Spray Basting part deux

So I figured it out, folks. The answer is: duct tape! That's right, duct tape. I happen to have some fabulous hot pink duct tape, and I used it to tape down the backing fabric so that it couldn't shift around while I was laying down the batting. And it worked! No Adam required. Then I pinned the whole thing with approximately a million safety pins, and now it's ready to be quilted!
I'm not nervous about that part or anything...

Spray Basting

So it turns out that spray basting is not as easy as I had imagined. It is at least a two person job - I can't seem to stop the backing fabric from bunching up underneath the batting and making a big sticky mess. Anyone have any tips?
I love the result when it works - but I'm having serious trouble getting there. I'm going to wait for Adam to get home and see if we can get it to work with the two of us working at it.
We'll see what happens!



Ta-da! Today I got the custom-made labels I ordered! Aren't they cute? They say "made with love by emily r insertlastnamehere", surrounded with little hearts. Because, if you didn't know already, I love hearts. And yes, I know it's all in lowercase font. I requested it that way. I also love lowercase. I'm so pleased with them! I ordered 90 of them, which doesn't look like a lot now that I have them! But I'm sure 90 will last me quite awhile (at least through Christmas!).
I bought them from Jennifer's Jewels, and had a pretty positive experience. It took Jennifer awhile to get in touch with me with the proof for the labels, but she was super friendly and once I approved the label, she shipped the next day. So next time I order labels, I'll just make sure to either request a rush delivery or just order them well before I run out. Looking ahead, I don't know if I will get the same design next time or not. I like the hearts, of course, but I also might want variety? Or would that diffuse the coolness of having my own label?


WIP: QFM (Quilt For Me) Update

See this photo? It includes three piles - a pile of nice 6 by 6 inch squares of fabric in the corner, and a whole bunch of scraps in the foreground. Now, I don't know if you read up on Obsessively Stitching's tutorial/pattern that I'm following, but there aren't supposed to be any scraps. Any. Does that look correct to you?
I prewashed my fabrics (another big debate topic in the quilting world - and one that I waver on myself), and they shrank. Predictably. Unfortunately, they shrank too much to be able to cut Obsessively Stitching's very precise measurements. Sucky, as Adam would say. So off we went (on the bike, eek) on the looong drive to Jo-Ann's, where thankfully I was able to find all the same fabrics. They are now in the wash (once you start prewashing, you can't exactly stop in the middle of a quilt), almost ready to be cut. And then we'll finally be done, almost 6 hours after I started cutting.
Now whether or not my backing fabric will fit when this is all done, we'll have to see... And I'm going to have to think up something ingenious to use all these oddly-sized scraps!


WIP: Quilt for me

Now, don't tell me I'm crazy (I might be), but today I bought fabric for another quilt. I know, I know. I really don't need another project right now, and I have so much fabric (including a partially completed quilt, gasp) already. But Jo-Ann's was having a sale on novelty prints and a sale on thread and a sale on packaged batting, and I also had a 20% off coupon and I got everything to make the quilt (fabric, backing fabric, thread, batting) for $31.16! That's the same as buying a blanket! (Not that I need another blanket in any case, but still...)
I'm going to be following the Obsessively Stitching: First Quilt Ever sew-a-long (which is over now, but better late than never!). The posts are so-o clear and helpful, and even though this isn't my first quilt ever, I feel like I can learn from doing it. And it will give me a chance to practice free-motion quilting again before I tackle a bigger quilt (the sew-along makes a crib size quilt).
And for the first time ever, I'm going to make the quilt for myself. Gasp! I know, it would sound better if I were making it as a gift for someone else. But then I couldn't show you my fabulous fabrics!
I had a hard time choosing them, let me tell you. Picking out 10 coordinating fabrics sounds easier than it actually is. From left to right: first we have my backing fabric, which is a fantastic blue and brown print that says "I heart my family" and "one big crazy family" on it (so true! On both counts!). Then there is an awesome retro pink and brown print with hearts and rainbows on it, a crazy print with chickens, a pink and brown and gold dot print, a leafy aqua print (which will also be the border on the quilt), a pink dot print, a green and pink peace sign print, a pink green and brown heart (and the word "love") print which is just too cute, a green blue and brown dot print, and finally a calm off-white swirly print. I love my fabrics! I went into the store with one idea of what I would make, and left with something completely different! Doesn't that always happen?

