Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What I've been up to...

Wow, I did *not* intend to be MIA, but I guess it happened anyway. I was sick for a while, and I've been off work since the 24th, so I've been hanging around home being super lazy and not crafting and certainly not blogging. So, in the interest of trying to get back in the swing of things, here's what I've been up to for the last two weeks:

1) Hanging out with these cuties. Bellow has been what I call a kitty muffin by laying in that basket, pretty much every evening while we're watching TV (which, lately, has been The Wire on DVD). I have been harassing Iris's naps by bringing out the camera. She is my beautiful little girl.

2) Drinking bloody marys like they're going out of style. Like, right now (which might explain why I'm posting!)

3) Going to the aquarium! Rob's best man from our wedding was in town with his lovely wife for a short time, so we took them to the aquarium and then to lunch at the first restaurant in America before they had to head out. It was a really nice time with some really wonderful people, and it made us miss our friends from Wisconsin quite a bit.

4) Shoveling! We got a good 8"+ today. Rob and I were out twice today and will need to do another big shovel tomorrow. We have the entire driveway to do, plus the sidewalk, and our house is on a corner lot, so we have to do double. Not too fun, but nice when we don't have to get up for work and can just come in and dry off with some hot chocolate.

5) Not crafting much. Not really by choice (I'm finally getting over my cold, which hung on for a good two weeks). Today I finally hit some productivity: I finished up a Lady Scouts project from a few weeks ago and I hit the mending pile. I hemmed 4+ pairs of pants and attached some buttons for Rob. It was a long time coming, but now that is done. I also started a new quilt on Sunday, but haven't gotten past the cutting stage yet. Pictured above are the fabrics for it, all from Anna Maria Horner's Garden Party line. LOVE these.

This is post #100! Believe it or not. Sorry for my absence lately, but my laziness is necessary right now. I do promise a lot more posts in the near future, detailing the super secret gift to my folks along with some of the great stuff I received (and, oh, it is great!) Happy pre-New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gifts for dudes, part 2

As I posted yesterday, dudes are hard to craft for. But what dude doesn't like robots?? That thought led me to create these: robot shrinky dink keychains! The picture above is the before, and the one below is the after!

Each robot was hand-drawn by me. On the white plastic I used Sharpies and colored on the front and the back, which was a bit of the mistake, since the color on the back of the plastic stuck to the paper when I removed them from the oven. I did what I could to touch them up after the fact, but I didn't redo any of them. This represents hours of work, people! The green robot on the bottom right was done with colored pencil on the clear plastic, and for the other two clear ones I used Sharpies as well. The colors bled a little because the plastic surface was rough, but they seem to have turned out okay, and the colors are really vibrant. 

On the backs of the white ones I colored the backs of the robots. This red one had to be touched up, but it looks pretty good here. I hope the boys don't notice. 

So, this pretty much wraps up my Christmas crafting for the year! I still have some things I haven't shown you yet, just in case they ruin the surprise for some, so that will be coming up yet, starting next week. I also have to make a catnip mouse for Bellow, and wrap presents for friends and for Rob, but all packages have been mailed! Well, except for my swap quilt, which I am really behind on this month. Maybe not the best idea to do that in December as well, even though I was in good shape with the crafted gifts. Oh well--live and learn. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gifts for dudes, part 1

Like many crafters, I have a hard time making stuff for dudes. Even though all the dudes I know are pretty cool and pretty supportive of ladies in general and crafty activities specifically, I don't know what to make them. I'm a big believer that things should be useful, and I also do not like to make utilitarian gifts that are put on display and never used. That's not why I made it! 

Anyway, I have a number of dudes in my department at work and a couple of dude friends that I needed to make gifts for this year. Here is part one: stitched Moleskine Cahiers notebooks. This project comes from the wonderful Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. I just used scraps, a paper needle that I reserve for these occasions, and a zig-zag stitch. I didn't press the scraps first, but I really should have. Oh well--next time. 

This is what the inside of the front cover looks like. Kinda cool. The notebooks seem pretty sturdy, so I hope all those holes I poked in them don't compromise the integrity of the cover too much. It probably took me as long or longer to pull the threads to the back and knot and clip them than it did to do the actual stitching. 

Here's a close-up of one of the notebooks. I probably should've stitched much closer to the edges of the fabric scraps--another thing to adjust for next time. 

