Monday, January 31, 2011

in which I ponder.

 This weekend brought me some new, bright and shiny fabric goodness.

new lovelies

Loving Haven's Edge by Tina Givens!  Those charms at top left are from the collection, as are the Walls in Turquoise and Walls in Violet.  I knew at first sight that these tonal geometrics were must haves.  So glad that Sew Love Fabrics stocked them! 

I also indulged in a little tasting of Soul Blossoms by Amy Butler.  That Delhi Blooms in Lime is a particular shade of green that is totally lacking in my stash. I tend to buy up olive green, but lime looks great with lots of colors!  In fact, I actually like it with all of these fabrics (excepting the charms).  That would be an interesting color palette for a quilt, would it not?

After making my Love pillow, I was completely out of Woodstock in passion from Innocent Crush.  And, I decided, I can't be through with that yet so here we are.  Below I picked up two more prints from Innocent Crush by Anna Maria Horner. Again, they're stash balancers - I have so much aqua blue and few "true" blues. Plus, I'm almost out of stripes. (must. have. stripes.)

But I can't ignore the brightest and most outspoken in the group...  Have you met Kumari Gardens?  This is Tarika in gem, my favorite of the collection.  She reminds me of clouds and summer and cotton candy.  I wonder what she'll grow up into someday?


Do you worry about that, those of you fellow fabric stashers?  And to those of you who don't buy fabric without a particular project in mind, does this kind of shopping seem reckless, I wonder? 

There's a very interesting discussion going on about stashing, stashbusting and scrapbusting at a new-to-me blog, Completely Cauchy.  She posed a question about the terms themselves and our motivations when creating within the context of these words.  The entire thread of comments is fascinating.  I replied:

I have used the turns “stashbusting” or “scrapbusting” without much introspection before. This is giving me reason to pause. Yes, there are negative connotations here that are not quite right. I do not have too much fabric. And, yet, at the same time, I rejoice when I make something entirely from my already owned fabrics – it feels so resourceful. Sometimes the fabric inspired a project. Sometimes a project requires a new fabric. But, when the two work hand in hand (when I have on hand what I need, as a previous commenter mentioned) the experience tends to make me happiest of all. There is a satisfaction to be gained in using what you have.

OK, I’ll also admit that my scrap accumulation does make me a little nervous. I don’t like the feeling that I may not be able to ever keep up with “using” all of the scraps that are created by my sewing. But, the simple solution is to give them away to someone less scrap-blessed. Is that scrapbusting? Let’s say we need a new word.

I'd love to hear your take on all this.  I suppose the word "stash" might imply something hidden away, not to be used, to be hoarded.  I'd like to say that I don't think this way about my fabrics at all, but just the other day I was processing that I should piece together the backing for my next quilt, rather than buying new yardage.  And, I felt an odd mixture of "yes, wonderful, let's use these lovely fabrics" and "oh, no, then they'll be gone!" 

But I think that's normal, right?  Afterall, that's kind of how I feel about my children getting older.  I rejoice in each new milestone and the way in which our relationship evolves with their maturity.  On the other hand, I wish I could pause it all because I don't want another stage to be gone. 

Back in fabric land...  Perhaps the terms "stashbusting" and "scrapbusting" derive from our need for a little push to go ahead and use up beautiful fabrics.  And then the idea of "stashing" describes our joy in replenishing our creative resources for another inspired moment.  One thing I know for sure - I don't buy fabric to "have" it, just as I don't make quilts for them to sit in a cupboard.  I appreciate Cauchy's prompt for self-reflection.  Today seems meant for just that.


*****************************
Did you see, did you see, did you see?  Anna announced our January winner to be Jolene of Blue Elephant Stitches!  Her beautiful dresden plate pillow was made extra special by her love for her grandma. Congrats, Jolene!

Rita of Red Pepper Quilts is going to kick off our February party with an announcement of the prize(s) on her blog.  That's right - plural - cause Rita's stitched up a little something extra for you!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

simple stitches

Oh, I'm in heaven! This morning our angel of a cat, Pompeii, watched the kids for me.

simply the best cat ever.

So, I got to spend my time here

simple pleasures

making this

Keep it Simple {for my SUTK partner}

for my Spicing up the Kitchen swap partner.  Now I just need to find a tutorial or some tips on how to finish off the back.  The extra fabric is just tucked behind for the picture.  Oooooh, this weekend is off to a great start!

simple love

Just keepin it simple.  Wishing you a lovely weekend!

