Baskets!

For the last few months, I’ve been working on what I’ve been calling “Operation Organized Sewing Room”. At all the houses we’ve lived in so far, I’ve only had a corner of a room for all my crafting things, and now that I have a whole room, I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out where to put everything, with storage being an especially big issue. I like to have stuff at least partially visible, because I often don’t know what I need until I see it. It basically always looks like fabric just exploded in there, especially the scraps everywhere that I refuse to throw away. I wanted to sort them by color (I’ve found that works better for me than say, by shape), so I needed a lot of containers, and those containers had to be pretty but functional – this is going to be my studio for the foreseeable future, so I want it to look nice! I tried a few different variations on a basket, but my absolute favorite is rope bowls.

MeasuredandSlow_1

I’d seen some pictures around Pinterest and they looked fun, so I grabbed a couple of packages of clothesline and started experimenting…and now I’m hooked! If you’ve ever made coil bowls out of pottery, it’s a very similar build process; you slowly coil the rope, zigzaging with your sewing machine as you go, and then when you feel the base is big enough, you just tip the whole thing up to be parallel with your machine and keep sewing. It’s like magic! This is the shape you get with no manipulation at all, just letting the bowl shape how it wants to:

Rope Baskets 9

But you can also vary the tension of the rope as you sew to make more deliberate shapes:

MeasuredandSlow_5

Rope Baskets 3

And, to make cool patterns, you can cover the rope in scraps of fabric:

White Bowl Pink and White Basket

I finish my bowls with embroidery thread to close the ends, but lots of people just go back and forth with the thread to secure it, which looks cute too.

Rope Baskets 8

I use variegated thread on most of mine, because I really like the way it looks, but really any thread works (I’d recommend 40 weight or thicker; anything thinner than that kind of disappears into the rope). I’m having a lot of fun working out how to different shapes, adding handles, and (maybe my favorite thing), making yarn bowls!

tumblr_ntrpsi44e01t6ct2xo1_1280Basket 29

Some of these are already listed in the Etsy shop, and there will be a lot more in my future, so keep checking back for new listings. Happy Friday and have a good weekend, everyone!

241 Tote

A few months ago, my friend Kelly asked me to make her wife Aivanett something for her birthday. She wanted an accessory of some kind, and after looking at some patterns, we settled on the 241 Tote from one of my favorite designers, Anna Graham of Noodlehead. I was really excited to make it; I’d had the pattern for a few months but had been too busy to make one, so this was a perfect excuse – and this pattern did not disappoint! Here’s how my version turned out:Aqua and red and white polka dots 241 Tote by Noodlehead

Kelly picked the main fabric with the cute kitchen stuff (Mix Things Up from Robert Kaufman), and then I matched coordinating colors for the pockets. I took a chance on the red with white polka dots, as I was ordering online (from Hawthorne Threads, my very, very, very favorite online retailer), and I got really lucky that it looked great with the aqua. I had the gray (RJR Cotton Supreme in Gray Stone) in my stash already – it’s my preferred neutral, and I thought the bag needed a calmer color/pattern to balance out the two brighter fabrics. I lined the inside with some Letterpress by Michael Miller – yes, I still have this in my stash and yes, I will continue to use it on everything!

Inside of 241 Tote with letterpress by Michael Miller fabric

I opted to do just one front pocket on each side, as I didn’t want the zippers to overwhelm the pattern, and I lined each of those pockets with more polka dots:

Showing red and white polka dot fabric lining the pocket of a 241 Tote

I love those pockets – they’re just the right size for a phone or some keys, or even a small wallet, and having them on the outside saves you from having to dig around for small stuff. The only significant change I made was to extend the strap to make it crosswise rather than a shoulder strap, which I did by cutting two strap pieces rather than one; one in the gray fabric, which I then cut in half, and one in the aqua fabric. I then sewed a gray piece onto each end of the aqua and continued with the instructions as written, just with a strap twice as long.

