29 December 2010

handmade gift roundup: throw pillows for Mom

Mom also got pillows for Christmas. It was a pillow kind of Christmas. Now, I have to confess, I actually gave Mom an IOU for new covers for the throw pillows in her den last year. But I never followed up, and she never picked out a fabric, so it never happened. Happily, just a few weeks before Christmas we went on a family trip to NYC and Mom and I got to spend a whole morning roaming around the garment district. There are not many things I miss about New York, but the garment district is a big one. We went to B&J, where Mom got me yardage of a beautiful blue wool to make into a skirt AND some Liberty tana lawn (EEEEP!) for a shirt. (Wait for it--you'll see these appear in the New Year.) We went to M&J Trimming for buttons and ribbon. And then we went to Mood where Mom picked out this awesome wool boucle for her pillows.

I wish you could feel this material. It is the softest wool I have ever felt. It must have some angora or something in it as well, because as I sewed, tiny bits of white fluff floated all around me. I was so happy with the way the piping turned out--I love how the striping runs perpendicular to the piping. (Trust me to get giddy about piping.)

Mom got four of these pillow covers for her den. And she didn't even call me out for what was basically a re-gift, since I promised her these a year ago.

In some ways, Mom is as hard to shop for as Dad--simply because she is so generous that she's always thinking about other people instead of herself. I guess that's a common maternal trait, but my Mom does it exceptionally well. She has taught me so much about sewing and fabrics, and her encouragement over the years has been the biggest driver behind my creativity. How do you thank someone for that? Handmade pillows is a start I guess.

28 December 2010

handmade gift roundup: VW pillow for Dad

I actually got all of my handmade Christmas gifts completed before Christmas! This is quite a feat for me. I tried to scale back my expectations as the day approached, which helped a great deal. I also postponed completion of all of Matt's handmade gifts as he has a birthday in February (very convenient).

The first project I completed was a pillow for my Dad.

All through my childhood, my Dad took us kids on a three- or even four-week long camping trip every summer. On these trips, we traveled all across North America, as far north as Newfoundland and as far west as the Pacific. We saw most of the biggies among the national parks--we camped in Yosemite and Yellowstone, we hiked around the Grand Canyon, we touched Mt. Rushmore. We spent countless hours driving across the country, watching the landscape change before our very eyes, puttering up mountains and across wide plains. As a kid, I took these trips rather for granted. But now, looking back, the sum of all those trips--the impact they had on my childhood--is amazing to me. I have seen so much of this beautiful country and spent so many wonderful times with my Dad. There are a lot of reasons I think my Dad is the best father in the world, but the fact that he took three kids (often unwilling, ungrateful children who whined about "why we had to camp so dang much") on these amazing trips tops the list.

This pillow commemorates the last big trip we took. The summer Twin and I graduated from college, she, Dad, and I went all the way to California in my Dad's VW Vanagon. All along the trip, I collected iron-on patches from gift shops. These patches have been sitting in one of my memorabilia boxes ever since, so I pulled them all out before Christmas and made a pillow for Dad. I used Heather Ross's awesome VW bus print and embroidered some Arlo Guthrie lyrics on the front. (Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Simon & Garfunkel and the Beatles made up the bulk of our soundtrack for these trips.)

In terms of specs, the pillow also sports snazzy striped piping and a lapped zipper (thank you Erin for the tutorial!).

My Dad is a tough one to shop for, but I think this was a hit. It certainly brought back a lot of wonderful memories for me as I made it.

16 December 2010


Everything is looking very cheery in our little living room. This is our second year with a live tree and I love it so very much. Last year I was a bit heartbroken because I dropped my beloved blown-glass treetopper as I was putting away the Christmas decorations. It was smashed beyond repair, so we didn't have a tree topper when we put up the tree this year.
Then one evening, Matt noticed my little angel figurine on the mantel and said "well, isn't she a tree topper?" Yes, yes of course she is! I inherited this angel from my great-aunt and I never realized (duh) that she is made for the top of a tree. So now she is sitting atop the tree, looking just perfect.
I made the stockings for us last year from Alicia's wonderful pattern. I have her new book on my Christmas list, and I am looking forward to some embroidery in the new year. I also want to hone my knitting skills. Honestly, there are so many things on my crafting to-do list that I don't know where to start. And that's not even to mention the long list of gift crafting I had planned to do, and which I am quickly running out of time to complete. Oh well. My family is very accustomed to receiving IOU's from me for homemade gifts. I usually deliver at some point.

