Barely coming up for air...

I'm *still* in the throes of holiday crafting.  Yes, the holiday was yesterday, but I don't see my family until next weekend---so their gifts aren't done yet.  I can tell you that if I manage to finish them all, it would be a post-holiday miracle.

Anyway, I have tons of photos to share and projects to write about, but I'm just popping in to show off one thing, my advent calendar:

This is from a tutorial by Elizabeth of Oh, Fransson! on the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog.

I used a variety of fabrics and highlighted more prints than the tutorial suggested.

I also changed the seam allowance for the pockets so more of the background fabric would be seen.

I chose a loopy quilting pattern rather than the meandering stitch.  This is the first time that I've ever used a free-motion quilting presser foot. 

There is a lot of room for improvement in my quilting technique, but I'm still pleased with how it turned out.

I used Kei honeycomb dots for the binding.  Don't you just love a good dot fabric?

This was the first time that I ever hand stitched the binding to the back of the quilt.  It really does look invisible.

I hope your holidays were delightful.  We've been busy reading books, playing with trains, dancing to Bing and doing "dishes!"  Henry would rather roll up his sleeves and drag a chair up to the sink than play with his toys.  Silly guy :)

Toddler Gingerbread Houses!

Today we had two of Henry's best buddies over to decorate gingerbread houses.  They turned out so cute that I have to share pictures here.

Henry loved the sprinkles and tucking things into the chimney

Jonas liked the gingerbread bears and munching on the candy canes.

and we could hardly tear Oliver away
 from his "decorating" in order to eat lunch. 

Wishing you all of the joy of the season (and only 1/3 of the chaos!)

Mistletoe!! (and a tutorial to make your own)

For my 202nd blog post, I'm offering my second tutorial!  (the first one is here if you are curious)

One of my favorite parts of helping my grandma decorate for Christmas was hanging the "kissing ball". It was a plastic sphere of mistletoe with a ribbon and a cloud of glitter that it released each year.  Everyone agreed it was ugly, but it wouldn't be Christmas without the kissing ball in the doorway.

Well, this year, for my Potholder Pass Swap and my Trim the Tree Handmade Ornament Swap, I made a felt and ribbon mistletoe ornament to enjoy for the ages--minus the plastic and glitter.

How to Make it Yourself:

a small amount white/cream wool roving   
fine gauge wire
green felt fabric
thread and needle
wire snippers
paper wrapped thicker floral wire
floral tape
green ribbon
another ribbon for hanging

Step 1:  (no photos) Take a small piece of natural wool roving, hold it in rough ball, wet it in warm water and dish soap, rub the wool in between your palms in soapy circles while compressing the wool in your hands.  Check to see that your wool is making a spherical shape, keep pressing it and rubbing it in circles it until it is well-compressed and the shape you want.  Rinse the soap out and squeeze the ball in a towel to dry it.  Make 5 of them.  Finish drying the "berries" overnight.

Step 2: Cut 5" of fine gauge wire.  Fold and stick a piece of tape on front and back of wire.  Trim tape to a rough leaf shape.  Cut two matching leaf shapes out of felt.  Hand stitch along the edge of the leaf leaving a 1" opening along one side. (Do not knot starting end of your thread. Leave a long tail and you'll use it to tie a knot when you finish the leaf)  Tuck the taped wire inside, finish your hand stitching, then make a couple of stitches around the wire and tie the starting thread and ending thread together in a knot.  Make 5 or 6 leaves.

Step 3:  Thread a needle with cream thread. poke the needle through the white felt "berry", make only a tiny stitch at one end and go back through the felt ball with the needle.

Step 4:  Cut a 7" section of thick wire and trim the end paper off.

Wind floral tape on the end of the wire until the sharp end is covered, place the berry threads where you want them and tape them on tightly.  Tug on the threads as needed to get the berries snug to the thick wire.  Once the berries are taped on securely, trim the extra thread off.  

