Wednesday, April 30, 2008

kitty top

Not much of a title, but it's accurate. This is one of those pieces of fabric that I bought because I knew both Ellie and I would like it. Kitties for her(hopefully she can overlook the puppies on there too) and a vintage feel for me. It's been in the stash for a few years just waiting for a pattern. I finally settled on Butterick 4176. She really wanted it in a dress, but what she's short on for summer are tops that can be paired with shorts or jeans - something more of the playclothes variety. Dresses get caught under her feet too easily when she's climbing.

I altered the pattern just slightly in the length making it longer. I added topstitching on either side of the inverted pleats in the front. They lay much nicer with those in place. Also, bias tape was placed on the outside of the neckline (the pattern called for it on the inside) to add some contrast. The tape was thrifted and is that great vintage salmon pink color. I used up the entire piece I had on this project.

Sorry about the blurry picture here. I also used the bias tape as a channel for the elastic to gather the sleeve. I think I'll be repeating this trick a lot in the future. The sleeves sewed up faster this way and it eliminated pressing up those tiny allowances to make a casing out of the sleeve fabric. (I cut off the extra seam allowance before sewing the tape in place.)

Final touch - a fabric covered button with one little flower centered on it. There's an elastic loop that completes the closure. All the edgestitching was done with a foot designed for that kind of sewing(mine is a Bernina #10).

If you look very carefully in the second picture you can see some crayon marks that have already found their way onto this. See what I mean about playclothes?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

quilt karma

I finally finished a doll quilt that I started before our trip to South Dakota last summer. I decided that trying hand quilting would be a good road trip project. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Not much got quilted on that trip and the project had sat in a bag waiting patiently for me to give it a go for nearly a year. I'm not even sure what motivated me to get it out again. (Maybe it was seeing a hand quilting class at the shop the last time I stopped in to pick up some fabric.)

In any case, I got to work again and figured out a few things that worked better for me than others. A good marking pencil that showed up on all the different colors was the first thing that helped (yellow worked on this project). Small adhesive leather pads worked much better than a traditional thimble for me. Finally, I ditched the hoop and just worked with the quilt loose in my hands. It was so much easier to load several stitches at once on the needle. I'm not sure that would work for a larger piece, but then again, there's no way in hell that I'm hand quilting a larger piece. -But I just might give another one in this size a shot.

The pattern is from Fat Quarters, Small Quilts by Darlene Zimmerman. I find the subtitle amusing - "25 projects you can make in a day". If I'd stuck with my trusty machine that would have been true. By hand, it was a project that I could complete in 11 months.

Finished, it's about 18"X22". The fabrics are both old and new from a variety of sources. (Grandma Bev, do you recognize some of those scraps?)The backing fabric is the same as the borders, sashing and binding. Had I known the time that would go into this, I'd have chosen a nicer fabric. The book talks about young girls honing their skills on baby or doll quilts. I'll say this much for my authenticity. It definitely looks like a child did the stitching.

I'm considering this one a lucky charm. Right after I finished the handquilting I checked my gmail account and had a lovely quilting surprise waiting for me. I'll fill you in as I learn more.

Monday, April 28, 2008

yo-yo top

I'm working on some ideas for future classes. This one's from a book called Yo-Yo Fashions by Amy Barickman for Indygo Junction.

A machine isn't needed which gives it good potential for a kids' class. I have no desire to work with a roomful of 8-10 year olds and sewing machines. The potential for disaster is too high.

I used the large Clover yo-yo maker and hand sewed all of them onto a shirt purchased from Target. (The link will take you to more project ideas from Clover.)

Now we just need last week's warm weather to return so Ellie can wear it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

the kids

Trixie found someone else to use her old diapers. She doesn't need them anymore!

She's also reached an age where no amount of coaxing will get her to look at the camera if she doesn't want to do it. Glenn's shirt pretty much summed up her mood.

Proof we'll be visiting the ER in the future.

A rare moment this week - they played together nicely. Carol - the dress shots are for you.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

decoupage jones

I have a LONG list of projects I want to sew. Plenty that needs to be done soon if we're to get use out of them this summer. What I should be doing and what I want to be doing are two very different things right now.

I blame it on those decoupage eggs from Easter. It wasn't the first time I decoupaged.

This thrifted bin was covered with some scrapbooking paper a couple years ago. This was before I thought to do things like take "before" pictures, but trust me, it used to be ugly. Currently, it's holding coloring books for the girls.

