Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Over Extended

I got a little ambitious this fall. I knew that I needed to start Christmas goodies early with a toddler in the house but there were also birthdays and most importantly a new baby coming. My craft books piled up with tabs and dog ears marking far too many projects for far too little time. Eventually I had to scale things back from my over ambitious dreams.

Although I changed what I was making for the soon-to-arrive baby somehow it morphed in to more than I thought. I knew that I wanted to make a quilt and instead of making an intensive quilt top I thought that using a panel and embroidering some details on top would be easier. Oh how the craft gods laughed at my plans. Indeed the time on the sewing machine was barely existent, I just added some green fabric with poke-a-dots on the bottom and top of the panel.

Then time stood still as I started in on the hand quilting. Lesson learned, hand stitching takes time, more time than you think. As I was working away at outlining bird wings, tying french knots and satin stitching until the wee hours of the morning I started to think about if I had really chosen the right project for the baby. I worried about getting it done in time for the baby shower where I wanted to surprise my best friend with it. Then of course I started thinking of when N was little and would play on the quilts that I made her. I thought of this little baby feeling the stitches and textures of the floss, pulling out some of my sloppier french knots and eventually learning the animal sounds that go along with the quilt. And I realized that it was worth every stitch.

Then I went to crazy town.

I had extra flannel from the back of the quilt and I thought that I may as well whip something up for them with it. So I turned to the tutorial where I made N's changing pad covers and made one of those. Because really, you can't have too many changing pad covers.

I still had some other odd and end pieces of fabric that matched the panel and thought of how much N loves her buckets. I figured, hey they won't take long. I suppose, in comparison to N's, they didn't. I didn't do any hand stitching on these, just put in the contrast fabric against white and lined them in some matching Kona cotton colors.

As I was packing up the goodies to send off across the country I realized that I and unintentionally thrust an entire nursery set upon the parents-to-be. The box arrived just in time, literally the day before the shower, and by all reports back they love everything that was sent. But then again they're too nice to tell me otherwise.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Hello December! It is December right? The only way to tell here is by walking in Target and being asaulted by the Christmas music and over the top glittery displays that make sure you know you should be shopping for all of your loved ones. We had a small flurry of snow at the end of November which has all melted away leaving me feeling a little homesick for Alaska and all of the snow that Decembers mean. No worries about a white Christmas there. We did put up our Christmas tree this weekend and I love watching N's face light up when she sees it, touches it and pulls the ornaments off of it.

These little beauties won't melt though, regardless of the weather outside. My mom gave these to me a year or two ago. She had unearthed them in some box in her house and didn't know what to do with them. Tatting isn't something that I can do, nor do I have a lot of interested in learning. But, I can appreciate the time and effort that went into making these. I'm not a doily fan, and if these pieces had been much bigger they probably would have been donated to the Rescue Mission. They are perfect in these little frames though, and C thought that they looked like snowflakes. Perfect addition in a December without any snow, yet.

Here's hoping you have some snow. It does make winter so much less dreary and Christmas time much more festive. There has be lots of other creating, alas much of it is for Christmas and can't be shared until then. But I do have a few other things that have been waiting to be shared until the 25th rolls around. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The non-road trip

We were able to visit my sister, brother-in-law and nephew for Thanksgiving. We actually went last weekend and visited early. Our hope was to use some time my parents had in their timeshare company to rent a place for all of us to get out of town but it didn't work that way. But before we knew that we weren't going to have a road trip I had already started on the road trip bags knowing that there was going to be a lack of toys where we were going.

The bags were made from a free tutorial here. E's is the one in blue and was made exactly as the tutorial directs, N's is the light one and I squared the bottom rather than rounding it. I'm not sure that I can tell much of a difference between the two when they are sitting. The cords I think could be shorter and the tubing that the cords go through have to be bigger than what is called for in the pattern. I made them bigger and they were still pretty snug to thread the ties through.

I have been wanting to make a few handmade quite activities for N to be able to play with on her own when I need a minute (or five) to myself. Thanks to the wonder of Pinterest I found this, I love that she did it as an exchange with other mom's and I think that it would be a great way to do Christmas if you knew enough parent's who were game. I didn't do everything that she had listed but I did a few.

