Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lacking Inspiration

As if you haven't noticed, I have been a bit absent.  I mean, do I even have any readers anymore?!  It has been months!  I envisioned my time of unemployment (yes, still unemployed here!) to be a fantastic time of sewing and crafting.  That has unfortunately not been the case.  I have been lacking inspiration and motivation.  When the stars do align and I get some sewing in, I end up feeling guilty most of the time.  Shouldn't I be looking for more jobs?  Shouldn't I be cleaning more?  How can I do something so self-centered to enjoy this time of unemployment when __((anything else))___ should be done?

So, here's a little most about what I have been up to these past two months.  Besides cleaning and looking for jobs, of course.

I spent some time with my new niece.  Isn't she just the cutest?!  Ok, she may be scowling a bit in this photo and it's one of the only ones we have together, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.  She's adorable!

I visited a great friend in Colorado and enjoyed wonderful company and 70 degree temperatures when everyone else was freezing in Michigan. Yes!

Started drinking green smoothies.  Yum!

Planned to run a 10k but accidentally ran a 5k on Thanksgiving Day instead.  Don't ask.  But, look at that fabulous sparkle skirt I wore.  I was inspired by this wonderfully obnoxious skirts at Team Sparkle.  I couldn't bring myself to paying $30 for a skirt to wear over my running clothes, so I made one myself for approximately $7.  I am quite confident that the workmanship is much higher on the real sparkle skirts, but I figured I was running and it didn't matter if the ruffles were attached perfectly.

And then, most recently, I celebrated my wonderful husband's 31st birthday with a long weekend getaway to rural Ontario.  We rented a home right on Lake Erie and enjoyed relaxing by the fire overlooking the snowy lake.  Just beautiful.

What kind of birthday cake do you make for your husband who eats two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day?  A PB&J cake, of course!  :)

We may have built a snowman while it was blizzarding too.

So now that I have the dreaded catch up post over, maybe I'll keep you updated with some more sewing projects soon.  I actually HAVE finished a few quilts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Today I decided to experiment with making my own vanilla extract.  I had all the ingredients and was feeling adventurous, so why not?

I filled an old wine bottle with vodka, added 12 split vanilla beans, and corked it.  Simple enough, right?  I'll let you know how it works out in 2 months! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Operation Christmas Child

Every year my church participates in Operation Christmas Child.  If you are not familiar, Operation Christmas Child is a program organized by Samaritan's Purse that collects shoe boxes filled with items to give to children in impoverished countries.

Last year I made a doll quilt and mini pillow to include in my box and I plan to do the same this year.  There are so many things I love about doing this.  I love being able to use my quilting skills to send a personal and love-filled gift to a little girl for Christmas.  And if sending a homemade gift to someone wasn't enough, it's also a great way to use up some scraps!

How amazing would it be if we made hundreds of these boxes with dolls and homemade quilts?  If you are interested in participating, it's really easy!  Samaritan's Purse has all of the information on their website and has drop off locations all over the country.

So, are you up for joining in the fun too?

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Tote

You know, I probably made this bag a month ago. At that time I was fed up with my birdie sling. Although I appreciate the large size of the birdie sling, the shape of the bag is the issue. If I need a pen, I like to be able to keep the bag on my shoulder, reach in, and get my pen. The incredibly deep bag and narrow opening made it quite difficult to accomplish this.

While desperately searching for a new pattern, I had my eye out for something that was still large enough to carry a few books plus the ordinary purse items but was more shallow and wide at the top. Thankfully, I found the Pleated Tote by Jen Gidden's on Etsy. It's fantastic! Not only is the bag the perfect size and shape, the pattern is concise and well written. Each step is explained well and is not full of extraneous information.

The pattern calls for the bag to be interfaced using duck cloth. This is my first time using it and I am very pleased with the results! The duck cloth holds its shape very well and gives my bag more structure. The pattern recommends using bottomweight or home dec fabric for the exterior to help it hold its shape. However, since I had this pretty Nicey Jane print already, I decided to just interface the exterior as well. I don't think the structure of the bag suffered at all from using a quilting cotton plus duck cloth for the exterior. In comparison to the lightweight plus fusible fleece interfacing used in my birdie sling, I would say this is a superior way to interface. The only downside is that it was a little difficult to sew through all of the layers at the straps. I used a denim needle and just took it slow and steady.

I opted to deviate from the pattern with the interior pocket style. In the past few bags I have made, the pockets have been simple squares or rectangles sewn to the lining and I don't find them very functional. I decided to go for a full width series of pockets sewn into four smaller pockets. After using this for several weeks, I am finding that the slightly extra planning was certainly worth it. The series of smaller pockets hold my pens, keys, phone, and iPod much nicer than a simple catch all pocket.

