Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pin Cushion Caddy

Wow, what a fun project! Since I finished up so many things this past week, I sat down last night to enjoy my first new project in a while. I chose to make the pin cushion caddy from Seams To Me by Anna Maria Horner. I've been thinking about this one for some time now... basically since I really started sewing again. I figured tonight I would pick fabric, cut out pieces, and leave them on the card table for when we get back from our short vacation. I didn't expect to finish it! What a nice surprise.

While I would love to make and keep one for myself in the future, this will be headed to a different home. When I sat down to sift through my scraps to find large enough pieces, I came up with a fun version of a primary color scheme (plus green) - pink, yellow, green, and turquoise. The combination is pretty playful. I think it kind of ended up looking like a ball that a seal might balance on its nose! Or maybe an elephant should be standing on it? At any rate it reminds me of a circus.

I was really glad I've spent so much time in the past reading online about others trying out this pattern and finding that matching up the inner tube with the outer ring of wedges was challenging. After learning from their mistakes, I had no trouble at all! I didn't follow the pattern measurements for the length of the piece that makes up the inside cylinder. Instead when I finished sewing my wedges into a round, I carefully measured around the opening, added an inch (for 1/2" seam allowances) and used that number instead. As a result I also ended up modifying the interfacing size, and the sizes of the circles used to complete the proejct. All it took was a little basic geometry, improvisation, and some forewarning that it would be problematic. So thank you to everyone who has gone before me.

I found that I wish I had even stiffer interfacing, though I bought the thickest stuff I could find. I didn't have problems until stuffing at which point moving all the fiberfil around inside sort of bent the interfacing in a couple places making it more prone to bulging in. I have managed to smoosh it around to make it stay, but I'm sure over the life of this little guy the walls of the inside bucket will shift around some. I read somewhere that putting a coffee can inside while stuffing helps, but alas we have nothing that size -- pod coffee drinkers.

Speaking of little guy... little he is not! The finished product measures about 7 or 8 inches in diameter which is a pretty hefty size for a pin cushion! The great thing about it is that it is a convenient size to hold a bunch of things (rotary cutter, pins, needles, thread in the picture below) without feeling like they will tip out if you pick it up and move it. I have visions of making a bunch of these and having them live stacked up on a shelf. How cool would that look? I probably don't need that many pin cushions, though.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Birthday Skirts, second finished

I'm a bit behind with the birthday mailing for my nieces... basically because it took me some time to find the oomph to sit down and start this second skirt. It's kind of like second glove/sock syndrome? Maybe not. I'm only one week behind; this way they'll get 'second birthdays' -- kind of like second breakfast.

It was raining outside, so here we have the skirt hanging off my craft cabinet

I honestly just haven't wanted to sit down and cut out 26 strips of fabric that are 2.5" wide. Cutting is not my favorite. But I did get that out of the way on Sunday afternoon so my evening Monday was spent with the much more engaging task of sewing everything together, and tonight I finished off putting in the elastic and sewing on the ribbon inside the waistband.

This kitty fabric was a fortuitous find while I was out looking for something else. Rather than a quilting type cotton, it is a lightweight kind of drape-y twill. It is very soft and nice to sew with. Samara in particular likes to ask about our cat, Jack, when we talk on the phone so I think she'll enjoy the little kitty portraits as a substitute for the real deal. The dark aqua solid keeps the whole thing from being too busy and provides a nice contrast to the peaches and pinks. Also, because the print is such a handy grid, I was able to cut cleverly so there is a nice little row of smiling cats around the dropped waist.

Jack, the inspiration behind use of the kitty fabric 

The colors in the skirt match fabulously with the hoodie vest I finished up on Sunday. An outfit made with love.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jasmine Kimono

The last time I was visiting my parents, Mom gave me a stack of patterns she had picked up at Michael's. They were all free one page patterns they had hanging up by the yarn. They were all really nice, so I've been working my way through them. One project, a little kimono for Jasmine, was 'finished' a couple of months ago and it's been hanging around since waiting to be blocked and have buttons installed. (Most appropriately, this pattern was named 'Jasmine Kimono' on the sheet. Had to make it.)

Ta da! It is now officially finished and ready to be worn by an energetic three year old. The yarn is Lion Brand Baby's First in a lovely green they call Beanstalk. This yarn was fantastic to work with - highly recommend. It knits up so evenly and the fabric ends up feeling soft and squishy. Perfect for a spring sweater.

