Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts for the new year...

As the "Christmas Craziness" is winding down I find that I am able to take a deep breath and take a step back.  I finished all of the projects that were then given away as gifts and right now I have no deadlines to worry about.  This is the perfect time for re-organizing my crafting space and cleaning up all of the schnibbles of fabric and paper that have become a carpet.  Perhaps it is also a good time to re-organize my blog?

At the beginning of the year I really tried to post something at least once a week, and for most of the beginning of the year I did just that.  Of course things got crazy as we moved to a new town in the summer and then the holiday season snuck up on me and I got distracted with life... but overall I'd say it was a productive year.  I was able to share over 19 projects with you guys!

Looking towards 2013 I still have lots of projects that I can't wait to get started on and some new things that I want to try.  It is still a goal of mine to post stuff weekly and regularly, but in addition to my posts of finished projects, I am thinking of doing "work-in-progress" posts along the way.  I started this blog as a means to motivate myself to finish craft projects and I am often working on multiple projects at the same time and some of my projects take longer than others.  So I suppose that I am looking for some feedback from you, my faithful followers... would you be interested in seeing weekly "work-in-progress" posts of the things that I'm working on?  Which 2012 post did you enjoy the most?  Is there anything that you would like to see more or less of?

Thanks for sharing 2012 with me!  Here's to a great 2013!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Striped Pillowcase

Where's Waldo?

The question went through my mind as I worked on this pillowcase for my sister...

She's studying at RPI and joined the rugby team there... so I made her a rugby-inspired pillowcase in her school colors.  Apparently there are a lot of wide stripes in traditional rugby apparel... and RPI's colors are red and white.  

And now that the Christmas season is upon us, I am also reminded of candy canes...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wedding Rings

Two of our good friends got married a couple weeks ago and I made them some special pillowcases as a gift.  I found a traditional quilt design called "double wedding rings" and knew that it would be perfect for the occasion!  At first the pattern seemed quite daunting... for one thing it has curves.  Curves are tricky to sew.  Pieced curves that have to match up at the ends are even trickier.  ...and I'd never really done a curvy quilt before.  But I decided that I should challenge myself and try it!  I found free printable templates at and got to work.

I knew they liked "autumnal" colors so I decided to go with warm golden browns and a little bit of red and green.  The not-so-fun part was cutting out dozens of little trapezoids from the various fabrics... and by dozens I actually mean 196...  Those little trapezoids were then sewn into arcs.

At this point I arranged the arcs into the double-ring design and tried to make sure that there was a nice visual balance.  Then it was time to sew the arcs into football-shapes.

This required matching up the bottom corners of the arcs so that the red squarish pieces lined up properly... and sewing these curves meant bending the arcs around backwards and pinning them like crazy!

See what I mean?  Once all of the football-shapes were finished I could then sew them together onto the center pieces.

Here is where the template instructions stopped... Now If I was making a huge quilt I would just keep connecting rings until it was the size I wanted, but here I wanted to use the rings as a visual element on a pillowcase.  So I kind of made the rest up... to keep things relatively simple I just appliqued the rings onto the background fabric. 

Then once that was done I had this crazy idea that I should do some fancy leafy shaped quilting around the rings.  Again, this was something that I had never done before... and perhaps I should actually take a quilting class someday... There is probably a much better way to do this... but oh well.

In order to make my leafy design uniform and consistent I drew up some designs and printed them on freezer paper (much like I did on my stenciled pillowcase) and ironed them in place.  Then I sandwiched my batting between the top and the back and sewed over the lines on the sewing machine.  I wouldn't recommend this method for several reasons, but mainly because I ended up having to fold the pillowcase up and maneuver it around my machine and the freezer paper started peeling off as it was folded and bent.  Pinning the paper kept it in place, but it still shifted somewhat.

But finally, FINALLY! After all of that, it was a simply matter of sewing some panels onto the back to create a pair of lovely pillow shams!  (I constructed the backs much like I did for my "No-Slip Pillowcase.")

I have to say that I am pretty proud of my first "curvy" pieced design with it's "fancy leafy shaped quilting!" I learned a lot and even though they aren't perfect, I still think they look cool!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Piquing Your Interest in Pinterest!

There is a new social networking site that has been taking the internet by storm:  Pinterest.

What is Pinterest, you ask?