All in all, I am very happy with my new tote. It is functional and very cute.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Busy, busy bee!

I have been busy sewing away today and have been able to catch up in both of my bees. Yay for being productive!

For this month in my scrap busting bee,  Sabrina sent us a bunch of squares to make wonky stars per this tutorial.  These are quick and fun blocks to make!

By finishing these two blocks, I am completely finished with both my quilting bees.  How did that happen already?  I'm not sure what I am going to do with myself.  I think it's time to determine whether I'd like to hop into another bee or take a break.  I can see pros and cons for both.  Hmmm... decisions.

At least it has felt like August outside

I have been a really bad bee member.  Bronwen sent me fabric in August for her block.  You see, she asked for pintucks and I have never done those before.  They look pretty intimidating and I did some major procrastinating. 

Well, let me tell you, they're not hard at all!  I feel a bit foolish about putting it off for so long!  This block came together pretty quickly and I'm happy with how it turned out.  Success!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I must like ambitious projects

I have a knack for finding ambitious projects and deciding that I must tackle it as well.  The latest of these is the Tokyo Subway Map quilt posted by Oh Fransson.  It is just so wonderfully striking.

Over the past week or so I have sifted through my scrap bins and stash to cut all of my colored squares.  It was not a small feat.  It requires 624 patterned pieces, 85 colored solids, and 891 white squares (which I have not finished cutting).

They look so pretty all lined up!  I had a difficult time deciding on the light and dark blues and greens.  I found my stash was full of plenty of blues and greens of not only various values but also simply different shades.  A lot of my "dark" greens looked pretty terrible together.  I sorted and sorted, rearranged again and again, until I finally put them all aside.  Eventually, I did get it all worked out with some help with of a wonderfully patient friend.  It's amazing how much a new set of much more talented eyes can help.

After I had temporarily given up on the blues and greens, I decided to just make a block that didn't require any of those colors.  I needed to see a little progress after so much cutting and sorting.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to love this quilt!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just in time for cooler weather

Last week is was quite warm and windy here in Ann Arbor. I was enjoying having the fresh breeze with the windows opened in our condo. The only downside to this was the repeated slamming of our bedroom door. Finally, after a rude awakening in the middle of the night by said slamming door, I decided that I needed a doorstop- fast.

After a quick search, I hoped for this tutorial for this well thought out and cute, little nine patch option. It came together relatively quickly although it was a lot of steps for a doorstop. However, if I wanted a simple doorstop, I would have just purchased one from the store. I opted to forgo using the fusible fleece the pattern calls for and use batting scraps instead. I just couldn't justify purchasing fusible fleece when I have a plethora of batting scraps laying around. It worked wonderfully and I can't imagine the fleece out have provided better results.

I have been enjoying small projects lately. They're refreshing in the midst of all of the long term quilting projects I have going. I have also found them to be useful at trying out some of the accessories that came with my sewing machine. For example, on this project, I was able to use the seam guide for the quilting on the back.

I don't often do straight quilting so I hadn't learned the joys of this accessory yet. It's really great! It definitely made things quite simple and I'm really happy with how it turned out. The finished doorstop certainly looks great in our bedroom! Too bad as soon as I completed it the weather became too cold to keep the windows open. I guess I'm now well prepared for next spring!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Scrappy Bee: September

In my scrapbusting quilting bee, April requested a refreshingly simple block using fun blue and green fabrics.  The blocks were made using the Birthday Cake pattern found at Oh Fransson

Despite congratulating myself too soon on block making success and having to spend a little time with the seam ripper, these blocks pretty much came together without a hitch.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this quilt comes together. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oh my!

August was Julie's month in my scrap busting quilting bee.  She sent each of us a monochromatic selection of scraps along with some brown background fabric and asked for a geese in a circle block.  Sweet- I love how these blocks look.

Although I had never done paper piecing before, I knew the general concept and decided to naively jump into the project.  I had saw this block, thought it was awesome, so I decided that was what I was going to make.  I mean, it can't be that hard, right?  Wrong!  I did not know what I was getting myself into!

All in all, despite all of the newbie difficulties I had, I love how the block turned out!  I just can't say that I'm going to make another one any time soon.  :) 

Monday, August 30, 2010


I left my fancy camera at my sister-in-law's when we went to visit for her baby shower. So sad. Fortunately, I still have our point and shoot at home. This evening I was downloading some photos and I discovered this photo my husband took on the canoe trip he took earlier this month.

