Friday, December 25, 2009

snowman treats

Logan and I spent a night this week making (not so attractive but still a good idea) snowmen from rice krispie treats. We just cooked up a batch of marshmallowy krispies (courtsey Kellogg) and started shaping balls and pushing them one of top of the other. In assembly line fashion, I shaped the snowmen and placed peanut butter where the buttons, eyes, and hat would go. Logan handled the accessories, carefully positioning m&m's for buttons and eyes and his choice of a peanut butter cup, rolo, or kiss for a hat.

The only advice I have is to make sure that you have time to shape the krispies before they harden. So take it from me: make sure that your one-year-old has eaten plenty of dinner and you three-year-old has relieved himself before you start. It will make this project more successful.

picture perfect gift

I love m&m's--well chocolate of most sorts, but the candy shell is oh so sweet. So when I pulled these premium m&m's out of my stocking, I was ear-to-ear excited to start my annual Christmas chocolate binge. But I couldn't believe it when I looked at the pieces more closely! Can you see it?

My two little boys on the back of m&m's.

I knew that you could write names and choose colors but I didn't know that photos were an option. And they turned out so well! The outline looks exactly like them, sugary goodness and all. What a perfect gift for a craft-appreciating mom...great job hubster!

I'm not sure that I can bring myself to eat them, but you can see from my photos that not everyone shares my awe.

Even Buzz couldn't help himself.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

sewing kit

This sewing kit was another one of my projects from the One Yard Wonders book. I had kept all of my sewing stuff in one box, but it was getting rather full since I started my sewing binge. So I needed somewhere to organize the things I use the most and a large organizer isn't in the budget right now. Besides, I wouldn't consider myself a sewing junkie (yet), so I really don't have that much stuff. Just the basics and a few notions that I picked up recently that will be used within the week.

So this design works fine for my needs right now, and, bonus!, it also works as travel kit in case I ever decide to bring my hobby with me.

I modified the design from the book a little bit to better fit my needs. I added pockets--including a double pocket (that's what I'm calling it) where there is an additional shorter sleeve on the outside of a pocket (see the snaps and buttons if you can)--and attempted an elastic band to hold a few other things. But I guess I probably should have known at the time what I wanted the elastic to hold because I couldn't really find much that was short enough to fit the trifold design. I decided to put the extra elastic there as well as my measuring tape but I have yet to find anything to fit the third space.

Oh well...I think it turned out great and it really does help keep me organized. And this was my first project to include bias tape on the edges of the pockets which I think give the pockets a more professional look (telling yourself this doesn't really hurt anyone).

elephant cake topper

I wanted to do something special for Trenton's first birthday cake. We could have ordered from the bakery as we typically do when we want something beyond cake from a box and icing from a can (although I prefer the likes of Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker to the more sugary bakery cakes).

I made cake from scratch and it turned out rather delicious! I used white buttercream frosting (to which I may have added too much powdered sugar because it was awefully sugary) but I did consider topping the cake with fondant. Instead of topping the cake with fondant, I decided to make a fondant figurine. Well, first I wanted to make 3 figures, but after I saw how large the first one turned out, I decided that one was enough.

I made this elephant 5 days before Trenton's birthday because it wasn't going to be eaten and I knew that I would be busy with other party responsbilities later in the week.  The elephant started out a very pretty light blue but over the waiting period, it turned to more of a dull bluish-grey.  But it still turned out pretty cute!
I learned that when using fondant for figures, make as many parts using one piece as possible.  I first made the trunk separate from the face but couldn't figure out how to attach the trunk.  So I scrapped that piece and made the trunk as an a extention of the head by slowly rolling out a log from a large ball (I know . . . I couldn't make that sound any better). 

I also learned that the back of the figure should not be ignored. I didn't spend any time smoothing the elephant's arms and legs into his back before the fondant dried, so if you looked at his back, you would see the attachments. Next time, I will have to take more care with the back to make sure the figure looks like one solid piece.