WIP: Quilt Top Finished

So the day before yesterday, I completed my quilt top! Yay! Forgive the weirdly lumpy appearance of the quilt top - it's draped over a couch covered in stuff.
I've been a total slacker on the next step, though - basting is not one of my favorite parts of quilt-making. And I've been having tension/thread issues when practicing free motion quilting, so I'm clearly not ready to quilt it in any case. And I still need to assemble (ie, quickly cut and reseam) the backing. I'm going to use a basting spray in addition to pins for the first time on this quilt - I've heard (well, read) great things about it. We'll see! I'll probably baste it as soon as I get the free motion quilting down. And then it will be time to quilt and bind it and then it will be done! I'm half-way there!


Lesson learned: Fuel your creativity properly

I've been fueling my free motion quilting and quilt piercing with Coke (the drink, not the drug) and gummy bears. And now I feel sick! Lesson learned people, proper food will give better results!
In more crafting related news, I have a special surprise shipping to me tomorrow, and you all will see it soon!


I learned a new skill: Free motion quilting!

So I've always finished my quilts by either tying them (see: quick and easy) or stitching in the ditch (see: no skill required). For the quilt I'm making now, I decided I would learn free motion quilting (see: stippling) in order to finish it in a more "professional" manner. I used three great online tutorials to get me started: a tutorial by Oh Fransson!, a tutorial (with video!) by Prudent Baby and a description (with videos!) by Obsessively Stitching. All of them were really helpful, and as you can see, I have accomplished (some) free motion quilting! I'm going to practice more before I attempt it on a real quilt - I have $1.50 per yard fabric (fabulous!) and some extra batting so I can make mini quilts to practice on.
Now, there are two camps in the free motion quilting world, I've discovered: those who believe in crossing over their lines (see: Prudent Baby), and those who definitely do not (see: Obsessively Stitching and Oh Fransson!). I belong firmly in the first camp. I see no reason why I shouldn't cross over my lines, and it's way more fun.
This mini quilt sandwich, the first of many, feels so cool. I love the texture that free motion quilting gives! I'm so excited about this new skill!


WIP: Mystery revealed!

Can you guess what it is now? That's right, it's a (not-yet-finished) quilt top! Please ignore any and all imperfections. Quilt-making is a sport that I love to start and end, but apparently hate to actually play. I spoke to my mother about the anguish I was experiencing over the quilt's imperfections, and she suggested I give up quilt-making! Never! All that emotion just makes the quilt better, I think. And what kind of person would I be if I didn't mind that my quilt corners don't quite match?
It looks pretty good in that photograph, though. That makes me feel better!
I have three more borders to attach, and then I'm done with the quilt top! Stay tuned!


Wednesday WIP: A mystery!

Here's a shot of the fabrics for my current work-in-progress - but I'm not going to tell you what I'm making! Aren't the fabrics lovely? I didn't chose them - there's a hint!
I just cut all the fabric today, and am just getting ready to start sewing. Updates to be revealed as progress is made.


Completed Project: Deep Pocket Scarf

It's 97 degrees outside, and I just made a scarf based on this tutorial by Delia Creates. I'd show you a picture, but shh, it's a surprise present for someone. It was fun to make, though, so I think I'll make some more!

Completed Present: "If I know what love is, it is because of you"

Today is my mother's birthday! Happy birthday!
To celebrate, I made her a cross-stitch. It's pretty simple - a quotation from Herbert Hesse that I once gave her on a card with two (different) hearts above and below. I had the quote custom charted for me by Andwabisabi, who was great and consulted back and forth with me about the font style and the color choices. I ended up switching the colors at the store anyway, but I appreciated her input! The hearts came from the book A Rainbow of Stitches, which is a beautiful resource (and a book my mother gave me, actually). I chose the colors I did to coordinate with my mother's bedroom, and also because I think they are beautiful - a dark cream and a dusky rose on ecru 14-count Aida.
I framed the piece in the oval embroidery hoop because I thought it looked simple and lovely just as it was. I glued down the extra Aida to the backside of the hoop, and stuck in a piece of pink felt (to protect the stitching) underneath a piece of signed and dated resume paper. Then I threaded a length of ribbon through the tightening mechanism on the hoop and voila! a beautiful piece of cross-stitch with a special and very true message all done and ready to be gifted!
It was well received!

