Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Word Ornament / Pillow Thingies

We're back from a fun weekend away. We may have gained a few pounds but we sure enjoyed ourselves as we celebrated Thanksgiving with family.

I wish I could say that I was back in the swing of things but my baby girl has been pretty sick since we got home. Poor little thing. I've been busy taking care of her and trying to keep the rest of the family healthy.

I have some fun projects in the works, though, and while Maddy napped this morning, I was able to make this sweet little holiday pillow with a ribbon tie.

I used printable fabric for the word "Joy" and am really happy with the results. This printable fabric stuff is awesome. Possibilities for greatness are endless! I usually use my embroidery machine when I want to embellish with text but I have such a limited selection of fonts and sizes. It's much more fun to play around in Microsoft Word. I think this ornament / pillow looks a lot like something I would see in one of my favorite, pricey mail order catalogs. I won't name names.

I am planning to make several of these using Christmas-y verbiage (peace, love, joy, hope, faith) and think I'll tie them to my staircase banister... maybe along with some garland.

After I finished this one, I thought they might make cute ornaments on the tree as well. I may even make one for each family member using first names. I have visions of future tree-trimming parties in which each person hangs their special ornament. Of course, violins are playing, husband and I are drinking champagne and snow is falling in my vision as well. Reality is more like mom trims the tree in her jammies while everyone else watches tv.

I'm planning to write up a little tutorial for these and will share as soon as time / health allows.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Humble Contribution to the Feast

We are headed to North Carolina tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband's family. We can't wait for some good old fashioned family fun and feasting.

Since my sister-in-law is hosting the meal (thank you M and T!), and we're traveling from a fair distance, there isn't a ton we can do to contribute to the effort. Of course we'll help with cooking and cleaning as much as our hosts will allow but we always wish we could do more. (Dear family - you're welcome to come to Chicago for a holiday any time if you'd like a break!)

The last time we went to my sister-in-law's for Turkey Day, I brought along some white chocolate bark. I borrowed the recipe from my good friend Corey (Thanks C!) The bark was a HUGE hit. I knew that I'd have to bring some again this year. I'm getting hungry just looking at this.

Recipe is soooo simple! Melt two packages of white chocolate chips in a double boiler and throw in stick pretzels and peanuts. Spread melted concoction onto parchment-lined cookie sheet and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to set. Break apart and start chowing.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. I am thankful for you! xoxo.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Family Tree... Skirt

A while back, my mother-in-law asked me to make a personalized Christmas tree skirt for her tree. One Christmas when my husband and his sister were kids, they bought a felt Christmas tree skirt at a craft store and painted each family member's name on it with glitter glue or puffy paint or something like that. Over the years, this tree skirt was either damaged or disappeared in all of the holiday decor. So my mother-in-law had a great idea... an updated version of her beloved family tree skirt.

I had never made a Christmas tree skirt and I wasn't sure where to begin. But then I remembered trusty google and found this fabulous video tutorial for making a tree skirt. It's really not that hard!

A couple of things I learned... the video doesn't specify what width of fabric to buy. Make sure you buy 54" home dec fabric or else it won't be big enough. The first fabric I wanted to use was an apparel fabric that was only 49" wide... not wide enough. I also learned that it's much easier to use a very small piping / cording or to select the type of trim that you glue to the top of the skirt. I started out trying to sew a super thick corded cable inside my seam... disaster.

I used my embroidery machine to embroider my in-laws names, kids and spouses, grandchildren and a very special aunt. There are 12 first names on there. I wish the text was a bit bigger but my options were limited.

I plan to sew this label to the lining of the tree skirt.

After embroidering 12 names, my machine was ready for a rest. So I opted to use printable fabric (can be found here) and designed this label in Microsoft Word. The text is not crooked as it looks in the picture. That was just the way the fabric was laying when I took the photo.

It was hard to capture this tree skirt in pictures but hopefully you get the idea. I'll be taking this with me to North Carolina to present to my mother-in-law this weekend. Hope she likes it as much as Maddy does!  :-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The View Outside my Window

This is what it looks like outside my window today...

The kids and I got caught in quite a thunderstorm taking Daniel to school this morning. Note to self: keep umbrella in car. 

Anyway - the good news is that a gray and rainy day like this is perfect for getting into the holiday spirit. My husband (thank you, honey) brought in all of our boxes of Christmas goodness yesterday and our basement is looking a bit messy with open boxes tossed about. Another note to self: do not attempt to pull out said Christmas goodness in the presence of a three-year-old. I think we'll be doing all of our decorating after little people are asleep at night. I should have remembered that Daniel's very first "time-out" was the result of some naughtiness surrounding our Christmas tree and glass ornaments last year. Oh well. 

