August 30, 2014

Broken Herringbone Quilt: Work in Progress Part 1

And now, for my next trick, let me delight the eyes and dazzle the OCD with this broken herringbone pattern quilt!  Oooh.  Aaahh.  After my grand total of 1 quilt down, I decided I was ready to hop on in to this quilting business and up the ante with a more complicated style, again without a pattern to follow.  What could go wrong?

Step 1: Planning (AKA, Quilting Math)
Biggest lesson learned from my first quilt was that I had to properly plan out my quilt in advance of any purchasing, cutting, laying out, or sewing was to be done.  I wanted a herringbone pattern (a favorite for me and my husband, a city planner who lurves him some herringbone sidewalks), but not the typical chevron-style herringbone that's all over Pinterest and the interwebs.  Finding some helpful sources of inspiration, I planned out what I wanted, measured, multiplied, and came up with my supplies for a nice twin-size quilt.

Step 2: Fabric Selection

I wanted this quilt for the living room, which is currently painted a soft green and has brown rugs, a tan couch, and various blue and green accents.  Clearly blue and green were my starting points for color, and I wanted a crisp white backing for the quilt.  I knew I'd need a pop of color in there, maybe a fun purple, or even red or orange.  Binding color was TBD.  I roamed the aisles with several awesome coupons burning a hole in my phone, and was more selective with fabric purchasing this time around.  I added and removed multiple bolts of fabric before settling on my final 6, but in the end I knew that what I had would definitely be used.  Six beautiful patterns, white backing, and navy binding.

Bountiful harvest.

Step 3: Cutting, Laying out, and More Quilting Math
Ok, I cut cut cut all my little rectangles out of the patterned fabric, and now I needed to cut the strips of white fabric that would go in between the rectangles, like the mortar in my herringbone sidewalk.  Again, valuable lesson learned last time was that I would have to account for fabric lost when I stitched two pieces together- 1/4" seams eat up length fast, especially when you're going to lose 1/4" on each side of your rectangles.  So I had to figure out how long these strips of fabric should be, how to make that a standard number rather than measuring out two different lengths depending on which way the "mortar" was going, and how to neatly sew these buggers together in a way that didn't make my head spin.
Some laying out, measuring, adjusting, more measuring, cutting, measuring... and I had my pieces cut and arranged and my AHA! moment for how to sew them properly.  Let me introduce my quilting Ts.
I laid out the beginning of the pattern I wanted.  We have the patterned fabrics and the white strips in between, breaking up the herringbone.

I realized that I could break this into chunks with these Ts.  From my quilting math, I knew that once I had sewed the white piece between 1 and 2, I would be losing a bit of length, which is why piece 3 is a bit shorter when everything is laid out prior to sewing.  Clearly, I needed to sew in this order.  Piece 1 is sewn to the white strip; piece 2 is sewn to that same white strip, and then a white strip is sewn to the top of those 3 connected fabrics, making the T with the white strips.

So I had the sewing order down- excellent.  Next up was how to make this work repeatedly for an entire quilt.  I then realized the whole pattern is made up of these Ts.  Look at the same layout with the new T perspective (highlighted in yellow now):


To the left are two more Ts, and there are Ts rotated as well.  If I create a bunch of Ts, I can connect them to other Ts at an angle, and we're in business.  In theory.  Let me see how this all goes in practice!

August 28, 2014

Finished Cross-Stitch

This week marked a momentous occasion- I finished a cross-stitch piece!  These patterns usually take me at least a year to complete (not working on them daily), and this was no exception.  I can't remember exactly when I started this one, but it had to be about a year ago because it reminded me of a street in Venice during last September's vacation in Italy.
This pattern is a Dimensions Gold kit- Paris Market- that comes with the blank fabric, all the thread, and some needles.  It's 15" x 11", making it a pretty good size as far as these kits go.  This pattern has a really tiny grid, which makes for a beautiful scene that doesn't look pixelated like some cross-stitch does, but the trade-off of course is a ton of stitches.  In addition to that, there are SO MANY colors in this one, which is why I love it, but switching threads constantly also adds to the amount of time it takes.  In the end though, as always, it was well worth it.  I'm pretty sure this one will be framed and hung in the master bedroom.  Hubby and I both love it, and are happy to wake up to see anything that reminds us of that amazing vacation!


Close up of the yellow flowers in the bottom left corner, to show those pesky French knots.  I hate making those knots!  They add so much texture, though, and you can't skimp on them.  At least this one wasn't covered in snowflakes like one of my past projects!

Fruit Kabobs

My son and I were watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood a few days ago, and the little guy got excited when he saw Daniel and his parents making fruit kabobs for a snack.  He was determined to do the same himself, and thankfully we had all the right goodies on hand!  This super easy treat was perfect for my 4-year-old to do himself once I'd washed and cut the fruit for him, and he devoured every bit.
This is a great idea for serving fruit at a party or play date, too!

