really want to dye our rental apartment's counter...

I decided since I wanted very rich colors, I was going to halve the amount of water called for (relative to the amount of dye I was using) and try the boiling dye method.  So I ended up with 1/4 of the amount of water called for (per color) and 1/2 the amount of dye.  Then I added salt into my pots (one of the Tips for Success on the Rit website) to help the color take to the fibers.  Mix it well!
The instructions tell you to dissolve the dye in hot water and mix it well--then pour it into your pots.
Look at that lovely color!  I was doing the green at the same time, I just found that the pictures of the red turned out better.
Pour it into your pot, mix it in, and add your fabric!  (Note: I may be missing a step here, make sure to follow the directions on your dye package!)
Bring your water up to a simmer and keep the fabric moving constantly.  This was a very time-intensive, labor-intensive project.  I was hot and sweaty and very tired of the socks by the time I felt they had soaked long enough.
After about 25 minutes, I pulled out a sock to test it.
Rinse, rinse, rinse!  Start with hot water and slowly work your way down to cooler water--this helps set the dye.  You want to make sure that the water runs clear, that's how you know you're done.
I like the color!

So time to pull out all the others!  I spooned the socks out rather than pouring the full pot of dye out because I wanted to make sure I still had some dye in case some of the socks didn't take the dye as well as others.

The sock laying on top is the one I've already rinsed.  See the color difference between it and the socks that have yet to be rinsed?

I rinsed all the socks together, slowly working down to cold water. Then I pulled the rubber bands off the socks that had them.  These didn't turn out too badly!  They look kind of like soccer socks, but oh well. :)

These however were a no-go.  Awful!  I put them back into the dye to soak some more.  No tie-dye for us!!

Ewww!  The double stripes didn't work either!  Back into the pot with you!!

Finally, I got all of the socks sufficiently dyed and rinsed and took a break!

Off to wash them (in cold water) and dry them for the next part of this project!

Oh, but wait!  A word about my pots...I was really scared to use my non-stick pots for this project and almost didn't.  But my wonderful husband insisted that it would be OK, so I did.  They worked just fine and have no residual dye stuck in them.  I made sure to refill them with very hot water and sprinkle some baking soda into that water and let them soak until cool, just to make sure that all the dye particles were sucked out of them.  Then I just washed them as normal.  It's been several weeks since dying the socks and I haven't given it a moment's thought when using the pots.  No problems at all!
Part two is right here!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sweatshirt Mod

Last year my husband picked up this sweatshirt on a super sale for like $2.  The problem was that it was a wee bit too small in the neck, so I couldn't really get it over my head.  After letting it sit at the bottom of my drawer for a year, I pulled it out to see if I could make it work.

 After exploring a variety of ideas (lining, iron-on stabilizer, just cutting it), I decided that zig-zagging from the hood opening, down 2 or so inches, and back up to the other side of the hood opening would work best.  So I grabbed some scrap sweatshirt material and experimented with my zig-zag until I got it just right.  The zig-zagging on the far left of this picture is the one I ended up using.

Here are the settings on my Janome 423s--I actually ended up using the buttonhole setting--without the buttonhole foot, of course.
 I drew my nice straight line on the sweatshirt with disappearing ink and was ready to go!

I stitched it so that the purple line was not touched by the thread--I didn't want any chance of accidentally overlapping my stitches or cutting them when I opened up the neckhole.
 Working on the bottom was the hardest part.  I moved my stitch width out to the widest setting, dropped the feed dogs, zig-zagged several times, put the needle up, moved my fabric over, zig-zagged some more without moving the fabric, brought the feed dogs back up, re-adjusted my stitch length, and went up the other side.
 All stitched up!
 I decided that my seam ripper would be the easiest way to cut the fabric...

I cut it, cleaned it up a bit with my scissors...

