Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Bags

Once there was a girl who loved to sew. Her mostest favoritest thing to make was bags. One summer, a family reunion was planned at her grandma's house. At supper one night {normally I say dinner but supper just seems to fit better in this tale} her father said to her "Are you going to make grandma anything?" Her mother then said "You should make her a handbag." The girl then said "Hey! I've got a great idea! I'm going to make Grandma a handbag!" And off she trotted. She pulled out fabric that she had set aside the year before for a bag for her grandmother (but had sadly never gotten to). She carefully cut the pieces for a small bag with a wavy top and started stitching. She went sloooowly around the curves, and had her trusty ruler by her side the whole time. When she was finished she held the bag up, frowned, and thought "How the #$@% did I manage to do THIS?" For, you see, the bag was riddled with uh-ohs. Not the kind of uh-ohs that are the fault of the instructions, but the kind that can only be explained away by the girl smoking massive amounts of crack prior to sewing (and not by her sometimes being a sewing klutz).

First, she noticed, the fabric was upside down:

  "Subtle," she thought, "but if I hold the bag right side up it is mostest definitelyest upside down."

Then she noticed that she had crossed her eyes whilst sewing the pocket bottom and slitting the fabric to insert the bag feet:

"How else to explain how these feet look so terrible and why that stitch line is an inch too low and crooked?"

Then she noticed that the tabs on the ends of the zipper were different distances from the casing:

  "Curiouser and curiouser," she wondered aloud. "My ruler must be wrong..."

And finally she saw that one of the gremlins from the nearby woods must have been playing with the seam guides on her sewing machine, because there was no explanation for this:

"They must have snuck in and done it when I answered the door." {Yeah, that's my camera strap in there, too}.

The girl showed her mother the bag. "There's nothing wrong with it," said her mother. "But you can't give it to Grandma. She will show her sewing friends and they will know what they are looking at and will wonder why she brags about you. However, I would like to have this bag for myself because I love misfits." {Side note: around here we call 'misfits' those things that don't turn out as intended (y'know - from the Island of Misfit Toys in the Rudolph Christmas show). These are my mom's favorites items}. "That's what I thought, too" said our heroine (tee-hee), and promptly snapped a really bad photograph.

Not to be discouraged, the girl and her mother trotted off into the sunset to obtain more fabric to have another go. Upon their return from that magical place known as Joann's Fabrics, the girl set to once again, but with a different pattern and a different print. And this time, when she was finished, she was delighted with the result. The oolong tea she had consumed prior to stitching must have contained magical properties, for she knew it wasn't elves sneaking in after she went to bed (she had booby trapped the house to alert her to such invaders). She proudly showed this new bag to her mother, who promptly gave the thumbs up.

The zipper tabs were the same at each end:

"My ruler must have realized the error of its ways and corrected itself!" she cried with glee.

  "Those gremlins! They must have snuck back in when I went out and adjusted my seam guides so I could sew straight again! Yippeee!"

 "I wish I hadn't bought that piping online because I don't like the wrinkled look it gives," thought the girl. "But no one will notice," (she hoped with crossed fingers).

"Hmmm...." thought the girl. "Grandma might like a few accessories for her new bag." So she set to and came up with a few cuties.

"Everyone should have nice protected tissues in their bag," thought the girl (who had thrown away many a pack of tissues that ended up ripped and smushed from being in the bottom of her bag).

 "And I need a reason to use my new flower yo-yo maker so I should make a change purse too!"

"Though I DO wish that little bitty flower hadn't taken longer than the whole zippy pouch" grumbled the girl. "And I do wish my button sewing wasn't so odd-looking."

The girl and her mother happily bagged and tagged the present (OK, her mother did it), and trotted off to the reunion, gift in hand. Her grandmother happily clutched the bag to her chest and said "OH! I love it! I can't wait to take it to quilting club and show the girls!" The girl and her mother high-fived and do-si-doed around the kitchen {OK, that part is a lie, but the rest is all true. Pinky swear}. The end.

