Monday, January 31, 2011

Someone You Should Know

One of my initiatives for 2011 is to introduce you to some talented friends of mine. I happen to know (don't we all?) some amazing women and I'm excited to celebrate them and the great things they do.

Today, I want to tell you about my good friend, Cathy Cassani Adams. Cathy is an extraordinary woman of many talents. She has been a counselor, a parent coach, a college professor, a certified yoga instructor, an author, blogger and is a wife and mom to three beautiful little girls.

Cathy and her husband Todd host a weekly radio show called Zen Parenting on The show airs every Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Central Standard Time but you can access the show archives online by clicking below.

All I have to say is AMAZING. Cathy and Todd share their thoughts on parenting and life in general. Even if you don't have kids, you will love Zen Parenting. There are so many good lessons for everyone. And I promise you'll get a kick out of Cathy and Todd's style.

I'm not being paid to promote Cathy or her show. I maintain that I am an ad-free blog. But I love Cathy and I believe in what she does. I simply wanted to share her with you.

On a personal level, Cathy has inspired me with her dear friendship. She's the kind of person that anyone would want for a friend and I consider myself very fortunate to know her.

So check out Zen Parenting and be on the lookout for Cathy. I have a feeling this is just the beginning of more great things for her.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Slightly Obsessed With Needle Turn

So I'm loving needle-turn applique. No surprise, right? It's really fun! I love the repetitive motion and the preciseness of the stitches. It's a perfect "feel productive while watching trashy television" thing to do.

I decided to start with something small and settled on a pillow cover. I chose heart shapes as Valentine's Day is coming up and I figured it would be a relatively easy shape to start with.

I found this great little tutorial on needle-turn. If you've never done it before, I highly encourage you to give it a go. It just takes a little practice.

The handwork takes me back to my youth. I tried everything from candlewicking to cross-stitch and I loved it! Do you remember those fads? You gotta love the 80's.

I have my heart set (pun intended!) on adding some pink piping to this pillow and I really like using the store-bought stuff. I don't have any at the moment, so this project is on hold until I can get myself to Joann. I try to avoid that store like the plague because going in for one item means I'll come out with 30 things I don't really need and a list of new projects to try (not to mention a hefty Visa bill).

I have a special recipient in mind for this pillow. One of our little friends is turning four just before Valentine's Day and this pillow is for her.

I'll be back soon with pics of the finished product.

I'm already plotting my next needle-turn project. I really want to try a quilt and have been scouring flickr for inspiration. There are so many great ideas out there!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Kindness of Neighbors

Look what I found on my doorstep last evening.

Aren't they beautiful? And that's not all. They were sitting next to a large tupperware container filled with the yummiest beef and vegetable soup I've ever tasted.

Were these gifts from a secret admirer? No. They were from a very kind and generous next-door-neighbor.

He has been known to do this in the past. When we had our baby girl last January, we found a similar gift on our doorstep no less than once a week for many, many weeks.

These little gifts show up at unexpected times and it seems as if Drew knows just when I need his help the most. Yesterday afternoon, I was dealing with two cranky little ones who are still fighting the time change from vacation and wondering how I was going to get a meal made by the time my husband came home from work. Not that I cook all that often... we frequent our local takeout joints more than I care to admit. But last night I was finally feeling somewhat organized post-trip and was ready to tackle dinner.

But the clock kept ticking and the dinner hour was looming with nothing on the stove or in the oven (or even the microwave). And then our doorbell rang. And by the time I got to the door, no one was there... just a special gift left on the doorstep.

Drew - you make me want to be a better person! You make me think about the difference we can make. Your dinner gifts might not be a big deal to you, but they are HUGE to me. And they make me think about what I might be able to do for someone else. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heirloom Needle-Turn Applique Quilt

Hi there!

I'm really excited to show you the second heirloom quilt I brought home from California. This beauty is in tough shape. Torn bindings and frayed edges. And the colors are so faded which made it very difficult to get good pictures (that and the fact that I can't seem to get any good natural light in Chicago this time of year). But I LOVE this quilt and the history it represents. My great-grandmother made this quilt (probably in the 30's or 40's) using needle-turn applique to make the sweet tulips found in each block.

Check out the detail on this sweet little tulip plant.

And look at the gorgeous hand quilting. I love studying the tiny stitches. A lot of work and love went into the making of this quilt.

I think the leaves were originally a much more vibrant green. They have turned to a soft gray and the quilt is lovely even with it's aged, muted tones. 

