Thursday, December 30, 2010

Modern Quilt for a Sister

 I can finally share the project I've been working on most of December. This was a surprise for my sister for Christmas and since she's been known to lurk around this blog from time to time, I didn't want to tip my hand in any way.  And it worked. She was totally surprised and, I think, happy.
And well she should be. I only promised to make a quilt for her almost 2 years ago. We picked a bunch of the fabrics on this trip to Carmel in Feb of 2009.  She has been very patient while other projects have been finished, but hers had languished in a pile of scraps under my cutting table. (Although she hasn't been totally neglected - I did make this sunshine-y quilt for her toddler last winter.)
The pieced back.  I was wishing I had more of that big print (and frankly - I thought we bought more on that trip but it is no where to be found.) So I wanted to frame it on the back.  I used up the rest of the remnants from the City Girl collection as well.
The craziest part of finishing this quilt is that I actually quilted it myself.  In case you haven't figured this out already, I feel like the quilting part is my weakness when it comes to finishing a quilt. Usually I take my quilts to the lovely ladies where I work and they do a beautiful job for a very lovely price.  But this time I was determined to do it myself.  (I've been practicing more lately on the Halloween quilt and the Robot quilt.)

Because I have never attempted anything bigger than a baby quilt on my own machine (and I HEARTILY salute all of you who work magic with you machines on giant quilts!) I took this one to quilt on the long-arm machine. I am scared of free-motion quilting (actually, I've done it, but I think my FMQ skills are so stinky) so I went with the straight line look.  I was terrified of ruining the quilt and by the time I was finishing the machine and I were practically in a rumble, but by the time I bound the quilt and washed it, I was pretty dang pleased. In fact - I kind of love how the quilting looks in the solid brown on the back.  I'm tempted to try it again. One day. When I can make peace with that machine again.
I took these pictures on Christmas Day afternoon (sunny, no snow and in my shirt sleeves while my boys were running around in the driveway wearing ninja masks and head lamps that they got for Christmas) minutes after it came out of the dryer and before my extended family was going to show up at our house for a party. Whew! 

The weather today couldn't be more different: cold, wind, and SNOW. I have finally reached the point in my life where I could officially live with out snow.

Computer update: I am still limping a long a bit.  RIP old computer.  We got something new (yay!), but I don't have any of my files.  Hopefully today we can restore our old files to our new machine and I will be up and running at full speed again next week. Fingers crossed!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Technical Difficulties

technical difficulties Why Is ESPN2 Experiencing Technical Difficulties With EPL Games?

We are currently experiencing technical difficulties here.

I wish I had some nice elevator music I could play for you.

Good news: I got my first ever ipod for Christmas! Yay!


Bad news: somehow downloading everything + my total technological un-savviness + a somewhat decrepit computer = very strange/non-functional behavior by said computer. (I am borrowing my husband's laptop tonight.)

But I shall return, hopefully soon.  And share the how-to's for the pre-Christmas bags and one of my new favorite quilts that I made as a surprise for my sister's family for Christmas. Yay!

In the mean time, please stay tuned. (And keep enjoying all those Christmas goodies you have stashed in various strategic hiding places. At least that's what I'm doing.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

May your days be Merry and Bright . . .

 Merry Christmas 2010 to all you people!
It's been a lovely Christmas here. We've visited with Granparents and cousins, built multiple lego creations and stuffed ourselves silly, among many other good things. I hope it's been equally happy where you are.
And now we enter one of my favorite weeks of the year - the week between Christmas and New Years. The gifts are given, the cards are sent and the lists are checked-off. This is when I thoroughly enjoy the season - with nothing hanging over my head. Monday we're going to go to Temple Square (pictured last year).  We're going to enjoy a slower pace, more time to play, and more holiday food.

