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I’ve been reading:

  • Persuasion Jane Austen
  • Plain Truth Jodi Picoult
  • Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer
  • Wench Dolen Perkins-Valdez (a friend from high school!)
  • Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
  • I just started reading Jane Eyre.

I’ve been knitting:

  • socks for the Mister (insert rant about the size of his feet here)

  • thrummed mittens for me – This is actually attempt number 2. I ripped out the first mitten because I was too chicken to do the afterthought thumb. These instructions are less intimidating, but I still prefer the look of a gusset.

I’ve been quilting:

  • two crib size quilts for my nephews – Finished them last week and mailed them today. Yay!! I ended up machine binding. I had quilted too close to the edge, so didn’t have the room to attach the binding for a hand-stitched binding. Honestly, I could spend a lot of time pointing out the flaws or beating myself up about the fact that I didn’t hand quilt them, but I’m going to refrain. They were made with boat loads of love and I think they are pretty cute. Do you hear that Inner Perfectionist?!?

Next up:

  • the second thrummed mitten (as soon as I get more roving)
  • maybe a sweater
  • quilting the lap quilt that I started two years ago
  • possibly more Jane Austen, but I’m open to suggestions

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Last week, I had the chance to meet my newborn twin nephews.  So wee (4 lb 7 oz and 6 lb at birth) and so adorable.

I started working on quilts for each of them in the fall. The tops were finished in October, but I set them aside when I knew they wouldn’t be ready for the baby shower. Instead, I embellished some onesies and sent a box of baby basics in time for the party (literally, it was delivered during the shower).

When I’ve made quilts in the past, I have quilted them by hand. With two on the docket, even though they are crib size, I was a bit overwhelmed. I decided to invest in a walking foot for my sewing machine. I finally sat down to figure it out this week and I feel totally justified in the purchase. With a couple afternoons at the sewing machine, I have one of the two quilted.

I’m hoping to get the second one quilted over the weekend. Binding will take longer, but I now feel confident that I can get these completed and delivered before the boys outgrow them. 🙂

I was greeted yesterday morning by a small and very funny girl announcing, “Mommy, I’m these many today!”

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It was a bittersweet moment to admit she was right.  Three?!?  How can my little peanut by three already?  Somehow the warm bundle I wore everywhere has become the epitome of independence.  She is a self-proclaimed Big Girl, with strong opinions about everything, especially regarding what she wears.

Fortunately, the mama-made clothes are often on her short list.  For her birthday, I made her a new Oliver & S Tea Party Sundress.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love this pattern.  The instructions are clear and easy to follow.  The details are clever and produce a tailored garment, yet they are simple enough for the advanced beginner.

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The printed fabrics are “Just Dreamy” from Riley Blake Designs.  The green is a Kona cotton.  Now that I’ve traced the pattern, I may just have to sew a couple more.  I think she’ll like that.

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Happy birthday to my silly, little peanut!  You may be getting bigger, but you will always be my Baby Girl.

Skirts are an essential in my summer wardrobe.  The other day, I was wearing one that I made a few years ago.  It is a simple bias cut a-line, made from fabric I brought back from Hawaii.  Since it was sewn for a pre-baby #3 body shape, I decided I could use another similar skirt with a little added room around the waist.  I pulled out the pattern pieces and made some adjustments.  I’m sure my method of alteration was not the recommended way, but it seems to have worked.

As much as I love my skirts, I have noticed a severe deficit of pockets in the skirts I own.  I decided to add some in-seam pockets to my new skirt.  Here’s where I really went off the map.  I drafted a piece that seemed okay and added the appropriate seam allowance.  After sewing one side, I realized that the pockets weren’t deep enough.  Hello, seam ripper!  I have a love-hate relationship with my seam ripper.  Love that I have it.  Hate how often I use it.

Anyway, I was about to throw in the towel and sew it up without pockets, but girded my loins and tried again.  Success!  Next time, I might research the proper way to do in-seam pockets, since mine seem a little bulky.  Regardless of the bulk, I do love having pockets.

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As for the hem, I took a cue from Liesl‘s Lazy Days skirt pattern.  Instead of ribbon, I used a wide, single fold bias tape.  Makes for a far more even and cleaner hem than I tend to get by measuring and ironing and measuring and ironing.

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I’m guessing there are more of these in my near future.

Last summer, my parents traveled to Los Angeles to visit relatives.  Traditionally, they send us a box of various Japanese and Hawaiian foodstuffs, that are often hard to find in Middle America.  This time, in addition to boxes of Kauai Cookies and Japanese candy, I put in the request for a Japanese sewing book.

Mom came through with a book of super cute clothes for both girls and boys.  (Perhaps a hint that The Boy is getting the short end of the stick regarding my sewing projects?)  I’ve spent many hours looking through the pages and making a long mental list of projects I want to try.  A few weeks ago, I finally worked up the courage to trace a pattern.  Of course, the first time I traced it I forgot to include the seam allowance.  For all the clever, cute and wonderful things that Japan produces, you’d think they could include the seam allowances in the patterns.

