Friday, February 26, 2010

Link Love for Friday


For my birthday, my husband is giving me the best gift of all: some alone, uninterrupted time to do whatever I well please. Alone, by myself, without a child tagging along. Did I mention alone? You know what a treasured commodity that is, in our busy stay-at-home mama lives! With this gift of free alone time, I have decided to go thrift store browsing. So excited!!

When I can't swing enough time (or uninterrupted focus) to productively go thrift shopping, I make up for it by surfing my favorite blogs and Etsy shops in stolen 5-minute increments. Does that sound familiar?! Here are my links for the week.

- Love this lotus blooms pendant by Madison Reece Designs

- And these jade green porcelain earrings by Dutch ceramic artist Suuskeramiek, swoon! Angel, I could totally see these on you.

- I really dig this quilt (and tutorial!) by the amazing Elizabeth at Oh Fransson! I think it's the warm combination of colors in the pattern.

- Speaking of quilts, Georgia's Quilt by Red Pepper Quilts is a lovely mix of traditional and modern, and really inspiring me to maybe make a quilt for my baby niece (who's already 4 months old, gasp!!)

- I am in awe of Astrid's skills and taste over at Connecting The Dots. Look at this super cute oil cloth apron!

- And, I'm sneaking one more in just 'cause I loooove her: check out Anna Maria Horner's receiving blankets. Oh, I may need to go splurge on some of her flannel...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Show and Tell: Ornamentea


Ornamentea is a cute little online shop I found last year when I fell in love with this Christmas wreath made from felted balls on the Pickles blog. Ornamentea is also a brick and mortar shop in Raleigh, NC (road trip!) and they sell all manner of things, from jewelry findings to adhesives and needle felting kits.

Here are a few of my picks from the shop (click on the photos to be transported to their online store):

Felted balls (many more colors and sizes in their shop):

Getting started with needle felting set:

Butterfly stickers:

Jen do you see anything that strikes your fancy in their shop? Some of the beads reminded me of you, especially the Elaine Ray Ceramics.

And, check out their tutorials here.

Jenny-mini-button Wow, you know me well. My jaw about dropped when I clicked on the link to those ceramic beads. GOR-GEOUS! Love, love, love. The bead caps, the pendants, everything! I'll have to check out their tutorials too. Those felt balls are awesome, I especially like their retro line. Prices aren't too bad, either! I had drooled all over that felted ball wreath at Christmas time too, so beautiful. Great spotlight, thanks for sharing!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Storytime Pillows



I forget if I told you that my mom gave me a quilt for Ben's big boy bed that used to belong to my youngest brother. It is a Pottery Barn quilt from about 10 years ago. The colors match a lot of the stuff we have in Ben's room, and it is definitely more big-boy-ish than all his old nursery stuff.


To go along with his new-to-him quilt, I thought I would make Ben some pillows. He loves books and especially looks forward to story time before his nap and bedtime. However, we are always super uncomfortable while reading him his stories. Some comfy accessories were in order! Fortunately, I had a couple more pillows stashed away, just waiting for new covers to freshen them up. I also had two navy blue plaid cottons saved up for this purpose.

I know I just posted about some simple pillow covers. Here, I challenged myself a bit more. I've been wanting to make a piping-edged pillow for a while. I looked up some tutorials and found a few helpful ones. I decided the second pillow would be patchwork with a border. Not sure where that idea came from! Hmmm. Maybe from the quilt itself that has little patches of plaid and fabrics here and there? Anyway. I drew some "blueprints" for both pillows in my little crafty notebook. Haven't done that much math since high school, whew!


I started with making the bias tape for the piping pillow. I stuck the cording inside and basted it with a loose long stitch on the sewing machine. Depending on the tutorial you look at, some people say baste close to the cording, others say baste away from it so the thread doesn't show on the finished pillow. With hindsight, I'd say basting closer is better, especially if you use a zipper foot (which I didn't, even though it turns out I have one, I had no idea! Anyway, I'm lazy, didn't change the foot.) to allow you to sew closer to the bulge the cording makes. My piping ended up being a bit loosy-goosy as a result of basting away.


