Monday, January 31, 2011

Keeping track

You're probably wondering what's up with this blog.  And if you're not you should be. I mean, don't you think it's narcissistic the way I take pictures of every little thing I make, and then post pictures and go on an on about how I made it, what went wrong, where I go the fabric, and how much my floor needs mopping?  (Actually, I try not to mention that last one.  Maybe if I don't point it out, you won't notice.  Right?)
And you're right.   Blogging is a pretty self-indulgent hobby, and I admit I crave comments like a junkie, refreshing every few minutes until I get my fix  (which usually comes from Peanut).  (Thanks Peanut!)  Compliment fishing aside, though, this really is about me keeping track.  I keep track of what I've done, what I've learned, and how I did it, so I can do it again if I want to.  I can't tell you how many times I've made something and given it away without taking a picture, only to regret it later.  (Actually, I probably can tell you how many times I've done that.  THAT'S  how much I regret it!)  

I also keep track because maybe someday I might want to do something bigger with all this -- start a shop or get a job or something -- and a portfolio could really come in handy.  And I keep track because making and giving gifts is part of how I connect with people.  Thinking of the thing I made for you makes me think of you.  And I like you.  So there.
In between all the keeping track, if you find something that's helpful or inspiring or funny, well, I don't mind that one bit.  Feel free to tell me all about it, right down there in the comments.  Really.   Feel.  Free.

In the meantime, I got myself a little behind in the keeping-track department.    So here's are a project from way back in September.  It was quick and easy, and you should totally make one.  (For someone I don't know, of course.  Cause we don't want to show up with the same gift.  Awkward!)

It's a pampering kit for my friend, Kalie, who has 3 kids under 4, and really really deserves all the pampering she can get.

I covered a composition notebook with pretty fabric, and made a matching eye mask (based on this tutorial) and hot/cold pack (like this one, sort of).

Then I wrapped it up in a pretty box with a package of ear plugs and a scented candle, and took it to Kalie's "Pampering Shower"  (where you bring diapers or something to spoil the mom).
It would also make a nice get well gift, or swap things around a little and give one to your mom.  Or my mom.  Or anyone else who deserves to be pampered.

I think the notebook is my favorite part.  Since I happened to get a whole stack of composition notebooks for 10 cents each during back to school season, I whipped up another one for another friend's birthday a few days later.

I haven't started mass production yet, but it's really only a matter of time. 

Now, when's your birthday again?  Maybe I need to make myself a pretty notebook to keep track.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Two for Two

Remember the little strawberry blond cuties who turned one last year?  Well, time has a way of turning one-year-olds into two-year-olds.  

And two-year-olds have a way of carrying around purses.  

And I figure, as long as they're carrying around purses, they might as well be cute.  (The purses, I mean.  The girls are already cute, no question.)

And they (the purses) might as well match the dolls I gave them last year.  And they should be reversible (the purses, not the girls), because sometimes you're in the mood for flowers, and sometimes you like polka dots.
The recipients seemed to like them. (Caity especially.  Or was it Mady?  I used to be able to tell the difference.)  I was afraid they'd be outraged by the twill tape handles, a semi-homemade shortcut that helped me get them done quick.  But they hid their rage, and immediately started filling their new purses with random objects.  As two-year-olds have a way of doing.

Happy Birthday Mady and Caity! 

And because you asked so nicely, here's some completely gratuitous vintage fabric porn.  (Imagine the google hits I'll get from that one!)   The fabric, the ric rack and the buttons all came from the old lady stash.  Man, I love that old lady and her fabric hoarding ways.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Semi-Homemade Gifting

Semi-homemade gifting is like Sandra Lee's famous Semi-Homemade (R)* Cooking:  It's got its advantages, but it's not quite as good as the real thing.

Take this little diaper bag I made for my friend Lizzy, who gave birth to the sweetest little girl a few weeks ago.  (They christened her Rosalynd Ivy, a name that sounds like it belongs in my own family, where Roses and Ivys run semi-rampant.  (Don't believe me?  One of my grandmothers was named Ivy, the other was Bertha Rose.  An aunt who passed away during childhood was named Rosalee, and my own middle name is Rose.  Plus I have nieces named Rose and Ivy.  So, yeah.  It's not really my fault if I feel like Lizzy's Rosalynd semi-belongs to me.))

