The Canadian Car Poncho

Car Poncho 32

There’s the idea that you shouldn’t put your kid in a big puffy snowsuit in their carseat because the snowsuit doesn’t allow you to do up the straps as tight as they need to be and that could be unsafe if you were to get into an accident. Accordingly, they sell these things called “car ponchos” for small children, and they’re all fancy with faux fur trim and buttons and snaps and zippers and whatnot and they cost like SEVENTY BUCKS. Seriously? Eff that. Also, this is CANADA, and here it’s always colder than it is in other places. So most of those fancy car ponchos are wayyy not warm enough to combat that howling wind when it’s minus twenty.

Car Poncho 2

I figured, seeing as I’m doing all this sewing these days, why not make my own? At the fabric store near us, fleece is pretty expensive, usually about $7 a metre, but at IKEA, you can pick up a POLARVIDE fleece blanket for $5.99, and they’re almost 2 metres. They come in a variety of colours depending on the store and the season, and sometimes they go on sale and they’re even cheaper. I picked up two, for layering.

Car Poncho 1

FOR THE LAZY: Just use one blanket. Sewing two together is less than easy.

One side of the fleece has little round flibbety things that stick out, so I cut them off using my rotary cutter.

Car Poncho 4

FOR THE LAZY: Leave ’em on.

Then I went through a million permutations of how to layer the blankets together so that the raw edges were inside the blanket. But it was much too complicated for me so I just folded each in half on the short edge and flipped them so the folded edge of one blanket was against the open edge of the other.

Car Poncho 5

FOR THE KEENERS: Sandwich the open edges inside so that the folded edges show on both sides.

Then I started sewing the blanket together, starting with a straight line right down the middle, followed by another that bisected it perpendicularly.

I kept going, dividing each un-sewed section in half and sewing through it, then I sewed around the edge. I did this to keep the different layers from bunching around each other. Four layers of fleece is hella bulky and it was really tricky with my little pink machine.

Car Poncho 6

FOR THE KEENERS: Maybe try a bias binding on the outside edge, or sew your lines radiating out from the centre at angles.

So now I have this big bulky blanket with four layers of thin fleece all quilted together. I need a head hole in the middle.

Car Poncho 7

Here I am doing a very scientific measurement of LongJohn’s head diameter using a salad plate. It’s a little big, but babies heads grow alarmingly so I know it’s better to go too big here than too small.  If you’ve ever tried to shove something too small over an angry baby’s head then you know what I mean.

Car Poncho 8

Car Poncho 9

Then I used the salad plate as a guide for cutting out the centre hole.

Car Poncho 10

I waited until everything was sewn together before cutting out the hole because I knew I wouldn’t necessarily be able to line up all four holes properly if they weren’t already permanently stitched in place.

Car Poncho 11

I’m trying to figure out what to do with the circle I have left. Any ideas?

The resulting hole was a bit jagged (cutting through four layers of fleece at once with a circular blade is also less than easy). But it was easily tidied up with a pair of scissors.

Car Poncho 12

Then I had to consider the hood. I was considering not doing a hood but babies don’t wear scarves and I didn’t want LongJohn’s neck all exposed to the elements, especially seeing as the head hole was so big.

The VITMOSSA blanket, also from IKEA, is only $2.99. It’s a thinner fleece with a bit of stretch, and I figured that if I doubled it, I’d get a decent flexible hood.

Car Poncho 13

I measured a distance of slightly over half the way around the circle and I cut a length of the blanket accordingly.

Car Poncho 14

The idea here is that if I fold the piece over itself, the seams line up and the hood forms naturally.

Car Poncho 15

Car Poncho 16

Because I want this thing to be reversible, I opened up a few of the centre seams in the poncho so I could sew the hood into the space in the middle.

Car Poncho 17

Then I folded the rectangle that I cut out in half across the short side again. Inside-out.

Car Poncho 18

And sewed up the two open sides perpendicular to the fold.

Car Poncho 19

Turn it right-side out and then line up the two seams.

Car Poncho 20

Tada, a hood! It has a pointy top so I would not recommend making this out of white fleece, if you know what I mean. Just to be politically correct.

Car Poncho 21

FOR THE KEENER: Sew down the pointy top.

Then I pinned it into the head hole of the poncho.

