Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Piano recital

Among all the making, baking, planning, and prepping, we have enjoyed a steady soundtrack of practicing. On a very snowy night, just days before Christmas we gathered in a beautiful church to enjoy over thirty children perform their holiday songs. It was such a treat. My two performers were well prepared and took the stage with such confidence and grace it nearly made my heart break. So without further ado, I give you...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What I'm Makin'

Leaving behind some slow moving projects, I've jumped into some new Christmas crafts. So much more fun. First is the wreath. The idea came from the pomander tutorial of Betz White. She really comes up with the best ideas for using felted sweaters.

My really big great idea, though, is an advent village. I'm so excited about this idea. I can't say I've ever seen something like this before, but I'm sure there must be something like it somewhere. It will be made up of 3D patchwork houses with numbered windows and doors that have pockets behind them with things in them. I've made the first and biggest house already. It took a lot of brain twisting to figure it all out, but I love the way it looks so far. In the picture you can see one of the pockets on the roof. That will have a chimney over it and a Santa will come out on the 24th. Ha Ha! I think the snowman will come out of this house also. So will a Christmas tree and decorations and more. Do you see the apple pie cuties looking out the windows and doors? I had to make the whole house scaled to their size to make that look right. I've had that fabric forever, and never knew what to do with it. Another house will be a rustic cottage and out of that will come the squirrel and garden gnome and more. I had to learn a whole new craft, needle felting, in order to execute all the ideas for this village. There will also be a church with the Holy family in the pockets and a barn with reindeer and other seasonal animal and barn stuff. Wooo!

OK there are a lot more ideas as far as this project goes and I really have to get a grip on my Christmas shopping and stuff, so there is no way it will be done before Christmas. I'll just add it to the rotation of large long term projects I'm working on like the quilted chair, and the hand quilted twin quilt for Maria and the log cabin quilt. They are all more done than not. Really and truly these will all be in their completed glory one day real soon. I just need to stop adding to the list.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Everything all in one post

The camera-napper was apprehended lurking in some neighborhood bushes, but not before he sold off my camera. In any case, I'm glad he's off the streets for now.

Firstly, I dressed up Maria and Tess and tried to reenact Halloween. Maria was Little Red Riding Hood.Between the cape(red corduroy), the lining(Marcus Bros. fairytale), the pinafore(light green wool) and the petticoat(white linen) this outfit used some serious yardage. Trying to catch Maria in a still pose is seriously hard.
And not to be outdone in the difficult to photograph department, here is Tess letting it be known that she will NOT be a happy Strawberry Fairy again.
Unless she can ride on the trike.
Another major project I've had going on is this vanity that my mother-in-law gave us this summer. It was old and the finish was in pretty rough shape, so I thought I would either paint it or strip it before setting it up in the house. Never having refinished anything before, naturally that's what I decided to do. I'm glad I made the effort. It certainly wasn't as hard or time consuming as making a quilt. I'm very happy with the results.

A little bit of good luck was found at the thrift shop this week. A lovely wool granny square afghan. Absolutely perfect condition and only $16. I know this is the going price for these, but I've tried making one before and these blankets are a LOT of work. Yet another example of how handmade things are under-appreciated.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Wow! I'm so happy Obama won. I've been smitten since his keynote address in 2004 and I'm so proud that so many Americans came out and supported him for President. I don't just think he will be a good President, I think he will be a great one. I could go on all day, but I won't.

So I made a very sweet little red riding hood costume for Maria for Halloween. I'd love to put some of the beautiful photos of her wearing it right here. I would write about the lovely, soft blue wool I got for a song on E-bay (that never happens anymore). I'd show another photo of the darling fairy tale fabric I used to line the red cape. I'd even love to upload some cute photos of Tess as a Strawberry fairy and Betsy as a Princess. It would be the photo fantastic post I've been working towards for weeks! But I can't do that because somebody stole my camera out of our car in the driveway last night. Very creepy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

With the kids back in school and the upcoming election, I've been completely consumed with things not related to crafts. To match my current obsession I, made this shirt. I made it with some old tees and reverse applique.