Completed Project: Princess Tote Bag

I so enjoyed making that first draft tote bag, I decided to make another one. The theme of this bag is "princess", with the adorable, glittery lining fabric decorated with whimsical crowns and wands and the gold crown cross-stitch. This one incorporated a few more elements - homemade stitched straps, interfacing, an outside slip pocket made out of a cross-stitched crown, an appliqued heart on the back and an inside zippered pocket. I wanted to experiment with using a cross-stitched piece in the outside of the bag, so I whipped up a metallic gold crown to play with. I've decided I don't love it as a pocket - it puffs out too much. I'll probably use future cross-stitched pieces as inset pieces instead.
I made this bag a bit smaller - only 18 x 13 inches before seaming. It's still a good size, although I might go back to the 20 x 13 for my sister's bag. I definitely liked using the interfacing - it gives the bag a little more stiffness and body. And of course I like the inside zippered pocket, which was surprisingly easy to make (this was my second time making one, so I wasn't completely in the dark). I used this tutorial by Sew Mama Sew as a refresher. I love the lavender zipper with the colors of the fabric.
Overall, I think it's adorable. I have no idea what to do with it now that it's finished.


Another Completed Project: "First Draft" Tote Bag

Today (just now actually, before I did the dishes and the laundry and vacuumed, yay productivity) I completed the "first draft" of my sister's Christmas tote bag. It turned out really well! It's a very simple design - a 20 x 13 rectangle made of black duck canvas with purple cotton webbing straps and a purple paisley lining. My sister requested a big bag, so I did what I thought was a good, large size without being too unwieldy. The bag has a purple recessed zipper (which I was super afraid of doing!). I used this tutorial by Projects by Jane to help me figure out how to do a recessed zipper, which was pretty helpful, although I of course used my own measurements and did a different bottom (found here in a tutorial by Crafty Mariko). There is a slip pocket in the inside.
Isn't it cute? It's not as stiff as I would like, so maybe next time I'll use interfacing (another thing I'm afraid of!). I thought the canvas would be stiffer on it's own, but it's pretty soft and floppy. Overall though, I'm really pleased with how well it turned out! And someone will be receiving it for some holiday/birthday in the future!


Crafting update

So yesterday I completed the Christmas present I was working on. It's technically a "first draft", but it turned out nice so someone near and dear to me may receive it come December! I would show you a picture, but as basically al my readers are going to receive presents from me (unless I have some stalkers out here that I don't know about), I can't risk ruining the surprise!
I also ordered a bunch more crafting supplies from Jo-Ann's (all on sale, of course!) for more presents. I can't wait for all my new fabric to arrive! I know I know, you're thinking "but Emily, you have so much fabric already!". I know! But I went through it all yesterday and I don't have the right colors or patterns for what I have in mind. I'm using fabric I already have as "first draft" versions, though, so it is getting used up slowly. Not sure what I'm going to do with all these "first draft" projects, though. Some presents I won't be doing a "first draft" for - I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope it comes out the way I want! But of course I don't do first drafts for quilts and the like, so it's not like I have to do them. It's just nice when I'm using a new pattern - sometimes things can get a little wonky the first time, especially if I am adjusting the pattern.
My giant warped cutting mat has been sitting flat with heavy books on top of it, and that seems to be working! Huzzah! I think it got warped from sitting outside in the outrageous heat, and cooling off while flattened is helping to straighten it out. Hopefully it will be all nice and flat again soon so I can use it!
And that's all for now!


Christmas in July

I have Christmas on the brain! I've decided to do an entirely handmade Christmas this year (ambitious, I know) and I've been thinking nonstop about gift ideas. Yesterday I did a mockup of one present (which turned out alright, but just goes to show why I do "first drafts") and started another Xmas present. I know it's only July, but I'm not the only one thinking ahead - Jo-Ann Fabrics just sent me an email promoting Christmas fabrics with a promo code for free shipping on orders over $40 (it's XMASJULY and it's good until saturday if you're wondering). I'm not supposed to buy anything until August according to Adam but I might have to take advantage of Jo-Ann's current sales! And if I'm going to do a handmade Christmas without any cheating, I have to start now!
Adam is exempt from the handmade rule - he's allowed to buy gifts for people. It only applies to me. And the rules are as follows: 1) each person must receive a handmade gift, 2) no store-bought gifts at all (except frames for cross-stitches and things of that nature), 3) everyone must receive an ornament in addition to their gift.
Totally do-able, right?
Of course, I have super ambitious plans for my gifts. And I still have another major project (other than my chairs) to do before I can really commit to working on Christmas presents. That present/project requires a cutting mat, which I ordered (and received warped). So it has to wait a little longer until I can figure something out.
Have you thought about Christmas yet?


