Friday, June 29, 2012

Zakka Style Sew Along - Potholders

I'd really been wanting to join the Zakka Style Sew Along hosted over at LRstitched, however with the Handstitched class, finishing up my Patchwork Prism for that QAL, and the other things I'm working on, I just didn't think it was wise.

As I'm not known for wisdom, it's no surprise I got a copy of Zakka Style halfway through the sew along.  I couldn't resist joining in on attempting to make some potholders last night.  I don't need potholders so I'm not sure why I did this.

I went to culinary school as a teen, and after cooking professionally for a number of years, I'm a dedicated bar towel user for all things kitchen.  Still buy fancy silicone things to use now and again but you know where my latest one is? Hanging off my dryer.  Why? Because there's a magnet in it, and it was just in the way on my fridge.  Yep, my motto is "A bar towel solves everything" Well as of today, that's my motto!

I wasn't sure how successful this project would be so instead of cutting into anything too precious,  I decided to use a couple of solids, and a bargain priced jelly roll I picked up at Big Lots over the weekend (I read somewhere they had fabric and there's one local so I HAD to go to check, and they had a few different jelly rolls for $6, as well as FQ's, yards & charm packs, all from Fabric Editions .  The quality's fine, it's sturdier than Joann's FQ's.  Whoo!  Who ever knew you could fit so much in parentheses?).

For the back I used some green linen I picked up to make some fabric baskets from, but I guess that project is just going to have to wait.

 My iron had also given up the ghost after 14 months, so while I was waiting a new one to arrive I found a $9 iron there to use as a backup.  I mean...I really never pictured myself stalking around the house whining and complaining because I couldn't IRON, but it happened.

Now I'll admit, looking through the book I'm finding some directions a bit difficult to follow.  I don't do as well when fabric pieces are listed in sections instead of in a plain old list.  Next week's water bottle carrier made my head hurt because there weren't any diagrams, just pictures of the finished project, and I really love diagrams.  My head doesn't always translate directions into useful actions, I tend to be a hand-on learner.

I didn't make my seam binding wide enough, so it was difficult to sew on, and I sewed it on the back first.  Perhaps I should've straight stitched THEN zigzagged... that just occurred to me!  My stitch length was inconsistent because of this & the thickness.
I added fabric tabs so I could hang them up.
I'll probably make them again, I think they'll look a LOT better the second time around, and I might pick up some of the insulating batting stuff too.

 So I've already started on next weeks project, starting to think I better get out into nature someday before I miss summer!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Food of the Month - June Roundup

Originally I'd meant this blog to be a bit more rounded in the different things I put on it, but I've been caught up in sewing projects.  That's OK, but I'm going to slide some more randomness into it.  Apparently it doesn't come naturally to me to grab a camera before dinner,  go figure.  I swear, my diet isn't as carb heavy as this collage suggests!

1. Beef Stew with Prunes from the NY Times.  For some reason I'd had the idea to make beef stew with prunes stuck in my head for awhile.  The prunes really didn't go over very well the Mr. and I found it too sweet myself.  I added a several carrots and didn't use red wine, but did splash in a bit of marsala.  Besides the prunes it was actually really good.

2. Hot Cross Buns from the Food Network.  My husband was out of town on Easter, so I wasn't very timely about making them.  They were pretty awesome.

3.  Ham and Salad on Potato Rolls.  Not that ham, tomato and mustard sandwiches are particularly exciting, but I had some arugula and baby romaine that I tossed in Italian dressing and Frank's RedHot Buffalo wing sauce, which was amazingly tasty on top of it.

4.  Coffee with coconut oil.  I dunno, coconut oil is all trendy now.  I have a friend who cooks with it all the time and I finally got some for myself but have mainly been putting a teaspoon or two into my morning coffee.

5. Pancetta & Onion pizza.  My favorite pizza book is American Pie which is 50% travel story/50% cookbook.  It has a few dough recipes I use regularly, and this time it was NY style crust with pancetta, red onion & mozzarella topped with greens tossed in Italian dressing.