I am feeling extraordinarily blessed this year. And very grateful. I don't know if I'll get another post in before Christmas, so I'll go ahead and wish everyone great peace and joy, however you celebrate this time of year. Go have a cookie and some eggnog right now! Cheers!

21 November 2010

quilts given and received

Twin gave me a beautiful quilt as a wedding gift. It's now my faithful tv-watching sofa blanket--if I am on the sofa, chances are pretty good that I am under this quilt. It's the perfect size, and so pretty.
It's made mostly of Joel Dewberry fabrics. I love the mixture of floral prints and geometric ones. The best part is I can tell how carefully Twin picked out these fabrics with me in mind. They are the kind of colors and prints I love best, and she got it just right.
I love how the back is pieced with larger pieces of the different prints. I am always too lazy to piece the backs of quilts, but it's so worth the effort.
And this is a snowball quilt that I made for Matt's mom last Christmas. I'd never made a snowball quilt before, but it was a fun pattern to sew. It's one of those patterns where you get the visual impact of curved seams, without actually having to make any curved seams, because the octagons read as circles from a distance. I think to truly get a "snowball" effect, I should have made my squares smaller, but if you step back far enough, my snowballs do look pretty much round.

I used polka dot binding. I love binding, it's always my favorite part.

I'm about halfway through piecing the blocks for a new quilt for Matt. It features gnomes, and I am very excited about it. Am hoping to have it finished by Christmas, though I'm not sure it's going to happen. Luckily he has a birthday in February, so if I miss Christmas, I can just say that I was always intending it to be a birthday present anyway.

10 November 2010

advent calendars on etsy!

For the past few years, I've been making these pyramid garlands as an advent calendar. I fill them with good dark chocolate and I munch my way through December. They look so very cheery hanging from the mantel, though I used to hang them between two bookcases in the days before I had a fireplace.

This year I've come up with an improved template and two new designs. And if you'd like to have a forest of little pyramids of your very own, now you can purchase the kit on etsy! I'm selling them as PDF downloads--you just print and assemble. I will admit that by the 24th pyramid, your scissors hand will be a bit sore. But it's so worth it in the end, to see your little line of trees appear.

The "Starry Trees" design is new, and I love the way it looks hanging from this fallen branch. It was very odd--I had this vague notion that a tree branch would look cool, so I walked out into the backyard and immediately picked up this branch. Perfect size, knobby branches, lovely bark color. The stars are obviously aligned for the Starry Tree Advent Calendar.

The Mod Trees design is similar to the classic one I first made a few years ago. Lime green and red is about the perfect combination.

And I will point out that a Lindt truffle fits perfectly inside a pyramid. I alternate the white chocolate with the dark chocolate. One of these years I am going to tuck in little notes or toys instead of chocolate. Maybe. Probably not.

Happy counting down!

09 November 2010

pillow challenge

Erin's Pillow Week Challenge has me thinking pillows. One of my friends in college had a roommate from France who would always pronounce "pillow" as "peeeeeeellow" in a very charming way and so that is how I always pronounce it in my head. (Sometimes it slips out in conversation too and then people look at me funny.) But I do love making new peeeeellows for my house. I have a little stack of homemade covers that i have made over the years and I swap them out as the season or my mood demands.

I made two patchwork pillows over the summer out of leftover fabrics from the wedding. I had collected a pile of old vintage sheets from thrift stores to use as table coverings, and I wanted to create something out of the fabric afterward as a keepsake for my mother and aunt. I alternated a square of vintage print with a calm gray linen. I actually inserted zippers into these as well, which I rarely take the time to do. (Though Erin's method looks so easy I might be doing it more often!)

I also wanted something new for the sofa with cooler weather approaching, so I sewed two of these linen pillows. I had two small scraps of this floral print from Globalweave Textiles that I bought a couple years ago from Purl. I just did a simple envelope enclosure in the back. I contemplated piping, and then I wussed out.