In addition to the half-dozen books for the boys, I also made some for myself. This is my Dear Jane quilt journal, wherein I document everything about the making of my Dear Jane quilt (which has been stalled since July). I also stitched some scraps on a larger notebook wherein I glue pages of tips and inspiration from my quilting magazines before I pitch them. Pretty easy gifts to make in a couple of hours, though I must warn you that the thread trimming does become tedious. I'll be interested to see how these hold up over time. Anyone know? 

Dude gifts part 2 coming tomorrow... 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wasp bag #2

I did a lot of things last weekend, but the first thing I did was spend five hours on Saturday morning making my second Wasp bag! I love this pattern! I love my bee bag from earlier this year but am starting to wear it out, plus I was feeling the need for a winter bag (though not sure how wintery this one is).

The outer fabric is Peapod by Jessica Jones from J. Caroline Creative. I fell in love with it when I saw it on Jessica's blog and knew I needed to make a bag out of it. Choosing the perfect lining fabric was difficult, but the ladies at my LQS were lovely and found this reproduction of a vintage Christmas fabric by...someone. Moda? Andover? I don't remember. But it's perfect, right? And it helps make it all feel more wintery, though I think I would feel completely comfortable wearing this bag all spring and summer, too!

Seriously, how cute! I love those pleats. It's a great detail and gives the bag a great shape. I probably said this before, but this pattern is really well constructed. It feels so professional. 

One of the other things I did this weekend was go to the Boston Bazaar Bizarre--it was my first time! I was ridiculously excited. I did a really good job of not spending a ton of $$. I bought a little acorn from Heidi Kenney, who I love, and my friend Jenn and I also chatted briefly with Faythe Levine about Handmade Nation (the book and the film), so that was awesome. I tried really hard to not be too groupie-like, but these are my craft-world celebrities!

Anyway, back to my new bag. The pattern calls for a button here, on this teardrop shape on the handle/strap. I added one on my bee bag, but I don't have one on this bag...yet. I haven't found one that matches the colors yet, but do you think I need one? Or is it fine as-is?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

STUD November swap twin finished

I finally finished my own twin to my November swap quilt. I quilted it over Thanksgiving weekend, but just finally washed and dried and photographed it. I really like how it turned out. The fabrics look a little bit busier than I'd intended, but I think the overall effect is nice.

Here's the back, with my embroidered label and my little hanging corner tabs. All I need to do is cut a dowel to fit and tack it up in my stairwell. I have a growing little collection!

Here's a detail of the quilting on the back. Love those curlicues! It's a good thing that I finally finished my twin for November, since today I finished the tops to my December swap quilt nd my own twin. Stay tuned for a sneak peek...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Techno travel roll

Hello all! I am still so excited and happy about the Give-Away Day! I haven't won anything yet, but even if I don't, I found a number of cool new-to-me blogs, and I hope some of you who visited on Wednesday will keep coming back! 

Here is a Christmas gift reveal. It's the "techno travel roll" from Stitch magazine (get it! now!) and it's for my brother. Like many crafters, I have a hard time deciding what to make for dudes and tend to end up buying something instead. When I saw this project in the magazine, I thought it would be perfect for my younger brother. He graduated from college a year ago and is working his first "real" job right now, but it's far from home and his college friends, so he has already made a number of short flights back to visit them (he has yet to come East to visit me, though!) He also has lots of gadgets, so this seemed perfect. 

I stuck my cell and new iPod nano and cord in the roll for modeling effect. The instructions for this were very straightforward and simple, and I like that the finished project is useful and clean-looking (design-wise). I hope my brother actually uses it! For construction I used a quilting-weight cotton and a little heavier weight cotton canvas--it's sort of upholstery fabric, but not quite that heavy. I wanted to make the roll really structured, so I ironed some medium-weight interfacing onto both fabrics. That was probably a mistake, as I ran into quite a bit of trouble with the side seams (as mentioned in this post). But I think my machine and I have made up, so it's all good. 

Anyone else have ideas for good and useful crafts for men? 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A winner, and: I won I won I won!

First of all, I just want to say thank you to everyone for stopping by yesterday and commenting! Give-Away Day was SO fun, and I am overwhelmed at the outpouring of crafty blog love that my little beehive got! I really should've mentioned in yesterday's post that the pattern for the pincushion is from the lovely Pretty Little Pincushions, which comes highly recommended by me! So if you didn't win, definitely add this book to your Christmas list so you can make your own beehive! 

As you can see above, I already used the random number generator to choose a winner. It was comment number 239, which is.... MaryAnne at Thrifty Craft Mama! Congratulations, MaryAnne! 

