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 :)

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.

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.

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.

Big boy bibs

I can't put the super pastel baby bibs on my big guy anymore. Not when he whips off the velcro bibs in one second flat. Nor when it is so much fun sewing him new ones. The pattern for these bibs came from Amy Karol's Bend the Rules Sewing.

Corduroy backs

Big snaps and Mama's labels


Sewing Lessons

This month I had three private sewing lessons to learn how to sew knit fabric and to sew apparel.  I've tried making clothes before, but they never fit right.  The biggest thing I learned was to make the first version in a fabric that you don't care about.  If it turns out, great.  If not, adjust the pattern and make it your own before making version two.

Here are the first shorts I made for Henry.  The pattern was from the 70's and had super wide legs, so I took them in (roughly) but they still work for jammies.

Here is the second version of my own pants pattern.  The first version I made with crummy flannel and this last pair was out of junked t-shirt of Ben's.  
I like how these cover and stay up over the bulky cloth diaper.

Lastly, here is a t-shirt for Henry made from one of Ben's old shirts.  This one turned out well the first time!  You can bet I'll be making more when my quilting bees are a little more caught up.

Unexpected Finished Object

I have to start with an admission....  I am a terrible housekeeper.  I like to start a lot of projects, but I'm not good at finishing things and, to top it off, I'm awfully forgetful.  So, that results in my house covered in lots of little piles of things that I mean to finish.  But, I move to the beat of my motivation (not the best priority-setter), and I'm usually inspired to start something shiny and new.

So, this week I decided to tackle the piles around my house and thin a few.  I didn't get far uncovering the dining room table, but I did sort some lovely fabric bits in my craft room in the basement.  Henry was "helping" by tearing up the shelves and banging on my project on the loom.  My table loom sits on the floor now that the sewing machine and a million projects live on the craft table.  Remember my scarf from this post?

It was woven only 36" long (not just the 6" in the picture) and still was on the loom five months later.  While I sorted fabric, Henry was yanking on the scarf and futzing with the parts of the loom and then he toppled over.  That's a good sign for nap time, so I came back to the loom during my free time.

The first step was to examine the project and figure out why I put it down in the first place.  In this instance, the grey alpaca yarn that I chose for the warp and the weft is truly, truly lovely, but it is so overwound that the lines of weft couldn't be beaten snugly.   This resulted in a scarf with lots of holes and a stiff fabric.  That doesn't seem cozy to me.

So, I took a deep breath and then started the tedious job of unweaving 36" of work line by tangly line.  That took most of a three hour nap on Tuesday.  The next day (and next nap time), I auditioned eight different yarns, chose a new weft and wove 16".

On Thursday I wove another 32" during nap and some more after Henry's bedtime.  I also took the loom outside for some pics in the outdoor light (the basement lighting is atrocious).

On Friday I wove another 2", tied the tassels, wove in the ends, washed and blocked it.  And there you have it.  The scarf is dry and soft and gorgeous and finished.

 (doesn't the overwound yarn make the most perfect twisty tassels?  i love them!)

I guess it isn't really unexpected that I finished it since it took four days, but it still is delightful.  Doesn't a finished object make your week a little brighter?

Now I just have to hold myself back from starting another loom project just to let it languish on the floor for baby fingers to play with.  Nope, I must must try to find my dining room table.
I cannot let the siren call of fabrics and yarns distract me.
:: plugging my ears and humming to myself ::
Really.  I know there is a table here somewhere....

June's Quilting Bee

I used to make quilts.  In fact, I've made nine of them, but the last one I finished was in 2004.  I didn't know anyone else my age that quilted, and I mostly made it up as I went along.   I ended up with quilts that didn't always stand the test of time and finished products that I wasn't always happy with.

Well, this year I've been really inspired by the craft blogging world and all of the opportunities to participate with other crafters around the country and around the world.  I've read and learned so much from knitting blogs, mommy crafting blogs and now I'm enamored with quilting blogs.  I put up this link about quilting bees in the sidebar awhile ago. About a week after that, I finally got up the courage to join a quilting bee, Sew Buzzy.  June was led by Kristen in Oregon and she wanted wonky stars made from 1930's reproduction fabrics.