A rice I-syp bag: which N loves, even if it is just to carry around. I walked around JoAnn's looking for small stuff and ended up with some shaped buttons, small wood shapes, ABC letter beads spelling out her name, some small bells, and some of those Japanese shaped erasers (a pig and a pair of shoes if you are really interested).

The button worm: at least that's what we're calling it. She hasn't really gotten how to thread it yet but she does currently enjoy sticking her fingers through the cut holes when the felt squares are taken off the ribbon.

Velcro sticks: a note of warning, if you buy the pre-colored sticks at JoAnn's and your child sucks on them, the coloring will come off and dye your child's mouth/face/hands etc. On the up side N doesn't really chew on them any more since the incident with the one red one that made me freak out. She does love ripping them apart whenever I try to make a shape with them.

The bead bottle: by far N's favorite, and probably my least favorite. It's a mess, pony beads will go everywhere. On the up side, she does love putting them in, in the bottle, in her pants, in the play kitchen, in the trash, pretty much anywhere they can be put, she'll put them.

The miscellaneous extras. You really can't go wrong with giving a toddler a whistle and a kazoo, at least if you want them to stay occupied you can't go wrong. If you want to have a conversation with another adult it might not be the route of distractions that you want to take. N mostly likes the silly putty container more than the putty itself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Time is speeding up, as it always seems to do this time of year. With a toddler in the house I have gotten better at strategically planning ahead and how to make the most of my time. So far it seems to be working for the handmade present stack that I've been working away at for the past couple of months. Yep, that's what a toddler will do to you, make you start Christmas presents in August.

This isn't quite a Christmas present, it's N's advent calendar. Which in it's own perverse twist needed to be done well before Christmas time. I have really clear and fond memories of our advent calendars growing up. We always got to pick out one of the molded chocolate ones. You know, they sell them at grocery stores and as a kid you get excited, because, hey it's chocolate everyday. But as you get older you realize that the little brown shapes are more wax than anything resembling actual, good, chocolate. I wanted N to have that same excitement every morning leading up to Christmas.

I fell in love with Elizabeth Hartman's version a few years ago and knew that I wanted to make one. Last winter, after Christmas, I stocked up on the fabric since it was so cheap. This would be a great scrap project because you really don't need much of the patterns at all. I think that the next time I make it I would probably try to use a charm pack. I finished the top months ago but I was building up the courage to do the quilting. With December looming I finally got busy last weekend. The quilting was actually quite quick and a lot easier than I had imagined - it is just squiggles after all.

All in all I'm happy with how it came out. The pockets are big enough for treats and little presents (hello Target $1 bins!) but the whole calendar doesn't take up a ton of space on a wall. It probably would even fit nicely on a door. Here's hoping the rest of my present stack finishes up as quickly and easily!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A little crazy

We are in the process of buying our house. It has been a long process. Not particularly difficult, just a lot of paperwork, legal-ese, and frustratingly long waits. We were suppose to close on the first, November first, however that has come and gone and we are not in home ownership land yet. Needless to say, some of my free time (read: crafting time) has been over taken by calling a lawyer, or a bank, or an insurance company, or someone else.

I have managed to work on a couple of little things. This one I don't feel like I can really take the majority of the credit for. The quilt top was done by my great-great aunt. My mom pulled it out when we were visiting a couple months ago and said casually something along the lines of how wouldn't it be nice if I could finish it for my sister. Point taken.

The top is an odd size, but it's bound for my sister's couch so sizing isn't something I had to be worried about. The "batting" of the quilt is old chicken feed bags, they were so great I almost wished I didn't have to cover them up with backing. Plus the hand embroidery made a lovely pattern all it's own on the batting.

My sister was also visiting my parents while we were, so she and I were able to pick out backing and binding fabric together. She chose some Kona cotton in Grass and I love how it turned out. The front can be a little dark on it's own but the green helps lighten it up a bit. Finished at just the right time since we're going to visit them in Wisconsin a just a couple of weeks. It will be perfect for snuggling with her on the couch and drinking some tea while we plan the Thanksgiving meal.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A year behind

The traditional two year anniversary gift is cotton, three year is leather. Colin and I received this quilt top for our three year anniversary last month. Either my mom has had a bout of amnesia during our marriage, or she's just not trying to stick to the traditional timeline.