Aqua and red and white polka dots 241 Tote by Noodlehead

The external pieces are lined with fusible fleece, which I really liked – the bag came out fairly sturdy without being too bulky, and it made the shoulder strap pretty padded and (hopefully) more comfortable.

The pattern itself is, like all of Anna’s patterns, very clear and easy to follow, and the size was great for an every day bag. Each piece fit together perfectly, which can sometimes be a problem with patterns that have a lining, and I think it would be fairly easy for a beginner to follow. It took about a day and a half altogether from start to finish, which isn’t bad in my experience. I liked it enough that I’m still planning on making one for me, but I think I might enlarge it just a little, as I’m most often carrying a project to work on and might need a little more space.

Aqua and red and white polka dots 241 Tote by Noodlehead

And now, a little shop news! If you haven’t visited in a while, I’ve got some pretty cute yarn bowls in there, along with a few other baskets:

Pink yarn bowl, rope basket

And, both the Kaleidoscope wall hanging

Kaleidescope rainbow quilted wall hanging using apple core EPP

and the Kisses wall hanging

Wall hanging quilt with lips on it, andy warhol inspired

are up for sale! There’s a bunch of other new stuff too, so head over to Etsy to check it out, and have a great Thursday!

The Cloud Blankie

Hello hello lovelies! I hope everyone is enjoying your summer weather (or winter weather, for my friends in the southern hemisphere!); it’s been very warm here in Seattle, but we’re finally have a little break today, and it reminded me that I hadn’t posted about my latest blanket. I’m calling it “The Cloud Blanket” because I think the stitch looks kind of like a cloud, and its made with a super soft and cushy yarn in sky colors…or at least the skies here in the Pacific Northwest!

Tunisian shell stitch crochet baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns Cherub Chunky in blue, gray, cream

This blanket started out as an experiment; I saw the Tunisian Shell Stitch Shawl and was intrigued by how complicated and pretty it looked, so I looked it up (this post is an excellent tutorial) and started practicing. I really hadn’t been intending to make a project, just play around with the stitch and see how it worked, but…well, I think we all know how that goes! I absolutely loved how it started looking, and a design slowly started taking shape in my head, so I went with it. Once I got going, I decided it would be a baby blanket for a special little guy who was due in a couple of months – I still hadn’t decided on a baby shower present, and it seemed perfect.

Tunisian shell stitch crochet baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns Cherub Chunky in blue, gray, cream

I used Cascade Yarns Cherub Chunky because it’s what I had on hand, and I ended up sticking with it, because it’s just so darn cushy. It’s a newer yarn from them, a chunkier version of their cherub line (also check out the Cherub Aran, Cherub Baby, and Cherub DK…I love them all), which I appreciate because I’ve been doubling Cherub Aran to make thicker stuff, like the Transenna Blanket. As I’ve said before, this is my favorite acrylic yarn – it’s incredibly soft, washes well, and is very affordable. I’ve made everything from sweaters to blankets to slippers from this yarn (in all different weights) and have been pleased every time. This blanket is made in Ecru, Grey, and Baby Blue.

Tunisian shell stitch crochet baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns Cherub Chunky in blue, gray, cream

I didn’t really swatch, so I just cast on however many stitches I thought looked right, and of course it ended up much larger than I had been intending, at 45″ X 50″. By the time I realized that it was going to be way too big, I was too far along and decided to just soldier on, figuring that it would make a good floor blankie for tummy time, and that eventually he’d grow into it! I’m writing up the pattern for this one, but making it smaller will be a major tweak in the final write up…unless there’s demand out there for a huge baby blanket pattern?? Let me know in the comments! I’d like to start a list of possible pattern testers as well, so please also let me know if you’d like to be included!

When it was all done, I thought it needed a finishing touch, so I added some edging in the cream color (and had just the right amount of yarn left to do it!). I’m not exactly sure what this edging stitch is called, or where I learned it, but I think it was the right choice here.

Edging on tunisian shell stitch crochet baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns Cherub Chunky in blue, gray, cream

I really love how this one turned out, but more importantly, I got the best reaction from new mama-to-be Aliya when she opened it! This is the face you hope everyone makes when you give them a handmade gift :).