Anyway, I finally got the pattern traced properly and decided on fabric.  I had ordered a few yards of this fabric from Jenean a while back to make Big Girl a new dress for Easter.  I ended up finishing a different dress for her instead, so I knew I wanted to use some of the fabric for this project.

I chose the pattern because it looked simple but, simple isn’t always easy.  At least when you are trying to follow a pattern written in a different language.  One of my problems is that I read just enough Japanese to confuse myself, but not enough to really follow the directions.  This is a source of great annoyance to me.  I majored in Japanese language in college.  I was always too self-conscious to speak really well, but writing and reading were always my strength.  I guess after 14 years of not practicing, skills do tend to atrophy.  *sigh*

After some time with a stack of Japanese reference books, I finally gave up on reading the pattern.  I was able to fudge my way through and ended up with a wearable product.  Fortunately, the parts I really botched aren’t visible and I doubt Baby Girl is going to complain.

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I’ve discovered the danger of sewing for my children – word gets around.  Back in early March, I got a call from a teacher at the kids’ school.  My first thought was, “uh-oh, what has the Boy done now?”  It quickly dawned on me that this was not his teacher.  Nor was it one of Big Girl’s teachers.  The teacher then asked if I might be interested in helping with costumes for the school play.  With a small sigh of relief, I replied, “Sure, I’d be happy to help!

Immediately following my answer of yes, it occurred to me that I would inevitably be sewing with materials I would normally avoid like the plague.  Call me a fiber snob, but I would rather poke my eye out with a stick than sew with most synthetic fabric.

Let’s be clear, ours is not the kind of school that puts on a production of Our Town or anything established like that.  A new play is written each year with the kids’ (grades 5-8) input.  Parts are crafted with particular kids in mind.  The themes of the play reflect current events, with overarching themes of justice, hope and “kid power”.  It is really exciting and uplifting, but agreeing to sew costumes was a bit of a leap into the great unknown.

In mid-March, I attended the brainstorming session for costumes.  The teacher who writes the play gave an overview of the characters and the rest of the teachers, staff and volunteers, started tossing around ideas for suitable costumes.  Some of the costumes are already on hand.  Some are alterations of existing costumes.  Others get made from scratch.

My assignment?  Glamorous starfish.  Red and sparkly.

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A few different ideas were tossed around at the meeting.  I went looking for a pattern that would approximate what I had in mind.  It took me several weeks to work up the courage to buy the fabric.   Ten yards of red sparkly fabric is a big commitment.

With less profanity than I expected, I whipped up 4 of these babies:

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Admittedly, you have to use your imagination to get to starfish, but they’ve got glamor in spades.

Last night was opening night and I have to say, the girls looked pretty fabulous on stage.  (I didn’t get any pictures.)  Based on the heaping helpings of praise I’ve received for these retina-burning babies, I have a feeling that I am in this for the long haul.  Only 11 or 12 years until Baby Girl graduates 8th grade.  🙂

The birthday girl requested a yoga mat and she wasn’t disappointed. Unfortunately, the other two were VERY disappointed. Disappointed that they did not get a yoga mat and that their sister was not planning to share. The morning after was ushered in with yet more strife over the yoga mat. Yes, I am very happy that you are so enthusiastic about yoga. Now, please stop trying to kill each other over the mat.

In a somewhat atypical move, I went and bought another one. I foolishly thought that it would help. It looked promising at first. Joshua was willing to give Sarah a turn or make room on the mat to share with her. Lizzie was less willing. Joshua then started to freak about how unfair it all was that he was sharing but Lizzie wasn’t. Sigh.

Sunday night, a friend of Lizzie’s stopped by to bring her a birthday present. Did you guess? It was a yoga mat! Same brand and color even. Brad and I unilaterally decided that we should keep the yoga mat and redistribute the wealth. Fortunately, Lizzie saw the wisdom in that plan.

Lizzie and Joshua are both in yoga club at school this month. They asked if they could take their mats to school. With a vision of Joshua unfurling his mat in the bus or some equally obnoxious situation, I decided they each needed a bag for their mats. I was trying to figure out the math in my head (never a good thing) for a tube shape. Before my brain started to ache too much, I remembered seeing a pattern in Simple Sewing. Lotta saves the day!

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Whipped these up in about an hour total. I did end up making a run out to the store for the cord and cord stop, but the fabric was from my stash. I had visions of using cuter fabric, but the utilitarian fabric seems to make more sense given the fact that they will be dragged around by grade schoolers.

Maybe I should take up yoga and make a cute bag for myself. I can borrow Sarah’s mat. I’m sure she won’t mind sharing. 🙂

December has been unusually busy. Between various Christmas events, a round of strep throat that swept through the household and many extra hours of work for Brad, it feels like we are just now coming up for air.  Hence, the unintended radio silence around these parts.

I did manage to make a few gifts but, compared to last year, Christmas crafting was scaled back considerably.

Patchwork dish towels for teacher gifts.

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A shawl for my mom.