Completed Present: Irish Cross-Stitch

Last month was my fabulous mother-in-law's 50th birthday! To commemorate such a momentous occasion, I made her a pair of cross-stitched pieces. She had originally planned to travel to Ireland for her birthday, so I decided the cross-stitches had to be Irish-themed. Hence the giant shamrock and the "May the luck of the Irish be with you" saying.
The second piece is of a little Irish piggy bank (she loves piggy banks) with golden coins falling into it and the phrase "feed me coins" underneath. I did like three versions of that piggy bank in various shapes and sizes, but settled on a slightly-altered version of Andwabisabi's piggy bank design.
These were fun to sew, except that metallic thread may be the bane of my existence. It's so slippery and evil. But it's so shiny and so worth it in the end.

Baby Blocks in Action!

The two 3x3 baby blocks were well received by the baby they were made for! Check them out in action - they're the perfect size for her little hands! And this one matches her outfit perfectly.


Completed Project: Fabric Baby Block version 3 !

After painting one of the chairs I'm working on (still! endlessly!) white and doing lots of housework, I decided to reward myself by making another baby block. This one (modeled with my awesome lavender-scented stuffed duck) utilizes the same dark pink fleece as version two, as well as a pink and white printed cotton and a pale pink flannel. There are white, pink, purple and bright yellow ribbons sewn into the seams, as before. This one has a tiny jingle bell inside (I didn't like that I could sometimes feel the bigger jingle bell inside version two), but it makes plenty of noise still.
I struggled again with making the topstitched edges look nice. It's just very tricky to do on a little block, I've decided. I think I'll try a 4x4 block next and see if I can come to a compromise between the small size of the 3x3 and the ease of sewing of the 5x5 block.
By the way - these make great stress relievers for adults! Adam and I have been playing with the 5x5 block quite a bit, and I've been playing with the littler ones as well. They're fun to squeeze and toss into the air!
And I don't know if I mentioned this before, but they are theoretically machine washable. The stuffing is machine washable, the fabrics certainly are, and I can't see any harm coming to the jingle bells inside. And they are like triple-stitched, so they should survive just fine!


Completed Project: Fabric Baby Block version 2 !

After a frustrating day hanging pictures around the house and failing to paint my chairs, I decided to give the baby block-making another go. This time I attempted (well, mostly successfully made) a 3x3 inch block. I chose three bright happy colors in different textures - a yellow flannel, a purple cotton and a dark pink fleece. I added ribbons sewn into the seams for more fun and raided my stash for white, pink, dark pink and purple ribbons.
The 3x3 block felt like it took longer than the 5x5 block (although I think it was actually faster) because working on such tiny seams can be frustrating. I'm not 100% happy with the finished product - I think the topstitched edges look a little messy (I used pink thread, so it stands out on the purple especially) and the block doesn't feel as square as the 5x5. But it's definitely a more baby-friendly size!

Completed Project: Fabric Baby Block

Today I made a fabric baby block, using the very helpful tutorial from Make It and Love It. It was pretty simple, and took maybe an hour at most to complete (not including cutting the fabric - I did that yesterday). I used a tip from Cherry Menlove and topstitched each edge of the block after I stuffed it. That makes it more crisp and block-y. And also more secure.
I used fabric picked up at Wal-Mart (I know, it's the haute couture shop for fabrics) as a remnant. I like to make "first draft" versions of each project before I use fabrics that I care about, so this is my first draft version!
In future blocks, I'll use a different fabric for each side. I'll also probably add ribbons (or "taggies") to some of the edges to give the little peach something to chew on. There is a jingle bell tucked way inside this block to give it a little auditory interest. And the block is 5x5 inches - a bit big in my option. Next I'll try a 4x4 block and maybe a 3x3. Obviously they have to be big enough that she can't possibly swallow them, but also small enough that she can easily maneuver them.
All in all, I'm pleased with this project! It was quick and easy and fun, and I think the little peach will love it.


New Workspace!