So, every month for the next twelve months (excluding December), I'll be posting another block for the group.  July's block is for MuriĆ«l in the Netherlands.  We are making wonky houses for a neighborhood quilt.  I'm looking through my fabric stash for cute animals to peek out from the windows and the tree.  I'm really looking forward to learning a lot from these ladies and I hope to share a little with you.

Finished sewing project line up

I could write about someone's first birthday, a slew of summer visitors, our fabulous vacation or a new virtual quilting bee that I joined.  But I have some very important, yet unfinished business to attend to today.  I'm overdue in properly introducing you all to Margene.  She and I have been busy ever since I asked for some help in naming her.  The photos below are my finished sewing projects for April and May.  June's sewing will have to wait for another day. 

First up is the Best Bib pattern from the JCasa *handmade.  I tried the pattern because I thought it would be a great way to practice quilting techniques.  Then I got completely hooked on bibs and on quilting.

These bibs were for a charity auction for Womancraft (awesome organization--really, go check the link).

These were for gifts.

(Two of these bibs were sent to two wonderful mothers that donated some breastmilk to Henry when he was about six months old.  I send yet another "thank you" out to them.) 

I loved making these rag quilt letters from a tutorial on Happy Together.  This bright set was a gift for one of Henry's internet baby friends.  ::waving::  Hi Scout!

I hope to make another set for Henry to play with soon.  This has been his favorite book for months now. ("I'm a Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuss, as you can plainly see.")

And this was a gift for Scout's mom.  The quilted photo album cover was a pattern I made up myself.

This may be my favorite bib to date.  It is a first birthday bib for Henry's friend River.  (She came to visit recently, so you'll hear more about her soon.)

And last, but not least, a gift potholder for my sister-in-law.  I absolutely love how this turned out and I want to make another just like it for me.

Check out the labels I made recently.  The bibs have them, too.

So a couple of months ago I had a grand plan to make Margene a nice sewing machine cover to keep the dust off.  But she rarely has much downtime, so I'm plugging away at the rest of my sewing list instead.

I did it!

On Saturday I made it through my first triathlon

The swim was crazy tough and a lot of people passed me, but I still beat my own swim time by 2 minutes!  The bike ride was hilly but exhilarating.  Unfortunately I can't say the same about the run, but I can say that I finished the whole thing in about 2 hours and 9 minutes.   

There may even be a next time and it may be in late July.  We'll see.

For now, I can entertain you with silly photos of Ben and I.



And the best pit crew and baby watching team ever:


Seeing Red

Everywhere I go today:

Red, red, red.

I never buy strawberries at the store.  We wait for the local season, pick a few flats ourselves and then I can jam, freeze some berries whole and freeze some sliced and (barely) sweetened.  I also eat as many as I can stuff myself with while they are still fresh.  So, today, we indulged in waffles stacked high with berries and whipped cream.  (They were devoured too quickly for photos though.)  We also had berries for late lunch and after dinner and we'll have more tomorrow for breakfast. 

This is my favorite local eating quote from Barbara Kingsolver's fantastic book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Please note that I'm substituting strawberries for asparagus.  I think it still applies:

"...[Strawberries] seem like a good place to start.  And if the object of our delayed gratification is a suspected aphrodisiac?  That's the sublime paradox of a food culture:  restraint equals indulgence. "

So, my hands and counters are dyed pink, but the freezer is flush with berries to be enjoyed in another season.

Picking season photos are a wonderful way to show how time passes.  There is no way he'd fit in a flat today.

Picture that smell

Ben was mowing the lawn tonight while wearing Henry in the Ergo carrier.  Both guys came back in the house during twilight and the little one was just inches away from sleep.  He needed a new dipe before bed, so Ben was changing him and I took the opportunity to smooch Henry's eyespot.  (In case you don't know, the eyespot is that lovely bit of skin between the outer eye and the temple.  I adore that spot.)  Henry had this magical scent combination of cut grass, a fresh orange peel, sunshine and fresh air.  Can you picture that smell?  Really it was heavenly and I wish I could bottle it and wear it all of the time.  Since the boy was so sleepy, I got a few more good sniffs in until I felt a little drunk and then Ben whisked him off to bed.

I guess bed is where I should be headed now but I keep breathing deeply trying to find that scent again.

