Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A few Christmas gifts

A few pictures of Christmas gifts for my girls.
After buying a new house and paying for all the extra stuff a new house needs,
I didn't want to spend a lot of money this Christmas.
(Plus, I like keeping expectations simple and not overwhelming my kids with "stuff.")
Not that we didn't buy our kids some gifts, but I was also interested in
creating gifts from things I already had on hand.
Like fabric scraps.
And because it's fun to make stuff.
So I made a couple of notebook covers for each of my girls.
Here's the back.
This was super easy and a really fun way to use up those scraps.
Click here for the pattern link.
(The one thing I changed is instead of squaring up the pieced front and back to 10 1/2" x 15 1/2",
I squared up to 10 1/2" x 16")

My almost 11-year-old has been using a pink plastic Hello Kitty wallet
for the past 7 years or so and has really been wanting a new one.
And I kept telling her not to buy one because I would make one.
Well I finally did.
And I'm happy to report that she really liked it.
(Her favorite colors are light blue and green right now.)
Tutorial found here. Another really quick and easy one.

Christmas has been fun. I've eaten way too many sugar cookies,
kept my kids up late too many nights in a row,
got poked in the eyeball by a plastic helicopter on Christmas morning
-all things that usually have negative consequences, unless it's Christmas,
when it's all part of the hoopla.
You just roll with it.

I love this week between Christmas and New Year's.
It's when I enjoy the music, lights, and food of Christmas, without the stress.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day.

I hope you're enjoying all the magic of the season.
Tonight we went to see the lights at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
I'm looking forward to posting about some new projects early next week.
If the fates allow.
If not, we're enjoying our break and I hope you are too.
I'll see you soon!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Enjoy what makes this season so special.

My favorite painting from the National Gallery, London.

This is another more recent favorite - so cool.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It's almost here.
Today I hung the stockings by the chimney with care.
We have a fireplace for the first time in our married career and I love it!

This is the stocking I received at my birth lo these many years ago. (mid 1970's.)
Sixty years ago my mother received a stocking like this from her grandmother Naomi Dagmar (how's that for a fabulous name?) who died only a few years later. This great-grandmother of mine started this tradition, knitting stockings for her posterity. When she passed away, my great Aunt Daphne took over the tradition and knit stockings as wedding presents (when someone joined the family by marriage) or baby gifts. My Dad and all my siblings have one. After my marriage, my mom polished her knitting skills and started knitting stockings for all the sons-in-law and new grandchildren. She's on stocking number 12 now. I love this tradition and I love these stockings! I think they're my favorite part of Christmas nostalgia.

I'm curious about the history of this pattern. My aunts have them and one of my aunts is over 70. One time we came across another family who had the same stockings in their family. Has anyone else out there seen this pattern before?

Other fun Christmas stuff: last night we visited an older couple from our last neighborhood. The wife had some amazing vintage felt creations from her past. One was a gorgeous tree skirt from the 60's in mint condition. It was extra fun because the colors were so current: gold, turquoise, magenta, lime green. I was dying that I didn't have my camera. Next year I'm going to get a picture! She also made these little ornaments for each of my kids. The felt is so soft! I'm sure it's from her own vintage stash.

I have been going pedal to the metal sewing final projects for Christmas presents and I'm having so much fun! (When I get a quiet minute.) Can't show any finishes yet (can't spoil the surprise!) but here's a little sneak peak of one.

And here is today's view. Couldn't see any mountains today.
We got a good dusting of fresh snow just in time for Christmas.
Tomorrow is the first day of vacation.
I dream of sewing in my pajamas with a cup of hot chocolate next to me.
I'm sure reality will be drastically different trying to keep a bunch of hyper-anxious kids entertained
during the most impatient-kid-drama-too-much-sugar week of the year.
Hopefully some cozy time on the couch, wrapped up in quilts,
watching Christmas movies will help us all.

I hope everyone else's final Christmas preparations are going well.
Any favorite pieces of Christmas nostalgia you have a spare second to share?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snowflake Pillow Tutorial

I was wanting some more graphic, modern-looking Christmas throws and had an idea.The story of this pillow starts here, funny enough.
I made this Halloween costume last year and had a much easier time sewing on the felt cross of St. George to the knight tunic than I thought I would. So as I was pondering my new pillow design, I remembered I had plenty of supplies left over from Halloween and decided to put them to use.
Here are the supplies I used: canvas, Heat N Bond, and red felt.
Also needed for finishing: stuffing (or pillow form) and backing fabric.

The canvas works really well - gives the throw pillow stability and shape. I used the cheap flannel this time. Usually I prefer wool, but the cheap stuff works really well for this project. (And, knowing these pillows will probably end up serving as a path over 'hot lava' or elements of various couch forts, I'll panic less knowing that these pillows weren't that costly.) I would also suggest HeatNBond on the heavier side. I used a light-weight one and it took some effort to get it to work with the heavier felt and canvas.