Keep winding the floral tape around until you get to the level where you want your first leaf.  Bend the leaf wire at the base of the leaf to a 30˚ angle. Hold the leaf wire tightly to the big wire and wrap the floral tape around both wires.  Then add your second leaf and wrap the floral tape tightly around that in the same manner. 

Snip the extra leaf wire off.  Then go a little further with the floral tape and add another berry.  Keep wrapping the floral tape tightly and trim the berry thread when appropriate. 

Continue in this manner until you add all of the leaves and berries that you want.

Step 5: Decide on the length of your stem and trim it with the wire snippers.  Add a ribbon loop to the end of your stem (for hanging the mistletoe) and wrap that tightly with floral tape.

Step 6:  Gently bend out the leaves from the stem since you will still need to add the ribbon wrap layer.  Then bend your stick-straight stem ever so slightly in many directions to add a 3-D natural look. 

Here is another angle to see how I positioned the berries and leaves all the way around the stem. 

Step 5: Lastly, you need to secure your ribbon to the top end with floral tape.  Wrap the ribbon tightly around the stem from top to bottom covering all of the floral tape and weaving around the leaves and berries.

One last bit of floral tape secures the ribbon at the stem end.  Then bend your leaves with curves and position them how you like them. 

Now hang it up and grab your sweetie for a smooch!

The most satisfying craft project EVER!

I am drowning in craft projects for the holidays.  Are you?  Just in case you are like me, I thought I'd share one of my recent projects that went really smoothly.

I dyed some playsilks for Henry.  These are 35x35" hemmed pure silk (from here), and kids use them for imaginative play.  They make lovely land or sea or snow playscapes.  They can be used for capes or scarves or blankets or for peek-a-boo. 

I used the procedure listed in this tutorial.  The tutorial calls for packets of unsweetened Kool-aid for the dye.  My kitchen smelled like piping hot Kool-aid with a tinge of vinegar for the night, but that was the only drawback.  Two sets of silks were dyed and drying in my basement and the kitchen was cleaned up within an hour and a half of starting the project.

The flavors and number of packets I used are listed below.
blue: 2-3 packets blue raspberry
green: 3 packets lemon lime and 1/2 packet of blue raspberry
red: 1 packet black cherry, 1 packet tropical punch
purple: 2 packets grape
orange: 2 packets orange (I'd use 3 next time.)


Have you done any satisfying (and quick?) crafting lately?  Do tell.

Deadline for Inspiration

Recently I joined a couple of holiday handmade/quilty swaps on flickr. The first swap was round 5 of Potholder Pass. This was a blind swap for one partner in which you send two holiday potholders and a handmade ornament. The catch was that there was only one month in between getting your partner's name and sending out your package.  I found myself smack dab in the middle of a bunch of highly talented quilter's without a clue for what I'd make.  Square in square block?  Wonky star?  Tree?  Snowflake?  eh.

Finally, I had a single spark 8 days before the deadline.

Here is my partner's inspiration mosaic.   I stared at it off and on for days.  Suddenly, the apple fabrics and the pear shapes and the leaves struck me, and I thought, "pear tree."  That immediately led to singing a part from the Twelve Days of Christmas, which led me to "partridge!!"  I knew I wanted details.  I didn't want to fit a vague bird on top of a tree on a small potholder.  

We've been doing a lot of reading to Henry about the alphabet and that led me think about alphabet books featuring one simple picture and a letter.  I then exchanged the letter "P" for a strip of pieced squares instead.  I thought the squares would tie the two potholders together best.

Then I drew my designs, and traced them onto freezer paper.  I heavily starched my fabric choices, ironed the fusible webbing on the back, ironed the freezer paper shape on the front and then carefully cut out each shape.  After that I peeled off the freezer paper, placed the pieces on the background fabric and ironed them to fuse. Lastly, I carefully appliqued each piece, adding the stem and the eye last. 

