Sunday, January 30, 2011

"How DO you find the time?"

Well, right. I get this question pretty frequently regarding making crafty things...and blogging. But really, there are times when I just don't find any time. And then other times I am really productive in making things. Over the course of a month or a year, I don't think I have enough time for projects or really get that many done. There are so many of them backed up in my little craft corner and spilling out of baskets by the sofa.

As for blogging, I don't think I am terribly prolific since there are so many bloggers out there who find time every day to post their thoughts and/or pictures of the beautiful things they make. And tutorials, which I love to read and use. If I'm lucky I will get a post in once a week - but obviously I'm not that lucky most weeks.

But here are some of the reasons I have time to make crafty things (in no particular order):

1) I have craft stuff out all the time. I didn't used to have a place to keep a sewing machine or WIP out, but when we re-did our basement a few years ago, I carved out a corner. Just a table and shelving to keep my craft-y supplies in and to be able to leave out projects without having to clean them off the dining room table everyday. This makes such a huge difference because I can just go sew for 20 minutes if that's all I have. Like these piles of half square triangles which will eventually be a quilt. They take a lot of cutting and sewing and pressing that can be done a little at a time. Knitting is portable, so I have projects in ziplocs ready to go with me anytime.

2) art and craft are just things that everyone in my family has always done - I can't think of very many people in my immediate family (meaning parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins) who isn't crafty or an artist, or both. So I grew up in this reality where it wasn't unusual, and where having a sewing room or art studio or workshop was a housing choice priority, and where time spent doing projects isn't considered only "spare" time.

3) I don't watch very much TV.  And very often when I do, I'm knitting or just listening to it from the sewing machine, or pressing things on the ironing board.

4)  I believe that you don't need to be particularly artistically talented or perfect at your craft for it to be worthwhile - I really think this is thanks largely to my dad, who if he reads this will take it in the good spirit in which it is intended.  It seems like this idea keeps a lot of people out there from making things with their own hands. I love trying new things and making stuff. period. If you want to make something and you don't know exactly how, you should go ahead and give it a shot anyway. You don't need to create something perfect. You are the one who will notice the majority of mistakes anyway. And with practice anyone can learn a craft or an art - of course, there are these amazingly brilliant and gifted people out there who have talents I can never really aspire to. But they inspire me, and I'll aspire to developing more skills anyway.

5) I try to trick convince my children to do projects with me so that I can justify the time and the trips to the craft store.  Teen Wonder doesn't fall for it anymore. But she is creating her own things now. Wild Thing really loves to make stuff and will still do it with me.

6) I have insomnia. And evening is probably one of my most productive times of the day. For my real job, I have to get up at an ungodly hour. Morning people probably think getting up at 5:30 or 6 is peachy, but I'd rather sleep until at least 7:30. Unfortunately, 7am teleconferencing requires at least getting up and having some coffee - and usually I like to go to the office to do them since we have such a tiny house and our "office" is in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I still stay up too late and I need more sleep...but the majority of my sewing or knitting happens after 9pm (or the rare weekend afternoon when we aren't running around like crazy).

Okay, that's about all I can think of now, plus I am running out of time to post...and I wanted to share a project from Christmas that still isn't quite finished. I wanted to make multiple sets of these, but I only finished two in time for gifting. At least one more set will go out to my uncle, and the last one (which will get done sometime before the end of the world) will be for me.

My grandma passed away in October. She was an artist, and an amazing quilter - wow. I wish I had a catalog of all her quilts, because I've only ever seen a small fraction of them. Anyway, she had made these paper dolls sometime when she was quite young - they are very old and laminated with some sort of tape. Extremely detailed, and all with these big round heads. A few years ago I got a small Xyron on sale at the craft store, and I used it to make bookmarks with old foreign cancelled stamps that I'd cut from reprint requests to scientists in my grad school lab. I'd been saving these things for something like ?15 years - sheesh. Anyway, that was fun...but you have to do more than one project to justify buying a new toy, right?  I've done some other stuff with it, but I have been wanting to make magnetic laminated copies of the Big Head Dolls for quite a long time.  My grand-dad scanned a few of them for me a couple of years ago, but not the whole set...and I could never find the magnetic-laminate cartridges in stock for my Xyron. But after Grandma passed away, my mom lent me the dolls so I could scan copies and do this project. (the dolls belong to my auntie - and they are priceless, so I was a bit nervous taking custody of them!)

These are a couple of shots of just some of the dolls (and my first watermarking of photos - since I don't want anyone to reproduce these in any way. The photos are low res anyway, but still...

I love that they are magnetic! 

