Friday, January 30, 2009

oiyi's block

Have any of you other common threaders had a hard time with the design of one block in particular? This one turned out to be the biggest challenge for me. I thought it was going to be an easy one. As I sketched out ideas, none of them felt like me, so I kept walking away from it. I think because this one is really for Oiyi's daughter, Melody, I wanted something that felt special. All the pieced blocks I came up with felt forced.
I took the sketches to my quilting group in the hopes someone would have a suggestion for me. Carmel suggested a heart with a swoop and that got me thinking of a small decorative pillow I'd made my sister years ago. The pattern I drew for the pillow was too large for a quilt block, but I used that as my starting point. Once the decision was made to applique a heart, the rest fell into place.
The background is pieced from all the scraps Oiyi sent and like others in our group, I thought they had a real sense of my 70's childhood in them, so the Little House on the Prairie/Holly Hobbie type patchwork felt perfect. I was a little nervous about the applique. The last time I used it, I covered the edge with a blanket stitch. That wasn't an option this time.
The embroidery was important to me. I wanted a red running stitch that alluded to a Chinese saying that there is an invisible red thread that connects people who are destined to meet.
I also wanted two hearts representing a mother and daughter. I love how the tails of the hearts sort of nestle into one another. (My previous design attempts with two hearts were supposed to have a "piece of my heart" theme, but wound up looking like broken hearts instead. NOT what I was going for.)

It should be in your mailbox shortly, Oiyi. I hope Melody likes it.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

thrifty thursday

Remember that thrift trip I took with Angie a couple of weeks ago? The one where two of my favorite sources have been permanently removed from my list of stops? Something wonderful came out of our final stop. I asked at the desk if there were any sewing supplies left and was told not anymore. While Angie perused the skirts (she scored 5 Lilly Pulitzer skirts for $3 each!) I wandered around the back to look at their linens.
An older woman approached me and asked if I was the one who was interested in sewing supplies. I told her I was and that I loved to sew. She replied that she'd been sewing for over 50 years and was going to be downsizing her home soon. She'd been slowly going through things she'd not be moving with her and pricing them for a garage sale in the spring. I tried to maintain a calm appearance. She then went on to say that she'd love to sell them to someone who would use and appreciate them and would I like to stop over and see if there was anything I would use. Frantic scrambling in my purse for paper and pencil began.

I gave her my name and number and watched her very carefully place it in her wallet. We chatted a bit more about sewing and teaching it to our daughters - hers are about 10 years older than me and no longer sewing much. Then we parted ways and I crossed my fingers that the slip of paper didn't get lost.

It didn't. I got a call just before last weekend and we set a time for me to stop over.

Each time I touched a piece of fabric she recalled what it had been used for - a coat to go over her older girl's prom dress, a skirt for the younger one. I left after an hour and a half with several bags of new treasures.
I'll post a few more next week, but I can write her a thank you note telling her I've already used some of it. The red denim in the bunny wallet was from her stash.
It was one of the scraps from a pair of pants she made her daughter.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

bunny wallet

Okay, I'm pretty sure I have the Zakka Sewing book out of my system - at least for a little while.

I need a bunny wallet about as much as I need a bunny pencil pouch, but here it is anyway. That paw over her mouth cracks me up. I just realized that I don't have a picture of the face without the paw on it. There's a 1/2" snap for a nose and embroidered mouth underneath. To make things move along quickly, I used a stitch on my machine that goes over each spot 3 times to machine embroider the lines on the face. The eyes are doll clothes buttons.

The book calls for one pocket for paper money and one for credit cards. I added a second credit card pocket to hold various insurance cards, loyalty cards, etc. You can see by the extra cards in the money pocket that I could have used even more.

Twill tape was used for the coin pocket tab instead of fabric.

It's been fun to use this week, but I'll probably empty it in a few days and save it for more springlike weather.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

bunny pouch

More Zakka Sewing fun.
An accessory I totally don't need got moved to the top of the sewing list last week. Made with garment weight linen (same stuff used in the blouse and hat from last summer), a printed cotton from the stash (purchased at the best garage sale ever), batting scraps from previous quilt projects and a thrifted zipper.
Check out that tail. I followed the directions in the book, but next time I'll make one using one of my yo-yo makers. The crocheted chain holding it on the zipper is proof of my attempts to try other forms of needlework during the cold snap that kept me upstairs. Knitting was a complete failure. I did manage to make a chain with the crochet hook, but couldn't get a second row of anything going. Good thing I only needed the chain for this project.

