Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I ♥ Blogs

In this season of joy, hope, love, and thankfulness, I find it appropriate that I am up for the second night in a row at 3 a.m. thinking about how thankful I am that I took a couple of sewing classes this year.  I love that I have found like-minded friends and that we share our ideas, our struggles, and our unabashed pride in our creations.  I hope this continues not just for the new year, but for many more to come.  And I am overjoyed that along with those classes and my friends, I found this other world, the blogosphere.  It is so full of creative people who are excited to share their adventures in not only sewing and crafting, but in life.  Be it stories about raising kids or running a race in mud.  It is so inspiring to me to read about what they are capable of and think that I might be capable of a little bit more.  It helps that so many are moms that have the same struggles on time and energy that I have.  So many people seem to find ways not only to share what they have done, but how they have done it.  I hope they know how much I love those tutorials and how thankful I am that they take the time to share.

I would not be me if all this thankfulness did not come with a twinge of remorse (and I didn't share it with you).  Many years ago I had a lot of free time.  Before kids came along I was living in Germany with my husband, two dogs, and no job.  I had hopes before I moved of taking that time to learn to cook.  But let's face it: A girl who does not really like to eat will never be a great cook.  I just never found the interest.  I so wish that I had had this other world to inspire me during that time of my life.  I also wish I had been more like Julia Child (yes, I did just watch Julie and Julia) and fought to find something that did hold my interest.  I would have loved to have found sewing during that time.

Today, however, is not about remorse.  It is about how thankful I am for what I have learned this year. It has been a surprisingly productive one considering Amelia just turned one.  I was thinking of that the other day while trying to get the inspiration to write our annual Christmas letter.  We have sent out a letter most of the years that we've been married, but this year I did not know how to share the joys of our lives with our friends.  We had missed last year due to Amelia's birth, so I didn't want to miss two years in a row. 

I had given up on Christmas cards when one night I was surfing through the blogosphrere checking out other sewers' reading lists.  I like to do that since you can stumble upon a lot of good ideas that way and I STUMBLED!!  I found this blog that had some cute pictures on it and the blogger had written how she had made her family's Christmas card this year.  She even provided the link to the You Tube video that helped her.  And that is when I found love for You Tube.  Yes, I had used it in the past to watch tutorials, but never truly appreciated it until the man walked me through a simple edit in Photoshop.  The true joy of the blogosphere though is not just copying what others do, it's making something yours.  In this instance, I combined these tips with the collage maker in Picasa that I had stumbled upon earlier this year on yet another blog (that I can not link to here because I can not find it.) 

So, with the help of these people that I don't know, I was able to make a Christmas card that captured, at least for me, the joys of this year.  Some people will not realize what they have when they see it, but in that picture is a love for family, for sewing, for blogs.  It is excitement for what is to come.  There are more blogs to discover and inspiration to find! 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rectangles for Everyone!

Yes, I realize that it is suppose to be joy or cheer or peace or something, but my Christmas wish for everyone seems to be rectangles.  Never have I noticed how many things come in rectangular form.  Crazy!  What am I talking about, you ask.  Christmas gifts.  It started out with the aforementioned rice bags.  Then came the placemats.  I decided to go for it and make all 12 of Sophia's classmates chalkboard placemats.  I had made placemats back in the summer for my mom so I thought, "No big deal.  Done it before."  How naive I am. 

These placemats, inspired by a tutorial over at Little Birdie Secrets, are not the kind that you sew, flip out and then topstitch.  With these placemats one must use...bias tape.  This didn't deter me either since I have more than once used bias tape successfully.  So, what was the problem?  Ah, that would be that BOTH sides would show.  I've only used bias tape on things where one side matters and if you flub up on the other who really cares. 

Well, let's just say that this whole project even though they are just a bunch of rectangles scared me a bit.  I took it slow and steady.  I cut. I glued.  I then drank a beer and scoured the internet for help because I didn't want to flub up.  After watching Angry Chicken's bias tape tutorial and having a good laugh, I read the one on Posie Gets Cozy.  Both helped out a lot, but basically it took me 1 placemat to figure out what the chicken was saying about sewing on the right side of the fabric BOTH times and another 4 or so to get the corners like the Posie tute explained.  But let me say, the last 8 looked darn good and I am now UNAFRAID of bias tape!

