21 September 2011

hawaiian quilt

One of our dearest and oldest friends got married this summer in Hawaii. I wish that I could have made the trip, but I think Hawaii might be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, and I used up my once in a lifetime a few years ago when my parents cashed in all their frequent-flier miles and toted the whole family to Maui for a week. I remember thinking on the dreadfully long flight over there that it couldn't possibly be worth it. And then I stepped out of the airport and said, "oooooh. ahhhhh. yeah, this is totally worth it." It was an amazing trip.

So we didn't get to see Suzanne tie the knot in person, but we certainly wanted to celebrate her big day. And what better way to celebrate than with a bright, cheerful, hawaiian-inspired quilt. Jennie and I collaborated on this project and two twin heads is better than one. I love how it turned out.
 We used Denyse Schmidt's Proverbial Quilt pattern for the letters. Jennie and I each did two rows of words and I sneakily gave her the "HAWAII" row because the W involved about 10 pattern pieces and looked mighty tricky. She nailed it, of course.

We picked out the brightly-colored print fabric used in the border first and took all our color inspiration from that, ending up with a rainbow of jewel tones. After we'd pieced the letters, I remembered that I had started appliqueing a Hawaiian quilt motif years ago when we made our trip to Hawaii. I'd always intended it to be a pillow but I had never finished it. The green color worked perfectly with our quilt so we put it in the center. It was meant to be. I obviously started that applique project 4 years ago because Suzanne was destined to get married in Hawaii. Like tea leaves, the unfinished projects that litter my craft room predict the future.

Jennie did all of the quilting. I think I should have her do all of my quilting from now on. It's awesome. She did a large chevron pattern with machine-quilting around the outside, then hand-quilted the traditional Hawaiian pattern on the motif. I just had to look it up in my little book I bought in Hawaii--it is a breadfruit pattern. I love the mixture of the organic lines of the breadfruit with the geometric lines of the chevron. Killer.

I take full responsibility for the piecing of the back, which, frankly, just looks like a big old mess. I used leftover bits of the fabrics we used for the letters on the front, but just kind of sewed it all together willy-nilly. It definitely could have used a bit more planning, but it is bright and cheerful. And after all, it's just the back.

Suzanne's parents hosted a lovely reception at their house in VA a few weeks after the wedding, so we did get to party with the happy couple. On the car ride to VA, Jennie and I sat in the back seat and sewed the binding on the quilt while her fiance chauffeured us. Oh, haven't I mentioned here yet that Jennie is engaged? YUP. April 2012. We have a bajillion craft projects planned and our Mom is planning to make the cake. We talked her down from trying to cater the whole shindig one-handed. This should be fun.

30 August 2011

mini-bathroom renovation

Sorry for my long absence! We've been enjoying the end-y bit of summer, which has been dry as a bone and hot as hades here. (I'm not complaining, though. Weeeeell, maybe I am just a bit. Looking forward to lovely crisp autumn and all that comes with it.) We had a two-week "staycation" at the end of July, followed by a week with my family in the mountains. Now, fully rested and totally depleted of vacation hours, it's back to work we go.

Our staycation was lovely though, full of great food and summer movies and relaxing together. Around the beginning of the second week, I started thinking "my, wouldn't this be a great time to try to renovate the bathroom a bit?" I mentioned this to Matt, at which point he sighed heavily, then gamely agreed to help me. Because he's such a good hubby.

This is the master bathroom, which is remarkably large for our modest, 1920s-vintage house (we think it was added on at some point). The fixtures are all fine, if a little generic. Since moving in, we've talked about doing a gut renovation "some day," and I started a wish list: free-standing tub, vintage-style lighting, hexagon tile flooring. But the reality is that we probably won't have the moola for a total renovation for many years. So we set out to see what we could do with as little investment as possible. The total renovation is still on the wish list, but we wanted to make it a more enjoyable space right now.

I forgot to take a "before" shot, but here's an in-progress picture to show you what we were working with. The floor was a hunter green vinyl sticky tile and the walls were the color of a band-aid. Somebody at some point must have liked this color combo. I'm not a big fan. I knew just changing those two elements would make a huge difference.

We stuck with sticky tile (hee) but chose a light, faux-marble one from Lowes. The colors in the tiles are quite lovely--mostly white and cream but with enough gray and brown smudgy bits that it has a lot of depth. And it hides dirt like a dream. I actually really enjoyed laying the floor, believe it or not. It was like one giant jigsaw puzzle. I LOVE jigsaw puzzles. Matt does not. We realized this after an hour or so, so he took over the painting from that point.

