Japanese Knot Bag

I was browsing this thread about project bags, saw this design, and thought I should try it out. A quick search of the internet found me some basic instructions (this tutorial has particularly decent pictures and nice clear indications of where to sew), so I free-handed a pattern and gave it a shot.

Japanese Knot Bag

In the picture above, you can see my free-handed pattern. I knew I wanted a project bag for my current knitting project (the sweater) that always has me carrying at least two balls of yarn (that’s to allow me to switch back and forth between two balls and avoid abrupt colour changes when I switch balls). So I basically put the two balls and proto-sweater on my grocery store ad and drew around it.

Japanese Knot Bag

You cut two of both the inner and outer colours, then pin them right-sides in.

Then sew the outside/bottom edge of the bag EXCEPT the outside handles. Basically, start below the handle part and sew along the bottom until you get to where the handle starts on the other side. If you look at that first picture of my template, you’re basically ignoring everything above the grocery store ad likes that say “organic” on one side and “home & family care” on the other. Snip along the curve if you want it to sit better.

Also, sew the top flat part of the handles at this point.

Then, you turn the inner lining right-side out and stick it into the bag, re-pin, and sew the whole top curve INCLUDING the handles but only the one side of them.

It’s going to look kind of goofy as you turn it right-side out:

Japanese Knot Bag

You pretty much have a big oval bag attached in the center with handles sticking out. Wrap it all around and you get a bag with holes in the handles on either side. You need the holes in both handles for it to turn correctly, don’t try to do something clever like I did or you’ll be making friends with the seam ripper. There’s probably some way to do that so it works, but I wasn’t going to experiment too much.

Japanese Knot Bag

Iron the edges so they’re folded in and then complete the seams, do a bit of stitching at the bottom of each handle for strength, and voila, you have a bag!

You fold the long handle through the short one, and it stays reasonably closed and looks like it could be a cousin to the little hobo bag on a stick of the type you see in cartoons (wikipedia tells me this is called a bindle).

Japanese Knot Bag

It’s a pretty simple project, on the same scale as my favourite drawstring bag, but with curvy seams instead of a fiddly drawstring.

Japanese Knot Bag

We’ll see how it does after I’ve toted it around for a while, but it certainly looks prettier than the beat up old small cloth conference bag that I was using before! This is also a great bag to hang on a wrist if you’re knitting while standing in line or just want your yarn close at hand so it doesn’t get tangled or tempt a kitty.

Overall, I think I’d need to be a bit more careful if I were giving this as a gift, since I didn’t love my final seams that much, but I like it enough that I kept my freehanded template in case I want to make another!

Homemade Heartbleed pillow

Perhaps the most well-known of open source bugs this year is heartbleed, notable as much for its marketing as technical merit.

There’s a tradition at work of decorating people’s cubes when they’re on sabbatical, and while I wasn’t the one who came up with the idea to decorate our fearless leader’s cube with things representing the many well-marketed open source bugs, I was the person who brought in the first piece:

Heartbleed Pillow for R

There wasn’t exactly a pattern for this:
Step 1 Draw half a big heart (to make sure it’s symmetrical) and cut out two of them.
Step 2 Cut a long strip with tapered ends to go over the top (to give the pillow some extra width at the top — you can’t see it in the photo but it’s about the width of my palm).
Step 3 Cut various thinner strips to be the bleeding drips.
Step 4 Sew each side of top to tapered strip
Step 5 Carefully sew bottom of two hearts together, placing drips at appropriate intervals.
Step 6 Curse and pull out drips and re-sew so they actually hang correctly. Several times.
Step 7 Leave a hole so you can flip the thing right-side out and stuff, then curse because you have no red thread and spawn another search of the house because it’s much too late to go out and buy thread.

Since my office (and indeed, half of the house) had no floor, there was a lot of frantic searching for the sewing machine. I don’t mind free-handing a pattern, but sewing through 3 layers of polar fleece by hand isn’t my favourite activity! Thankfully, we did find the sewing machine, but in the end, the only red thread I could find came from a promotional sewing kit I got from Raytheon at some Grace Hopper Celebration past. Seems sort of hilariously appropriate.

End result: one very one-of-a-kind throw pillow.

I’m sort of surprised that no one has started marketing open source bug merchandise, to be honest. I’ll bet there’s a market!

Blue starry math pony (using @valleyviolet’s pattern!)