And tried it on!  Sorry about it not being a full picture, I didn't fix my hair today, so this will have to do. :)

All done! A sweatshirt that is now wearable. :)


Monday, November 22, 2010

Silhouette Nativity Cut-out

First off, the word silhouette is just about impossible to spell.  Thank goodness for spell-checkers! :)

I took part in a home-made ornament exchange in one of my online forums.  The lady to whom I was to send the ornament gave me quite the challenge: she doesn't have a tree, so it needed to be something that could stand alone.  She also requested something religious.

After much searching, I ran across this cross-stitching pattern:

Now, since this is a sample picture of a cross-stitching pattern that's for sale on a website (edit: it is no longer for sale and the image had disappeared. I have re-added it but it's pretty small), it's not something anyone can use for selling anything, but I assume it's OK to make some pretty decorations, so here we go.

If that one looks a bit crazy to do, here's another nice one that's similar.

I printed off the sample picture and liked it at its full size, so I taped it down to my fore-ground paper and started cutting. (Sorry about the picture, I tried turning it to a profile orientation and the angle made me dizzy, so I left it like this.)
Even with a new exacto knife blade, I ended up going over most of the cuts twice. The palm tree fronds were killers...Can you tell I haven't actually done anything like this before? :)
After getting it all cut out, I mounted it with dabs of glue onto my background paper and framed it in an 8x10 frame.  Oh, and I added the "Noel" down at the bottom (rather than doing the rays of light) because it definitely need something there.
I'm quite pleased with how it turned out and my friend loved it!
However, I likely won't be doing something quite like this in the near future, or at least not as intense as this one. It took over a week for the tip of my pointer finger to get the feeling back in it!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Colorful Pound Cake!

Now, for a change of pace: pound cake! With food coloring! :)

Pound Cake
I'm not completely sure where this recipe came from, probably my mom. :)

1 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring

Prep time: 30-45 minutes
Bake time: 90 minutes (1 1/2 hours)
Oven: 350 degrees F
Yield: 1 tube or bundt pan

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream softened butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time, until well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Stir dry ingredients together in another bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Once well combined, mix in the vanilla. 
So, now you have this:

And this:
 I got the idea to color  my cake from here, who got it from elsewhere. Rainbow cakes and cupcakes have been floating around the internet for a while.  Anyways....I divided my batter as equally as I could into three bowls (please pardon my computer in the background, I was keeping track of something important while baking).

Choose your colors and squeeze (or drip) the coloring onto your batter. You will likely use quite a bit of coloring if you want vivid colors.  I wanted red, orange, and yellow to celebrate the arrival of Autumn.
 In process...
 All done!  I ran out of the red and yellow coloring, so I couldn't make the batter any more vivid, which was fine.

Pour one color at a time into your greased and floured pan (confession: I only greased mine). Red:
 Try to pour them evenly because you don't want to have to spread them much. The colors will swirl together and begin to mix if you try.  Of course, you might want this effect and it would probably be pretty cool.  Orange:

And my last layer, yellow:

Pop it into your preheated oven (350 degrees F) and watch it bake.  I thought it was very interesting how the lowest layer (red) actually rose up the edges because of how the batter was poured onto it.

 So, once a toothpick inserted into the middle of the ring of cake come out clean, the cake should be done.  My cake usually has to bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, but thanks to my oven, the "top" (whatever is closest to the roof of the oven) is always over-done. I did pretty well with keeping this cake from burning, but if you look closely, you'll see some burned edges.

Holding the pan with hot pads, flip it over onto a cooling rack and let the cake fall out of the pan.  It should come out easily, but if it doesn't, don't force it. Just let the pan sit upside down on the rack while the cake cools.  It should come out easily eventually. If it doesn't, then you definitely didn't grease the pan well enough and, well, have fun getting the stuck cake out! ;)

Once it's cooled, slice and enjoy!  Of course, you don't have to wait for it to fully cool, but it is recommended.  Not that I ever listen to that particular recommendation when it comes to pound cake....


Note: Of course, you don't have to put food coloring into the cake, you can just make it plain and it's just as wonderful that way.  But I like to brighten things up every once in a while. :)