Car Poncho 22

You can see here that it fits between the two colours of fleece.

Car Poncho 23

Pin, pin, pin.

Car Poncho 24

The hard part here was now sewing the hood into the poncho (that’s six layers of fleece, if you’re counting). I had to shove so much bulky blanket through the little arm of the sewing machine. And then rotate it as I went around in a circle. Slow and steady was the best course of action here.

Car Poncho 25

Once finished, you can see how it works on the gray side …

Car Poncho 26

… and on the red side. I actually had to go around on the red side again because I’d missed a layer in my excitement.

Car Poncho 27

FOR THE LESS LAZY THAN ME: Be more careful and get all the layers sewed at the same time.

And now the test on my model.

Car Poncho 29

As you can see it’s roomy in the neck at the moment but I can always pin or clip that closed for now. He’ll fill out soon enough. He’d wear the poncho like this when I was carrying him or he was walking around. Which hopefully is far distant in my future.

Car Poncho 28

Then here he is in his high chair, which is standing in for the carseat (because it’s freaking cold outside today and I’m not going outside just to take a picture for you guys). The back of the poncho flips over the back of the car seat and the front part can be twitched aside while you do up the straps snugly against your little one. Then you just tuck it back down again and your kidlet is warm and snug!

Car Poncho 31

I’m making another one for a friend with a much bigger baby (makes a great gift!) and I’m confident my head hole size (22cm diameter) will be entirely appropriate. I also have enough left of the VITMOSSA blanket to make a thinner, warmer-weather poncho too!

Car Poncho 30

Winter Sun

DSCN8853

There have been a slew of babies born into our circle in the past few months, with more to come in the new year, and it’s all very exciting. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to hand-make presents for everyone this year, but for the babies I spared an hour or so. This project, inspired by Made by Joel, is super easy and makes use of those little scraps of fabric you have on hand. If you don’t have a sewing machine you can do this by hand but it certainly saves a bit of time when you’re making them in bulk.

DSCN8855

So I have here some fabric scraps, a huge hunk of soft yellow terry cloth, and some empty plastic bags that previously held potato chips (but that are now clean, because you probably don’t want your baby to smell like potato chips).

DSCN8821

Grab your terry cloth (or whatever fabric you choose) as the centre of your winter sun and cut from it two circles of the same size (you don’t have to measure but think of how big a baby’s hands are and act accordingly).

DSCN8823

Cut out some circles as well in your chip bags. These things will be layered and stuffed inside your little creation to give it a delightful crinkle.

DSCN8824

I also decided to dress up the faces of my winter sun with some scraps of felt. I made one side a sleepy sun and one side a happy sun.

DSCN8826

Then I sewed those on carefully. You can use whatever you want to decorate your sun, though I would avoid buttons, as babies tend to swallow those.

DSCN8834

Then grab some more scraps. You’re going to want to cut out long triangles from this stuff. It’s easiest to fold it and then cut a diagonal line towards the fold.

DSCN8830

Then you can sew the open long end closed (leave the bottom open).

DSCN8836

Jam your thumb into the triangle and squish it up so it’s easier to turn inside out.

DSCN8837

Use a paintbrush or pencil to help you get it inverted properly.

DSCN8839

You’ll want enough scraps of differing colours to make enough triangles to go around the circumference of your sun. I eyeballed it and came up with eight.

DSCN8832

Cut ’em, sew ’em, reverse ’em.

DSCN8840

Now grab one of the faces of your sun and start attaching the rays. You want to attach them to the right side of the sun with the rays all pointing in towards the centre (so that when you turn it inside out they will stick out).

DSCN8842

Like this.

DSCN8844

Then grab the other face of the sun and make sure all the rays are tucked safely inside before attaching it to the whole shebang. Leave a few inches open so you can invert it.

DSCN8845

DSCN8846

Grab your chip bags and stuff them inside the now right-side-out sun.

DSCN8847

If you have some, you can add a little bit of cotton batting or fill for fluff purposes. Then it’s a simple matter to hand-sew that opening shut.

DSCN8848

Then grab each of the rays and tie a single knot into each one for texture.

DSCN8849

Easy peasy!