The bigger block was cut and the strip of squares was sewn on.  I used a square of recycled felt sweater for the insulating part of the potholder. Wool felt works great to keep your hands safe and it is flame resistant. I also love the texture of wool inside a potholder as opposed to the standard crinkly Insul-Bright.

To complete the potholders, I did some simple machine quilting around the designs and some hand quilting in the ditch between the design square and the pieced border.

Sometimes I just have to wait for the creative inspiration to strike and then roll with it.  I'm really glad I did.  These were hard to let go of. 

Next time I'll have to tell you about the ornament design that I made up and completed in just three days!  I might just pull together a tutorial for it, too.

A string of strings

A string block is one made from the skinny little bits of fabric that you usually can't use anywhere else.  Two of my bee partners for October asked for string blocks made from fabric they sent plus bits of fabric from my stash.

Here are the four 8.5" square blocks I made for mikamc.

The bright fabrics were a lot of fun to work with.  Doesn't that block scream "Summer!" to you?

Then I made a 12.5" square block for KnitterG in the May Moms Bee. She chose Nicey Jane fabrics in all of the colorways for her quilt.  I got to make a square with the cool blues and a little green.

Once I added a few fabrics from my stash, I fell head over heels for this block in this style with these fabrics.

I now know exactly what I'll be sending out in December for my Sew Easy Being Green Bee. I want a whole quilt just like this block.

Quilt squares in no particular order

Here are some of my quilt squares from the Sew Buzzy Bee. I laid them all out on my floor a week and a half ago and took a quick photo. These blocks came from the Netherlands, Atlanta, Buffalo, California, Michigan and Oregon (in addition to a few blocks that I made).

sew buzzy squares
If you click on the photo, it will take you to my flickr page 
and links to the other quilters that submitted blocks.

Since this picture, I've received blocks from Canada, from England and another from Oregon. I've also laid them out on my design wall in the approximate positions for the final quilt and put sashing around a few. I'm still waiting for one more block from Chicago. That one might be awhile, but I have plenty to work with for now.

My turn for bee blocks!

September was my turn for the Sew Buzzy Bee.  I had to design my quilt, pick out and cut up fabrics to send out and then wait not so patiently while they came in.  I'm waiting for one more set of blocks coming all the way from England, so I won't show you the blocks from my fellow bee members quite yet.

But!  I can show a lot of the process that got this quilt in motion.

First, I spent hours combing through quilting blogs and flickr groups to decide what I'd like to start with.  Here is my inspiration quilt.  I think it is a perfect way to allow my fellow bee members room for creativity, and for me to get blocks that I wouldn't have expected.

Then I had to pick fabrics.  I love color so much, that I had a really hard time weeding out different shades that I didn't want to use.  (I had a stack of red fabrics and a stack of white background fabrics that I rejected for the final draft.)  I took pictures of these fabrics on top of 4 different fabrics, and I sent those photos to three trusted friends to get extra opinions before deciding on a background fabric.  Finally, I settled on Kona cottom medium gray.

After cutting up the chunks of fabric to send out, I decided to try a few blocks in order to test out the tutorials.  I liked the blocks so much, that I had to stop so I could let my bee members have room to create.  I knew I'd have to make a number of blocks myself to finish the quilt.

I started putting the finished blocks up on my wall two days ago, and now I've sashed and sewn together four blocks.  It looks so cool that I almost can't wait to show you!

Letter to my son in the future

Dear Henry,

Today I came to get you after your nap.  When I walked in the room, you were busy sitting and woofing at your stuffed doggie.  You took one look at me and collapsed on your belly with your face in your hands.  You were hiding from me, but you were so delighted with yourself that you were kicking the bed with your feet and wiggling.  Then, suddenly, you arched up, smiled at me and said, "boo!"  Then we repeated the game three more times for good measure.  After that, I picked you up and found that your diaper had leaked.  I took off your pants and your diaper and you stood there, still boo!-ing at me, then promptly peed on the floor.  I put your diaper on you and you said, "poo."  I said, "pee."  You insisted, "poo," and I stood by, "pee," and we sweetly argued like that until you were ready to put your shoes on and then you said, "schloo."