6.  Baked Fries.  Really I love making fries.  These ones I tossed in a bit of melted coconut oil and olive oil before baking at 450F.  The coconut oil was really interesting, and kept them from getting really crispy, which I like.

7. Baklava which I'd been meaning to make for awhile.  I only kind of followed Alton Browns recipe.  Cut down on the sugar and honey by 33%, used almonds and walnuts, layered it differently, and used rose flower water to spritz it as I assembled it.

Anyway, maybe this will inspire me to cook more of a variety of things.  My husband's a meat and potatoes guy which clashes with my tastes, so it's a challenge to keep us both happy (aka I shy away from veggies and fish so I don't get the sad eyes).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WIP - Pezzy Print Quilt

There are a number of fabrics that appeal to me, but that I feel clueless about what to do with them.  One of them was Pezzy Prints by Moda, so I got a charm pack so I didn't have to figure out how to cut up a giant field of it.   I'd seen a couple of different styles of quilts that use framing, so it seemed like that would be a fun way to incorporate them into a project.

I'm just about done with all the tiles.  I started this about a month ago, and it's ironic how uh..much more fabric I got in the interim.  Some of the prints I used I wouldn't have if I started again today, but it was all I had in that hue at the time.

One green tile I did turned out a bit too wonky,  due to both how I cut it, and with print choice since I would've liked more green in it, but I think most of them have managed a bit better.

trying to decide on the last few background fabrics
Just to archive my measurements -
I cut my solids to 8", put the 5" charms on top of them cut out the pieces around it, then, sewed the solid pieces to the charm with a 1/4"seam allowance before trimming it to a 6.5" block.

I cut my prints to 10", put the framed charms on top of that, cut out the pieces around it, sewed the print pieces to the 6.5" blocks with a 1/4" seam allowance, then trimmed them to 8.5" blocks.

If I do something like this again I will probably use 10" and 12" squares, so I have more leeway, some of the tiles were a wee bit short of 8.5"

I decided to keep the quilt very small, as I can see it's not going to turn out how I had it in my mind.  It's a good size for a kid's play mat though I think. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Skill Builder Sampler - Blocks 1 & 2

Skill Builder Sampler Blocks
There's a lovely Skill Builder Sampler Sew A-long that started last year at Sewn by Leila.  I saw the awesome button for it on the Craft Nurse Quilt blog (where there happens to be a giveaway that ends tomorrow) and couldn't resist checking it out.  It's ongoing so you can join at any time.  It's a series of 36 blocks that starts off with simple ones and works it's way up to more  difficult ones.

I certainly DO need help with building the basic skills of quilting so I decided I should join in, and here are my first two blocks (with links to the tutorials).  I decided to do them in greys, greens and yellows, as  I have a good amount of those colors. I'm going to use prints I love, prints I hate, and everything in between.  I figure when I finish if I can't live with anything, I'll remake it.

There were optimistic dreams of finishing it before summer was over for a picnic blanket, but I think with the Handstitched class and the other projects I'm working on, it's going to be much longer than that.  This is OK, since I can do a block here and there in between other things.  I am happy that both blocks came out at 12" inches as they were supposed to, which was a bit of an amazement to me, let me tell you!   

Block 1 - Log Cabin  (Skills: Accurate cutting and sewing)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fabric Mart Review & Order

I thought I'd blog about my ongoing experience with Fabric Mart.  They have lots of great apparel fabric (a bit of quilting fabric but only a bit).  I get most apparel basics from, but Fabric Mart has designer and couture fabric such as Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs and the like.  They carry everything from leather to of high end buttons.  I've ordered quite of bit from them over the last couple of years & they've always gotten my orders right.

After realizing I'm no clothes making genius, I've become a hardcore bargain shopper until I'm more accomplished, and they always have some things on sale so I keep an eye on their website.

So some notable things about Fabric Mart I'd tell somebody who was like..."Oh please tell me about Fabric Mart."

