21 December 2006

last-minute quilt

Twin and I decided very last minute to make a lap quilt for our grandma for Christmas. Grandma, at 91, is always cold in winter. We are very like her in this respect. We also inherited her nose (not so great) and her slim physique (hell, yeah). I can only hope we'll age with as much grace and beauty as she has.

Since we decided to do this exactly one week before Christmas, we went with machine piecing and quilting. We had a couple yards of this cute floral in the stash, so we chose the other fabrics to go with it. We were going for traditional, cheerful, and cozy.

The reverse side has a soft plaid flannel. Jennie had the brilliant idea to do this swirly quilting around the border. She then abandoned me to accomplish this swirly thing. [from jennie: hey I was busy with work!] Excuses, excuses. My solo attempt ended up being a bit wonky. But kinda cool nonetheless.

We had a binding race last night, one of us on each side of the quilt. I won. [from jennie: my stitches are neater.] whatever.

All these twin projects are cramping my style. She's dead weight. After the holiday I'll be back to independent projects. phew. [from Jennie: yeah well I don't want to work on your stupid projects anyway.]

We're flying south tomorrow. Wishing light and joy and merriment to all.
Catch you cats in the New Year.

18 December 2006

snowy village

Twin and I, like many others, were mightily inspired by Martha's graham cracker gingerbread houses. And though Martha may have presented it as a kiddie project, it entertained two (mostly grown-up) twins greatly this weekend. We might have gotten a little carried away.

We built a whole village. We weren't too concerned with making it tasty, as we had no plans to eat it. Aesthetics and construction were our foremost considerations. Let us take you on a little tour:

The Little Big Red Cottage has a gummy roof and gum drop chimney. Jennie built this one and its little curly shingles kill me.

The Mayor's house is rightly the most imposing in the village. Twizzler beams and a chocolate wafer porch. It is truly a non-pareil. Jennie wants to live here, though I doubt her mayoral abilities. Like all houses in our village, it has a resident snowman.

Next to the lake is Necco Wafer House. It's made of sesame seed thingies and during construction Jennie had serious doubts about it. I maintain that it is charming.

Across the lil footbridge is Coffee Bean Cabin. We both agree that the coffee beans were a stroke of genius. (my stroke, I am not too humble to add.) The chocolate-wafer chimney and chocolate-pretzel fence are nice touches too. Also note that snowmen in our village wear non-pareil hats.

Next we have Those Neighbors. You know, I'm sure you have some neighbors like this too. They're the ones who are slightly odd ducks. They find their gumball stylishness in great good taste, and who are we to question that? However their starlite mint door has started oozing from an unexpected and unseemly chemical reaction with the coconut snow.

Every snowy village needs a little igloo. Ours has a starlite mint divan inside.

The Starlite Manor is suffering greatly from the aforementioned chemical reaction but still looks quite fine. A fine upstanding house. The only graham cracker one on the block. Take that, Martha.

The huge mess we made with all this sticky, sugary goodness was in direct proportion to how much fun we had.

16 December 2006

portfolio bag for madame penot

My wonderful intern at work, aka Madame Penot, is graduating and moving on to bigger and better things. She has a fantastic white acrylic portfolio for her work, but needed a bag to carry it in. Crafty boss to the rescue.

The portfolio is large—nearly 13x18—so I gave it nice long handles for carrying. The pocket on the front is just the size for a few business cards.

The tab closure has two little fabric-covered buttons. (Did you know how easy it is to cover buttons? I didn't but it might be my new favorite thing to do.)

Soft wool flannel on the outside and this fantastic print on the inside--an Alexander Henry that Mme Penot picked out. I love that it is modern and sophisticated but still quite playful.

Here you can get a glimpse of the portfolio. It's a Pina Zangaro and is snowy white like a MacBook.

Godspeed through your interviews Mme Penot and may some fantastic design firm hire you on the spot. It has been a joy having you in the office.

14 December 2006

blog, meet maude. maude, meet blog.

