Saturday, December 1, 2012

Baby Love

Meet my nephew, Liam.

at two months old

This sunny little munchkin is the undisputed, uncontested darling of our all-adults-now family.  When he was barely a month old, he learned, I kid you not, to warble his newborn version of the word "Hello" and for a time, he'd strain to get the not-quite-formed syllables out every time my sister played the song, Hello Goodbye.  He also began to smile at around that period, first in his dreams, then more voluntarily during the day not too long after.  Now that he's three months old, he smiles and burbles all the time, and he carries on "conversations" with most anyone who talks to him.  He loves waking up in the morning, he loves to stretch, he loves his grandmas, his bath times, their wall clock, and his baby rattle.

There's an episode during my nephew's second month in this world that I find particularly insight-filled.  As it happened, he quite suddenly developed an obsession with munching his mitten-covered fists, and he would munch, munch, munch for hours on end.  For about two days, we let him keep on with it but then he stopped wanting to drink milk and when we took a closer look, we realized his cute little habit was rubbing his mouth and gums a bit raw.  So we began trying to curb his habit by saying "Nooooo Liam" and gently pulling his hands away whenever he'd put them to his mouth.  He would, of course get a bit mad at us afterward, so we would try to get him to stop crying with kisses, cuddles, and silly dances to the tune of Frank Valli and the Four Seasons' song, Walk Like a Man.  Now, here's the fascinating part: about a couple of days later, we were quite amazed to find out that he had picked up on the meaning of "No" and he would, out of his own baby volition, remove his hands from his mouth every time he heard us say the word.  His outrage at having to cease an enjoyable activity decreased over the next few days, and now he almost never munches his mittens unless it's to engage in a little game that involves only smiles and no tears.

Now, what I find to be worthy of note is not the all-too-obvious implication about children's "trainability" but the encapsulation of what I think to be such important precepts in the realm of infant and, I dare to include, child discipline, precepts which I even more daringly venture to condense as such:

Correction must be founded out of real concern for the child's welfare and never to merely serve adult convenience or mood swings.  In such cases when discipline is found to be required, it must be applied gently, consistently, and unhormonally. And should the baby/child balk at the thwarting of their will, it is imperative that the adult respond firmly but always, always, with much love and regard for the child's person.

So anyway, the little munchkin is due to be here with us very very soon for a short vacation and I just cannot wait to see what new tricks he's got up his sweet baby folds. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thank you, CraftWorld

If you're from the Philippines and you like to crochet or knit or do crafts in general, you probably know about the amazing, unbelievable, giddiness-inducing, hyperventilate-worthy super event that was the CraftWorld Closing-Out Sale, which fellow crafter Trey Ajusto so benevolently shared with the online crafting community in her lovely blog.  And though I was on a general buying freeze at around the time I read the post, the image of an entire room filled with piles of crafting supplies proved too strong even for my iron will, which found itself supplanted after a most wrenching split-second internal struggle.

So anyway, without further ado, allow me to present my CraftWorld haul: 

First up, the craft tools.  I'd have been happy enough to find these in the mall even if I had to get them at the regular price, but to have been able to get them for as little as I did is almost surreal.

And then, some threads I hadn't known existed till then, but which I'm happy enough to acquaint myself with:

Lastly, the most astounding find of all: a collection of vintage needlework magazines that had been bound into a hardcover, which I got for a whopping... (brace yourselves)

Click to see some of the contents

... 10 PESOS! 

And no, that's not a typo. I really do mean TEN pesos.  That makes every pattern in there almost quite literally, in both senses of the word, priceless!  And if you must know, I still take it down from my shelf every day to assure myself that it's not a figment of my imagination.

* * *
(A Little Journal-y Note: I went to the garage sale with my friend, crochet designer Mimi Alelis. It was kind of neat how we always ended up picking out different items from the same pile.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Fat Bottom Bag: A Tale of Two Too's

The fat bottom bag was one of the first in what is now an extremely long and ever-growing list of crochet patterns I obsessed over.  After spending hours looking at photos of every finished project I could find, I decided that I wanted one in every color and, as any crafter's wont to do, almost immediately began hoarding the yarn I needed to see the dream through. To give you a rough idea of what that colorful dream looked like in my brain, here's a photo of one of my favorite versions of the bag, made by Anna of Anna Virginia Fashion:

Photo used with permission
Thanks to Samantha Margano's free Fat Bag pattern (English translation here), I've since made two fat bottom bags for myself, each of which I've already been able to use once. Here they are in action, in optimal-angle (granted, blurred and dim) glory.

And yes, there's a reason why the "optimal angle" shots are ones that show them at rather hard-to-make-out angles.  It's because the size of each is nowhere near what I want them to be.  Teal Fat Bottom Bag came out on the small side and is rather floppy (having been crocheted at a loose gauge), whereas Yellow Fat Bottom Bag is too big, or perhaps I should say gargantuan.  (Yet another blurred image coming right up, this one's blurred to a point of photographic unacceptability but I feel I have to include a more truthful representation of the bag and this is the only one I have on file).

my fat bottom bag version

Perhaps the worst part about the wrong turns I made with these two bags is that they were either deliberate deviations I'd made from the pattern or due to important steps I'd skipped in my eagerness to be working on the actual project.  If only I'd paid attention to gauge! If only I hadn't added those extra stitches! And most importantly: if only I'd had a clearer idea of how big it was supposed to turn out anyway!