And here you can see why I'm still not done - this is a lot of cutting out. I can do it while watching TV if I don't need to pay attention to the program...but I'm still not quite done...

Happy Sunday everyone! Now go out and make something!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another FO to share - Nine-Patch Doorstop...but that's not why I'm so excited!

It is a little silly that I'm dancing around the kitchen trying to finish dinner, but I'm just so happy at the moment! I'm multi-tasking, as usual (not necessarily recommended behavior), so I check my email while I'm stirring vegetables (not exactly at the same time - it's a back and forth thing).  And what do I find? An email telling me I won a giveaway of Heather Ross fabrics from Fussy Cut!!  whoo hoo!!  You should check out this cool blog - very inspirational projects and quilts (and very cute children).

LOOK LOOK! Here they are!

Oh, you didn't get a close enough look?  Here they are again!

(could you die?)  Not only am I lucky to win a pack of fabric at all, but these fabrics are the more or less the exact same ones that I've all but used up this year on a couple of gifted quilts. One for cute little Angela (see this post)  and one for cute bigger Megan (here). 

These are probably the happiest fabrics I've ever had myself - although I do not have yet an extensive or long sewing or quilting or stashing history. I know there are some really happy prints out there, even some that I've used, but these ones from the Heather Ross Lightning Bugs and Other Mysteries collection are some of my all time favorites.  I picked them out for those two quilts specifically because I wanted to stitch into them all the prayers and happy thoughts that would be humanly possible.  And I love how both of them turned out.  Since then, all I've had are some little scraps left - I made my mom some nesting doll fabric buttons for Christmas with fussy cuts (did I photograph those? no. this is the subject of a whole post where I catalog all the projects I've gifted before thinking to take a picture...), and most recently I used two little fussy cuts in this next project.  And I think it's perfect that the giveaway was from the Fussy Cut blog, since that's all I've had left until now. But now I may be able to work some of these into a bigger project that stays closer to home.  Or not - I am now a big believer in the power of gifting your more happy and beautiful creations for the power of good. (i'm not sure what happens when you gift dark and ugly creations, but it's probably a bad idea...)

Okay, now for the latest project I finished. Do you see the little dog patch and the camper-van?  Those are from my itty-bitty Heather Ross scraps! This is the Nine-Patch Doorstop, made using the exact directions and measurements found in this tutorial on Oh Fransson!  Now, some of you dear readers may already know this, but the author of this blog is incredibly talented - apparently this one is the first tutorial she made, and it was flawless.  For Christmas, I got a copy of her recently published book "The Practical Guide to Patchwork" - I really love the instruction style and the projects are gorgeous.

Anyway, this was a present, officially, for Mr. Wonderful. Whenever the weather is even remotely nice, we like to open all the doors and windows and get fresh air moving through the house. When the air moves quickly between our front door and our back/basement door, the hallway door SLAMS so loudly that it feels like it shakes our little house! Probably almost a year ago, Mr. Wonderful was surveying some project I'd put together and asked if I could make a doorstop. I had already thought of this and downloaded the tutorial, but hadn't done anything about it. And then I still didn't do anything about it for a long time. Then this week I realized I was itching to do a small project and that I'd bought the special materials I didn't already have (specifically 5 pounds of beans and fusible fleece).  Probably this project took me 3 hours to complete (? plus or minus) including picking and arranging the little patches for the front.

yes, it's full of beans (and some lentils) with a zipper on the bottom in case you need to empty it out for cleaning. so clever!
The beans serve an obvious purpose - weight and shape - and I'm not sure I put 5 pounds in because I confess I'd only bought 4 pounds and added what lentils we had left in our cabinet. It may need a little more stuffing...

Here's the back: this is another Wee Woodland piece taken from a Layer Cake I bought quite awhile ago - another purchase that I've forgotten the original intent for and so I've been pilfering pieces for a number of projects (like mom's pillow in my last post, and my zippered pouch linings before Christmas.  oh well. It's not like I'm lacking in fabric selection down there in my crafty corner.  The backing shows the straight line quilting I used - I did the same thing for the front as well. I was looking for some instant gratification, so took the easy route rather than anything complex.

And finally - here is the Nine-Patch Doorstop in it's native environment - when the weather turns warmer we will be able to give her a good functional test!

Happy Martin Luther King day to everyone! This is the first year my company has given us this day off as a holiday - yay!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pillow Palooza!

So, I have been wanting to make some pillows and/or pillow covers for awhile. I still have 2 pillow forms to use for a couple of new patchwork pillow creations...but in the meantime I wanted to show the ones I've done so far.  Like I mentioned in my last post, the machine embroidery and applique designs are from Meringue Designs (love her!) - so I can't take credit for the results from that stitching except to congratulate myself on my good taste!  There are nice ideas to steal get inspiration from on the website too - you should check it out!