Julie's Pick June Mailer
Julie's Picks Swatch Club - I tried finding reviews before I joined, but couldn't find much information, so I wanted to discuss this.  Basically they go purchase a limited amount of 30 or so fabrics.  They don't put pics up, these little samples are the only way to see them.
It's $50 for a year's membership & a $25 gift certificate to use.  ($ decreases as the year progresses but doesn't include the gift certificate)  You get a swatch mailing each month & the fabrics can only be purchased during that month.

I haven't found a lot of things that really intrigue me in these six months, partially because I'm not big on the Pantone colors of the season.  They have a good variety of fabrics in them though, and some pretty good prices too.  It's very nice to get to see and feel them first. 
On the bright side I've started sorting the little 2" squares into color groups, and am planning on trying to make a little quilt out of it once the year is done!

2 1/2 yards of pink beaded fabric
Mystery Bundles - they bundle at various times fabric, linings, zippers & misc (which is buttons, trim, elastic, hooks etc).  Sometimes they offer a free bundle with a purchase.  I will still get the zippers and misc, but I am done with the fabric bundles.    They're usually 10 yards/$15.  My bundles have run the gamut from  what seemed to be outdoor fabric (which they don't sell), stuf I'd seen in their super sale clearance for $1.99/yard, to formal wear stuff.  Overall it's been about 75% useless to me.  Probably be a better option if I had kids to make costumes for, or sewing buddies to swap fabric with.  I don't know what I'm going to do with that formal pink beaded yep, the mystery is fun, but when you can't even use the fabric for a muslin it makes it less valuable of a purchase.  Best items have been a couple of useful printed knits and two lovely pieces of silk, one red and one white with red polka dots.  If only red was my color!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Zippered Coin Purses: Part Two

I took the first four zippered  pouches I made here to my sister, hoping she'd feign at least a little interest in them.  She was kind enough to let me press all four of them on her.

I was surprised when she pulled out a zipper pouch & purse she'd made (not that she had them, she was always more creative than me, with fabric, paint, clay - you name it) but that she'd bother taking anything I made when she could obviously sew things she wanted for herself.

I guess it's like a sandwich - I make a damn good sandwich but when somebody else makes a sandwich for me, it's just better somehow.  Nevertheless, this gave me a good excuse to make a few more zipper pouches, and to try out other tutorials that I was curious about.

I tried this tutorial from noodlehead next.  It was more complicated than the first one, but there are two benefits to it.  Due to it's assembly, the zipper is hidden between layers of fabric so it's not visible on the inside of the pouch.  It would also be good if you have a print that you want to facing the same direction on both sides.  I am sure the zippered corners could be more squared, the end product in the tutorial doesn't seem to have the same problem so much.

I tried this tutorial at which was for a pyramid shaped triangle pouch.  I failed epically, but it seemed like a number of posters also had problems trying to figure out how to turn it into a pyramid from the directions.  On the bright side it made me want to make a quilted pouch, and I'm working on hand stitching some Kawaii in Hawaii fabric for that project now.  An upside was that I got to learn how to put fabric tabs over the ends of the zippers, which I'll use in the future.
Finally I made a birdie pouch with the tutorials I used in my earlier post.  It was nice and relaxing to finish with something I'd already done a few of.  

Next on my to-do list is to try out some of the boxy bag tutorials, as I want to make my husband a travel bag for his razor.  It makes me want to start putting everything in bags - hmm an oilcloth bread bag?  Cat purses?  Oh the possibilities!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Coaster of the month: June

I actually  made this at the beginning of the month, Im about 7% better at taking pictures now, so I'd take a better picture of the front but...well my coffee mug runneth over and it didn't get back to pristine white after laundering.  I like to think that I've learned a bit more info about reverse applique this month, and if I took another shot at this, it'd come out better. (That and I bought one of those olfa circle cutters which presumably will make my circles actually circular shaped.)