I pinned the piping around the pillow top. Clipped notches in the bias tape around the corners. Sewed around all that. The corners were not fun, I almost sewed over the cording a couple of times (maybe I did once or twice...) and came dangerously close to breaking the needle. But other than that, it was fine. I put the back fabric right side down onto that, pinned, sewed around again as close as I could to the piping. Done. I'm pretty happy with it!


For the second pillow, I selected two complementary fabric to add to the dark blue plaid I was working with. I went for light blue and retro prints, one with white dots on blue, the other with little kids playing sports. I cut and assembled them and made the whole square 1.5 inches (+ seam allowance) wider on all sides than my pillow form, in order to make my border. There are tutorials online for making "real" borders with mitered corners and all that fancy stuff. Not for me! We do it the half-ass way around here!


I added a square of cotton, repurposed from old bed sheets, to the back of my patchwork piece, and quilted that double-layer top with 3 straight lines per print. Using a fabric-washable marker helped quite a bit, though I did wing it on the plaid and used the lines in the print. Woo! Looking back, I should have used a thread more contrasty than white. You can barely see that the pillow is quilted unless you look at it reeeeally closely.


After attaching the back of the pillow, I flipped it inside out and ironed the whole thing nicely flat. I then top-stitched 1.5 inches from the edge all around the pillow cover, creating that border I was mentioning earlier. I think it turned out really nice! If you were going to take the pillow form in and out of the pocket a lot, like for an actual pillowcase, I would make sure and backstitch a couple of times over the openings when creating the border. I forgot to do that -- but aside from the occasional juice, pee or puke spilled on the pillow, it probably won't need to go in the wash that often. I can always fix it if it comes apart. Or make a new pillow cover!


Here are the two pillows on Ben's bed, along with two friends my mom made for him last year (aren't they so cute?!). The very very very best part of this project is that my little munchkin loves his pillows dearly. He was so excited to discover his very own "pi-yow" and ran to his bedroom to set them up on his bed. He plays with them all the time. I'm sure you must get the same reaction from Ian when you make him stuff! This was my first time experiencing that handmade joy, and I loved it!!


Did you tell me you were going to make some pillows soon? What projects do you have in mind?

Angel-mini-button Jen those pillows look great! Can you do a post on making the bias tape sometime soon? I bought some bias tape makers and have yet to use them, mostly because I don't understand the "bias" part of "bias tape". I've been buying mine pre-made from PurlBee, they have some Japanese bias tape made out of the loveliest fabrics. But it is expensive!

That quilt is a find, I don't love all Pottery Barn's stuff but that motif and the muted colors fit Ben's personality so well. Your mom is a super shopper! We need to get her on here for some thrifting tips.

I am going to make some pillows soon too, I want to make a long pillowcase for an old body pillow I have leftover from being pregnant. My idea is to use it on Ian's top bunk so I can turn it into a little reading area/hideout for him. More on that later!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mushroom hat from Purl Bee


Mushroom Hat from Purl Soho

I'm finally sitting down with a cup of coffee to write this, as the baby and the husband sleep. Ian spent the night with a friend last night, having only one kid at home is like a little vacation! But I wanted to tell you: I finished my hat! Yay! It only took me about three times as long as finishing yours. The reason? The pattern somehow got moved from where it has been for the last three months and for the life of me I couldn't remember where I'd put it.

I can't tell you how many times I walked past this hat, 3/4 of the way done. I moved it around the house many times: the fireplace mantle, the bookcase, the floor (!) from sitting with Silas. I'd pass it, and think "Oh, it's going to be awesome when that hat is finished. Too bad I can't find the pattern." (And then proceed to waste 30 minutes on the computer looking at craft blogs. Oh the irony.) A few days ago I had the earth shattering revelation that if the hat was going to be finished, I was going to have to find the pattern and take the time to finish the project. I seem to have a mental block when it comes to finishing what I start. This is why I have a pile of unfinished projects and my craft area looks like this:

Angel:  Can anyone find the sewing machine?

(I took that photo a few days ago, it's actually even worse now since the husband has propped his mountain bike right on top of a huge pile of felted sweaters.)