This last weekend I overcame my fear of blocking using a great hand held steamer from my mom. It was the perfect tool for the job. That combined with the new thick padded cover on my ironing board made it almost effortless to get this last step done. (The last time I blocked something, it was a 5 foot diameter circular shawl with picot edging, I used the steam setting on my iron with it's tiny reservoir, and my dining table had a towel taped on it for DAYS). 

This sweater pattern was written to be wrapped and tied with a string, but I wanted to use buttons instead. There is one inner button to hold the wrapped bit inside, and a second main button to finish it off. The flower button also has another clear button sewn on behind it to prevent the fabric from getting stretched out where it is attached.

I think it pairs nicely with the owl skirt I made for her; she'll be such a fashionable little girl!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Curtain Inspiration

When I saw this stack of fabric on one of my favorite blogs (Maureen Cracknell Handmade) a couple weeks back, I immediately coveted them. The bright blues and greens, not to mention the awesome flower print, are just my taste.

So I bought some! I'm very excited now that they have arrived. Inspired by the idea of curtains mentioned on Maureen's blog, I too plan on making curtains with them. I just want an excuse to hang up (and stare at) large pieces of these fabrics. They will hang in our bedroom; I do believe they will fit right in with our quirky sense of style and love of color. 

In my ever so accurate back-of-the-envelope/engineer way when I decided to buy the yardage, I went into the bedroom and stood next to the window thinking to myself "well, I'm just shy of two yards tall, so I guess I need two yards of each". I have not decided on a design yet, but I am thinking of bands of linen (what a shock) and patchwork squares of matching solids along the top. I was at the library the other day looking for another book (for another project soon to come) and happened upon a book about making curtains. I've made curtains before, but this book has given me some good ideas. Ribbon tie top anyone? 

I leave with a gratuitous close up of the beautiful pattern, LouLouThi Coreopsis - my very first Anna Maria Horner purchase. Thank you for the inspiration, Maureen!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hoodie Vest, all done

I finally finished it! This hooded vest project has been really fun to knit up, but I was pretty happy to be done with it by the end. The pattern, Paprika by Elena Nodel, is available on Ravelry and totally worth the money I'd say. It has directions for 6 months up to size 14! How is that for a long lived pattern? She also includes links to great tutorials for some of the more complicated parts. This post has lots of pictures, so get ready.

Today, the steamer was my friend. I'm pretty lazy about blocking. This fact of life has been a big reason why I haven't ventured into making knitted garments - I stuck with hats, gloves, scarves, and blankets. This pattern changed my mind though. It's so darn cute! Because I was convinced it would look better, I decided to give it what it deserved and figure out how to block for real. Since I used acrylic yarn, steam blocking (or no blocking as many have said) seemed to be my only option according to Dr. Google, and I happen to have this great hand held steamer my mom sent me a while back. Perfect!

I don't have a blocking board, I just used my ironing board which has a super thick padded cover on it. I steamed enough to see the yarn change shape (acrylic morphing is pretty cool to watch!) but not so much that I soaked the piece through. This meant it was dry within about 10 or 15 minutes and I could move on to the next section (I did it in three: bottom, middle, hood).

What a difference blocking made! The ribbing in the front isn't curling up at the corners anymore, the sleeve caps are well behaved, and generally the whole thing is pleasantly drape-y. I think I'm a convert. No more laziness, the extra step is definitely worth it. Plus, it was so much easier with the steamer than with my iron!

I found a nice shanked gold button to put on it and crocheted a fastening loop for it. This little button and his companion (a clear button I put on the back to prevent the fabric from stretching too much) came out of an assortment of buttons I bought at Britex Fabric - four stories of fabric and notions! - in San Francisco. It kind of reminds me of a little hot air balloon.

Here's the finished product, front and back. I ended up using just under 2 skeins of Caron Simply Soft (persimmon... fantastic color!) for a size 6 vest. Hope Samara likes it!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Amsterdam Quilt, conceptualizing

About a year ago, Dave and I moved (temporarily) to The Netherlands. We relocated from Palo Alto to Amsterdam for three months to pursue fantastic opportunities to do research at an institute there. We remember our time there very fondly and continually talk about going back. 

