Tuesday, April 29, 2008

home again






We had a wonderful time visiting our friends Rich and Robyn in New Orleans. One of the things I've been waiting to post about is a doll and dress that I made for Robyn's daughter, who is turning three in a few weeks.

I had so much fun making it. I've been inspired by all the wonderful doll and softie crafters like Emily of Black Apple and Hillary of Wee Wonderfuls, to name two of many.

I came up with my own very simple two piece pattern of a bunny (identical pieces for front and back), and simply sewed it right sides facing, leaving a hole to turn it. I stuffed it and sewed across the legs so they would bend at the hip. Then I had a tremendous amount of fun embroidering her little face, adding a puffy tail and making her little clothes. Basically, I slapped her down on some fabric, traced around her body, and cut out a simple dress and pinafore that way.

She has flaws to be sure -- I should have clipped the curves of the seams so her face wouldn't look puckered (slapping self in forehead for such a rooky mistake). And other small mistakes, but I hope that makes her more lovable.

And what should I find when I arrive in New Orleans, but that Robyn has been a busy bee making my two girls matching dolls for their birthdays! I really need to get some good pictures of her adorable creations and post them soon.

I'd love to make more dolls soon! It is so satisfying to see one come together and the effect it has on your child. My girls repeatedly stole the bunny doll I'd been working on for Audrey off the work table to go play with it, even though it was unfinished. I was suddenly struck that I've never made my own girls any dolls, a terrible, really horrible oversight I hope to rectify by their birthdays.

They've requested 1) girl monkey 2) girl kitty.
What fun!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

hello card for you


This is a card I whipped up on my mac for you to use when you just want to say 'hello'. I love this shade of green and red together. Download the file here and feel free to send a personal greeting to your friends.

I'm takin' a blog break for a few days. We'll be out of town to visit my crafty friend, Robyn, and her loverly family. Can't wait!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Picture family tree

A long time ago I got a huge Martha Stewart family tree diagram as a birthday gift. It was a lot of work! I had to track down relatives on both sides and quiz them about their long lost loved ones. Not to mention writing all the long names on these tiny little leaves and mounting them on the chart. It turned out very well, and it hangs in a place of honor in my living room.


Since I already had the names and years handy, I was inspired to do smaller scale trees as gifts, but my version has photos included. I really love this, it makes you feel so connected to previous generations if you can actually see what they looked like. And now you can understand why you look the way you do. Or where your daughter got her cute little nose.

I drew the trees on my computer, then output them to nice paper. I mounted the scanned photos on round metal tags you can get from the craft store. I drew the leaves on the computer with the names and cut them out. Then I mounted the tags and leaves with foamy picture mounts that have some height to them. I made mine to fit in 8x10 and 8.5x11 frames (you can find 8.5x11 frames for certificate and certification framing).

There's a similar project on Martha's craft site that you do with a shadow box that I think looks really great too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

stuff to do with charm packs, part six

Make tiny pincushions, thumbtacks, and magnets. Because it is nice to have a wide selection of patterns and colors for these projects, charm squares are positively perfect for this.



Monday, April 14, 2008

ok I have a problem.


After staring endlessly at Amy Butler's Midwest Modern collection and falling deeper in love, I trolled around for a charm pack of these absolutely fabulous fabrics. I have no idea what I'll make with them, but I just bought a charm pack on FatQuarterShop.com.

Somebody take away my Visa.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

stuff to do with charm packs, part five

Patch something.

This is my favorite pair of my daughter L's jeans. She's only 3, so she doesn't have a personal favorite pair of jeans yet. They fit my daughter so well, and look so cute on her. But after also serving as my favorite pair of jeans for her older sister, the knees just gave out. Charm pack to the rescue. I sewed them in with embroidery floss and reinforced them on the inside with more fabric and Heat N Bond.

By the way, I just won another charm pack on ebay. It is so colorful. It's Flutterby, a collection by Tula Pink for Moda. Oh, the possibilities.

Friday, April 11, 2008

stuff to do with charm packs, part four

Make frameable art.