So, as I already mentioned, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of blog hits and comments I received yesterday. Thank you for all the crafty love! I just so happen to have cut out felt for another beehive, so I will be reading through all the comments and choosing another winner, to be announced later this week! 

Edit: I have made it through all 352 comments and, on a whim, I'm choosing Holly of Stupid Is the New Awesome, just because she got my Spinal Tap reference and I liked her blog. So, Holly, I will be making another pincushion this weekend and sending it to you! Congrats! 

I'm sure that a lot of people who win stuff say that they never win stuff, but, seriously, I never win anything, so I was really surprised and happy to find out that I was one of the Craftsanity Amy Butler winners! (Of course, it was really hard not posting here immediately, but I wanted to wait until the loot arrived and I could show you photos of all the great stuff I won!) I listened to the Amy Butler Craftsanity podcast and left a comment and I was lucky enough to be one of the random winners! Woohoo! 

So, what did I win? A copy of Amy's new book, Little Stitches for Little Ones, Amy's Cabo Halter pattern, and a stack of eight fat quarters, a mix of fabrics from her Daisy Chain and Midwest Modern lines. 

Now I ask you: What should I do with all this delicious fabric?? Besides hoard it, which is what I tend to do... 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Give-Away Day!

Happy Wednesday! It's Sew, Mama, Sew Give-Away Day! Be sure to click over to Sew, Mama, Sew to see the master list of everyone giving crafty stuff away today. It's not much, but pictured above is my offering: a wool-blend felt beehive pincushion (I love making these!). It's completely sewn by hand, stuffed with Poly-Fil, and has a little flax at the bottom to give it some weight.

The pincushion also comes with five custom-made bee pins, hand drawn by me and made using Shrinky Dink plastic. They turn the cute factor up to 11.

So, would you like this? It can be yours! All you have to do is leave a comment below. Comments will be closed at midnight and on Thursday I will draw a random number to choose the winner! (Please, US residents only.) Thanks for visiting, and good luck!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November swap quilt received

I have been very delinquent in posting about this! I'm so sorry! Pictured above is my two-color quiltie received from Soukies for the November Swap Til U Drop mini-quilt swap. It's blue and white--how perfect is that?!? 

Not sure if you can tell in this "detail" photo, but the fabric for the snowflakes and for the white borders is sparkly! Too cute. 

I also received a little accordion book and these stickers. All this on the day before Thanksgiving! Lucky me. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Long weekend crafting

I took full advantage of the long Thanksgiving weekend and got a ton of crafting done, including making a huge dent in my Christmas to-craft list! Of course, I can't show you everything yet, but here are some peeks at some of what I accomplished over the four-day weekend. First, I quilted my twin to my November swap quilt. I had run out of backing fabric so I wasn't able to complete them at the same time. 

Then I spent about a million hours embroidering tiny felt labels and blanket-stitching them to more felt. I had to do 8 or so, and I am SO thankful to be done with these! Sometimes assembly-line crafting can be a drag... 

Yesterday I spent way too long wrestling with my machine, breaking needles, and swearing to get it to stitch through too many layers of heavy cotton and interfacing. 

On Friday I made and attached my first scrappy binding! It looks pretty cute with just the binding clips on, so I'm excited to see the final project once I get all the hand-stitching done (hopefully by the end of this week)! 
What did you do with your extra crafting time? 

Be sure to stay tuned this week because I have LOTS of things to post about, and don't forget that I'm having a little crafty give-away on Wednesday for the Sew, Mama, Sew Give-Away Day! Happy December, everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A quilty gift

Yesterday was a sad day at the office. My awesome assistant, Molly, left. :( We were all so sad to see her go, and I couldn't let her leave without taking some more craftiness with her, so I did what I do: I made her a quilt.

The pattern is Atkinson Design's Yellow Brick Road, my go-to fat quarter quilt pattern. It's quick, it's easy, and it looks great. What's not to love? The fabrics are all from Anna Maria Horner's Garden Party line by Free Spirit and they were a joy to work with. I love me some Moda fabrics and what have you, but I seem to really be drawn to the Free Spirit ones. Hmm.

I'd never done a quilt with a large directional print on the back before. I did some design matching with the seam and did a pretty decent job, if I do say so myself. The quilting was all free-motion curlicues with variegated YLI machine-quilting thread and it turned out pretty well. I'm practicing it a bit with all of my swap quilts and getting fairly comfortable with it.