Jim said I shouldn't get into politics on my blog, but whatever. I've been beyond disappointed with the Bush years, so voting for a Republican was out of the question for me. I think Obama recognizes what's right and wrong about where our country is headed and I think he's smart enough to get us on a better path. One interesting thing that I've learned in my endless web searching on all things related to the campaign, is that Bill Ayers grew up in the home directly behind the home that I lived in as a child. He would have been on the run from the law by the time I was born, but I think his parents still lived there. Feel free to draw you own conclusions at this point about my character and associations. I think it probably explains a lot about my left leaning tendencies. Who knows what they were putting in their Halloween candy? Was it laced with liberal? This is probably why Jim told me to keep politics off the blog.

I'm deeply entrenched in Halloween costumes. Nothing extra creative, but they will sure be cute. I'll be back sooner that later.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Twist

Trying some new things on this rainy day. imovie, tricky but I think I got a good start. The quality is poor because this was all shot with our point and shoot camera's movie option. In any case, I think it is really cute.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Woven Chair Seat

At Maria's age, the days are limited that she will be excited to wear a homemade dress on the first day of school. She's the sweetest girl and did so without even the hint of hesitation or complaint. In fact, she seemed happy to do it. Of course, once I saw what her best friend wore on that day, I know I won't be able to get away with this for too much longer.

On a slightly different crafting front, I decided to do something about my kitchen chairs. I am embarrassed to admit that I have had two completely broken cane seat chairs in my kitchen for more than two years. I've had throw cushions to try and make them a little more usable, but really they didn't work at all. Poor Patrick's assigned seat (yes, it is necessary and put an end to the endless fighting of who sits where) has been one of these broken chairs. He would never sit down and now pretty much eats all his meals standing up. Nice, huh? Here's what one of the chairs looked like before, and the other one was just as bad.
This was actually a chair that my Dad gave me years ago and I think he might have done the cane seat. I remember a cane seat project going on in the basement when I was little and I know it took a long time and was tricky to do. I always thought I would re-cane these chairs, that's why I hung on to the chairs for so long. Well, finally, after all these years I had the idea of weaving fabric onto the chair seat. It was a fast and easy project and now the chairs work like a charm.

Hi Craftzine readers! I thought I would update this post with a few more details for those of you interested in how I did the chairs. I used strips of linen cut about 50" long and 2" wide. I used a bias tape maker (this is a common tool that can be found in the notion section) to iron the sides neatly under. I should note that I did NOT cut the fabric on the bias. No need to sew the strips together. I then tied a knot near the end of a strip and brought the strip up through a corner hole. I used a small crochet hook to help grab the fabric and pull it through the holes. You will not be able to get the fabric through the hole without the hook. Then I just wove the strip back and forth until the strip ran out, tied a tight knot underneath, and started a new strip. I used linen, but I think the quilting weight fabric would work fine too because it is made strong by being doubled over with the bias strip maker. A light weight home dec. fabric might work, but the holes on these cane seats are small so the fabric can't be stiff or thick. I just tied all the knots on the bottom and cut the ends short so they can't be seen. I suppose you could also add some staples, but it really seems pretty sturdy. Fun, easy, fast and no-sew project. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The end of summer

Indulge me with a few vacation photos. We just returned from a week in northern Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Forest. It is as pretty as can be up there. The forest goes right up to the Lake Michigan shoreline. Those are the Empire Bluffs behind Jim and the kids and in some places they are like 500 feet high.

We had fantastic weather. In fact, beautiful weather has followed me around all summer. I have never known a summer filled with so many perfect weather days. See in this first photo it was raining in Michigan when we got there, but then it stopped. It didn't rain again until the morning that we left.
At the cottage we stayed at there was a hula-hoop that quickly became the favorite toy of the week. It is so funny because we have had them laying around the garage for years and the kids have never seemed so interested in hula-hooping. This little video cracks me up.

