Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sock it to me

Finally, the set is complete. The socks reached their destination and I've been told they are hanging on the mantle with the rest of the set.

Since I didn't put names on the stockings I personalized them in other ways. Mom's stocking features gingerbread and her famous Italian cookies. Dad's stocking has a nod to his favorite baseball team -- the Red Sox, of course.
Now all that's left is to wait for Santa. I certainly hope everyone made the nice list this year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sneak Preview

You might remember these stockings I made for my favorite kids last year. There were supposed to be stockings for Mom & Dad too but they never quite got finished. I'm happy to report the set is finally complete and they are on the way to join the kids' stockings on the mantle just in time for Santa. I don't want to spoil the surprise but I can't resist sharing a sneak peak of my favorite details:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Baby Sweater

I knit up this baby sweater for a friend who is expecting. She doesn't want to know the sex so I thought this turquoisey/green would be a safe choice. I used this pattern purchased at the famous Lettuce Knit in Toronto. It knits up from side to side rather than from bottom to top which I initially found a bit confusing. However once I stopped stressing and just started knitting it came together pretty quickly . Although I must admit I did make a mistake on the waistband and cuffs (I knit when I should have purled).

Here's my second attempt for another friend's newborn son. As you can see I corrected the waistband and cuffs on this version.

I really like this pattern. Knitting from side to side gives the basic garter stitch a unique look and the newborn size can be knit up in just a few days. Athough these two sweaters are quite similar I like that you can really change the look with the choice of yarn and buttons. I would definitely make it again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas comes early

My friends June and Kathleen had the chance to go to the famous International Quilt show in Houston and they generously brought me back a bag of goodies. I'm not exactly sure the origin of all the chicken fabrics but they are really fun. In fact I'm thinking I may have to convince Kathleen to help me turn them into one of her fabulous quilted bags (speaking of Murphy bags if you have some holiday shopping to do I encourage you to check out her fabulous Etsy store).

Some other items of note include several gorgeous buttons including a red clasp that would work on a bag or maybe as a closure for a knit cardi, a pair of rooster embroidery scissors (I had wanted the traditional bird style but these are so much cooler) and some beautiful silk embroidery floss made right in my own neighborhood.

Thanks so much ladies! You both have excellent taste and I love all my goodies.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Good Grief

It's that time of year again and since my office has a big Halloween party I figured it was a good excuse to practice my limited apparel sewing skills. After much deliberation I choose to go with the classic style of Lucy Van Pelt.

Using only 3 blue t-shirts and a few stray buttons I managed to make a pretty decent approximation of Lucy's iconic dress. It's a very simple design but since I was working without a pattern it did present a few challenges and the end result is far from perfect. That said, I'd say the quality is as least as good as the costumes you can buy at the local party store. I added a black wig, leggings, bobby socks and mary jane inspired sneakers to complete the look. And, just in case, a Charlie Brown stuffed doll.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to the pumpkin patch to wait for the great pumpkin.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Still Sewing

A new hobby means new things to sew. I raided my fabric stash to whip up some helpful knitting accessories.

First up a basket to corral all that yarn.

Next a bag to tote supplies for knitting on the go.

Complete with lots of pockets for needles.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Obsession

I've started knitting and I can't stop. It started off small with some simple washcloths, then wristwarmers and a scarf. Pretty soon I moved on to sweaters.

He's actually worn this out in public!

I love the portablity of this craft and there's definitely more knitting in my future. After all, all the cool kids are doing it like my talented friend Joanna and my fabulous knitting teacher Lydia pictured below.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Girl Power

A few weeks ago I had the honor of joining my favorite girls for the final few days of "Girls week 09." My best friend's husband and son were off on a camping trip and Josh was on a deadline, so it seemed like a good excuse to get together and do some crafting.

First up a little sewing.
Then it was time for a knitting class. My knitting teacher (pictured below) helped me with my first project "rocker girl wristbands" from this fun knitting book.

Turns out when you're wearing a rocker girl wristband you have to strike a rocker girl pose.

There was also some non-crafting fun.

And I didn't even mention the furniture refinshing, yard saling, fabric shopping, yarn spinning lesson, Little House on the Prarie DVDs, freezer paper stencils and an lot of laughing. We do love our boys but every once in a while it's fun to hang with the girls.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I was feeling really good about my latest project yesterday. Today not so much.

There is a serious flaw in the pattern. It seems Step 26 will not make any sense if you sewed step 12 backwards. Time for some un-sewing. And maybe a drink.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Does anyone else have this problem?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Brimfield Adventure

The Brimfield antique show is the largest in New England and draws dealers from all over the country. It's held three times a year in May, July and September. July is typical the slowest month but we still managed to find plenty of good stuff on Sunday.