Think of it as a giant, digital bulletin board that you can tack pictures onto.  Or think of it as a giant, digital folder that you can stuff new recipes into.  Or even think of it as a giant, digital dish of creativity ice cream topped with do-it-yourself sprinkles and a cherry of inspiration on top!

Basically, Pinterest allows you to share website links via pictures or "pins."  Right now you can only join Pinterest if you are invited by a current Pinterest user (feel free to ask me for an invite...) but once you become a Pinterest user you can organize these interesting websites or "pins" into different groups or "boards" and you can share your "pins" with other users.

So before I found Pinterest I would search the web for interesting craft projects that I wanted to try and I would bookmark blogs and websites with cool stuff on them.  However, a bookmark in a typical browser is usually just the name of the webpage.  This is fine if the bookmark is for "Facebook" or "e-mail," but after a week I would completely forget what "a glimpse inside: fall garland" was... and I realized that I had lists and lists of meaningless words...

But then I found Pinterest and my vague bookmark link became this:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words... and this is especially true of Pinterest.  For us visual learners and creative types it is wonderfully helpful when organizing favorite craft tutorials and recipes.  Of course, there are other people who use Pinterest to catalog their wishlists of the latest fashions or to collect funny cartoons and memes.  Because you can search for and see other pins that people have pinned it's easy to gather inspiration for themed parties or holiday decorations too.

Anyways... I recently found a group of crafty people at our local library who meet twice a month to try out crafts and recipes that they have found on Pinterest!  I was so excited!  It's been an awesome way to get out of the house every so often and it's a great way to try new things.  Last week we tried (you guessed it) the fall garlands pictured above as well as some cinnamon bun popcorn.

The fall garland is simply a number of little pumpkins and apples that have been stung together on jute twine. The pumpkins and apples are made out of toilet paper tubes of all things!  I was quite happy with how mine turned out:

For a little added flair I ripped up some green plaid fabric and tied it in between the pumpkins.

It's beginning to look like autumn!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Elder Sign

During my quest to make all of my siblings personalized pillowcases I have found some pretty nice fabric prints.  It's been a lot of fun matching colors and patterns to everyone's personality and interests!  However, my brother-in-law had me stumped.  With such an eclectic taste in obscure music, foreign films and science fiction he was a hard one to shop for.

It wasn't until I stumbled across a hand-stamped fabric project by Frou FruGal that an idea began forming in my head.  What if I MADE some customized fabric?  I knew that my brother-in-law really liked the legends of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft... so I decided to draw on that for some inspiration.

Apparently, there are a lot of important symbols within the Cthulhu universe, the most notable being the "Elder Sign" which is supposed to protect you from monsters.  There is also the "Yellow Sign," which I thought looked pretty cool.

Elder Sign and Yellow Sign

I happened to have some stamp-making rubber and some speedball carving tools lying around from when I did some print-making back in school.  (Yes, I am one of those weird people who save everything "just in case!" ...and look!  It paid off!)  I sketched the symbols onto the rubber (which is pretty much the same as a big, flat eraser)... and it wasn't until after I finished the Elder Sign that I realized I should have sketched it backwards.  I made sure to do so with the Yellow Sign!

Using my speedball carving tools it was pretty easy to cut around the design and gouge out the negative space.  

If you try to make your own stamps at home you will probably find some blogs that say you can just use an x-acto knife, but I highly recommend getting some carving blades.  They are curved in "U" and "V" shapes so that they scoop out the rubber and allow you to carve small, intricate details with ease.

Once I had my stamps made I played around on some small squares of black fabric until I found a pattern that I liked.

Stamping with fabric paint onto fabric is much different than stamping with ink onto paper.  You have to first create your own stamp "pad" for applying the paint onto the stamp.  Much like Frou FruGal created a stamp pad out of felt and fun foam, I created mine out of some scraps of fleece and some disposable plastic lids.

I mixed up some light blue and yellow fabric paint with some translucent fabric paint and spread it onto my "pad" with a plastic knife.  It was a challenge to get just the right amount of paint on the stamp... too much and it globbed all over the place and obscured the stamp's details... too little and the imprint was too light to see clearly.  I decided to print a yard and a half of fabric because I knew I would make a few mistakes.  

It took several long hours to turn this...

...into this!  

But it was worth it!  The end result was pretty nice.  And as an unexpected bonus, the mix of bright and faint symbols gave the design a bit of wizardly shimmer...