The walls are a very pale blue-gray and we repainted all the trim white. We also painted the base of the vanity a medium gray. I had originally chosen a minty green color that ended up looking dreadful. Just awful. Matt gave me an "I told you so look" and helped me pick out the gray color. Much better. We also replaced the giant frame-less mirror above the vanity with a smaller, framed one that we already owned.

We replaced some of the hardware with shiny new ones. The rusty black floor vent was replaced with a bright white one. We finally mounted a toilet-paper holder on the wall (we used to just keep the roll sitting on the back of the commode...it took me three weeks after installing it to stop twisting around behind me to reach for the tp).

This odd corner beside the shower is where we store our linens. There used to be two large, deep shelves here where we piled all our linens. It was impossible to keep it organized and neat, so we took down the shelves and put in an inexpensive storage cabinet. Now I don't have to stare at a jumble of towels and sheets.

I was going to sew a new shower curtain but then found this awesome one at Target. We also picked up the wooden floor mat and the cheerful yellow trash can there. I like the yellow accents and warm wood tones against the cool gray background.

I don't normally keep fresh flowers in my bathroom but maybe I should. I also hid all my ugly toiletries and only left out the pretty ones for these photos. I maybe watch too much HGTV. Speaking of which, there is an episode of Design Inc (here are some pics) that really inspired this bathroom. I love me some Sarah Richardson. I don't know that I am posh enough to live in any of her houses, but I do love watching her shows. Especially Sarah's Summer House. It is a modern day Blue Castle. (And if you haven't read The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery and have no idea what I am talking about, you need to read it. It is one of my favorite books of all time.)

I had to include this picture because Abby looks like a ghost. A sweet, friendly puppy ghost.

The whole "mini-reno" probably set us back about $200 and a few days of labor. One day we will get our claw-foot tub and ceramic tile, but in the meantime I know we will really enjoy this space.

13 July 2011

seersucker shirtdress

I finally made a Lisette pattern! This is the Traveler dress, view A. I didn't alter a single thing, cut it out and made it exactly as the pattern instructed. And it's PERFECT. This is probably the best homemade garment I've made so far. It fits me perfectly, is super comfortable, and is very flattering. It's even cute without the belt because the shape of the dress is so nice.

I used an inexpensive gray stripe seersucker that I got at Joann's. I can remember my grandma had a shirtdress exactly like this. Except hers had shoulder pads because it was the 80s.

The pattern is lovely and straightforward, and includes some really helpful tips along the way. I learned some new things, such as the clever way of finishing the top of the patch pockets with a pintuck. It's also interesting that this collar is all one piece, so you don't have to bother with a collar band. Genius.

It came together quite quickly--I was able to do all the sewing in one afternoon + evening. My buttonholer attachment was being fussy so the 10 buttons seemed a bit intimidating. But the buttonholer cooperated in the end and I attached the 10 charcoal buttons to finish it.

I'm excited to try the other patterns. The Portfolio tunic might be next.

10 July 2011

summer bounty

Yesterday's haul out of the garden. We are drowning in summery goodness.

Piles of fresh produce are the mother of invention and I have been trying out new recipes in order to keep up with the inventory around here. Matt's Mom brought us blueberries, ranier cherries, bing cherries, and peaches last weekend and despite munching on these goodies all week, I realized yesterday morning that I still had a pile of fruit nearing over-ripeness. Must save the fruit!

So I made a crisp. I almost went with my old stand-by crisp topping (melted butter, brown sugar, oats) but decided to try something new from Rustic Fruit Desserts. I used the almond crisp topping and oh. my. goodness. It's just butter + sugar + flour + toasted almonds but it could not be more delicious. I was nervous because Matt doesn't normally like nuts in his desserts (I know, crazy), but even he pronounced it awesome.

This week we've had so much rain that the tomatoes are splitting open on the vine. I dashed out to save them and then put together this watermelon tomato salad from the August Martha Stewart (sorry can't find the recipe on her website, must not be up yet). I didn't bother with making the basil oil, instead I just tore up some basil leaves. A little goat cheese, lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. Quite tasty.

And this was my lunch yesterday, which was so pretty I had to take a picture. This is uncommonly healthy for me. I had a bowl of crisp for dessert to make up for it.

Now I need to figure out what to do with all this yellow squash. Matt tells me his Memom always made fried squash cakes and called them "croquettes." I'm thinking about this recipe. Paula Deen and fried food--can't go wrong. Any favorite squash recipes?

22 June 2011

squares within squares quilt

The baby quilt is fini, and sent off to Atlanta where it will help welcome a new little baby soon. Although it's for a baby boy, I didn't want it to be too "boy-y" so I went with a more gender-neutral yellow and turquoise color scheme. It's a mix of bold, bright patterns with a few more subtle ones, like the yellow stripe seersucker and the pale blue dot.