This first one is from the "vine applique" stitch pattern - I had to shrink down the large one a bit to fit in the hoop I wanted to use (likely this is because I haven't really figured out how to manipulate the stitch patterns since I do have a larger hoop but couldn't get it to work in a timely fashion - i.e. to fit my patience level!).  So overall the pillow is probably about 9" x 16".  I filled it with some recycled stuffing from some cushions rejected from a chair we had (weird shape!).  What I really like is that I did a completely improvised log cabin like pieced back from scraps that is just as fun as the front!

Is it the front...

or the back?

Next is the pillow I made for my mom's birthday - the flower is again appliqu├ęd using a stitch design from Meringue Designs. Then I combined that piece on linen with some Wee Woodlands, and I think that is Amy Butler on the left half.  The middle band and the backing are some raw silk that I had in my stash and couldn't remember what I'd bought it for originally. hmmm. is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Anyway, she likes it, so I guess it's a good thing in the end! You can see a bit of the backing above behind the vine pillow front/back. I love the contrast in textures on this pillow - something I need to remember for future projects.

I showed a preview of the bird pillows in my last post - Wild Thing chose the thread colors for me, and I love the backing fabric which I won on a Sew Mama Sew! giveaway months ago. It seemed like a perfect complement to the stitch pattern. Very modern.

Two birds - but they won't necessarily sit next to each other on the furniture in this matchy-matchy way. 

This is the back fabric for both the bird pillows - though the first one I made (blue bird) has buttons on the back, and the second one has a zipper on the bottom. I like to be able to have enough stuffing without a gap poking out in the back. I'll have to perfect my zipper skills though...
Fun! I still have some pillow covers to replace in the living room and a couple of unused pillow forms in my crafty stash/hoarded goods.  This has been very rewarding and something I've meant to do for ages (well, there were supposed to be a few pillow Christmas gifts, but oh well.)  So more to come on my list of project to-do's!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A knitted FO! - the Heather Hoodie for Teen Wonder...

Yay - I finally got Teen Wonder to put on the hoodie vest I finished for Christmas for some photos. If they are cropped a little much, it was to spare her the embarrassment of her mother posting a picture of her PJs on a public blog. The vest actually fits perfectly and looks really fun on her, so I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

The pattern is "Heather Hoodie" from KnitScenes Fall 2009 issue. I saw this online and then had to track down the issue somewhere because I knew I wanted to make it for the Teen Wonder right away.  On Ravelry, we looked through the versions others had made, and TW fell in love with a deep purple with red buttons - so that's what I made for her.  The hood is absolutely, disproportionately humongous! I offered to TW to make it smaller, but she opted for the full size. It's useful for the grim reaper look if that's what she's feeling like on any given day.

This is not the best picture of my girl - she's very tall, but I've cut off her legs in the pictures as I mentioned...and her face is overexposed.  The color of the actual vest is closer to the bottom photo sans girl.  I was too impatient to wait for some perfect day when she wears it with an actual outfit and the weather is decent... (what a bad mom!)

I do really like this pattern - the cabling was not too tricky for a novice, and the bulky yarn knits up fairly quickly. But I can't get over the hood! If I ever knit another one up for myself, I'll definitely modify (plus it was a boring lifetime to knit after finishing the rest of the garment!

Below photo was just after blocking - the color is more true for the yarn, but the buttons are a bit more orange in this photo...

I guess that's the last handmade Christmas gift to show...I did piece together a quilt top for a Christmas throw during my vacation/recuperation week after Christmas, but I guess I'll save that for another time (next holidays?). I have too many other things to do, crafty or otherwise, to actually quilt it yet. I was going to send it out for quilting at my local quiltshop because I've been so happy with that in the past, but the quilter has a knee injury and isn't taking any projects right now. Since it isn't a rush, maybe I'll get to the quilting myself before next holidays (BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! that's a good one!). Either way, there's no rush.

I do have another post to do on's a little sneak peek for anyone out there who's looking.

 These are a pair of pillows I made using machine embroidery stitching patterns from Meringue Designs - a seller who was on etsy only, but recently opened a website at . I highly recommend this vendor! Very modern designs and reasonably priced too! Anyway, the pair of bird pillows are for our living room, but I have two other pillows in addition and one of them is a gift, so I'll post photos on that later this week...

Happy Monday to everyone out there - if it's still Sunday for you I still hope your new week is happy, or at least stress free and productive which is the most I usually hope for any given work week!