I was inspired by these cute cards from How About Orange. This is a tree I drew in Illustrator, then output on green art paper that I had in my stash. Then I cut the leaves out with an Xacto knife and used charm square fabric behind the holes. You just snip out a piece slightly larger than the leaf and glue or tape it around the edges to the back side of the paper. Then put it in a frame, or if you use it without a frame, you would adhere an additional piece of chip board or matte board on the back so you won't see all the ugly stuff. I like to use a generous sized matte and a simple black frame.

If you want to do something a lot like this, you can download the tree here. It makes a 5x7 piece of art.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

stuff to do with charm packs, part three

Make coasters.


My wonderful friend Robyn made these for me. I love them, they make me happy. She used a Freshcut fabric charm pack. I love that fabric line! What's really fun is they are different fabrics on each side, so I continuously flip them to show new fabric. I'm going to take the liberty of guessing how these are made.

Take two squares right sides facing, sew around the edges, leaving an unsewn portion in order to turn it right side out. Turn, press. Topstitch all the way around the edge. Then, starting on the outside edge, topstitch in a 1/4" square spiral all the way to the middle. Did I miss anything, Robyn?

Postscript: Robyn says she used some cotton batting in between the squares also, and that the idea for the coasters came from Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Patchwork & Quilted Gifts. Thanks again, Robyn!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

stuff to do with charm packs, part two

Make a purse.

Sorry for the blurriness. Also for the visible detritus in the background. Such is life with kids. These charm squares were from the Anna Marie Horner's Bohemian fabric collection. I lined the inside with plain magenta. Basically this was made just like a tote, but instead of straps, I put in ribbon loops for the wooden handles and I added some pockets inside. The squares are quilted in a simple X pattern. The closure is a ribbon loop around a large wooden button.

Back side and inside view:


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

stuff to do with charm packs, part one


mmm...charm packs. I'm addicted. Stacks of precut five-inch squares of coordinating fabrics. I've ordered them a bunch and they are like little treasures in the mail. Right now I'm waiting to hear if I won a pack on ebay. I love to just spread them out and look at them and rearrange them. Does that make me weird? Or a potential genius quilter?

Anyhoo, there are so many things to do with charm packs besides gaze lovingly at them. I mean of course, besides (the obvious) make a quilt. I'd love to make a quilt some day. It's on my list. Here's the first in a series of posts about what else to do with 'em.

Part one: cover lil' windows

I wanted to hide all the female unmentionables sitting inside. I had purchased a charm pack of my favorite fabric collection EVER EVER EVER, Flea Market Fancy, and this is how I used some of them. Had I known how short-lived this collection was, I might've ordered some major yardage of it. Snooze ya lose, I guess.

I just measured the windows, calculated how many squares were needed to cover them and pieced those together with my machine. Then I put some batting on a piece of chip board cut to size, and sandwiched it all together behind the glass. The inside looks a little messy. If I were not so stinkin' lazy, I'd unscrew the wooden thingies holding in the glass, and sandwich the cover between it and the glass, but I opted for taping it in. How cheap and dirty was that? Who sees the inside besides me anyway? :-)

More charm square ideas coming.
Now, share how YOU use charm squares.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

whoa...freezer paper, where ya been all my life?

I feel like such an idiot to have overlooked such a valuable crafting tool all these years. If you buy an ordinary roll of freezer paper, you can all of a sudden use your color printer to print on fabric! And other cool stuff.

This stuff is genius! Freezer paper has just enough plastic coating on the shiny side to stick to fabric when you iron it down. But (and this is the genius part) it doesn't make any marks on the fabric and it peels off as easy as pie! And the other side is non-shiny.

So now you can use your printer to print a design on the non-shiny side of freezer paper (like the letters for my totes, noted in torturous pre-freezer paper era in a previous post), iron that down on fabric, then cut out around the freezer paper, then peel it off. So simple! No trying to trace stuff on fabric.

Trace a clothing pattern on to freezer paper and iron it down on the fabric to cut it out. No more pinning.

Iron a 8.5 x 11 piece of freezer paper on to fabric of the same size, then run the fabric like paper through your color printer! Then the freezer paper just peels right off.