The lining is sewn in by hand, but goes very quickly.
The zipper directions were different from my usual method. Next time, I'll go with what I know. I had a very hard time getting the seam and edges to catch properly near the head. I'm calling it good enough and leaving it alone.
The book showed two pouches made with the fabrics reversed. Not sure if this one needs a sibling.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

nutkin tea cosy

So much for those works in progress. I couldn't resist the lure of all the new projects in the Zakka Sewing book.
Squirrel Nutkin now has a job keeping my teapot warm. If you have the book and are looking for a quick project, this one is it. The sashiko embroidery took no time at all. In fact, it probably took as much time to transfer the design as to embroider it. I wound up freehand drawing the pattern with an air erasable marker using the book as a guide. The thickness of the wool eliminates tracing as an option and I'm not very good with the old school tracing paper and wheels. Once that part is done, all that's left is edgestitching both sides together. Ta-da!
I was surprised at how large he turned out (the patterns in the book need to be enlarged 200% before use). His size is just right for my Peter Rabbit teapot, but our china teapot was too wide to be completely covered.
Notes: I used wool felt (leftovers from the Halloween tote). The embroidery was done using all 6 strands of floss.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

quilting bee

What day is it? With two days off of school last week due to the extreme cold, then two days off this week for a holiday and an institute day, the kids seem to have had another winter break. My schedule is completely out of whack and here we are headed into the weekend again before I even got a handle on the weekdays.
Our cold snap was so bad that I didn't do any sewing at all in the basement (where my machine is located). When there are ice crystals in your laundry detergent, that's too cold to craft. Instead I stitched on some handwork projects that had been neglected for far too long.
Now added to the finished list - The Quilting Bee (Wee Wonderfuls design)
I stitched it on regular linen that I bought for making clothing. While I enjoyed stitching on the fabric, I'm not so happy with how the colors came out on the natural tone of the linen. I think in the future, I'll stick to a single color floss when stitching on a darker background. I'd intended for the figures to look like the girls and myself (someday- I can dream, can't I?). It would have come out much better on a white background. Also, I chose my hair color before visiting the salon this week for some help with the gray. I can't believe how well the mousy brown floss I chose matched my previous hair color. Very sad.
On a better note, I have actually started to catch up on some sewing projects and completed a few new ones from the Zakka Sewing book I just got. A little thrifting was squeezed in over the weekend as well. The title of this post reminds me that I also need to catch up over at Common Threads. Looks like I have my work cut out for me this weekend. Lots of pictures to take and posts to plan.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

thrifty thursday

I was lucky enough to have Susie Sunshine as my thrifting partner in crime when I was last out. Having a friend along softened the blow when I discovered my favorite thrift shop (and the largest one) had moved to a location too far away to be a regular destination anymore. The strip mall it had been in for years is undergoing renovations (about a decade past when it needed them). I'm guessing they'll have to burn that storefront to the ground to remove the general funk that permeated the place. Still, I'll miss the vintage aprons I used to find for under a dollar.

Another shop held a few treasures though. A set of four vintage bridge napkins for a dollar-

A bag of buttons for $1.50-

I'm wondering why Lady Fashion buttons feature a gentleman on the card.

And finally this crocheted cutie which is already hung up in Ellie's room-

Glad I had luck at this stop because our next two were also busts. One was undergoing remodeling and was closed for several days, the other was going out of business. Hopefully, I'll have some good news to share about that last shop next Thursday. I don't want to write about anything before it happens for fear I'll jinx it. (No, I'm not becoming the proprietor of a thrift store.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

read all about it

The bad news: It's too cold to sew with my machine. (My sewing space is set up in the basement which is beyond frigid right now. There are ice crystals in the liquid detergent by the laundry sink.)
The good news: I'm slowly working my way through the Arrested Development DVD's and old needlework projects.
And I'm reading some great new books given to me by friends.
This one is beyond cute. I went through it with my post it notes and have about 8 patterns that need to go to the copy center for enlargement so I can start making things from it. There's a little house shaped caddy for a digital camera that's on the to do list for a friend. I discovered the shape is wrong for my camera, but it'll be perfect with a minor alteration for a Nintendo DS. (Yes, I'm getting my own. You want to make something of it?) I've also been on the lookout for wallets and the bunny one in here cracks me up.
When I first flipped through this one, I thought it was a great 50's spoof. It's not. I read the introduction last night and found that this book is a reprint of an actual series of comics printed in Britian in the 50's for young girls. In any case, it's fun and the projects are hilarious. Need a hanging laundry bag? Make one from an outgrown blouse. Though that's not far from making a hanging dust cover for a coat from an old pillowcase, so I'll just be quiet now. Moving on.