My machine stitching in the round wasn't very impressive, so I just added a blanket stitch yesterday which is going to keep any edge fraying in check.  And sheesh, looking at these pictures I HOPE my sewing has gotten leaps and bounds better in just the last few weeks.  Next month - mug rug! And it will be an almost perfect rectangle or I'll start over, I mean really, not sure I could take the embarrassment if I can't eventually get my basic shapes down ;)

first ever applique project - uh..woohoo?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wonky Star Cat Bed

I'm planning on making a large Wonky Star quilt for an engagement present, but I wanted to try it out first to see if it was going to be too problematic or time consuming (I find offset patterns a bit more confusing to work with than things that just go together in nice strips and blocks).

After seeing a lovely Wonky Star memorial quilt at from the blue chair blog, I decided to do the big quilt in a similar layout.  For the cat bed I was just improvising the layout.

I got my Wonky Star tutorial at The Silly BooDilly blog, and for the cat bed I used 3" squares for smaller stars.  I'm not a big fan of red so I thought this would be a good way to use up a chunk of the material I had in that color.

I just winged the assembly of the pet bed, used a few layers of batting for the bottom & strips of the thick felt left over from my ironing pad replacement for the sides.  A bit floppier than I like, but the cats don't seem to care.

Wasabi decadently flopping around on the computer desk

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ali Makes Wine Part II: Stabilizing & Clearing

It's been a couple of weeks since I had to pay much attention to my wine Orchard Breezin' Banana Pineapple Viognier, and it's time for step two.  I'm making sure to write about this because I think making wine is fun, and it's relatively easy when you buy a wine kit.  I don't want to get in the habit of only posting about sewing.  Giving somebody a bottle of wine you made can be just as satisfying as finishing a quilt or wearing a new piece of clothing you made.

When a wine's specific gravity decreases to 0.998 or lower (a measurement of how dense the liquid is compared to water), it's time to move on to to stabilizing and clearing . This stops fermentation & transfers the wine off of the yeast to start the aging process before it's bottled.

For Orchard Breezin' kits this step happens around day 14.  On day 16 I had time to work on it so after transferring it to a 6 gallon bottle there were a number of chemicals to add - I have a stirring rod you put in a hand held drill so I don't have to hand stir everything.  It's also time to add the remainder of the banana & pineapple flavor pack to sweeten it.  Now it pretty much just sits and hangs out for a minimum of another two weeks.

tools soaking in sanitizing solution

Tools for this part are pretty minimal - a sanitized 6 gallon bottle (glass or PET plastic) A siphon to transfer the wine from the bucket to the bottle (gravity assisted, with the bucket 3 or so feet above the bottle), and a stirring stick to mix chemicals in and help drive off CO2 so it won't end up a sparkling wine..
The other new item used now is a bung (tee hee) which is a rubber cork that fits tightly in the bottle opening, the airlock goes into the bung to keep oxygen out.

cloudy after transfer
much clearer a few days later

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Patchwork Prism QAL: Finished!

Blurry patchwork prism, now with FINGERS!!!

I consider myself un-crafty.  Things don't turn out the way I'd like.  I'm impatient unorganized & insist on sewing until 2 am when it's impossible to NOT make mistakes.
Generally with what I make, I just see the flaws.   This quilt has plenty!!!  Few of the hexagon points match up & I did not manage to follow the color gradations (which kind of was the point of the quilt), but it's all mine!
Anyway, I've decided to turn a blind eye to its issues & just enjoy it.  Making it was fun, and a learning experience.

- It's time for the link up party to start for the Anna Maria Horner + Janome Patchwork Prism! Sweet Diesel Designs

My main challenges were (err besides being just about a total novice) were:
1.  Laying it out in a room where cats rampage at will & having to transport parts at a time into my sewing room, trying to keep track of what went where. (This weekend I made a design wall to avoid this in the future.)
2. Issues with areas matching up perfectly due to multiple fabric types/stretches.  There was canvas, cotton lawns and voile.  Some of the regular quilting cotton had really varied stretch too. *honest!*

Quilt, at rest
It's nice to see fabrics in it I'd bought way back when to make clothes from because I didn't know better.  I like seeing the bits that I don't have any more of, knowing this is the only place I'll see it again.  I even like the ugly bits from the random bundle that I insisted on putting in.
I LOVE seeing how other people have some of the same prints in their quilts too, it kind of makes me feel a sense of community.