So I've been bitten by the applique bug and I won't quit until I've mastered the technique (that's kind of how I operate). I've been browsing blogs looking for inspiration and I think I know what I'm going to make for my first project. If I can make a little progress this evening, I'll share it with you tomorrow.

What projects are you working on (obsessing over)?

Hope you're having a great day!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm Back and a Treasure From Home

What a trip! We made it home safe and sound, though a bit tattered and tired from travel. We were away for twelve whole days. That's the longest trip my family has ever taken. It was fantastic and just the break we all needed. I imagine it will take us a while to get back into our routine. As I type, I have my fourth load of laundry going and I'm busily packing away the flip flops and pulling out the snow boots.

I still need to get all of our vacation photos off of my husband's computer and onto mine so that I can share the glory. But in the meantime, I thought I'd show you this incredible treasure I brought back with me.

I grew up in southern California where most of my family still resides. We broke up our trip to Hawaii with a couple of days in Orange County on either end. My mom has (until now) been the keeper of the heirloom quilts in our family. I shared a couple of quilts made by my great-grandmother a few months ago (you can see that post here). But there were a couple of quilts still collecting dust at my mom's house and I've been meaning to bring them home with me for quite some time. I managed to stuff (carefully, of course) this and one other in my suitcase. I dare say this one's my favorite.

This hexagon quilt was entirely hand-pieced by my grandmother's sister (my great-aunt) Bert. She did this over the course of several years... maybe even decades and the finished quilt was intended to be a gift for my grandmother. From what I understand, most (if not all) of the pieces were cut from old house coats. If you don't know what a house coat is, it was like a loose shirt dress often worn over clothing while doing everyday household tasks. I think they were popular in the 30's, 40's and 50's. But I can remember my grandmother wearing them well into the 80's. My Aunt Bert never finished the quilt. My mom somehow ended up with the stack of finished blocks and surprised my grandmother by having the quilt finished by a quilting professional many years ago. I can remember this quilt draped over the bed in the guest room in my grandma's house growing up. Even then, I studied each little hexagon and drooled over the gorgeous color combinations.

This quilt makes me happy. It's like something you'd see at Anthropologie but it's so much better because it was made by a family member and holds very special memories for me. I guess this quilting stuff gets in your blood. I feel connected to generations past as I cherish these quilts and carry on the tradition with my own handiwork. 

Making a hexagon quilt is probably not in my immediate future. I don't have the time nor the patience for something like this. But I take GREAT inspiration from this quilt. And the best part is that this quilt came with a bag of unused blocks.

My mind is spinning as I think about what to do with all that gorgeousness. Lucky, lucky me.

Thank you, mom, for being a packrat sentimentalist! :-) And thank you, Aunt Bert! I will carry the torch with pride.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Greetings from Paradise! We've had an amazing week on the gorgeous island of Maui where we are enjoying our last day (sob) of vacation. We have spent our days lounging on the beach or exploring the island and our nights grilling fresh fish and drinking mai tais. We even took Daniel to a luau the other night and he has fallen in love with the hula girls. He keeps asking me if we can go back and see the pretty ladies dance again. So cute. What a fabulous trip it has been. My kids have had a blast with their grandparents, aunt and uncle and adorable California cousins. I've missed my projects but it's been so good to take a break. I'll be back in Chicago on Tuesday and hope to get back to sewing / crafting / quilting related posts by the end of the week.

I'm dying to share some photos with you but just can't seem to figure out how to do it on my husband's computer. I promise to post some shots of our trip as soon as I get home.

Miss you and hope you're doing well!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Or maybe surfing.

Well, probably just lazing on the beach.

We are headed to Maui this week for a much needed vacation. My parents generously gifted this trip to us and we can't wait for some fun in the sun with my extended family.

That means that I'll be taking a little blogging break. Boo hoo! I'm going to miss it so much! I'm going to try to post from Paradise, but we'll have to see how it goes. I'm not taking my computer and it'll be interesting to see how I do without my drug laptop. :-)

I have lots of great ideas to share with you when I get back and maybe I'll even find a little inspiration on the islands.

As I watch the snow falling outside my door, I'm dreaming of pina coladas and pineapples.

Bring on the sun!

See you in a while....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tutorial - Fabric Covered Boxes with Ribbon Ties - Part 3

Hope you all had a nice weekend!

I'm back with the third part of our fabric covered box tutorial. I hope it's been easy to follow so far. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail if anything is unclear or if you have any questions.

