Friday, December 9, 2011

Selfish sewing

The Christmas gifts are almost DONE - what a great feeling! I can finally work on a project for myself that's been stewing in my mind for awhile. I fell in love with some peacock blue fine wale corduroy; a couple yards came home with me. I knew I wanted to make a skirt with it, but wasn't sure what style. I settled on a blend of these two skirts I saw online:

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Length, wide hem, back patch pockets and side pocket from this one...

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and front pockets with flaps from this one.

I'm not really following a pattern, kind of just winging it based on a basic pencil skirt pattern I have. Flat felled seams are new to me, and boy, do I love them!! They give a great detail to the skirt and look so professional - finished seams are always worth the effort.

The fly stumped me, so I'm moving the zip to the back and doing an invisible zipper. They're easy and familiar to me. There are about a dozen zippers in my sewing stash, and not one is an invisible zipper. So...back to the store. It's so frustrating when a project is held up for lack of some simple needed item. Hopefully there'll be a FO to show off soon!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving turns into Christmas

We spent our Thanksgiving dinner in Colonial Williamsburg, enjoying turkey and fellowship with some friends.
Our host was just getting off from work - about 90% of the time I see him, he's dressed like this. :)

Before dinner, we strolled around the streets of Colonial Williamsburg. The sun was setting and cast a beautiful glow on everything. It's such a lovely place to visit!

I was feeling pretty good about myself because I had just assembled some Christmas decorations for our front door. The kids collected pine cones and painted/glittered them, I hot glued the ribbons. Not bad, eh? Snow covered pinecones when it's about 70 degrees!

Yep. I was pretty happy. Then I saw the Christmas decorations going up in Williamsburg. Wow. At the risk of sounding un-thankful on Thanksgiving day, these make my creation look like a 2nd grade craft project (ok, it pretty much is!). I know these are done by professionals, but still. Gorgeous. This year the decorators have gone beyond the typical fruits and seed pods. Just look:

wheat, clove-studded oranges, lavender and cinnamon sticks (or cattails??) I love how they chose the wheat instead of greens - it stands out against the red so well
turkey tail, pine cones, & green apples - simple yet striking
this is the more traditional fruits and seed pod wreaths
my favorite: antlers, pheasant feathers, holly berries and cotton pods

Now I'm really in the mood to start my Christmas decorating! I'll have to go back to CW soon when they finish putting up all the decs to see what other ideas they've come up with. This could turn into a fun kids' project - making wreaths with objects found in nature only.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


It's a lovely fall day here! Give the boys a rake and a leaf pile, and they're entertained for hours.

Wrapping up some unfinished projects today. Here's the latest, a pair of crayon monster totes inspired by this tutorial. Two of my nephews who turn 5 will be getting these as birthday gifts next month. It was so much fun making these! The faces are furry fleece. I think I watched too many episodes of The Muppets as a kid.

My own 5 yr old can't keep his hands off them, so I guess that means I better make another one as a gift for him, too! I think I'll try to revise it as a composition notebook cover for him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gift Preparedness

The onslaught of the holiday season calls for preparedness, much like getting ready for a hurricane. Be prepared. Make lists. Stock up on supplies. Have a plan. I used this holiday checklist last year. I liked it so much I printed this year's checklist as well. Blank ones are here.

Oh, the crafting is really swinging into high gear lately! There's quite a few *unfinished* projects I'm in the middle of, gifts for Christmas and birthdays. There is an unusually high number of birthdays around the holidays in our circle, plus a newly adopted niece to welcome into the family. Lots of reasons to celebrate!!

With so many projects to do, it is time to be ORGANIZED. For me, this means figuring out my "dead" time and filling it productively. I can knit while reading words aloud for a spelling test. Sewing is best done after the kids are in bed. Projects for my own family members are done in secret while they're away swimming at the Y. This makes for a lot of pick up and put down of projects, so I like to keep all necessary supplies and materials. It's easy to pull out a tub or basket, work on a project for 15 minutes, then quickly pack it up.