FOM Institute AMOLF, our temporary workplace

One of the most distinct things (of many) we remember about living there are colors. First off, AMOLF is housed in quite a new building, so the architecture and design inside is very modern. This includes hallways, walls, and couches in a stunningly bright green. You'd think this would be distracting, but really it was very energizing. It sounds hokey I know, and I would never believe something like that if someone told me. But, having experienced it I can vouch for it --- bright green is a great color for the workplace!

AMOLF wall

Another color that is associated inextricably with the Dutch is orange. Orange is the color of the ruling house, and has become a sort of national color. Did anyone see those amazing football uniforms in the last World Cup? Orange. 

We were fortunate enough to have arrived shortly before a major event in The Netherlands, Queen's Day. We went into the city center to sit at our soon-to-be-favorite cafe on the canals the night before Queen's Day, and the city was awash with orange. Perhaps you can see the orange banners and balloons in the picture below. There were even special little cakes in the Albert Heijn bakeries iced with orange!

Queen's Day celebrations beginning

Queen's Day cake

Since we've recently been 'pining for the fjords (canals)', so to speak, and I've been so inspired by the amazing modern quilting I've seen around the web, I have decided to make a quilt commemorating our time in Amsterdam. Such a clear color inspiration is almost cheating -- bright green and orange.

I have said before, as one does, that I am 'done' purchasing fabric for a while. That is mostly true, until I see great sales. The fabrics in the next photo were all purchased for 40-50% off at various shops because I could not resist a good deal, and they were the right colors for the job. Of course there are also others (to be shared at another time) that have nothing to do with this quilt or those colors but I had to have them anyway. What lack of will power!

I especially like the green fabric with the little white cats; we missed our cat very much while we were away. The green with bike wheels with birds perched on them (which you cannot make out from this photo) is of course highly appropriate as I love birds and of course we rode bikes everywhere in Amsterdam. 

I will also likely use the two beauties below that I bought in Los Gatos, and some more of that great green Ikea duvet cover fabric I recently used in my laundry room project. If anything says 'AMOLF walls', it's that fabric.

Next is the hardest part: choosing a pattern. I've been pondering this for a while, and I have settled on some sort of windmill-like quilt block. I've seen several types around the web, and even a sampler with many flavors of windmill blocks. I do think I want to stick with one block to keep it simple looking since the colors will be kind of crazy. There is a block called the Dutchman's Puzzle which ends up looking like windmill blades in the center if the colors are placed correctly. I'm gravitating towards that one, or there is a simpler block I'm thinking about, too.

Then of course there is the choice of background fabric. Definitely a solid, but what color? White or gray I think. We'll see what I end up choosing when the time rolls around. This quilt is going to rattle around in my head a bit more while I catch up on my Retro Flower quilt and probably make a few more little projects between. For now it is fun to dream up the possibilities! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Birthday Skirts, one finished!

Short Friday post: 

I have so far finished one of the skirts I have on my list. One more to go! Hopefully that will be done tonight. I think this one turned out really cute. The little owls on the pink fabric are so sweet, and I am really happy with the combination of them with the yellow and white polka dots. The bottom picture shows a closer view in combination with a sweater I knitted to go with it. (I will post on that when it's blocked and be-buttoned.) Just look at those pleats! This was a really fun pattern. Here's hoping the little birthday girl will enjoy it.

Linking up to finish it up Friday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hoodie Vest

I wanted to share a couple work in progress pictures of a vest I've been working on for my oldest niece, who turned 6 on Tuesday. I bought the pattern, Paprika, on Ravelry after seeing a few pictures of finished products. Gotta love Ravelry. I think this will go nicely with the skirt I will be making (tonight or tomorrow...) for her, too.

Here it is all scrunched up in my Britex Fabrics bag. This little bag has been following me around the house for the last month or so. Wherever I sit down, I pick up the needles and work. On a related note, all the iThings we own have been really great for this. I have the pdf loaded on my phone, computer, and iPad so no matter what the closest electronic is, I have my pattern accessible. How nice! 

Here is a view of all the really nice detail that goes into this piece (the yarn is Caron Simply Soft in Persimmon). There are lots of different cables to work, and I even learned a way to work some of the smaller cables without a cable needle. This pattern has been really fun to work up, it's impossible to get bored. The other nice thing is that there are instructions for a wide range of sizes so I might even get to use this again if she likes it enough.