We should have our box forms made, our fabric cut and our inside fabric glue-hemmed.  The next step is to apply the fabric to the cardboard with some mod podge.

Start with the exterior piece of fabric for your largest box. Flip it so that the wrong side is up on your work surface.

Now flip your box over and paint a layer of mod podge on just the center (bottom) section.

Working pretty quickly, flip the box onto the fabric and smooth out with your hands (or a burnishing tool if you have one).

Now your bottom piece is glued. Flip back over and we're essentially going to wrap the fabric all around like a present.

The first step is to notch those corners like we did with our interior pieces. Just cut a diagonal line that meets up with your box corners.

Flip one of your sides up and apply a layer of mod podge as shown.

Gently lay that flap onto the fabric and paint a small bit of mod podge around the interior edges.

Smooth the fabric against the cardboard and pull it up and over onto the interior of the cardboard.

Now for the corners. We'll do them the same way we did on our interior fabric pieces.

The corners will be a bit bulky. Use clothespins to hold them in place while your mod podge dries.

Repeat this process all the way around until you have something that looks like this:

Set aside and allow to dry for 20 - 30 minutes.

Remove the clothespins and paint a thin layer of mod podge to your center (bottom) cardboard.

Making sure that corners and flaps match up, place your interior fabric piece wrong-side-down on the portion you've just mod-podged.

Again - burnish or smooth with your hands.

Cut 8 lengths of grosgrain ribbon. I cut mine 8" but you can make them shorter or longer depending on your desired size. If you would prefer to make ties instead of bows (like on my smallest polka dot box - see bottom of post for photo), you can get away with a shorter length (maybe 4" or so).

Working with one flap at a time, apply mod podge, place your ribbons toward the top (maybe 1" down) and burnish the fabric against the cardboard.

I used two clothespins in each corner to hold my box together during drying time.

Repeat this process with the three remaining flaps.

Prop up each side of the box with household items and allow to dry overnight.

Almost done!

If you have a sewing machine and want to go the extra mile, you can actually put a few stitches into the cardboard to hold your ribbon. If you've applied enough mod podge and allowed your boxes to dry really well, this may not be necessary. But I did it on mine. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to sew through cardboard. Just take it VERY slow and don't backstitch or you might break a needle.

The only thing left to do is tie your bows or ties. I sort of hold the box between my knees while I do this to get a nice tight knot.

Now trim your ends and apply a small bit of fray check.

That's it! Repeat with your two smaller boxes and you've got a set of three coordinating storage boxes made from an ugly old shipping box. 

I'd love to get your thoughts on this project. I know it's a bit involved but once you get the hang of it, you'll be whipping these up in no time flat.

* This project featured on Mod Podge Rocks here.

** Linked up to Get Your Craft On at Today's Creative Blog here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tutorial - Fabric Covered Boxes with Ribbon Ties - Part 2

Hi friends. Hope you're all having a great day.

I'm back with Part 2 of the Fabric Covered Box Tutorial. We're ready to start working with our fabric to make the outer and inner portions of the largest box.

A couple of thoughts on fabric selection...

I recommend using a geometric print or some other design that does not have a direction. You'll see that I used a sort of toile for my largest box here which means that my pattern is upside-down from some views. I don't mind but if you'd like your box to look more uniform, go with a directionless fabric.

I thought I'd throw out a plug for one of my favorite manufacturers of home decor fabric - Premier Prints. The fabric is incredibly reasonable and the weight is perfect for a project like this. You can find Premier Prints at many online retailers or directly through them. All three of the fabrics chosen for my first set of boxes were Premier Prints.

Here are the fabrics I chose for this next set. Two were purchased at Joann (I think they're Waverly) and the third was a Premier Print.

OK. Enough about that.

Take your fabric and fold it in half with right sides facing. Smooth it out on your work surface and place your cardboard cross on top. Trace a tight line all the way around your cross form using a pen or pencil. Then draw a second line about one inch out all the way around. I just eyeballed this. The measurement doesn't have to be exact.

I drew a little line in the corners connecting the outer line with the inner line. We're going to notch that line later.

Now remove the cardboard and cut through both pieces of fabric following the outer line.

Once you're done, separate your two pieces of fabric. One will wrap around the outside of your box and the other will cover the inside of the box. We're going to work with the inside piece first. It doesn't matter which is which.

Cut those notches on your interior fabric.

We're going to draw four more lines on this inside piece... about 1/8 of an inch to the inside on the four flaps as shown in the picture below. This is to account for the thickness of your cardboard. You'll see what I mean when we start mod-podging.