Here's one project I'm working on, based on the Shepherd's Delight pattern (Ravelry link). Stranded knitting is quickly becoming a favorite of mine!

Preparing for Christmas

I know, Thanksgiving isn't even here and I'm talking about Christmas. But an important day requires some forethought and preparation, especially if you're busy chasing little ones. How do you make Christmas meaningful beyond the presents and sugar? One way we've enjoyed is by tracing the spiritual lineage of Jesus all the way from Adam through the Old Testament prophets to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

I made these felt magnets with little fingers in mind. They are stuffed with a cotton ball and the magnet is INSIDE so I wouldn't worry about someone prying it off and swallowing it! Yes, there's a fair amount of work here, but we've enjoyed these for years and they've held up well! It took me 3 years to make maybe if you're diligent and get started now you could have a complete set by Christmas!

Here are the people represented, reading from left to right, top to bottom:

Spirit, Adam, Noah, Abraham
Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses
Passover, Rahab, Gideon, Ruth
Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah (chains - it's hard to see in the photo)
Jonah, Esther, Daniel, Zachariah & Elizabeth
John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, Jesus

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Winter Woolies

It's mid-October, and oddly enough, we're in a steamy 80 degree day. Ugh! I've been baking fall comfort foods but it's hard to enjoy them when a cool fruit salad really fits the weather.

These orange sweet rolls (or bread if you just put it in one pan) are my most recent discovery. Wow, are they delicious!! I under baked this batch, but will definitely add them to my special-breakfast repertoir. I found the recipe over at the, which is a wonderful blog for many things in addition to food.

Cold weather is coming, and so the necessary knitting is in progress. First off my needles is this squishy ear flap hat.

My son was a trooper to model a wool hat on an 80 degree day. He'll be rewarded. :)

It's apparent what this son thought of putting a wool hat on his head. Stinker.

I think I'm going to add a fleece lining to it - the report from my boys is it's a bit itchy - and a fleece lining should help that plus add an extra layer of warmth. This will likely be a gift since we already have a ton of hats. It only took a couple of evenings to knit and used up a fair amount of yarn from my odds-n-ends jar.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Whew - the past 3 weeks have been crazy here, but in a very fun way! I went to Ireland for a girls' vacation with a friend. That was two weeks of wonderful scenery, exploring areas off the beaten path, and left-hand driving adventures. Immediately after I returned my hub went away for a week long business trip, during which time I packed up my crew to go to a long camping weekend with our church. My 3rd child broke his arm while there and the 4th child seemed to forget all potty training that we've done. So. Busy, fun, and a few challenges to overcome.

a typical view from Ireland - lots of green, stone walls, sheep, and a 13th century ruin to hike to!

Now I feel like we're all home again and getting back into the routines of life. And it's autumn!! Hooray! That means a host of new activities including baking, sewing, knitting, redecorating, outings, and school activities. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quilt Top Finished

This BRIGHT quilt top is finished - about 5 feet square. This outdoor photo shows the true colors a bit better.

I still need a name for this quilt - any ideas??

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eye poppin' color

Red. Peach. Violet. Orange. Pink. Fuschia. Yellow. Colors bumping and fighting with each other all over in a big polka-dotted melee!
I'm not ashamed. Yes, it a mess of wrinkles and bad lighting. Yes, it's a kit from JoAnn's (half off sale, too!). But that COLOR!

This is one of those color combos that you either hate or love. It's kind of chafing to look at, don't you think? I can't decide if I'm really drawn into it or need to look away. What do you think?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wedding out on the Farm

A short walk to the back pasture, greeted by a lovely photo collage....

baskets, wire fences, and the guest book....
good ol' fashioned fun for young 'uns.....

details to feast the eyes upon ..... every fence decorated with flowers or candles.....
a lot of supportive groomsmen....ties all handmade by a friend....

the ceremony took place under "Bilbo's party tree".....lit by candles in mason jar lanterns....
the hurricane blew a tree down right in the middle of the seating area, but the gals at church turned it into a flowering focal point......

and the tree trunk made a great place for kids to sit!
The reception tables were laden with flowers, home baked breads, and homemade preserves.