PS Happy Boxing Day to all you lucky folks who get to celebrate Boxing Day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Those final Christmas projects

 Finishing up those last Christmas presents. I think I'm going to make it! 
 Some are turning out even better than I thought 
(including some that can not be shared publicly at this time.)
Some are not. (This is not gingerbread.) Just keeping it real.
Nevertheless, our cookie making has been mostly successful. These are the cookies my 4-yr-old decorated for his Sunday School teacher. I'm always tempted to make them myself and have them look "classy" (hah). Then I remember that it would be even better if I actually let the children participate. And it's okay (if not even more awesome) if they look like they were decorated by a 4-yr-old. My favorite is the angel that looks like a ghost.  I wonder what Martha's projects would look like if she allowed more 4-yr-olds in the studio . . .

Best wishes with your own final projects!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Crafty Gift Ideas

Can you believe it is the week before Christmas?? How did this happen? So here is that list of some last minute Christmas ideas for you! 

Bags can be a quick project and always a useful gift. Both of these bags come together really quickly:
I'm in the middle of making some new bags as gifts for my daughter's friends using the FQ bag as a base. (When/if I get them done and get pictures in time, I will share how I did that later this week.)
Last year was a little bit tight financially for us - we'd just bought a new house which was an excellent Christmas present for one and all, but since kids seem to like something to unwrap under the tree, I came up with some quick handmade gifts, maximizing one of the resources I had a lot of: fabric.
And aprons.
Another potentially cheap gift (if you've also got lots of fabric scraps) would be a fast 
quilt-as-you-go table runner. Tutorial here.
A quick gift for friends who sew (or to hold paper clips, etc for teachers and other friends) would be the magnetic pin dish. Takes just minutes to finish this one.
Last year my favorite quick neighbor gift was the ingredients for this pretty and delicious smelling stove-top-potpourri from Calli at Make It Do. I just put everything in a cellophane bag and tie with a pretty ribbon. I took some as a hostess gift last Saturday and I love having some simmering on my own stove. Calli even has a perfect tag attachment ready to print.
Plenty Of Crafty Gift Ideas In This Month's Crafters Medley
Finally, Tipnut.com has a great list of Crafty Gift Ideas 2010

Tipnut's Crafty Christmas

Hope that provides some helpful ideas!

I'm looking forward to this week. My kids are out of school as of today, so I got most of the running around, Santa's helper stuff done and out of way last week. This week I'm hoping we can just make cookies, finish sewing projects, visit friends, and get the house presentable for Santa and all the family coming here on Christmas Day.  The fact that it's snowing makes me want want to just hunker down next to the fireplace eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough and snuggle.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Retro Christmas winner!

First off, thank you so much for the kind quilt and blog love. 
I really wish I had retro fabric to share with everyone.

And now, the winner is #52: Amanda (who makes such pretty things!)
Yay!

And since I'm feeling in a Christmassy-mood
I've marked the pattern down to $4.50 until Christmas.
You can buy it here (click Buy Now) or in my Pattern Shop.


And don't feel guilty if you don't get it done for this year. Christmas seems to come so fast these days, you can save it for the next one!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Super easy Superhero Cape Tutorial

Today's idea is an EASY (and cheap!) almost no-sew (just one easy seam) Superhero Cape. You could make a bunch of these as gifts for friends or party-favors in an hour.

The inspiration for this tutorial came at the beginning of November. My 6-yr-old came home from school saying he needed a cape for "Superhero Day" at school.  Because he puts up with me sewing all kinds of other "un-useful" things I figured I owed it to him to at least make a superhero cape. But since the last thing any mom wants to hear the week after Halloween is "I need a costume" I wanted to make it as simple as possible.  When it worked I figured it was worth sharing and so the Lazy Mom Superhero Cape tutorial was born.
Because I don't have a serger and I felt strongly opposed to the idea of lots of pressing and hemming something that would only be dragged heaven-knows-where I went with the worlds easiest fabric. Fleece. I let my boys each pick out their own color - this was the first time they have EVER been excited to go to the fabric store.  

I used 3/4 yard. (You may want to get a yard for a longer cape on a bigger child.) Because the fleece is usually 60" wide, you will get two capes out of each peace of yardage. (I found it on sale for $3.99 a yard. That means each cape is between $1.50-$2!)