I have a doppelganger. Her name is Maude. She's just like me, but hollow. And unlike certain other people in my life who look very much like me, Maude is nice and quiet, doesn't talk back, and doesn't raise her eyebrows or snort at my "ideas." Heck, Maude doesn't even have a head from which to snort, though it seems indelicate to point this out to her.

That lovely Santa Claus delivered Maude early as she is afraid of airplanes and sleighs, and thus preferred to arrive by FedEx. Maude is a Dritz MyDouble Deluxe. That's Deluxe, baby, as in 12, count them 12, adjustment dial wheels, adjustable back waist length, and those little topses of the legs so that I can one day, maybe, if I overcome my pants fears, actually make pants.

Twin has decided she's a little "creepy" and I confess it is startling to catch her out of the corner of your eye, lurking in the corner like an axe-murderer. But I expect we'll get used to our new roommate. We always did want to be triplets.

My dearest Santa, THANK YOU THANK YOU!! Maude and I are going to have so much fun and sew all kinds of amazing things. Just you wait and see.

12 December 2006

christmas cheer over at twin's

Twin has some awesome awesome christmas cheer going on over at her blog. She is taking part in an Advent Blog Tour, where each blog on the tour is assigned a day to post something jolly and christmas-y for visitors. Isn't that just too nifty? Jennie has posted an excerpt from A Christmas Carol, a recipe, and a free little giftie (ooooooo, aaaaah!)

We've been busy baking three batches of our all-time favorite Christmas cookies for all our co-workers. We've always called these cookies Viennese Crescents in our family, and they're very like the Russian Tea Cakes Hannah posted on the Recipe Box a few weeks ago. This year we're tweaking tradition by calling them Viennese Snowballs, because though I guess they are supposed to be crescent-shaped, we've always made them in little balls. Just like snowballs. So I'm not sure the new name will stick, but I do rather like it. Anyhoo, head on over for the recipe and some gift tags to download.

09 December 2006

christmas cards

I'm terrible about Christmas cards. I never send them out. It's one of those things you have to do too far in advance. But I'm pretty excited about these cards. I got out my zizagger and went to town and voila it's a tree. It was one of those rare times that you have a vague idea and it actually works out on the first go. I love that.

I also love this silver embroidery thread I've had in my thread box forever. That's the great thing about holiday decorations. You can be a bit blingy, you know?

07 December 2006

mystery box

12" by 12" with a depth of about 8". Appears to have arrived by post, though she could conceivably have smuggled it into the apartment in a bag without my noticing. Heavy but not too heavy. Definitely in a cardboard box. Firm, the contents slide only slightly when shaken.

I have absolutely no idea what it is. But really that's not the point, and I don't really care what it is, though I am sure I will love it. The point is that my sister, who hates shopping and generally procrastinates about everything, has already chosen something special just for me and wrapped it up and put it under the tree. Three weeks early, no less.

And I am reminded that Christmas is not at all about things. The things are just a roundabout way of saying "I love you." I have a twin whose mere presence brings immeasurable joy to my each and every day. I am so lucky.

05 December 2006

girly in flannel

Who knew flannel could be so girly? I've never been a ruffly girly kind of girl, but lately I love ruffles. It's a slippery slope, I fear.

This shirt is from one of the stand-alone Built by Wendy patterns produced by Simplicity (4111). I bought several of them when I was home for Thanksgiving and couldn't wait to try one out even though I should be thinking about gift-giving. It is, after all, the season of giving, not the season of selfishly making things for oneself. But the pattern was calling to me and could not be ignored. The fabric came from the 99cent rack at JoAnn's, also bought over Thanksgiving. Fabric-shopping in suburbia made me realize just how good we have it in NYC. Not to rub it in, but man, JoAnn's is pretty darn crappy. If only I could afford all the jaw-droppingly gorgeous fabrics I have access to here in the city. But really I should consider it a moral obligation on behalf of crafters and seamstresses everywhere to take advantage of the amazing resources I have here by purchasing (beyond my budget even, by God) all the gorgeousness I want. Hmmmm. My powers of rationalization are awesome are they not?