Woman opening tunisian shell stitch crochet baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns Cherub Chunky in blue, gray, cream

Happy friday and have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Wine Cork Bulletin Board

A while ago my friend Destiny gave me a bunch of wine corks, which she had been saving but didn’t have a reason to keep. I looked around for things to make from them, and we both really liked the idea of a bulletin board. You’ll see about a thousand of these if you type it into Pinterest; I didn’t use any particular tutorial as it’s easy enough to wing on your own, but if decide to do this and you want some concrete steps, that’s where I’d look!

I started out with some thrifted frames (there are two of them because I’m making another one for a different friend of ours, but ran out of corks, so you’ll only see one!), and some paint.

Thrift store picture frames before being painted

Now, I’m going to recommend that if you do this step, you spray paint it. I used regular craft paint and a paint brush, and while they turned out okay in the end, it was a lot more work than I’d been intending and took forever to dry. They also turned out a bit brighter than I wanted, but I think it still works.

Thrift store picture frames after being painted, one red, one yellow

Now, on to the corks! I knew starting out that I wanted to cut the them in half lengthwise, but it turns out that’s a lot more difficult to do than I had assumed. After some false starts and a round of Googling, I decided to steam them to soften them up, so I filled a pot with a few inches of boiling water and set a strainer on top, with the lid over it (the lid is off for the purposes of the picture, but you’ll need it, trust me).

Wine corks being steamed

I found that about 5 minutes was long enough to soften them; you should be able to cut them with a regular old kitchen knife at this point. Be careful, though! They’ll be slippery after this step and you’ll want to watch where your fingers are in relation to the knife. This pile was just enough for one cork board.

Wine corks cut in half

You’ll also want to try to weed out the corks that are too short or too tall, since they’ll make spacing more difficult. You can use the discarded ones to fill in any gaps at the end.

After all the corks were cut, I glued the back of the picture frame back on the front, arranged the corks in a pattern I liked, and glued them down with my hot glue gun. I’d advise arranging the pattern before you glue anything down, both for the sake of spacing and making sure you have enough corks. My pattern was really simple – I tried a bunch of fancier ones but they didn’t fit as well, so I ended up just doing single lines all the way across. They didn’t quite fit with whole corks all the way across, so I filled those gaps in with ones I’d cut in half (they should be very easy to cut with scissors after they’ve already been cut lengthwise). I think it turned out pretty well!

Finished wine cork bulletin board, frame painted yellow

I tried to make sure all the corks were facing the same direction, because it bothers me otherwise, but it doesn’t particularly matter. It will be seen from a distance most of the time, and hopefully will have things pinned to it anyway. I would watch the amount of glue you squeeze out though – too much and you’ll have a bunch of visible spots between the corks. This one will be going to it’s new home this weekend, but I think I might just have to make another one for me!

Close up of wine cork bulletin board, frame painted yellow

Sewing Box Makeover

I scored several great finds on our last Goodwill trip, so you’ll be seeing makeover projects a lot around here in the next few weeks – hope you don’t mind! This week, a sewing box. We were cruising around the furniture section and this fantastic box was just hanging out above the sofas:

Old wooden circular sewing box before update

I was drawn by those amazing hinges, and then I opened it up…

Old wooden circular sewing box before update

…and saw the spool holders! I think you’ll agree that it had to be mine. I loved the wood, but it was really beat up and the wood was splintering a bit, so I decided it would need to be painted. Luckily, I just acquired a bunch of Martha Stewart craft paint, so I had lots of colors to choose from (these are just a few).

Martha Stewart satin craft paint

I decided on blue and got to work. I have to tell you, this might be my new favorite crafting item. The paint is nice and thick, so it covers really well, and the coats dry quickly. One coat provided enough coverage that it probably would have been enough, but two gives it a really solid color. It doesn’t smell, and washes easily off of brushes and hands. It comes in a huge range of really nice colors, and the color on the label is pretty true to what’s in the bottle. I would highly recommend them – I’m now actively looking for things to paint :P.