The square-within-a-square pattern was fun and quite simple to piece. I didn't realize until sewing all the strips together that because of the sashing there was not a single seam that had to be carefully lined up. Sweet! I had one stray block leftover, so I incorporated it into the back of the quilt.

I did a simple quilting pattern--just straight lines in one direction. I still don't trust my walking foot very much. I need to practice more.

Binding is always my favorite part of a quilt. (Is that weird? Am I the only one?) I love the actual task of binding by hand, and I love the look of the finished binding. A lovely way to finish a quilt project.

Sending wonderful happy thoughts for this new family of three!

15 June 2011

my anniversary present

For my anniversary present, Matt had an old piece of my grandmother's cross-stitch custom-framed. I love it so much.

I found the sampler in the depths of my grandma's linen closet when we cleaned out her house. I don't know when during her lifetime she made it, or why she never framed it. I don't really remember my grandma doing much sewing or embroidery, though she must have done quite a bit earlier in her life. I'm not surprised at all, though, by how perfectly neat and precise her cross-stitch is.

The sampler is made up of delicate little motifs of flowers and animals, all in the most lovely muted colors.

Her initials are in the very center of the sampler. My grandma's name was Genevieve, which I've always thought such a beautiful name. She would laugh because many people didn't know how to pronounce it, and she was usually called "Gen." She died just over a year ago, and I'm so glad to have this little reminder of her where I can see it every day.

I knew that Matt was framing the cross-stitch, because I went with him to the store and hemmed and hawed endlessly over the framing options. I didn't know, though, that he also ordered and framed a photo of us. My brother took this picture of us at our family reunion last year. We're walking away from the camera, and we just look like we're having a lovely conversation. I can't remember if we were, but probably so. We tend to have mighty nice conversations.

14 June 2011

his anniversary present

I made a linen shirt for Matt as an anniversary present. I made it from our "wedding linen," which is what I call the 10 yards of natural linen that I bought last year to use as table runners at our wedding reception. I've been using this linen in projects all year long, and I still have about 3 yards left. It seemed appropriate to make Matt's anniversary present from the wedding linen. And it was one of the few fabrics in my stash that was appropriate for a man's shirt. I need to remember to look for more male-friendly fabrics when I am fabric-shopping.

I used McCall's 6044, which is the same pattern I used for the long-sleeve shirt I made for him this past winter. It's a nice pattern and fits him well, though I think in the future I will make the sleeves a bit slimmer for a more modern fit.

I was surprised by how easy it was to work with the linen, since I've sometimes found linen a bit slippery to sew. (I always think of it as "squigy" though that is not a real word, is it?) In this project, though, everything came together nicely. I love how crisp linen gets when you iron it, makes sewing hems so much easier.

We took these pictures in front of our new flower beds outside the fence. I'm proud of these beds because we created them from scratch. It's all been a bit of an experiment. Last year, we started with roses and clematis on the arbor, flanked by monarda, yarrow, and hollyhocks. The hollyhocks did nothing the first year and are only just getting going now. They have been plagued by rust and are still looking quite spindly. I need to figure out if there's anything I can do for that. This year, I added nepeta, african daisies, and pink cosmos in the front of the bed. I love the nepeta, and it hides the gangly legs of the hollyhock and monarda perfectly.

The one hollyhock that has managed to grow to full height this year is lovely. I need to figure out how to get the others happy, because these beauties are worth the effort.

Tomorrow I'll post about my anniversary presents. I think Matt's superpower is thoughtful gift-giving. He is awfully good at it.

08 June 2011

a happy year

Matt and I celebrated our first anniversary over the past weekend. We popped a bottle of champagne, snapped a picture under the arbor, then walked downtown for dinner. I wore the new dress he bought me a few weeks ago (from Target!). It is a great dress, and I was surprised by how comfortable and flattering it is. It has inspired me to try sewing a Lisette Traveler dress, which has a similar shape. Now I just need to pick out a fabric...

We're in re-adjustment mode this week. Matt's work schedule has changed and he's now working a night shift and, what's worse, our days off no longer coincide. It stinks, and has knocked both of us for a bit of a loop. Neither of us likes change very much, but I know we will settle into a new routine soon. And, it reminds me how lucky I am to have a husband whose very presence just brings me so much joy. I wish we could have more time together, but this isn't forever.

In the garden, we've harvested the peas. They're pretty much done for this year, and we pulled the vines down to make room for the cucumbers, which are running wild. We've already gotten one cucumber, and with the heat wave we're experiencing, the tomatoes are close behind. Two words: summer pickle, folks. SUMMER PICKLE!!