I'm trying so hard to work outside my comfort zone with quilting in general. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I just want to go back to the safety of the patterns I've saved. This book is great for inspiration and keeps me from giving up entirely on improvisational work. Funny that I'm reading this one just as Jacquie starts this project. I feel like I have too much on my plate right now to join them, but I'll be checking in with her to keep the creative juices flowing.
Keep warm.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I thought I'd get this posted much earlier today. Instead of blogging I got caught up in season one of Arrested Development. Before I knew it, all of my childfree time was gone and I had to head out into subzero temps to pick up Ellie from school.
This was a hostess gift for Jen, who threw a fabulous 80's party on Friday night (and loaned me the DVD's of all three Arrested Development seasons). Great party recap here complete with photos.
She had mentioned in a recent interview that a post about cupcakes drew the most attention of anything she's written. Seemed a good enough reason to try out a pattern I bought before the holidays by Portabello Pixies.
All the fabric is out of my scrap bag except for the wool felt. I also used a very large washer (the size of a silver dollar) as a weight in the bottom.

If I don't show up again the rest of the week, I'm working my way through seasons two and three.
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

the kids

Looks like the kids had as much fun this weekend as I did. I returned from a few days with blog friends to find three new members of the family in the front yard.

I was told they're snowbots. Dad helped them use the recycling bins and sand pails for molds.
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Friday, January 9, 2009

napkin pouches

This idea (and all the supplies for it) were passed along to me by a sewing friend. It had become one of those projects in her sewing room that had fallen off the to do list. I took them and they almost found their way to the bottom of a pile in my sewing room too. I dug them out while cleaning last week and decided to just sit down and sew them all up.

Each little drawstring pouch has a suprisingly roomy little interior area. In addition, the napkins are folded and sewn in such a way that two small pockets are created in the front and back under the flaps you see in the photo.

You only need a single, prepurchased napkin (these were all from April Cornell) and some cord or ribbon for the drawstrings.

They're very simple to sew up once you figure it out. Keep scrolling down for a two part tutorial on how to make your own. They make great little gift bags.

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napkin pouch tutorial part 1

You'll need:

hemmed napkin(whatever size you like, but it should be square)

4 feet of cord or ribbon for the drawstrings

coordinating thread

1. Fold the napkin in half to make a triangle as shown. It's okay if the points don't meet exactly. Most of mine weren't perfectly square.

2. Divide the bottom edge into thirds (I did this by folding in the side points and adjusting as needed) and mark sewing lines from the bottom edge up about 5 inches for a lunch sized napkin. (I sewed up about 6.5 inches for a dinner sized napkin.) My lines are marked in pink.

3. Sew from the bottom edge up to the 5 or 6.5 inch mark. Backtack at the ends of your seam.

4. This is the trickier part - fold each side back on itself so that the right side of the napkin is now facing out. In the photo below, the left side has been folded back. This is how you create the pockets in the front and back. Do this to both sides. It doesn't matter which side is on top.

5. Pin the side flaps to one another being very careful not to catch the inside of the pouch. Pin all the way around to the other side.

6. Edgestitch the two flaps together. You'll have to slide the the flaps onto the bed of the machine being careful not to sew through the interior of the pouch. Just keep checking and pulling. You can see in the photo that the fabric gets kind of bunched up. Fortunately, this is a pretty small seam. You'll also need to pivot your seam at the corner that rests at the bottom of the pouch. In the picture I'm nearing the end of the seam. You can see the inside of the pouch pulled forward out of the way of the machine's needle.

Keep scrolling for part 2.

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napkin pouch tutorial part 2

7. Once you know that you haven't sewn the interior of the bag to that last seam, turn the whole thing wrong side out.

8. Flatten out the bottom corners and sew a seam about 3/4" in from the end to box the corners. You can skip this step if you want a flatter pouch. I had to redo this step on a few pouches because all the fabric in that corner bunched up and I got a few pleats. Be sure you have all the fabric smoothed flat before sewing.

9. Turn the pouch right side out again and fold down the flaps just enough to create a channel for the drawstrings. Mine were about 3/4" wide. Sew a seam along both sides.

10. Cut your drawstring cord in half. Pull one through both channels so it ties off on the left. Do the opposite with the other so that it ties off to the right.

11. Pull the drawstrings to close up the bag. You're done!

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

breaking my own rule

I spent 10 years of my life teaching special education in the public schools. I swore I would never give an apple themed gift to any of my children's teachers. Ever.
Is it breaking that pledge to give any sort of themed gift?
If I just happened to have some fabric on hand that had a music theme and I thought it was pretty fabric and I needed a gift for Ellie's piano teacher, that would be okay, wouldn't it?
If I used two buttons from my stash to spruce it up and one had some embroidery to turn it into a musical note, that wouldn't be making matters worse, would it? And then if I did parallel rows of quilting to make it look like a musical staff, she might not even notice that...

If she did, I hope the gift card tucked inside the cup made up for it.
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