But back to the bag.  It's cute, huh?  And as you can see, it's got roses.  It's made from a vintage tea towel semi-stolen from the mounds of crafty semi-junk in the Relief Society closet at church.  (In my semi-defense, it was stolen with permission.  And everyone who was interested has had a chance at them at various semi-crafty activities.)
It's lined with vintage rose print fabric from the little old lady stash.  The pockets are from a fat quarter I bought at Wal-Mart more than a year ago.    Lizzy likes it because the larger pocket fits her Nook perfectly, a coincidence I'll happily pretend was my plan all along.

Here's where the semi-homemade part kicks in. The straps are cotton webbing, which is not quite as cute but a million times faster than fabric straps. I finished it off with an elastic loop and rose button closure, and was done in less than an hour.  Seriously.  Not the semi-hours I usually work in, where a 30 minute project takes 2 hours because of interruptions, blunders, and changes-of-plan.  No, this one, from start to finish, including cutting at the beginning and hand sewing at the end, came in under an hour.

So, while I do think it would have been nice to add fabric straps, or extra pockets, or ruffles, I'm happy with the end result.  These days, time is the thing I'm running short on, and the only way I'm going to get through my stash (and my to-gift list) before I move is to take some semi-shortcuts every now and then.

PS:  Just in case you're wondering, the not-homemade-at-all portion of the gift was a little bundle of onesies and a pair of ruffly pants plucked from a clearance rack in a moment of semi-weakness.  (Contrary to scientific opinion, the strongest force in nature is a clearance rack full of cute baby clothes.  It doesn't matter if they're the wrong size, season, or gender for your own child.  Sometimes, those ruffly bloomers just find their way into your cart.  You know what I'm talking about.  Admit it!)  It makes me happy to pass them along to someone who can use them.

*That's right, the phrase "semi-homemade" is trademarked!  Here's hoping I don't get slapped with a lawsuit for daring to type it in a semi-public forum.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


In the spirit of giving welcome baby gifts to 6-month-olds, here's a little something I just presented to a pretty little girl named Emma-Clair, who is so sweet she's cream filled.   And they call her "Eclair."  And I think that's just about the cutest thing ever. 

So I added a little eclair applique,

which Miles really liked.

That's his grubby hand right there, trying to pry it off the blanket.  Don't worry.  I stitched it on tight.
Like practically everything else that comes from my craft room, the story of this quilt began in the clearance bin.    I needed some new blades for my rotary cutter, and happened upon a chenille cutter marked down 75%.  I had no idea what I'd do with a chenille cutter.  But I knew it was cheap, and I figured it could cut fabric, so I brought it home with me.

Not long after that, I happened upon this tutorial on Aesthetic Nest, and suddenly the instructions that came with the chenille cutter made a lot more sense.

So here's how it works.  You layer several pieces of flannel (or other soft cotton)  and then stitch in parallel lines on the bias. 
Then when it's all stitched up, you use your chenille cutter to slice between the stitches.  And then you add embellishments, or whatever, and then bind it.  Then you throw it in the washer and dryer, and all the raw edges you cut curl up and get fuzzy.  The more you wash it, the more it curls.

The process is a little time consuming, but it's straightforward.  And actually kind of fun.  I used a set of flannel receiving blankets, so the finished quilt is pretty small.  I don't think I'd want to tackle anything bigger, cause I'm lazy, and even turning this little thing under the arm of my machine was a little cumbersome.