Friday, January 28, 2011

my Sunburst Garland

Uh-oh, looks like I'm sitting on the naughty stool, cause I said I'd list ten favorite pillows, and I only listed nine.  It's true - I confess!  But, you know, the darn mosaic-maker won't allow for ten.  If I had listed a 10th pillow, it most surely should have been Junebug's rainbow pillow, by popular vote.  Apologies all around!  Next time it'll be 9 and the rules have been duly updated.

{Stepping off the stool now and promising to be good}

Guess what? I have something to show you!

Last night it came to me that I CLEARLY do not want to combine my bright and not-bright sunburst squares.  I haven't touched the yarn since that post last week, when I invited your shiny thoughts on my dilemma.  And, then - poof - the decision appeared in my mind with mysterious clarity.  I love how giving myself some space will do that sometimes.  Doesn't that happen for you?

So, yes, I decided to separate the sunburst squares, and AND I also decided that what I really, really wanted was to make something with them now.  And, so, a garland. 

Sunburst Garland

I do like!  These are the brighter squares and they are so happy, are they not?  The bright springy colors are just the thing to battle the winter gloomies.  I know that it has been said around blogdom, "I can't wait for spring" and "I'm so ready for spring", but you haven't heard that here.  Not-uh.

Today I realized that's because I'm subconsciously associating spring with the duty to plant another vegetable garden.  Gardening seems to equal less crafting.  Tis a dreadful concept.  Quick, let's move on.

bright & happy

To connect the sunburst squares I simply crocheted a long series of chain stitch for starters, then single crocheted or slip stitched along the tops (slip stitches helped keep things square-ish) and used 6 chain stitches between each sunsquare. There happens to be a nail in the brick above our fireplace from some time long ago, so I fastened my garland as fate would have it and called it a day.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Favorites {Blogger's Pillow Party}

Ok, friends, entries have officially closed for January's Pillow Party.  Thanks to all of you who participated!  I'd say our party is off to a great start, with lots of blog-hopping and inspiration flowing.  The pillows you're crafting are so diverse! 

Today I forced myself to whittle the entries down to 9 of my most favoritist pillows.  And, that was. not. easy.  But someone has to do the dirty work.  So....

January Favorites {Blogger's Pillow Party}

 Starting at the top left, they are:

1.  a mod mosaic pillow in Good Folks by Don't Call Me Betsy.
2.  a purple dresden plate pillow for Grandma by Blue Elephant Stitches
3.  a trellis-inspired pillow in Central Park by The Rebel Homemaker
4.  the "love machine" pillow by Maureen Cracknell Handmade
5.  a pluses pillow in Innocent Crush by i like orange, too!
6.  a fresh, fussy-cut pillow by i have to say...
7.  a picket fence-inspired pillow by Made on Maple
8.  a Sherbet Pip log cabin pillow by Belle + Bee
9.  a (crocheted!) owl pillow for Valentine's by Meghan

Oh, and there were many close seconds!  Now, our January judge - the very talented Anna of Noodlehead - has to choose one single pillow to win that stack of Innocent Crush donated by Sew Love Fabrics.  Look out on Anna's blog for the announcement!  And while you're there, be sure to check out her tutorials.  She's got quite a collection of really, super good ones!

I know many of you wanted to make a pillow and didn't quite get it wrapped up in time.  Never fear - there's next month to play along!  Rita of Red Pepper Quilts is our February judge and she's choosing a pretty stack of fabrics as your prize.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I'm curious to know which was YOUR favorite pillow?  You can see all the entries here.  Maybe your votes will turn the eye of the judge?  ya never know...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

done.

Thank-you all so, soo much for your kind words about yesterday's post!  It sounds like it is a topic on many of our minds.  I'm glad it struck a cord.  Would you like to see some sewing now?

Along the road, my swap project turned into an improv project.  And then, my improv project took on a water theme.  So, naturally, my quilting followed suit and there it is.