***OK. I'm done with the silly. I have soooo many things to share with you I can't wait, so check back soon :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Catch-up Quilt Blocks

I fell a little bit behind on my quilt along blocks due to vacation, so I soldiered through the other night and made the two I had missed. I realized that I am suuuuuuper sloooow at cutting. I try really hard to be precise, but only in my world is 3 inches a relative measurement that can vary from piece to piece even though I swear it starts out as 3 inches. I also realized it might be a good idea to measure my blocks as I go and to trim as needed. Trimming little bits is much better than trimming big bits off the finished block that might affect the overall look. See? I'm learning already. If we get a "design your own" block again I might actually be able to do it, math and all.

So here's the first one - it's called Parade of Pinwheels:

I was going to try to use a different fabric for each pinwheel, but when I laid things out it wasn't going to look right, so I went with my two favorites. There's a lot more white space in this than I usually like - I was going to try some plain white to see how it looked but I'm glad I didn't. Waaaayyy too plain. This one was pretty simple to make. It was the block where I realized I need to trim my blocks and measure at each step so it's really accurate. Good thing to realize - I thought I was losing it for the first few blocks.

I am seriously in love with this combination. The ceremony is next weekend with reception to follow (cuz I'm gonna marry it I love it so much....teeheehee).

The next one is called Arizona Star with an alias of Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, but I think another design is also called RPTPP so she went with Arizona. This one in and of itself was not difficult at all, and I'm getting quite handy at half square triangles:

I like the way the solid red makes it pop a bit, but doesn't dominate the others. The only problem with this one was pressing a gazillion and seven seams. I had a rough time figuring which way to press and what would butt up against what, and so on. I pressed the bejesus out of it and it all ended ok, but I won't lie - there was cursing. But I don't think it's too bad - I only had one triangle point get munched:

Now I'm all caught up just to have to get going again when the next block is posted tomorrow. Wanna know what else I still have to do? Baste and quilt my Sherbet Pips quilt (can't wait to show you that one!) - I'm doing it by hand and am looking oddly forward to it (but might wait until it cools off a bit), and I have to knit an armadillo. That's a whole other post....

Have a happy Friday, my loves!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beachy Keen

When I was little my WHOLE family used to go on vacation together - grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, probably a few people we didn't even know somehow snuck into the mix without any of us noticing. We defied the laws of physics by cramming a bajillion people into a house that would sleep maybe a dozen. And the craziness of it all was welcome and delicious. It has been years since we've had a proper vacation, outside of a few long weekends here and there. A lot has changed over the years, and this time it was a much more intimate group that went (because when kids become adults there's really just no way to defy the laws of physics anymore). It was the siblings, the newcomers (my B.I.L. and the nephew), the parents, a couple aunts, and a few cousins that went. It was the perfect-sized group, in my opinion - large enough to not be boring, small enough that it wasn't  too crazy.

We headed to Long Beach Island (or LBI, as those in the know like to call it :) for a week of whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. This is where we went on vacation every year, and I missed it. It's not the same thing if you just go for the day (being from Philly it's a nice luxury to have mountains in one direction and beaches in another, neither very far away). I didn't realize how much every part of me needed to relax and by the end of the week I felt totally refreshed and chill. I didn't go crazy with the camera but I have more pics than I thought I did to share with you.

I did a LOT of this. Slathered up with proper amounts of sunscreen, of course. No matter - my fair skin still burned. And tanned a little. This is day one when I was still pasty white.

 Here are all the kids :) on their way to dinner with the grown-ups (who don't like their pictures taken). That's me on the left, sister Alicia, sister Rachel, my brother Jay and my brother-in-law Matt, with Zach in the front doing a last-minute pose to make my Dad say "Why'd you move? Now I have to take another one!"

 It's a shame the water is so calm in this shot. You should have seen some of the waves! There were some days of wicked water where the lifeguards limited how far in you could go.

Here Zach is trying to find a good place to build his sandcastle...

 ...that this sandpiper is trying to take credit for.

 I named him Wally. He was the only one that would stray from his group and do his own thing while the rest of them played silly bird games.

 When you're in LBI you MUST go to Kelly's 'Old Barny' Restaurant near the Barnegat Lighthouse. This was Zach's breakfast - a short stack, a bowl of fruit, 2 bagels (the huge ones that are like eating twelve slices of bread) with 2 scrambled eggs on each, and chocolate milk.