Ingredients (makes 5 kabobs- enough for 2 snack servings)

  • 1/2 cup strawberries, quartered
  • 12 grapes
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • Skewers
Directions
  1. Wash and cut fruit; place in a bowl for youngster to choose from
  2. Place fruit on skewer, alternating fruits
Variations 
  • Dip some fruit in chocolate and allow to cool before putting on skewers (like an Edible Arrangement)
  • Arrange skewers stuck in a firm base like a watermelon
  • Sneak in a marshmallow here and there as a special treat

August 24, 2014

DIY Curling for Kids

This is a WAY overdue post from February!  While watching the winter Olympics this year, my son fell in love with curling.  He wanted to do it himself, and with some quick improve we had our own home version set up in the living room.  He'd play along while he watched the US team each night and we all got a kick out of it.  I hope you can take the same idea and play with your little ones, too!

Supplies

  • 2 plastic plates, like an outdoor or child's plate
  • Painter's tape, washi tape, or masking tape
  • Soft brush, like one used with a dust pan
Directions
  1. Tape off a square and a smaller target in the center of the square.  Tape a starting line far enough away from the target to be a bit of a challenge for your little one, but still close enough that they can slide the plate into the target.
How to Play (for 4 or more kids)
  1. Each round, both teams get to play.  Team 1 player sits at the line and pushes their plate toward the target.  Other teammate(s) pretend to swipe the ice in front of the plate with the soft brush.
  2. Team 2 gets to go.  Player sits at the line and pushes a plate toward the target; other teammate(s) pretend to brush the ice.
  3. At the end of the round, each team with a plate touching the box or the bull's eye gets points accordingly.  If both plates are touching, both teams get points (they do not cancel each other out).
  • Plate touching the large square (but not touching the bull's eye) = 1 point
  • Plate touching the bull's eye = 3 points.
Play 5 rounds, alternating which team starts each round.  Team with the most points wins!

If you've got just one kiddo playing like mine, improvise or just have fun shoving the plate at the target and seeing how they do!




Layered Circle Skirt

A little while back, I made a couple cute circle skirts for my baby girl.  She's getting bigger, and the newborn size skirt has started looking more like a tutu, so I decided to add a layer.  Easy peasy, and while I was at it, I ripped the old messy stitches on original skirt's the bias tape and re-stitched.  Things are nice and clean now, and extended the life of the skirt a couple more months!  I thought I'd share the easy steps so you can keep up with my sewing lessons learned.  :)

Supplies

  • 1/2 yard fabric- same as top layer, or coordinating color/pattern
  • Bias tape
  • Sewing notions
Directions
  1. Fold top layer of circle skirt into quarters.  Fold 1/2 yard fabric for bottom layer into quarters.  Lay folded top layer on folded bottom layer, as shown below.
  2. Trace curve out of corner of bottom layer, making a bigger opening than that of the top layer (~1" further down from corner).  Measure out at least 2-3" past hem of top layer and cut.
  3. Unfold the top and bottom layers, and place them on each other, right side up.  You should have two donuts, with fairly similar openings.
  4. Flip upside down, and pin the larger skirt layer to the smaller top layer, just past the elastic of the smaller layer's waist.  Pleat every inch or so to use up the excess fabric and create waves that mimic the ripples in the top layer.  Sew.
  5. When you flip the skirt right-side-up again, your layers should be nicely attached.
  6. Pin bias tape, right side against the right side of the fabric of the larger bottom layer, and sew in the fold of the bias tape.  Cheating and sewing as you go, instead of pinning in place, may result in a surprise shortage of tape when you reach the end.  Oops!  I decided this just determined where the back of this otherwise perfectly uniform skirt belongs.
  7. Fold over the raw edge of the skirt, and fold again.  Pin and sew.
  8. Done!

August 21, 2014

Make Your Own Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino


I am craaaazy crazy about Starbucks, but need to watch my coffee budget more closely these days.  I've been craving my beloved Caramel Frappuccinos but can't stomach the cost for a daily dose of that sweet, caffeinated bliss.  I experimented at home today and sure enough, for the cost of 2 of these drinks, I can easily make 6-8 at home.

Starbucks: $4.25 for one tall
Home: $4.99 Vanilla Latte, $1.99 Caramel syrup, $1.49 whipped cream, ice = $8.47 for at least 6 talls

And I promise you, the taste is spot on because I used the premade Starbucks iced vanilla latte (sold at most grocery stores).  You could easily make yours completely from scratch with brewed espresso (you can buy tins of espresso instant coffee) and milk, but then your flavor will be different.