Wavy quilting

I just hope my partner doesn't mind.  Sometimes fabrics are bossy, and that was the case here.  They really insisted and with all this aqua blue and seaweed green, who was I to argue?  Do you like it partner?

hello Kid's craft table =)

Now the details.  (and, I'm shooting this on my kid's craft table, FYI)

improv blocks three

I completed all three improv blocks over the weekend.  It was challenging to force them to finish approximately the same size.  I suppose that makes sense, but it took me by surprise since this was my first time.  In the end, blocks #2 and #3 couldn't help but be a few inches longer than block #1.  Soooo, I eventually got the snazzy idea of putting the big blocks on the back and making this table runner reversible.

hope you like it, partner!

My favorite side features that first improv block and a big sea of natural linen.  The other side has the two larger blocks, set just a bit askew in the linen sashing for fun.

the "back" side.

My solids were Kona bahama blue, peridot and cactus.  The Michael Miller ta dots were from my stash (available here and here), as was the Nicey Jane Lindey Leaf in green that I used to bind things up.  A thanks to Katie for the OOP Heather Ross scraps that I won in a giveaway a few months ago.  They came in quite handy!

1 Table Runner - it's a start.

Well, this little runner is a nice start for Spicing up the Kitchen.  I promise to get to those hoops soon, but for now I'm itching to start a new quilt.  It's been since November that I've started one.  I can hardly believe it - it seems like much longer!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How do you get it all done?

"How do you get it all done?"  It's been asked before, and my answer usually begins with "I don't."  Because, no one does.  But I the rest of that answer is dancing around my brain just now.  Do you mind if I share?

Tonight I'm thinking about Simplicity Parenting:  Using the Simple Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne.  I read it first about 1 1/2 years ago, and found it both affirming and inspiring.  The book speaks with friendly respect to today's modern parent, challenging one to create a simple, peaceful home in the midst of today's fast-paced world.  Hip, hip hurray for childhood!  I'm rereading the book now for book club, which meets tomorrow night at my house.  As I take notes for discussion topics, I find myself repeatedly applying this book to me.  How simple is my life?  Where can I simplify?

Simplifying and saying "no" - if you want to get what's truly important "done" you have to go there.  And so, for starters, I get things done because I don't watch a ton of TV (typically 0-2 hours a night), I don't run a lot of errands (online shopping!), I don't keep my house spotless (weekly cleaning on essentials, the rest when it bugs me), and I don't run around aimlessly.  Yeah, I have a plan. 

Lately, my "plan" has been in flux.  My schedule has changed a bit with my online boutiques and I'm trying to fit in more time for Stitched in Color.  That plus accommodations for the kid's sickness has left me feeling pretty off kilter.  Reading "Simplicity Parenting" reminded me how important a sense of rhythm is to my life.

Rhythm is not the same as "schedule".  Schedule sounds like timelines, due dates that box you in and appointments you cannot miss. In contrast, a rhythm is a workflow, a pattern that supports you and a "way" that shows you where to step next.  Like, why rack your brain about "what's for dinner" every night when you could plan your whole week's meals in one gutsy shot?  Why figure out every day when to sew, when to go and when Suzie should have a snack?  It works so much better if you have a plan based on your true priorities

My own rhythm includes habits that keep the house running smoothly, such as Sunday's week long meal planning and grocery shopping trip, Tuesday is laundry day, and Wednesday or Friday's I clean.  Then there are those habits that keep me connecting with my loved ones:  times for storytelling, times for read alouds, times for play dates, times to facilitate projects/art for my littles and times for spending with Brandon.  But I could not survive all that if I didn't also schedule for myself DAILY breaks (i.e. "rest time") to recharge and relax with sewing, blogging or stealing a sweet treat. And the exercise - can't forget that.  It does so much good, on all fronts. 

And so, life is busy - for all of us.  No matter how you slice it.  For me, I have to take care not to let my love for blog reading steal time from all the rest.  At the moment, I need to admit that I'm trying to follow too many blogs.  Which are the ones that are most inspiring, most uplifting, most real?  I also need to work on truly being present when I'm supposed to be with my littles.  I've been known to take a wrong turn in the car for having sewing on my mind!  If there's anything that I don't want to miss, it's the privilege to be "mom" to my children.

If you are still reading, bless you!  This post is a far cry from the usual stitchy goodness I love to serve up.  But I hope that it has been helpful to you in some way.  I hope you don't mind!  You mamas should check the library for Simplicity Parenting. I think you'll find it inspiring too.