It was pieced, by hand, by my grandmother and great grandmother the year that my mom was born. Most of the flowers are scraps of other fabrics and although in this photo it looks like all of the fabrics of a similar color are the same, they aren't. The quilt is an odd size and when laid down flat it becomes clear that it isn't finished. 
At first I was tempted to just square it up, quilt it, bind it and enjoy without messing with the heritage of the top. But then Hexa-Go-Go started popping up all over the blogosphere and I figured that it was fate telling me to jump into the deep end and figure out how to do some paper pieced hexagons to add to the two sides of this that aren't done. So that's the plan, to try and find some vintagy looking scraps to make a few more full or half flowers to finish it up. I want to hand quilt it anyways since it's too big to do on my machine and I like the idea of doing it how my grandmothers would have. 
Just one more thing to do, in a very large growing pile.

Friday, October 12, 2012


When going to visit my parents I know to leave room in my suitcase for goodies to bring home. It's possible to find almost anything at my parents house, most of which I have never seen before. They have lived in the same home my whole life which leaves lots of memories, and also allows for lots of stuff to get hidden. Both of my parents are savers (although some would perhaps use the term horders), which at times can be a bit wearisome it can also be wonderful for treasure hunting.

First I visited my mom's fabric drawer. She mostly sews clothing, and doesn't sew as much as she did when we were growing up so there are some dusty layers in her stash drawer. When we went through it together the pile she wanted me to take began to over take the pile that was going back in the drawer. In the end we compromised on these lovelies.

I don't know what any of them are, I dare say none of them were purchased in the last twenty years. Only the elephants and top floral are cotton. The blue dots are linen, tulips are a volile and the green and black is something heavy - it was actually my grandmothers.

Next to the fabric drawer is the craft closet. I don't think that I have ever seen the carpet or the shelf liners in this closet. I managed to find two packages of pom-poms and chunky wooden beads that had never been opened for a project with the babies. I also came across these -

Two grain/feed bags. I have no idea what I am going to do with them or even if my sewing machine can handle this heavy of material but I love them. Particularly the farm illustration.

Then my mom pulled out the big guns. The thing that both my sister and I had not seen before but should have. A family crazy quilt - 

It was done by my great-great-grandmother over a century ago. All of the patches are velvet and the thing is heavy! But the hand embroidery is amazing. I am sure that a lot of the symbols are simply things that they liked, but some of them have more meaning (like what's with the weird arm holding a hat by the year?) however the real story of the quilt has been lost over the generations. It looks like someone used it at one time as a quilt for a bed but I think that over time it has been holed up in a linen closet never to see the light of day. I'm not sure that I can justify putting it on a bed either, at least not while there is a little sticky fingered critter running around the house. Perhaps it will take up residence on a wall at some point, it's just too much work to be sitting in a closet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not Sewing

I haven't been sewing, at least not much. It seems like summer finished up in a hurry around here and in our house that means a lot of preserving. I tried making salsa for the first time this year, and although it is good it's a bit runny and my recipe needs a bit of fine tuning before we turn out 5 more quarts again. When we finished the last batch of salsa I was done looking at tomatoes. We had a good summer for them with all of our heat and there were beautiful herilooms left at the farmers market, but I was done. Done that is until a 8 quart box showed up on by door step.

They were beautiful and plum and sweet, and I almost cried because I knew that since we couldn't eat 8 quarts of tomatoes in the next couple of days that it meant I needed to pull back out the canner. Most of the ones in the box were cherry tomatoes and after scouring a few cookbooks and blogs I finally decided on a recipe out of The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. This is a new book to me, C got it for my birthday and I really like some of the unique recipes. So I made roasted tomato passata. The prep is easy enough, half (or quarter) the tomatos, thinly slice some shallots and garlic toss it all with olive oil and some seasoning and roast in the oven.

Then I scraped everything off of the cookie sheet and threw it in to the food processor. I think the recipe called for a food mill which would have been better since you could have removed the skins but we couldn't find ours. After it was pureed I brought it back up to boiling in a saucepan and then canned it. All said and done it made a total of about 6 pints.

I've thrown it in a couple of dinners already, pretty much subsituting it in for a bit of tomato sauce or paste. In a bind we could probably make a quick tomato cream sauce for dinner out of it.