I have an awesome back-to-school dress to post, but I'm to lazy to get up and find all the cords and camera and do all the stuff . I'll post it real soon. Maybe it won't be like three weeks before I do another post.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

new owl softie

Can you really call yourself a crafter or a softie maker if you have not made an owl. It was high time I had a go at my version of an owl. I found the inspiration to get up off the couch and get going from this artist. I love her illustration style. I was also looking at the Oaxacan carved animals like these. I had originally thought I would make my owl in bright patterned fabrics to look more like my inspirations. I still like that idea and think I will come back to it. The thing is, I have a ton of fabric, but not exactly the right kinds of fabrics for my idea. I started with natural linen to make a proto-type. It came together rather easily and was looking nice so I kept going.

One of the cool things about the Oaxacan animals is that they are often made up of many pieces that loosely fit together. I like the idea of removable pieces. I've also always liked the idea of button-on wings. I used button-on wings for these two costumes and for this angels wings.

So, her wings and tail are button-on and reversible. I was going to do it all in linen, but it started to look a little bit 70's craft book, so I decided on the newsprint fabric for one side of the wings. Does that make it look a little more contemporary? I think it does maybe. The funny thing is that all the type on the print is about things that happened about 40 to 60 years ago.

The wings are made like a little quilt with batting on the inside and quilted with embroidery stitches around the patterns. She seems so cozy with the wings made like this. Mostly I like the way she looks on the shelf along with all the other toys.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

From Coast to Coast

Jim was in LA for two and a half weeks doing a commercial shoot for Capital One. I decided I would go visit my folks with the kids while he was away. That meant me on the plane with four kids. Let me assure you that screaming was a major factor on both flights. "Really! She's usually such an easy going baby. Must be cabin pressure?" It was all great once we got there, though. We had a wonderful time with my parents and many great days at the beach. Here's a picture of all of us in Woods Hole. Woods Hole is such a cool place. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is there, which gives you the sense that there are all these really interesting, smart people walking around, probably studying cool stuff. We are at our favorite restaurant in town, Captain Kidd. I don't know why the photo looks all misty like that, but I like it.

The day after we got home Jim called to tell me part of one of the commercials was going to be in a toy store and they needed toys that were not "branded". He asked if I wanted to send out some of my dolls or stuffed animals. Yeah! But when I looked over my things, I realized I haven't made much that would look like a "toy" if it were shown real fast on TV. Hmmmm. Patrick had been asking for a monster doll, so I thought this would be a good reason to get that project done. Patrick drew this design.
So I got to work and knocked out the monster doll pretty fast out of some old felted sweaters. As I was working on it, I started to (guiltily) remember that the director of the commercial had a baby not too recently and I neglected to send a gift, even though they have always sent the most beautiful gifts every time we have had a baby. So I thought Ha Ha! I will make another toy! Robot! As fast as I could and with every spare second I made this robot in an afternoon and shipped it all off to "Hollywood". It was so last minute that I didn't have time to take proper photos. I strapped all the kids into the car, propped the dolls up against this moldy tree, snapped a few and then zoomed off to the Fedex store.
Now that you know, keep your eyes peeled for these guys in an upcoming commercial. From what I've seen, the robot might be the one you see most clearly. Jim does this stuff all day, but for me it was very exciting to be able to contribute something.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Ocean

Like moths to a flame they are drawn to the ocean. It has been so wonderful to see them enjoy the rare moments these midwestern kids get to spend at the ocean. They love everything about it. The water, the sand, the waves and seaweed for hours of constant movement. Collecting shells and glass and rocks fuel endless imaginations. Warm sandwiches, sticky lollipops and sandy cookies have never tasted better.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wool camera case

Like the ulterior motive photo of my new camera case? This blog has a lot of roles to play. It just happens that the piano is on the other side of the room where I sew. Patrick has just started to take lessons and I so look forward to the day when I can sit and sew and listen to my kids practice. He's already doing so well.