Then I got a little bolder and actually used a vintage book with a completely broken binding(I still can't bring myself to cut up a perfectly good vintage book) to cover the top of this box. It's shaped to look like a book though I've yet to do anything with the spine. If I were braver, I'd keep crayons in it, but I picture the girls coloring on the box with them.

Now I have this baby I thrifted a few months ago just calling to me. I've seen so many cute decoupaged suitcases out there in craftblogland. It'd be perfect for Ellie's doll clothes. I'm picturing ribbon glued around the edges where the strips of red are right now. I even have some vintage images of dark haired little girls. I should be working on those other projects though...

This photo is also a before picture of what may be my biggest summer project - a new lawn instead of the weed farm we have growing in the backyard. We have one estimate in and another due soon. I need to keep telling myself how nice it will look in a few months and remembering how awful it is to keep pulling all the creeping charlie out of the mulched beds all summer long.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

earth day

I think it would make me a bad Unitarian if I didn't post something vaguely green today. So here you go - juice pouches recycled into a tote bag.

When I photographed it this morning I found it's showing signs of wear after a couple years of use, so please ingore the breaks in the stitching on the side seams. This one has been home to coloring books, paper and markers that we can grab on our way out of the house.

If you want to make one this size, you'll need 18 juice pouches (after they're empty, slit open the bottom of the pouch and wash the inside), some webbing for the handles (mine are each about 15" long), thread, and a larger size machine needle (I think I used a 90 - also note that once you use the needle on the pouches, it should never touch fabric again.)

Use a large zig zag stitch to join the pouches together with about 1/4" of the sides overlapping until you have the size you want for each side of the tote. The bottom will require overlapping the pouches to be the same length as the front and back of the tote. (I realize now that it would have been helpful to have taken a picture of that - sorry.)It's much easier to sew the handles in place on the front and back of the tote BEFORE you assemble all the sides. Once you've done that, sew the front and back to the sides with wrong sides together having your zig zag stitch run down the edge stopping about 1/4" to 1/2" before the bottom edge. (I used binder clips to "pin" my pieces together so I woudn't make holes in the bag with real pins.) Be sure to reverse your stitching at the start and end of the seams for strength.

Putting the base on is the tricky part. I stopped my seams short of the edge so I could fold out the bottom of each side to match and sew it easier to the bottom of the tote. I found it's easiest to treat each seam around the bottom separately - reversing at the start and end of each seam to lock it.

The kids love carrying this around - it gets a lot of attention. I've also seen small purses made out of the pouches too. Just subtract or add as many as you like to get the size you want.

By the way, the irony of posting an earth day project made of wasteful packaging isn't lost on me. We do try to use the pouches sparingly - when we're on the run somewhere.

Friday, April 18, 2008

home dec 101

More models for some classes I'll be teaching this summer - Lined Valances 101 and Pillow Covers 101. The printed fabric is from Amy Butler's Nigella upholstery weight line.

The large motif on this pattern lent itself nicely to the windowpane effect.

The pillow class will be based on the book, Oh Sew Easy Pillows: 29 Projects for Stylish Living by Jean & Valori Wells.

I'm especially pleased with how the decorative stitching turned out on this one. It's metallic thread (which I normally wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole - not really my style) on silk dupioni. Instead of using a regular stitch which wouldn't really be thick enough to show up, I used a stitch on my machine that goes over each spot three times before moving on to the next stitch in the seam. It worked perfectly. I really need to remember to use this more for embellishment. It's a lot faster than hand embroidering when I don't have the time for handwork.

All three pillows have a basic overlap closure in back.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

big dot pillow

It doesn't look like much draped over my sofa, but this is the big dot pillow cover from Amy Butler's book, In Stitches. It's currently hanging in the shop as a model for the class I'll be teaching this summer. It's HUGE - 28"X28".

It took me over an hour to select all 14 prints that are in the dots, but it was worth it. I love how they look with all the patterns mixed. Eventually, the girls will have the pillow in their room.

I added a zipper to one side to make the cover removable for laundering. There's a great tutorial here if you find zippers intimidating. I usually use magic tape to hold the zipper in place instead of pins, but am going to try the glue stick method in that tutorial the next time.

Now I just have to wait 4 months to finally bring this one home.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Here's the easy-to-make puppet theater I promised.