Stripping Paint

This is what our sun room looked like when we first moved in, four years ago.  That dreadful rust color is crackle paint.  Can you believe someone did that on purpose?  We also had dark brown crackle paint upstairs, brown and white crackle paint on the fireplace and green and gold Packer crackle paint as a decorative touch on the broom closet door.

(remembering all of that makes me shudder now)

Well, we only have two crackle paint doors left in the whole house.  Henry has recently been picking at the paint on the door to the basement, so.... I'm finally getting around to stripping it.

Working in the driveway or the garage:

And here it is without any finish.  It is still in the garage.  I have to work during naps or when Ben has Henry, so I still have to do the other side of the door.

It feels good to make progress, even four years later.

Rounding out the days nicely

I've been posting here lately about craft projects and garden projects and I have more posts like that up my sleeve, but I thought I'd say a little about the other things that happen in between the many projects that are brewing around here.  

Henry is nearing numero uno and he has a long list of favorite things that we play during the day.

Peek-a-boo is a huge hit and he loves pulling a blanket over his face and then lying very still while I ask, "Where is the baby?"  Then he continues to stretch out the dramatic pause, and then he starts kicking his legs and when he just can't stand it anymore, he flips back the covers with a huge laugh.

We do a lot of spinning.  He loves doing it so many times until I nearly lose my balance, and then he holds himself really close like a baby monkey.  Sometimes he just looks up at me and grins.

There is a fair quantity of upside down tickling or just dangling.  (I think he's almost ready to learn some yoga inversions.)

Singing is a big hit.  The "Bubbaloo" song that I made up for him is the most popular, but nearly any song will work and short youtube video songs are especially popular.

When the weather is nice, Henry and I go out to the patio swing at least twice a day for a 10 minute "settle down."  And then we do it again with a couple of books before bed.  Dr. Suess ABC rhymes on warm spring evening with a baby in jammies on the patio swing is just about the best thing ever.

Another popular outside activity is eating mud and grass.  I don't participate myself, but it is very popular with the household members under age one.  He's also gotten a little sneaky about it.  Whenever he has a stick or leaf or maple helicopter in his mouth, he gets very quiet and then turns away from me when I come near him.  That's the signal that I have to dig something out, so I do.  He's also learned that it is much easier if he then opens his mouth and sticks out his tongue because I'll chase after him anyway.

Lastly, Henry loves to watch the cooking on the stove.  That is particularly so if Ben is cooking or if we are over at our friend Paul's house when he is cooking.  I love that he admires guys in the kitchen already.

So, there are some days that the creative projects take much longer than they used to and it can be frustrating at times, but our days are much richer with our babe.

Henry, I'm proud to be your momma.  Thanks for being such a great guy.

Sewing for Knitting--and a rough tutorial

My double pointed knitting needles required a new and tidy home.  I have a needle case with pockets but the pockets were too big for the little needles, too slippery to hold them in and I'd have to get out the needle guage and test four sets before I found the right size.

I just loved these batik fabrics together. The fabric behind the needles is recycled from a pair of my corduroy pants.

double pointed needle wrap

If you want to make one of your own, you will need:

11 x 17" each of fabric for behind the needles (now called backing fabric) and the outside fabric
one 6 x 17" piece for the pocket fabric
17" of twill tape and a narrow piece of fusible webbing
two 6 x 16.5" pieces of fabric for the flap

1.  fold 3/8" of the top edge of the pocket fabric under and fold it one more time.  press and then sew the edge.  then fuse the twill tape to the top edge of the pocket fabric with an iron

2.  mark the pocket widths with chalk and a ruler first, then embroider the numbers for the pockets with an embroidery hoop and floss.
Pocket widths:
start measuring 1/2" in from the edge to allow room for stitching the layers together
size 0--2cm
size 1--2.25
size 2--2.25
size 3--2.5
size 4--3cm
size 5--3cm
size 6--3.25
size 7--3.25
size 8--3.5
size 9--3.5
extra pocket #1--3cm
extra pocket #2--3cm
extra pocket #3--2.5
there should be at least another 1/2" on this edge for stitching the layers together (I have a very tiny pocket left on mine but it will hold a small crochet hook perfectly)

3.  pin the pocket fabric to the backing fabric and sew lines to divide the pockets, backstitching carefully at the top edge of the pockets

4.  take the flap pieces and stack them right sides together, pin and sew around 3 sides (2 short sides and one long side, turn inside out and press

5.  now stack the backing and pocket piece right side up, place the flap on that with it aligned where you want it on the finished piece, lastly place the outside fabric on top with the right side down and pin around the perimeter.  sew around the edges with a 3/8" seam allowance and leaving a 3" gap to turn project right side out.  be sure not catch the short sides of the flap in your seam or it will not open.

