Friday, December 31, 2010

handmade gifts 2010: Weekend-Away Travel Bag

I sewed my first item from my copy of Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross, the little zippered travel bag for my niece Erin. I've had the book a long while so I'm glad this gift gave me the excuse I was looking for to break into its patterns.

I also gave her a copy of Denyse Schmidt Quilts as part of her gift, and that's where I got the idea for the flower and vine applique on the bag. The vine runs underneath the bag and the flower motif repeats on the opposite side of the bag. After flipping through Erin's copy of the book I decided I needed a copy of DS Quilts for myself, so hopefully I will soon be getting that for a birthday gift from my lovely, gracious, and did I mention generous sister, Lita.

It's a nice sized bag, and would be ideal for a makeup or small toiletries bag. I like how Heather designed it to have no unfinished edges inside, but I think I might just add some bias binding to the inside seams next time and avoid all the turning.

I added a cotton webbing handle because Erin is always running out the door somewhere and it would be easier to grab when you have ten other things in your hands, including the cutest boy toddler in the world.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

handmade gifts 2010: turtle dove

Ok, so I went into ornament hyperdrive this year. Even though I had just made the three ornaments for her kids, I couldn't skip a 12 Days of Christmas ornament for Robyn, since the full set will be twelve years in the making (go here for the first installment). My eldest said, "Aren't you supposed to make two?" Then she said, "Mom, how old will you be when you finish the set?" Sigh.

The embroidery on the back was done when I was errrm...ready to be finished. You all know embroidery is not my strong suit. It was supposed to say "2nd Day, Love, M&L, 2010", but this works. Right?

I wish Robyn would blog the tree topper she made. If you've seen the really pretty Teeming Forest topper at Anthropologie, you will have also noticed the staggering (no pun intended) $498.00 price tag (it has since gone on sale for like $125). Is it made from uranium or something? So Robyn did her own version, and it is really pretty.

Monday, December 27, 2010

handmade gifts 2010: Alice In Wonderland ornaments

The White Rabbit blew three blasts on the trumpet, and called out, 'First witness!'

Alice tried the little golden key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted!

The Dormouse slowly opened his eyes. 'I wasn't asleep,' he said in a hoarse, feeble voice: `I heard every word you fellows were saying.'

These three ornaments were given to Robyn's kids along with a copy of the classic book for Christmas. I tell you I had such fun making these! They were a challenge but I always like a crafting challenge, especially one that plays to my strengths: 1) tiny size and 2) made from felt.

The dormouse and rabbit are from two really cute patterns purchased from here. I did deviate a bit from her instructions in the way I made the limbs and some other details, but the main parts follow her patterns.

After I had made those two woodland cuties I definitely needed an Alice, but I didn't have a pattern so I just kind of winged it for her. After a couple of false starts, I'm pretty happy with how she turned out. Her head is a large wooden bead and her hair was an experiment in folding and tacking felt.

I kept reminding myself to make notes and measurements as I went along on all the new pieces I was making for the animals and all the pieces for Alice, so that I can make another set for our own tree. We'll see if that ever happens. I still need to make myself the partidge and pear from last year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

hung by the chimney with [creative angst]

I've had new handmade stockings on my to-do list for years. I have some colossal mental block about it. I've looked at many, many stockings online and trolled for ideas in magazines. I've seen 1000 I've loved, I've collected a folder full of ideas, but somehow committing to making some has been nigh to impossible. I think it is because I suffer under the mistaken notion that whatever I make will have to be cherished family heirlooms as well as match my decor for the next 40 years.

I finally just let go and made some for Pete's sake. I had some dishtowels I bought from here a while back that I had earmarked for festive pillow making, but they were purloined for the stockings instead. They been sitting half finished for weeks in my craft room because I couldn't decide how to embellish them. The sad part is now that the stockings are finished, I'm not sure I like them. Even a bit. (Don't worry, this is all a normal part of my process.) But I made some! So, progress. Some projects are effortless and some take a little pain and suffering. Maybe they need some applique of some kind. Crud. I'll think about it next year.

(well, there were still four days when I took this picture.)

The nibbled one was inspired by these cuties. I love how she made the buttons look like candies with strategic stitching.

We've just been enjoying the days around here lately with no schoolwork. There's been lots of impromptu running around town and running errands. Lots of making of snowflakes, paper chains, and paper plate snowmen, and generally making it look like Buddy lives here. Lots of sitting by the fire, cozying up under quilts watching Christmas specials, and for me, LOTS of crafting and sewing.

I still have one handmade gift to finish up, and I'd dearly love to get some simple dresses done for the girls. Really. I can do it! (denial reigns supreme here) Winter dresses, not something that looks too Christmasy at this late date. I love these gorgeous ones by Amy Karol. We'll just have to see.