DSCN8851

DSCN8852

Sewing so easy even I can do it: Nursing Shawl

Nursing Shawl 18

Okay so it’s official: I’m going to be an aunt (again).  This time, though, unlike my lovely instant nieces Tego and HG I get to meet this niece or nephew at birth!  Krystopf and Atlas, the expectant parents, are coming to visit at the end of May.  It’s my big brother’s first time in Newfoundland, though Atlas was here back around the time of Doodle’s Newfoundland Express.  And neither Atlas nor I will let Krystopf forget the fact that SHE bravely came to visit us (by herself!) when she was a just brand new girlfriend, and HE (my own eldest brother) can’t organize himself enough to book a flight.  But for reals now they are coming and I couldn’t be more excited!  It’s a very brief trip but we’ll be sure to cram it with all sorts of fun stuff.

Nursing Shawl 15

While I fully plan to have their wedding present (from last July) finished before they get here,  I thought I would also get cracking on some baby-related things they might find useful in the near future (the baby is due in October).  Now we know that if you put me in front of a sewing machine I am likely to break it.  Like for real.  But this one I think I can handle, because it involves sewing precisely one line.  Even I can do that.  I hope.  Anyway, this post also kicks off my new Kidlet category here at Ali Does It.  Who says you can’t do it yourself when there’s children involved?

Nursing Shawl 14

What we’re going to make today is a nursing shawl, and it’s so simple it’s almost stupid.  But the great thing about this shawl (I think) is that it’s an easy (and fashionable) alternative to nursing bibs and trying to gather blankets around your shoulders and whatever.  And it covers your back, too, like a stylish poncho.  And it’s small enough you can just jam it anywhere in your bag.  And it doesn’t wrinkle.

Start off with some fabric, a nice jersey knit.  I found two that I liked, this pink cotton and then a silky gray polyester blend.  They were $2.99 a metre, which struck me as a good deal.

Nursing Shawl 1

After washing and drying the fabric (to remove sizing and get any shrinkage out of the way), fold the fabric right-side-in along its width (which should be about 60 inches (or about a metre and a half).  This will leave you with something about 30 inches wide.

Nursing Shawl 2

Because fabric stores cut this stuff very quickly, the edges are not exact.  I lined mine up as best I could and then used some sharp sewing scissors to cut along the outer edge to make it more square.

Nursing Shawl 6

Next, use a measuring tape to measure 25″ from the outer edge and pin several times to mark your place. This will run perpendicular to the folded edge.

Nursing Shawl 4

Cut along your markings so you are left with a rectangle that is about 25″ x 30″ (or 25″ x 60″ if you unfolded it).

Now you’ve got one folded edge and three open edges, right?  From one corner of your folded edge, measure 13″ along an open edge and pin to mark it.  This will be the head hole for your shawl.  Pin along the rest of the fabric to hold it in place.

Nursing Shawl 7

Nursing Shawl 5

Now all you have to do is sew along that line, from the edge of the head-hole to the end of the fabric.  It’s only 17″ of sewing.  Of course, my sewing machine and I don’t get along.  And so rather than throw it across the room I just did these by hand with a needle and matching thread and it took no time at all.

Nursing Shawl 8

Then you just flip them right side out and they’re done.  Jersey knit doesn’t fray so you don’t have to worry about hemming the other sides (though you can if you want to, or embellish them with ribbons or whatever you would like).

Nursing Shawl 9

It’s a nice comfortable, breezy fit!

Nursing Shawl 19
At this point, Fussellette laughed and said, “I’m not fit yet for motherhood.”

Nursing Shawl 22

Thanks to Fussellette and Teddy Two for being my models!

Nursing Shawl 16

Doodle’s Afghan, Completed

Doodle's Afghan

And about time, too!

Doodle's Afghan

My sewing machine actually broke during the final stages of putting this together.  I found the one sewing machine repair guy in the whole city and took it in to get it fixed post-haste. It was a good thing I did, as the repair guy went on a two-month vacation the day after I picked it up.  Phew!

Doodle's Afghan

After I had everything in nice discrete blocks I had to start sewing them together, which meant that I started to get things with weird corners and strange protuberances — more of a challenge to sew, but I got it done.

Doodle's Afghan

It’s amazing how much smaller the finished top is when you take seam allowances into account.  This used to be the exact size of the box spring and now it’s shrunk significantly.  but it’s nice and thick and cozy.