Once I got the color on, though, I decided that it just wasn’t enough (not the paint’s fault at all, just me being picky), so I broke out the Modge Podge and covered it in some leftover Birch fabric. This is what I ended up with:

Thrift store wooden circular sewing box after update, modge podged with fabric

The underside of the lid is painted white, and I ended up mixing red and blue to get a dark purple for the inside and the handle.

Thrift store wooden circular sewing box after update, modge podged with fabric

The hinges definitely look old and a bit tarnished, but they’re so pretty that they had to stay.

Close up of hinges on thrift store wooden circular sewing box

I left those spool holders (obviously!) and it is perfect for my current hexie project. I think I may add a little box or maybe a pocket at some point, to have a place to store extra needles and my thimble and other odds and ends, but I’m pretty happy with it for now!

Inside of thrift store wooden circular sewing box, with spools of thread and paper pieced hexagons

The final tally was $6 for the box, maybe $1 for the Modge Podge, and about $1.50 for the paint (the fabric was in my stash). Well worth it, in my opinion!

Before and after of thrift store wooden sewing box

Blue and Green Stripes Quilt

It’s 5 days to Christmas, and we got a little magic this morning here in Seattle :).

IMG_3329

Yes, that’s snow! I know everyone living basically anywhere else is rolling their eyes at us right now, but we never get snow that sticks around here, so when we do, the whole city freaks out. Our puppy Zoey was very confused by all this white stuff but decided it was an occasion to run around all crazy (although basically every occasion is that for Zoey).

IMG_3332

Okay, enough of our teeny snow storm; pretty sure it’s already melting anyway! So, after a couple of days of fighting with my machine, I’ve finally finished my latest quilt:

Image

I was asked to make this one for a woman who was having surgery, and I put a lot of thought into this one (not that I don’t put in a lot of thought to my other ones, but this one was special). I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals and surgery centers, so I while I was picking out fabric, I thought about what would have worked for me during those times. Blue is a calming color, and when I saw the jelly roll of these prints, they seemed feminine but not girlie to me. I pieced the strips and then cut them into triangles, which I’ve paired with plain white. I also made it slightly longer and skinnier than a regular lap quilt, as sometimes regular sized blankets hang over the sides of beds and get in the way when someone has to come do things at the side of the bed.

Image

I tried piecing the squares of all prints, but it was incredibly busy looking, so I think the white goes nicely. For the quilting part, I free motioned white in the blue triangles and blue in the white triangles. Now, this is where the trouble came in. I tried to use plain white cotton thread for the white free motioning, and it seems that since I tried the nice stuff, my machine (and me) will accept no substitutions. After two days of fighting for every inch of quilting and dealing with serious breaking issues, I replaced the thread with Aurifil. This went much better; I think I’ll save the cotton for piecing and use the smoother thread when I need to free motion.

The blue thread is a silk finish from Mettler, and I was even happier using that while quilting. The silk finish makes it really smooth while free motioning; I finished all six white triangles in probably a quarter of the time it took me for the blue ones. It’s hard to see, but the thread has this amazing, gorgeous luster:

Image

Image

I’m really happy with the loops and curlicues, and it didn’t loose any of it’s finish after it was washed. So far I’ve been incredibly happy when using Mettler thread, so I will definitely be using it again. For the back I used some spare polka dot cotton that had some teal dots that matched, and I embroidered her name.

Image

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, despite the rough start, and it should arrive just in time for Christmas :).

I also decided, since I was already sitting at my machine, to make a little bandana for the doggy out of some extra fabric I had laying around.  When I say that she loves Christmas, I am not kidding. She tries to help wrap presents, she sniffs the tree every morning like it just got here, and she is a huge fan of dropped cookies. So, she got a bandana with some gingerbread men on it.

photo 1

And believe it or not, she sat for this picture with no treats involved :P.

Finished Project – Binary Rain Wall Hanging

I finished my wall hanging just in time, and I have to say, I’m incredibly proud of this one. I thought I’d start with the long view, since this one is meant to hang on a wall and it’ll be seen from a distance most of the time.