6.  turn project right side out and press.  press the edges of the gap to align them with what has already been sewn.  *  topstitch around the entire perimeter 1/4" from the edge.  fill with needles and enjoy!

*  if you want your needle case to have a label, an elastic and button closure, or ties, here is where you would tuck the label/ties/elastic hairband into the seam gap before doing the topstitching.

Be aware that this is my first attempt at a tutorial.  If you have any questions , or if it doesn't make sense, please ask.

Cute Knits

Just a few pictures of cute knitting to cheer up a friend.  Do you think these guys will do the trick?

My new sewing machine needs a name

My first sewing machine used to be named "the Bitch."  I got her for $10 from Goodwill back in college and she was lovingly named this because we listened to a lot of Ani Difranco and Tori Amos and we thought that being angry and creative was cool.  I was one of four women in a rental house that had a spare tiny bedroom turned craft room that we called the Sweatshop because we were constantly refashioning our clothes and we were so ironic. 

My machine cover is still labeled.

(picture singing this to Guns 'n Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle")

(Sidenote: the toaster oven in the apartment was labeled "Toastmaster General") 
So, my sewing machine is now called "the Beast" or, affectionately, "Mrs. B" and she has done me very good service.  She had one tune up early on and the kind people at the sewing and vacuum store there taught me how to clean and oil her.  She has muscled her way through quilts made from old jeans and corduroys--2 of them.  In fact, I've made at least 6 quilts with her.  She only does straight and a simple zigzag stitch but she did them well and without complaint.  Recently, though, she's retired to a nice resting place in the basement.  I still visit and check up on her, but she needs her rest these days.  (I also need a rest from carrying a thirty-five pound sewing machine around.)

It just so happens that my mom bought a new sewing machine and her old machine needed a new home.  This new girl (new to me) can do a 3 step zigzag, overcast stitch, a couple of embroidery stitches and doesn't pull my shoulder out of the socket whenever I move it.  My two most recent projects on her are a baby sling (tutorial from Karma Baby).

and a ribbon and rattle plushie (tutorial from Chez Beeper Babe).

The new girl also helped me with a number of projects from late last year.

She deserves a good name to go with her new home.  I think she's a little jealous of Trixie the Mixie.
Can you help?

Ravthlete is hard to pronounce

This post is seriously overdue, but I'm just going to plow ahead anyway, so here goes:

During the Winter Olympics, you might have heard about this other little knitter things going on called the Ravelympics 2010.   (Sidenote: I say "little" knitter thing because most people don't know anything about it, but nine thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight knitters, crocheters and weavers and 440 teams from 65 countries participated.  That is a lot of fiber lovin'.)  (Sidenote two: I totally didn't get any respect from my occupational therapist when I told her I *had* to knit because I was a knitting athlete.  I realize that I'm no moguls racer, but come on.  I take it seriously.)

As a participant, I set a big goal for myself, start my project/s when the opening ceremonies begin and finish my project/s when the flame goes out.

My challenge to myself was, first, to do a colorwork project with correct tension.

This one took two tries (thus the tiny purple sweater pic), but check.  Note: these sweaters are holiday ornament size, not people size.  They still took me 4 days each.

and, second challenge, to set up and use my loom,
(note: I've woven 30", not just the 3.5" in this photo)

also check, but I might redo the project, so let's call it a half-check.

And, to show my Ravthletic spirit, I ordered this lovely pin featuring the Ravelry mascot, Bob, wearing a knit cap.

Pretty fab, huh? 

The Summer Olympics are in only two years, so now is the time to learn to knit so you can join in the mass cast on.  Call your mom, your aunt, your grandma, your hipster friend or get a book from the library or just show up at a knitting guild or snb meeting or make an appointment at my house during Henry's nap time.