Buttons, notions and rick rack - oh my!

Pretty painted furniture

Beautiful jadite dishware

And a few conversation pieces.

Since I live in a small space I tried not to do too much shopping but a few things did manage to find their way home with me....

That's a vintage scarf box (perfect to hold my growing collection of Vera Neumann scarves), yet another Vera scarf, and elephant ring holder, a sweet vintage curtain valance with pom pom fringe for my kitchen and a hand-pieced quilt top. Not a bad haul for less than $40.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dreaming of Elephants

This baby quilt is for the current Craft Hope project and will soon be on it's way to India. I wanted to do something that was graphic and gender neutral. I chose bright colors that reminded me of the beautiful saris I've seen in Bollywood movies.

Since this is only my second quilt, I was a little unsure how I wanted to do the actual quilting design. Fortunately, my friend Junie happens to be an expert so I turned to her for some advice. Check out her blog for a great tip on how to preview a quilt design before taking it to the sewing machine.

This is my second Craft Hope project and I love that they give me a chance to experiment with new patterns and techniques while supporting a great cause. The deadline for the India project is July 25. I'm contributing a blanket but they are also looking for other items like hats and booties. Check out their website for more information. You can even sign up for their newsletter so you'll be the first to know about upcoming projects.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Well, at least it's functional...

We are traveling to two weddings this summer and since the zipper on my cheap dress bag broke ages ago I figured it was time to retire the trash bag I had been using in its place for something a little more stylish. I wanted it to be sturdy and waterproof so I made a pilgrimage to amazing Franklin Mill Store to check out their selection of oilcloth. I instantly fell in love with this beautiful Anna Maria Horner print. It was quite pricey but I had a discount so I decided to buy enough for two projects, the garment bag and a carry along seat both from this book.

Although the pattern instructions were fairly simple, as you can see I ran into some trouble matching the print. I decided to increase the length of the finished bag from 36" to 42" but I couldn't figure out how to cut the fabric in such a way that the pattern would match and I would still have enough yardage left over to complete my second project. I should have been more thoughtful about the fabric choice and picked something that didn't require an obvious match. Live and learn. On the upside the bag went together quickly (especially since I opted to use ready made piping rather than make my own). Once I got over the fact that it couldn't be ironed or pinned, the oilcloth was surprisingly easy to work with. I'm sure there are more expert solutions, but I used a combination of blue painter's tape and quilt binding clips like these in lieu of pins.

In the end it's not my favorite project, but it's functional and definitely a step up from the trash bag. I'm looking forward to taking it on the road.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Goin' to the Chapel

My good friend and "god-husband" (we are the proud godparents of a brillant and talented 12 year old) is getting married today and I wanted to make something special for him and his new bride. They are registered for this beautiful bedding so I used it as a jumping off point to design a pillow with their new monogram.

I selected chocolate brown linen which I backed with a lightweight interfacing to give some stability to the stitching. For the monogram and date I used a simple satin stitch with embroidery floss. The embellishments were done with metallic thread. My original plan was to use only the metallic thread but it was so difficult to work with that I decided to start over with traditional embroidery floss rather than pulling every hair out of my head. In the end, I think it was the right choice because the combination of metallic and non-metallic floss adds dimension and interest. I hope it works with their style and finds a place in their home.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shopping Spree

I was a little jealous of all June's great finds so I stopped by one of my favorite thrift stores to try my luck. While I didn't do quite as well as June, I'm pretty happy with my treasures. My haul included: a cute embellished t-shirt, 2 wooden embroidery hoops, a bag of sewing notions (bias tape, twill tape & my favorite -- rick rack!), a beautiful Japanese paper wallet from Zemliya Paper Products and another Vera scarf. A few more and I'll have enough to make something like this.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Therapy for Mom

Recently my Mom has been suffering from a bout of costochondritis, a painful inflammation of the cartilage around the ribcage. The good news is the condition doesn't have serious health consequences and should resolve itself in a few weeks but in the meantime it's quite uncomfortable. There's not a lot that can be done, but heat does provide some relief. With that in mind, I stitched up a pretty heat therapy bag using this tutorial from the Sew, Mama, Sew blog.

It went together easily and, remarkably I was able to fill it without spilling rice all over my kitchen. I guess that's a good thing since after my husband tried it out he promptly asked when I would be making one for him.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chocolate craving

Having a chocolate craving? Expecting company? I have found the perfect brownie recipe to satisfy and impress via Smitten Kitchen. It's adapted from Cooks Illustrated's classic brownie recipe and is just about as close to perfection as a brownie can get.

I didn't have cake flour on hand so I substituted all purpose flour & corn starch. All purpose flour can be substituted for cake flour but the ratio is not one to one. The general rule of thumb when substituting all purpose flour for cake flour is 1 cup of all purpose flour minus 2 tbsps, plus 2 tbsps of corn starch.