Keep your fingers crossed I finish it tonight so it can go in the mail by the weekend...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Birthday Skirts, part one

When I saw this pattern browsing online for some project ideas, I knew I was making a couple. My nieces have their birthdays in April, the perfect time of year for some cute, springy skirts. I also have this bad (?) habit of picking up cute fabric remnants when I see them and justifying it by saying 'oh that's ok it's for the girls'. Well the day has come where I'm making something 'for the girls' with those fabrics!

I imagine the whole process would go much faster using precut jelly rolls (2.5 inch strips), but really all one has to do is be willing to cut your own fabric in order to make these in any prints and combinations.

Combination #1
Combination #2
Turns out, the cutting is the hardest part! Piecing everything together goes really fast. I am going to add a bit of ribbon around the dropped waist on the inside to make it look more 'finished' and hopefully increase the amount of wear and tear they can take.

Here is a preview of the cuteness:

I'll have another post soon when I get them both finished.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Happy Easter! In celebration I thought I'd share my own little bouquet of spring flowers. 

I've been working on these little guys on and off for the past few weeks. I was so happy with how my first one turned out I decided to keep on going. I have several types of needles (embroidery, quilting, yarn), so why not? As I've mentioned previously, felt projects are one of my favorite things to do. Hand embroidery is newer to me. I worked lots of counted cross stitch projects since I was a kid, but have not ventured into this freehand type of stitching until now. 

Here are my happy little companions all lined up on the card table. (The one on the right was a work-in-progress at the time this photo was taken). I really like these because they are portable projects. For sewing the book pieces together I use the machine, but all of the fun detail that is worked first is done by hand with little pieces that 'travel' well. This means I can sit on the couch next to my husband (and under my cat) rather than spending solitary time in the other room. 

This one is Dutch-inspired (hence the post title, needlebook in Nederlands). I tried to stick with blue/aqua/red to keep it in line with the more traditional designs I saw while in Amsterdam, but I couldn't resist that pop of magenta for fun. It will likely hold my quilting betweens. 

This little pretty was inspired by the colors in the fabric collection Summerlove. I had a lot of fun working on this one, though I must have gone through 3 or 4 layouts and color combinations until I was happy. It has been sent to another home! 

I'm sure more of these will be popping up here in the future. They're like little pieces of sewing candy. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Purse, finished

It is amazing what you can find at the Daiso store. I was killing some time last weekend while Dave was at work and ended up there just to browse around. I ended up getting quite a few utilitarian things (a broom and long-handled dustpan set, gadgets to hang our mop/broom/swiffer on the laundry room wall) and some not-so-utilitarian things (japanese coffee!). The best part of this trip was finding the little craft section in the store. They had lots of random little notions, some felt, and.... bag handles! 

I'd been thinking hard about how to finish the little Easter purse I started for my niece and had settled on grosgrain ribbon handles until I saw these. I bought them without worrying about size (they were only $1.50 after all!) and checked the size against the purse body when I got home. Perfect!

I picked apart the top seams and after some hilarious attempts at trying to sew them in using my machine, decided to hand stitch them on. The machine stitching would have been possible if the two halves were not yet sewn together or if the bag was larger. As it was, the geometry didn't work out. The running stitch using embroidery floss looks cute, though!

Here's the finished bag, all ready for little hands to squirrel away little treasures. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

A quilting finish

I'm very excited today because Flora Fence is finished! I finished hand sewing the binding late Wednesday night and had a couple small details to finish up. But now it's done. I started this in late February, and it's taken me just over a month to complete. Not bad for my first "big" quilt!

The scrappy binding used up the rest of the jelly roll and linen scraps I had from cutting the rail fence strips, and turned out pretty nice. I actually very much enjoyed hand sewing it to the back; it took me a few hours over a couple of evenings. I never really understood how it worked until my mom-in-law showed me over Christmas. And even though it involves more finger-pricking, totally worth it because it looks much better than my machine sewn efforts of the past, thanks Mom!

All I have left of that beautiful jelly roll now is four uncut strips to stash away for a scrappy project, and I used pretty much exactly two yards of 54" wide linen. Finished measurements are 52" x 71". I was a little worried how the quilting, which matches up with the front zig zags, would look on the randomly pieced back, but I love it. The staircase pattern works nicely, making this (as Dave says) "two quilts in one".

Our room is ready for Spring!

