Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween-The Recent Years

Happy Halloween everyone!

I've always been one of those make-your-own costume people, but in spite of how much I love sewing, I try to minimize costume sewing  (this in spite of the upcoming massive non-Halloween costume sewing I'm orchestrating for a church event, but that's another post).  It seems like I'd just rather make quilts!  So usually my costumes are compilations of things I've sewn and things I've crafted and things I've cobbled together from all over the place.  

In recent years, I've only dressed up if we've had a Halloween party or event to attend since we hardly ever have trick-or-treaters around.  I really do love thinking up fun costumes, and of course the internet is a great source of inspiration.   We're not dressing up this year, but here are some of the costumes I've made from the proverbial "yore".

2010.  I was a fruitfly- drosophila to be exact.  I had fun making it, especially the hat with the big red eyes, and the homemade fly wings but most people didn't get it.

2009.  This was one of my favorite costume years.  Also, since it was the first year Mike and I were together, I was actually able to get him to dress up.  We went as Peanut Butter and Jellyfish (I mean, who doesn't love a terrible pun).  I made his peanut butter shirt and hat, and my jellyfish outfit.  I failed to consider that maneuvering through a party with a large umbrella attached to my head would be difficult, but it was fun all the same.

2004.  Another one of my favorite costume years.  I went as the Madwoman of Chaillot, as portrayed by the incomparable Katharine Hepburn.  I was working at a theater back then and we were allowed to dress up for work on Halloween.  It was a complete blast.  I loved gathering up everything to make all the layers of this costume, especially the hat.

2001.  This year I just went in one of my old RenFaire type dresses.  The year was mostly notable because my then boyfriend had just come here from India and had never celebrated Halloween.  He wasn't too excited about costumes, so I convinced him to go as a Christmas tree; I just sewed a bunch of fake Christmas branches and ornaments onto an old green shirt and there he went.  Sadly, my friends and I tried to host a big party with all the members of our class (~40 people) but not one single person showed up!  The five of us had great fun though.

1997-1998.  These were college years, and while my friend Melinda always sewed fabulous intricate costumes for herself and her now-husband,  I usually just made something up.  On the left- I was some sort of Chemistry-witch-street-salesperson with chemistry supplies hanging inside my cape for any passers-by who happened to need a graduated cylinder.  On the right- I went as the queen of hearts, inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

Hope you guys have gotten a laugh out of some of my crazy costumes.  What are you dressing up as this year?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bloggers Quilt Festival- Fall 2011 One Hen, Two Ducks

Hi Everybody and Welcome!

Thanks so much to Amy for hosting the Bloggers Quilt Festival,  what a fun way for us to share our stuff!

This quilt is called One Hen, Two Ducks.  Don't bother looking for the ducks, there aren't any!  Since it's sort of an "I Spy" quilt, filled with fun things to find and discover, I named it after an old "I Spy" style poem my sister and I learned long ago.

I started this quilt in a One Block Wonders class given by Maxine Rosenthal, and it's one of my favorites.  The bright color scheme and bright-on-black quilting are fairly common ways for me to work;  I recently made a neutral quilt for a swap and it was a (pleasant) shock to my system not to use crazy saturated colors all the time.

In this quilt, all the blocks were made from this fun Laurel Burch panel, and I left a large black section off to one side so I could include some blocks that didn't coordinate quite so well.

Here's a picture as I was assembling the blocks into rows, and some pictures of some of the regions up close.

My very favorite part of this quilt is actually the quilting.  It was the first really large quilt I'd ever made and definitely the first quilt in which I was brave enough to free motion quilt in bright contrasting colors!  I love these little half-leaf-half-centipedes that crawl all over the black background!

I hope you enjoy my quilt and all the others in the 2011 fall Bloggers Quilt Festival!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween-The Mom Years

I was inspired by Kenda to pull out some old Halloween crafty costume pictures to share.  She has made the best dinosaur costume (I want the tail really bad) for her son and the most clever skeleton costumes for herself and her husband.  Seriously, you should go check them out straight away.