Open up the fabric. Measure a piece of string the length of the yardage (in this case 27") and tie the string to a marking pen. Tape the string at the center of the yardage. 
Using the pen as a compass (or protractor or something) draw a large half circle.
Shorten the string to 6" and draw a similar half circle at the top for the neck line.
Use scissors to cut on both drawn lines. Also cut on fold line (to end up with two capes. Or keep it one piece to make a cloak.) Finally, cut about 2" off both selvage edges.
Take a selvage edge, wrap around neck and measure for length
(you want it to be loose.) 
Trim unnecessary end. 
 Mark center of selvage collar and the neck end of one of the capes.
 Match centers and pin collar overlapping the neck of the cape by about 1/2".
Sew one seam to attach collar to the cape.
Attach velcro to the ends of the collar.
And yeah, you're done.

When I stop being lazy, I promised to sew a felt letter to the back of the capes, but I haven't got that far yet. 
In a short time, success. And I don't worry for a half a second about what happens to this superhero accessory because I can make another one in a snap.

Can I just say here how much I enjoy 4-year-olds? Especially this one. (He's particularly lucky because he gets Mom all to himself most days - none of my other previous 4-year-olds had it so good.) While sharing a particularly cozy, sentimental moment in front of the Christmas tree one morning he looked up at me with those charming blue eyes and responded, "Mom. I see tiny hairs in your nose." Not the response I was anticipating.

I honestly wish I could freeze him this way forever.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A little Holiday Giveaway

I'm kicking myself for forgetting to sign-up for the Sew Mama Giveaway Day this time around. But then I realized it didn't have to stop me from having a giveaway anyway - and this way it only goes to my regular 'peeps' as a thank you for kindly returning from time to time to this kooky little blog. :) (Even putting up with my whiney posts like the last one.)

So here goes: for this giveaway I am offering a free PDF copy of the Retro Christmas Quilt pattern (which is also available here) and to get you started on your own collection of Retro Christmas fabrics I have 3 fat quarters of retired Alexander Henry and Michael Miller retro Christmas prints.
You know the drill. Just leave a comment to be entered. And thanks again for being the lovely people that you are.

POST EDIT: Giveaway ends Saturday, Dec 18th at noon (MST). Winner announced Sat night!

This weekend I'm going to share a couple of last minute Christmas present ideas. See you then!

Monday, December 13, 2010

What the season is all about

My quilt as it currently stands to add to the 100 Quilts for Christmas.  It's pieced, the back is ready, I'm going to sew it together envelope style and let my girls tie it when they're on Christmas break from school next week. But I wanted to be able to link up today!


Today has been one of THOSE kinds of days. Trying to finish up Christmas errands on top of figuring out if I can fight the traffic citation I got last week. (Grr. The light was YELLOW! Seriously, I'm not just trying to weasel my way out of something. But I'm probably looking at Traffic school amidst all the other holiday hoopla.) The grand finale today was my poor child who threw-up in the car right as we finished the 30 minute trip to the dentist appointment we've already rescheduled twice. And now I'm wondering if we're in for a week of round 2 of pass-the-stomach-bug amidst a crazy schedule of class Christmas programs and parties.

But you know what brought me out of my funk? Two things:

1- whoever it was that took the time to make a Nativity scene out of Del Taco cups, napkins, straws and ketchup packets. It totally made me smile tonight. I even took a picture with my phone to share with you all and then dropped my phone, had to replace the battery and lost that most recent picture- which I just discovered. Rats.

2 - the opportunity to help some new neighbors (including a pregnant mom) who are technically 'homeless' with all their possessions stored in their new garage because they had to move out of their rental last Saturday, but the city won't give them an occupancy permit until some ticky-tack things on the new house are completed.  There's something about a pregnant woman in need of shelter in December to put things in perspective for you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Christmas Quilt

This quilt was made as a Christmas gift this year, but I can share it because I already presented it to it's recipients.  For years now I've wanted to make a quilt for my husband's parents, but I've had a hard time deciding on just the right quilt to make. In November I suddenly knew exactly what I should do. (I love when that happens.)
I had a little collection of nine-patch blocks made from Civil War-era reproduction fabrics. I pulled them together into a quilt that made me totally happy for many reasons.