I like to use my iron and ironing board for this next step. We're going to glue a "hem" all the way around. I used a glue stick but you could use any kind of fabric glue or probably even white craft glue. I say use what you have on hand.

Starting with one of the flaps, apply glue all the way across then fold over onto your innermost line. I like to work from left to right.

After each fold, just run your hot iron over the hem. 

When you come to a corner, apply a bit of glue and fold the corner over as shown.

Now apply some glue to the top of that fold and continue down to the notch. Fold over and iron. 

Repeat this process all the way around.

When you get to your last flap, you'll need to do the corner on the right before you glue your flap down as shown in the photo below.

And that's it for your interior piece. It should look something like this.

Repeat this process of cutting fabric and glue hemming your interior pieces for the two smaller boxes.

That's it for today. 

I'll be back on Monday for the third and final part of this tutorial - attaching the fabric and ribbon.

Have a wonderful weekend!

* This project featured on Mod Podge Rocks here.

** Linked up to Get Your Craft On at Today's Creative Blog here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tutorial - Fabric Covered Boxes with Ribbon Ties - Part 1

I've been working on the tutorial for the fabric covered boxes and it's kind of involved. I originally planned to show you how to make one box but decided it would be more fun to show you how to make all three out of a regular old shipping box. I'm going to be posting the instructions in three parts. Here's part 1...

Fabric Covered Boxes with Ribbon Ties

Materials Needed:
  • One shipping box (corrugated cardboard type... size doesn't really matter but I would imagine it would be tough to make these if your box is really small. The one I'm using for this tutorial measures 11 1/4"x 8 3/4" x 4")
  • Mid to heavy weight home decor fabric to cover boxes (yardage kind of depends on the size of your original box. For mine, 1/2 yard for the big box and 1/4 yard each for the two smaller boxes seemed to be the right amount)
  • One small jar of Mod Podge
  • Paintbrush (I used a small foam one)
  • Fabric scissors
  • Regular scissors 
  • Fray Check
  • One small tube of Fabri-Tac or a regular old glue stick
  • One spool of coordinating grosgrain ribbon
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Clothespins (16 if you have them, but you can get away with using as few as 8)
  • Masking tape (I used blue painters tape but any kind will do)
  • Sewing machine and matching thread (optional)
First, find one of these... (I've been known to dig them out of the neighbors' trash) :-)

Now we're going to disassemble our shipping box to make the insides of our three fabric covered boxes.

Box #1 (largest box)

Cut off the four top flaps and set them aside.

Now cut the sides of each flap as shown.

So you have something that looks like this.

Now cut off those extra flaps on the bottom of the box and set them aside as well.

Depending on how well the box was taped up to begin with, you may be done here. I felt that my box was a little flimsy so I added some masking tape to two sides.

Your box should now resemble a cross shape when lying flat. You're done with box #1. Set it aside and let's make the inside of box #2.

Box #2 (medium-sized box)

You should now have four small rectangles and two large rectangles. We'll make box #2 with the four smaller rectangles.

One rectangle will be the bottom of your box, two rectangles will be the long sides and you'll cut the last rectangle to make the two short sides.

I measured the short side of the rectangles and determined that they were 4 1/4" long (exactly half the length of one of the long rectangles). I drew a line at the 4 1/4" mark and cut. 

Now lay out all of your pieces and attach them with masking tape as shown.

When I pulled my box sides up, they were not all the same height. The two longer sides were about 1/4" too tall, so I drew a line and cut them to the height of the two smaller sides.

You're done with box #2. Set aside and grab your two long rectangles to make box #3.

Box #3 (the littlest box)

We'll make the small box out of the last two (longer) rectangles. 

Start by measuring the length. Mine was just slightly longer than 11". I thought it would be easier to work with a whole number so I drew a line at the 11" mark and cut that piece off.

I then measured two inches on each end, drew lines, then cut those pieces.

To make the sides, take your other rectangle and mark lines delineating two 2" pieces as shown.

Cut those pieces and assemble all four into the cross shape. Apply masking tape as you did with the two larger boxes.

That's it. You're done with the interior pieces of all three boxes.

I'll be back soon with Part 2 of the tutorial which involves cutting your fabric and maybe even a little mod podging.

As always - if you have any questions, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail.

* This project featured on Mod Podge Rocks here.

** Linked up to Get Your Craft On at Today's Creative Blog here.