Ever since I saw Valleyviolet’s Pony Pattern collections, I’ve wanted to make one. I finally bought the collection in order to make the Pink Fluffy Unicorn mascot for Quelab (who is apparently MIA right now, likely stolen by the same person who vandalized the room sign; much sadness. She was a lot of work!), but I didn’t want to jump right into fighting with fun fur, and I’m fortunate enough to know a little girl of around the right age to enjoy a pony, so…

Custom my little pony for V

I went with blue and stars not out of any particular reason other than I liked the way the two fabrics looked together. The recipient’s young and lives far away from me, so I don’t know much about her preferences yet! However, I *do* know that her mom’s a mathematician and that her dad would like me to be a science role model for her. So the pony came with a book:

Custom my little pony for V

The book, as you can’t quite see in that photo, is “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős.” I was super excited when I first heard of it, as it’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a rather famous mathematician. One of the things he did was travel the world, collaborating with mathematicans all over the place. Mathematicians sometimes talk about their Erdős Number, which indicates degrees of collaborators on your published papers leading back to the man himself. (I published a paper with someone who’s number is 2, so mine is 3, a number worthy of bragging about at math parties!). My Calculus prof, an excellent storyteller, used to tell us tales of Erdős at the end of class sometime, and I was totally enchanted to hear more of them through the book. And the art works a lot of careful math and real people into the story, which is amazing. I also love that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that he was a man who couldn’t do his own laundry but helped do so much math that people were willing to welcome him into their homes.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life…
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
by Deborah Heiligman, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve got a kid in your life who could use a gift!

It’s also a kind of funny pairing with this pony, as some folk have this theory that one of the My Little Ponies with somewhat similar colouring also really likes math. Not an intentional joke on my part, but I’ll take it!

So back to the pony construction…

Much like how representations of humans can have an uncanny valley effect if things are close but a little off, my experience is that this is a pattern that can go kind of horribly wrong if you don’t pay attention to the details. I originally sewed her head on in a weird way and was totally disappointed with the end result. I wasn’t even going to give it to V, it was so awful. I didn’t even take pictures (which is a shame in hindsight because the comparison was so striking). But after ruminating a while, I tried again, and with her nose tipped up just so, she got the curious look I was hoping for.

Custom my little pony for V

Valleyviolet’s instructions are very detailed and clear, and there’s a lot of work put into the shaping that really shows in the final product. There’s also just a lot of thought put into the instructions. I’ve actually never worked with a pattern that was so careful about explaining things, and I’ve got to say the patterns are worth every penny as a result. You can can buy her pony patterns here, and I promise you can make much more polished ponies than I did!

Custom my little pony for V

I think when I do my next one, I’ll have to be a bit more careful about marking the notches and just generally careful about the stitching. I also need to invest in some heavier weighting for her legs since, as you can see, she doesn’t quite keep all four feet on the floor sometimes. (This was right after she came out of my suitcase from my flight to Ottawa, though, so I can’t blame her for looking a bit disheveled!)

Custom my little pony for V

I don’t know how much the recipient cared for the pony, and to be honest she’s a bit young for the book yet, so I didn’t win any gift giving awards here, but it was fun to do and I really loved the pattern.

I think I’m going to try out the shoulder pony pattern next, once I find some suitable beanbag filling!

Sheep Hat

Another baby gift! This one I made just because I thought the pattern was adorable:

Sheep Hat

My picture isn’t great, but…
1. Little sheep feet in the grass!
2. Adorable sheepy texture!
3. 3-D sheep head!
4. Perky sheep ears!

And my favourite:
5. Puffy little tail!

Sheep Hat

Pattern

This one came from a book called 60 Quick Baby Knits put out to show the glory of Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash. Alas, I didn’t have any on hand, so I used Caron Simply Soft. I don’t really recommend acrylic for this project since it made the stranded colourwork for the feet a bit harder to do. However, I like the yarn for amigurumi (it’s cheap, soft, washable, comes in many colours, and can withstand babies), so that’s why I have it on hand.

60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties,…
60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More in Cascade…
by Sixth&Spring Books

Ravelry Pattern Link:
Sheep Hat by Renee Lorion

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS XL case

My brother got me a Nintendo 3DS XL for Christmas this year, and he picked out exactly the one I would have chosen for myself, a special edition with the new Mario and Luigi RPG. (Of course, he’s the one who got me hooked on those games in the first place…)

It’s a beautiful little piece of hardware, and I’ve been carrying it around incessantly not only so I can play it at lunch, but also because the 3DS has some sort of meta games where you get points for walking around and for passing other people who also have 3DSes. As I am mildly obsessed with games that involve walking (I’m working on creating one for me and my sister to play together, but that’s another story), this means that the 3ds lives in my purse or backpack and I was worried about it getting horribly abused.

Thankfully, I have a sewing machine and I’m not afraid to use it!

So here’s my new DS case:

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case

I was originally going to make this quick and just do two seams up the side and not finish any of the edges. But once I’d started, it seemed so easy to just put some nicer square corners in by sewing across the ends and then finish the top. The fabric’s a bit hard to keep straight because it’s thick and a bit grippy so it’s not my best machine work, but I remember learning how to square corners like this in home ec in grade 7:

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case

Wait, you may say, what’s with that weird yellow corner? See, here’s where it gets interesting…

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case

Yup, that fabric is changing colour based on temperature. (Also, check out my strangely coincidentally matching manicure!) Remember those old Hypercolor shirts from the 80s/90s?