Hopefully the kids like them too.  I tied them using a ponytail holder that had been tied into two loops, one for the placemat and a smaller one to hold the chalk.  I assumed that not many moms cared around chalk in their purse.  My idea was that these placemats would be excellent at restaurants.  I also used plain cotton on one side because I could only find oilcloth that looked boring.

Now that I was quite confident about bias tape, I went on to a fabric checkerboard for my nephew.  I have procrastinated about his gift because truly what do you sew for an eight year old boy?  I finally found this checkerboard tutorial over at I Heart Linen.  I thought that even though he loves soccer and other very active games, he might find need of a quiet, sedentary distraction during a break in a tournament or even on the LONG drive from Tennessee to Missouri that his family takes several times a year.  I used the soccer theme to try and make the board "manly." 

After I sewed the board (actually I sewed two of them in an attempt at perfection that did not occur) I decided to try a different pouch to hold the board and pieces (that have not been bought yet.)  I used a tutorial over at Flossie Teacakes that my sewing circle buddy, Casey, had sewn on Wednesday.  I increased the size of the bag to fit the folded board and used a rugged looking sports zipper.  The zipper didn't hurt my machine or needle and I much appreciate that.

And that my friends ends my Christmas story...except that now I think I will make another pouch. This time for my niece and put a bit of lip gloss in it.  I also still need to sew Eric's rice bag (he has rice bag envy right now.)  I also want to tackle a t-shirt tutu dress for Sophia that my other sewing circle friend, Melissa, has made. 

Then, after that, I am going to sit down and think about what I want my sewing goals to be for next year.  Casey came up with this idea.  I'll let you know what develops.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let's Believe...

in Santa, so that I can use my new stockings.

While we are at it let's also believe that that I am humble and that I will not make all visitors to my house during the month of December stand by my fireplace and have conversations until they compliment my handiwork shamelessly.  We will also say that I will take these compliments gracefully and NOT point out all the little tiny imperfections.

And while we are believing in miracles, let's believe that these FOUR stockings did not take me over TWELVE hours to sew NOT including the cutting.  Unfortunately, that is where our belief would have to end because they did indeed take that long.  It was MY OWN FAULT!  I had three main problems:  1. I did not believe in the pattern provided for free by McCall's, 2. I am a poor visualizer, and 3. I own, and therefore I must use, an embroidery machine.  Actually there was one other problem and that was that I just kept on going.  I would not let myself stop and take a break and THINK.  Just go, go, go.  That last one is why I was up at 2 AM thinking about how I should've centered the names on the cuffs. 

OK, let's review: Believe in the pattern.  I made my stocking first.

Pretty good, right?  Well, I spent hours trying to visualize (problem #2) how the cuffs were going to fit and how to "fix" the edge that was going to show after the stocking was done.  If I would have believed, I would have found out earlier that the seam does not show.  It is UNDER the cuff not inside the stocking. 

Problem #2 was ever present.  I tried to visualize how the cuff was going to be attached and failed.  I tried to visualize where the name should be embroidered so that it would come out on the right side AND right side up and failed.  Finally, I just had to go for it and 3 or so hours after I had started I had my first finished stocking.  I thought after that initial time that the next three would be easy since I now had conquered the problems.  I believed once again in the pattern and I did not need to visualize because I had already done it AND taken notes. HA! (Have you noticed all the exclamation marks in this post?  It was an emotional project.)

The last three were supose to be easy-peasy.  HA!  Problem #3 lurked, ready to suck all of my Saturday time up.  I had gotten lucky with my name on the first stocking.  You see I own a Brother SE-350 which is a good little machine that has a 4" x 4" embroidery area.  This is not big enough to embroider any of our names in one pass except for Eric's.  With the others I had to re-hoop.  It is not easy to re-hoop a piece of fabric so that the letters are 1. on the same horizontal line and 2. with the appropriate spacing from the previous letter.  So, three tries later for Sophia and two for Amelia, I had it. 