Classic Brownies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy. If overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla.

Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)

Monday, May 11, 2009


I was catching up on my blog reading and came across this amazing new site that combines two of my favorite things, sewing and volunteerism (yes, I am a giant geek).

The goal of their current project is to provide handmade rag dolls to all the residents of the Casa Bernabe orphanage in Nicaragua. For my contribution I stitched up this cutie using the black apple doll pattern found here. I'm also challenging the ladies of Sew Anyways to contribute a doll.

If you are interested head on over to the Craft Hope blog for details, a variety of doll tutorials and submission deadlines. While you are there be sure to check out pictures of their first project which delivered new handmade dresses to the Pan de Vida shelter in Mexico. And if you can't participate in this project be sure and check back often as they are soliciting ideas future projects.

Craft Hope Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sew Hippo

I'm taking a drawing class so I haven't been doing a lot of sewing lately. But when my friend recently had her baby I dusted off the machine to make this stuffed hippo from the February 2009 issue of Sew Hip. I'm a huge fan of the magazine and I love that each issue includes full size patterns for the featured projects. Directions for the hippo were clear, easy to follow and included helpful photos and diagrams. My only complaint is the head/neck piece indicated to cut two when only one was needed.

The magazine is imported from the UK so it's pricey (about $10 an issue) but worth the splurge. It's not carried everywhere but I have found it at Barnes & Noble. And, I recently discovered digital issues are available here for about half the price.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Extreme Sewing

I was invited to crash the Thimble Pleasures quilting guild retreat this past weekend. The ladies of the guild are some of the most welcoming, talented and generous women I have ever met. They are also rowdy, foul mouthed and lots of fun. The weekend was filled with sewing, socializing and fabric shopping. I had a blast even though I was scolded for turning in early (at 11pm) on Saturday. I could tell some stories but I get the impression that what happens at the quilting retreat stays at the quilting retreat and I definitely want to be invited back next year.

I'm not working on another quilt but I did finish up a couple of projects this weekend. First up is the Chemisette Handbag.

I love the pattern but I found the finished bag was smaller than the photo suggested. It's still a very usable size, just not what I was expecting. The pattern was fairly easy to follow although I used a different gathering method than the one described and added a key fob. I definitely plan to make the bag again but next time I will play around with the inside pockets to make them a bit more functional. I prefer a zippered or sectioned pocket.

The second project is a "humbug bag" which has a funky triangular shape. No pattern for this one since I had my own personal tutorial from the lovely & talented Kathleen Murphy but there's a tute for a similar project here. This bag can be made in any size and is a great project for practicing quiliting techniques. I should also mention the gorgeous print fabric on this pouch was a gift from the fabric fairy. I admired it at one of the shops and the next day a yard of the fabric mysteriously appeared in bag. I absolutely love it and just in case the fabric fairy is a reader I wanted to say thank you.

All in all it was a great weekend. I learned a lot and was inspired by all the talented women of the guild. I'm definitely thinking there is another quilt in my future. If you are looking for inspiration I encourage you to check out Kathy, Kathleen and June's blogs.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Feel the Love

Happy Valentine's Day! We're pretty low key around here, but I did manage to whip up a little something for my better half.

I used an old scrap of canvas, freezer paper and fabric paint to make the gift bag. The little button reads "I'd rather be kissing my crafty wife" and can be ordered with a matching husband button from this adorable Etsy shop.

Inside is a custom t-shirt for my sexy bearded guy.

I used the freezer paper stencil technique again here and I really love the results. It's super easy, doesn't require special tools or expensive materials and you are really only limited by your imagination. If you're interested in making your own there's a great tutorial here and and lots of inspiration to be found here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Emma!

My friend and fellow Aquarius, Emma, turns 5 today and is celebrating with a cat themed birthday. Sadly, I couldn't make the trip to Virginia but I thought I would send along a gift in keeping with the theme. The tote is corduroy with a calico lining and the applique is wool with faux fur accents. I used an old "Lizzy McGuire" pattern for the basic size so it is scaled appropriately for my young friend.

As you can see my assistant was very involved in the design process.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lydia's Knitting Bag

My favorite 10 year old is very precise with her Christmas list. While she does enjoy HSM as much as any other girl her age, her list is always unique. One year she asked for a pink guitar, last year she wanted a decorative pillow for her bed and this year it was knitting bag. Specifically, a knitting bag that was big, creative, had pockets for her needles and her knitting book and was filled with bamboo needles, a crochet hook and pretty yarn.

I'm happy to report the bag was a hit. Now I just need to find time to take those knitting lessons she's promised me.