IMG_3193

But here’s a closer look:

IMG_3187

I ended up quilting it in lines that were about a quarter inch apart; I knew that I wanted it the background to be fairly closely quilted so that the rain drops would stand out. Let me tell you, I was glad this one was comparatively pretty tiny when I was an hour in and not even halfway through the quilting, but it it was so worth it! The thread is a gray Mettler Silk Finish Cotton, and I was really pleased with how smoothly it quilted.

IMG_3204

After it was quilted, I bound it in some more gray scraps so that I’d be able to place the drops in the right place, and then I whip stitched those into place. There was a lot more hand sewing in this one than I usually do, and I really enjoyed it.

IMG_3197

IMG_3202

I love the contrast between the rain drops and the background; they pop out in just the way I was going for. The only thing left to do was sign the back, which I did in pink, of course.

IMG_3195

One of the things that I love most is that this quilt was made entirely of scraps; I didn’t buy any materials for it and improvised when I had to (0f course, it helps when you have a somewhat extensive scrap/fabric collection, as my husband pointed out :P). After a sleeve and label were added, it’s was on it’s way to Island Quilter on Vashon Island, where it will hang along with the rest of the guild’s fabulous creations starting in January. If you’re in the Seattle area next month, go check it out!

Paper Piecing and the Baby Jane

Basically since I started sewing, I’ve heard about the Dear Jane Quilt:

Image

As I’ve already established, I have issues with my eyes being bigger than my sewing machine, so I have decided to make my own Baby Jane (if you’re not familiar with this project, more info here). This will involve a significant amount of paper piecing (as well as hand piecing), which I have never tried before. I figured a few youtube videos and I’d have it down. Not so. It turns out that you have to be really careful about where you start with paper piecing, and the templates provided in the book are not numbered, so it can be tricky to figure out. The blocks are also smaller, about 5 inches across. Definitely not for someone with zero experience! In light of this, I’ve decided to tackle a slightly easier paper piecing project before I try my hand hand at the Baby Jane blocks.

So, I’ve been drooling over the paper piecing going on over at Wombat Quilts…Cath’s Zeppelin block just put it over the top and I had to try it! I tooled on over to 627Handworks to check out the Block Rock’n Blocks and I’m having tons of fun trying it out. I accidentally started with week two’s block (not that it really matters to anyone but me :P) and this is what I came up with:

Image

I wasn’t sure what I was doing, so I didn’t want to use fabric that I was attached to, and just pulled out scraps from my overflowing box o’ scraps. You may recognize some of the patterns from the quilt I recently finished for our bed (I really do need to come up with a name for that one). These were on top and I already know they go well together, so I went with that. I think if I was doing it over again, I might go with white in place of the teal on the outsides of the block…I think the teal is a little overwhelming with the other patterns. Other than that, I really cannot tell you how much I love this method of making blocks!

Image

One of the things I constantly struggle with is piecing – my husband tells me all the time that slightly wonky seams are part of what makes a hand made quilt unique, but it continues to bother me when things don’t quite meet up. Paper piecing, if you’re careful, essentially eliminates that problem. It’s sort of magic – you just put some fabric down, sew across some lines, iron, and then rip the paper off the back when you’re done. I will say that the ironing part does get a bit tedious, but it’s an absolutely necessary step and it makes things look so crisp and clean. Plus, it only took a couple of hours to make the above block, so I could probably get two or three done in a day if I was feeling really ambitious.

I started on the second block (which is really the first pattern in the series) this morning, and decided to stick to only two colors this time:

Image

If I was going to do it again (and I probably will), I’d use three or four colors instead of just two…part of what I’m having fun with is trying to picture how the colors will go together when it’s all finished, and they’re not quite perfect yet. I think I’m doing pretty well for my first time out though!

The big one is finished!

Well, it’s taken about a year and LOTS of mistakes, but our quilt is finally finished! The front:

ImageThe back (a repurposed old sheet!):

Image

It’s definitely not perfect – there are some wonky seams, a few more wrinkles than I’d like, and some serious piecing issues, but I love it, and I’m so proud of it.