 This was my breakfast...okaaaayyyy....maybe there were a few eggs and some bacon and toast. MAYbe.

 Don't forget to play with your food!

 Once you're finished breakfast you have to go to Andy's for crap you have no need for like colored shells and lighthouse Christmas ornaments. Out front they had this boat covered in chicken wire and the flowers grew up through it.

 Flowers down the shore grow extraordinarily well. Apparently we just need to throw some salt water on them and they'll grow. Well, we COULD try that if we hadn't already killed our flowers.

That's Zach, Jay, Rachel and Alicia playing paddle ball. You can't really see Rachel very well - her sweatshirt just blends right in :p

 That's Charlie on the left and my cousin's dog Walker on the right. These two played together all week. I think Charlie was wondering where his new friend got to when we came home. And we didn't place them like that - Chuckster was snuggling up to my mom, and then Walker snuggled up to Charlie. Too cute! They're both rescues, so it's like they had this deep understanding of each other.

This was supposed to be a picture of this quilt (LOVE IT!!) but Charlie wouldn't get off the bed so he's in it too.

 I had to document that some stores sell things with my name on it. This is such a rare find I had to snap a picture. Plus I really like that font. I thought my name was becoming more common, but apparently not - I answered a sales call at work today and when I told the guy my name was Bethany he said "Ok, hi, Bernadette, nice to meet you." Ummmm....what?! I understand Stephanie and Brittney. Anything else I'm just all WTF about...Bernadette. Really?

So that's that. I didn't think about work, about orders to sew, about my ever-growing to-do list, nothing. None of us did. We just embraced our week and took from it what we each needed. I think I need a little more but that will have to wait until next year...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Snappy Sunnies Case

Hot off the ironing board: one perfectly cheerful sunglasses case complete with kiss-lock frame.

Sad story: one of my sister's closest friends has a friend whose boyfriend has a significant brain tumor. He's also out of work, and his benefits are due to expire, and of course there are hefty hefty medical bills to be paid. F that S, right? I mean, geez! Oh, and he's only 27ish years old. A group of them are putting together a beef and beer to raise much needed funds. My sister is putting together a beach basket as one of the gifts to be raffled off. I'm not sure what all is going in it, but there will be a beach bag by moi (no pic - it was just a basic tote) in this fabric:

 I got this at Joann's. I have no idea what it's called.

And this little sunnies case:

 A delightful beachy print on each side and an antique bronze double-curve frame. And on the inside?

Pebbly watery yumminess. I have maybe a million and seven yards of this fabric and it just screams "Beach!!!" Not literally--wouldn't that be the creepiest thing ever? I enlarged the original pattern a wee bit, and it fits sunglasses perfectly:

Those are my delightful yellow polka dot sunglasses there. They would only be better if they were red, but yellow is second-best in my polka dot lineup. I bought them on vacation last week. What?!!?! Yeah, I had myself a much-needed shore break last week. I'm not a fan of announcing when my house will be vacant so I kept it hush-hush. It drives me bonkers when I'm on Facebook and people have their status updates notifying everyone of all that: "OMG, 2 hours until vacation! Then it's 2 weeks of fun!" I read that as "Hey! In a few hours my house will be empty for 2 weeks. Come on over and steal the flat-screen I was bragging about last week!" Now I highly doubt you folks would be tracking down my digs and stealing my Janome, but I'd be a hypocrite if I said "Back soon!" I don't even know why I'm blathering on about this... What I really should have said is "I will try to take better pictures tomorrow when it's not raining because these are not thrilling."
**UPDATE - I DID take new pictures. The old ones were pretty bad.**

Linking up here:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Port and Starboard Quilt Block

Take a gander at my bonus block for the quilt along (OK, well first I'm going to yakity-yak and then you can see it). I love it and wouldn't mind making a whole quilt out of this one (but I probably would get bored - it would be a LOT of half square triangles). There was no set block last week - the bonus challenge was to design your own. I tried to. Really, I did. I'm just not a quilt designer - I would much rather follow directions for quilt blocks. I'm not too experienced with quilting, so by the time I figure out my fabrics and am faced with careful cutting and piecing my brain doesn't even want to try figuring it out. Horrible, I know, and  not really in keeping with the idea of a skill-builder quilt, but there you have it. So I cheated. I wanted to practice half square triangles, but I didn't feel like figuring out the math. So I pulled out a quilt block book that I had bought a while ago. It shows you how to make 200 blocks in several sizes. I found one made of HSTs and hacked away. I actually had a lot of fun putting this one together:

The pattern is called Port and Starboard. It looks like pinwheels, there's a hint of a star in there somewhere, and even a few bowties (? hourglasses? not sure what they are) thrown in. There's a lot going on but in a very cohesive way. I was so excited that my points came together again:

This one was the quickest to put together, but I had a lot of little dog ears to cut off. It got pretty annoying, so I should probably just NOT make an entire quilt out of these.

Even though I'm using the same fabric stack for this quilt, the way they're placed gives each block an entirely different look. For example, I was thinking the polka dots above were more of a 'light' fabric, but when you pair this block with last week's, it looks like more of a 'medium' fabric, especially when compared to the cherries, which are obviously 'light.'

See how on the left there's a pinkish hue and on the right it is very white? I guess I'll just be doing some strategic block placement when it comes time to sew it all together. Ugh.... headache.... how do people figure this stuff out? I don't even want to think about how long this would take me if I used my entire stash and not just a part of it...

OK, I'll zip it now. Have a fantabulous weekend!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Flexi-Frame Purse

Last week I cleaned my drawers. I'm not being saucy - I mean my sewing drawers. Get your mind out of the gutter. Sheesh! :) I have a set of those little plastic drawers that you can get pretty much anywhere that I keep next to my sewing table. It gives me easy access to EVerything (except my fabrics and trims which I keep upstairs) and is very easy to move out of the way (I used to spend so much time lugging boxes of my junk when I had to move things, so this is waaay easier). One of the great things about cleaning and organizing is when you find stuff you forgot about. It's like a mini-Christmas. OK, it wasn't so much like Christmas when I saw a bag of buttons I had forgotten about that had spilled all over...and definitely not so much like Christmas when I found the card of sew-on snaps I had bought and forgot about that had separated. It was harder than I thought matching them up and putting them back together. But I digress. You guys are supposed to stop me when I digress, because who knows what could happen? I had to look up at the title to see what my original point was, haha.

So leetle seester Rachel is having a birthday. I got her a gift, but I felt the urge to make something as well. She's not very picky about most things so it's hard to try and come up with something for her. But I came across this during my organizing adventure and figured I'd give it a go:

Isn't that terrible photo the most exciting thing you've ever seen? You're probably sitting there thinking "What in holy hell IS that?" Well, I'll tell you. It's one of those little flexi-frame thingees that you use to make a coin purse that you squeeze to open. Told ya it was exciting! You guys never believe me... I don't remember buying these at all, which made it a nicer surprise. I've never used them before, and since I had limited time with which to figure it out I headed straight to my old stand-by to see if there was a tutorial, and by golly there was! I pulled out some deliciously girly and candy-colored fabrics and whipped up this little pretty:

That's some Amy Butler Midwest Modern you see there. I don't sew with her fabrics a lot - they're pretty, but not my style. This particular one, though, I  love. Anyway, true to tutorial, I slapped a yo-yo on there because it did need a little something extra:

That yellow and white stripe came from Joann's, and was used as the piping in this bag. I also used it for the lining:

See? A little squeeze and it opens it's big ol' mouth. I made it a little longer than the instructions directed as it seemed a little short, and I narrowed it down to fit my flexi-frame. I think I'll be getting the larger size if I reorder these - it'll be just a little easier to get into. If you can get your mitts on some of these I definitely recommend giving it a go - easy and fun, and pretty satisfying when you're done. I'm hoping my sister likes it. No, I'm not - I want to keep it for myself.

Hope your Monday is better than you expected!

Linking here:
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Churn Dash Quilt Block

Happy almost Friday! Yeah, I can't wait for the weekend. I don't know why but this week has been very tiring. Work, and then lots of sewing, and ridiculous heat/humidity. Today, however, was beautiful--if summertime meant weather like today I wouldn't mind it at all (but I'd still love snow best. Just sayin').