Anyway, my mom is the most crafty art sewing person I know and she always made awesome costumes when my sister and I were little.  I have a few pictures from back then I thought I'd share since I don't have any kids to make costumes for now.  Maybe next year I can dig up some of the others.  I'm not really sure about some of the years; it's awfully hard to judge ages with all the costum-ery on!

c. 1987

c. 1988  That's me during my shirley temple curly hair phase.  The Snow White costume my sister is wearing was the most intricate thing I think my mom ever made us.  It had a bunch of separate pieces (the cape, the collar, the dress- not too mention the rather wretched wig) and was an absolute favorite in the dress up bin until we outgrew it.  Somewhere I have to find some better pictures of it.

c.1989  You can see we definitely reused costumes. Hand-me-downs are the way to go.  Also, yes, I am wearing a pom-pom on my head.

c. 1990  Simple matching kitties that year!

What are your kids dressing up as this Halloween?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Christmas Crochet: The Beginning

I spent a lot of time this weekend working on my swap quilt and it is now almost finished (yay!).  In the evenings though I made a few small Christmas crochets.  I'm pretty picky about not getting out my Christmas decorations too early, but I'm all about doing Christmas crafting and Christmas shopping way ahead.

I borrowed this little leaflet from my mom's stash a couple years back, it was published in 1983 (when she presumably bought it) and although it is falling apart I still have all the pages. It has a bunch of  angel and snowflake crochet patterns which I really love;  I think they are cute and lacy but easy to crochet.  They're meant to be done with skinny white thread, and I've actually made several things out of this leaflet in past years, including the large angel tree topper using the skinny thread.  When I get out my Christmas decorations later in the year I'll show them here.

In the meantime though, what I had was washcloth yarn in some sort of Christmassy colors so I made the small angel ornament.  It obviously came out much bigger than if I'd used the smaller yarn (way too big for a tree ornament), but I think she's cute all the same.  I have her standing on a paper cone in the picture, but I'm not sure how I'll prop her up permanently.  In the leaflet, they suggest sugar starch but I'm not sure that will work on such a large heavyweight yarn.

Then I made "snowflake #3" out of the same yarn combo.  It was sort of balled up at the end, so I blocked it flat overnight.  It looks cute, but is also pretty big.  Sadly, I think it looks more like a trivet than a snowflake, so I think in future I'll stick to the skinny white yarn for the snowflake patterns.

How about you guys,  anyone start Christmas crafts yet?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sneak Peak of Swap Quilt

I've been busy working away on my swap quilt for Jenna's Sew Happy Geek Tablerunner/Wall Hanging Swap and since it's a secret swap, detailed posts on it will have to wait a while.  So for today, just a quick sneak peak of that project.

And then some pictures of my four legged family members.  I mean, what better blog filler is there than puppies!

This is Bentley, the super lovable SUPER BOUNCY pit bull mix.

This is my sweet pea Bullett, also known as Bratwurst (for his fat sausage shape).  We have no idea what he is, but love him a bunch. Don't let his adorable face fool you,  he and Bentley get into all sorts of trouble together.

And this is Missy the tiny Shih Tzu.  Don't let her cute face fool you either-  she's the boss dog who rules the roost.

I hope everyone has a fabulous fall weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Works in Progress: The quiet book

When my sister was visiting this past weekend, she and I started working on a quiet book for her baby.  I suppose it will be a while before it's old enough to do most of the activities, but at least the book will be ready for it!  She has a couple of great patterns she bought; I promise next time to get names for them and link them up, but I forgot!  I also borrowed a couple of ideas from the amazing Creating Sarah, specifically the maze and the dot-to-dot.  We each picked some pages to start with and got to it!  There will be many more to come as we progress, and she's thinking about holding them together on rings so we can swap out pages as the baby gets bigger.

Becky started off making the two counting pages.  Super important but so many little pieces to fuse and sew! The numbers are detachable (velcro) so you can match the numeral with the number of items.