The stand-alone Wendy patterns, alas, are not quite as well-explained nor as well-illustrated as the ones in the book. But this one was still pretty straight-forward and I only had to stare quizzically at those little illustrations for a (good) while before it all came (relatively) clear. If you purchase one of these patterns, be sure to consult your measurements carefully before choosing a pattern size because these patterns go by standard Simplicity sizing, NOT by the sizing chart that Wendy provides in her book.

I do like that ruffle, though it gapes a bit. The elastic at the waist and at the sleeve are a great, easy way to give the shirt that nice shape. It also looked really cute before the sleeves went on. I've already promised Twin that I'll make us a sleeveless baby doll dress from this pattern for spring. Ah spring. Spring. You are so far far away.

At least I've got some flannel to keep me warm in the meantime.

03 December 2006

counting down

*Update November 2010: This year I've posted new designs of my advent calendar you can check out. I'm also selling the pattern as a PDF download on etsy. Thanks for visiting!*

I love advent calendars. My mom has some great old Tasha Tudor-illustrated ones that are gorgeous, though about to fall apart after years and years of small hands opening and closing their little doors. They are rich with nostalgia, but I have to say I like my advent calendars to be rich with something else. Something like chocolate. I actually love the cheap cardboard ones you get in the drug store, but the chocolate is never very good in those.

This year I made my own. I was imagining a garland of little hanging boxes, but I wanted an easy box template to use. So I googled it. And man, I love the internet. I found these perfect pyramid boxes at a blog named Brownie Points. She has a downloadable pdf for the template. Rock on, blogosphere. Twin pointed out that they even look like little trees. Completely unintentional but very true.

Mmmmm. Dove dark chocolate inside. A few random days even have Lindt truffles in them. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Now we are all cheery for Christmas, with our little baby tree and a healthy dose of twinkle lights. I think twinkle lights might be man's greatest invention. After chocolate, of course.

02 December 2006

sweets ornament

First a public apology to my fine fellow swappees of Group 41 of the Holiday Ornament Swap: I am late. My humblest apologies. But only a couple days late, and look at these nifty little ornaments you get for your patience.

These may fall under the category of "more trouble than they're worth." Or maybe that's just because I was trying to make 9 of them. I was originally intending to make garlands out of them but then realized that since the candies are so little, the garland might get lost on a big tree. I may still make one for my and Twin's wee baby tree with the leftover candies. Though I do like the hanging ornament because of the way the candies twirl independently of one another.

In the mail pronto. Well, by monday for absolute sure.

28 November 2006

gratuitous puppy cuteness

This is my mom's new pup. 3 month old wire fox terrier. I should admit that the snuggling of the stuffed lamb was staged for the picture. Because he just wasn't cute enough already.

Re-entry after the lovely holiday has been a bit rough due to a busy week at work and a marathon plane journey. Twin and I have some seriously bad airplane karma. I must have tortured poor defenseless little airplanes in a past life. Twin sends her love to Delta over on her blog. Fu-unny.

I've scored some serious loot in the past week in the way of fabric and patterns. These purchases were entirely rationalized by my vague, undefined plans for making holiday gifts. Funny that all the patterns are in my size, though. ;)

21 November 2006

wip and bye bye

Flying south as fast as a big ole jumbojet can take us. This colorful, possibly ill-conceived but nevertheless very cheerful project will be waiting for me when I return. For now, it's all about turkey and pie and hanging with my family.

A happy, homey, peaceful Thanksgiving to all. (or have a happy, homey, peaceful plain-old thursday, if you live elsewhere!)

iPod cozy tutorial

Somebody mentioned they'd like to know how I made my iPod cozies, and I am most happy to oblige. After all, I am quite bossy. I love telling people how to do things. So here's the skinny. It's quite straightforward and I took lots of pictures, so I hope everything's coherent. If not, just shoot me an email!

I've made these for the Mini, my 2004-era iPod and the new slimmer video iPod, so I've listed those measurements in the chart below. If you're unsure, make it a little large—you can always take the seams in until your iPod fits nice and cozy.