Sometimes it happens that I have an idea to do something and then before I get a chance to make it I see someone else has had the same idea. And done it way better. None-the-less, I still think it is important to follow through on my own idea because no matter what, when it is handmade, I think each person has a unique take on the same idea. I've held off on quite a few ideas because I feel they may not be "original". But really that is silly. Look at teddy bears. People still make them all the time. Anyway, back to the camera case. Vacation is fast approaching and the new camera needed some protection. This was such a super easy and fast project, but really I don't have time for anything that isn't right now. Things will slow down one of these days, right?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Plan for the quilted chair

A while back, ok like January, I posted about my idea to reupholster a chair with a quilt. I have the chair and am making slow progress on getting it done. But it will get done! I'm determined because I think it is such a great idea. So here is the plan. All I've done so far is made a huge stack of four patch squares in assorted feedsack prints. I'm going to checkerboard these with white like I've shown in this picture. The tricky thing is, I don't think all this patchwork would be stable/sturdy enough because of all the seams. So, what I'm gonna do is layer it to flannel and then quilt the two pieces together. That way there won't be any stress on the patchwork seams. This makes sense, right? I would regret it if I didn't do this, right? If anyone out there sees any flaws in my logic or maybe knows a better way let me know.

I'm going to cover any exposed part of the chair with the patchwork, but I will probably use a coordinating basic fabric for the backs and underneaths of the cushions. Then I've got to figure out how to make the piping, which I think I might use a gingham for that, maybe black and white?

Here is a picture of the chair again that I'm going to recover. I think it will be good because it is all pretty flat and square shaped.
Here is a picture of a quilt top (really 2 identical quilts tops) from e-bay that I wanted to buy and then use for this project. I don't think I would have had the nerve to do that to these quilts, but that was why I was looking on e-bay. In the end they went for over $200 a piece. One thing I love about them is the colors. Vintage patchwork often looks very girly and pinky and flowery, but I don't think these are too much of any of those. I'm inspired by these old quilts to incorporate a lot of plaids and some browns into the mix.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer fun with the bugs

I cracked open this new Japanese dress book months ago to start making some summer dresses for the girls. I made some other dresses from Japanese patterns and they came together pretty easily, so I thought I'd try some more. Phooey! I tell you I had to turn my brain inside-out and spend considerable time pretending I can read Japanese in order to get this dress traced properly. Fortunately, I've made a bubble outfit before, so I kinda knew what I was looking for and what I was going to do with all the pieces. I was so frustrated I put it away for a long time thinking that the sewing would be equally as challenging. No need to have worried, the sewing part was very easy and it can be finished beautifully with all the seams enclosed. Nice. I used some nice white linen from Joann's. I stock up on this stuff whenever it is on sale. I wish they carried more colors. In the end, I like the patterns from the Japanese books, but I think they may be better for inspiration. I could probably find a pattern for a bubble dress written in English and save a lot of frustration. But on the other hand, does it do me good to take the more difficult path? Does everything need to be easy? We've been trying to fit in some family fun lately going places like this and this. Great places to visit with kids and not too annoying for the grown-ups. Look at this awesome ant. It's really huge and made out of wood. They had a bunch of different bugs like this at the Arboretum. They reminded me of how people make softies of all kinds of bugs and animals. I've been wanting to make some new stuffed animals lately, but I'm not sure yet what I want to make.
We went to the Arboretum because Betsy has had a hankering for a walk in the forest. Well much of it is really more like a well manicured golf course without the holes. But
we finally found some good looking woods to walk around in. I told Jim to drop me and the kids off on the path and then he and the baby could go wait at the end of the trail for us. He could listen to the "crosstown classic" and Tess could sleep. Off we go into the forest and toward a low swampy area. We must have been the only warm-blooded, carbon dioxide breathing mammals to pass through this section in a long time because we got absolutely swarmed with mosquitoes. We all ran as fast as we could, flinging and slapping our arms and legs. It was crazy! I've never seen so many! This was the only photo I could barely get. I'm surprised there isn't a mosquito crowding the lens. Man, that guy should have made a giant wood mosquito sculpture, that would have been fitting.