I found it unreasonably hard to get clear pictures of the finished quilt that showed good detail of the whole.  I think this is one of those projects that looks better in person.  (So many other people seem to get amazing pictures of larger projects.)  Nevertheless, I've seen some really beautiful versions other people have done of this, and I wish I'd managed them, but I am content.  I certainly feel much better prepared for my next QAL!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Handstitched Class: Center Dogwood Blossom

Wait!!! That doesn't look square!!!

For the handstitched class quilt, I missed the part where you cut the dogwood blossom shape OUT of the freezer paper before ironing it to the fabric.  One thing about being unorganized was I didn't turn on my laptop in my sewing room, so was running back and forth to the computer room to read directions.   Anyway I ended up ironing the whole piece on and then cutting fabric/paper out with a 1/2" seam allowance to the line, which meant that after clipping to the border I had to trim that excess 1/2" of freezer paper off, being careful to not cut any of the fabric.

My "blind stitches" went further onto the dogwood medallion than needed, and I decided to use some fly stitching on the mitred corners, though I might upgrade to a whipped fly stitch (talk about exciting and daring!).  Obviously this means I'm changing the layout of the border hand stitching, and I may add some flowery element to to see if that supports the rich Moroccan feel I'm aiming for (though I already get the idea my quilt is a sentient thing that's going to turn out however it damn well pleases).  It's fun to be adding other embroidery elements to the hand stitching tools I'm learning.

I'm enamored of Sarah's Hand Embroidery Tutorials which has tutorials on a ton of stitches.

I had a heck of a time choosing the outer print for this, I wasn't really happy with any of my options.  I went with Valori Wells' Wrenly in Violet, as it has the green pink and orange that I'm going to be doing the hand stitching in.  I was amazed at what a different feel each fabric I tried as a background gave. I'm having trouble visualizing my end product without more closeups of the finished quilt - not sure where the prints actually go in it.
I didn't do mitred corners on the outer layer because it just didn't look right.
My square isn't exactly square, and I think it's 1/4" short in a couple of places, but will figure out what to do about that after the border is stitched.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bunny break

I am in the middle of a couple of time intensive embroidery pieces, but the dreary weather here has made me a bit gloomy and I needed to finish something to cheer myself up.  I spent a couple of hours working on one piece last night, but since both of them have hours more of work, I decided to start something new and simple that could be done quickly.

My bunny drawing skills need some work, but this only took about an hour to make.  I am content that it's springy/summery enough to make me smile.  I have a bad feeling if I'm not careful I'll be taking all the art down from the hallway and filling it up with dozens of hoops of embroidery instead. 

On another note, I never understood why Ryan Gosling was all sexy to women.  I hadn't heard of the "Hey girl" meme surrounding him until I saw somebody post a picture from one of the... subcategories, Handmade Ryan Gosling.  I have to admit Ryan seems a lot more attractive to me since I found that site.

from @SewHappyGeek

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Handstitched Class: Eyelet Needlebook

I made an eyelet needlebook last night for my Stitched In Color Handstitched class and I will say I'm getting frustrated at my seeming inability to read and follow directions!  The felt piece is 1/2" inch longer on one side & got positioned sideways when I stitched the circles because I failed to double check the measurements.   I had already stitched on the button, cut out the circles and done the blanket stitch before I realized this.

My first choice fabric really just didn't work -  it would've looked "super hella awesome" inside but you couldn't see enough of the spots through the holes.  It also wasn't wide enough but I  still hadn't caught on to my problem.  Next I tried a second fabric which also couldn't get me enough different colors through the circles to work, and it was also too narrow. At that point I grabbed a thing called a ruler, and quickly figured out that I better revamp the size of my lining fabric.

Limited by my felt color, my not big enough stash, needing to see SOMETHING I liked through the circle cut outs & the fact I already had a silvery button & yellow blanket stitching, I ended up using Michael Miller, Petite Point Citron.  I don't have a lot to say about the fabric, I mean it matches!  My cheap back up scissors really don't however...does it say something bad about me that I want to go buy scissors that match?