24 May 2011

lessons in gardening

We're having our first little heat wave and the veggies are loving it. The tomatoes are climbing like mad and the peas are coming in. So far most of our efforts have been at least moderately successful. I am still amazed each time I pull something edible out of that garden.

One lesson learned is to sow radish seeds more sparsely and thin more aggressively. Our first patch of radishes was too crowded and they all ended up undersized and oddly-shaped. Luckily they still tasted good. Above is our one perfectly round radish which I photographed carefully, then ate.

It seems that carrots also appreciate a bit of wiggle room while growing, though I found it very sweet that carrots planted too close together will sometimes entwine themselves around their neighbor. We're calling them lover carrots. They have magical powers and bestow good luck in love. I'm sure of it.

We grew four different types of lettuce, all of which came up beautifully. We have realized, though, that we don't actually eat a lot of salad. And we are no more likely to eat salad when fresh greens are only steps from our back door. This is a sad truth, but a truth none the less. So I harvested all the greens last night and took a cooler full of them to work today. I am very glad to have all that lettuce in the happy bellies of my coworkers tonight. I am going to plant okra, squash, and zucchini in the empty spaces. I know we will eat those!

With temperatures spiking into the 90s this weekend, it was high time for strawberry-rhubarb pie. This is my favorite pie of all. Our local strawberries are almost done, but I managed to find a pint of local berries for my pie.

I also finally broke down and turned on the AC this weekend. I always resist as long as possible. But there comes a night--usually in late May for us--when I wake up and the night air is so hot and still and humid that sleep is difficult. So I give up, pad down the hallway, and turn on the AC. It pours out deliciously cool air and I flop back in bed and sigh a most happy sigh.

Welcome, summer, we're so very glad you're here.

13 May 2011

ups and downs

I've been in a bit of a crafting rut the past couple weeks. Isn't it funny how that happens sometimes? Creative inspiration seems to dry up and a few failed projects snowball into a general feeling of frustration and inertia. I'm not sure which is the cause and which is the effect, but it is disheartening.

Last week I cut a simple shirt pattern out of a lovely voile, then decided to go off-pattern slightly and replace the gathers with pintucks. Sadly, the pintucks ended up completely off-center (curse you, math skills!). It looked like the pintucks were sliding sideways off my bust, rather than draping oh-so-elegantly across it. Then I cut the back piece too small. Then I couldn't figure out how to attach the straps. Then I threw the whole damn wad of fabric into the scraps bin. Phooey.

Small and simple projects seem to be the best cure for a crisis of crafting confidence. And it doesn't get much smaller or simpler than baby bibs. I used this pattern to make three infant-sized bibs for a friend who is expecting. They are so tiny!

I used a cotton print on the front and a soft flannel on the back. I added a little hippo applique to one. Done and done and couldn't be cuter.

And for another friend who is expecting (it's high baby season around these parts), I have a baby quilt underway. I love the methodical, repetitive process of piecing a quilt. It's almost like meditation. Most restorative for the crafting mojo.

Rather unrelated, but I got home from work today to find these three beautiful little bouquets sitting on the coffee table. All picked from the garden. Yeah, this husband, he's a keeper.

Happy weekend!

25 April 2011

late april blooms

Spring is galloping along here, aided by plenty of rain and warming weather. The rhododendron in front of the house is just opening up. We've now got a purple + lime green thing happening out front that was unforeseen but is quite awesome.

Last year I planted a viburnum and I killed it. I think he was a casualty of poor drainage. I kept watering him religiously, which probably didn't help. Last year overall was not a good year for me and shrubs, but I am determined to do better this year. I really wanted a white viburnum, so we picked out a common snowball viburnum. I figured "common" might mean "hardy." I didn't even realize until it bloomed that these are the exact flowers that I had in my wedding. Bonus.

The arbor roses are taking off, and I fully expect this year they will make it over the top of the arbor and reach toward the sky. They are called Morning Magic roses and they are somehow akin to the knockout roses which just bloom and bloom. These do indeed seem to have a lot of get up and go. The buds are a lovely apricot pink and they open to almost white.

The snowmound spirea is just budding. This might be my favorite thing we planted last year. It's a petite shrub with delicate little leaves. It branches beautifully, sending out gently waving arms in all directions. It stays pretty all season, long after the blooms fade.

Someone at some point planted some mint in this garden which entrenched itself with fierce determination. I have been methodically pulling it out and replacing it with heuchera of various colors. I can't remember the names of these, I'm pretty sure the bronze one is called "Caramel."

The iris just opened up today. I got home from work and they were ready for their sunset photo.

The veggies are also coming along nicely. Looks like we are going to be eating lots of salads this summer. It really does taste better when it's out of your own garden, doesn't it? Part freshness and part pride, I expect. :)