...And the pillowcase I made with the fabric turned out pretty cool, too!

UPDATE:  You can now purchase Elder Sign fabric on Spoonflower!  It's not stamped by hand, but it is custom printed using a design made by these original stamps.  Check out the shop here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Buddy's Mini Pizzas

Our little Buddy is one of the happiest and most content little kids you'll meet!  But about a year ago he gave us a good scare when we tried to feed him yogurt for the first time.  It turns out that he is allergic to milk, among other things.

When we found this out, my husband was especially disappointed that Buddy wouldn't be able to enjoy foods like pizza.  Growing up, his family made pizza from scratch on a regular basis and it was a staple in his bachelor diet.

Basically, the only thing in pizza that Buddy can't have is the cheese.  However, we discovered that crumbled tofu is not half bad as a dairy-free substitution.  Our homemade pizza crust was already dairy-free so pizza has become an easy family meal!  Here is how we make it:

Pizza Dough:

1½ cups flour
1 tablespoon (or one packet) yeast
½ teaspoon salt

Mix all of these ingredients together and then add:

2 tablespoons oil
1 cup very warm water

Mix everything together until everything is well blended.

Lastly, slowly add another 1½ cups flour until the mixture becomes a dough and then knead it for a minute or two until it is springy!

I usually use my wonderful stand mixer with a bread hook for the last part... it makes the kneading so much easier!

Once the dough is kneaded, form it into a ball and put it in a bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover it loosely with a clean towel or washcloth and let it sit and rise.  I try to let it sit for an hour, but sometimes we only have time to let it sit for 15 minutes or so...

When the dough has "doubled in size," or is trying to escape from your bowl, it has risen enough!  Now it's time to punch it down and spread it out on your pan.

You can certainly use this dough in a normal sized pizza pan, (and top it with real cheese and whatever toppings you'd like) but for little Buddy we like to make little pizzas and muffin tins work great for this!

Spread on some pizza sauce and then crumble some firm tofu on top.

Buddy likes his pizzas topped with pepperoni!

Bake in a 400ºF oven for 15-20 minutes.  

...and enjoy!


Friday, July 13, 2012

A Update on Life

Hi There!

Exciting things are happening for our family as the hubby just landed a new job and we are looking to move to a new town!  I'll be taking a break for the next few weeks as we head out and get settled.

In the meantime, here is a smattering of some of my favorite blogs that you may enjoy as well:

How Are You I'm Fine Thanks by Gingerhaze is full of her fun artwork and geeky comics.

MADE offers TONS of great craft ideas and sewing tutorials.

Parenting Illustrated With Crappy Pictures chronicles the hilarious adventure that is being the parent of young children.

Aunt Peaches is an eclectic and somewhat eccentric crafter who loves glitter.

I hope that they can entertain you while we are frantically packing, but rest assured, I will be back!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meal Planning Magnets

I don't know about you, but I am a visual kind of person.  Sketching and jotting down ideas helps me remember things and problem solve.  If I can't see something, I usually forget about it.

This is especially true when it comes to planning meals in our house.  Since the hubby usually works well past Buddy's bedtime, it's up to me to make dinner.  The process usually goes something like this:

1. Buddy starts whining.
2. I realize that it is nearly dinner time and he is whining because he is hungry.
3. I open the fridge and stare at what food we have hoping that some inspiration will come to me.
4. Buddy tries to climb into the fridge.
5. I pull him out and start looking in the freezer.
6. Buddy starts whining again.
7. I give up and microwave some frozen chicken nuggets.
8. Meanwhile the broccoli that I bought last week specifically for a stir fry sits in the drawer at the bottom of the fridge and goes bad...

I decided that I needed a new plan.

So I made this!

I created a weekly meal chart with color-coded magnets!  There's actually room to plan 2 weeks worth of meals on this chart... because I don't always plan a week's worth of meals beginning with Sunday.  The area at the bottom is to help me sort out what meals we have ingredients for in case I need to switch meals around.  It's kind of like a "sideline" in case it's one of those days and I need hot dogs to sub in for "3-hour fancy chicken with homemade sauce" or something.  I made the chart in Publisher and scaled it up to be two pages wide.  I printed it on regular paper and just stuck it up on the fridge.  