'Tis a gift to be simple.  'Tis a gift to be free.  'Tis a gift to find yourself where you want to be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

pilllows all around!

dumtadadum... just checkin my blog reader this morning and...

Say what?

Not 1, but 2 pillow events announced this very, very day.  You would think it's a grand pillow-loving conspiracy.  It's not.  It's just comes naturally, you see?

Annela announced a Pillow Talk Blog Hop, where Moda fabric designers are going to make autobiographical pillows.  That should be interesting.  Really!

And, Sew Mama Sew announced that February is Pillow Month.  Complete with prizes for submitting your creations.  Now, I'm thinking this is definitely a win-win for all of us at Blogger's Pillow Party.  In February, you'll be able to submit your pillow to TWO contests to win.  Yeah that!

Speaking of Blogger's Pillow Party, all January entries must be made by this Wednesday,  January 26th.  So, if you want a chance at winning this glorious 1/2 yard stack of Innocent Crush, get stitchin tonight!  That's a total of 5 1/2 yards donated by Sew Love Fabrics. Do we love?  Oh, yes!  There's still time.  Yes, my dear, there's still time!

For details on how to enter go here.  Good luck!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

this weekend.

Hello, dearies! How are you? Oh, my, is the weekend over already?

Thanks for your well-wishes about the sickies. My kids are still coughing, coughing, coughing, but other symptoms are very mild. It's a funny cold though, cause their appetites are hit or miss and they've been so tired. Tonight we put them both to bed at 6:15. Seriously! I guess that means I should have a productive night! Well, I should include that our kids normally go to bed at 7 - 7:30 (yep, that's my secret if you've ever wondered how I get things done...).

the incessant scraps

So, anyways, I did make 2 more improv blocks on Saturday. Tonight I aim to actually make something with them, but I don't know how much I should show you. My secret partner may be lurking around, making guesses. Or, maybe, she's clueless, who knows?

two for you.

I can show you this mini batch of scrappy cards. I forgot to bring my iron to scrapbooking night on Saturday (and, would you know, no one else brought one - sheesh). So, I didn't get much done.

scraps = cards, slowly.

Making scrappy cards is always fun, but it comes up a wee bit depressing every time how few scraps I used in the end. I know, I know, I'm like a broken record on the scrap front! But, hey, I actually have a plan. And it involves you (shocker). I'm thinking a ticker tape scrappy quilt-along is in order a bit later in the year. Raise your hand if you're game!

Until then, I'll just keep making more scraps. And here I go again...

Friday, January 21, 2011

a little Improv

a slow morning for us sickies

The sickies that have been going around, finally caught up to us this week.  Today the littles and I stayed in our pajamas til lunch time and spent a good part of the morning playing with noodles and food coloring.

happy noodles (do not eat!)

Have you heard of Whipstitch's blog series, Sewing With Kids?  The first lesson was dying and stringing noodle necklaces.  Classic, yes?  Since we homeschool, this activity was new to my kiddos.  Like Deborah pointed out, it did require patience - it takes awhile for those noodles to take the dye (Aria says 11 minutes, to be precise) and then they must dry.  But, really, this was just right for the slow kind of morning we needed.

what do you think, partner?

After lunch, during the hallowed "rest time", I worked on a project for my super secret Spicing up the Kitchen swap partner.  Here are the fabrics I pulled.  For starters I'm making improv blocks.  This is my very first time doing a self-directed improv design.  I'm feeling unsure of myself, but excited!  Elizabeth Hartman's recent series of posts showing her improv style play-by-play came along at just the right time, because I already knew I should do some improv for this swap partner. 

fabrics

Thanks to Elizabeth's inspiration, I decided to start by narrowing down the fabrics I wanted to use for the first block.  And, I also fussy cut the Owl & the Pussycat  (which is still available at Sew Love Fabrics!) in the sizes that I wanted to use. 

This is when Elizabeth typically sketches out her block concept.  I can't imagine taking the time to do that!  I did get a basic idea of how I'd put things together.  I was thinking 2 or 3 columns with the moon at top left and the boat at bottom right.  But, that was it.  I was ready to get stitchin!

framing

I used some solids to frame the fussy cut pieces and began building out the columns. With the first additions of fabric I kept the angles pretty square.  But after that I started trimming at slight angles for effect.

columns

Then I realized that a sliver of the Heather Ross fishy print would be fun below the boat with some added blue.

my first Improv block!