Image

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to jump into projects assuming I’ll learn as I go and it will all work out. This quilt was no exception and the learning curve was very steep! I cut all the pieces using cardboard templates traced from the ones in the book. If I was doing it over again, I’d take the time to use a heavier material as the template, and I’d use an exacto knife to cut it out – scissors are not the best tool for everything! I’d also use a much better rotary cutter (which I now have) to cut out the pieces of fabric so that they’d be more precise; I assumed when I started that a lot of mistakes could be worked out when piecing it together. What I learned was that accurate (and therefore pretty) piecing depends quite a bit on how accurate your cutting is.

Image

I’d also use a bit more seam allowance; I used the “scant 1/4 of an inch” method and I’ve since figured out that I’m just more comfortable with a little more clearance.

Image

I’m particularly proud of the actual quilting that I did. This is the biggest quilt I’ve made to date, and I free motion quilted the whole thing. I was so intimidated to start it that after it was all basted, the thing just sat there, mocking me. It mocked me from our old house, mocked me from the box it was moved in, and mocked me from my brand new sewing space in our new house. Finally, one Monday morning I woke up and decided it was time to get it done. I used Leah Day’s recommendation of mentally splitting the quilt into fourths, and working each quarter from the inside (middle) out. This made it much more manageable and I was able to complete all the quilting in about a week and a half (off and on, because of course I have about 10 other projects going :P).

Image

I finished it with hand sewing the white binding. I always try to convince myself to do it by machine because it’s so much quicker, but hand binding is just so pretty. I knew if I machine stitched it, I’d look at it and be bothered every day. So, in the spirit of doing it right the first time, I spent a couple of days with some quality needle and thimble time. I forget how much I actually enjoy finishing off a quilt that way; it’s just so peaceful and satisfying.

It looks amazing in our new room, which has tons of natural light, and with the headboard that Kyle’s grandfather made.

Image

Image

Next up on the list is a bed skirt to hide our ugly box spring. I probably should have made that before I took pictures, but I was too excited!

Frogged – Midsummer Aran / WIP Simply Marilyn

Remember this sweater?

Image

Another lesson in why you should always make a swatch. I was too impatient to get it on my needles, and in love with the color of the yarn, so I just started it, knowing in a little part of my brain that it was a mistake. Well, I got about halfway through and realized that the sweater was basically going to be wide enough for a giant!

Once I finally admitted to myself that this yarn was just not going to work with this pattern, frogging commenced. Non-knitters (like my husband) are always incredibly traumatized to watch you rip out what seems to them like so much work, but most knitters I know just kind of shrug and accept it as part of the process. I knit to knit, and an inevitable part of that is frogging. When it was all ripped out, I decided that I still loved the color but needed a more appropriate pattern. I picked out an oldie but goodie: Simply Marilyn by Debbie Bliss. She’s one of my favorite designers (which is probably fairly obvious by now), and I know that when I make one of her patterns, I’m going to be happy with it. I’m nearly done with the back, and I’m loving it so far (and since I actually made a swatch, it appears that it will fit this time!).

Image

I’m holding the yarn doubled and am using size 8 needles, so it’s going fairly quickly. The front and the back are made the same up to the arm holes, and it would be really easy to make in the round if someone was so inclined – in fact, I’ve been considering frogging what I have and doing just that. The one part of knitting that I do find tedious is sewing seams, and I dislike it enough to make starting over worth it. I also added a little band of ribbing at the bottom, since I like my sweaters to be longer, and the rolling hem when you do straight stockinette drives me crazy (even when it’s supposed to be like that). It should match the ribbing on the sleeves, so hopefully it won’t look too out of place.

This yarn has a pretty sheen to it, so I’m loving the way that the simple design showcases that:Image

It’ll be even prettier after it’s been washed; the best part about this yarn (Caron Simply Soft) is that you can wash and dry it, and it makes the garment have a nice, fluid drape. Assuming you got the gauge right to begin with, of course :P.