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case

The fabric was part of a sampler box that Quelab got filled with weird samples of sparkly plexiglass and thin veneers and, apparently, some colour-changing industrial fabric. I think it came from instructables? It was filled with interesting materials for projects, anyhow. I am still sad I never found a use for the sparkly plexi, which I refused to take until I had a plan for it, but Adric convinced me that it was cool if I took a chunk out of the very large (and slightly damaged) piece of colour-change fabric.

I’d been trying to think of something sufficiently interesting to do with it, something that sufficiently highlighted the colour change, and maybe the fact that it’s actually sufficiently transparent that you can see a LED through it:

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case

But today, as I was flipping through my small fabric collection trying to find something for the 3ds case, I decided that just something I’d be using all the time is sufficiently interesting and gives me a chance to play with it and show it off regularly. Plus, I’m looking forwards to seeing the heat spots in my purse, which is filled with many power-hungry electronics like the 3DS.

It’s already fun for demonstrating how quickly evaporative cooling works. Look, let me draw a wet line on the case and then blow air on it…

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case

(Fun fact for those of you who don’t live in the desert: New Mexicans cool their houses with evaporative cooling, also known as a swamp cooler, which is a formalized version of a wet towel over a fan, ’cause mold and mildew isn’t so much of an issue in the desert. So you think a lot about evaporation when you live there for 2 years… and then move to the west coast almost-rainforest. Will my clothes ever line dry here?!)

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case

I don’t like being all “perfect is the enemy of good” or the sort of uncluttering fanatic who gets rid of things because there’s no immediate use for them, but there is something very satisfying about actually using an item I’d saved rather than having a never-diminishing collection of “cool things that I should use for something.”

Of course, I still have a little bit of fabric left…

Plants vs Zombies Sunflower Plushie

Welcome to Dr. Terri’s maker blog! Since you can just read the about page to find out what’s going on here, I’m going to skip ahead to the part where I show you something I made: A plush Plants vs Zombies sunflower!

Dr. Terri's Plants vs Zombies Sunflower

John’s father is a huge Plants vs Zombies fan, and when I went to visit for thanksgiving I was highly amused by how much time he spent playing. I thought he might get a kick out of having a sunflower plushie so sit on his desk. I could have bought one, but there didn’t seem to be any in stock that were a nice small desk size, so I bought some polar fleece and set about making a pattern:

Dr. Terri's Plants vs Zombies Sunflower with "pattern"

As you can tell, my pattern isn’t exactly complex: draw a big oval for the face, petal-like shapes for the petals, and leaf-like shapes for the leaves.

Petals

I sewed little pockets to make petals, then ran a line down the centre to make them look right. There’s no stuffing in those because my fleece was thick enough and it would have made sewing them to the face really annoying. I purposely didn’t make them identical because I thought a little bit of wonkiness would look more right.

Face

I hand-drew some eyes and mouth and appliqued mine on by hand. You could easily embroider this instead (and I think that’s what they do with the licensed plushies).

Leaves

Like the petals, these are sewn as pockets with a line in the middle. You could probably put stuffing in these without making your life too hard, but I didn’t bother. Leave the pocket opening at the base of the leaf so you can just tuck the ends in and sew it to the stem.

Stem

The stem is just a tube of green. I filled it with a pair of twisted-together and folded-over pipecleaners to get it to stay up. Make sure to leave a big loop of pipecleaner at the top for sewing into the head if you want it to stay up without flopping over. If you want the sunflower to be able to stand up on its own, make the stem fairly long so you can curl it around underneath to make a base.
Dr. Terri's Plants vs Zombies Sunflower

Assembling

Put the two head pieces face together and arrange the petals sticking in with the pocket ends out and sew around the side, leaving a large chunk of space at the bottom and 1-2 petals to fill it in. You can’t see the back of the head in my photos, but it’s just a second brown circle — you could use another colour if desired. Be careful not to overlap the petals (that much fleece is a pain to sew through) or horrifically mis-angle them, although again, some wonkiness is a-ok.

Turn the whole head right-side-out. Insert the pipecleaner loop in and adjust it to suit you, then add some stuffing. Stick your missing petals in and sew through them and the stem. (I did this by hand because it’s awkward to pin and a bit dangerous to stab your sewing machine needle into wrapped wires.)

Sew leaves onto stem. In my case, I sewed them halfway up and then bent the remaining stem in a curl so that the sunflower could stand on its own (or perhaps be wrapped around something).
Dr. Terri's Plants vs Zombies Sunflower in bucket

I really wanted a flowerpot for this so that it could look like a roof-level plant, but we couldn’t find a sufficiently small one since I made this in November and even in the sunny southwest, that’s not really a great time to find flower pots. However, I did find a tiny craft tin bucket, so that’s what I used. The bucket is about 2 inches tall, to give you an idea. The sunflower made its way to its new home in time for his Ayyám-i-Há celebration a few weeks ago, so I figure it’s safe to share the pictures with the world now.

Enjoy!

Gallery of Plants vs Zombie Sunflower Photos