Monday, December 13, 2010

Gifts Project #4

Purses... Have I mentioned I love purses?

These are swing purses. They are in the 'across the body' style, with a magnetic closure. The pattern is on the AllPeopleQuilt website I mentioned before. They are small, quick and super flexible. I made these for the little women in my life and used all scrap fabric, embellished with ribbons, buttons and eyelash yarn.

I like to have gifts made up in advance because you never know when an opportunity will come up and if you have gifts ready you might get more opportunities (or make up your own reason to give: unbirthday, first day of school or new job, straight A's, feeling blue). Making things assembly line style makes it very easy to finish multiple projects quickly.

Swing Purses!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gifts Project #3

Knitting. I've finally taught myself to knit! I've been trying to teach myself for a few years, which really means I'd try, be frustrated, quit for months, and repeat.

Anyway, about a year ago I watched a program, where this woman said it doesn't matter how you knit as long as you accomplish the stitches. Then she proceeded to demonstrate her knitting style, which was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was like an epiphany for me.

Turns out, the 'throwing' style of knitting was my problem. Not knitting, the style. You see, I'm a crochet-er first. In crochet your two hands work together to create the piece and the fabric you make is strong and won't unravel if your hook falls out. In knitting, or rather in English knitting, one hand does all the work and the other hand holds stuff. Knitted fabric is fragile, if the needle falls out it will most likely unravel or drop stitches. In the throwing process, I'd lose stitches, or my left hand would try to help and a needle would fall out. Very frustrating.

Since seeing that program, I discovered continental knitting and it's been transformative. I'm a knitter! I use both hands to create the fabric and because I'm not releasing a needle to throw the yarn, no more lost threads or needles. It's very exciting.

I love crochet. Crocheted items have more body and the fabric is thicker than knit. You can make virtually any shape with crochet and it makes the best afghans. What's great about knit is the flexibility of the finished fabric. Knit items are thinner and more fluid, which makes for a great scarf. If, like me, you need help learning to knit, check out the plethora of YouTube videos on the subject. They helped me and perhaps will help you, too.

So, I've been knitting scarves all year. It improves my skill, the projects are portable and use very little yarn. You can make a scarf while practicing knit stitches and by the time you've finished the scarf, you will have mastered the stitch. And, it's the perfect use for all the novelty yarns I've bought on clearance or super sales or just because I couldn't resist. A local store was clearing out their yarn department of all the onsie, twosie skeins left and I bought several interesting yarns for 39 to 59 cents a skein. Perfect for these scarves!

Lion Brand Yarns has so many patterns and it is my first choice when looking for inspiration. One scarf I particularly like is a keyhole scarf done in garter stitch. Four of the scarves in the picture are in this pattern. What I like best is that the scarf isn't super long, so it just tucks right into your coat.

Scarves! :)

Thankfully... 3

Here's what I know for sure... If you take the time to look around, there is always something for which to be thankful. Even if it's the ability to notice what's all around.

Since I started writing my thankful thoughts on fb and then here, I find myself being thankful during the day for things that, in the past, I've not always been thankful for: the cat wanting to scooch up way too close or folding laundry or challenges at work.

Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware of my many blessings. This is not the first time I've ever noticed them, but committing to this public display... This is different.

It has seeped into my being in a way that I never expected.

First of all, how do you sum up something as wonderful as the complexity that is another person in a few sentences? So, I spent time thinking about each person I intended to put into a note, which was pretty awesome in itself. The quirks, the gifts, the talent, the annoying behavior, all the amazing components of a human being.

The first few days, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the posts, because the biggest things in your life are the hardest to distill down to a few words. Then each time I visited fb or someone commented on it, I felt thankful all over again. It's amazing how good it feels to be thankful. It's addicting, actually.

I found I liked how it made me feel so much that I tried to find things to be thankful for when everything wasn't going smoothly. The cranky cashier, the aggressive driver, the computer crash... In every challenge, I found something to appreciate no matter what. "I'm thankful for good brakes and the reminder to drive safe."

Corny, maybe. Life altering definitely.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gifts Project #2

Purses! I love to make purses. They are a chance to really let your creativity go. Even the most conservative dresser will carry a purse with pizzazz, so they make great gifts!

This purse has been featured several places, but what I like about the pattern I used the Grab Bag pattern from is the addition of pockets and batting. You can get the pattern here.

I used bandanas for the outside and a crazy checked cotton for the inside. I love hot pink and black! It's very Good-n-Plenty, if you know what I mean ;)

This purse is very comfortable to use. I made a test one, out of some really old scraps of white denim with blue & brown flowers and liked it so much I'm still using it for my everyday purse. Because the handles interlock, the contents of your purse are secure. Cotton fabric is very cool and comfortable and the batting keeps your goodies safe from harm.

btw-The AllPeopleQuilt site is one of my favorites. Whether you Quilt or not, take a look. Very fun!