That said, I hope I've made it clear that the errors were my own and not the pattern's.  Really, if you like to make bags, you should try making this one.  It's simple, clever and guaranteed to present new insights about bag construction. Which is why I must soon try my hook at another fat bottom bag in the near stash-busting future, during which I resolve to:

  • Crochet a swatch.  I'd prefer the resulting fabric to be on the sturdy, un-drapey side as this will show the gathers of the bag better.
  • Work out the final dimensions in inches or centimeters (on an aside, may I ask, which do you prefer to use?)
  • Make every necessary computation.
  • Come up with a formula to share with everyone.  

So just you wait, you elusive Fat Bottom Bag, you. I'll have the better of you yet.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Not so Mild Eww Encounter

So I've been slacking off on writing a blog entry and this particular one has been a draft for almost a month now and is thus way behind on the headlines, but given that this is: a) not a newspaper but, b) MY blog which, c) very few people read (Hello by the way to my dearest plum, thanks for reading!), I'll pretend I didn't agonize at all about the delay and will just plunge right in:

About three months ago (in August 2012, specifically), a destructive combination of the southwest monsoon, a low pressure area and a tropical storm named Gener wreaked havoc on much of Luzon (the northern archipelago of the Philippines).  To translate the rather scary-sounding meteorological jargon which I myself don't fully understand, it means that it rained practically non-stop for almost an entire week. Now, anyone who lives in Metro Manila has got to be familiar with the mysteriously immediate effect that even the most moderate of showers can have on our country's truly sterling public works, case in point being the way traffic crawls to a stop after, say, just 15 minutes of steady rainfall.  Given this example and depending on your location, you can probably imagine or you probably know firsthand or from the news how immense and tragic the destruction was after said week of non-stop rain.  (If you're one of those people who have to imagine, I've included links to a few news articles at the end of this entry, if you're interested in reading more.)

Thankfully, though, our house was spared the unwelcome intrusion of flood water (it appears our street is somewhat high set) and Typhoon Gener for the most part just came and went with nothing more than a 6-hour blackout to disrupt my family's rather laidback daily routine.  Actually, considering the magnitude of the damage that many suffered, I ought to strike out the 'for the most part' from that last statement and say with absolutely no qualifications that Typhoon Gener came and went with no disruptions whatsoever to our household life.  But for the purposes of this narration, however, do bear with my allowing that inaccurate little bit to remain as a transition to the next part of my anecdote, which begins a couple of days after the rain stopped in the form of white, powdery, utterly benign-looking flecks ever-so-lightly sprinkled on the sides of my shelves.

'Light' and 'benign' are the worst words I could have chosen to use for a first impression. In a matter of days, the benign-looking powdery mildew spread over the entire surface of every wood and particle board surface inside my room, which translates to roughly every piece of furniture I own.  And the best thing about mildew?  You can't just wipe it the same way you would a dusty shelf, because the mildew will release its spores into the air at the slightest pressure.  It took me about a month to get the infestation under control, as I had to empty out each shelf (I have three in my room), drag it outside where I could clean it without reintroducing new spores, wait for it to dry completely, drag it back inside and finally, clean and place every item back inside.  The hardest part was getting to the underside of my bed, which seemed to be the mother ship given the thick layer that covered every inch of brown wood.  Since the bed wouldn't fit through the door and had actually had to be assembled inside my room, I couldn't clean it outside as I did the shelves and had to settle for the more arduous task of covering the wooden portions of the bed with cling wrap in order to seal in the mildew and hopefully, cut off its oxygen supply.  (It doesn't seem to be working out that way, though-- I took a peek just now and the mildew appears to be alive and kicking inside the cling wrap barrier).

Now, on to what I learned from this whole nightmare:

A. On Killing Mildew
  1. Do not attempt to wipe off the mildew with a rag right away: the mildew will just release its spores into the air as soon as you do.  Instead, fill a spray bottle with some kind of cleaning solution and spray it onto the infested surface before wiping with a rag. 
  2. On effective cleaning solutions.  Baking soda mixed with liquid dishwashing detergent did not work well for me, as spots of mildew would reappear after only a couple of days.  Bleach seems to work better at killing mildew--of course, bleach is pretty harsh stuff so I'm sure you can't use it in every case.
  3. Wear a mask.
  4. Clean off mildew as soon as you spot it to keep it from spreading.  
B. On Preventing Mildew
  1. Keep things as clean and dust-free as possible. Apparently, mildew can subsist on dust particles, and given the, errr, not-too-clean state that my room was in when the rains happened, I'm not surprised it spread as much as it did.
  2. Use plastic storage containers when you can.  I find them pretty pricey, to be honest, but they do such a great job of keeping growth and critters out so I guess they're well worth the investment.
  3. Open up your windows and let the sunshine in!  Since fresh air is drier than stale air, this helps reduce the moisture in the atmosphere of your room. 
  4. For crafters: keep yarn in plastic bags.  If you're like me and you like to buy hoard clothes from thrift shops with the intention of repurposing them, make sure to wash articles right away.  I have an awful suspicion that the mildew that infested my room was a foreign species that lived on, yes, one of the items I thrifted and left lying around my room.
So anyway, I think I've gone about 200 words over the acceptable length for a blog post, and if you're still there, dear reader, I thank you for bearing with my drivel and wish you a most happy, hygienic, mildew-free existence.