But while he was at school today, I managed to pull out a few favorite items and even wrapped (I know! I'm so organized! Not really) a few gifts. Here's a sneak peek at things to come...

I have lots of plans for the blog in the next few weeks so stay tuned. What are you doing to get into the holiday spirit?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Making Lots of Changes to the Blog

Oh my. What a tangled web (no pun intended!) we weave. You may have noticed that I've made a few changes to the blog design. It all started with a little tweak to my html code to make the background this lovely shade of green. Then I decided I needed to go to a three-column design (more tweaking) and now I'm having fun working with the header. These little changes are a slippery slope. As soon as I learn to do something, I want to learn everything! I have spent much of my weekend surfing the web looking for tutorials on making changes to my minima template (minima indeed!) in Blogger. Those of you who use this great service know that it is wonderful but comes with it's design challenges. The good news is that I've discovered relatively easy fixes to some of the style dilemmas but it took some searching, some time and some courage to get into the code (still looks like Greek to me) and just do it.

So please bear with me as my blog look changes from moment to moment. That enormous picture of Maddy will not be up there forever (although it is one of my favorites). At the moment, I am learning to make a photo collage banner with picasa (awesome tutorial here). I'm thrilled to have found this bit of wisdom as I was convinced you needed photoshop or some other fancy software to create the wonderful collages we see on all of those glossy blogs out there. I'm hoping to change my banner with the seasons. We'll see how it goes!

I'd love to get your thoughts. Do you like the new design? And if you are a fellow blogger, are you going through the same angst with your template / design that I am? It's quite a ride!

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Are You Thankful For?

My son brought this home from school the other day.  I think it says it all...

Amen, Daniel.  Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rosette Picture Frame

OK.  I promise this will be my last rosette post for a while.  I really want to get into the holiday spirit and shift my sewing focus from projects for my kids to projects for the home for the holidays.  Now that turkey day is just one week away, I think it's time I get into the fall / winter / holiday spirit.

But in the meantime, I couldn't resist applying some of my little roses to a picture frame for Maddy's room.

This was a very basic, white wood, 8" x 10" frame that I bought at Joann a while back for $4.98.  It was so basic and was knicked in several places.  I just couldn't bring myself to use this frame in her room and even considered getting rid of it in favor of something a little fancier.

And then... this happened.

I'll admit that this project took some time but it was sooooo much fun.  I had such a blast that I actually purchased some 4" x 6" frames at Target yesterday for a whopping $1.99 a piece and have a similar fate in mind for them.  Something tells me that my little nieces will be getting rosette picture frames for Christmas.

So that's what I've been up to.  

Now I'm off to drink some apple cider, maybe even put on some Christmas-y tunes (already???) and get my holiday on.  :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Playing Around With Backgrounds

I just realized that there is this huge world of free blog backgrounds available on the web.  I'm having fun trying to jazz up my blog a bit but I'm not sure what I think.  I love this vibrant background but my blog is so picture heavy.  What do you think?  Is it too much?  You may see my blog change a few times in the next few days as I play around with this.  Would love to know what you think.  Thanks!

Update:  I've removed the background as I had some feedback that it doesn't look right when viewing with certain browsers.  Oh well.  It was fun to try.  Back to the white for the moment.  I'm sure I'll try this again in the future.

Just Popping in to Say "Hi"

I've been creating like a mad woman this week.  Finishing up final Smallest Sparrow orders, making something for my mother-in-law, catching up on baby gifts... the list goes on and on.

Did I happen to mention that I'm obsessed with rosettes?  I have so many ideas and I can't wait to share them with you.  In fact, I'm working on a little tutorial to show you my method for making these little flowers.  I'm even starting a list of the countless items that look cute with a little rose love.

Check out this little tank that I added some roses to.  I know it's not really tank top weather here in Chicago in November, but our family is going to Hawaii in January and I've been picking up warm weather clothing for my kids off the sale racks for the last couple of months.  This sweet little tank was purchased at Target.  It was cute before, but now it's boutique-y cute.

Can't wait to see my little girl in it as we enjoy some beach time in the islands while it's freezing at home.

Have a great day and happy creating!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another use for Rosettes - Thumbtacks!