Thankfully... 2

Today I'm remembering my Mom. I miss her still. She was funny and corny and sentimental and loving. Things she loved: reading, crosswords, singing, dancing, jigsaw puzzles, mysteries, action movies, kiss cookies, cards and games.

I learned to love books from her. I learned resilience, perseverance and loyalty. I learned how to cook and to make "8 makes it Great" salsa and about a zillion other things. She was amazing.

This day and every day I'm thankful to be one of Bev's kids.

The is a climbing rose bush that Mom would have loved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Well, I don't always blog with regularity, okay I never do. However, the bug is with me today, so I'm posting another.

We are approaching Thanksgiving. I've been posting Thankful Thoughts on my fb page for the past 10 days or so and I'm enjoying it so much that I want to post one here, too:

I am thankful for husband. He's great! Seriously. Great. He's handy, smart, funny, loving, hard working, handsome, silly, quirky. He gave me a sense of belonging and safety I'd never known before. With him, we created two amazing children who've grown into young men that I both like and respect. He came three older children, who are now adults with children of their own, that add depth and texture to our lives. It's amazing to be part of a blended family! Sure, he gets under my skin from time to time, but if I'm being honest - that has as much to do with me as it does with him. Yes, he's handy and smart and all those other things, however, I'm eternally thankful for this man who gave me the greatest gift... love.

The picture is of a hummingbird who visited with us most of the summer. Two years ago I planted a honeysuckle vine that flowered like mad and attracted the hummers.

Gift Projects #1

I'm always searching the internet for great homemade projects. Whether I know what I'm going to make or am looking for inspiration, I like to see what others have to offer. Because even when I know what I'm going to make, if someone else has made it before, I can learn from their adventures! It's fun and interesting and quite often surprising the variety of things you can find.

In some small way, this year I'm sharing my projects so perhaps someone else will find inspiration here.

My first entry is... drum roll please... Eye pillows.

I have a friend who leads guided relaxation sessions and asked me to make some eye pillows to use in her classes. I'd never heard of them before this. Well, one ten minute session with a pillow on my eyes and I was sold! They are fairly amazing. If you haven't tried one, do.

For my friend, who wanted to be able to wash between uses, I made pillows and covers from cotton. So each pillow cover can be removed and washed.

For my gifts, I used silk. Yes, can be pricey, but after weighing all the options I settled on silk. Why? The feel. This really was the deciding factor. Silk has a natural coolness to the touch. The fabric takes longer to warm from touching your skin, and if you pull it away it cools almost instantly. This coolness really aids in the relaxation properties of the pillow. For me, it made all the difference.

You can repurpose fabric for this. I used a dress and I washed the fabric! I know, this may sound shocking, but lots of silks can be washed and they come out of the washer in fine shape. Warning: Silk shrinks! And sometimes not in an even manner So don't wash a garment you plan to wear again unless the label recommends it. But for repurposing, I did and you might just want to wash it. Some silks lose their 'luster' in the wash. Does that make it ugly, not to me. It's up to you.

Also, not all silks are suitable for this project. Dupioni, shantung or other heavy weaves, not the best for this project. "China silk" is a great choice and one that many think of as silk, in terms of texture, vibrancy, drape. Luckily, lots of clothing is made out of this and it washes great.

Onto the making of the project... As you can see I embroidered words on the pillows, and the variegated thread and stitching design created this wonderful striped effect. If you don't have an embroidery machine, plain pillows are just as wonderful and are reversible, or you could hand embroider or add ribbon as an accent. The possibilities are endless, really.

I made a pattern by tracing around the sample from my friend (but there are patterns on the net). BTW~I used a clear plastic to create the pattern so I could be sure to align the lettering level with the top of the pillow pattern. Anyway, trace around the pattern, but don't cut on the line. Instead, cut out a rectangular shape leaving an inch or so around the line. It's easier to sew just inside the drawn line if the fabric is larger. Leave a small one inch opening. I always back stitch on either side of the opening to ensure the stitches don't come loose in the turning process. You want to leave as small an opening as possible because you will be hand sewing the opening closed and the filling does like to slip out.

Done sewing? Trim close to the line with pinking shears. Pinked edges are perfect for curves as they eliminate the need to snip the seam allowance. Fill the pillow with 3/4 cup of flax seeds and sew closed. Be sure to use small stitches to keep the flax seed in. I personally like flax seed the best. It has a faint earthy smell I find soothing and the weight of the seeds vs. the size is really good. Also, flax seeds are very smooth, they don't stick to the fabric or each other. If you use another type of filler, test the measurement before sewing closed.