In case you're interested in past pillow projects from the archives, check out my coloring book pillow, tuxedo pillow, and rainbow pillow. Isn't it funny how when you have a blog you name all your projects...it does make them more memorable I guess.

I have had new dog bed covers on my list for ages, so hopefully this week I can get going on those. I bought an awesome plaid flannel that I think will be perfect. (Matt is lobbying for a new puppy and when I showed him the fabric his response was, "aw, a little black lab puppy would look great on that.") I think we're going to resist a new puppy for now, but I am determined that the new dog beds will have piping. Red piping. Gonna get on that pronto.

Thanks Erin for the peeeeeellow challenge!

02 November 2010

halloween 2010

BOO! Halloween is probably Matt's favorite holiday. He loves zombies, monsters, ghosts, flesh-eating piranhas, really anything that is creepy or grotesque in an entertaining sort of way. I, on the other hand, am a total chicken. But I am trying to be supportive. We have yet to find a horror movie that I can watch, but we are going to keep looking.

I made this linen mask for Matt, sewed the mouth up crudely, and painted the edges with fabric paint. When we moved into the house, we actually found a scythe in the shed (along with an old-fashioned plow), so that came in handy.

Jennie carved the pumpkin on the top step using the tutorial from last week's DesignSponge post. She used linoleum-cutting tools, which proved a challenge. It was difficult to carve deeply enough with the tools so that the light showed through. But the carving is so delicate and pretty.

For this wee white pumpkin, we got out the drill and drilled a ton of little holes in it. At first it looked like swiss cheese, but once it was lit up, it looked more like a starry night sky.

We had fun. We have too much leftover candy, though. It's all downhill from here, straight to Christmas. Might as well enjoy the sweet season.

30 October 2010

crunchy leaves and blue blue skies

I took these pictures near Boone, NC. Twin and I drove up onto the Parkway for a late afternoon hike, and all the colors were so beautiful. I'm a summer girl, but autumn can be awfully nice too.

We're in full Halloween mode this weekend. Twin and her boyfriend are visiting, and although today is devoted to football, tomorrow afternoon is all about the pumpkin carving. I saw an electric pumpkin-carving tool at Lowe's. Have you seen this? It looked like an electric screwdriver and it came with all kinds of different tips to carve various effects. I almost bought it, but decided we'd do it the old-fashioned way. It seems a bit excessive to use a power tool to carve a pumpkin.

These Halloween shirts are a gift that recently went to two of my best friends, who now live in Texas. This summer, they became foster parents to three little boys (5 mos, 2 yrs, and 10 yrs). Almost overnight, they became a family of five. I can't even really imagine the challenges and joys of this experience, but I am so proud of my friends.

The t-shirts were freezer-paper stenciled. The little boys got cute monsters and their older brother got a zombie. Because who doesn't love a zombie?

Hope everyone has a most spooky and merry weekend!

20 October 2010

a dollhouse for two both

Twin and I made a dollhouse. Eeee! It's the Coventry Cottage from Greenleaf. I have been contemplating these dollhouse kits for the past couple years, thinking it would be really fun, but also worried people would think I am a little crazy. Seeing as I already play with dolls and am a grown woman with no children. However, when I mentioned it to Twin she just said "That sounds fun!" as I knew, of course, she would. Because she's cool like that.

We spent two weekends on the house. The first weekend, we stained, primed, and assembled the main parts of the house. We also painted both interior and exterior. These kits are not for the faint-hearted. Luckily Twin and I have great attention to detail (aka nitpicking perfectionism), so this was great fun for us. I can see how some people get really into miniatures. And there are people who are really into miniatures. I browsed a few dollhouse forums online and these people are serious. I could totally see myself being one of those people.

The second weekend, we shingled the house, put together the furniture, and made all the interior furnishings.

The Coventry Cottage is one of Greenleaf's smaller kits, just two rooms downstairs and an attic. We made the upstairs a bedroom. You can see here that we never got around to shingling the back sections of the roof. We ran out of time, you see. But we'll get to it.

In the living room, we wallpapered one wall with some William Morris wrapping paper that I have had forever. We didn't really know what we were doing, so we just slapped it on with Mod Podge. Is there anything that Mod Podge can't do?

Almost all of the furniture was included in the kit, though we did pick up a few little pieces from a local craft shop. The cuckoo clock is one of my favorite details. I want a cuckoo clock in my real house one day.