A quilt - hand-pieced by the groom's grandmother, quilted & finished by so many ladies from church - will be a cherished heirloom for the new couple.

This wedding, like the one last spring, was the 100% creation of the good folks in our congregation. I like to think of it as something like a barn-raising: it takes a community of people to make it happen! Many ladies worked to decorate, cook ALL the food, and keep things organized. The bride made her veil and stenciled the border of every tablecloth. A friend hand-sewed every groomsman's tie. Several others sewed the bridesmaids' and flower girls' dresses. A brother-in-law painted all the vases. An aunt baked hundreds of cupcakes. Several families worked to clean the farm of the damage left by Hurricane Irene - several trees needed to be buzzed up and hauled away and countless sticks raked and cleared. I know I'm forgetting some other major details, but I want to show you what the body of Christ loving each other selflessly looks like. Oh, and I should mention this farm was a good hour to hour and a half drive (or more) for most of the people who helped.

But most of all, I need to introduce you to the Frau of the farm. This is no ordinary human being. She opened her house and home on Providence Farm with graceful and warm hospitality to so many and helped plan and pull off this wedding all while maintaining her own family of 7 kids PLUS 5 extra children who are staying with them for a month. She made sure everyone was well fed, well loved, and stayed on task with their farm chores. Her barn was turned into a wedding staging area - gallons of fresh milk and eggs shared cooler space with salads and sweet tea. Her kitchen was overrun with helping hands. Her kids' bedrooms turned into dressing rooms. Oh, and did I mention that her dear husband was travelling with work duties much of the month leading up to the wedding?!

She's Wonder Woman, I tell ya! I wasn't able to get a decent picture of her, mostly because she never stands still long enough to click the shutter! But this is the perfect picture of her - just as ready to give a big hug to someone as well as giving well-planned directions. I commend this Godly woman as an example of selfless giving and Christ's love.

Now, life isn't perfect and everyone had rough spots to deal with (earthquake, hurricane, bride sick the day before the wedding, plus countless other hiccups), but God is gracious. Oh, He is good! This wedding was a wonderful picture of heaven - on so many levels!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Agnes Tunic

Agnes Tunic from "Girl's World" by Jennifer Paganelli
fabric: Double Daisy Border from the Flora & Fauna collection by Patty Young
placket: Pretty Please by Jennifer Paganelli
size: XL

I recently purchased a copy of "Girls World" by Jennifer Paganelli. What a fun book full of girls' patterns and accessories! Even if you don't have a girl to sew for, you could find something in there for yourself, too.

My girl is starting to outgrow the desire to wear what Mom sews for her, so I thought I better make hay while the sun shines, as they say. The Agnes Tunic appealed to both of us. It looked comfy and versatile, and I really liked the idea of 3/4 sleeves. Perfect for warm Southern autumns paired with leggings.

I made the XL size but should've done the Large size looking back at it. There still would be plenty of growing room! The model in the book is sitting and kind of hunched up, making it difficult to see how much ease is already included in the pattern. If my knitting brain had kicked in, I would've measured the pattern pieces and compared them to my daughter's actual measurements! Apparently my mind only works well in certain craft media. :) The shoulders fit well, but it seems very long and wide, even for my tall girl. A bit like a muumuu? I omitted the sleeve and hem bands which would have added a couple extra inches. Next time I make this I'll lop a few inches off the hem to make it more hip-length and probably make the body a bit narrower. And add pockets - that's a request from the girl.

The back button & loop closure is a sweet little detail.

Very roomy - she won't outgrow this too quickly!

The directions and diagrams were very clear and everything came together quickly and easily except for one piece. The contrast band around the neck was NOT easy to attach to the bodice. If you are a beginner at sewing clothing, leave this pattern for later. All the corners, angles, combined with sections of gathering were quite a challenge to sew. After a lot of fussing and seam ripping, I'm still not 100% happy with how parts of the placket turned out, but I decided to call it good enough for now.

