Friday, August 15, 2014

FO: Quilts for Daughters #3 and #4

My other goal for the summer - aside from clothes for myself - was to finish two more quilts for my youngest daughters.  Building off the design and look of the quilts for daughters #1 and #2, I went with a stacked coin method again.  The prints are all from my stash but I did purchase cotton on sale for the binding.

These two quilts are very similar to each other, which was a happy accident.  The original two quilts I made in 2009 were on the narrow side so I set out to make these wider.  Each color block measures 4.5 inches by 7 inches.  In my over-zealous attempt I made too many vertical strips; so many that I only had to cut and sew one extra to get a second quilt.  So while I set out to only make one for my 6yo I also finished up a second one for my 3yo.  It is certainly too big for her toddler bed and has been tucked away in the linen closet for a year or so until she moves into a 'big girl' bed.

Something wonky happened towards the bottom of the first quilt (first photo) and I think it was because I pulled the backing fabric too tight when taping it to the floor to make the sandwich.  I caught my mistake for the second one and didn't have any trouble.  Luckily for the first one it seems confined to the second row only.

One back is all the same cloth (the waves on the far left in the photo below) and the other is as you see here - pieced with a few different pieces of fabric from the stash. 

The binding strips worked out great this time - I think after working on bias for armholes I really have the hang of machine sewing binding and bias on.  I hand stitched the backs, however, while catching up on episodes of "Suits".

My 6yo loves her quilt already and has been using it every night.  I think they are a success - and it is nice to walk by various bedrooms upstairs and see the quilts splayed out (but very rarely on their beds, smile.  They are kids after all.).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Crafty (Backyard) Camping Birthday

My oldest girls turned 9yo this past weekend.  They wanted a backyard camping sleepover.  My husband and I went around and around about whether to have a 'theme' or just go with a sleepover party.  Ultimately the theme idea won - if for no other reason than it helped to reign in ALL of the ideas that the girls had about their special birthday party.

I found this great camp cake recipe/idea online and did my best to create one similar.  I think I did pretty well.  In fact, making and decorating the cake with the girls was one of the highlights of the entire party planning experience.

I picked out two crafts for the girls to do as well.  The first was a photo holder: A wooden cube that could be decorated with camping signage, and then add a groove in the top that can hold a photo.  We all loved doing these!  I found the camping signs online at Etsy, each girl got her own sheet to cut from and we used Mod Podge to secure the 'signs' to the blocks.  My husband made the blocks and then used a saw to cut the groove.  Each girl went home with a couple of blocks and one photo holder.  I kept the extra blocks until the next day and then made our family a set of blocks for camping.  I can imagine using them for so many things when we are in the great outdoors - story cubes, conversation starters, etc.

The other craft was creating shadow puppets of northern woodland animals.  The girls (painstakingly) cut them out and taped each on to a chopstick.  They practiced shining the images on the side of the tent with their flashlights (a party favor) and then my husband made up a story and they acted it out.  The whole idea/production turned out even better then I ever could have imagined.  The animal shapes were free templates from a designer on the internet - there are thousands out there to choose from.

We roasted hot dogs over a fire pit for dinner with corn on the cob, watermelon and chips.  We did the crafts right afterwards, then were inside for a movie.  Then outside again for sleeping in the tent.  Luckily the weather was on our side for the weekend.  The girls all slept really well (until 8a!) and after breakfast and some playing it was time for the girls to get picked up again.  It was a great party and after the guests left my daughters ran to me with hugs saying that the party exceeded every dream they had about it before hand.  A very happy Momma moment.

This was our first foray into a friend party - up until now, for all our girls, we've kept these celebrations close with just family.  It was a lot of work to pull of the party for kids but very much worth it.  And the party was in touch with our family 'vibe' which made it really enjoyable.  I even got to craft/create along the way.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Personal Summer Sewing Challenge

This summer I set a goal of sewing clothes for myself.  I was unsure how the start to the summer would unfold and we found ourselves afloat for a couple weeks due to a death in the family, bad weather (tornadoes) and no summer camp schedule to speak of.  We were adrift for a bit, but I had dreams and thoughts of sewing clothes to keep me anchored (and sane) and therefore the kids happy.  When I was able to schedule them with an activity I slipped away to my own activity and peace reigned for at least 20 minutes at a stretch.