The kitchen got red gingham curtains and a cheerful tablecloth. The men in our lives have been very supportive of our dollhouse efforts, good men. Matt even found the Shaker cabinet at the craft store and brought it home to us. I love it.

Twin made the teeny tiny cushions for the easy chairs. She concluded that sewing tiny cushions is challenging, and sewing tiny, perfectly round cushions is nearly impossible. And yet they look perfect. We ruminated on the best method of hanging curtains for quite a while and then ended up just hot-gluing them straight to the wall. Seemed to work just fine.

And below is a slideshow with a bunch of in-progress pictures. We aren't crazy, are we? Or maybe we're just crazy in a good way. I'm gonna go with that.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

14 October 2010

one year of gardening down

Now that we have been in our house for a full year, it's exciting to see how our efforts have altered the overall look of the house, and also to daydream about all things we'd like to do in the future. Of course it's a little daunting this time of year, seeing aaaaaaall those leaves fluttering down. (Really? We have to deal with those leaves again? Already?)

Matt and I might just be the perfect yard maintenance team. I get to fuss around with the flowers and pretend I am the master gardener, while he does all the real work. It's a very good deal for me. He keeps the grass just so, trims all the edges just so, deals with our mountains of leaves, and whistles while he's at it. I've never really thought about it, but gardening is like any work of art. The shapes and colors and balance are important, but it will all look like crap if everything runs together willy-nilly.

Monday, Matt was home from work (he got the day off, the stinker) and when I came home, I saw that he had worked his magic. You see, he apparently has a magic wand that blows away the leaves, trims away the weeds, and neatens all the edges. Who am I to question his magical ways, or discover the source of his power? It is best left to the imagination, I think.

He even took down the two spindly cedar trees that had been choked by neighboring trees into a brown, half-living state, and which I have been eyeing unsympathetically for the past year. I can't tell you how happy this makes me.

I have so many plans. We need ferns, hostas, solomon's seal, bluebells, and muscari in our shade bed. We need azaleas, rhododendron, asarum, and arum in our wooded border. We definitely need more vines on our fence -- carolina jessamine and star jasmine. We're planning a new sun perennial bed in the front yard. (I haven't even explored sun-loving perennials yet.) I dream of japanese maples and cherry trees.

All in good time. For now, I am learning to care for what is here. I divided my first perennial this past weekend, and I think it went well. I want to raise some succulents indoors this winter. We're researching vegetable gardening.

I do love our patch of earth. Even more than I thought I would.

P.S. The new season of This Old House started this weekend on PBS. I love that show SO DARN MUCH. They are working on this odd-duck of a house from the 1940s on the Charles River. In the first show, they busted up the old boiler and discussed asbestos abatement and river conservation. Among other things. It is all so fascinating. You should check it out.

12 October 2010

mandy gets new togs

Lately I have been wanting to sew some clothes. But I couldn't figure out what to sew, or what fabric to use. I pulled out all my patterns and sat in front of the fabric stash and waited for inspiration to strike. And it just didn't. I'm still not so good at sewing garments that it doesn't seem an Endeavor (with a capital E) each time I start one. I couldn't muster the creative energy.

But then I remembered Mandy. She has been sitting patiently in the corner of the craft room ever since I bought her. (Was that really two years ago? egads.) I had promised her a whole new wardrobe and I hadn't produced so much as a stitch. But dolls are very forgiving. She is still just smiling away at me, so prettily.

I sewed pants! I've never made pants before. Turns out it is not so hard after all, particularly when they are sized for a 16" doll. I have some corduroy pants just like this that I cherish to an extent that is rather excessive. But they are the perfect pants, so Mandy needed some as well. The shirt was fun to sew, especially all the little details, like the tiny buttons that cover snaps underneath.

Her second outfit. She is obviously ready for prep school here. I had some issues with the collar that I covered up with trim. Matt laughed because I styled her hair differently for each outfit photo. Well, of course I did.

She needs a nightgown. The Mandy doll that I had growing up had a flannel nightgown with pink rosebuds that my Grandma sewed. I also have a scrap of baby blue wool houndstooth that is just asking to be made into a jacket of some kind. If I can figure that out. Wait for it.