I'm excited to try out the other patterns in the book - but I'll pay closer attention to sizing from now on. :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Antique Wedding Quilt

I have the privilege of working on a beautiful antique quilt that's destined to be a wedding gift next weekend. This amazing quilt is all hand pieced hexagons and diamonds - isn't it gorgeous!! I'm in awe of the time it took this quilter to cut and hand sew each piece!

I put the seam ripper in there so you can get an idea of how small each piece is.

The quilt top was made by the groom's grandmother. A crew of ladies from our congregation sandwiched and hand quilted it with perle cotton. I love the pale pink cotton they picked. My role in this process is to bind the quilt, no simple task since the edge is not straight but scalloped! And not only that, the two long sides are a bump-bump-bump type of scallop, while the short sides are a bump-dip-bump-dip S-shaped wave. Did that make any sense at all??? I'm still figuring out how to measure how many inches of bias strips I will need.

The ladies at sent me some samples of Kona Cotton so I could match the green fabric used between the hexagon "flowers." I was so glad to find the color "old leaf" is almost the exact same color. Since there are more than a few seams that are falling apart along the edge of the quit top, I zig-zagged the edge of the top then carefully cut around the scallops. I hope this stabilizes everything while I pin and sew down the binding.

If Hurricane Irene takes out our electricity for a while, I will be busy hand-stitching the binding. Better get the machine stitching done while there's still electricity!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Random Bits

I keep telling myself Autumn is approaching. It may not feel like it yet outside my back door, but eventually it will get cooler and fingers will need some warmth. I finished this pair of fingerless mitts for my friend's birthday last week.
It had been awhile since I did any cables, so a little Celtic knot was in order. All those criss-crosses can sometimes get confusing, but this one wasn't too bad. For an extra twist of excitement, I mirrored the cables from the left mitt to the right one. This was a "snack" project - fun and fast. I really like these and think I might have to make another pair or two!
The cuff around the fingers is great - just fold it down if your fingers need extra warmth!

And here's the Nina - completely unrelated to knitting, but what family doesn't enjoy a good old fashioned OJ carton-turned-boat project? Our kids are deep into the Spanish explorers, so a bevy of boats has provided a lot of entertainment lately. "Let's sail to the New World! (family room)" "OK, now let's bring our loot back to Spain! (kitchen)" "Aack! Hurricane! (5 yr old + fan)" A bit silly, but memorable for the kiddos.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer is for Orange

Rebuilding our deck was our project this spring; outfitting the deck for use was the project for this summer! That included sewing, of course! I bought the large seat cushion for this bench earlier this year, then found that JoAnn Fabrics carried the same fabric! It's Waverly Sun & Shade outdoor fabric - "Magic Carpet."
It took less than 2 hrs of sewing to make the two 18" pillows. The green pom pom fringe is for whimsy. Sewing with pom pom fringe, especially around an invisible zipper, is a little fussy. (The green pillow was purchased, too)

And because my math skills are less than stellar, I over-calculated how much yardage I needed. Extra fabric? No problem. Just whip up some cushions for the bistro chairs, too!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tufon Quilt

The "Tufon" quilt is finally finished! Our guest bed is a futon, which the little guy in our house calls the tufon. So thus the name. I machine quilted this, and there are still a few kinks that I need to work out with that process. I struggled with the stitch tension, never really getting it to a satisfactory point. It's not perfect, but passable. I really enjoyed hand-stitching the binding down; perhaps I'm more of a hand-quilting girl after all!

There are two "Arcadia" by Moda honey buns in there, as well as some khaki Kona Cotton. The back is a length of unknown orange cotton that served us as a curtain in our first apartment. I was surprised to find 12 yards of pumpkin orange cloth in the bottom of my cedar chest! Let's just say there's plenty for coordinating pillows, hee hee.