I'm just reeling with the possibilities over here. I might be the last person on the planet to know about freezer paper properties.

I just ran into Angry Chicken's freezer paper stencil tutorial, so apparently this is another huge thing to do with freezer paper and I totally missed the buzz.

Friday, April 4, 2008

dolls from Martha


I tried my hand a while back at doll making. Martha Stewart has a simple looking doll tutorial. All in all it went well, and I was really pleased with the end result. Even though she looks a little poofy.

I used a terry cloth for the body because it was for a friend's baby girl and I thought that'd be some interesting and gum-able texture for her. Also I added a little tiny pocket with her initial embroidered on it, just in case she needed a Tooth Fairy doll later.

Here is the link to the Martha Stewart tutorial.

If you want to get into making these dolls as gifts, it is a good idea to save your old T shirts so you can use the soft jersey knit for the hands, feet and face.

I just stumbled across another great doll tute on Martha I'd like to try, from The Black Apple. I love it! So cute.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

tote utopia

Before I began my foray into sewing clothes, I first tried to create totes. My first victims were my unfortunate sisters and one friend, for whom I sewed toile totes that were just like pillow cases with straps. Cute, but would fall over like tipped cows when you put them on the floor.

It was driving me crazy trying to figure out how to give it a 'bottom' like totes everywhere. Then, I found an absolutely terrific tutorial online from Super Eggplant that solved the whole mystery and gave great instructions on how to square the corners as well as integrate the straps into the seams and give it a pretty lining fabric. THANK YOU, SUPER EGGPLANT!
After that, my tote making took off.

(I just noticed she also has a pillowcase tutorial that I'd like to try sometime...)

I love to cut letters out of felt and sew them to an outside pocket for to personalize for kids.
YOU MUST DO THIS BEFORE YOU SEW UP YOUR TOTE!

You basically type out the letters on a computer to size, print them on laser paper BACKWARDS. Most print menus have this option to reverse your image, if not you could probably flip it in a photo program).

(Note: after this post I found out about the wonder that is freezer paper. So you could print the letters frontways on freezer paper and then adhere it to your felt to cut out instead.)

I apply interfacing to the felt to give it more body. Then you slap your letter printout on a light table or tape it to your window, and trace the letters backwards on the interfacing side of the felt. The whole backwards thing is to save you from having any traces of pencil or pen on the front after you cut them out, plus the interfacing is much easier to trace on. Of course, you could use a dissapearing pen and do it frontwards (is that even a word???), but I find those pens don't show well or write well on some felts. Up to you.

After that you carefully cut them out and then glue them with dabs of fabric glue to the pocket. I love and adore Fabritac glue. I glue them instead of pin, much more accurate to work with, and doesn't slip. Use the glue sparingly.

Then you sew the letters around the edges using a satin stitch or short straight stitch. Then, after you are done embellishing the pocket, you are ready to sew your tote. You could sew the pocket lining and pocket outside together either before or after applying the letters, but the difference is seeing the stitching for the letters inside the pocket or not.

Or you could just buy those iron-on letters at Michaels. But that would not be very Martha of you. :-)


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

clip art stash building

If you are like me, you cannot get enough free clip art to download and hoard on your hard drive for future creative uses. Take advantage of the impressive array available on Martha Stewart's craft pages.

There's also a great source of vintage clip art available from Dover Publishing, a great tip from How About Orange. If you sign up, they'll send you an email every Wednesday with links to free art.

If you are interested in vintage (ok, some schmaltzy and torrid, use discretion) paperback book cover design, there's more than any little heart could desire available for download at the BookScans Database. I looked but couldn't see any relevant copyright information. Use commercially at your own peril.


Another source for copyright free images is the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room. Note: not all of these images are public domain.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

you too can sew clothes

I am so trying to become a sewing expert. My mom sewed us all adorable outfits when we were young. Also for herself. She's the raven-haired beauty in the hat print shirt above, sandwiched between my aunt and cousins (that's my big sister Leigh in the back). I just love the simple lines of the shirt, as well as the adorable fabric.