Monday, June 09, 2008

From five to six

What a difference their is between five and six. Maria, a year ago, was such a handful. She always has been and probably always will be, but sometimes she is a fun handful and sometimes not. One year ago she seemed to pick a fight with me just to have the fight. I worried about her being too impulsive. She didn't think about consequences or how she affected other people. None of these things are true of Maria today. Over the past year she has done so much growing I hardly recognize her sometimes. I'm so proud of all her hard work this year. She is such a fun handful now! She is the artsiest, craftiest, most inspired person I've ever known. Here is a link to her favorite site, Sprout. They have wonderful tutorial videos for easy craft projects. She's able to do them very independently, which is very nice. I just get asked questions like, "I don't need your help Mama, just construction paper, a bendy straw and a sponge." Or, "two paper plates, some beans and wet glue." I'm telling you she probably does two or three projects everyday off this site and they are so cute. Great site.

But, coming up right behind her is Besty! All I have to say is that we had a "Battle Royal" over a strawberry tonight and I think it was a draw. Geez! A Strawberry!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Year Later

So amazing how fast this year went by since Tess was born, but that is what everyone says. It went by in double time. She is no longer a newborn, she was barely out of the hospital before that stage seemed to be over. She is a total joy to have in our family. The big kids love her to bits. Not an instant of her young life has she been without a smile, hug, kiss or gentle touch from her sisters or brother. Their kindness to her makes me so happy.
She has given me memories of a happy baby that I will always treasure. She has an easygoing nature like Patrick and the curiosity of Maria. She is determined, like Betsy, to keep up with her older siblings no matter what. She has a quick smile and an easy laugh. She loves music and dancing and sitting under the piano whenever it's being played. Most of the time she walks around with a remote control or a cordless phone in her hands, she might give Patrick some competition soon on the video games. If she is not holding a remote control, it is probably because she has found a colored pencil. She watches the girls so closely, it would not surprise me if she is drawing before her next birthday. There is so much in this little girl, just one year old, I could just burst with anticipation. I know this is why it seems to go by so fast. As much as I want to linger in these fleeting days of babyhood, she pushes forward. She is unstoppable and unbelievable. It takes my breath away to say it, Happy Birthday Tess!!

Color Wheel Quilt's

Three of these. Done. Teachers gifts. Yahoo! I promise there is some crafting getting done around here. I wish I had a photo of all of them together, but they were finished and handed off within minutes in the mad dash that is the end of the school year. Summer has finally come, let the games begin! And I say this with only a trace of apprehension, fear and maybe sarcasm.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

silhouette quilt

I had so many things I wanted to include in my last post, I didn't take the time to really document my process for doing the silhouette quilts. Since this is a project that I intend to try again, I need to make note of how I went about them, what went well, and what I would do different next time. This is an essential reason why I started this blog so I need to keep up with that stuff. I think I will, but I never will, remember how I made them. I go back and look at some things I've made in the past and I have no idea how I did them. I know this would happen with these silhouette quilts. So here we go.

First thing I did was take a side view photo of the kids. I turned them to B&W photos and printed them out on regular printer paper. I carefully drew around the profile with a black pen and then held it up to the window with another piece of paper on top and traced the whole profile outline. Then I used paper-backer fusible webbing and traced the outline one more time. I then ironed the fusible onto some black fabric and then very carefully, with very sharp small scissors cut out the silhouette. Everything up to this point is going good, looking good.

Here is where I have some concerns about my design. Because I wanted the silhouette to be set against a white background, I ironed/fused it to some linen. This is something I think I should not do again, it just made for too much unmanageable poofyness in the end. So anyway, I small zig-zagged very, very carefully all the way around the profile. I ironed more fusible to the back of the linen and then cut it out in a big oval. Then I ironed the big oval onto the blue and white striped linen.