From there I just kept adding until my columns looked long enough.  I decided 2 was all I needed.  The finished block is about 13" square.  It's not fabulous, but it's pretty cute.  And, the process was so relaxed!  I think I like this kind of improv that centers around "story" prints.

Liam had left his noodle necklace on the table when he went to rest time.  Made my smile how it matches today's block.  Life's so funny like that.

cute.

I hope my partner likes what I've done!  I'm gonna add two more improv blocks and then... well, you'll have to wait and see, partner (wink).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

absolutely worth it.

X-String Bee Blocks

Last night I made this set of blocks for the Faith circle of do. Good Stitches.  As I stitched away, cutting, measuring, pressing, etc. a flock of thoughts passed through my mind.  I'll have to admit that navy/blue/red/yellow is really, really not my color scheme.  And, in retrospect, I don't think I was in the mood for a piecy, traditional block.  But beyond those small gripes, I was thinking about how truly amazing it is that women from around the world are working together this month to make a nautical-inspired quilt for a woman battling colon cancer.  I mean, how random is that?  She'll never know us, but when this month's quilter gifts her an intricate quilt handmade for her (not me), I know - I really KNOW - that she's going to feel overwhelmingly loved and encouraged.  And that's worth one night of stitching.  Absolutely.

do. Good Stitches
Quilted by Jeni for the Hope Circle
In case you don't know, do. Good Stitches is a virtual charity quilting bee that I started summer of last year.  There are currently 5 circles, each 10 members strong, with each circle making one quilt each month for various charities local and international.  And, if you're a modern quilter, you can totally get involved!  There is an ongoing wait list that you can join by filling out our New Members Form.  Before you fill that out, please read the details of how this particular bee works.  If you still have questions, just ask!

You + Me
Quilted by Jennifer for the Love Circle
What I love about this bee (beyond that we're helping people!) is that I get to work with friends to create fun, modern quilts, but those quilts aren't going to sit around in a stack in our houses just seeing the light of day every few winters.  No, these babies are going to be USED.  They're going to people who don't already have a handmade quilt.  In many cases they're going to children that don't have much at all.  So, for me, it's all the fun of a quilting bee but with so much purpose.  I love that!

tree quilt
Quilted by Ara Jane for the Love Circle
One member of do. Good Stitches has suggested that I organize a new circle of Australian quilters to make quilts ongoing for those effected by the flood.  I would love to do so, but I've yet to find new Australian volunteers.  If you're local and interested, can you please be in touch?  And, if you know an Aussie blogger who you feel would be a great fit, maybe send her my way? 

completed September "Hope" quilt
Quilted by Krista for the Hope Circle
Now that do. Good Stitches has been running along for awhile, there are a slew of fun collaborative quilts we've made that you can find in our Flickr pool.  I've sprinkled some of my favorites throughout this post. 

Mod Mosaic Bee Blocks

This week I also made this set of improv blocks for the Love circle.  Elizabeth of Oh, Fransson! is quilting this month and had us make blocks based on her Mod Mosaic pattern.  This was a fun and liberating experience!  I'm looking forward to trying out some improv blocks again soon for my Spicing Up the Kitchen swap partner.  Happy Sewing to all!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shiny Thoughts Welcome

new yarn!

First of all, these are my new playthings: shrimp pink (7804),  gelato yellow (2439),  burnt orange (9465B) and orange sherbet (7825) in Cascade 220.  I'm so glad that I caved and ordered these because they're actually pairing nicely with some of the colors I was having trouble using, specifically a kelly green and royal blue.  It was a relief to see that the kelly green and royal blue weren't "bad" colors, they just needed brighter friends.

a happy place

So, here and there I've been catching a moment to make more sun squares.  I had to get a bigger yarn basket!  And my armchair pin cushion is doubling as a crochet notion holder as well.  This corner is such a happy place to be!

wishing for a design wall!

I've been trying to make each sun square different than the others, so I've found a side table to keep them on for now.  If I had a design wall, it would definitely be full of crochet!  What do you think of the look so far?  The colors all together like this echo my Good Folks Colorbrick quilt, actually.