My big sis Leigh also sewed for all her kids, and I'm talking stuff like matching boy/girl velvet church outfits with smocking and everything. And later, banquet dresses. All very impressive.

I'm not exactly up to all that, but I do so love the idea of my girls one day opening a cedar chest and showing their daughters my handmade clothes that they cherished through the years. So I've been trying out patterns and doing my best to make them one of a kind.

I got a bunch of sewing books for Christmas and birthday. I love to pore through them and imagine all the cool stuff I could be making. They have been great resources on basic sewing knowledge, which is one thing I'm woefully short on, having never been taught and having never taken home economics.

Above is an example of my mom's sewing from waaay back. The two girlies in dark blue velvet are two of my older sisters, sporting two adorable dresses Mom made (among the many many she churned out, despite having 5 children, ages 9 and under. Oof). The other light blue cuties are more of my cousins, who no doubt, also have on handmade dresses.

So I've started my sewing odyssey. My wonderful husband bought me a sewing machine years ago, and I've created curtains and pillows, but never clothes. Recently I've sewn several items for both daughters, always entering into the project with a) grand visions, excitement and high hopes, then somewhere in the middle b) bewilderment, disillusionment and sorrow, then toward the end c) it usually degrades into a red anger and complete frustration. But always I learn something I can use in the next project.

Something I have learned so far: all commercial patterns for my girls are too wide. I must need to fatten them up some. That would sure be easier than figuring out how to alter the patterns.

McCall's M5370
The first dress I made for Thing 1, my oldest (above). Mushrooms are just big with me right now, so I tried to make a simple pattern unique by adding some felt appliqué to the pockets. That was the most fun I had on the whole thing. Reading the sewing directions was like trying to figure out a foreign language. I also ran out of fabric (rookie mistake) so I made it up with the band of red at the bottom.

Simplicity 4927 (so faded from many washings!)

closeup of (faded) applique

Next I tried another 'simple' dress (above). I never realized that set in sleeves were so...EXCRUCIATINGLY HARD! I'll never wear another blouse without profound relief that I didn't have to sew in the sleeves. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth before the finished product, which came out looking fine because the extra fabric I couldn't 'ease' into the sleeve hole is bunched up in the armpit. ha. Once again, the most fun offered by this project was coming up with the owl appliqué and sewing it on.

Lesson one learned from an experienced sewing friend: don't sew up the side seams until you sew in the sleeves.

Lesson two learned from online sewers: sewing set in sleeves is much easier if you cut off about half of the huge 5/8" seam allowance in most commercial patterns.

my own pattern

Next project was to make a wrap dress. I looked and looked for a wrap dress I liked for the girls. Having no success there, in an overly enthusiastic moment I decided to draft my own pattern based on one the girls already had that was slightly too small. Ha.

I was still too dumb to make it out of muslin first, so I pulled out a lot of stitching and ended up with a pretty jumper (despite myself) in brown corduroy. Of course by the time this was completed, winter was subsiding.

I was a lot more ambitious with the appliqué this time, dreaming this design up after a new obsession with the work of Charley Harper (that is your fault, Jessica). Also, Jessica, thanks for your post about appliqué - Heat n Bond TOTALLY ROCKS.

Simplicity 3857

So, now we come to Easter, and my crazy desire to make both the girls coordinating dresses. In one week. Another pattern, and more insane alteration of the pattern (simply can't sew it as intended, oh, no, that'd be too easy) and voila. I think I'm starting to get this stuff. Wait, does that flower look like a boob? hmm.

Thanks to WiseCraft for the fabric flower tutorial, it's fabulous! I made this one from felt so it wouldn't ravel. After taking the picture of the dress above, I added two ribbon petals to the flower stem. I'm too lazy to take another photo, sorry.

The amount of swing a dress has is really important to a girl. Below is the coordinating dress for younger sis, same pattern.

As you can see from the dresses, I have a crazy love for Denyse Schmidt's Flea Market Fancy fabric line. I cannot find much out there. I am so afraid it is out of print now. What a disappointment! Denyse, PRINT MORE!