I'm linking up to my first finish it up Friday :o) 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Laundry room attention

The laundry room isn't my favorite place to be, but that doesn't mean it can't look nice. The other night I got to cleaning in there and decided it was time to put some color in that wasn't associated with piles of laundry on the dryer. 

Hankering for a quick sewing project, I improvised a laundry bag for hand washables to hang by the machine. Our hand washables often end up mixed in with the other laundry, so this way as I'm loading the washer I can rescue said items and pop them into this handy bag to wait for critical mass. This bag is loosely based off of a pattern in the One Yard Wonders book. It is much smaller, has no back flap, and has a lining.

Most all of it is made of trusty Ikea fabric! The green started off life as a duvet cover, and the inside is that same linen-y fabric I used on the first kitchen mini I made. I actually really like this green fabric, it is included in a color scheme for a wall quilt that's been kicking around in my head.

The most amusing part of this whole endeavor was sewing the circle. I didn't want to use binding around there, but you see that I did. I tried not once, not twice, but THREE times to figure out how to sew the two front pieces together for a seam i could topstitch and ended up with something I could not turn back around each time. It was supposed to be a quick project! It got late in the day, and I gave up because obviously my brain was rebelling. In the end, I think the binding will work out fine, since that seam will be a high-traffic area anyway with clothes popping in and out.

This little bag combined with these two fabric panels we had up in our room at the old apartment is starting to make the laundry room a nicer place to be!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fabric Frenzy

I think I am out of acquisition mode for a while! I have recently been very happy to check the mail not only because my walking foot came, but because I have gotten lovely fabric! 

This first bunch is a set of Summerlove fat quarters with a pezzy print thrown in there. I saw a pillow Maureen Cracknell made and pretty much instantly loved the fabric. Maybe it helped that they were birds? I love me some birds. The color combination is also quite nice. I got these *super fast* because Julia who runs Intrepid Thread has an address in San Jose. So close! I'm not sure what these are destined to be yet, but I couldn't pass them up. Maybe a summery pillow for the living room?

This yardage of Amy Butler voile I got a bit ago, but it is still happily gazing at me beyond the sewing machine. It is destined to become a Sun Glow Quilt and Pillow (AB free patterns). I'm second guessing the pillow because I want to have some to save to maybe make a scarf! The fabric is really soft; it will be a shame to cut it, but then I'll have a pretty quilt. I really love all of the Soul Blossoms prints. This line is more or less what got me interested in sewing again. I especially like the Peacock print second from the left. 

These two half yards I bought at an *actual quilt shop*, like one I could walk into. Amazing! (I've been frustrated with finding a good shop that carries lots of modern fabric). On the left is a print from Kumari Gardens and on the right is a beautiful medallion print from Joel Dewberry's Heirloom line. The Heirloom print in particular is one I never would have ordered from seeing it online. It's so much prettier in person! Admittedly, there are a lot of great independent online shops that take actual pictures and post them, but I don't always look through all the listings, y'know? I wasn't really looking for orange, but I like it. :) I feel an Amsterdam-inspired project coming on!

The real reason I went out in the first place was to round out my fat quarters for a Retro Flowers quilt. I had ordered this bundle of fabric from Swell Cloth because they caught my eye, but with no real intended project (ahem, bad habit). Weeks later I decided to join the Retro Flower Quilt Along (my first quilt along!) and poof I had a project for all those fat quarters. But of course I needed 7 more. I pulled some fabric from my stash and went and bought four more. I really wanted to go in person since I was trying to match a specific set of fabrics and, as I mentioned, my computer-eye-for-fabric is less than great. 

These fabrics are a bit unusual for me in that they aren't incredibly bright. Sadly, the quilt shop didn't carry Hope Valley (which several of these prints are from) as I was hoping to fill out the set with more from that line, but I found some I think will work.

After I got home and set everything out together, I debated whether or not to use a white background -- I really like the way a lot of the Retro Flowers quilts I've seen are looking using white -- but decided it would just emphasize the not-white-ness of many of the prints. So I rolled with it and used it as an excuse to go out again and buy some more of my favorite:

Linen! Aren't those selvages great? This is a lighter colored linen than the gray-ish one I used in the Flora Fence quilt (I also bought some in robin's egg blue... shhhh!) but I think it will be a nice substitute for white. I'm thinking this will end up as a picnic-in-the-great-outdoors quilt, so the more natural color palette is perhaps nice. Maybe even a bit 'retro'? 

Seriously, that's it for fabric for a while.