Believe it or not, in all that mess it only took me about a minute to find the pattern. I think that all these years of living with a perpetually messy craft space has given me a sixth sense when it comes to finding things I've misplaced. My hand was magically guided to the bottom of those faded, purple curtains you see in the photo, somehow the pattern had ended up underneath them on the table. I swear, one day I will be organized. I think.

Anyway, I finished it just in time! You know we've had a rough couple of weeks with the baby teething, all of us sick, snow days that have meant canceled Mother's Day Out for Ian and discovering Silas has a dairy allergy (I've lost five pounds in one week! I guess that's what happens when you don't use a pound of butter per week. Ahem.) I needed a little pick me up, something to make me look a tad less haggard when I picked the boy up at school. And, this means I can finally move on to something else! So, without further adieu, here's my new hat!

Angel:  Mushroom Hat

What do you think? I am in love with it, it fits over my buns/braids/ponytail perfectly.

I do love to knit, it is the ultimate couch activity. And this pattern, once you get the hang of it, is so simple that you can pick it up and put it down again quite easily, like if a diaper needs changing or there's been a Lego catastrophe or you have to do something tedious like start dinner.

I will say, somehow I added an extra row or two to each round and ended up with a quite tall hat, I was not yet at the "six repeats" stage and the hat was looking more and more cartoonish with each round I knit. So I made the executive decision to skip many of the extra rounds that followed the decrease rows. That was partly because I was ready to get it over with already, and partly because if I had continued on as the (wonderfully written) pattern suggested it would not have looked right.

For yours Jen? I followed the instructions exactly. And as I wrote to you in the card I enclosed with your Christmas box, I spent many mornings sitting next to baby Silas at 5 a.m. working on your hat. It was a sweet, special time for me, watching him play with his HABA teepee toy while I knitted (knit? which is right.) away, trying to meet the deadline for mailing it to Seattle. I rarely knit the same project twice (unlike sewing projects) because I get bored easily. But this one? It turned out too great and I loved the yarn too much to not make this hat for myself. Plus, I figure the memories of making your hat were woven into my hat, too.

Here's a little bit more info on the yarn: The yarn is from Sheep Shop via PurlSoho, I'm noticing now that the colorway I used for my hat is not available any longer. It was the "Spring" shade, a lovely blend of pink, soft blue, apricot, cream and violet.

Yours is the "Lime" shade. It is handpainted yarn from Uruguay, 70% wool and 30% silk, and it makes for a wonderful knitting experience. The yarn is sturdy, but not itchy. I love knitting with variegated yarn, it keeps my interest more than solid yarn. It wasn't cheap, but that's ok with me. I don't buy new craft supplies often, opting for thrifted/recycled stuff more often than not, and I plan to get many years of wear out of this hat.

How do you like yours? Are you still wearing it a lot? If we still lived in the same town I'm not sure I'd have knit us the exact same hat, but since you're across the country in Seattle I like to imagine us both reaching for our Mushroom hat as we head out to face the day.

Here are the specifics:

Mushroom Hat pattern

PurlBee (this is one of my all time favorite project blogs, they consistently have amazing tutorials and patterns)
PurlSoho (one of the best collections of fabric, yarn, notions and patterns online)

Maybe you can share the photo of you wearing your hat?

Jenny-mini-button Oooh, I love it!! It looks great! It's funny, the different yarn colorways give the hats really different personalities. I'm glad you gifted yourself with this little treat after a rough couple of weeks. (5 pounds?! Dude.) Doesn't it feel good to make something for yourself? Which reminds me. When is the last time I did that?... Here's a pic of me in my hat.


Sorry I'm not smiling, I was trying not to drop the camera. I love my hat so much! Growing up, I never wore hats. I think it was fear or ridicule or something crazy like that. It took me a long time to get over it and venture out with something on my head. In adulthood, I've learned to love hats and this is the first one I own that is cute, cool, functional, handmade with love: the perfect hat!

It's been really nice and warm in Seattle lately so, after being worn nonstop for the last month and a half, the hat has been patiently waiting to be picked up again these last couple of weeks. It's only 34F outside right now, maybe today is the lucky day?!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Show and Tell: Flea Market Fancy


I think I have an unreasonable lust for some fabrics. For example, the prints from Denyse Schmidt's Flea Market Fancy collection. I don't even know the name of this exact print I own. I just know I love it love it love it. And that it is now out of print.