Left over strips of fabric make a strip up the back as well as the binding. Finished size is about 60" x 80". I'm very happy with it, even with all it's imperfections. To me, that is the charming part about handmade quilts. We have many houseguests each year, and I hope they enjoy this quilt too!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Color Autobiography

I love color. Really love it. You can't get enough color in your life, I say. Especially bright vibrant colors rubbing up against other bright colors. Like purple - I'm convinced as of late that purple is possibly the best color around - it goes with everything. Even orange.

When I was 5 I entered a coloring contest hosted by a department store. I remember it clearly: sitting at our round formica-topped dining table, carefully coloring in the airplanes that framed the page. I decided they had to be purple airplanes, with yellow accents. Mom questioned me on that (Mom has impeccable taste, mind you. You just can't argue with that - she's always right, but likes to play it safe). No, purple airplanes they must be, and wouldn't you know it, I won a $25 gift certificate to the store! I really wasn't thinking - I hated shopping at that age, and empowering MORE shopping wasn't the brightest move I made, but it was the start of my art career, so to speak. And it gave me a courage to go with my gut and use color with abandon.

I love the sugary, syrupy colors that show up in the Rococo period. VanGogh had a fearless love of color as well. A couple other colorists I admire are mostly in the textile realm: Kaffe Fasset, and Kristin Nichols (scroll down to see her house interior!).

How does color play into your life? Do you like to keep it "safe" - or do bursts of color energize you? Are there areas you keep it neutral? I'm discovering how neutrals can be full of life, too. An all-white room that is full of texture is beautiful. Not easy to keep clean, but beautiful!

Today's challenge: play with color today in a new way: think clothes, paintings, table settings, even getting out the crayons and experimenting with different color combos. Look to nature for inspiration. But most of all, have fun!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Survival

Mom called me up the other day just to "check on me" - she noticed a lack of email and blog activity and wanted to make sure I was still here! Yes, mom, I'm here, but very busy as of late. School started again, along with swimming lessons, which pretty much takes care of all but 4 hours of my waking moments. Add into that some overly-abundant pear trees, and you have a flurry of lesson plans, beach towels, canning jars, and meals tossed in the slow cooker.

This is just the first bunch of pears - more are falling every day!

You wonder about school starting in July? That's the beauty of homeschooling - when it's too hot to play outside, we work inside. That allows us to enjoy the spring weather (when all the other kids are longingly looking out the classroom window!). It feels great around Labor Day to know you have 1/4 of your school year already completed!

The sewing/knitting front has stalled due to school. Instead, I've switched my mind over to crafting that the kids can do with me for projects. The good ol' "turn the OJ container into a boat" type of crafts. Today the oldest two kiddos created their own triptychs depicting the Annunciation, complete with Renaissance symbolism. Tomorrow the little guy will make a ssssssnake out of one of dad's old neckties while learning about the letter Ss.

There is a quilt hiding under my dining table that's nearly finished being quilted. And a sweater travels with me to the pool to keep my hands busy during swim lessons. My drop spindle has been calling to me, too.... The different seasons in our family life have their own creative challenges, which keeps this domina on her toes!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Road Trips

Road trips are a quintessential part of summer. Pack all your people and belongings in a vehicle that's really too small to hold it all then drive for hours! Our family has logged plenty of miles - having newborn babies, potty training tykes, or wiggly preschoolers has not deterred us one bit. We've learned a few tips and tricks to make this easier on Mom & Dad, and more enjoyable for the young 'uns. I thought I'd share them here:

Remember to pack:
-plastic bags, bring plenty. Ziplocs, bread bags, WalMart shopping'll likely find a use for any and all of these! They're great small toys, snacks, wet clothes, trash and more.
-baby wipes & paper towels - little people get sticky & dirty!
-Band aids/first aid kit
-cookie sheets - preferably the jelly roll style with a lip around the edge. Great as trays for on-the-go meals/snacks, a hard surface to write & color upon, and they're magnetic! Get creative! The best use we found for these is for passing goods back and forth to the kids in the far back of the van. It's like an extendo-arm! Store them under or alongside the seats when not in use.
-pipe cleaners - fun for QUIET playtime. Have contests to see what everyone can make (animals, glasses, state outlines, etc).
pipe cleaner glasses - I threatened hubby that I'd wear them OUT of the car, too! I made plenty of people smile that we passed on the road. Just spreading the joy to others!