So I have this darling little corkboard that I plan to hang someday in my "mom cave." More on that later.  Anyway - I was inspired by this tutorial for fabric-covered thumbtacks on one of my favorite blogs How About Orange. Those little cuties are definitely on my to-do list. But in the meantime, I decided to apply the same idea to some basic tacks using my fabric rosettes.

What do you think?  I simply took some little rosettes I had already made and hot-glued them to thumbtacks.  I think they're kind of cute.  

This corkboard will hang above my sewing machine and will be my place for photos of my kids, swatches of fabric, etc.

Now I just have to get going on that "mom cave" thing. Hmmm... stay tuned.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's the Small Things

Another week has gone by.  We're getting ready for a pretty relaxing weekend at home.  Perhaps a little sewing, a little quilting, a little college football.  We've had a particularly busy week and really need a break.  What would we do without weekends?

Thankfully, the weather in Chicago has been amazing!  I think we hit the 70 degree mark three times this week.  That's unheard of this time of year.  We have been trying to take advantage and spend a little time outdoors.

Here is an image from one of our afternoon walks.  We just stumbled across this shadow play on the sidewalk and I was so taken with the design.

Here's to the small details and beauty all around us.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Tutorial - Dad's Shirt Pillow

Well, it doesn't have to be Dad's shirt.  It could be Grandpa's shirt or Uncle's shirt or even a shirt your little boy has outgrown (you'd just have to use a small pillow form).  If your family is anything like ours, you often have these...

in your giveaway pile.

Why not turn them into (reuse, repurpose, recycle!) these???

I just love that a little piece of Dad is cozying up my little boy's bed.  These shirt pillows are crazy easy to make.  Here's how you do it...

  • One pillow insert   (Size kind of depends on the shirt size.  Daddies come in all shapes and sizes.  It might be helpful to measure the portion of the shirt you want to use for the front of the pillow and go from there.  I used a 16" x 16" pillow insert for these two pillows)
  • One package of Wright's bias piping in a coordinating color
  • One old (or new... whatever works) men's dress shirt
  • Fabric pen
  • Basic sewing supplies (scissors, sewing machine, etc.)

The first step is to cut out a square that will be the top of your pillow.  I used a 16" x 16" pillow form and I like my pillow really snug, so I decided to cut a 15" x 15" square.  I might actually go a teeny bit bigger next time, so if you're using this same size insert, I would suggest cutting a 15 1/2" x 15 1/2" square.  I used my fabric pen to draw my square before I cut.  You'll just have to play around here to determine where to draw your square.  I sort of centered the buttons but had to place them slightly off center to accommodate the pocket.  You'll see what I mean when you try it yourself.

Make sure to only cut the top portion of the shirt here (don't catch the whole shirt with your scissors... just the front of the shirt).

Now flip the remaining portion of the shirt over and use your top piece as a pattern.  Cut around the square to get your back piece.  My husband's shirt had some pleating in the back at the top and I wanted to avoid that so I placed the front piece pretty far down.

You now have your two pillow pieces and you're ready to sew.

I applied some decorative piping to this shirt but you could cut out this step and simply make a knife-edge pillow.  To apply the piping, take the top square and align one end of your piping, raw edges together.  Leave about an inch of the piping unsewn and then (using your zipper foot) baste the piping to the pillow top, notching and pivoting at the corners.

Go all the way around, overlapping your piping when you get back to the start.  Trim excess piping.

Unbutton a couple of the buttons, creating a hole for you to turn your pillow right-side-out after the next step.

Turn front square over onto back square (right sides together) and pin all the way around (every two inches or so).  Take your pinned pillow cover over to your sewing machine and (using your zipper foot again) sew all the way around your pillow, getting as close to your piping as possible.  Back stitch at the start and finish.

Clip your corners being careful not to clip into your seams. 

Turn your shirt right-side-out.

Stuff the insert into the pillow cover...

Button 'er up... and...

Ta Da!  Cute Dad's Shirt Pillow for a little boy's bed.  I tucked a little scrap of fabric into the pocket.  

Those pockets could also come in handy when it's time for the tooth fairy to pay your little one a visit.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  I would love to hear from you!

Big thanks to Apartment Therapy's Ohdeedoh for featuring this project here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Addicted to Rosettes

Wow!  What having a little girl will do to a crafty person!

Since my oldest is a boy, things like hair accessories and bows and flowers have not been on my radar screen.  Until now.  Baby girl is ten months old and I am having so much fun creating girly things!  There is this crazy world of girl stuff out there and I'm finding inspiration everywhere.

Have you seen all of the rosettes out there?  This seems to be a HUGE trend not only in little girls' things, but for big girls too.  I have a cute t-shirt in my closet that is adorned with rosettes.