And the only one who mattered seemed to enjoy it...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

wrist pin cushion

This is the first project that I created from the One-Yard Wonders book that I bought. I needed some place to put all of my pins and since I am constantly misplacing items, I thought that a wrist cushion would be the best way to go. I decided to make mine circular because I thought a circle look better with the dots on my fabric. The book makes the cushion a little more complicated than I made mine; I just sewed together 2 pieces of fabric cut into circles and stuffed it as much as possible because I didn't want my new long, pearl-capped pins (they're so stylish) to poke my wrist.

I used the instructions from the book to make the wrist strap but apparently I took too many liberties with the length. It would be nice if the strap was longer because the velcro only slightly overlaps. I don't think the velcro will come undone, but I would make the strap about an inch or two longer next time. I also sewed the velcro opposite of what the book told me to do.

The book said to sew the hooks (the rougher part) to the part of the strap that would face up from my wrist. But that didn't make any sense to me...I thought it should be the other way so that the hooks would face down and more easily grab the loops. But I was way wrong because, with the strap just a little too short, the rough velcro hooks rub against my wrist. So I would change that next time, too. But at least now I understand the intricacies of velcro.

You can also see in the photo that this project was completed before I understood the importance of the clipping curves and the art of slipstitching--you can see where I whipstitched the opening of the cushion closed.  I am already laughing at myself...

Monday, December 14, 2009

my new favorite book

I was at Barnes & Noble the other day trying to find a sewing project book. I had been through this section many times before and never found a book that had enough appealing projects to justify the cost (I'm on a tight budget). But this time I had a gift certificate, so I was determined to leave with something.

I was just about to give up (I had Logan with me, so I didn't really have time to spend searching the contents of each book) until I came across a book titled One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker. This book contains instructions to 101 projects (+5 if you get the B&N special edition) that can be completed with one yard of fabric or less. Hallelujah! For a girl on small budget who spends much of her time at JoAnn's rustling through the remnant section, this book is a gold mine.

There is so much packed into this book: storage solutions, totes and bags, baby gear, stuffed animals, things to wear, and the cutest little girls' outfits (for which I would have to borrow a young girl as I have none). This is definitely a book that I will use over and over again. I have already created five projects from this book and have looked to it for inspiration on a few others...probably the best $21 I have ever spent.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

spider halloween costume

Tim has been bugging me for 4 years to make the halloween costumes instead of buy them. My reply has always been "who do you think I am?" Both of our mom's handmade all of their kids' costumes but I knew that I didn't have that kind of knowledge. But this year, I'm not sure what came over me. I felt like I could make anything that the boys wanted and even seriously considered making them both dinosaurs.

Probably for the best, Logan's dinosaur phase was short-lived and he settled on Spider-man which I refused to make because I knew it would look homemade. So I was down to making a costume for just one kid and a small one at that--how hard could that really be?

As it turns out, I pleasantly surprised myself!  To go along with the theme, I made Trenton a spider.  Amazingly, I was able to find a black pajama one-piece and a black beanie hat so I only had to make the vest.  I am very proud to say that I constructed the vest without a pattern.  I used some black furry fabric for the spider's hump and black fleece for the vest to keep him warm.   I also added 4 additional stuffed legs to the sides of the vest.

I thought I understood how to attach the back and vest together, but I messed up something (I'm still not quite sure what) and I had to top stitch the vest to the hump. One side turned out a little crooked, but since it's all black, I didn't really care that much--it's for a one-year-old afterall.

And I am still having a hard time understanding zippers. I still haven't found an explanation of how to sew on a zipper that I can visualize so I usually end up trying to visualize my own way. Inevitably, I screw it up once or twice, but I'm sure with more practice I will get better. I also used the wrong type of zipper. I have always used a non-separating zipper, so I didn't even think that I would need something different this time. I needed a separating zipper for the vest, but I used a non-separating zipper (if that's what they are called) so the costume was more of a pullover than a vest--but again it's for a one-year-old and he didn't seem to care either way.

I think it turned out pretty great for my first one (although it was nothing fancy)!  I've seen a lot better online, but I know I'll get better over time.  Perhaps my husband knew all along that I had it in me.

quilted baby blanket

Actually, I guess this project was my first step back into sewing. I started this baby quilt for Trenton before he was born and was able to give it to him just before his first birthday. I had never made a quilt before and I must admit that I don't love quilting. I absolutely enjoy piecing together the quilt top but once that is finished, the rest in kind of boring. I simply lost interest after I quilted the top, but I did manage to pin all the layers together. I think I would have plowed through given my bursts of energy late in my pregnancy, but I hit a creative wall when I had to decide how to stitch the layers together.