The one thing I did that I'm pleased with was to add a bead to the closure thread.  I tried my hand at jewelry making several years back and had a bit too much fun at my first and only bead show, so I checked my boxes to see if I had anything that would work.  My eye immediately fell on a bead that was both silvery like my button and greenish like everything else.

I think I will make a round book of some sort for needles and a pocket for a few skeins of floss wound onto thread bobbins, and a teeny one just for needles.  I might see if I can manage to add one row of yellow floss onto the button on this one so it is more cohesive looking.   So far I'm having a lot of fun with this class!

1st choice, Alexander Henry Griffith Dot (

2nd choice, Salt Air Sea Garden by Cosmo Cricket

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Handstitched Class - planning a palette

inspiration photo

I figured I should work on an actual color scheme for the Stitched in Color Modern Medallion quilt for Handstitched class.  I had an awesome sheet that just didn't wear well and I'd cut it up to make some pajama bottoms recently.  I still had lots of it left so decided to base the quilt around that.  It's sadly the closest thing in my house that has any exotic Moroccan feel to it so I was glad to find some things to re-purpose it for.   Also it's color reminds me of my favorite tea - Celestial Seasoning's Mandarin Orange Spice that I've been drinking since I was a kid. MMMMM.

I browsed through my folder of design magazine pages looking to see what color combinations I had which included orange.  I came across a photo that I've been holding onto for about ten years.  Anytime I see it I just want to curl up and take a nap (after kicking off whoever the hell belongs to those feet).  My stash has a good amount of oranges & purpley-red prints so it seemed like a good way to go without spending a lot of money to purchase additional fabric.

I went to Colourlovers and uploaded the photo and pulled a few colors off of it.  I drew the line at scanning a scrap of the sheet so I could get an exact match though.  I also have a lot of green in my stash so I added that to the palette as I think it works for what I'm looking for.  I think  still need a yellow and a magenta-ish solid.  Thank goodness I got my Kona color card!

I so eager to start on the quilt that I have to admit that I already cut the strips out of one print for the center medallion border last week  Also I count that I have 21 fabrics ready willing and able to go instead of 10-14, which means I have some editing to do.

I think this quilt could look quite nice with these choices (mebbe).  Other people are starting to post their delicious fabric choices but I'm not going to let that make me second guess too much.  I'm already going to change it into a rectangular quilt instead of a square and that's enough controversy for me!

Stitched in Color - handstitched class

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kona Color Card

I'd been putting off buying a Kona color card for awhile (ie since I found out they existed).  Fat Quarter Shop had them - the description said 214 colors.  Hancocks of Paducah has them and the description says 220 colors.  Then people came back from quilt market saying there were new colors, 243 total!!!

So I was waiting and wondering if I'd be able to get my hands on a new one with ALL available colors.  The Kaufman site says they'll have cards available in early June but I wasn't convinced I'd manage to snag one before they were out of stock, so I finally went and ordered one from The Fat Quarter Shop (Mainly because FQS price + shipping was the same as Hancock's base price).

Last month I ordered 6 half yards of various colors for my upcoming Wonky Star engagement quilt, and a couple of the colors were different than I thought they would be (especially Sienna).  I'd browsed flickr for pictures -  lots of people have the same issues so some people make an effort to post photos for accuracy, but I am still left with one fabric that doesn't go with any project I'll ever make.  The stores near me only carry about 8-10 colors combined, so I wanted to be able to order online and know what I'm getting.  I really want to be able to get rolling on it so I thought the color card was a better investment of just crossing my fingers and ordering fabric left and right until I found the right color match.

My FQS Kona card came with the supplemental page with 28 more colors, which I wasn't expecting and am super grateful for.  Although really since I have 214 + 28 I only have 242, but I think I'll live without sorting through them all figuring out which one is missing!   I was going to email them to suggest they update the description so people would know they would get the extra colors with it, but now they are out of stock. :(

Anyway, I  suggest that if you use much in the way of solids or have to order online, that it's a minimal investment overall to make to make sure you get what you want.