It's breathtakingly beautiful! Scenes like this remind me why I live in Michigan.

The irony...

My birthday was August 1.  Shortly before my birthday I registered a Starbucks gift card so I could receive a free drink on my birthday. 

On the morning of my birthday I arrived at Starbucks eager to spend a morning reading in the coffee shop sipping my free soy cinnamon dolce latte.   Unfortunately, when I announced it was my birthday and presented my gift card I was informed that to receive my free birthday beverage I would need a coupon I should have received.  I had never received a coupon.

Today, August 30, I was surprised when I checked the mail.  I finally received that coupon for my free birthday beverage!  A free latte at last! 

While I think the free drink is exciting, I think the best part is what the coupon had written across the back.

"You know us.  We'd never miss a birthday."
Oh really?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Real Deal

This past weekend was my sister-in-law's baby shower.  She's expecting a little girl in mid-September.   She asked me to make the bedding for her purple and yellow themed nursery- specifically the quilt and the bumper.

I found a couple fat quarter bundles of this fabric at JoAnn's and supplemented with some yardage from a local quilt shop.  I sat for awhile trying to determine a good pattern for a two-color quilt.  It was much more difficult than I expected.  So, I threw a couple green accent prints in and after making a trial quilt top, I made the quilt.

I made the squares a little larger so I could make it more of an oversized baby quilt.  I wanted it to be able to usable for longer than the itty bitty baby stage.  I also decided to back the quilt in super soft minky and do minimal quilting.  This kept the quilt really snuggly and cozy. 

I'm pretty happy with the finished product.

For the bumper, I used the pattern in Little Stitches for Little Ones by Amy Butler.  I have actually not had a lot of luck with Amy Butler sewing patterns in the past, so I was surprised that this came together pretty well.  My only issue was that it told me to see page 172 to make the ties, but I had not photocopied that page before I returned the book from to library.  Who would have thought my pattern instructions on pages 36 and 37 would send me to 172?  I'm pretty sure I didn't make the ties as the pattern would have instructed because they ended up being a lot of work.  I think they look pretty nice though, so no complaints here.

I liked the pattern because it had you make pockets on the inside of the bumper panels.  The pattern is written to have pockets on both of the long sides of the crib, however, I decided to only have them on one side.  It would have been an extra yard of fabric and I didn't think it the pockets on both sides would be used at the same time anyway.

All in all, I'm happy with how the bedding turned out.  I can't wait for my niece to arrive so I can see it in action!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trial Quilt

My sister-in-law asked me to make a quilt for her nursery.  I bought the fabric awhile ago but have been mulling ideas around for the pattern.  I had an idea that I thought might look good, but I was a little unsure.  I decided I would make a trial run with the pattern and see how it went.

I think it went pretty well!  I'm a fan!  I'm really happy with the colors too- so bright and cheery.

Unfortunately, the pattern highlighted my inability to sew that perfect 1/4" seam.  I  usually sew with a scant 1/4" seam because I figure I might as well make it a little smaller and trim my blocks down to size.  Not really thinking this through, I cut the solid pieces at the top and bottom first, and they ended up shorter than the following two rows.  For the center patchwork section I decided I was going to really try to sew that 1/4" seam properly.  I even pulled out the 1/4" foot.  I was serious.  So I went along sewing away- even measuring occasionally.  Somewhere along the way something went awry and that patchwork section ended up smaller than the top pieces.  Apparently I need some additional practice. 

All in all, I think it turned out pretty nicely.  Even if it is narrower than I had planned!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Career Possibility?

Shortly before I left for vacation I was laid off from my job.  Now that I am back home I have been contemplating what my next step should be.  Do I find another engineering job?  Are there even any structural engineering jobs in my area?  Do I find a job in another field and change careers?  What on earth would I choose?!  Or do I embrace the job of housewife and volunteer somewhere?

One option might be to become a professional contest entrant.  You see, lately I have been pretty lucky in the giveaway department and have won again.  Maybe I could also win us a new car, ice cream for a year, and some cash.   That doesn't sound too bad to me.
Originally uploaded by Crafty Vagas Mom
This is the loot from the giveaway from Crafty Vagas Mom for the Friday Night Sew In.  It seems a little appropriate to have won Christmas fabric given the challenges I had with my own Christmas quilt on Friday.  This line of Christmas fabric is beautiful but I never would have purchased it for myself since I have plenty already.  I look forward to making something fun with this! 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hexagon Update :: Travel Report

Traveling to Hawaii was good for my hexagons!  

I made 185 hexagons...

... and 16 flowers.

I have been admiring how they look laid out like this.  I think they look great! 