I neglected to post my next quilt block for the We Can Do It sampler. It was a fairly simple one - the Churn Dash pattern. I tried to incorporate some new fabrics I had bought, but I'm feeling a little 'eh' about it:

The center block is a reaaaalllly white shade of white, whereas the cherries fabric is more of a softer shade of white. Once I have them all made and sewn together such details will barely be noticeable in the explosion of red and white. This is my least favorite of the three made so far (due to my fabric choice for the center block - not the actual block design itself). I am, however, pretty happy with the way the corners matched up for this one:

You can see the color contrast a bit more here, even with the reds. But again--once they're all together it won't draw a second glance (I'm going to keep telling myself that).

Up next - a little pressie I put together for my sister. I kind of don't want to give it to her...good thing I wrapped it already. Later, taters!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Starting them young...

I figured it was high time I posted about our July 4th picnic, seeing as it was almost two weeks ago... Remember the sweet girls I posted about after Memorial Day who put my scraps to excellent use? Well, they're baaaaa-aaack (you were supposed to read that in a creepy Poltergeist voice). It was wicked hot here, and I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to be outside until it was a little bit cooler. And since two little seven year olds high-tailed it to my sewing corner to dig through my waste basket for scraps I saw an opportunity and swooped in. I had emptied the can the night before, forgetting about their odd interest, so I strategically placed my actual scrap box nearby. I told them they could have ANYthing they wanted from it. There was so much in there that was too cute to throw away but I had no idea what I would ever use it for. Apparently they had no such concerns because they dug right in:

They cut up larger pieces so they could each have some and kept everything neat in their little baggies. It was really adorable to overhear their little conversations: "Look--these match nice because they're so different" and "I like how this one looks like a stamp." I'd make a great seven year old because these are the kinds of thoughts I have. Then came the question I was waiting for: "How do you connect fabrics if you don't know how to sew?" I told them "Why, you learn to sew of course!" So I gave my first official sewing lesson. I helped them thread their needles (and spent the rest of the day tying knots for them, lol) and taught them the very basic up-down motions of sewing. They contented themselves with their own rough style of applique for a little while, making little mosaics and collages. They were very good about keeping tabs on their needles (my feet say thank you, girls :) 

I have no idea what I'm doing leaning over in such a position. You can see some pins and glue sticks have been added in this pic, as well as another dog toy (Charlie loooooves to get involved in whatever you're trying to do on the floor--pin a quilt, add fringe to an afghan, play with scraps...)

 In this picture I know exactly what I'm doing. I'm sitting there trying to not say "No, no, do it this way" or to impose any of neurotic perfectionism upon them. Part of learning and creating is letting it just happen and flow--but it's hard not to butt when I'm so good at it (just ask my sisters).

They sat there and did this all day. Literally. They made what looked like pin cushions, they tied longer pieces together to make bracelets, all kinds of little things. I have a stuffed "fish" hanging on the lamp on my sewing desk. I'm thinking that friendship bracelets would have been an easier endeavor with more rewarding results to teach them, but then I remembered that I was never very good at those things and  I have to figure those out before I hand them a bunch of string, because that would just be asking for trouble.

The next morning the little one in the white t-shirt came over with her Pop-Pop (who was helping my dad clean up outside). She had gotten up early, traced a saucer, and used some Christmas tree snow (pretty much the same as fiberfill) to make a little pillow:

Her stitches were so even and cute (I'm thinking Grandmom helped a bit :) She said she is going to keep the needles and pins I gave her in it so she doesn't loose it. I always feel slightly jealous of people who don't "know" how to do things, so to speak. I think that sometimes when you know something and endeavor to learn whatever you can about it that you can get a little restricted by so many "rules." But you give some things to people unencumbered by such rules and the sky's the limit. I need to start thinking more like a seven year old...

If you were looking for normal picnic photos, I'm sorry to say I've got none. It was just way too hot to be hanging around outside and I had important lessons to teach. However, if you're interested in seeing how our summer picnics go down you can click here and here.

On a side note - I'm trying to change up the look of my blog so if it looks a little wonky in the sidebars I apologize--I'm still figuring out the column widths (which apparently means different things to different computers - I should just go for it and get a blog makeover).

Back soon with my red and white quilt blocks!


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