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A dress for Lizzie.

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Sarah was the recipient of the rest of my handmade efforts.  Our tradition for giving gifts to the kids is that each kid gets 3 gifts from us (3 was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for them).  They get a book, game/toy and an article of clothing.  (Santa is only responsible for the contents of the stockings.)

This year, Sarah’s toy was a bed for her doll.  We bought the bed from IKEA and Brad painted it white.  I made a red ticking mattress and a quilt.  I made the quilt with Jenean‘s lovely fabrics.  This is the perfect quilting project for me – small and manageable.  I quilted and bound it by hand.

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Sarah seems to like it.

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Trying to think of a book to get Sarah proved to be a challenge.  There is no shortage of books in our little house.  With two book-loving older siblings, it was hard to think of a book to buy that isn’t already on the shelves.  I had noticed how much she loves to look at Lizzie and Joshua’s photo albums and I was inspired.

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I decided to make an alphabet book with photos of Sarah and things she knows.  I wasn’t sure if a traditional photo album was going to stand up to frequent flipping by a toddler.  Instead,  I cut cardstock to 8×8 and coordinating pieces to 1×8.  I mounted the photos and text on the 8×8.  I then laminated the 1×8 and 8×8 side by side, with a couple millimeters space between.  This space allows the pages to open flat.

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The biggest mistake I made was in the layout.  The couplets are on opposite sides of the same paper, so you have to turn the page to read the rhyming line.  Should have had them facing.

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There are a couple of other annoyances, like a page or two on which the laminating creased and some wonky holes for the binding.  Overall, it was a funny little project and the kids all love to read it.  It is especially sweet listening to Joshua read it to Sarah.

If you slog through my blathering, you will be rewarded with a chance at a little giveaway at the end of the post…

I’ve been fighting a nasty cold for the past week and a half. Just as I was starting to feel a little better, my ear started to hurt. A lot! Took myself to urgent care last night. It’s not a good sign when the physician’s assistant looks in your ear and exclaims, “eeyuu”.

Thanks to this grand state of health, I haven’t had the energy or brain power to blog but I did manage to finish a couple of much anticipated projects. That is to say, much anticipated by me, not necessarily anyone else.

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(let’s ignore the crooked buttons, shall we?)

Pattern: February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne (Flint Knits)
Yarn: Tranquility by Mooncake Yarn
Color: Brown Stone

I cast on in mid-September and was wearing it by mid-November. It grew a little when I blocked it, as expected. I don’t think I would change anything, with the possible exception of my yarn choice. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED knitting with this yarn. It is so soft and yummy, not unlike Malabrigo. Problem is, it is pilling like a mofo already. The danger of knitting with single ply yarn?? Regardless, it won’t stop me from wearing it all the time.

I also finished a couple of Lazy Days Skirts for the girls. You can’t beat a 45-minute sewing project with such cute results.

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Although I love the pattern, especially the ribbon hem, I am most excited about the fabric! It is from the new Moondance line by Jenean Morrison from Free Spirit. Look at these fabulous prints:

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I met Jenean last spring while visiting my family in Memphis. Her husband, Joel, was a good friend of mine in high school. Although Joel and I had lost contact for many years, thanks to the power of the internet, we were able to reconnect. He sent me a link to Jenean’s Posh Patterns website and I immediately responded, “Her work is amazing. She should get it made into fabric!” I soon found out that Jenean was already working with Free Spirit and I started to count down the days until I could get my hands on some fabric.

When Jenean e-mailed to say she wanted to send some of the sample yardage she had left, I was beyond excited. I figured she would send a couple half yards or something.  I had no idea she would send so much! I have plenty of projects in mind, but I feel a little selfish.  So, here’s your chance to get your hands on some, too.

Leave a comment by November 30th and I’ll draw a name.  If your name is drawn, you can choose to receive either 4 fat quarters or 2 half yard cuts.   If you win, be sure to share photos of what you make and spread the news about this great new line of fabrics!!

Be sure to go read about Jenean’s adventures at Houston Quilt Market.

Seems like the chaos of everyday life has suppressed any crafty impulse I might have had lately.

A disappointing result in my latest sewing project didn’t help. I was working on Butterick 5046 view A in a sewing class. We spent plenty of time altering the pattern to fit. At least, that was the thought. After all that work, the fit is significantly not right. I will eventually take it back to my teacher and cross my fingers that we can salvage it. I foresee much quality time with the seam ripper.

We’ve been making very good use of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. After the bread machine produced a particularly gnarly loaf, we started using the master recipe in a loaf pan for sandwich bread. This week we made pita. We’ve made it a few times and it is quick and satisfying. Exciting to see the flat round come out of the oven puffed up.

I also made up a batch of the “Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Inspired by Chris Kimball”.  Whole wheat, white and rye flours with wheat germ and honey.  The smell of baking bread is always welcome, but this loaf smelled especially delicious.  The flavor lived up to the promising smell.

This weekend promises to be calmer than last.  Perhaps I will get in a little crafting.  Crafting and some cleaning.