Today I finally completed/organized my new workspace in the office! Adam had assembled the white desk a few days ago, but I only just got (and assembled myself) the pink chair today. Now I'm almost ready to get going on some projects. Not pictured is my sewing machine, still in it's box from moving. I need to get that out and clean it before I can start anything. But I did wash and iron some fabrics!
See? I'm going to make a variety of baby-friendly toys for the little pumpkin I babysit. Hopefully I'll get them done this weekend. At least one... I already told her mother that I would be making some toys, so now I have to deliver! All but two of these were fabrics I had in my massive collection (two I bought as remnants because I'm a sucker for remnants). There is a mixture of solids and patterns, but I think they all go pretty well together. Except maybe that navy print, of which I have a ton. I'll make it work. Stay tuned for some WIP and completed project posts!


Work Completed: Photo Array

I'm done with my wedding photo array! As you can see, I put them up above the kitchen table in the dining room/living room (it's just one giant room divided by the couch and the bookshelves with (yet more!) pictures of us on them). I had arranged them on the floor, but it didn't turn out as planned at all. Not even remotely! But I think it turned out alright. I didn't measure or anything, I just eyeballed the placements, so a little change was to be expected. My picture frames are apparently not the greatest, so the not all the pictures hung straight, which drove me crazy. Adam came up with the genius idea of using a tiny bit of double-stick tape to hold them in place. It works, although just.
You may have noticed the one empty frame. That one got accidentally dropped and the frame broke (although the glass was fine). Adam glued it back together for me, and I held it for ten (ten!) minutes while it dried. I still don't trust it to hold a photo though. I'll let it dry a little longer, I think.
Adam said it made that side of the room look "very cool". What do you think?


Pictures WIP Update

As you can see, I'm still fussing with my photo array. But my photos came today, so I got to fuss with purpose! The pictures all came out beautifully. I'm very happy. Right now I have it arranged so that there are predominately black frames on one side and white on the other - I wasn't happy having them mixed. What do you think? Have you ever seen such ridiculously huge smiles?


Chair WIP Update and Walkthrough of my House!

So today (day three of working on the chairs) I sanded the two chairs, removing the last bits of varnish remover and making everything smooth for priming. I'll probably start priming tomorrow, after the washer and dryer get installed and I start some laundry. Then I'll be almost done! How exciting is that! I don't actually have the paint to finish them... I'm not sold on a color scheme yet. I'm pretty sure black will be involved, but will blue? Probably. I don't have any better ideas. My mother-in-law thinks I should stick with my original plan of spray-painting the chairs, which is tempting because it would be so much faster. But I couldn't do the two different colors that way.

Before I embarked on the magical journey of sanding (which is actually just super boring), Adam and I did a video walkthrough of our house, which you can view here. I acted as camera girl, using my flip video camcorder. It turned out pretty well for a first take with no practice. And Adam makes a lovely host!


Works in Progress and Life Updates

My photo work in progress has changed since last Wednesday. I eliminated the two 2.5x3 inch frames and rearranged the remaining sixteen frames according to the directionality of the photos I selected to be printed. This is my current arrangement - we'll see how long it lasts! It's tricky because both of the 8x10 happen to be horizontal pictures - I feel like that throws off the balance somewhat. Otherwise the photos broke down pretty nicely into four vertical and four horizontal 5x7 and two horizontal and four vertical 4x6 pictures. Not bad given that I didn't consider the directionality of the photos at all when selecting which ones to print. I'm not even sure how many black and white versus color pictures I chose! We'll just have to wait and see when my package comes next week!
I also ordered a 20x30 print of a photo of a bowl of strawberries to hang in the kitchen. I think it will look awesome - and I found a frame for it at Walgreens of all places for only $10! The print will be twice as much as the frame with shipping... oh well!
I've been working on another project as well - stripping (and ultimately painting) the kitchen chairs. It's pretty slow going, especially because I don't really know what I'm doing! So far I have two chairs "done" - i.e, I think they're pretty well stripped. They're definitely a different color and feel from the other two unstripped chairs, so I guess that's a good sign! I bought primer today, so tomorrow I'm going to prime the chairs. I still haven't decided exactly what color I'm going to paint them. Adam wants to do the vertical parts of the chair (the back pegs and the legs) an intense, fairly dark blue and the horizontal parts (the seat and the top of the back) black. I think that would look pretty cool, and it wouldn't fight with my colored stuff (dishes, placemats, etc), but I'm not 100% sold on the idea yet. I still secretly want to paint them orange.
In non-crafty news, today we bought a washer and dryer! It will be delivered on Monday. Huzzah! While I worked on my chairs today, Adam mowed the lawn for the first time in his life with his brand-new lawnmower. We also bought plants and he brightened up the garden. Yay productivity!