Here's the fun part: To start, cut your own snowflake. May I recommend a really simple pattern. It's much easier to cut and sew the felt if you don't have too many curves or windows. This is the snowflake I cut for the pillow above. I used an 8 1/2" square piece of paper, folded into sixths.

Once the snowflake is cut out and you're happy with the design, trace it onto the HeatNBond paper side.

Carefully press the traced HeatNBond onto the felt.
Cut out the snowflake.

Cut a square from your canvas. I cut a 14" square because I had a 14" pillow form.
Fold the square into fourths (creasing the folds) to find the center and stick in a pin.
Peel the paper from the back of the snowflake, fold into fourths and find the center.

Match the centers, using creases to line-up the points of the snowflake. Press the snowflake, adhering it to the canvas, careful to keep it centered and flat. (I used the smooth side of the canvas.)

Using coordinating thread, top-stitch around all the edges of the snowflake to give it a finished appearance and to permanently secure the snowflake to the canvas.

Choose a cute, coordinating backing fabric and cut it the same size as the canvas top. Put right sides together and sew around all edges, leaving an opening big enough to stuff the pillow when turned right side out. Hand sew opening together after sufficiently stuffing the pillow.

This is such a quick project. I made three pillows in one evening. And you don't have to stop at snowflakes! I found some felt in shades of green that I liked and tried something else. Have fun. Be creative. And send me pictures if you make anything fun!

I couldn't resist showing the holly pillow backing fabric, because I love it so much. Cute little retro-kids from Michael Miller.

And finally, while I was taking pictures, my three-year-old wanted to share his nice airplane sculpture with all of you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Why does Christmas always come at the busiest time of the year?" and other important questions

Whew! Life's been a bit crazy!

You too, huh?

First off: the lucky numbers from the magic Random Number Generator are #12 & #2!
(How's that for random?!)

Quilt Hollow gets the 'remnants' and Alisa gets the 'scraps'!

I'll be getting in touch with both of you today to get address info.
Yesterday my neighbor offered to watch my kids for 5 hours (we swapped - I watched her's last week) so I could finish my Christmas shopping. FEELS SO GOOD TO BE DONE. Between that, post office runs, excel spreadsheets, piano lessons, and a Christmas dinner party last night I've had no time (unless I was playing accountant) to sit at the computer. Or sew. But now, all that stuff is done. I was so excited to just stay home today and fold laundry and clean my bathroom (really!) And listen to Christmas music. And eat Candy Cane Hershey Kisses. And make snowflake pillows!

Tomorrow I'll finally publish how. (When you see it, you're going to think, "this is so anticlimactic.")
And finally questions:

First: Does anyone know of a cute, simple A-line toddler dress pattern? I'm having a hard time finding a good one.

Second (from my 5-year-old): "Mom, why does Elvis live at the North Pole?"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Feeling gifty

So last night as we were going to sleep my husband tells me,
"Oh, by the way, Tuesday morning I'm going to the accountant
so I'm going to need all of your financial information for your business stuff over the past year."
So instead of publishing a tutorial, I've been playing with Excel spreadsheets today.
(Just what everyone wants to do during the Christmas season!)
I feel like I'm doing a bit of a bait and switch. Sorry.
Watch for the tutorial Tuesday afternoon. :)

This is one of the quilts of Christmas past.
I made this 3 years ago from 3 Sister's Mistletoe Manor for Moda collection.

I had a bunch of scraps left over so I made this tree-skirt last year.
And yes, it still needs a binding.

And guess what else I found?
A bunch more of the scraps left over.
I keep thinking I'm going to make something with them,
but I'm not.
It's time to let them go.
These are small remnants,
but there's probably enough to piece a quilt top from them.
So if you want them, let me know.
If more than one person wants them, I'll use our favorite random number generator.

And there's a second set. These pieces were all left over from cutting kits.
They're all roughly 8" x 3".
I'm going to get rid of this set too.
Let me know if you have a preference.

See you Tuesday!
In the meantime, I'll be pretending I know something about accounting.

And in other brilliant moves today, I forgot to hide the bag of Transformers (Christmas presents) I bought at Walmart before my 5-year-old got home from school. He was so excited when he saw them and slightly angry that I ran and grabbed them out of his hands. Oh well. Surprises are overrated sometimes.

Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Haven't had much to blog about.
Not that I've been sitting around, bored.

I just figured no one would really be interested in pictures of piles of Christmas cards ready to be sent
or stories of wiping up the water my 3-year-old spilled all over the gingerbread house we put together the night before.