Right now I need to go bake some sugar cookies for the kids to decorate later when my company arrives. I hope they turn out, I've never used Joy Of Cooking's recipe. I've got some mulled cider in the crock pot, and egg nog in the fridge. Plus some truly evil chocolate toffee crunch bars that arrived yesterday from my dearest friend along with a bunch of beautiful gifts. There's going to be a grim reckoning in January with all the fattening stuff I've been eating, but for now I don't care.

Postscript: Definitely do use the Joy Of Cooking recipe if you haven't tried it. After refrigeration and a dash of flour, I was able to painlessly use my Christmas cookie cutters to make reindeers, bells, santas, candy canes, stars, etc... I have a lot of cutters. I don't even like sugar cookies, and these taste great. I used salted butter because I like salty/sweet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

denim skirts with tucks

Here are the skirts from the Santa shot. I stuck to my guns on the construction this time and didn't get distracted by the shiny ruffler. They just needed a plain layering jean skirt, however I could not resist adding some half inch tucks around the hem, because those are just so easy.

If you'd like to make a similar skirt, start with a simple pattern like this one. Instead of the ribbon hem, just do a traditional double folded hem.

To allow for 1/2 inch tucks, add an inch in skirt length for each tuck you take. Iron a crease on the right side where the tuck should bend, pin, then sew 1/2 inch away from the crease. Then after I iron it down I also sew the tuck down, very close to the existing seam.

I love the extra style it gives for the minimal time invested.

I also experimented with a new waist on one of them. I like the simplicity of the elastic-in-a-tube waist, but it tends to look bunchy in the front. I did a tube waist on Thing 1's but with Thing 2's skirt I attempted to copy something I've seen in store-bought skirts: the front having a smooth waistband attached to the gathered skirt, and the back waistband having elastic:

So I made the skirt length shorter since I didn't need to allow for the fold over waist, and added two rows of gathering stitches at the top where it would connect with the waistband. For the waistband I cut two additional pieces. Both were 3 inches wide and the same length, which was:

1/2 waist measurement + four inches

I did that because I wanted the front smooth part of the waistband to reach around her sides and the back elasticized part to start a bit around the back instead of right at the sides. I pressed both strips in half, wrong sides together.
I made one piece into a tube just by sewing a 1/2 inch seam on the right side and threaded it with a shorter piece of elastic inside (the length of the elastic was what was left after you subtract the length of the front piece from the waist measurement and then add back an inch for seam). I sewed the elastic in place on both ends, so that now I had a gathered tube with elastic inside, with raw edges on the bottom.

I pressed the raw edges of the flat piece under on either end to have a finished edge, and then I sewed the two pieces together on each end by tucking the elasticized piece inside the flat piece. Now I had a waistband that was the size of Thing 2's waist with some stretchy give in the back.

At this point I tried it on Thing 2 to make sure my math skillz were on target. It fit fine. So I pinned the waistband on the skirt right sides together and raw edges aligned, pulled the gathering stitches to fit and sewed it on with a half inch seam.

It came out great, but I'll do two things next time:
  1. Use interfacing in the smooth waistband to add some body
  2. Use a wider waistband, just for looks

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Thing 1 is showing her detailed list while Thing 2 waits to pitch hers. I felt sorry for Santa with Thing 2's list. It was all phonetic spelling, so before we went I made helpful inline notes. Her entire list was filled with wishes for various dog toys, and each time we go to the library she leaves with only dog books, but if a real dog gets within ten feet of her she panics. I'm raising two city girls, I'm afraid.

I made their denim skirts the other day, and I'll blog those later. The light here is so dim lately, it's hard to get good pictures. I have several half-finished posts lined up, waiting for an opportune moment and some sunshine. I'm having a wonderful December. I've been birthdayed in style and I'm making lots of things that I just want to but don't have to. I'll show you at some point.

I hope you are having a wonderful December too, and can take some time out to soak up some cozy fireside time (or poolside, for my friends in the southern hemisphere), eat some special treats, and listen to Frank, Ella, Dean, Lena, George and Eartha croon some holiday tunes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

new favorite tradition

I found this advent set at ToysRUs in a random moment of shopping before Thanksgiving. I had Playmobil as a kid (actually, my mom still has it at her house, a set of castle folks that is still in mint condition after 35 years and several generations of play) so I have a special place in my heart for it. I wish I had a special place in my wallet to buy more. Great Scott, that stuff is expensive! But this set was on sale and I thought it was something my kids might enjoy doing.

Understatement. They ADORE it. Thing 1 has even days and Thing 2 has odd days, and it is the first thing they ask me to do each morning. A typical morning conversation: (Me: Reaching to hug them.) "Good morning, girlies." (Them: Rushing through a perfunctory hug in which they barely close in) "GoodMorningCanWeDoThePlaymobilCalendar?"