For the cross stitch I found some letter designs somewhere on the internet (can't find that link) and I used something called waste canvas to help line up and count the stitches. It's basted to the linen and then I did the cross stitches and when it was all done I undid the basting and the waste fabric can be pulled out thread by thread. I love the way the cross stitch looks, but woo-boy does it take a long time to do. I ironed this onto some more fusible, cut it into a circle and ironed it onto the striped linen. Again with the bad poof.So it's all ironed down, and zig-zagged down and I make it into a quilt sandwich. Here is where I made another mistake that I think many quilters probably think about doing, but don't try because they know better. Before quilting, I attached the binding. It just makes, yet again, for a lot of extra, unwanted poof. I hand quilted it in moderately spaced lines, but if I did more I think the poof would have turned into wrinkles. In a last ditch effort to control the poof, I did the black running stitch around each of the white ovals. It looks good at least. So finally I think that it looks good, but I need to go about it much different next time for a smoother result. Too much fusible web makes the quilt too stiff. Lesson learned.

Here is what I'm working on right now. Another go at a color wheel quilt. Of course the original idea is from Last Minute Patchwork, but I didn't use that pattern. I wanted something smaller like a wall hanging, and frankly I thought that I had I better idea for the construction. I used a 9 degree wedge ruler. In my world, math has always been much better as theory than in practice. It should take 40 wedges to make a circle in theory, but in my quilt it took 41. So maybe my construction idea is not really better. I thought these would make great teachers gifts. Jim's trying to talk me out of that idea. It always comes back to the same question of whether people really appreciate handmade or not, so why invest the time if you're not sure?

Here is a perfect example. I'm at a garage sale this weekend and see this darling painting for $5. I pick it up to pay and the woman is like, "Oh that's an original, I had papers, but I can't find them." So you're selling it for $5? It's obviously hand painted on a hand stretched canvas. The frame and matting are all done beautifully and by hand. There was nowhere in your home, or that of a friend, or your adult children for this painting? Am I missing something here? It's not ugly, right? What is wrong with people? What kind of price is $5?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hello long forgotten blog. Sorry about that long break, but April was busy. It went by in a flash, but that's OK because now spring is here and it is beautiful outside today. We have to wait a long time here in Chicago to see the flowers that the rest of the world has been enjoying for weeks.

April was full of celebrations mostly centered around my good boy Patrick. He turned 8, so there was a birthday party of which I have no pictures. Imagine cute 8 year old boys playing baseball and talking Pokemon. Little League has started so we've been going to lots of games and practices. Such a fun family thing to do. I need to remember to bring my camera because it is so cute and fun and often beautiful at the end of the day in the sunset.

Finally last weekend Patrick had his First Communion. We made an adorable banner for the church, but I didn't get a photo before I sent it out of the house. Really it was very cute. Patrick was chosen to do the second reading for the Mass. In front of a large standing room only packed church he went up there and read with complete confidence. He floored me. Again no camera. Nice job Jenna. Here is a shot my mom took.

As a gift for him and his cousin, who also had her First Communion, I made these silhouette quilts. I think they came out pretty cute. I was surprised at how much they actually resemble them. I didn't realize how unique they would look . I guess I figured , at their age, everyones' profile is pretty much the same. Head, nose, chin... how could there be that much variation? Below the profile, I did cross-stitch monograms and the year. This gave me a whole new appreciation for cross-stitch. It takes a very long time. Just one fancy letter took me an hour to complete. Anyway, I love the way it looks so it was worth every minute. I'm sure you would think so too if you could see any detail in these terribly grainy photos.

So the month that was all about Patrick is over and we move on to the end of school, two more birthdays, and more baseball and soccer. I expect I will still be busy, but I will try to be a better photographer, family documentarian, and craft project finisher.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

If you don't like cute, you've come to the wrong blog

A wonderful shaft of light comes through our house before sunset. It comes in through the living/sewing room window and goes straight through all the way to the dining room. Here are some things it caught in its path tonight.

Some sewing bits that are taking me a very long time to pull together.

Tess in all her glory.

I swear she is this enjoyable every single minute of the day.