I do have one little tip I didn't see mentioned in any of the online tutorials I found.  Dana at Made (see her version here)  suggests changing your needle position to get the lines spaced evenly about 1/2 inch apart.  But I can't adjust the needle position on my machine, my presser foot was too narrow to use it as a guide, and I didn't want to have to draw lines to follow for the whole quilt.  So I added a piece of stiff tape to the bottom of my presser foot and lined the edge of the tape up with the previous line as I stitched each new row.    Like so:

After a while the tape started to curl up, and I'll admit I rushed things a bit, so the rows are not perfect.  There are other flaws too, but I won't bother pointing them out, because if that cute baby Eclair is anywhere nearby, I guarantee no one's gonna notice a few wonky lines and errant stitches.  They'll be too busy tickling her cream-filled belly, or gazing into her gorgeous chocolate eyes.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pimp My Pixar Character

When Porter's mom, Melissa, invited us to his Toy Story-themed-4th birthday party, I immediately thought of this fun vest, made by the cute and clever Jessica at Running with Scissors.   

I stalk lots of craft blogs, and frankly, most of them are kind of annoying.  I try to ignore the constant self-promotion.  I overlook spelling and syntax errors.  And though I'm puzzled by rAndOm capitalization, and saddened by apostrophe's that 'sneak in everywhere except where theyre 'supposed to, I can usually  get past all that to enjoy the pretty pictures and the clever ideas.   But the great thing about Jessica's blog is that I don't have to get past anything.  She inspires me without annoying me, and I like to think if we met in person we'd be friends.   That is, if I don't annoy her with all my hypercritical crafty and linguistic nitpicking.  

Now, where was I?  That's right.  Porter's birthday.  So, the kid likes Toy Story.  And I knew I could get my hands on a pattern for a Woody vest that promised to be easy.  And I knew I had this fuzzy spotted fabric that really looks more like dalmatian print than cow print but might work anyway.  So I set to work.

I printed out Jessica's pattern, and kind of eyeballed her general shape while I enlarged it out to fit my 6 1/2-year-old (who, because he won't eat his vegetables, is barely a smidge bigger than 4-year-old Porter).  Then I cut it out and sewed it together, and really was amazed that it was a 15 minute project just like Jessica said.  Except.  Except!  Except I didn't have any bias tape to finish the edges.  So I thought  "I'll just line it and make it reversible.  It can't take that long -- probably less time than making bias tape, right?" 


Turns out making a reversible vest is a titch more complicated than making a reversible purse.  You can't just sew one and then sew the other and then sew them together, or you won't be able to turn it right side out through the shoulders.  (Don't worry, I don't really get it either.)  So, I consulted with my spacial engineer (my husband), and unpicked a few seams, and added a western style fringe vest to the other side.  

Trouble was, adding the lining made the fuzzy material puff out, and suddenly, this whimsical kid's vest looked like Woody's vest after it spent a day on the set of Pimp My Pixar Character.  So I did some ironing and topstitching, and it all turned out OK in the end.

Still, maybe I should have just gone to the store for cow fabric and bias tape.*

Porter was a little afraid of it (me?) at first.    But he warmed up to it after his sister Addie showed him it was OK.

Look at her, showing off the fringe and the spots at the same time!  She's a natural!
Here's Porter, modeling the fuzzy side.

That's Sheriff Woody to you, Pal.

Anyway, despite its shortcomings, I think Porter liked his Woody (inspired) vest.   And next time, I know to just buy the bias tape.  (Or, as my spacial engineer suggested, a purple feathered cap, to go with the vest.)


* But I didn't, thereby earning me a million stash reduction points.  Since you asked (cause you did, right?), I've had the fuzzy dalmatian print for over a year.  I inherited it from a friend who cleaned out her stash when she moved.  The brown fabric is a velvety stretch knit I bought at Wal-Mart several years ago.  I bought 10 yards at $2 a yard, and hung it all up as curtains in my dining room.  After a year or two, I got sick of them there and hung them in my bedroom.  But they were too dark there, so I decided the next best thing to do with them would be to sew an Easter dress out of them.  Unlike some experiments in wearable window-treatments, this was a phenomenal craft fail.   On many levels.  But, on the bright side, that unshapely, unsightly, unworn Easter dress eventually became a Jedi robe for my husband.  And there were still many yards left to use on other projects, like Jedi cloaks.  I've also used it for more practical things, like concealing all the junk under my craft table, and covering cardboard boxes.  We're down to just 2.5 yards.  Do you think that's enough to give that Easter dress another try?