I also have this Target mirrored advent box on the mantel I fell in love with and scored at the 50% off sale after Christmas two years ago, so they each get to do one calendar door a day. That one is filled with candy this year. But they are much less thrilled with the candy then the slowly expanding Playmobil woodland scene. Gotta love that.

I confess I play with the woodland set when they are not looking. It is really cute. I have pondered many times doing a handmade countdown calendar one year, but motivation is low when I already have these two. Check out this one by talented Katie of So Happy. It's gorgeous.

While I'm throwing out links, if you are pondering making some felt cozies from my Gadget Cozy pattern, Peas In A Pod has posted a comprehensive pattern review. She is a gift-making machine, I tell you, and it is a very detailed review. Which of course I'm thrilled to say is completely positive about the pattern! Thanks, Mama Pea!

Friday, December 10, 2010

vintage book-o-rama

It came. And it is every bit as wonderful as I remember. All four seasons with poems and stories and songs. I forgot how I loved dramatic Mathilda Mouse and all the little problems she had that were gently solved by her sensible parents. And there's the poem at the end that I remembered (shown above). It has a whole other verse I didn't.

So while I was diligently searching for this book I saw some other books I could not resist. Some are childhood faves, but some I only bought because I love the artwork.

I never had 366 Goodnight Stories, but I fell in love with the cover. It is kinda like the Around The Year Storybook because each story corresponds to the day of the year (including Feb 29, hence 366 stories) and it is broken into sections according to season. The unusual part is the first page is March 21, because it says Spring is the first season, so the book ends with March 20th. The illustrations inside are done by a variety of artists, and a different style each time you turn the page.

I did have The Whispering Rabbit, and was so happy to find this copy on etsy finally. I just love every little story in the book.

There's the cover story illustrated by Lilian Obligado about a rabbit who swallows a bee as he is yawning. It goes to sleep in his throat, so he has to whisper. And he asks all his woodland friends how to get it out. I won't spoil the ending for you. :-)

And then a couple ones with dogs, that's illustrated by one of my favorites, Garth Williams.

And then the Golden Egg Book about a rabbit who keeps trying to open this egg he finds.

I also got this copy of the Cinderella I had as a kid, and this Pinocchio was in impulse buy because it looks like stills from those hokey stop-motion features I just adored. Adore.

I never saw this Pinocchio, but the stills are so cool. I think making a movie like that would be the best job in the whole world.

Do you experience a strange, warm feeling when you open a book you had as a kid and the illustrations you used to stare at so much hit you and you feel the way you did when you were holed up in a cozy nook somewhere as a young tyke looking at picture books?

Well, I do. I used to look and look at these pictures in Cinderella for minutes at a time. I think it is great that you can only see touches of the animated Cinderella film in some of the characters, and that these illustrations are very distinct unto themselves and not carbon copies of the film.

And I bought this one because I loved the three color style and 'tis the season. It came with a crinkly clear library binding, but I think I might take that off.

Did you know on day four it is Colly Birds and not Calling Birds? Yep, I looked it up when I saw this page in the book and thought surely it was a mistake. But a Colly Bird is a blackbird and was in the original text of the song.

Monday, December 6, 2010

as seen in...

I recently received two publications that have featured my softies, and thought I'd share. It's a great-yet-surreal feeling to see your work on the pages of such great mags.

Talented Austrian designer/illustrator/mom, Dolores Wally, puts together this beautiful kids and craft quarterly, KleinFormat. This is her third issue and I was very flattered that she asked to include the Molly Monkey pattern, translated into German:

Hey Robyn, see your head shot you took of me up there? Thanks again for that!

KleinFormat is a beautifully styled pub designed with the craft bloggy mom in mind, chock full of great images, gorgeous products for kids, and freebies like patterns and paper dolls. As a clever extra, the cover is also die cut into fun stickers. It's so well put together.

And wow, I turned the page and discovered I'm included in the mag alongside the likes of talented softie designer Suze Bauer of Revoluzzza, who also contributed a free pattern and tutorial for her adorable elves. Which makes me long to be even passably fluent in German, which I am so very not. Unilingual, me. A gap in my education, to be sure.

More images from the mag: Pretty paper animals and dolls...

Beautiful decor ideas...

And hey, there is a feature with my cyber-friend, Juliane of Fröken Skicklig, who makes the most wonderful dolls! Go and see her site, because this tiny glimpse is no good.

and back cover...

Every inch is so well designed. If you would like a copy for yourself, you can purchase it here.

And here's my girls' Ballerina Tooth Fairy gracing the intro page to an article about baby tooth care in Menta Magazine, a health publication based in Israel. I can't read Hebrew either, but it was still thrilling to see it featured.

It's amazing to me how small the world suddenly becomes via the internet. I routinely speak with kind folks from all around the world via my blog/shop and have enjoyed crafty emotional connections with strangers living thousands of miles away. It's a beautiful thing.