I took this photo when Molly was opening the quilt. It came out a little crazy-looking, I think, but it works. Molly said it was very Anthropologie-like. Huge compliment, though I think a lot of that is owed to the fabrics I used. I followed the Yellow Brick Road pattern precisely, but I added a wider fussy-cut border, and I used the polka dotted square in the corners because I was iffy about mitering the pattern at the corners. Overall, I think it was very successful.

I love these fabrics, but I think this blue one might be my favorite. Good thing I have more on hand for a project just for me...!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Give-Away Day

Just a quick post to let you all know that I have decided to participate in the Sew, Mama, Sew Give-Away Day, which is December 3rd. Be sure to stop by and leave a comment on my post that day to win some very cute handmade swag! 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

November mini-quilt reveal

Here it is! My Swap Til You Drop November mini-quilt. The challenge was two-color quilts. I had a number of ideas, but when I saw that my partner really liked black and white, well, I couldn't resist using those lovely Mark Lipinski Califon fabrics! 

The pattern is my own but was inspired by one I saw in Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting magazine. The white areas are quilted with a free-motion curlicue in white thread, and the black areas are quilted with a free-motion ladder / greek key pattern in black thread. Not really sure how best to explain that, but my free-motion quilting is getting pretty solid! Even the straight lines look fairly straight, and my curlicues are coming out well. It's all about the tension, I guess! 

I did another embroidered label. I couldn't resist throwing some red in there to really make it pop! This time I pinked the edges of the label then pressed them under before sewing it down. I like how this works. I also like the look of quilting through the label. I had read somewhere that you're supposed to do that because it makes it harder for a quilt thief to remove your name from your work, but at this point I think it's ridiculous to think of anyone wanting to do something like that to my stuff! 

My partner received the quilt yesterday and said she loves everything about it, so I think it's a success. I also threw in a beehive pincushion as a little something extra. I adore these things! I am considering making one this weekend and participating in the Sew, Mama, Sew Give-Away Day on December 3, but I don't want to commit until I have something definite completed and set aside. I hope to do something about that this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled for more news on that! 

Also, I am expecting my November swap package in the next couple of days, plus some awesome crafty loot I won online, so I'll be posting pictures of all of that. Yesterday my 3.5-year-old iPod died (that sad iPod face is just too much!) so Rob and I went to the Apple store and I got the fancy new nano in a beautiful blue. Awesome. Also yesterday my Mary Kay rep dropped off a big order I had just placed, so it was kind of like Christmas. For me. Except I paid for everything. 

Speaking of Christmas, I just saw this on the Purl Bee. I don't know what I want more--the advent calendar, or all of the lovely notions inside! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A softie refashion

This little woolly lamb is the result of cutting up the awful jacket I posted about yesterday! Pretty cute, right? The fabric is some kind of mystery synthetic, but it's soft and a little like a very crushed velour. It's the perfect texture for this little guy, who was completely sewn by hand in about 4 hours. 

I like all of this little guy, but that tiny tail just kills me! Oh, teh cute! He ended up looking like a sheep that had been shorn, so I had to give him that little wool scarf to help keep him warm. 

Who couldn't love that adorable little face? This guy will be making the rounds on the production floor in my office. I think it looks like he's frowning, but one of our designers has assured me that he's just making a "sniffing" face. What do you think? 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recent reading

So the Smashing Pumpkins shows of last weekend were a bit of a mixed bag. Though, in truth, I am a huge fan and will probably heartily approve of whatever Billy chooses to play, there was a little disappointment at how the Friday show ended, even though Rob and I had a great time. The pictures are amazing, the set was amazing, and the sound was loud and good. Even so, the Saturday show was so much better and will probably go down as my second favorite SP show. That said, let's move on, shall we? Let's.

The photo above is of the reading material I'm currently shuffling. I picked up Handmade Nation last month in Portland and have been working my way through it. I'm nearly finished, but I think a part of me doesn't want the book to end. In some ways it reminds me of The Crafter's Companion, which I really liked. I'm incredibly excited for the documentary to come out. I really hope it plays in Boston!

In addition to the book, I've been shuffling through some magazines. I now get American Patchwork and Quilting magazine, which is fine, I suppose. It's one of those project-oriented quilting magazines that isn't really inspiring me right now, though I feel like I've flipped through it a number of times but never really looked at it. I went to Barnes and Noble last week to pick up Stitch magazine (which is every bit as good as everyone is saying!) and ended up with Martha Stewart's holiday magazine. It was that adorable little lamb on the cover that did it for me!