I must, now, confess a slight obsession about the side seam of the cuff.  You see on my stocking when I could not visualize ANYTHING, I did not know that the one seam of the cuff should line up with the side seam of the stocking.  After mine I did and this set off a whole new problem with centering because I could not just center the names on the cuff, I had to center them on the FRONT side of the cuff.  Oh, man.  I can be really compulsive sometimes!

After the embroidery was centered on the cuff, I had to center it on the stocking.  It worked for all but Amelia's.  So today, the day after my twelve-hour sewing marathon, I ripped out seams so that I could re-center it.  I did so with my 2AM epiphany which is appropriate during this holiday season.  I also had to (please stop reading now because this is getting painful even to write) rip out the seams that held on the loops because I did not listen to the pattern.  In an attempt to minimize the bulk of the seam area, I did not place the loops in properly and it caused the stockings to hang in all different directions. 

But now, all is well. We can once again believe...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spring Cleaning?

Anyone? Anyone?  (You have to use your imagination and think of the teacher in Ferris Bueller.  My writing would be much funnier for you if you could hear the voices in my head.  I swear.)  I have never, at least that I remember, been subject to the spring cleaning frenzy that others claim to feel.  I hardly ever have an urge to clean out closets or disturb things that are neatly packed away.  Outta sight, outta mind is totally my motto.  However, during this Holiday season I have felt an urge.  I feel a need to make my home homier, to de-clutter before I begin to increase the clutter by decorating for Christmas.  I suspect that the de-cluttering is being spurred on by a very inquisitive 1 year old who has made our floors walking hazards.  You know those movie scenes where the dad (Steve Martin, let's say) falls on the skateboard or steps on a jack.  Well, that is our house but we have hair clips and baby spoons instead of the toys.

My sewing has gone along with this sense of calm and cozy nesting.  I have been on a rice bag binge and today started a baking soda sachet one. 

They make me feel so warm and domesticated.    The two rice bags were made with a few modifications using V and Co's tutorial.  I must say that I do need a foot warmer when the temps here drop down to 50F at night, but I made these a little longer and a little thinner (15" x 5") with the idea of a neck warmer in mind.  I have been having neck/shoulder aches and thought others might also.  The one on the left is for Sophia's Mother's-Day-Out teacher.  Who better to give one to than someone that has to pick-up, play with, and care for 13 3 year olds all day?  Her favorite color is white so I thought this cute material with the white hearts was perfect.

The one on the right is for my dad even though the hubby says that men won't use them.  I tried to make it look manly by using one of E's old shirts.  I think the button on the front and not having to do the extra ironing and sewing to make the flaps was a true eureka moment.  I also added my grumbeere tags to both of the bags.  I made these tags a while back using this tutorial from Patchwork Pottery.  I have been a little shy about using them, but thought they looked liked they belonged on these. 

My only concern is the instructions.  The tutorial says to heat the rice for 2 min. but in my microwave that makes the bag both pipin' hot and wet.  I have dialed it back to 1.5 min. but still think it is a bit too warm.  I  will stick with 1 min. in the future.  No, I do not plan on stealing my dad's.  I made three rice bags and only need to finish a cover for mine.  I think I will make it exactly like the one above though.  E is right: even using his shirt, it is still super cute.  Manly, but super cute!

The other pouches in the picture are an attempt to make my babies room less smelly.  If you happen to be a fan of Sew Mama Sew like I am, you might have already seen these cute smell zappers.  They are part of the Homemade Holidays series that SMS did during the month of November.  If you aren't yet a fan, check it out.  These sachets are from the tutorial from Fly through our Window.  I am a bit scared that they won't work since I used just normal baking soda and not the scented one.  However, I must actually be an optimist because I made two so that I could give the second one to a friend who is going to have her fifth child (loony!!!) in January.  I used that super cute fabric that I bought for Amelia's banner.  I always buy more than I need and this has really paid off.  I have made a banner, pants and now sachets.  I still have a bit more.  Yay!

My only concern with the tutorial and my first two efforts is the placement of the loop.  I think it should be sewn into the front side so that the weight of the baking soda wouldn't make the front side hang lower than the back one exposing some backside of the fabric.  Picky, I know, but something to consider if you make some for yourself!

And that is the end of my Home Sweet Home story.  I still wonder why others get this feeling in spring.