Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Obsession...

Wow, I just discovered, and I'm already experiencing the first signs of addiction. For those of you who have not yet heard of or succommed to this genius site, you may want to consider whether you have enough hours in your life available to devote to it before you click through the link.

It's a brilliant idea - the site allows you to design and purchase your own fabric, as well as fabric designed by others. It's very pricey - $11 for a fat quarter - but many of the fabrics available feel almost worth it. I haven't played around with designing my own fabric yet, but I'll admit that I've already ordered several fat quarters. I'm super curious to see what the print quality is like - watch for an update when my order arrives in the mail!!

The Cutest Little Needle Book

This has been a busy week for me professionally (see previous posts), so I haven't had much time for crafting, sewing, and blogging. I did, however, manage to complete this sweet little project.

Skebba has a tutorial for a Little Letter Needle Book, which I figured I could handle. I also really needed the stress relief that my sewing machine affords!

I only did a couple of things differently. First, I used two different felt rectangles for the "pages" of my book, because I just couldn't decide between that vibrant red-orange or the stunning teal. To make sure that both colors could be seen, I offset them slightly, then stitched down the middle with a contrasting thread.

I also chose not to topstitch mine. It lays perfectly flat even without the topstitching, because I really went to town with the iron. I think that gives the front of the envelope a cleaner, more mail-like look.

I do intend to add some kind of snap, or maybe velcro with a decorative button, but I'm not quite there yet.

If anyone out there is in need of a cute, quick needle book, this is the tutorial for you!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Toy Drop #3

Okay, so I did end up dropping Petra II after all. She had been sitting next to my sewing machine for a few weeks, and I realized that the thrill of getting to leave her as a toy drop was too much to resist.

I left her in a new park this time - Veteran's Memorial Field in Issaquah. There is an adorable little playground there, tucked between City Hall, a senior center, and a play field. My little hedgehog looked almost at home there - she'll be 100% at home when she goes home with a new family. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Encouragement

Okay, I'm a major dork... I'm aware. In so many ways I geek out daily - from the pun-based jokes that I insist are still funny the 18th time, to the ham I am when I get in front of my students. However, stress brings out a whole new level of dork in me.
This week I'm going through a certification to become a trainer of other educators in a method of teaching I strongly believe in (GLAD). Without going into specifics, this is the culmination of a year -or, if you look at it another way, 4 years- of an intense process. So naturally, the puns are flying like fish at Pike Place. My certification partner, Jenny, doesn't read this blog, so I'm comfortable showing the little daily encouragements I have planned for her.
First, I spent way too long in the candy aisle at QFC, searching for candy bars with names that could be turned into notes of support. When I got home I got out my beautiful new wool felt and some scrap craft paper and sewed 5 little tags, with rick-rack ties. On each one I composed a little note of encouragement, and I've started leaving these in places where she'll find them throughout our certification.
I found that I really liked making the labels. I've never tried sewing paper and fabric together before (aside from sewing the labels onto my mail sorter), and it was oddly satisfying.
Here's something else I discovered. All felt is not created equal. Those of you out there more experienced than me are thinking, "duh" right now, but for me this was a revelation. I've only ever used eco-felt before, and while it has its charms, it can't beat wool felt. This stuff is soft, easy to cut, easy to sew, and has such a rich, luxurious look to it that it barely fits in the same category. If you've never indulged before, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Organizing the Mail

Alright, be honest now. How many of you, like me, have a mail pit - a place where mail is dropped and forgotten? I get home, my hands are full of groceries, I have to use the bathroom, and everything just sort of gets dumped on the dining room table. Of course I sort through the groceries - after all, food must be refrigerated. But once I've scanned through the mail to see whether there are any packages, paychecks, or birthday cards, I pretty much just leave it there, where it mocks me for the next week or so. Eventually I'll do a quick sort through the pile, recycling junk mail, searching for bills, and shredding credit card applications, but 29 days out of the month the pit is there.
Enter Gina, of Bright and Blithe, and her fabulous mail sorter tutorial. This was a very simple project, and her tutorial even includes the printable labels you see above. Essentially, you are just creating a long pouch, then dividing it into 4 sections with rows of stitches.
Gina used unbleached cotton, which looks the same on both sides, and so her sorter was unlined. I used a cotton print that looks ugly on the back (which would become the insides of the pockets), so I lined mine with a pretty white eyelet cotton that I found at Goodwill.
She also uses a long piece of elastic to turn this into a sort of necklace for a door. I added fabric tabs to mine, so that it can just hang on a wall.
I mounted it on the wall right by the front door, and have notified the husband that there's a new system in place, so here's hoping that I've seen the last of the mail pit!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kite Paper Window Stars