1. Piece the exterior. If you want an accent on the outside, seam together your pieces with 1/4" seams. Keep in mind that the dimensions in the chart above are for the total size of the exterior AFTER piecing, so you'll need to add allowances for any piecing seams.

2. Make the exterior sandwich. Place the batting on the wrong side of each exterior piece. Pin your elastic, folded in half, about an 1.5" from the side seam. Sandwich together the two exterior panels, right sides together.

3. Sew the exterior. Backstitching at beginning and end, sew around 3 sides with a 1/4" seam.

4. Sew the lining. Place lining right sides together and sew around 3 sides with a 1/4" seam.

5. Clip the corners. Of both exterior and lining.

6. Turn the exterior right side out, then place it inside the lining (which is still wrong side out). The right sides of the 2 pieces will be together. Line up the side seams and pin around the mouth.

7. Tricky part. Sew around top with a 1/2" seam, leaving a gap of about 1.5" open. Backstitch at beginning and end, and be careful not to catch your elastic band, which is hanging out inside there, in the seam. Turn right side out, then stuff the lining down into the body.

8. Edgestitch around the mouth so that it will lie nice and flat.

9. And now your iPod is all cozy.

19 November 2006

MSL december, page 183

"Oh, Bobby, Christmas morning! What do you think you will find inside your beautiful Christmas package?"
"Gee wilikins, Jane. I don't know, but I suspect it will be an orange, or maybe a Meyer lemon. This is, after all, 'Christmas Morning in Citrus Hues.'"
"Oh, careful, Bobby! In your excitement, you have nearly wrinkled your pajama set! Mother will scold."
"But Jane, I can't help it, there might even be a grapefruit in here. I'm just so excited, so excited, so excited, so excited ... so excited ....... sooo ... exciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii ... ii ... i ..... i..
"Oh, Bobby, honestly. ..... MOTHER! Bobby's battery needs to be reset again!"

*I adore Martha Stewart and her magazine and the holiday issue is gorgeous, beautiful, wonderful as always. But was anybody else a little creeped out by this Stepford scene?

18 November 2006

i come by it honestly

My mom made these beautiful placemats and napkin rings a couple weeks back as a wedding gift. I absolutely love the way she used the ribbons to secure the napkin rings. And the china is a piece from the bride's wedding set (found here, if you'd like to know). My mom is an incredibly talented seamstress, as was her mother. When I was a kid mom used to sew clothes for us, but there was one Christmas that she made dresses for my sister and me and we absolutely hated them. I can't remember why on earth we hated them so much—and I cringe at the thought now—but we basically dissolved into temper tantrums when she tried to put us in them. After that she didn't make so many clothes for us. Which is sad and a shame and I want to beat up my little 5-year-old self and tell her to be nice to my mama and value those things which are made in love just for her. But all I can do now is say a belated thanks and my, those dresses were just beautiful. (They were red with embroidered smocking on the front, weren't they?) And thank you for the inspiration and the teaching and hey I'm going to be home in just a few days and I can chop all the onions and celery and apples and veggies and help you tie up the turkey's bottom.

And mom also did the flower arrangement in the photo. Yeah. I know, right?!

15 November 2006

dove ornament

I made this little dove as a prototype for my contribution to the Holiday Ornament Swap. I think it's a no-go because it was pretty time-consuming. And he's wonky. He kind of lists to one side or the other in a drunken fashion. Poor little dove.

I have a renewed respect for soft toy makers. Because it sure ain't easy. My first attempt had an itty bitty nub of a head and a huge long tail. Twin laughed. I laughed. There was much laughing.

I took the picture in my neighbor's yard this morning. Note the Christmas lights. No, he's not early with his decorating. Those are from last year. Because really why restring them every year? Unnecessary bother.

It's been gray and rainy in NYC. This evening walking home it was foggy and heavy and just threatening to begin raining again. I love the way the low cloud cover is like a dome over your head that reflects all the city light back down toward the ground. Like we're living in one of those snowglobes. With smog and lights and people swirling about, and the tall buildings on all sides reaching up into the clouds. Pretty cool.