Doodle's Afghan

The Pie and I decided that two sides of wool pieces would be a little bulky for this blanket, and that all the seams would mean the blanket wouldn’t lie flat.  Not to mention that it would probably be itchy against your skin.  So we went with just a cotton backing, just like we did with the wool patchwork quilts a few years ago, but without the flannel lining.  Because the blanket is large, we decided to do the back in three separate panels of different colours, just for visual interest.  The Pie did the colour picking. It’s definitely funny to watch us wander through fabric stores because we are both so out of our element.

Doodle's Afghan

Doodle's Afghan

Now you see this particular square, with its row of buttons?  Not only does that add a bit of visual interest, but it’s a strategic choice.  I can undo those buttons and then pull the blanket inside-out through it and do them back up.  That way when I sew the lining and backing onto the top piece I can just do all the sides at the same time, and not worry about seams showing later on.  I know.  You can say it.  I am a bit of a genius.

Doodle's Afghan

So I sewed the back onto the front, which took quite a bit of effort and some muscle, too.

Doodle's Afghan

Then I opened up that little buttoned up section and carefully pulled the whole thing through.

Doodle's Afghan

Button it back up and no one’s the wiser.

Doodle's Afghan

Phew. That is one hefty blanket.

Doodle's Afghan

I can’t wait to see if it will fit in my luggage, together with my bridesmaid dress and a million pairs of shoes. Because that’s all I’m bringing to Oregon.  I can’t see anything else fitting in my suitcase.

Doodle's Afghan

Progress Report on the Summer of Blankets

As you may know, the Pie and I are hitting up two weddings this summer.  In June, Doodle marries the Cyclist, and in July, my big brother Krystopf weds the indomitable Atlas.  Both are getting home-made blankets from yours truly as a wedding gift.

Progress Report

The Atlas blanket is coming along well, though it never ceases to amaze me how many times I can screw up a simple knit/purl design.  As much as I try, I doubt I will ever be a practised knitter, though I am getting better at going back and fixing my mistakes.  And fortunately this is something that I can bring with me when I’m traveling, and something I can do while I’m watching television at night.

Progress Report

With these two strips you can start to see the sort of “patchwork” effect that I was going for, with the alternating colours and alternating knit and purled sides.

Progress Report

The place where I bought this gorgeous wool, A Good Yarn, has closed the doors of its physical business and the owner has moved to Halifax to focus on the internet side of the show, so I had to order the next batch of skeins online.  Fortunately, Tanis Fiber Arts has a really comprehensive website and such beautiful colours.  The new skeins I ordered just came in yesterday.

Progress Report

In biodegradable packaging, no less!

Progress Report

If you are curious, this is the Yellow Label DK Weight, which is good for pretty much anything, and the colours I have used are Plum, Olive, Deep Sea, and Midnight, from left to right.  If I knew how to use them properly and/or could afford them, I would buy the whole stock.

Progress Report

Doodle’s afghan is also progressing.  That huge box of seamless sweaters has been reduced now to a blue recycling bag full of carefully cut out oblongs, and a green garbage bag full of scraps of wool.  I don’t know if I will be able to find a use for all the scraps, but I will try.  If you have any suggestions let me know.  I also have a small pile of cardboard cutting templates I need to find a place for.

Progress Report

I have learned that when cutting felted wool with a rotary cutter you end up with a tremendous amount of static-charged wool lint.  Which ends up everywhere.  And doesn’t go away.  I also learned that you can loosen the blade on your rotary cutter so it rolls more easily and you don’t have to press as hard.  Of course I didn’t discover that until near the end.

Progress Report

I may go in a slightly different direction with the afghan, now that it’s all cut out.  I will still do the colour progression on the “right” side as originally planned, but, depending on the number of oblongs I have, I might just randomly sew the rest of them together and have that go underneath, as a sort of double blanket, rather than sewing the wool blanket to a fabric backing.  We shall see.  As well, given the scale of this thing, I think it might be a better idea to sew the whole thing by machine instead of using the by-hand blanket stitch, which, while very secure, takes for-freaking-ever.  The question will be if my machine can handle it, as some of the wool is super thick.  I will keep you posted.

Progress Report