I am all about color, and in these dark, gray days of January I find that I'm in need of bright spots of color more than ever.
Enter Waldorf window stars. For those of you not in the know, Waldorf education is a philosophy of education that emphasizes creativity and imagination. Personally, I don't have any experience with Waldorf schools and so have no opinion about their efficacy, but I do love so many of the arts and crafts that come out of these classrooms.
I found the tutorial for these stars on Garden Mama, and the kite paper at Palumba. Kite paper is basically colorful waxed paper. I wanted to get the "all colors" kite paper, but Palumba is out of stock for now. Instead I went with the other set, which includes primary colors, green, and white.

I've also been experimenting with cutting the paper down to get smaller stars. I want to put these stars everywhere. The photos don't do them justice at all - in person the colors are more varied and subtle, and the waxiness of the paper makes them shimmer and glow in the window. I highly recommend these stars as an antidote to the January grays!

P.S. Don't worry Chelsea - I didn't forget about you! I still have plenty of paper left, and I'm ordering the "all colors" set as soon as I can. I just couldn't wait to try making these when the paper came in the mail yesterday!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Look What Came in the Mail!!

Okay, okay, this is nothing I made. But it is something yet to be made, so it does belong on this blog.

This afternoon I came home and found that a package had arrived. I opened it, and was greeted by the amazing sight above. 60 felt squares, each a different color. Oh joy! Oh rapture! Oh holy rainbow of subtle shades and tones just waiting to become something wonderful! As a wise man once said, "Taste the rainbow."

Stay tuned to see this felt become many incredible things.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sweater Owls

Yesterday I posted the adorable oilcloth lunch sacks that Chelsea and I made on our Monday off. Here's another project we completed that day.

The idea actually came from a gift that a co-worker's wife made for Chelsea - a stuffed owl to help out with her class' "Owl-oween" celebration in October. It was so darn cute that we decided we had to learn how. I found a fantastic tutorial on Make It and Love It (really, is there anything that Ashley makes that doesn't inspire me??) for a similar owl stuffie. Chelsea found a great sweater at Goodwill with enough fabric for each of us to make one, we both pulled out our felt stashes, and we got down to business.

Here are some reflections for the next one I make:

-We sewed the wings on last. Really, I think they should be the first thing to be sewed on, before the two sweater body pieces are joined. That way the edges get tucked and sewn into the seams nicely.

-The backs of these are a little plain. It would be cute to sew a panel of the wing felt across the back (again, before the two body pieces are sewn together), to make it look like the wings extend all the way around.

-Chelsea had the cute idea to sew a little heart on. I also think that some rick-rack "breast feathers" would add cool texture.

I haven't decided yet whether this will be a Toy Drop. I'll let you know! :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Lovely Lunch Sack

Monday Chelsea and I got together and had a crafty-sewing day at her house. One project we finished was one I had been wanting to work on for a long time - a reusable lunch bag. My Lean Cuisines will be so much more appealing coming out of this sweet, springy little sack.

The wonderful tutorial came from Tumbling Blocks, and you can find it here. I picked up this fun oilcloth at the Pacific Fabrics outlet in SoDo, and I skipped the batting and inner lining called for in the tutorial.

I can't wait for lunch tomorrow!

To see Chelsea's version, check out the photos on her fabulous blog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quick Project: Pincushion

This was a super quick and inelegant -yet much-needed- project I did. I'm sharing it because the tutorial I used was kinda brilliant, so I want to share it with you.

I really needed a pincushion, preferably one that I could wear. After losing pins in the carpet while making my living room curtains, I realized I needed a quick solution. Yes, I could have just bought one, but where's the fun in that? Instead, I used Some Art Talk's simple pincushion design, with just a couple of minor modifications.

One thing I did was add a band so that I could wear the pincushion on my wrist. All I did was make a scrunchy with a strip of fabric and some elastic, then sew it on. Obviously, if you are doing this yourself, you'll have to do it before stuffing the pincushion.
The other thing I did was to add a square of plastic inside the pincushion, to act as a shield for my wrist. You can see the outline of it under the fabric in the picture below. I just used scrap plastic from a blister pack that I was throwing away. I put that into my pincushion before stuffing, and it prevents the pins from poking all the way through and stabbing the back of my wrist as I sew.

Like I said - nothing too exciting, but if you are looking to make yourself a pincushion, please check out the link I used. The method is pretty awesome!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Petra the Hedgehog

I just finished this adorable little hedgehog stuffie. In high school I had a pet hedgehog named Petra, so I named this little gal Petra II in honor of the original.