First, I love the brown in there - gives the quilt some depth and makes it not just "Christmas-y."

Second, my in-laws live in Frederick, Maryland - right in the middle of Civil War battlefields and memorials, so a Civil War-inspired quilt seems fitting.

Third, whenever I think of Civil War and Christmas put together, I think of Little Women. I LOVE that book and the 1994 movie too. (Makes me cry every time.) Well, the first time I met my husband's family (when we were dating) my then-future-husband's younger brother  kept pointing to my hair (which was long at the time) and talking about "Little Homen". His mom immediately cracked-up and explained that he loved Little Women and we had a great bonding moment over that movie. I took it as a sign right away that I would really like this family. :)  And I was right.  We had a great time with them here over Thanksgiving and I was able to give them the quilt then. And I will happily add that it was joyously received.Yay!
I also love that this quilt came entirely from the stash.  I think the binding fabric may be my favorite of all.
And now, here we are almost half-way through December. I can't believe how fast this month is flying by. I keep trying to stop and savor the season. It's kind of not fair that as a kid, December seems interminable and Christmas takes forever to come, but as an adult the month passes too quickly.  WAY too quickly.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Easy Stocking Tutorial

Today I'm sharing a super EASY method for making lined stockings.

This little stocking is a festive way to hold gift cards, some treats, or any other small gift you want to dress-up a little.  The great thing about this method though, is that you can blow-up the stocking pattern and make stockings as big as you want by following the same, easy process. (And who doesn't sometimes want new, hip stockings to impress Santa?)

So start by printing the stocking pattern (click here for template) -or designing one of your own.  Fabric requirements need to be enough fabric to cut two stocking shapes from two different fabrics. For this size stocking you will need an 11" x 14" piece of fabric for front and back outside pieces and another 11" x 14" piece for front and back lining pieces.  (1 Fat Quarter would be enough for all four pieces, but they would all be the same.)
With wrong sides together, cut TWO stocking shapes of both your outside fabric and your cuff/liner fabric.  IMPORTANT: make sure your toe faces both directions for each fabric. (This is why matching wrong sides together will help you get pieces facing both directions.)
 Now pair up one outside fabric with one lining/cuff fabric with the toes pointing the same direction like this. (See picture above.) Match the outside fabric and lining fabric from each set right sides together and sew a 1/4" seam along the top of the two pieces. Open pieces up and press seam open. Repeat for back side.
Now match front and back pieced units right sides together with outside fabrics matched up and lining fabrics matched up. Center seams should match up too. Pin to hold two sides together. Leaving a space in the lining fabric for turning right side out, sew all the way around the outside edge of the stocking pieces (-where gray line is drawn.) Click on picture to see closer view.

I sewed a 1/4" seam allowance around the outside [polka-dot fabric] and 3/8" seam allowance around the green lining fabric, except the space left open for turning. This will help remove some of the bulk of the lining fabric. But if that's too confusing, just sew 1/4" for all.
Before you turn everything right-side out, cut notches in the curves - especially the toe. This will help the toe look nicer when finished.  Be careful not to clip through the seam.
On the liner side, clip the fabric close to the seam.
This will also help remove some bulk on the lining.
Now pull everything right-side out.  Carefully shape the outside part until the curves look good and press. Tuck the open ends into the stocking and topstitch the opening closed.
Now carefully tuck the lining inside the stocking.
Optional: Top stitch around the top edge for a more finished look.
Fold cuff down and carefully shape stocking.
Optional: add decorative trim if you want.  
I just used Elmer's Craft glue to put on some ric rac.

And you're done! I suggest making a practice stocking just to see how it comes together and I guarantee each stocking you make after that will get faster and easier. You could easily make a bunch in one afternoon.