I love the choices of colors, the happy combination it creates, the clean lines of the pattern, the modern yet vintage-y feel of the whole thing. Yum!

I bought this fabric in Nashville, 2 or 3 years ago, for a baby quilt project which I ended up never making. I got 1/2 yard in blue, and 1/4 yard in green. Since then, I have held on to these pieces like they are gold. (And considering the mad love for this collection, everywhere you look online, I may not be that crazy.) I have dished out little pieces here and there: I cut one for a fabric ball for Silas, I used a few scraps for a couple of sentimental quilt squares, and a few other "important enough" projects.

Angel, the fact that you received a fat quarter of this print (in blue) lovingly cut from my stash for Christmas should tell you very clearly how much you mean to me!


Angel-mini-buttonI am saving this for something lovely around Christmas time, something that stays in this house instead of being given away. I love it! I need to check out some of Denyse's books, quilting intimidates me but she is so very inspiring.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bedroom Pillows


I made pillows! Super easy pillows!


When we moved from Nashville to Seattle a few months ago, we downsized from a country house to a city apartment which we are renting. This means we cannot paint the walls or make major decor changes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Experiments in Containers



I wrote a few weeks ago about Maya*Made's fantastic pattern for burlap buckets. After making quite a few of those for friends and family, I decided to adapt the straightforward pattern to make containers specifically suited to our household needs: baskets for the kitchen and a large hamper-like container for Ben's dress-up clothes and accessories.

Let's start with the kitchen baskets. We have a big white shelf above our sink and kitchen counter. It is large, cumbersome and not very sturdy. We live in a fairly urban apartment which means little storage space. We needed light-weight containers to make use of that shelf. To maximize the space, I decided on 3 10x10 inch baskets.


I have a TON of burlap bags still, from my Craigslist find. I love the vintage and rustic look of containers made out of repurposed materials such as stamped coffee bags. I picked 3 different bags with varied prints and colors. I then drew my blueprints in my little crafty notebook. I made three basic changes to Maya's pattern: I made the bottom piece a square instead of a circle, I removed the handles and I made all measurements a big bigger -- except for the height which is slightly shorter.


Here are the finished baskets. Not too shabby, what do you think? With hindsight, I would have used stiffer batting. The regular cotton batting is a bit too soft and makes the baskets slouchy. I wish they held up a bit better.


Another thing I learned in the process is to leave the gap for turning my container on the less attractive or non-"featured" side. When I top-stitch the opening closed, I have a hard time going in perfectly aesthetic straight lines and it shows, especially when there is a print on the material.


The process was quite straightforward and since I (fortunately!) did the math right, the result was fairly satisfactory. The baskets are used daily, are holding up quite well and are a great conversation piece!


Now for the dress-up hamper... Calling it a fiasco may be an understatement!

I didn't have batting in the size I needed so I instead used a large piece of velvet that had been in my stash for years. I figured it was heavy weight, it would hold up well. Wrong!! But I'll get into that in a minute. I had leftovers from two fabrics that I'm using for other decorative aspects of Ben's room and decided to use those: a green canvas-type synthetic mix for the outside (I am making him roman blinds with that one -- and can I complain about how much I dislike sewing with synthetics? Yuck.) and a navy blue cotton plaid for the inside lining (planning on reading pillows out of that one).


I adapted Maya's pattern simply by making the container slightly wider and much taller. The handles are also a big bigger. Otherwise I followed her directions... well, as much as that cursed velvet let me.


Aside from making the sewing process an absolute nightmare (I broke 3 sewing needles, yes 3!!), the velvet ended up just weighing the whole container down so that it hopelessly collapses when empty. I should also add that I doubled up the velvet (really, what was I thinking??) and quilted this "batting" layer so that it would be as stiff as possible. It didn't help. (Note: I didn't take many pictures because the whole process was so unpleasant I didn't want to relive it by seeing my dismal handiwork in a picture show.)


When it's full of dress-up stuff, the container holds up okay. Ultimately, it serves its purpose so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm certainly not proud of it, but it lives in a corner of the room anyway, so it doesn't need to be a masterpiece. I'll focus on other projects for the time being and maybe reassess this one later on.