Here are a few things you should know about having a hedgehog (real) as a pet:
1. They snort when they are happy
2. They leave quills everywhere, which you will step on in bare feet
3. They have incredibly soft tummies
4. You have to clip their toenails, which is an interesting experience

Here are a few things you should know about having a hedgehog (stuffie) as a pet:
1. They snort when they are happy, if you make the snorting sound for them
2. Their quills are soft and permanently attached to their bodies
3. They have incredibly soft tummies
4. You will never have to clip their toenails, because they don't even have feet

You can get the tutorial to make your own hedgehog here, at matsutake. I did use felt, which simplified things a lot (no hemming). I'm working on some colorful ones now!
P.S. I don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to give this one away in a toy drop. I'm feeling pretty attached at the moment...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Personalized Bathmat

I just put the finishing touches on my new bathmat, which has taken me much longer than I expected it to. I got the idea from the tutorial at Montessori by Hand, and I only added a few variations along the way. However, I decided to document the process by taking photos along the way. So... this really isn't a tutorial, it's just a photo essay of this project!

To start, I had fun, fun, fun picking out fabrics at Pacific Fabrics. They've had a display of aqua and spring-green fabrics that I've been eyeing for awhile, and then I added in a little pink to add pop. The two polka-dot fabrics are left over from sewing Ellie, and the white fabric with the blue flowers was left over from a pair of pajama pants I made.

Next, I made a 2.5" square template out of cardstock (well, actually an old Lean Cuisine box), and used it to trace and cut billions and billions of squares out of my fabrics. Actually, I cut enough to make a 13 x 9 array. The tutorial I was using called for an 11 x 8 array, but my husband and I both have huge feet (more on that later), so I knew we'd need a larger mat.
Right after I finished this step, I went out and bought myself a rotary cutter. My hand was killing me after cutting all those squares with scissors.
Next, I laid out all of my squares the way I wanted them.
In the tutorial on Montessori by Hand, she warns you not to lay your squares out in a place where your cat might want to hang out. That was sound advice - I should have taken it.

Once the squares are just right, pick them up one row at a time, in order, and take them to your sewing machine. Stitch the rows together in strips, with a 1/4" seam allowance. After each strip is stitched, be sure to return it to the array so that you don't forget how you laid things out.

After I stitched each row, I ironed the seams down so that everything would lay flat. The tutorial said to iron the seams to one side, and again, that was sound advice. I thought that ironing them flat would make things look neater, but actually it just made it harder to sew over the seams. Things ended up looking pretty lumpy and gnarly:

About halfway through I wised up and started ironing the seams to one side, and it looked much better:

Once the quilting step was done, I started embroidering two pairs of footprints on the bathmat. I wanted mine and my husbands, side by side. Here's where I needed a larger bathmat. My feet are size 11, and my husband's are 15, so adding the extra rows and columns made sure that everything fit.

I used an air erasable pen to trace our feet, then got to stitching. I like the subtlety of the white thread.

The front was now all finished - time for the back. I bought a nice white towel at Goodwill for $1.99 - my first adventure in repurposing fabrics.

I cut off the edges of the towel, as well as those little stripes on each end. That made everything lay flatter. My fancy new rotary cutter came in really handy for this step, as did my gridded self-healing mat!

I laid the top facedown on the flat towel piece, pinned, and stitched all the way around with about a 3/8" seam allowance, leaving a gap for turning.

Then I trimmed the towel down to match the front.

Last, I turned the whole thing right-side out and top-stitched all the way around to make everything look finished. I didn't stitch around the footprints as recommended in the tutorial, because it looked hard. :)

Here's the final product!

A few lessons I learned along the way:

-Rotary cutters rock.

-Air erasable pens are nice, but mine started to disappear really fast, so I had to work quickly.

-Feet look weird, especially toes.

-Quilters are the most patient people in the world!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Toy Drop #2

This afternoon I dropped my second toy for Toy Society, my hermaphroditic* Potato Head doll. I left it at Maple Leaf Park again, because I know there are always so many young kids there, and I was worried that if it stayed out too long it would start to rain.
People have asked me why I'm doing the Toy Society drops - they wonder if it's charity. The answer is no, not really. I mean, maybe if I was giving free toys to kids in a needy area it would be, but Maple Leaf is pretty middle-class. The truth is that I just always see toys I want to try making, but having no kids of my own, it always seemed kind of pointless before. I guess I could make toys and then give them to Goodwill, but this is just a little more fun.
I know that other Toy Society droppers have been dropping by my blog (ha! get it?), so I wonder... other Toy Societiers, why do you drop?
*It's a hermaphrodite because it has both guy and gal parts. Sidenote: I couldn't remember that word, so I asked my husband. His answer? "Um... androgenous? Ambidextrous? Amphibian?" Sigh...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What I'm Working On...