After almost 12 months, reality hit me and I decided that I had procrastinated much too long. So I just began sewing the layers together using a straight stitch back and forth across the blanket (well, first I sewed down the middle top to bottom and left to right to hold everything in place). I describe it this way because I did not take any care to make the lines symmetrical or evenly spaced. I just sewed at angles until I reached the top.

The binding was more fun than sewing the layers together, so that part went by pretty quickly. These last parts took me a whole 3 hours, so now I understand that even though it's not that fun, sewing the layers together really doesn't take much time.

I learned a lesson about stitch lengths after this project was complete: I used (what I know understand is called) the basting stitch--the really long stitch that is meant to only temporarily hold the fabric together. I think that my thread tension was wrong, too, but I definitely needed to use a regular stitch length to ensure the stitches stayed in place.

We put the quilt in Trenton's crib because it's warm, but he's not thrilled with it (he prefers his softer fleece blanket). It's a good thing, though, that he doesn't like it too much or I would have to requilt the entire thing--some of the stitches are already unraveling.

pajama pants

My first real adventure back into sewing was in October when I created some pajama pants for Logan who is 3. Although the pattern said "Easy" it took me a lot longer than I thought it would. I let Logan stay up until I was finished, and at 11pm he was finally able to try them on. He is the absolute best to make things for! He smiled whole-heartedly and told me that they were "perfect!" He thanked me with a hug and a kiss and went off to bed proud that his mom had made jammie pants for him.

This was really my first adventure with patterns. I used McCall's #4283. I chose this pattern because it had the most number of variations for the price (I pride myself on the best-bang-for-your-buck mentality). The smallest size that the pattern had ended up too big for Logan, but I made it work. I shortened the elastic in the waistband and folded the legs up several times before hemming.

If I wouldn't have been so tired after working on them for 6 hours, I would have cut off some of the extra fabric in the legs so the ends wouldn't be bulky, but he doesn't care. I also need to stabilize the waistband because the elastic keeps twisting, but again, he doesn't know the difference. I think they turned out pretty good for my first venture, but I will have to improve my speed or I will never want to make pants again.

back to sewing

Over the years, I have jumped from craft medium to medium trying to find one that I can enjoy for the rest of my life. But it's time that I face the truth: I love learning new skills and find it boring doing the same types of things over and over again. I'm not sure that I could ever sell my crafts because all of them would be one-of-a-kind.

It is mind-numbing for me to reproduce something that I have already created which is probably why I can't stick with a craft for too long...I run out of originality.

Thankfully, however, I have come nowhere near exhausting all of the currently available mediums so I still have decades before I completely run out of ideas.

Most recently, I have begun sewing. My husband bought me my first sewing machine just after we moved in together (before we were married). I admit that I haven't done much with it over the last 7 years letting it collect the dust from my whirlwind life. But now that I have two kids, an enjoyable job, and a husband that spends his free time playing all types of sports, I have plenty of time to spend sewing. In the last year, I have created more projects with that machine than I had in the previous 7 years and I love it!

 I love crafting but there is really no better feeling for me than to create something that is actually useful: curtains, pillow cases, storage solutions, clothing, stuffed animals. I love the idea of creating something that stylishly fulfills a need and makes life easier.

purpose of this blog

Okay, so I admit...I've never understood the purpose of "blogs." I thought of them as a way for people to feel important by posting thoughts and ideas to the web for everyone to read. And the phrase "check out my blog" just sounds so self-promoting. But after inadvertently connecting to a sewing blog with fantastically creative ideas, I realized that this is a great place to house ideas, thoughts, links, projects, and the like and I am really excited to get organized!

I will use this blog as a place to track crafting ideas and showcase my projects. It will be a great way to organize all my project ideas as well as track my progress. I should be able to look back on my posts for inspiration and to motivate me to continue challenging my creativity. This will be the crafting journal that will keep my mind busy when old hands are too shaky to create.