With a little push from a friend (thank you, Francesca!), I'm trying my hand at rosettes.  And here are a few photos of my first creations...

I'm finding that making these little rosettes is a GREAT way to use my scraps!  I'm simply taking two-inch-wide strips of fabric in various lengths and am then manipulating the fabric, twisting and turning and glue-gunning in various spots to create a sweet little rose.

The hair accessories are kind of tricky.  It's hard to find a clip that will stay put in this little biscuit's wisps.

But she doesn't seem to mind!

I can't stop.  I've caught the rosette wave.  More styles and ideas to come.

Have a wonderful and creative Monday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tea Bag Wisdom

The quote on my tea bag this morning...

"Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who achieve it in nothing."
- Eugene Delacroix

Hmmm... food (or tea) for thought.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Art for Art's Sake

I've had the time of my life sewing, quilting and crafting for the last three years.  Before my son was born, I didn't even know how to thread my sewing machine.  I didn't have much confidence in my creative ability but I knew I needed an outlet.  There's something about becoming a mother that gives you an incredible amount of determination.  If you can give birth, you can learn to sew.  Or do anything else for that matter.  So I got out my dusty sewing machine and started searching the web for easy projects.  When I got stuck and didn't know how to do something, I watched a YouTube video.  We live in an amazing time and I was shocked by how much information I found at my fingertips.

In early 2008 I started a business selling my baby gift designs and it was a thrill!  News of my little gig seemed to spread among my groups of friends and before I knew it I was receiving orders from people I didn't know.  That was pretty exciting for me.  A good chunk of the last two years has been spent trying to build my business.  It's been a constant juggle and struggle to figure out how to be a full-time stay-at-home-mom while also being a full-time business owner.  The end result has been a pretty frazzled, rarely showered, frozen pizza eating me.

Late September found me starting a blog... something I had been wanting to do for a long, long time.  I've been an avid blog reader for years and have always thought it would be fun to have an online journal.  I love sharing my creations and ideas with all of you.

In the interest of myself and my family, I'm letting go of the business for now and will focus mainly on this blog.  Don't worry - if you're one of my repeat customers, I'll still gladly take a commission for burp cloths here and there.  But I'm not going to promote my business the way that I used to.  In fact, I'll soon be taking down my website.  So be sure to bookmark the blog so that you can find me in the future.

I'm sure that I'll get back to business mode at some point down the line. Perhaps when my kids are both in school and I have more time on my hands.  But for now, I've decided that the best thing for me is to create art for art's sake.  I can't wait to show you what's next (and not try to sell it!).

Thanks for reading!  I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Free Tutorial - Embellished Onesies

Are you looking for a fun holiday gift for a little person in your life? How about an embellished onesie or t-shirt?  I just finished making a few of these for my daughter and thought I'd share my technique.  This project is soooo easy!  Once you get the hang of it, you can whip these out in about 15 minutes.  Seriously.

By the way - it's not too soon to start making your holiday gifts.  Christmas is right around the corner.  I find that if I don't start making now, it just won't happen.

  • Onesie or t-shirt in desired size (I always buy Carter's bodysuits as they are nice and thick)
  • 3" x 3" square of fussy-cut fabric (this just means to center the design in your square)
  • Glue stick
  • Fray Check
  • Sewing machine, thread, iron
I always pre-wash my fabric and onesie in a gentle baby detergent as both will shrink.

Select your fabric and cut a 3" x 3" square.  I used fabric from a Sheri Berry holiday line as well as some Riley Blake tree fabric (I happened to have scraps left over from a quilt I made for my mother-in-law last Christmas).

Now flip your square(s) over onto a piece of scratch paper and coat one side (about an 1/8 of an inch strip) of the square with your glue stick. Fold over 1/8" of your fabric and smooth it out.

Repeat on an adjoining side.

Now clip a small portion of the excess corner fabric to eliminate bulk. Just be careful not to get too close to the corner or clip through to the front.

Repeat these steps on remaining two sides.

Now apply a teeny bit of Fray Check or other anti-fray product to each corner.

The next step is to apply a small amount of glue to the back of the square to hold it in place while you sew. Place the square on the onesie wherever you like it.  I usually put mine about an inch and-a-half below the neckline.

Now unsnap your onesie and place it on the arm of your sewing machine so that you're just sewing through the top layer.  

Edge stitch around the square, backstitching at the start and finish and pivoting at each corner and you're done!  Cute baby gift.

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment.  Hope you like this project!