I have a feeling that I won't be posting many finished projects this week, because I'm working on one that is beyond time-consuming. Here is a little hint. I'll post more pictures (and maybe even my first tutorial!) soon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Potato Head

Here's the toy for my second toy drop. I got the idea from Make It and Love It, and just love the way it turned out (hmm... I guess I made it and love it).

It was a relatively quick project - the little pieces required a lot of patience because my sewing machine skills aren't quite there yet, but I really like the way things turned out. Plus, I got to use up a lot of my scrips and scraps of felt that I had left over from other projects.

The idea is that Mr. Potato Head can provide hours of entertainment, but the plastic pieces are bulky and noisy, so this is a softer, gentler, quieter alternative for those times when parents need a silent activity for the kiddos.

I'll drop this toy as soon as it stops raining, and post the pictures.

^The lovely lady in her Sunday best.

^Excited after a trip to the dentist!

^I call this look, "Randy the pawnbroker."

^Like all true divas, your potato friend comes with plenty of accessories.

^ When ol' Potato Head is done for the day, everything tucks into this pocket on the back.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Checkbook Cover

This was a quick project I threw together in a few minutes. The measurements and inspiration came from Prudent Baby, but I used double-sided fusible lightweight interfacing to make mine a little stiffer. I had never used interfacing before, so it was a fun challenge to figure out how to make it work.

Basically, I followed the instructions on Prudent Baby exactly, except that before I sewed I ironed the outside fabric piece (the big owl piece) to a piece of interfacing that I cut just a little bit smaller. Then I sewed everything together as described and turned the whole thing inside out (which was tricky with the stiff interfacing), then ironed again to fuse the interfacing to the yellow inside fabric. Finally, I folded the checkbook cover and ironed it again to give it a nice deep fold.

Unfortunately, just after finishing this project I realized that I was out of checks. Oh well, my new checks will be here in the next few days, so I'll get to try this out then!

Toy Drop

This morning I dropped Ellie at a park near my house where I thought there would be no shortage of families with kids to find her. It was pretty exciting - I felt very stealthy but also like I was doing a good deed for the day. As I was leaving the park a family with a toddler was coming in, and as I pulled away in my car I could see them stop to inspect my drop. I don't know whether they left with Ellie or not, but I'm hopeful!
Update: Here's my drop on the toysociety site.

Valentine's Garland

Okay, I love this project so much!! All I did was cut out about a bazillion felt circles in three different sizes. It wasn't as labor intensive as it sounds, because I cut two layers at a time and did it over a couple of days while watching tv. Then I used invisible thread (wow, SUCH a pain to use, by the way) to stitch the circles together. Once I got rolling, I sewed them all together in less than ten minutes. I could totally see making these in other colors for birthday parties and other holidays. I was even thinking that they'd make a cute bulletin board border in my classroom. You could cut other shapes too, like leaves, and then it would look like a lovely leaf garland. How cute would one of those be in autumn colors around a classroom door on the first day of school??

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Next Fall's Pillow Covers

I started these back in November, but only got around to finishing them today. I love the colors, especially the green background (I used the same felt for Sophie's dress), and it will make September a little more exciting getting to use these!

P.S. As evidenced in the picture above, Baby Kitty can't seem to stay away from me when I'm sewing. Maybe it's something about all that thread being twitched around, but she lays on my fabric when I'm trying to cut, bats at my spool as it spins on the machine, and swipes at my tape measure whenever she gets the chance. Don't let that cute mug fool you - she's trouble.

New Curtains

I haven't posted much this week, because I've had several projects in the works, and I only finished most of them today (I'll post the rest of them soon). This was my biggest project to date: new curtain panels for my living room.

When we moved in, our apartment had standard-issue miniblinds, which we never bothered to replace with anything nicer or more insulated. As anyone who has cats can attest, miniblinds are no match for a feline who is determined to get to the windowsill, so needless to say the blinds were getting a bit battered and nasty looking. They also let in too much cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer.

I ended up buying way too much of the same fabric I used for my table runner, and I started looking around for a way to use up the rest of it. I tacked it up over the window just to see how it would look, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. So I went back, bought the rest of the bolt, and embarked on this adventure. I just finished them, so I haven't gotten to see them in the daylight, but I love how they warm up my living room.

And I lined them! Check out my blind hem-fu!

I really like how these tabs at the top turned out.
Here are some daylight pictures.