You'll need:

3 tension rods (one for each level of fabric) - measure your door width to buy the proper size

fabric for the bottom skirt and top valance (I used two widths sewn together for those to get a nice amount of gathers) - all length measurements are up to you based on how tall you want the theater to be when finished

fabric for the stage curtains ( I used one length split in half for this to make it easier for the curtains to stay open.)

a few drapery weights (These were sewn to the bottom corners of the skirt to give it some weight so that it would hang nicely.)

All you have to do is sew hems and casings on your fabric. Because I used a solid color fabric for the skirt and valance I was able to use the fabric's selvage as a finished edge. Put the tension rods through the casings and hang them in a doorway.

I'm unable to tell you how to stop your kids from racing through the skirt like lunatics. Apparently that's even more fun than putting on a puppet show.

Monday, April 14, 2008

our zoo

Angie wrote about a stuffed animal organizer on Parent Dish months ago and it got me thinking. Containing all of our stuffed animals and puppets is a bit of a challenge around here. Here's my (cheapo) version of the product mentioned and how I made it.
You'll need:
parts from a plastic shelving unit
8 yds of 1/4 in. elastic
yarn needle
measuring tape
marking pencil
I began with some leftover pieces from a storage unit I bought at Target. (Why do I have leftover pieces? Because I wanted more shelves on shorter units that the kids could actually reach, which meant I didn't use the top shelves of two units along with 8 of the posts - I only needed four for this project.)

Next, I marked where I wanted to drill the holes for the elastic. Mine are about 4 inches apart. I had to be sure I drilled the holes far enough in from the edge that they missed all the extra plastic ridges on the sides. They're about 1 cm in from the edge on this unit.

Thread one end of the 1/4 elastic through a yarn needle. and start threading it through the holes. I began the threading through the bottom shelf so the knot would be hidden underneath the unit. The ending knot will be on the bottom if you've drilled an even number of holes. Weave it up and down through the holes until you get to the end of one side. Knot several times so it doesn't slip back through the hole (or tie the end to a washer). Then start pulling the elastic tight (I found the tighter the better) working back to the hole you started at. Cut off the extra elastic and knot that end. Do the same on all the other sides. On this unit there are 6 elastic "bars" on the long sides and 2 on the short sides. The whole unit used an 8 yard hank of elastic. For now, that size elastic is working fine. However, if it seems to loosen too much and I'm unable to tighten it with a new knot, I may drill bigger holes and use 1/2" elastic to see if that works any better.

The finished project filled with all of our puppets, a few stray animals and a couple of dolls. We even have room for growth. Not that I'm giving permission to any aunts or uncles to send more stuffed animals...
Coming soon - an easy to sew puppet theater.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

the kids

Ellie was an awesome big sister the day of the accident. She set up a sick bed for the two of them when she got home from school. Trixie was not too happy to get stuck on the couch for the day. We're still trying to keep her monkey tendencies to a minimum with little luck.

Lest you think family game time happens all that naturally around here - Glenn was in trouble for hitting Ellie. The consequence was that he had to play whatever she wanted for two hours and he had to do it cheerfully. I was hoping she'd get out all of her Littlest Pet Shop stuff. Would have made a great blackmail picture.

The stitches came out on Saturday. She got to take them home in that jar. Looks like the scar isn't going to be so bad. (Good ER doctor and a patient that held very still for him.) We're holding off on the bangs for now.

Friday, April 11, 2008

stitching paper (not foreheads)

It figures that for all the stitching I've posted about on this blog, the stitching that had nothing to do with crafts has garnered the most interest. Time to get back on track.

This book came home with me a few months ago. I've taken some classes at Paper Source in the city, but that was ages ago and I've forgotten many of the techniques we worked on. This looked like a great way to get back to work with a low degree of difficulty.

Today I gave a simple stab stitch binding a try. The kids did some watercolor paintings over spring break and I wanted to put them in a simple book for their uncle(sorry Mike, I just spoiled a surprise - it'll be in the mail soon). For some reason my stitches overlap, but the ones in the book don't. I think I figured out where I went wrong, but doubt I'll redo it. That happened after I punched the holes in the wrong spot and had to trim the paintings a second time. I'm calling it done and considering it part of the learning curve.

One of Glenn's pictures is used as cover art. He titled this one "Tool". Which made me laugh and I couldn't tell him why.

Ellie has an obsession with volcanoes which migh have something to do with her desire to live in Hawaii. She calls this "The Volcano Erupts".

And Trixie - after making two other paintings which she called "Baby Hippo" and "Horsey" - worked on this one. When I asked what this one was called, she looked at me very seriously and said, "I can't speak". After going back and forth a few times in some weird Laurel and Hardy routine, I realized that she wasn't telling me she couldn't talk - she was giving me the name of the painting.