So, I'm trying to decide if I really love this mish-mash of color for it's scrappy goodness, or if I would like to use more intention in my color choices.  When I started working with the new bright yarns, I realized that I could divide my squares into two groups.  Roughly...

sun squares darker

Darker sun squares, with deep color. And...

sun squares brighter

Brighter sun squares, with more lively color.  If I go this route, I would be more thoughtful in creating future sun squares that fit "squarely" in either camp.  And, I really, really haven't been able to choose.

Part of the problem is that I also can't decide if I'm going to make these into a pillow cover and a blanket, or just go straight for the blanket.  I think a sun squares pillow would be just stunning and would be such a fun addition of texture to my couch.  So much personality, you know!  On the other hand, I wonder if the yarn would get worn-out from being rubbed against as a pillow?  I'd hate to put so much time and money into something only to have it get yucky looking in a year's time. If I was doing a pillow, I'd opt for a focused color palette (probably the darker one for my living room) and save the rest of the sun squares for a blanket someday.

On the blanket side of the question, I've been dreaming of merging the sun squares with a quilt, perhaps by making rows of crochet (backed with fabric) and injecting rows of fabric too.  It would be fun to make something different, something more "mine", but I wonder if I would like a simple all-crochet afgan better.  They are what inspired me to make sun squares at all, after all.

But then, I really don't need another blanket.  What do you all do with so many quilts anyways? I only need one!

So, sorry to be wondering aloud.  I know that I just need to decide already!  It's just you all are my friends and if you were in my house (and you kind of are) I would be talking your ear off just like this hoping for you to give me some shiny new thought that would help me make up my mind! 

Ok, I think I'm done rambling now.  Shiny thoughts welcome! 

P.S.  If you want, you can find the sun squares tutorial I'm using here.  And, if you're new to crochet, I recommend learning from Youtube or from my favorite crochet book How to Crochet by Pauline Turner.  It's really worth owning - filled to the brim with techniques and stitches that would wow an advanced crocheter.  But also has clear pictures and text for learning crochet basics.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snip Snip.

Ever since the day inspiration struck, I've had it on my mind to try my hand at values.  I thought I might make a twin bed quilt for Liam in this style, but I'm glad I tried it small-scale first.  Not that I'm dissatisfied, just that a pillow really did meet my "need".  Pillow covers are so good like that.  And, hey, they don't need binding!

Snip Snip Values Pillow

Oh, guess, what?  This time I put in the invisible zipper without even glancing at directions.  I know.... isn't that positively shocking.  This was my 3rd invisible zipper into a pillow and it went in without a single naughty stitch.  I told Brandon I should apparently write tutorials for all the techniques that scare me - cause you can't help but learn if you teach!  Oh, is that backwards?  blush.

pillows: so easy, so fun!

And this baby did use nearly all of my medium-sized scraps.  Woohoo!  After piecing together the values pattern I found it was a hair short for my pillow form.  I dug out this Wonderland Snip Snip in Chai that I stashed ages ago to frame the front and back the pillow as well.  And, maybe I'm a dork, but I felt that the scissors couldn't be more perfect for this scrappy, quilty, kind of fussy design.  It suits.

and the back

My bonafide quilt-hating (otherwise awesome) husband likes the back better.  He thinks that bugs me, but I really like the back too. 

In case you want to know, this pillow cover finished at about 18.5".  I started with 3" squares and then paired dark and light values to make value-oriented half square triangles.  The center of my values design is offset at the top right, as is the Snip Snip frame (it's thicker at the top and left side and thinner at the bottom and right side).  You can learn more about making a values quilt and see some examples at my original "Inspiration" post

Well, hope you like it friends!  I've got lots more to show you this week.  Is tomorrow really Wednesday already? Yikes!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Getting Hooped

Dear Partner,

I am totally excited to be making something for your kitchen, as your secret partner in the Spicing Up the Kitchen Swap.  You said "hoops" and I said, "YES!"  Oh, goodie.

Problem is, I'm not sure where to start.  You may not obviously don't have room for me to go crazy making something like this...

sewing room decor update
by {Brooke} april two eighty

No, I think it'll have to be 2-3 modest hoops at most. And, hoops can be anything. Anything, anything at all! They can be lots of tiny patchwork. Imagine this as a hoop!