And that's it for now. 

Some Articles on Typhoon Gener:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Yellow Bell Bag

a diy inspired by the Iggy Extra Long Hobo Handbag

The idea was to make a long, lean and yet slouchy bag, and the impetus wasn't my own but inspired by a bag called the Iggy Extra Long Hobo Handbag, which I came across as I was browsing Google Images for next-project candidates.  I was actually able to get my hands on a full-length black genuine leather coat just in time to use for my Iggy-bag knockoff attempt, but I chickened out of cutting it at the last minute and decided to pick something less special from my fabric-slash-thrifted-garments stash to make a prototype with.  The less special items that I ended up picking were these two knit sweaters which I really didn't think I should get because yellow isn't a color I would normally go for, but which I ended up getting anyway because there were two in the exact same shade and they were huge and had batwing sleeves and had so much recyclable yardage in them.

I would, of course, learn shortly afterward what a pain heavy knit fabrics are to work with, but tedious, gargantuan handsewing efforts aside, I must say it's extremely satisfying to have those sweaters out of my fabric bin where they were taking up so much space, and on my shoulder instead where they give me lots of room for the stuff I haul around with me when I go from here to there.

Repurposed from old sweaters

Aside from the cotton sweaters,  I used:

- some light cotton fabric to underline the knit fabric
- an old black denim skirt for the lining
- a vinyl handle and 2 wooden buckles from a purse that my sister was about to throw out
- a magnetic snap

When sewing the parts where stitching would show through, I used thread frogged from the parts of the sweater that were left over after I cut out the bag body.  I only did this because I didn't have any polyester thread that matched the shade of the sweater exactly, and having slightly brighter yellow thread peeking out at the seams annoyed me immensely.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A DIY Foldover Clutch

 This foldover clutch was, for the most part, repurposed from stuff I had lying around, namely:

- a plastic placemat for structure
- a polyester scarf/bandanna for the main fabric
- cream cotton canvas underlining
- corduroy for the lining and gusset
- a metal zipper 

While the placemat isn't visible, it's actually a key component of the design, as it gives the bag structure and allows it to keep its shape.  I'm not quite sure if stiff fusible interfacing would give the same effect.

 The clutch is 10.5" wide, 1.25" deep, and 6" tall when folded, 9.5" when laid out.  If I had to do it over, I'd probably make it a few inches wider. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DIY Boho Sack

If I had to choose just one shape to have all my bags in, oversized boho sack bag would be it.

Bag by Cleobella Ikat

Fabric bags are so practical to own, being washable and all, and the boho (hobo?) sack is such a simple, attractive and effective design for a fabric bag.  For some reason, I've yet to come across this style in stores here, but I probably won't buy one now all the same, since I've already found what for me is the better alternative--namely, a free crochet pattern on the Lion Brand Yarn site.

There are actually a bunch of free boho bag patterns there that are very very similar to each other, but it's the Market Bag # 70221A that stands out to me as the one with the best shape and just the right dimensions.

Official site photo

It's a very easy pattern: crocheted in the round, worked in one piece, negligible seaming.  The only drawback I can see is that the bag is very elastic when used as is, so it stretches all over the place when you put stuff in it.  And since I intended for this to be a regular everyday bag instead of a market bag, I found it necessary to sew in a lining to get the bag to keep its shape better. 

I've made three of these bags already, and here's the one with the most decent photograph:

my slouchy boho bag

 Hook Size: 5.0 mm
Yarn: Acrylic Yarn, Red Heart (DK)
Length Used: ~455 m.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Free People Crocheted Maxi Dress

It's clingy.  It would probably snag on everything.  I'd never wear it myself.  But practicalities aside, I have to admire the perfect marriage of fiber, stitch and color in this Free People maxi dress:

A close-up of the stitches:
click image to enlarge

I particularly appreciate how the dress draws its overall look from the openness of the dc-chain-dc mesh.  The delicate, slightly shimmery, airy aesthetic is definitely something I'd like to incorporate in a shrug or long cardigan design.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

First Post Formalities

This Lela Rose wedding gown was THE inspiration that fueled my lofty (sometimes I think, much too lofty) crochet aspirations.

I don't suppose I need to elaborate on why/how a dress like this can drive one to spend 18 out of 24 hours in a day daydreaming, visualizing, planning, seeking, hoarding, and studying crochet photos, patterns, diagrams, tips and techniques.

Looking at it now, I'm not quite sure if it's indeed crochet rather than some sort of crochet-inspired lace fabric.  Not that it matters, really, because the point is that I continue to imagine that an approximation of it can be done in crochet-- hence, this blog, this exploration, this continued foray with my hook.