But I'm totally in the mood to make stuff.
So last night, I did. And I thought I'd share.
I was wanting a more updated Christmas throw pillow.
This one was fun and quick.
(I'll share how later this week.)
It was so fun and quick, I'm going to make a few more for gifts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spoiled Rotten and the Christmas Spirit

Within the past weeks I received not one but two lovely parcels ['packages' for you yanks] from some very sweet British friends who took pity on me. Boy was I chuffed [excited]!! Especially because as a mum [mom] you rarely get surprises at Christmas time. (Unless you count the broken tooth and new crown (tooth replacement) that I'm getting for Christmas this year!)
These surprises were SO much more fun! The first was from Wendy in Chorley. Look at the adorable little bundles. The picture is terrible because I took it with my little camera right as the battery was about to die. But I couldn't wait for it to recharge - I couldn't resist opening all of those little bundles!
And here they are, minus the wrapping and some of the chocolates.
This little hand-crafted notebook is so sweet.
And check-out this haul of Cath Kidston goodness. Oh my heavens. I was giddy as I opened each treasure. The Buttons tin included some sweet Christmas buttons too. And as I'm posting this, I'm realizing that I don't have pictured the sweet heart ornament filled with lavender that my daughter insisted on 'borrowing.' Thank you again, Wendy! Wendy is an amazing mum with four kids, two of them with very special needs that she calls her angels.
Then, only a short time later, look what else shows up in my post box!
Another parcel this time from Katy
(who happens to be making my favorite spider web quilt yet!)
After seeing my love for Cath, Katy offered to send me this CK shopping bag also for Tesco.
I am going to have the most chic shopping bags in Utah!
But she didn't stop there.
She sent me some of her favorite cleaning cloths that are stylish to boot.
She said she'd even seen a quilt made from these cloths!
(How handy would that be!)
I can't wait to use mine.
One of my favorite British sweeties: Jelly Babies.
Gone before I even got out the camera.
And then MORE Cath goodness!
Is it weird that I love that paper bag as much as the spools of thread that came inside?
I might frame it.
I wish it were fabric.
More Cath treasures including this little Union Jack pincushion
that I was coveting on the back of the last CK catalog.
It must have called to Katy on my behalf.
Katy also included some little swatches of CK fabric which I am so excited about
because I've been collecting bits and bobs to make an homage to Cath quilt.
And now I can use actual Cath Kidston fabric in the quilt!

Many thanks again to my new British friends for their sweetness and generosity to a girl who is homesick for England. Especially at this time of year.

My favorite Christmas carol is "In the Bleak Midwinter", which I think is played much more commonly in the UK. It brings back sweet memories of the two Christmas seasons I spent in England. (Christmas really is extra magic there for some reason. Maybe it has something to do with Charles Dickens, Christmas Crackers, and the title "Father Christmas" which is so much more charming than "Santa Claus.")

The first Christmas season was at the end of my time as a student living in London about 14 years ago. On the day before I went home I walked by myself from the British Museum through Covent Garden to the Houses of Parliment. As I made my way through the festivities at Leicester Square, a brass quartet was playing Christmas carols and started to play "In the Bleak Midwinter." It was one of those sublimely Christmas-y moments compounded with the sadness of leaving this city that I'd fallen in love with. The second was two years later and in much-less glamourous [glamorous] Liverpool. Being away from my family for the first time ever on Christmas Day, I was given the gifts of love and kindness by many endearingly cheeky Scousers [Liverpudlians], in many cases at a sacrifice to themselves.

Can you tell I got a strong dose of the Christmas Spirit today (could be the giant piles of snow outside our door) and that it's making me wax nostalgic? Thanks for indulging me. Hope you're enjoying some cozy, nostalgic Christmas Spirit of your own. As well as some hearty Christmas goodies. And no surprise dental work.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas wool applique

I love wool applique. To me it's such a relaxing project. Just cut out the pieces and start tacking to the background. No turning anything under and you can take really big stitches and it's okay if your stitches show. :) And if you're working with the good stuff (100% felted wool) it's like sewing through butter.

Amy McClellan, the owner of American Quilting (the store where I work), is an amazing designer. Her creativity is limitless, I think. She has been designing wool applique patterns for the past six years. She started with these stocking patterns. At first there were only four options but people kept telling her they had bigger families and needed more options so she expanded to eight. I think these patterns are the all-time best seller at AQ. Then a couple of years ago she came out with a coordinating tree skirt. Gorgeous, I tell you.

If you love wool applique, go to the American Quilting blog to see the many Christmas patterns available. Amy's patterns are so well written and well done. You can call the store to order. (And if you call tomorrow afternoon, we might even get to chat on the phone!)

Some of the projects even come in kits! (They're not cheap because she only uses the really good, 100% wool, but they're worth it if you want the variety of colors, all ready to start cutting.)

Also for you locals:
(click on image to view bigger size.)
Two of my favorite events: the American Crafts warehouse sale. (Here's the damage from last year.) Lots of scrapbook-y stuff available, but I usually load up on ribbon and gift wrap. I also got a couple of leather bound albums for only $7 each. (My damage was not nearly as severe as last year.)

Also, I'm taking my girls to the Beehive Bazaar tonight. I love that thing. Not your typical craft fair - lots of funky, inspiring stuff!