We've put up 5 4oz jars of fig preserves too, which I use in place of jam or jelly on toast. Although apple seasons is just about hitting it's stride it's debatable whether we're going to do apple sauce or not. The apple crop around central NY was hit pretty hard in the spring with the wacky weather and the prices are reflecting that. Might just be easier to go without for a year. Plus, do I really want to pull out the canner again?

Sunday, September 16, 2012


N's birthday quilt is finally finished. Let me just say that one more time, N's birthday quilt is finally finished! Exactly three months past her first birthday, and on C's birthday it came out of the dryer and much to a mama's delight she threw it on the kitchen floor, climbed on top of it and snuggled in.

As I've mentioned before, this was my first free motion quilt. Overall I love how it came out. I think that the circles were really simple and were very forgiving with hiding some mistakes. Plus I feel like bubbles go with the whole water theme of the Heather Ross fabric.

There was a lot of thread used - nearly 8 spools of 250 m thread to be exact. Thank goodness it was on sale at Joanns. I'm interested to see if as I get better I use less or if I should always anticipating emptying so many spools.

It's already been put to good use on N's bed as the days slowly become cooler and the nights are starting to warrant more layers. Although I suspect I will cuddle under it a bit more than N for the next year as she still prefers to do the toddler thrash off of any cover on top of her while sleeping. So here's to a happy and warm belated birthday to my sweet girl.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sometimes you win some

Last Wednesday I got an e-mail that I thought was a joke. Lucky for me it wasn't, I had won a fat quarter bundle from Fabricworm. But not just any bundle, it was Anna Marie Horner's new Field Study line in Gypsy. This fabric was something that I had swooned over, but wasn't going to make my "must buy" shopping list. Of course now that I have 12 fat quarters sitting on my table I can't help but love them. I've already started thinking about what I might do with them, but I am trying to hold off actually starting anything. I am oh so close to being done with N's birthday quilt (which is taking much longer than anticipated), plus I have supplies for Christmas presents piling up while the days before Christmas are already starting to dwindle.

As with most bundles there are a few prints that seem to take up a residence closer to my heart that others. For Field Study I would have to say that these are my favorite three (from left to right) Raindrop Poppies, Migratory Lace and Fine Feathered. They aren't colors that I usually gravitate towards or put together but I do love how they seem to work so nicely in this bundle.

The fabric is really quite lovely and it's on sale right now at Fabricworm; as are Amy Butler and Denyse Schmidt too. While you are at it enter their new giveaway, you never know you might just win!  

Monday, August 20, 2012

The 15 minute makeover

We needed a foot rest, or at least something to rest our feet on when we sit in any of the three chairs in our living room. A coffee table would work, but it would also take up precious floor space. We tend to be picky about furniture in this house, at least furniture that we spend money on. However furniture that we pick up on our neighbors curb we are slightly less picky about. Case in point this bad boy -

Clearly it's not in the best shape. The leather is scratched, scraped and there are a couple of holes. However the wood is sound, all four legs are still there, and the finish actually matches the two IKEA chairs we have in the living room. So off the curb and into our basement it went, where it lived for a couple of months until I pulled it out on Friday.
Now I could have really put some time in to a good re-do. But honestly, upholstery just isn't that interesting to me. It actually one craft that, although I find it to be an art form, is just not one that I even want to explore. So instead, I pulled out some extra green fabric that I got at Joanns on mega clearance and was going to make some pillows for out couch out of. Grabbed my staple gun and ta-da!

I even got it done while N was awake, although it did mean that she wanted to get in the way help.

Friday, August 17, 2012


It has not been a summer for knitters. It's hot, too hot to be sitting still with wool running through your fingers and big sweaty half finished pile on your lap. However it is not too hot in Alaska, where we just returned from visiting family. My sister and I enjoyed the reprieve from the heat and actually got some knitting in. So much so I actually started and finished a project on our trip. Granted it was a small project, just a hat, but a project none the less.


The pattern is Habitat by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed. (I'm also on Ravelry for those knitters out there). Overall, I love it. When I make it again I'll use a solid color yarn so the cables stand out better since they get a little lost in all of the colors of the yarn. It's a little chunky, warm, and done before winter has even begun to think of starting.

In other wool related news; I made a rookie mistake recently.