So, back to the crafting. My November Swap Til You Drop quilt is in the mail, so the reveal is coming later this week, once it's received. I ran out of backing fabric so need to pick some more up and get the "twin" quilted. I'm also working on binding another project, so that reveal is coming next week. Patience!

The jacket above was given to me last week in a pile of clothes headed for donation. It is so grandmotherly and hideous! I put it on and my assistant laughed so hard she was crying. Everyone said it couldn't be turned into something cute, wearable or not. Well, I believe I have succeeded! Pictures to come tomorrow. Stay tuned...

Friday, November 14, 2008

In which I talk waaaay too much about myself

Sorry for the lack of posting this week. My Swap Til You Drop quilt has been finished since Tuesday but I still haven't washed it (for the crinkly look I love and to remove the cat hair) so it won't be going out until the weekend. It has been one of those weeks where it's all I can do to make myself a bloody mary after work and then drag myself to bed at 9:00. (Seriously--9:00.) I can't really say why. Work hasn't been awful. I was feeling pretty gross on Wednesday and stuck it out for the full work day, so maybe that's part of it. 


Today is the first of the Boston two-night Smashing Pumpkins show! I am a huge fan and have been for around 15 years. Unfortunately, I was never able to see the "original" Pumpkins, though by the end of this weekend I'll have seen the reformed band four times! Plus I saw Billy on his solo tour, Billy on the Zwan tour, and met him at his book signing at Harvard Book Store about four years ago. 

I'm getting excited. We watched If All Goes Wrong on Tuesday night, and then I dreamed of Billy Corgan. The dream was one of those that feels really real and kind of undoes you when you wake up, but you can't remember the details of it. Perhaps that's a big part of why I spent Wednesday walking around in a daze. Anyway, I woke up a bit early this morning and used my extra time to do a really good job on my eye makeup. Unfortunately, you can't really tell because these are crappy cell phone photos I took on the train this morning. But I think they look pretty good, if I do say so myself. Lots of dark eyeliner, which is my requisite for show nights (I don't know why--it just is). 

Tonight and tomorrow night I will be rocking out to my favorite band of all time ever, probably crying during at least one of the shows. Sunday will be recovery and football. And back to crafting. I promise to have some sneak peeks for you next week. Also possibly a crazy refashion project. For realz. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Updates and a rambling answer

First off, I have to note that the cupcakes picture above is over a year old, but I'll get to that later. I'd love to show you some peeks of what I've been working on for the past week, but I can't. They are surprises that must remain surprises until they are received. I know I usually give a little peek of my Swap Til You Drop mini-quilt, but this month's theme is two-color quilts, so even a little peek will give away a large part of it! But rest assured that I'm making excellent progress. I pieced the top on Sunday and did all the quilting last night. I'm hand-stitching the binding on my commute today and hope to have it in the mail tomorrow or Thursday. Reveal to come next week! 

Also, I received a comment yesterday from sweetkelli (thanks for stopping by!) asking about Lady Scouts. I've mentioned Lady Scouts a number of times here, but I don't think I've fully explained my idea of it. Basically, it's a gathering of like-minded females who drink, eat, craft, and share. The end result is much more than the sum of its parts. In the beginning we were sharing a short reading, but that has fallen off. Hmm. I think it's something we need to resurrect. Below is a picture of what a Lady Scouts craft session looks like: 

This was from the cupcakes one late last summer. The end result cupcakes are in the top picture above. The second one from the right is mine and is sitting on my work desk. 

We've mentioned before that perhaps a manifesto is in order, but I think I've just been too lazy to come up with one. Lady Scouts got its name when I was thinking about getting together with friends and crafting when I was little and in Girl Scouts. What does one call a similar gathering amongst adults? Lady Scouts, of course! It's really lovely when we can all get together, but it's also a rare occasion. There are about five "core" members, and everyone is always welcome to bring friends, so we've had a number of different ladies attend one or two "meetings." Ideally, I'd like for this to be the second Tuesday of every month, but that just isn't possible, and lately we've gone months between meetings. 

So, I hope this explains my concept of Lady Scouts! Please, feel free to ask any questions, or to start up your own chapter! If you do, let me know! 

Also, I just have to note that I am going to see the Smashing Pumpkins on Friday AND Saturday night in Boston! I am super excited. I've been listening to the catalog pretty much chronologically this week, just to get ready. I had a hard time figuring out if I should listen to Earphoria or Pisces Iscariot after Siamese Dream, but I went with Earphoria because I was itching for some live stuff. It's been just over a year since I last saw the Pumpkins, and I realize I am incredibly lucky to be able to see them as often as I have. *sigh*