Friday, August 29, 2014

do. Good Stitches: August 2014

The Bliss Cirlce took July off from making a quilt to let everyone get caught up a bit. This month we dove back in with these patchwork wonky stars assigned by Barb. Instead of doing a rainbow, however, she asked for a night sky color scheme, suggested blacks, grays, blues, indigos, etc. This is my interpretation (and what was available in my scrap bin).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beach bunnies

The other weekend, a few friends and I met up for a short beach trip to the Jersey Shore. I rarely ever go to the beach, but a couple weeks earlier I got it in my head that I MUST HAVE A BATHING SUIT COVERUP, so naturally I made one.

I used some corally-pink lace paired with yellow bias-tape, all from JoAnn, for a fun, summery feel. And I used the Staple Dress pattern, which was just perfect for a project like this. I was afraid the lace would fray a bit, so I used french seams throughout.

For my first Staple Dress, based on my measurements and muslin, I graded the pattern somewhere between a small and a medium. For this one I just cut a straight small and I think the fit is much better. It cinched nicely in the waist and doesn't fall off my shoulders like the original does.

I used pre-made bias tape to finish the neck and sleeves in an attempt to speed the project along (though it still took me an entire day...), and I think it worked well. I really like the pop of color that the yellow adds. Bright pink and yellow is one of my favorite color combinations.

The waist cinching took a bit more thought. The pattern is written for shirring, but that was not going to work with this lacy material, so instead I again used store-bought binding. I measured a piece of double-fold bias tape to be a bit larger than the dress and, beginning at one of the side seams, sewed it on to the dress along both the top and bottom, leaving openings at either end to form a casing. Then I shimmied a 1/2 inch piece of elastic cut to be a hint shorter than my waist measurement into the casing, and stitched the opening closed. I stitched through the elastic in order to secure it and keep it from twisting. And that was it! At first it was really unevenly bunched, but after a wash it spread out.

It actually ended up being a bit chilly on the day we went to the beach, so excluding the short time we spent in the water, I mostly hung out in the coverup. It was SO comfortable. Some random woman sitting next to me even came up and complimented me on that and the socks I was knitting. This project also reminded me that I need to make a few more Staple Dresses. The name of the pattern really is indicative of how much I wear my first one. In fact, I wore the original to the beach because I felt the coverup was a bit too revealing for commuting, just in case we had to make any stops (which we actually did on the way home - at a yarn shop - so good thing I planned ahead).

Both of my Staple Dresses

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Baby Gifts, part 2 - The Itty Bitty Geranium Dress

Next up, the ever adorable Geranium dress by made by rae. I used the free pattern she has available for sizes 0-3 month.

I used leftover chambray from the Staple Dress I made last year (which gets a ton of wear and compliments, btw). and lined it with some unknown fabric from stash - pink with yellow polka dots for a fun pop of color.

Photo credit to mom for this idea...
This dress was really fun to make. The instructions were quite clear. My only oops was when I was rushing and accidentally sewed the bodice and skirt together right side to wrong side, so the skirt was inside out!

I just can't believe how tiny it is. I'm a bit nervous it won't fit her at all, but I guess babies are pretty small, right?

I actually really hate buttons, so I almost used snaps for the closure, but the buttons just look so much cuter. So I sucked it up and spent a full hour touching buttons (quite an achievement for me) to finish off the dress. I definitely do not (nor will I ever) have a button stash, so I got these clear flowers from JoAnn. This was my first time doing buttons and it went pretty well. Thankfully my machine has an automatic button-holer, so that was good. But they all still came out different sizes. It takes a bit of finesse to close the dress, but it's doable. Certainly good practice for next time.

I cannot wait to see my niece in this. We're 100% going to be taking a twins photo in our semi-matching dresses and we're both going to look upon it fondly for the rest of our lives!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Baby Gifts, part 1 - The Knit Blanket

Nearly a month ago now, I wrote about my brother and sister-in-law's baby shower.  Well, I'm finally getting around to sharing what I made for them and my niece!