On a side note, does anyone else feel awkward about admitting they think something they made looks great?  It makes me feel self-focused and awkward.  I don't know why.  I know it's ok if I think I did something well, but there is this voice inside telling me I shouldn't.

 Don't they look so cute all stacked up together?

Friday Night Sew In Results = Dismal

Last night I have a handful of friends over for some sewing.  I had grand intentions of making this a "Christmas in July" event (at least for myself) and was hoping to make some serious progress on my Christmas quilt. 

I had already sewn some squares onto my pieces to make more flying geese and went right into cutting them.  I had quite the stack growing and I was applauding myself for my work and had visions of glorious rows of green flying geese.  Unfortunately, once I went to start ironing them I realized I had sewn the entire stack incorrectly!  This means I need to spend a lot of time with the seam ripper and that large glorious stack now.  Had I not been sewing with friends who lightened the mood, I may have shed some tears.  I am really bummed. 

I then proceeded to wander aimlessly throughout my home to find a new project to work on to no avail.  Not due to the lack of projects in the works, but because I couldn't find all of the pieces to any of them!  At the evening all I have to show is this, a teeny little stack of squares for hexagons from fabric I purchased in Hawaii. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

This morning I am leaving for vacation- to Hawaii!  My bags are packed and I have plenty of books and hexagon goodies to keep me busy on the plane. 

Sunset on Kauai 
Originally uploaded by Haiku Heidi
 I am SUPER excited! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hexagon Update

There has been a fair amount of progress on the hexagons around here.  I have been trying to take them with me whenever we're going to be in the car.  It has paid off because I am now up to 465 hexagons.  Thankfully, it makes my storage box look less pathetic.  Except for the purple, that still looks pathetic.  :)

I have even been able to start piecing them together as well.  I decided on the "organized random" layout for now.  I like the randomness not only because it looks great but it also allows me to piece as I go.  Another bonus is that if I change my mind again I can always rearrange the flowers into the color wave pattern.  It seems win-win at this point.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July is for me

July is my month for both of my quilting bees. You see, I planned it this way since I am leaving for vacation on Wednesday for 13 days.

Since I am lazy, I decided to have both bees make the same thing for me- scrappy spiderweb blocks.

I'd like to make this one a big quilt. I think it would make a nice picnic blanket. I really enjoyed making these two blocks. I think they come together pretty quickly. Or maybe since I can just see the progress so well all along I feel really productive. Whatever the reason, I really like them.

On a separate note, last week my demo version of Adobe Lightroom expired and I'm really missing it. So sad for my photos. :(

Friday, June 18, 2010


Since I don't have over 1100 different fabrics in my stash to use to make the hexagon charm quilt, I have been participating in some charm pack swaps.  My packages have been slowly trickling in.  Even some surprise squares from my mother-in-law!  Yay!  When we went to visit my Shawn's parents over Memorial Day, my mother-in-law started her own hexagon quilt as well. 

I also started piecing together some of my hexagons.  I want to be able to mix piecing the hexagons and making them so I don't become burnt out by one or the other. 

Now that I'm seeing how the one color looks, I'm second guessing my choice.  This photo doesn't really make them look very attractive in general though.  Note to self:  find a better way to photograph pieced hexagons.

Instead of doing the color wave approach, maybe I do want a more random layout more like this.  Or maybe this.  I don't know.  What do you think?  I think I may go back to making hexagons and revisit this issue later.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Scrappy Bee: June

For June in the scrap busting bee, Jennifer sent us some great fabrics and asked for scrappy flying geese.  I'm a big fan of flying geese (as you can tell from this work in progress), so I was happy to oblige. I'm really happy with how they turned out!

The first block I made was simply half square triangles strategically laid out. 

The second block I made using this tutorial.  It is actually the same method I am using to make the flying geese for my Christmas quilt. 

Now, since July is my month in both of my bees, I need to figure out what I'd like everyone to make.  Decisions, decisions. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Scrappy Bee: May

In my quest to be caught up in my quilting bees, last night I finished May's block for my scrap busting bee.  Tammie sent us a bunch of great scraps to make a wall hanging for a child's bedroom.  She posted this block for inspiration and left it pretty open ended.  The only requirement was that it had to include some of the fabric with the people. 

Here's the first block I made.  Pretty simple.  I wanted to make the block like beads and letting the kids be the main focus.

The second one I decided to go for showcasing more of the scraps.  I am very happy with how this one turned out.  A block with so many scraps can tend to look really busy, but I like how the solid pieces break it up and tame it a bit.

Now, tonight I'm setting out to finish up the June scrappy blocks for Jennifer.  I love being this productive!