I started with this "tie the shoe" page.  It will have an actual lace-up shoelace but it's not on there yet.  We got so lucky to find a piece of fun black real leather in my scrap bin; I'd almost thrown it out the other day.  It came off of the bottom of my chaps (which I cut off since they were too long) and the lady at the motorcycle gear place looked at me sort of funny when I asked to take the scrap home, but I'm so glad I did. It made the perfect realistic looking shoe!  It was also fun to get a chance to use my grommeter.

Next I made this little train with the cute fuzzy smoke.  The wheels are buttonable so you can take them on and off if you are old enough to understand buttons.  It was fun to use my buttonhole foot; since I hardly ever make clothes it had been a long time since the foot was used!

This is the maze page;  one of Sarah's super inspiring ideas.  There's a wooden bead sewn between the layers (you can sort of see the wrinkle in the fabric where it is on the bottom middle) and the idea is to move it through from the beginning to the end.

And finally, the not-quite-finished house dot-to-dot.  There are little super strong magnets sewn under the page and into the little felt pieces so you can undo the string and then connect the dots.  It'll eventually have numbers etc.

This was our first major foray into crafts for kids (since we were kids that is) and we had a blast together.  What kind of things are you guys working on for the kids in your life? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Rise of the Animal Cracker

My sister is having a baby in March.  It's been nick-named the animal cracker, and since it's the first of the next generation in our family, we're all super excited.  My mom is making a fancy Noah's Ark quilt for it, and I told my sister I'd make a more everyday-play-on-the-floor-spit-up-and-toss-in-the-washer type quilt.

I don't usually buy fabric panels because they don't fit too well with my piecing approach, but I saw this one a couple of years ago and couldn't resist.  It's been sitting in my stash for a while waiting for the perfect project.  I thought it would be lovely for the baby quilt, and decided to just frame it with some basic borders.  As you can see, even for baby quilts my preferred color palette is "bright."

For borders I used up some old strip sets leftover from another baby quilt (which I might show someday).  The sets had two strips of black and white mini-tumbling block print on the sides with a piece of rainbow in between.  The colors matched the panel perfectly, but I only had enough to go around two sides.  I decided that if I cut the strip set in half, I'd have a nice inner border of the rainbow fabric and outer border of the black and white fabric.  Here's the panel with the strip sets pinned up sort of haphazardly around it.

I love the bold graphic tree of life motif.  Even though it looks like mostly flowers and leaves, upon close inspection the tree is populated with a large variety of non-mammalian fauna as well.  I found birds, many bugs, butterflies, and horny toads.

Since my sister's not sure what the sex of the baby is, and since the front is a little on the pink side, I decided to use something clearly gender neutral for the back.  I fell in love with this planet/outer space print and thought it went very well both color-wise and conceptually with the tree on the front.  

I quilted it on my home machine even though it's larger than I prefer to do for home-machine quilting (45x55). I tried to do large open quilting motifs, but had a very very hard time being smooth (see horrible stitches below).  I seem to do better quilting tightly in small areas on the home machine, but that wasn't very practical for this project.  

For the binding I chose a bright turquoise frog print that I've had for ever.  It's actually an old curtain I made over ten years ago that hung in our dorm living room during our senior year of college (remember Quintard ladies?).  I took down the curtain after we graduated and it's been living in my fabric stash ever since then.  Kelly, Sylvester, and Ed were actually the focus of this picture (not the silly curtain).  They were all dressed up in tuxedos ready to crash a Christmas party, but I cropped them out in case they didn't want to be plastered all over my quilt blog.  If I recollect correctly, getting ready for that party was way more fun than the party itself.  Anyhow, I'm glad I finally used part of the curtain for something.  I've always loved that fabric, and I have great memories of that year.

Back on topic, here's the final quilt;  it's inscribed "For my dear Animal Cracker, with all my love: Auntie Shannon, 2011."  I can't wait for this baby to arrive!