Happy gifting!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ahhh... vacaton

We've been away for eight days and it was glorious. The picture is of the mountains around the lake we visited. So much fun, so much nothing particular to do, so much sun. It was the best vacation ever (yes I've said that about every vacation, but this one was the best!) It was long enough that we were ready to come home. How often does that happen?

But ready I was, more than... I was so excited to get here and so happy to see everything and just be here. The house, the animals, the landscape, the garden, the ponds, my bed... all the things that make this place our home. Being this excited to come home was the icing on the top of a great vacation cake!

We were visiting a small town near where we stayed. They had some really amazing little shops with lots of hand crafted items. I feel very inspired!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Clearing out the stash...

I have a lot of fabric. I love fabric and I can't resist a bargain. Every holiday or major sale you will find me searching through the end of bolt or last season fabrics... Two days ago, I found some amazing batik for $2.50 a yard! It's going to be a sweet dress, one day real soon. Oh wait, this post is about clearing the stash, whoops. Anyway...

I got some advice, once upon a time from a long time sewer, who said, "You don't need to buy the most expensive machine out there, but you want to buy the best machine you can afford". So many years ago, when I bought my first Singer, I paid $99 for it, cause it was what I could afford. What a great little machine, too. Two years ago, I bought another Singer, because my Grandma was a Singer sewer and I'm nostalgic about that... But more importantly, it fit my budget and tickled my imagination with features. This year, when contemplating the serger, I researched and pondered and dreamed, and finally decided on a Brother. One, it fit my budget and two, it has an excellent track record for troubles, maintenance and repairs.

Between the two, they have transformed my sewing life completely. I have always sewn, but now... It is so easy and fun to whip up projects that I'm actually working my way through my stash. Yes, it's true. Not that you can see much of a dent yet, but I'm working on it.

I plan to update regularly with my completed projects, but sometimes I give stuff away without taking pictures - - how frustrating is that!

I bought this fabric during one holiday blowout at JoAnn's and it's been sitting in my studio ever since. Now it's become sweet little shorts for vaca! Seriously, 15 minutes from laying out the pattern to trying on the finished shorts.

I think the lips are funny... On shorts...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Well I'm not all that consistent am I?

Looking back I realize I'm not all that consistent a blogger. Do I feel bad about this... No. I figure I'm the only one who ever reads this (even though I frequently write as though thousands are reading it) and if I don't feel deprived in reading it... Then no biggie.

On to more important things. First let me say summer reading programs are the best. As I've said before, I'm an avid reader. My mother read every day and both my sister and I picked up the bug. There have been times when I've stayed away from books, either because of a lack of time or lack of inspiration. But summer reading programs always get me excited. I discovered a website some time ago and have spent some time on and off looking at booklists and slowly entering the thousands of titles I've read. Most of which I probably won't be able to recall.

I found a group of seasonal readers, with a tremendous list of 'tasks' that challenged me to think outside the box and venture outside my comfort zone for reading. So far in the month of June I've read 7 books and am working on 8. It's amazing. I've discovered authors I thoroughly enjoyed and books I thought I would but didn't. The tasks are interesting and make me think about what I will read. Not to mention the great wealth of information contained on the Goodreads website. If you like books, try the site. Let me know what you think.

Also... I have a new serger (imagine trumpeting sounds here). It is my big present to myself for 2010. I've always wanted one and now that I have it, I know why. It is as amazing and fantastic as you might imagine. I am in search of things to make with it. So far I've learned to make potholders and eyeglass cases from an amazing book by Georgie Melot called Ready, set, serge. She has created this wonderful patterns that enable you to make fun and useful items sewing only with a serger! I've also used it to finish every seam on every garment I've made since I bought it, which is a jacket, dress, two skirts and one shirt. I'm hoping to make a few pairs of shorts and a couple more dresses before the vacation mid-july.

Finally, for today's post anyway, we enjoyed the most spectacular spring this year. Lots of rain, lots of sunny days and the gardens have been stunning. I'm including a picture of a climbing rose I bought on a whim one fine day and it has in three short summers turned into the most beautiful thing. It grows just as it should, up a rusty wire trellis my husband affixed to the garage and is so stunning that the color looks fake. But, I assure you it is real. It began blooming in early May and continued to bloom for 5 weeks. Then, just when I thought it done for the season, it began blooming again today. I don't think it will be the riot of color it was in May, but I'm thankful and in awe that it continues to bloom.