Returning from Alaska I set out to do laundry and was trying to save myself a little time. Those of you who knit know where I'm going with this already. I set aside the wool and delicate items for last and realized that I had a pretty significant pile. Looking at the washing machine and then the pile I figured "hey there's a hand wash/delicate setting, why not use it?". Right there is where I made the rookie mistake. The mistake that I knew would be done at some point, even though I've been knitting for more than a decade. A lovely hand knit sweater, probably my favorite that I've ever made and certainly the one that fit me the best is now a lovely, felted, sweater that will fit N great when she turns 5 or 6. Take note - the hand wash setting does not mean hand knit setting. Lesson learned, at least for now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Radio Silence

It's clear I've been absent from this space for a little while. Out of all of the seasons summer seems to be the busiest doesn't it? It doesn't seem to matter if you have school aged children or not, if you take a vacation or not; everyone always seems to just be harder to pin down come the warmer (or this year downright hot) months.

Despite my absence of posts I have still been creating, perhaps not as much as I would like but creating none the less. My sister's birthday was a couple of weeks ago and while I finished these in plenty of time I couldn't post about it since she (as any dutiful sister would) reads these pages and I didn't want any spoilers.

That's right, more buckets! The pattern from a cuppa and a catch up is the same that I made for N's nursery and has taken up residence close to my heart. I'm on a kick of organizational swooning, for which I blame Pinterest, and these buckets fill nearly every need I can think of. I do have more plans for them but will probably take a break.

The fabric for these came nearly all from Joann's with the exception of one fat quarter for interior of the smallest bucket which I got at a local quilt shop. I followed the pattern for the patchwork stripe exterior with two lined of coordinated stitched both above and below the patchwork stripe. There is a green machine stitched line 1/4'' from the top and bottom patchwork seam and then a light blue hand stitched line 1/2'' from the top and bottom patchwork seam. 

There is more to catch up on, including a tearful incident with my washing machine this morning. It won't be two months again before the next post, I promise!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Odds and Ends

 Summer is in full swing around these parts which leaves little time for much crafting. I find that I usually do most of my crafting in the fall/winter/spring - you know when it is cold enough that you want a lap full of wooly yarn or an entire quilt piled on you while you finish the binding. I have been eeking out a few things.

My mom tends to save and collect things; lots of things. I don't fall far from the tree on that account, which is a good and bad thing. Although when it's good, it's good.

Take this for example -
It's a vintage set of pillow cases with a sweet little flower embroidery pattern on it. It even still had a hand printed price tag pinned on it. That's right it was pinned with a real, silver, sharp pin adhering the paper with the price, not one of those plastic "T" shaped things. I love them. You might not be able to tell since she sent them to me probably three years ago and here they are with just the edging done. But that's how some projects go, relegated to the bottom of a basket and forgotten about. With warmer (read: sweltering) weather upon us I think that it's high time I make some progress on these so they can rightfully take up some space in our bedroom.

Another project that has been sitting, glaringly so, on my ironing board is N's late birthday quilt. Can you call it a quilt if it isn't quilted? There in lies the problem. I haven't really quilted. Sure I've used the walking foot on my machine to do some simple straight line quilts but in my book that's not the same as those beautiful swirly designs that someone hes created magically with their machines. I do realized that a lot of quilts are done at a store on a long arm machine, which although they get the job done aren't really as labor intensive as a person doing it themselves - nor should they have bragging rights about their quilting skills really.

Learning a new skill as an adult is scary. We tend to be hard on ourselves and want it to be perfect right out of the gate. Often we don't bother at all. We stick to what we know and rarely branch out into learning or doing new things. That's me and quilting. It's the newest thing that I've taken up and it's easy to be hard on yourself, especially when there are so many talented modern quilters who's work is all over the web. So after at least a month of ignoring the ironing board and coming up with pretty valid reasons;  N doesn't need a quilt right now it's 90 degrees, most of the time she is running around with just a diaper! I've dived right in.

These are my practice swatches and my tension checks after changing a bobbin. I'm doing just messy simple circles in a peach thread over the entire quilt. I'm about a quarter of the way done. Biggest thing I've learned thus far - free motion quilting takes up an amazing amount of thread. I've already been back to Joann's once and I'll need to go again for more.