Anyway, here's the simple recipe!  Let the savings and cravings commence.  :D

Supplies

  • 4 to 8 oz Starbucks vanilla latte drink (vary depending on desired size and consistency)
  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • Drizzle of caramel syrup (I like the Hershey's bottled kind)
  • Whipped cream
Directions
  1. Blend latte, ice cubes, and a drizzle of caramel syrup in blender.  I first used the ice chop setting for about 20 seconds, then the liquefy setting for 45 seconds until the drink reached the right consistency.
  2. Drizzle caramel syrup in glass (or better yet- reusable Starbucks cold cup!), pour in blended drink, top with whipped cream, and drizzle with additional caramel syrup.
My tips: 
If the drink is too liquid, resembling a slightly more frozen version of the latte drink, add more ice.  
If the drink is separating into ice and liquid layers, you need fewer ice cubes and/or to blend for a shorter period of time.

August 20, 2014

Lofted Bed Curtains (aka, under the bed tent)


For a long time now, I've had this idea in mind to make a cute curtain to hang under my son's bed when we finally lofted it.  Initially, I thought I'd make a tent to resemble the trolly on Mister Rodgers' Neighborhood/Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.  After my son outgrew that phase more, and started seriously loving cars, I shifted the idea to be a curtain that resembled a garage.  I thought a concrete wall with some applique windows, tires, perhaps an oil drum and toolbox would do the trick.  This was also a new chance to develop more sewing skills!  I took my son to the fabric store with me so he could pick out the colors for all his garage goodies, and talk about what items he wanted to be displayed on the garage.  He chose the red fabric for the garage, and I came up with the idea of painting on the white mortar so it looked like a brick garage.  We really had a lot of fun thinking it out together, and my son loved watching me cut out the different objects and sew them onto the curtains.  They're now up in his room, and hide a little hot wheel track world under his bed.  It's definitely a hit, and can be as easy or as complicated as suits you and your skill set.  Have fun!

Supplies (for a twin size bed)

  • 2 1/2 yards base curtain fabric to cover one side of the bed; additional if continuing curtain to cover more of the exposed area under the bed
  • White paint and paint supplies (brush, drop cloth, etc.)
  • Rectangular container or cutout as brick guide
  • Fabric scraps, fat quarters, or 1/4 yards for each of the detail pieces
  • 2 yards velcro made for sewing

Directions

  1. Lay out base curtain fabric, and paint on brick mortar (white paint), using a cutout, tupperware, or other guide to get a brick shape.  Let dry.
  2. Measure opening under the bed when lofted.  This will help you know just how wide and tall your curtains should be.  The curtains should be tall enough to cover the opening under bed without dragging on the floor and wide enough without flopping past the edges of the bed.  Add 1" to the width, so you can have 1/4" seams on each end, and 1/4" seam on each side of the middle opening to the curtains.  Add 1/2" to the height for 1/4" top and bottom seams.
  3. Cut straight edges, preferably using cutter and clear ruler guide, for the top and bottom sides.  Cut the curtain in half vertically to provide an easy opening in the middle during playtime.
  4. Fold over edges, pin, and sew to keep curtain edges from unraveling during use.
  5. Cut out applique pieces such as tires, toolbox, and windows.  Try to be proportionate with your items, but some goofy mismatches can be cute.
  6. Pin pieces and sew in place.  I sewed 1/4" in from the edges, because I wasn't yet skilled at doing the applique stitches that go back and forth over the edge.  That means the outer edges of my pieces are a bit floppy, but as I said, you can make this as easy or complicated as you want to suit your skill set.  Don't sweat the imperfections, because this is MEANT to look whimsical and imperfect.
  7. Cut the velcro in half.  Sew on the fuzzy part of the velcro along the top edge of each half of the curtain, according to manufacturer instructions.  I sewed mine AFTER removing the paper backing, and I don't know if that made the difference in why my sewing needle got all gunked up and jammed on me, but I definitely recommend doing things as intended here.  Winging it is unwise, as I learned.
  8. Stick the prickly side of the velcro to the back or underside of the bed frame, as desired.  Press firmly and hold in place.  You want that velcro side to STICK to the bed and not peel off at the first tug or two at the curtain.
  9. Attach the curtains to the bed and PLAY!
My little helper getting ready to paint some bricks!

Tracing around the tupperware container.  4-year-old helpers mean you quickly let go of perfection.  :)

Laid out to dry.  Some of the paint smudged and made splatters when I put it in place, and they created a great random and authentic look that I could not have possibly done intentionally.

This project taught me to looove my clear guide ruler/cutter!

Oil drum and toolbox sewn on.

My son wanted to name his garage Joey Cl[a]wson.  I have no idea who "Jowe" (Joey) is, or why his garage's name looks like graffiti, but this goes in my son's room not mine, so he gets his way.

Big ole tires all stacked up!

This is a HAPPY little guy!  Note the camping lantern providing under bed light.  Perfect for a little mechanic!