I am very new to sewing clothes for adults.  I have made kids costumes here and there and done some quilting, but never anything that required measurements and fit.  I really didn't know where to start.  I reached out to a friend, and the internet, and then dove in.

Two tips I picked up pretty quickly were: 1. Make a (wearable) muslin out of cheap fabric and 2. Pick the pattern size based on your measurements, not your clothing size.

My first three patterns to try were: 1. The Wiksten Tova, 2. The Washi Dress and 3. The Schoolhouse Tunic.

Coincidentally my neighborhood sewing shop (The Sewcial Lounge) was offering a class on the Wiksten Tank which I also signed up for.  What a great experience!  I learned so many little tricks and tips that I felt quite accomplished when I was done.  I learned how to sew in bias for the armholes and use a sewing gauge.  And while it wasn't a pattern I had initially picked out for myself it made a great top and starting point for my other projects. 

My first tank (top left in first photo), that I made during the class, is a wearable muslin out of generic quilting cotton.  [I don't particularly care for the fabric pattern, but it was a good trial run and now has been worn camping and weeding the garden a few times this summer.]  I walked out of the store wearing my new tank top and the confidence to move on to something a bit more ambitious. 

The other three tanks I made to add to my summer wardrobe and I consistently wear at least 2 each week.  They came together very quickly and in about 4 separate 20-minute windows (cutting, sewing, armholes and neckline/serging seams).  The blue is from some Ghanaian fabric a friend brought home for me from travels abroad, the yellow is a quilting cotton that is softening after many washes, and the voile is a lovely Anna Maria Horner print that I found on sale.

Once I had the tank down I moved on to the Washi Dress.  My first go at that was not good - I made a dress entirely too big and learned the real value of making a muslin.  My second attempt at a wearable muslin was much better.  I opted for the tunic length, reasoning that I would save on fabric while getting a better fit and then could do the dress next.  The teal/green tunic above is out of quilting cotton from my stash and I do wear this top out in public.

Then came the dress, made from a cotton voile from JoAnn fabrics.  It turned out about as wonderful and I could have expected for my first dress.  The shirring is not straight and I didn't bother to change the thread color for the facing.  But it fits reasonably well and the hem is straight.  I am excited to make another (with the notch and sleeves this time) in another lightweight fabric.  Maybe a soft linen or another voile.  I love the sleeveless look for this one too.  A great all-around summer sun dress.

Two other details to note are the serged seams (!!) and 'handmade' tags.  The serger was a gift from my husband this spring and I am in love with it.  The finished seams make all the difference in a wearable garment.  And the tags were a gift from a dear friend.  They add the perfect touch this this first set of clothes.

I have taken to calling these items the Summer '14 collection.

And with August starting tomorrow I only have a few weeks before we roll over into the Fall '14 collection (smile).  I have yet to tackle the Wiksten Tova - I tried it out in and the muslin is too big.  Back to the cutting table for that one.  And I also worked on a muslin for the Schoolhouse Tunic.  This one fits well everywhere except just below the bust, where it is too tight.  I am puzzling how to extend the pattern piece to give myself a bit more 'below bust ease' so it all comes together well.

Monday, June 2, 2014

FO: Pixel Portrait - Family

Over Memorial Day weekend I went from idea to finished portrait.  Relying heavily on Martha Stewart's tutorial and clip art I came up with a rendition of our family on graph paper.  Check here for details. 

After sketching the first draft I went back and cut and taped edits all over.  Graph paper is awesome to work with for that very reason!

The final product shifted a bit still - no chickens, I changed up some of the accessories, and I still have to add our family name.


I was able to use many different colors, but tried to use the same color at least twice in the portrait to keep a sense of unity.  I also threaded a gold strand in the twins' hair to make it a bit different from Dad.  

I can't believe how darn cute this turned out...and check Etsy and Google Images for tons of other great ideas for how to customize it even more.