Sunday, August 11, 2013

Truly Handy Handicrafts

Useful Crafts

I am not a fan of crafty things that serve no other purpose than to look pretty sitting somewhere.  Let's face it, I do not have a knack for the crafty things, so it wouldn't really bring any greatness to my decor.  Really.  It looks monstrous, and it collects dust.  However, I keep thinking I ought to be able to do these awesome craft things because all the other women can and I do have two x chromosomes after all.  So why shouldn't I have, if in some deep unknown crevice, a gene that says I can make cute things?  So I look for the useful crafts.  Serving a purpose AND looking cute?  What's not to like about THAT?

Imagine my interest when it was announced that there would be an opportunity to make first-aid kits out of hot pads and zip-top bags.  Chance to try my hand at craftiness?  Check.  Useful?  Check.  Something I would actually use?  Check.  Man, we were on a roll.  I nearly came to a screeching halt when I had to accept that working on said project included the use of a sewing machine.  I have a long-standing and irrevocable fear of those things.  The whirring sound is like the motor to open the gates of some dark abyss, the needle a silent predator in hunt of my fingers.  But I have made attempts at this before and wouldn't be undone by this little machine.

Stepping it up a Notch

Recently I have talked to a neighbor and her family about embroidery.  I am always puzzled about embroidery.  Am I the only one who thinks of Jane Austen's heroines when embroidery comes up in the conversation?  It may be in less frequent use than the Latin language.  I find that to be oddly daring, to try something that has fallen out of common practice.  Beautifying something that is otherwise simple could be quite satisfying.  So, I determined to try my hand at embroidery... on the very hot pad to be used for my awesome first aid kit.

What I Did 

I looked up ideas for how to do embroidery online to get some tips.  By suggestion, I found a font I liked and printed out the letter "B" in a size that I liked.  I then traced this, in pen, on the material.  I tried pencil so it wouldn't show, but the pencil was too hard to see.  I decided a pen would be acceptable if I stitched over it.  Then I selected a color of thread I liked and an embroidery needle and was set to begin this trek.  I did simple stitches of varying lengths to fill in the letter "B".  I noticed that the curves were harder to make, while maintaining the same angle of the stitches throughout the whole letter.  In fact, I abandoned trying to keep the same angle after a while.  After I filled in the letter, I picked a darker blue to do the outline, and used a chain stitch (which I learned through an online tutorial) to bring more depth to the initial.  I found this website to be helpful and informative:

What You Might Do Differently 

You may choose actual embroidery floss instead of standard thread.  You might also choose to practice on something besides what is intended to be the final project.  You may wish to follow the online advice of getting ditto paper (or whatever it's called) to trace your letter onto your stitching area.  This is less tricky than tracing it in pen since you place this sheet between your printed letter and the cloth.  Also, please note that you may wish to stitch differently than how you are inclined to write a letter.  You may work on a letter "B", for example, in top half/bottom half style rather than the stick and then the two bumps.

What Next

Once I had my "B" nicely stitched onto the pot holder, I was then ready to add the zip-top bags.  I used an extra long pot holder, with regular sandwich-sized bags. I used 10 bags. I was taught to use double-sided sticky tape to hold the bags in place while sewing.  The sewing machine was less impressed by this awesomeness, not being a fan of the stickiness.  In the future, I would use the sticky tape outside of my sewing area to hold the bags in place.  The bags went with the bottoms towards the middle of the pot holder.  I find it difficult to explain the alternating pattern of how I layered the bags.  Let's say that below is how the pot holder is sitting. (The "O" is the loop of the pot holder, used for hanging.)

[  |  ]o

I would place one bag with the zip-top side facing to the right (or the loop), the next facing towards the left (or the bottom of the pot holder).  The next towards the loop, then towards the left, etc.  I did this until all my bags were layered, with about a half-inch overlap.  Then I sewed a straight line (indicated by the line in my above snazzy drawing) right across where the zip-top bags were overlapping.  I put a ribbon over the overlapping portion of the bags and sewed again.  I felt like this gave the bags a little added support.

There are a couple of ways to determine how to close the first aid kit.  One is to sew a large button on the opposite side of the pot holder loop, and then put the loop over the button to hold it closed.  I chose, instead, to sew a ribbon onto the side opposite the loop.  To close the kit, I simply tie the ribbon through the loop.  

Assembly of the Kit

This is the easiest part.  Put into it the things you want to have on hand in case of an emergency.  Keep in mind any allergies you, your family or friends may have.  For example, my kit had latex-free band-aids in case of a latex allergy.  I had butterfly sutures in the kit as well.  Not all of my kit was entirely cuts and scratches related, however.  I did have hard candy and cough drops, in case they would be needed, as well as change and a needle and thread and buttons.  This is a kit for a commonly carried backpack, so I wanted things in it that would be used.  I typed out everything that went inside my kit and put this in one of the handy bags, too, to help keep track of the kit contents.

And this is the finished product.

Pretty? Maybe not.  Useful?  Definitely.