Monday, March 31, 2014


I had a lull in projects this week. It kind of made me a little crazy to think that there wasn't SOMETHING I had to finish in the near future. So I cast about my sewing room and decided it was time for a little spring cleaning and reorganizing. This was mostly the result of me being disgusted by the status of my cutting area. I had the remnants of the last ten or more projects strewn about the table and collected in my overflowing scrap bin as well as a few small shopping bags.

My scrap management system was not working. So I consulted my sewing buddy, and she suggested trying out Bonnie Hunter's scrap management system of cutting all of those random bits of fabric down to more manageable and predictable pieces. The first thing to consider: what's the smallest piece of fabric I'm willing to keep and use. First I thought 1", but then I thought about that further and decided that was the smallest finished size, and then decided on the other increments from there. 

So, I'm starting my stash sorting system with cutting pieces into 5" squares, 2 1/2" squares, and pieces from 1 1/2" square to 1 1/2" by 4". Any piece of fabric that I come across that's larger than 5" x 10" I'm leaving alone for now in their own bin. After about 6 hours of cutting pieces, I've cut into the mess by half. I'm hoping with a little more effort on my part it'll be taken care of by the end of the week. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Start on Spring Planting

Well, it seems like spring has finally hit the Portland area. With the weather so nice, I just couldn't sit inside at my sewing machine! This weekend I spent some time in the sun working on a planter for strawberries, something I've been dreaming of for years. We already have two raised planting beds which I use for vegetables like kale, lettuce, peas, and (my favorite) tomatoes. A lot of things tend to be trial and error for me in the garden. The climate is NOT what I grew up with in Sacramento so I have to give up things like growing bell peppers because I 1)don't have a green house, and don't intend to. 2) They take more work than I'm willing to put into it. 

So, once I set my mind to having strawberries this summer I did my best to find a creative and inexpensive way to do so. Initially I was planning to make a third planter bed to connect the existing two but soon decided that would take a lot more leveling and expense than I would like. So, I went to my new best friend Pinterest  to resolve my dilemma. I came across a few things that sparked my interest. I came across this project: DIY Garden Planter. While that project was geared toward a flower display I decided it would also be well suited for strawberry plants. 

Well, you know me  I can't do a creative project by someone else's plans, I've got to make it my own. Here's what I did: 
  1. Have a large decorative pot on the bottom with a hole drilled in the bottom. 
  2. Take a 1/2" rebar (I ended up getting a 10' pole and having them cut it down for me to 6') and drive it down into the ground through the hole of the base part. Ideally you should have a foot or two in the ground.
  3. Fill the base pot with soil. 
  4. Carefully thread the first terracotta pot onto the rebar and cock it to one side making sure that it is stably settled in the dirt of the base pot. I used 8.25" Azalea pots for this project, they're a little wider than they are tall to allow for more planting.
  5. Plant your first plant in the first terracotta pot. I found it was a lot easier to do this as I stacked the pots rather than having them all stacked and trying to put plants in them.
  6. Continue to the top of the rebar carefully cocking the pots to one side or the other and planting as you go.

Voila! I had a lovely time playing in the dirt with the little girl (you can see her little truck in the planting bed). I got my first round of plants at the same home improvement store I purchased the other supplies. That was a big mistake. We went to a local plant nursery down the way from us to get the rest of the plants: $12.99 for 25 bare root strawberry plants. I have planted 15 of them (not just in the strawberry tower) and will probably give the remaining 10 plants to friends. 

I'm very much looking forward to having garden-fresh strawberries in June!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vintage Finish

After sitting in the closet for 6 months my vintage reproduction quilt top was finally finished. It was given some urgency recently as the deadline for donating to a charity auction drew nearer and the quilt I had intended to donate was not in state anywhere close to being ready. So, I pulled it out of storage and, with some trouble, found a backing fabric and got to work.

I ended up doing machine binding (I know I said I wouldn't do it on a larger scale project, but I wanted to save some time and I figured the practice couldn't hurt) after doing trace quilting inside of each of the squares.

A quick view of the back. It's close enough to being "vintage" that no one would likely take a second look unless they were an expert. I nearly went with a solid color before I happened on this print.

A close up of the machine quilting I did. I have to admit, I love all of the fabrics in this little quilt for different reasons, but I especially love the little boy with a kite. 

The little 36" square quilt was donated this morning. I wasn't going to put my label on it at first because I thought whoever buys it at the auction isn't going to care who made it. This is such a contrast to my normal soapbox of "every quilt must be labeled" that when I was talking to my mom about it she looked at me with shock and reminded me that it is art and art must be signed! This was reinforced by the person running the auction I was donating to. Glad I tacked on my label at the last minute. Now all that's left is to wait and see how much it goes for at the auction on 4/6. 

Monday, March 10, 2014


Making stuffed animals wasn't something I had really done before. My sewn creations usually were 2D and flat. But as they say, addiction starts somewhere. When I made Katy Kitty for my little girl for Christmas it inspired me to create more snuggley creatures for my friends' kids. So I took to Pinterest (another addiction) to find some free patterns to get started on. 

The first challenge was a stuffed elephant for a little girl who was born around the same time as an elephant baby at the Portland Zoo. I wasn't able to find a free pattern that I really liked the look of so I ended up modifying one. The pattern I used was for a kids heating pad (aka flat) from the Riley Blake Website for Layla the Elephant. Here's how she turned out:

Made of pink fleece with quilting cotton for the inside of the ears, felt and buttons for the eyes. At one point I had to use the walking foot on my sewing machine to sew three layers of fleece together, talk about bulky!

Is it me or does the elephant look a little frightened? Maybe some eyebrows or eyelashes would have resolved that issue...

Ok, I have to show off the elephant's butt here, because this is part of where my creativity came in. Elephant needed a tail and making it of fleece didn't seem right. Using ribbon like the pattern suggested wasn't a good option either. I ended up using pearled cotton in a braid for the tail with a little bow at the end. We'll see how long that lasts with a 2 year-old, but I think it is quite cute!

Next came a sea turtle for a 1 year old boy. This pattern was fairly straight forward an uncomplicated from Positively Splendid. It did challenge my embroidery skills a bit, but I think he's quite cute. 

He didn't use much fabric either half a fat quarter for the shell, and another for the belly and fins, then scraps for the head and tail. 

Look at his sweet little face. I admit, I kind of love him.

Another friend's little boy is turning 1 at the end of March and I'm torn between making him a bear or a monkey. 

What was your favorite stuffed animal growing up? 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Jewel Box

It's been a busy week for me at the sewing machine (I love that that almost auto-corrected to the "doing machine"). Below are a few of the blocks I completed in my quilting class. The top pattern is called "Jewel Box" and the bottom one is "Pinwheel". Both were a lot simpler than expected, but I'm having a little anxiety over having enough contrast in my remaining fabric to finish the blocks. It's not as much fun with out the contrast (compare the blue jewel box to the purple one). In the end it will still be wonderful, but I'm considering buying another 1/4 yard of one or two of the colors just to make it look how I want...

I went to an all day sew with the Portland Modern Quilt Guild and my good buddy Brittany on Saturday and pounded out another large batch of the No Place Like Home blocks. After all the cutting was done these blocks are just zipping together. I have three more blocks to assemble before I can start putting together the top. I love how fast the Sweet Jane quilts go together.
"No Place Like Home" with Tula Pink's "Nest" collection

Right now I'm finishing up a few stuffies for birthday presents for two 1 year olds and one 2 year old. Pictures and links to patterns next week!