In summary: adapting patterns works -- and sometimes doesn't. It's all a learning process! Also, do not use velvet. It is evil. At least, do not count on it as adequate for batting purposes.

Make me feel better and share your own sewing fiasco story, would you? Or please share some good container tutorials!

Angel-mini-buttonDude, the kitchen buckets are so cool! I am impressed by your ability to adapt the pattern. I need to take more risks and be willing to "fail" more in my sewing. I hope you've sent Maya*Made a picture of your update, I'm sure she'd love to see it!

As far as the dress up clothes basket, I don't think it looks as bad as you think it does. Don't you think that you're always hardest on your own creations? And the reality is, not everything is going to look perfect. Like you said, it serves its purpose and the dress up stuff is not strewn all over the floor anymore, and that's not too shabby!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just Do It


Don't worry, I am not trying to make a sports metaphor. I just had a good crafty day yesterday. Why, you might ask? Because I listened to the little pep-talker in my head that said "come on, just do it" and I did.

This might not seem like an incredible feat, but for me, it is. Like you, I am a stay-at-home mom who has had a difficult time with the lack of structure that comes with life with young children. We've talked about this before: it makes finding time for projects a challenge, amplified by the need to strike a balance between necessary and fun projects. The conscientious part of me feels like I should prioritize the to-do list projects over the purely creative ones. As a result, I drag my feet (because really, who wants to hem curtains?), waste time on the computer instead, and don't get much accomplished.

I have a list a mile long of projects on which I should work, and while these projects should take priority whenever I have a free moment, I decided yesterday to let my creativity guide me and "just do it". I've had the increasing itch to try some log cabin quilt squares recently. A few bags of colorful fabric scraps have been gathering dust in my fabric cabinet -- some are mine from leftover projects, and some I scored from my mom. They've been beckoning me for weeks, I decided it was time to answer!


Toward the end of Ben's nap, the moment of the day I usually panic at the thought of everything I'd still like to get done while he's sleeping, I realized there was enough time to at least figure out the first steps in a square and/or quilt project. "Just do it", I thought. So I laid all the scraps out on the dining room table. After debating for a bit where and how to begin, I decided to make some large squares on a color theme. (I think the idea came from seeing the Paintbox Quilt Along posts and photos on the ever-inspiring blog Oh Fransson!) You gotta start somewhere! I then organized all the scraps according to a general color range.


To begin, I picked orange -- again, an arbitrary choice I pushed myself to make. I selected several scraps that fit that color scheme and cut small and large rectangular pieces as I went.


I started with 2 pieces that I sewed together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance; then turned the piece sideways and added a 3rd piece to border those first 2; then turned the piece sideways again and added a 4th piece to border the previous assembled pieces; and so on. While I tried to keep seams straight, I wasn't specific about measurements. I just added variously sized pieces to create a large square, then trimmed the finished square to roughly 10 x 10 inches. In less than an hour and a half (with Benjamin running around by that point), I had two awesome orange-ish squares!


Now that my square-making journey has begun, I am envisioning a large lap quilt with various color squares bordered and sashed with natural linen. I was inspired to come up with this idea by Red Pepper Quilts and I Heart Linen, two fantastic blogs! I am not sure on the backing and binding yet, but let's not put the cart before the horse!


I am so excited about this! Seeing these two finished squares laying on the table was such an affirmation for me that I can get something rolling, even with 20 minutes of free time. From that first step come small accomplishments, which little by little, add up and end up feeling quite satisfying. I am going to make a point to apply this "just do it" philosophy to all my projects -- the fun and not-so-fun ones -- and I'm hoping it'll lead to increased productivity on my part. And for me, productivity equals fulfillment.


What do you think of this "just do it" philosophy? I know there is plenty of stuff on your crafty to-do wish list. Can you let go of mental and practical restraints and just do it? In 5-minute increments between nursing a hungry baby and doing 3 loads of laundry? Come on!

Angel-mini-buttonI've definitely come to appreciate the "just do it" philosophy. With two small children that's the only way to get anything done! In my case, with my disaster area of a craft space, it's not helping me much at the moment. At least not with projects. Time for a complete overhaul of my space, I'll take pictures as I go along so I can get some input.


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