Animal Cracker, 44 x 52 Shannon Conley 2011 

What about you guys?  Any fun stories that go with fabric in your stash?  Any imminently arriving babies or quilts?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Paint Chip Scratch Pads

I used to always carry a small notebook in my purse, but I've never been much of a note taker so I mainly used it  for making notes of appointments, phone numbers, things-to-do etc.  Since I got my iphone though, I've used it for all those purposes so stopped carrying around a notebook.  A few times recently however, I've needed something to write on.  I'm ashamed to say I've ripped off the back cover of my checkbook and even used some of the carbons off the backs of old checks.  So I decided I needed something on which to jot the quick note or to use to wrap my gum.  I didn't want anything as bulky as a notebook, so when I saw this five-minute idea I jumped on it.  Mine are not quite as nice as hers, but the same basic idea.  I cut up a bunch of paper from the recycling bin at work (mostly used printer paper) and stapled it inside a paint chip.  The card stock of the paint chip prevents the whole thing from coming apart or getting all grimy, and now my checkbooks are safe!

And, by the way, I'd love to paint some wall in my house that deep dark purple.  Actually, I'd love any of the saturated "end-of-the-card" colors.  Alas, all my walls are white, but I  have plenty of bright art hanging so it's all ok.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Works In Progress: S is for Basting and Quilting!

I worked some on my big S Quilt over the weekend, and thought I'd show a little of my progress.  As of the last post, I'd just used water-soluble thread to sew in some faux-trapunto, and before layering the main batting and backing, I did some quilting over these regions.  I wanted them to have some stitching, but I didn't want to completely flatten out the trapunto.  We'll see how it looks in the end.  The main region in which I used the faux-trapunto was the dragon.  Here's what he looks like with some scales and feathers quilted in.  Ignore the ugly white stitching around the dragon, that's the water-soluble thread that will go away once I wash it.

For layering the whole quilt, I used wool batting and so far I like it.  Instead of spray basting I tried a new method this time.  You guys know how much I use spray baste, but it doesn't seem to hold things together as well on bigger projects and it makes a really big mess.  My mom recommended Sharon Schamber's method for basting.  She has two great youtube videos demonstrating the process (here and here) that are definitely worth a watch.  I went ahead and used her method, boards and all, and it worked great.  I used the herring-bone basting stitch as she recommends and it seems to be holding things together pretty well.  You just cut the basting stitches out as you go, and I haven't had any problems with them yet.

These are the big basting stitches.

The only regions I've quilted so far (in addition to the dragon) are some leaves and the tree branch.  I did pebbles and some spiky things in the leaves, and used a sort of modified version of this stitch from Leah over at the Free Motion Quilting Project for the branch.  Now I just have to plan the rest of it!

Sorry this one is so out of focus, I had a really hard time taking pictures of the brown.

What about you guys?  Any progress on the pile of UFOs?  I have such a hard time not starting new things, and now I have to switch from this quilt to focus on my swap quilt for the SewHappyGeek swap.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pouches again! The iPad Case

I decided to make an iPad case for the iPad 2 Mike and I share.  I made it blue to be less girly, but he told me he thought it was still pretty girly.  Oh well!  There is a great iPad case tutorial and a round-up of fun iPad case looks over on Travel Handmade if you need step-by-step instructions.  I didn't really follow it, but I expect what I did is pretty close to her instructions.

I traced around my ipad and guesstimated how much extra I would need given the seam allowance, depth of the iPad, and thickness of the case, and then drafted these pattern templates out of freezer paper.

I used them to cut out a solid piece (for the lining) and then string pieced on the pattern templates until they were all covered.  It was fun to dig all the blues and creamy whites out of my scrap bin.

I used spray adhesive to attach the outside pieces to some polyester batting scraps and then quilted parallel lines on it with my walking foot.  I tried out some of my new Brytes thread (it's 30wt from Superior) and it worked great.  It's definitely heavier than what I usually quilt with, most of my quilting thread is 40 or 50 wt, so it was fun to see the heavier thread stand out.  This was also the first time I quilted with the batting next to the feed dogs.  I was worried it would get caught, but I had no problems on that front.

After quilting, I sewed the outside together, then the lining and then sewed the lining to the outside.  I added a magnetic snap closure; it was my first time to use those too, but it was quite simple.

So what about you guys?  Any pouches lately?  Anyone else drooling over Travel Handmade?  There are so many things there I wanted to make but don't have time for!