Monday, December 30, 2013

In From the Cold

I'm sad because we're taking down Christmas d├ęcor. There's a naked tree in the corner and it's making our living room darker. Call it the post holiday let down if you like, but I'm not ready to let Christmas go, just yet.

I was lamenting to myself the other day that with me making the majority of gifts this year the holiday quilt for our home got put on the back burner so everything else could get done. First thing in the morning on 12/27 I walked into my sewing room, as is my habit, and I wondered what to do with myself. I'd had a list of things that needed to be done for Christmas and now I could chart my own course. It was then that I remembered the jelly roll I had purchased at the start of November: Kate Spain’s In From the Cold.

Enjoy a look at each of the fabrics in the line.
I also remembered that I had discovered a pattern designer around the same time and purchased a Pattern by Sweet Jane: A Good Day for this purpose. I had been looking forward to trying out one of her patterns for a while (I also purchased her book and two other patterns from her Etsy shop. Can you tell I was a bit excited?)
Also, it gave me an excuse to play with my new toy:

Meet my Brother NX570Q

I've just started cutting the pieces for the Good Day quilt, but I've got 360 days to finish it.

Next week's blog post will be tardy due to me traveling. Hopefully you can stand the anticipation.

Monday, December 23, 2013

UFO Round Up, Part 1

I am happy to report that I will be going into the new year with no unfinished projects! Well, at least non that were started before December of this year...

This is the infamous baby quilt that had been hanging out in my craft closet for, well, way too long. Especially now that the baby that I made it for is now 18 months old. I love how this turned out. I found the fairy tale print fabric on clearance at one of my favorite fabric store haunts along with the coordinating repeating print.
It's girly but not TOO girly, right? I can imagine a little girl making up stories to go along with each picture or have the quilt as a starting point for a parent to tell her stories.
Here's a close up of two of my favorite squares. And yes, I did trace quilting on each block. And yes, I now know what the benefit of a knee lift would be.

Rapunzel with her long flowing mane ending at her captive tower.

The frog prince waiting for his kiss. Have to say, I love his wry little smile.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Rise of Franken-Pillow

The other day I was sewing busily along. I needed to start machine quilting the charm quilt and, well... I didn't want to. But I wanted to sew. I wasn't going to let myself start another large scale project when I had Christmas presents to complete, and frankly I just wanted to have a purely creative few minutes. I looked to the right of my sewing machine where my cutting board lives and saw a variety of scraps from different projects piled about. I grabbed a few and stitched them together, then cut them at a "strange" angle and continued to do so until I came up with this:

A tour of scraps from the last 10 years of my quilting projects.
Somewhere between the sewing and cutting the purple swirls and adding the sushi fabric I decided this would be a great gift for my 9 year-old niece. In part that decision was because two of the fabrics in this quilt are from her baby quilt (the red checker print and the strawberries), and also in part I didn't know what to make her since she's too old for dolls and too young for the body products I am making. I ended up stopping at a 16 1/2" square because beyond that it was going to get a bit cumbersome. Perfect size for a throw pillow too.
Larger scraps from my collection for the back of the pillow. Another fun element. Who says the back of anything has to be one solid piece of fabric?

I sandwiched the crazy quilt with some scrap cotton batting and muslin and then I went to town quilting it. This part was just as fun for me as putting the pieces together. It might have been more fun if my machine had more than two decorative stitches. After putting it together and stuffing it, this is what I got.
Voila, Franken-pillow!
(To be accurate it would be Frankenstein's pillow,
but Franken-pillow is more fun.)

I'm proud of myself for getting a project done in time to ship it and not pay an exorbitant amount to get it there before Christmas.

Honestly, sewing Franken-pillow was a blast. I haven't had that much fun at my sewing machine in a while. Is that strange to say when I love quilting so much? Maybe ... maybe not. If I think about it for too long my head starts to hurt, but what it comes down to is this: Quilting, or the process of making a quilt, is a lot of repetition and guidelines about which piece gets cut at what angle and placed where. Crazy quilting is, well, I don't want to say its the opposite, but it's not as precise. It's a way to be a little more wibbly-wobbly with what some would call the "rules" and just go for it. Just sew, for the sake of sewing. Also, it's a great way to use up scraps!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Whipping Up Trouble

I have terribly dry hands in the cold weather time and I've been dying to try out the hand lotion recipes from the EcoBeauty book I mentioned last week. I admit, I went a little crazy buying supplies when I got the book - Almond oil, cocoa butter, not to mention the 3 lbs. of raw Shea butter... So what's a girl going to do? Whip up something good.
The first lotion I made was the Shea Lotion which is predominately almond oil with some Shea butter and water. It was indeed a lotion-y consistency. I'm not sure how I feel about it though, it's a little watery for my liking but it certainly moisturizes, but it isn't a long term result. I used it the next day and it made my legs super soft. I kept using it on my hands at my desk and it felt like I needed to reapply for the desired effect. I will admit though, last week was extremely dry weather and that may have exacerbated my own dry skin.
Wanting something that used more of my abundant supply of Shea butter (what can I say, I got a really good deal!) I started searching the web and came across Wellness Mama: Whipped Body Butter. This recipe has equal parts Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Olive Oil, and Coconut Oil.

Foamy and smooth after a 10 minute whipping. Makes me glad for my stand mixer!
Coming out of the bowl I knew I was going to like this mixture better. It has a richer texture more like a cream but not too dense like a store bought body butter. Made me feel better about putting them in these decorative "canning" jars for gifting since I discovered they didn't have a liquid tight seal.

Lovely little peaks of whipped body butter.
What's interesting about this mixture is that it's solid at room temp but as soon as it touches skin it starts to melt. I've only done test patches of this  but this stuff makes my hands go "ahhhhh".
Off to more holiday crafting madness...

Monday, December 2, 2013

All Mixed Up

As Thanksgiving day approached and the days off of work teased me with possibility, I put the last few stitches on Miss Kitty. I had a scary moment when I got everything but one arm stuffed and realized there wasn't enough... so I improvised. I used some small scraps (1" or less) I had in my cast off pile mixed with the little stuffing I had left and voila! It's a little lumpy but a 22 month old likely won't notice.
Isn't Miss Kitty cute? I embroidered rosettes instead of buttons on her lapel to be more little kid friendly.
My next endeavor after waking from my turkey coma was to try out recipes from a book I discovered: EcoBeauty by Lauren Cox. I had a light bulb moment when I saw it on the shelf at Powell's and thought it would be a great way for me to treat my lady friends for Christmas. My first step was to make liquid soap. No, I couldn't use dish or hand soap. In the book it easily lays out to grate some bar soap and mix equal parts soap with water. 
I don't know what happened, but I ended up with a jar of liquid soap that was the consistency of mucous.

I'm nothing if not persistent. I thought to myself, ok, I just got the ratio off and I only need a 1/2 cup for this bath salt recipe. So I took a tablespoon of what was in the jar and got it down to about what liquid soap should be like, added a little blue food coloring for fun and mixed the batch of "Bubbly Bath Salts".
As you can see, what I ended up with was rock salt with clumps of blue soap in it.
Next endeavor: Lip balm! This went a lot more... smoothly. The small batch I think helped the most. I ended up with yummy chocolate and vanilla tubes to share with my friends. I was silly and didn't take pictures though.
I've got to finish the charm quilt and make a few other gifts... I think I'm right on schedule for gift giving. I must be in another dimension, this NEVER happens!