I have never loved anyone this much in my entire life.

your mom.

Wait a second! Let's enjoy some fall right now.

After dipping into Christmas fabrics in my last post, I remembered that there has been a lot of fall celebration when I'm outside of the sewing room.

We went to the apple orchard for some picking:

We went to another apple orchard for various fall festivities:

And there were pony rides!! 

psst! he might be a cowboy for halloween if i can figure out how to do the boots. 
we don't have a horse to walk around the neighborhood, so good boots will be essential to the costume.

We've been scoping out the best pumpkins (here he is with Auntie Tina and Jody):
We've been playing at the park or on the backyard swing set nearly every day:

my dad helped me build this swing set.  i'll have to get pictures of the full set up 
once i'm done moving the flower bulbs and moving the sandbox.  this swing set is a HUGE hit!

And everyone has been wearing shoes.  Now that we have an avid walker and the temps are getting cooler, someone has learned how to say shoe, though it sounds like "schloo."
What are you doing to celebrate fall?

It's looking (a little) like Christmas

Liz in my It's Sew Easy Bee-ing Green Bee sent these holiday fabrics and asked for wonky log cabin or square in square blocks.  Looking at her inspiration gallery I could see that she liked a higher degree of wonk than I prefer.  I tried really hard to make these blocks more crooked and freestyle than I usually like.  And, it turns out that I really love them.  This design goes really well with the bright and fun fabrics.  What do you think?

My next bee blocks are out of some bright and springy fabrics. In fact, the only fall sewing I have in mind is for a Halloween costume for Henry, but I have a lot of planning to do before I attempt that. Until then, bring on the springy pinks and greens and the string blocks.  I'm not quite ready for more holiday sewing...yet.

More Bee Blocks

I mentioned the 3x6 Bee a couple of weeks ago.  Here are my last four blocks for this quarter.  I'm satisfied with how they all turned out, but this aqua and lime one was hard to send off.

Which one is your favorite?

Walking now.

walking, originally uploaded by quirky granola girl.

Ben took this video over the weekend. As of Sunday, he could take about a dozen steps with encouragement. Now he follows me from room to room to room. We are very happy and very busy.

Busy Bee

I don't think I mentioned this before, but I'm now in four quilting bees.  And, it might be excessive if it weren't so much fun.   I love having a reason (and a deadline) to sew something pretty all year long.  I get to play with other people's fabric.  I learn new techniques and try blocks that I wouldn't choose on my own.  I can ask questions of my other quilter buddies, and I see how other quilters turn some of the same fabrics into completely different blocks.
Have I convinced you to join in yet?

Well, I've been a very busy bee in the past two weeks.  First up is my third month for the Sew Buzzy Bee.  Here are two blocks for Simone in Canada, and she's making a quilt for her little girl.  These pink and yellow lemonade blocks (complete with fairies and princesses!) are just the thing for a four year-old.  Simone requested right angles only, and this is what I came up with.

Here are two of my six blocks for the 3 x 6 Bee.  In this bee we use our own fabrics and have three months to make blocks for six different partners.  Each partner picks the colors they want and you make the same style of block for each person.  I chose to do the Map of the States block.  The due date is the middle of the month, so you'll be seeing four more of these soon.

And this is my first block for It's Sew Easy Bee-ing Green Bee.  Tracy is making a quilt for her mom out of Asian style fabrics and requested log cabin blocks with a fussy cut of a geisha in the middle.

The final bee that I'm in is one that I started with my mom friends from ravelry.   The May 2009 Moms Bee has slightly looser date deadlines since we each have a toddler running around at home.  Jessica asked us all to make star blocks with Good Folks prints.  I'm assigned two blocks this month.

Whew!  That is a lot of sewing photos. You'd hardly believe that I have my hands very full these days because Henry just started walking!!!!