Vivaldi finished
by Lizzy House
They can be pictures made with fabric applique

Scrappy {Hoops} Swap
by Where the Orchids Grow

Or, embroidery, obviously. Or a combination too...

Really, I have no idea where to start! My brain is currently running in circles. Help!

Here is a mosaic of some of my favorite hoops dug up today in Flickrland.

Hoop Inspiration for the Spicing Up the Kitchen Swap

With these and the other ideas I've thrown at you all spinning around in your head, can you tell me what comes up tippity top on your list of hoopy love?

Bonus points for how many hoops would suit your space!

xoxo,

Rachel

Sunday, January 16, 2011

a Winner & a Laugh

On this sunny Sunday afternoon, it is most officially time to announce the winner of the Swoon fabric giveaway.  The lucky one will be selected from my pool of Google followers, in a highly scientific manner.  And, the winner is....  Danielle of The Crafted Things.  Oh, you lucky girl!  Enjoy!

For all the rest of us who aren't going home with new fabric, let's try to keep our chins up, shall we?  You can still enter a pillow you've made into Blogger's Pillow Party for your chance to win a 1/2 yard stack of the Innocent Crush "The Swept Away" palette by Anna Maria Horner!  "Wow" & "Yum!" seem fitting here.  Make your entry by January 26th.

"Alas", you say, "I have not a pillow to enter."  Oh, my!  Well, would you like to see some silly things I crocheted years ago?  I did promise to procure some pictures.  And, perhaps a laugh is in order?

Drumroll please (see, I saved it for this)....

Crochet past:  poncho (why?)

the Poncho.  Somewhere around 2003 ponchos were suddenly chic.  I'm serious!  They were flying out of the fancy designer clothing store where I worked in sales.  This was my first indulgence in "nice" yarn.  So easy to make.  Destined never to be worn.  I've considered taking it apart for the yarn.  What would you do?

Crochet Past:  oh-so-stiff baby dress

the Baby Dress.  Ahhhh, I made this for Aria, my first baby.  It's crocheted in a sturdy white cotton yarn with delicate blue accents.  Practical?  No.  But I was deluded by pregnancy hormones. 

Somewhere about halfway through making this, I realized that using the yarn specified in a pattern can be really, really important. 

Crochet Past:  Seriously.

Because, this dress is so incredibly stiff that it stands up on it's own.  In denial, I stubbornly kept crocheting.  And, my husband kept laughing.  No, I never attempted to put it ON my child.  6 years later, I'm laughing too.

Crochet past:  the baby blanket

the Baby Blanket.  Of course, I made baby blankets.  Who doesn't?  This purple wonder was Aria's, though again, I rarely ever used it.  I dislike crochet blankets for babies because their little hands and feet get caught in the holes. 

The flowers?  Don't ask me why I made them.  And I have no idea what to do with them. 

And there you have it - the ghosts of my crochet past.  The process of making was delightful, but nothing I made seemed really practical or well-loved in the end.  And that's just not good enough for me. 

Crossing fingers that my current crochet project will meet a better fate!

Friday, January 14, 2011

the Invisible Zipper Tutorial

(which also happens to be the final step of the Love Pillow tutorial)

a cozy home for Love

Step 1: Believe

You can do this. It is NOT too hard. This is my second time putting an invisible zipper in a pillow and I have decided that it is actually faster than any other closure method I've tried. I learned how from my friend Katie's tutorial, but I've added lots of extra pics here that may help you avoid the twisted zipper scenario I experienced that first time around.

Step 2:  Prepare

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You'll need two equally sized pillow fronts and backs. If you're following the Love Pillow tutorial, attach your finished patch to your pillow front with a simple machine stitch at 1/4" from the edge.  Check that your pillow front and back are square and equally sized before continuing.

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Attach a zipper foot to your sewing machine.  Mine is a regular zipper foot, not a foot specially designed for the invisible zipper.  It works quite nicely, thank you. 

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Gather a ruler, your pins and bust out your invisible zipper.  Prepare it for attachment by ironing the zipper coils flat.  Invisible zippers are "invisible" because the coils are designed to curl in towards the wrong side of the zipper.  The right side of the zipper is the one with the zipper pull showing.  So, open your zipper and iron those coils flat.  Use pressure!  Be careful not to melt the polyester coils.  Leave the zipper open.