First, there was Hugh Manatee, which I've already posted about here.

Next, I used this tutorial from Purlbee to knit a blanket. When I purchased yarn for this project, we didn't yet know the baby's sex, so I just got colors I liked. I knew I wanted a pretty neutral background with pops of color.

I used Spud and Chloe Outer in colors Rhino (main), and from top down: Wave, Sandbox, Soapstone, Leapfrog, and Carbon. It was my first time using Spud and Chloe, but I'd heard great things about it. It did not disappoint! I absolutely loved this yarn. My only complaint, which isn't even really a complaint, is that the skeins are super short so I ended up having to buy A LOT (I think my final count was 13 skeins) over the course of three different trips to the store. And obviously that's mostly a result of my inability to do math and properly figure out how much yarn I actually needed.

I also wasn't very pleased with how the blanket blocked - now it's a bit misshapen - but again that's my fault because I don't have a big enough space. The only cat-free place I can block items is in the bathroom, and it's just not large enough to accommodate a blanket. But you can only really tell when you hold it out. Draped over a chair or a baby, no one will ever even notice it's not quite rectangular.

Otherwise, I'm in love with it! The yarn is super heavy and warm, so I hope it's a cold winter and my niece can cuddle underneath it. Fingers crossed I'll get to spend a lot of time cuddling with her and the blanket, too.

Check back Thursday for one more baby shower gift.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So many babies!

So, I've said it before and I'll say it again - I've never been a huge baby person. I'm more into dogs (and I guess cats now, too). However, I think that might be changing just a little. Apparently I'm at that age where people I know start to have kids, and they're kind of cute (especially since I can play with them, and then leave them with their parents). I'm opening with this to prepare you for the increase in frequency of baby-item posts that is coming. It started with the shower for my niece, and continues with this blanket I made for my cousins' new son (who's bris is today, so this is appropriate timing!).

As with their first child, they decided not to learn the sex. Typically I stick to green and yellow for gender neutral, but I broke out of my comfort zone a bit with this one and added orange. I'm glad I did because I really like how it looks!

The inspiration for this blanket came when my quilt guild participated in a hand quilting demonstration day at the National Museum for Women in the Arts. I'd never hand quilted before, and I didn't have any other hand projects in progress, but I had just found out that my cousins were expecting, so I picked up some fleece and pearl cotton from JoAnn, and set about making this blanket. I sandwiched the two pieces of fleece right sides together with some batting and turned it as you would for a simple throw. To secure the batting, I machine quilted a few lines horizontally and vertically, then hand quilted a few lines in both directions to add more interest. This also proved a good beginner's project to demo at the museum since the cotton is thick and easy to see.

For the final touch, I used this tutorial from Purlbee to finish the quilt off with a zigzag blanket stitch. The pearl cotton I used is a yellow ombre, so it's kind of fun as it fades in and out. It's probably a bit too warm for this blanket right now, but they live in Michigan, so I'm sure it will be quite useful when winter (and gray skies) set in in just a few short months.

And thanks to my cousin Arlene (the baby's grandmother) for taking pictures for me. I took some on my phone before I gifted the blanket, but then my phone broke and I lost all my photos :(

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My second calling

In my next life, I'm going to be a party planner.  The other weekend was my brother and sister-in-law's baby shower for their first child (and my first biological niece!!![I love Rayna, but I'm excited for one of my own, too. Now Mr. T and I don't have to share.]), who is due in September.  Their friends were the official hosts, but seeing as they have their own adorable four month old daughter to look after, Mom, my SIL's SIL, and I all pitched in to help out. My SIL's SIL handled the bar, Mom made the desserts, and I provided decorations. The shower was simple - really more of an open house for my brother and SIL's friends to come say hi, drop off a gift, and have some lunch.  Co-ed, no games, no present-opening at the event.