I couldn't speak either. I was laughing too hard.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Resurfacing here to thank everyone for their kind and hilarious comments.

After banning all jumping and running(guess how successful that's been) and a little retail therapy for me, things are going back to normal.

Stitch removal is on Saturday and a haircut with bangs will probably happen the following week.

Looking on the upside - it really could have been much worse and I am now an expert on blood stain removal from clothing and rugs.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

bubble wrap suit

No pictures of this project. Just something I think I need to make for Trixie. Instead of taking project photos when the sun was shining and working on sewing projects yesterday, I was in the emergency room with her. (I know some of you -blackbird, Angie, Trish - saw this day coming long ago.)

Long story short - she tripped in her room, fell forward and caught her forehead on the edge of her bedframe. A lot of blood, a sight I'll never get out of my head, and 7 stitches later, she's okay. She also gets an award for the bravest kid ever. Except for two cries when they gave her a shot, she was perfectly still and silent during the stitching. She was quite the celebrity with the nurses.

I'm taking it easy this week. After I scrounge up the bubble wrap and duct tape I might get some sewing done. As for this afternoon, I'm taking a nap. For some reason I didn't sleep well last night...

Friday, April 4, 2008

perfect for twirling

I finished up this model for a class I'm teaching this summer. (pattern: Little Hip Skirts by Favorite Things - fabric: Freshcuts by Heather Bailey) Beginning sewers take note - this pattern was VERY easy. It also takes very little fabric in the small sizes, but has maximum twirl factor. Finally got smart and started making the models a size larger than what my girls are wearing at the moment so they'll fit when I get to take them home. Once again, I made my casing a bit too snug for the elastic. Actually, I sewed the size recommended in the pattern only to find I didn't have the width elastic called for on hand. I made do with something a teeny bit too wide. Note to self: check supplies BEFORE sewing.
Now I can't wait for the class to be over so I can put it on Trixie. I have some fabric set aside for a double layered version for Ellie. Hopefully, I'll get busy and be able to share it in a few weeks.

the kids

Tuesday night is Dancing with the Stars night at our house. Note the dramatic pose. I think she's perfecting her tango moves.

I'll see your Cinderalla gown and scarf and raise you a kerchief, pocketbook and magic wand.
The weight of the helmet nearly toppled her over.
Spring break trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


The girls each got a new spring/summer top this week. The pattern is from the Simplicity "Sewing for Dummies" line. I'd have preferred something with a different name, but it was the only one on sale that week that had the elastic casings at the neck and sleeve.

I lengthened both sizes by about 2 inches and I'm wishing I'd made them even longer. The hem has even been made turning up less fabric than called for giving me about 3 extra inches overall in the length. Why on earth do patterns make the tops so short? Or are my girls very long in the waist?

Note to self for future use of this pattern - make casings 1/8 of inch larger so the fabric moves easier when distributing gathers. Extend front and back lengths by 3 or 4 inches.

Everytime I look at this fabric I'm reminded of our family room growing up. My mom had an entire wall of owls - some in needlepoint(one made by me at 13), some painted, some ceramic. That wall was proof positive that you should never tell people that you like a particular thing - because that's what they're going to give you in some form for the next decade.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

t is for trish

Hopefully Trish has heeded my email warning to stay away from my blog until a belated birthday package arrives in the mail. If not, um, surprise!

I thought this would be a good April Fool's Day post, since I didn't actually do the cross stitch on the pillow. I brought in a ringer for this project - my newly retired mother who is always looking for a project to do. (And some of you wonder where I get it from...) As usual, her work is phenomenal. The ladies at the fabric shop where I bought the pillow insert and cording were gushing over the back of the project - it's as neat as the front.

The design is an English alphabet of Hotch Potch fellows. Trish had an interest in them and even has a giant one that can be posed in letter forms. I have to say I find "M" rather amusing.

The backing is a fat quarter from my stash. It's a grey/black weave that picked up the color of the knickers in the fellows. 4 vintage buttons form the closure. I even learned a new trick on my serger for this one - I figured out how to attach another presser foot that had a channel for cording so I could cut it to a 1/4" seam allowance and finish the edge so it wouldn't fall apart. I'm also finding that the serger is perfect for finishing the edges of all needlework projects so they don't fray.

Happy Birthday, Trish - you're still older than me!