Step 3:  Attach Zipper to Front

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Lay your pillow front on your work surface with the right side up.  Place the zipper on the bottom edge with the right side down and the coils pointed towards the center of the pillow.  Space the bottom, open end of the zipper tape 1" from the side of your pillow.  Use your ruler to be precise.

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Place a pin in the zipper to mark the spot at which the coils end.  The coils stop before the end of the zipper tape.  Find that spot and anchor the zipper with a pin, being sure that the end of the zipper tape is still 1" from the side of your pillow.

Now, pin along the entire length of the zipper, with pins going longways so that they won't be in the way.  Don't be stingy with the pins!

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At the sewing machine, you'll start sewing at that first perpendicular pin, the one that marks where the coils stopped.  Your needle should be going along the left side of your zipper foot, with your pillow extending out to the left. 

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Your zipper foot might have a tiny little ledge built in to serve as a coil guide, like mine does.  Make sure that the coil is snug against the guide.  If not, just use the edge of your foot as a guide.  Either way, before you sew check that the needle is positioned close to the coils, but not in them.  You want to get as close to the coils as possible.

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Sew, backstitch and keep sewing until you can't go any farther because the zipper pull is in the way.  Backstitch.

Step 4:  Attach Zipper to Back

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Lay your pillow back on your work surface, right side up.  Lay your pillow front on your pillow back with right sides together, aligning all edges and corners.  If your fabrics are directional, check that "up" is the same for pillow back and front.

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Now, grab the side of your zipper that is NOT attached yet and place the right side of that zipper onto the right side of your pillow back.  I fold my pillow front out of the way a bit for easy access.

Measure in 1" from the side, as you did before, and pin the bottom of the zipper tape at that point.  Once again, the zipper coils should be facing in towards the center of the pillow.  As before, place a perpendicular pin at the point where the zipper coils end to mark where you should start sewing.  Pin along the length of the zipper with plenty of pins.

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OK, now check that your zipper is not twisted.   Look at the part where the zipper pull is sitting.  Does it look  like it could be closed?  That's a good thing (wink).   

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At the machine, you need to switch the zipper foot over to allow you to stitch on the right side of the zipper foot.  For my machine, I have to take it off and reattach it aligned to the new side.  Your pillow back will extend to the right side of the needle.  Get ready to start sewing at the perpendicular pin, there at the bottom of your zipper coils.  Make sure that your needle stitches quite close to the coils. 

Sew, backstitch and sew some more until you can't go any farther because the zipper pull is in the way. Backstitch.

Step 5:  Sew that Pillow Closed

We're almost there!

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First, close your zipper (yeah!!!).  Now, lay out your pillow cover with right sides together.  Place pins on both sides of your zipper to stabilize it nice and flat.  When you place those pins, pull out the zipper tape ends and the zipper pull section - both parts of the zipper that did not get sewn down.  Keep these parts sticking out while you continue to pin and sew the pillow.

Next try to align all four corners of your pillow.  Hopefully, when you do so your zipper still looks nice and flat.  However, it's more important that your zipper lays flat than that your corners are perfectly aligned.  If necessary, leave your corners a bit "off".  The difference will be hidden in the inseam. Pin the corners

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Reach in and open the zipper about most of the way open.  Then, and only then, finish pinning all the way around the pillow.

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At the machine, switch your zipper foot for a regular foot, or even better - a walking foot!  Stitch the rest of the pillow together with a 1/2" seam, being sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.  Where to start stitching?  Get pretty close to the stitching line for the zipper, but don't try to get right, right above it.  Remember, you're stitching at 1/2" from the edge, while the zipper was attached closer.  Don't sweat it.

After stitching, clip the corners with pinking shears (or regular shears).  Turn the pillow cover right side out, by pulling it through the open zipper.  Poke the corners out.  Press and stuff it.

the Love Pilow

Congratulations, you made a very lovely pillow cover with a sassy hidden zipper!  It may have felt cumbersome the first time around, but give this skill another go and you'll find it goes much easier. It's definitely a skill worth learning!

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This time around, I think I didn't sew quite close enough to the coils on one side.  So, my zipper may not be truly invisible, but I'm still smiling.

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P.S.  If you made a Love Pillow, please do share your creation at the Stitched in Color photo pool.  I'd love to see it!  New readers can find the other Love Pillow steps here and here
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