We held the party in the clubhouse of my brother's neighborhood.  I had been in the room a few times, but forgot how massive it is until we actually arrived. Food, drinks, and the gift table were along the walls behind this photo, and dessert was across the room.

The main decorations were buckets of paper flowers that I made (with some help from Mr. T, Molly, Julia, and Lindsay. Thanks guys!). This photo was my original inspiration, and I used this tutorial (though they're quite simple, so once you make one the rest come naturally). I made 448 individual flowers, 112 in each color - yellow, pink, purple, and orange.  For the table coverings, I just used $2 plastic tablecloths in an off-white color, and then covered them with a loose-weave burlap runner.

Each bouquet had 4 different shades of the respective color, 3 solids and 1 print, just to add a little interest. I hot glued them to floral wire and then we filled the buckets with wet sand to hold the flowers in place.  The day before the shower, Mr. T and I showed up at my brother's place with 2 paper bags FULL of flowers, and 28 empty buckets. At 10:30 that night we all (including my 7mo. pregnant SIL) gathered around the kitchen table to stuff buckets, then I frantically glued the leaves on the next morning just in time to set up before the guests arrived.

There's also a large fireplace in the room, so I stenciled a few onsies with flowers in colors to match the bouquets, then used some twine and washi tape to hang them across the mantel.  Mr. T said this looked like babies strung up at the gallows, but I like it.

Mom knocked it out of the park with the desserts.  She's a trained pastry chef, though she doesn't work in the industry anymore, so she's always recruited for this role at events.  At Thanksgiving, she brings an entire suitcase just of dessert, and a small carry-on for her clothes.

She made two kinds of brownies (chocolate orange and double chocolate), two kinds of macarons (mexican chocolate and, my favorite, salted caramel) and her famous sugar cookies (I may or may not have taken most of the leftover sugar cookies home).

Is that one on the left bothering anyone else? I wish I had noticed and moved it!
Finally, on the gift table we had sachets of candy-coated sunflower seeds for guests to take as a party favor.  Mom ordered FIFTEEN POUNDS! of seeds - individually packaging them was another of our night before activities, along with making the paper flower bouquets.

Overall, it was a success! My bro and SIL had a good time, they got some good gifts (I'll share what I gave them soon), and I got a lot of compliments on my flowers!  Thankfully most of the bouquets were claimed by family and friends (I have one in my office), so I didn't have to throw too much of my hard work in the trash.  I also received some advice on how to monetize my crafting, but for now it's just a fun hobby.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap

Last month I was one of the 600 people who participated in round 2 of the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap.  I probably shouldn't have, given all of the items on both my crafting and life agendas, but I did - and boy am I glad I did!

First up, here's what I sent my partner, Alexis (note - I lost my photos, so I stole the ones she posted on Instagram)

In the information Alexis provided, she seemed very enthusiastic about tea, so I took that as my inspiration and ran with it. I paper pieced the teapots in the four colors she listed as her favorites, using this pattern (teapot block #1), with a variety of gray background fabrics. She also said Lizzy House was one of her favorite designers. I was trying to work only from my stash, and this was the only Lizzy House I had, so it became the backing.

Participants are also encouraged, though not required, to send a few extras. I sent a fat quart, some washi tape, note cards, tea, a Dr. Who bookmark, and a boatload of gummy candy.  Everyone says it, but it was really hard to part with this quilt. I don't even like tea, but I thought it was pretty fun. At least I know it's going to someone who appreciates all the work that goes into even a mini quilt.

Now on to what I received! Getting my own quilt in the mail definitely made it a bit easier to part with the one I made.

Angela made this quilt for me and I LOVE it! I wrote that I love bright colors and retro (as in featuring retro items) prints, and she nailed it! Plus, that quilting is unbelievable. I had it taped on the what for a bit, but then it fell off. But as soon as I have time I'm going to sew a hanging sleeve on. It's already got a nice empty space of wall waiting for it!

Oh, and here's the rest of my loot!