Then I brainstormed all (or at least most) of the dishes that 1. I know how to make and 2. my family enjoys eating and printed them out on some heavy cardstock.  I tried to color code them so that it would be easier to visualize "balanced" meals.  Blue dishes are pretty much just meat (hot dogs, meatloaf, etc.), red dishes are mostly bread and pasta, and green dishes are fruits and veggies.  Purple meals are "all in one" dishes like my homemade chicken lentil soup which covers all of the food groups.  I cut up some business card magnets into little squares and stuck them on the back.

Now I have a pretty rainbow of culinary options on my fridge that I can arrange into balanced meals for my family!  And now after I buy that broccoli I make sure to add my "stir fry" magnet to the mix so that I remember to make it.  Once we run out of hot dogs or pizza sauce I take those magnets off the fridge and put them into a little container I have next to my meal chart until we have a chance to buy them again.

So far it's been working well!  ...It's been nice eating more than just chicken nuggets!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

TUTORIAL: Freezer-Paper Stencils

There are many ways of adding a graphic design to a T-shirt or fabric project.  For starters, you could simply paint on a design... which doesn't cost much but only really works for simple designs if you have a steady hand.  For more complex or intricate designs you can use silk-screen printing... the materials for which are somewhat cost prohibitive unless you plan on printing a lot of shirts.

Is there a happy medium?  I'd say there is!  Using freezer-paper is a simple and inexpensive way to transfer crisp, clean graphics to T-shirts, pillowcases, tote bags, or just about anything made out of fabric!

Recently, I took one of my super-simple pillowcases and made it one-of-a-kind by stenciling some words on it.

"An object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force."  Newton's first law of physics... which I experience first-hand every morning.

To get started I formatted the text to be large enough to span the pillow in Microsoft Publisher.  I love Publisher in that I can move boxes of text anywhere on the page and manipulate them independently, unlike Word.  I also had make my phrase span two pages, which I could do automatically in Publisher.  But to each his own!  It doesn't matter how you format your phrase or image as long as you have the ability to print it out the size you want.

Freezer paper typically comes in large, wide rolls but it is easy enough to cut out a few 8 1/2" by 11" sheets. Load these sheets into your printer so that your image will print out on the papery, NON-shiny side!

Then, very carefully, using an exacto blade or craft knife, cut out the design.  Now, I was very ambitious using such a long phrase... each individual letter had to be cut out, which was a lot of work!  For your first stencil I highly recommend something simpler!  Also, when cutting out letters like "o" or "e" that have inner shapes to them, I found that leaving a tiny little "bridge" of paper connecting the inner shape to the larger paper really helped me to not lose those tiny shapes.

Here's what was left over: 

Alrighty, now that we have cut out our design we have our stencil!  Now is the time to position the stencil on your fabric/shirt/pillowcase/what-have-you.  Make sure that the shiny, plastic-y side is facing down and the papery side is facing up and run over the stencil with a hot iron.

The plastic coating will melt very slightly and will adhere to your fabric!  Now is the time to very carefully remove any paper "bridges" that you made and make sure that all of those little "inner shapes" are firmly adhered on their own.

Now it's time to paint!  Make sure that you have newspaper or wax paper underneath your fabric, and if you are painting a T-shirt make sure that it is sandwiched in between the front and the back.  When you apply your paint, make sure to do it GENTLY and "dab" it on rather than "brush" it on.  Even if your freezer paper seems to be stuck on securely it doesn't take much to accidentally force some paint underneath the stencil and mess up your design.  Also, I used specific fabric paint for this project and some people will tell you that if you use acrylic on fabric you have to add a "medium" to it... but in all honesty I've found that straight-up acrylic works just as well.  

Once your paint is dry it is time for the MOMENT OF TRUTH!  Carefully peel off the freezer paper to reveal your deign!  This is perhaps the funnest part of the whole process.  For the tiny little "inner shapes" I ended up using some tweezers to pull them off the fabric.

(As you can see, my painting job wasn't perfect... but overall I think it turned out well!)

There you have it!  An inexpensive way to get silk-screen results with endless possibilities!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Something is Coming...

Something big...

Something new...

Something I've been working towards for a long time...

I've finally opened a shop on Etsy!

I'm excited about branching out in this new directions and we'll see where it leads me.

I'm starting small... for now I only have one thing for sale.

...some cuddly purple squids!  Don't you just want to hug one of them?

If you buy one from my Etsy shop you can!

Check out Doodle-ee-doo on Etsy here!