-books on tape - our kids favorites (ages 4-9) include "Hank the Cowdog," the Narnia series, and oddly enough, "A Christmas Carol." A little odd for July, perhaps, but they sit quietly and enjoy it
-mystery bags - I have fun with this. Brown lunch sacks hold small treats or activites for the crew. The bags are only given at certain times, such as crossing a state line, counting 100 flags, or reciting all the multiplication facts they've learned. Hee hee, they are a captive audience, after all!
-printed games - scavenger hunts, state license plates, the dot game....old fashioned goodies.
-jump ropes/frisbees - great for burning energy at rest stops
-easy access to a change of clothes - you never know when someone will get car sick, have an accident, or if Dad/Mom will spill that 64 oz soda all over themselves!

Things I do NOT allow on road trips (I've learned this the hard way):
-scissors *except in my knitting bag
-toys/games that talk/sing/beep/make noise - pretty much anything with batteries!
-juice boxes
-gum/playdough/silly putty/slime/anything sticky
-anything with ear buds/headphones - this is a FAMILY trip after all, right?

Remember, half the fun is getting there, or it can be. Keep it fun, and be gracious with each other when things get tense. You never know what kinds of wacky things you'll see along the way! Hours together as a family is a precious time to make great memories. Happy trails!

Monday, June 20, 2011

T-shirt Rescue

Ever notice how boys are so hard on their clothes? My guys beat up their clothes much more than my daughter! Guess that's part of their rough-n-tumble nature. But by time the hand-me-downs make it to boy #3, they often have stains or holes. With a little creativity, those clothes can be rescued!

Here are two shirts in pretty good shape. Both had dime-sized stains, as well as a tiny hole on the blue one. My little guy's recent fascination with narwhal whales provided the needed inspiration. I cut out a basic narwhal from wool felt (they're basically a chicken-leg shape with a horn), fused it to the shirt over the offending stain and hole, then "drew" in the lines with my sewing machine along the edges. I did some quick embroidery for a mouth and eye - voila!

Big brother had a navy t-shirt with holes everywhere - beyond saving! But there was a good sized piece that I used to cut out the letter Z. Basic running stitches of varying size outline the letter. The raw edges of the knit won't unravel, but will get a distressed, curled edge. I think this shirt looks kind of like a superhero shirt, don't you? Perfect for a little guy with super speed and energy!

I love rescuing and recycling clothes. It's like a second lease on life! I've used Dad's t-shirts to make shorts for the kids, perfect for pjs or underneath skirts. Before you toss out those clothes, look around on the internet - there are tons of tutorials and ideas on how to revamp them into something unique and useful. What have you done to save or repurpose nearly-perfect clothes?

Rain, Rain - c'mon let's play!!

A new adventure for me: sewing laminated cotton! It's waterproof, so trying it out on a rain hat was perfect! I found 1/2 yard of this Amy Butler print on sale (which happens to match my rain coat and umbrella) and an easy pattern for free. Good deal!
The pattern is a free download: Simplicity Bucket Hat pdf. It's just the pattern pieces; I couldn't find directions on the Simplicity site (looks like an old pattern!), but it's pretty straight forward. There's an outer fabric and a lining. The pattern also calls for interfacing, but since the laminated cotton was pretty stiff, I skipped that. Both hats are lined in navy cotton, but I had enough polka dot flannel to do the brim lining for one hat. It only takes about 1/2 yard of fabric, and somehow I managed to cut TWO hats' worth of pattern pieces out of that....hmmm. Don't cut patterns late at night. :)
These are both the adult large size, but you can see it fits a kiddo pretty well. I would make the brim wider for an adult hat if I made it again. This was a surprisingly fast project. I spent more time pinning and clipping seams than actually sewing!