April 2, 2013

Here goes nothing

For some time now, I've been in falling love with Collette Patterns. However, somehow I haven't been able to start up one of their designs. I've already purchased the Collette Sewing Handbook (on preorder, even) but still have yet to dive in. In the meantime I enjoy following the blog and picking up all kinds of helpful tips and inspiration to put in my pocket.

That is until today... The Colletterie blog has announced a contest for their newest pattern, Laurel! The perfect excuse to get my feet wet, this is an easy shift dress with lots of versatility so the categories include multiple styling possibilities. Never been a fan of competition, it's the very first time I've considered entering a skill based contest. I'm kind of surprised by my strong desire to go for it! If Laurel was not an easy rated pattern I'd probably feel differently. I think this opportunity appeals to me by it's focus on executing your creativity. Perhaps best of all, I'm excited to already have five Spring/Summer ready fabrics at home, each would be perfect as this sweet dress.

Thoughts are now spinning around styling... Do I add an attached fabric belt? Cap sleeves? Some embroidery or applique? Perhaps a coordinating bias tape? Most important of all, which of my fabrics to use?

Suggestions welcome, and please wish me luck!

March 24, 2013


If you live in the Twin Cities area, like to sew and love a good deal, I hope you know about the SR Harris Fabric Warehouse. Initially I found out about it while I was pregnant. So while finishing up the nursery at 7 months along, I hauled my big belly around the warehouse. Had to ask for assistance from other customers to dig out upholstery bolts, hoist them up to the self-serve cutting table and later return them to the sales floor. It was all worthwhile to get such great deals on adorable nursery fabric. People who shop the wholesaler are also more than happy to lend a hand.

Since I wouldn't dream of taking my little guy to such a hands on shopping experience complete with fabric shears, it's been over a year since my first trip to SR Harris. Now that I have a lovely new sewing room and the inspiration is overflowing, it was time to pay another visit! Hubs let me take a baby free afternoon yesterday, so I got a list together and headed out.

Only giving myself two hours to work with (one could easily spend two days)  I was immediately sucked into the Missoni wool stacked high at the entrance. The huge selection of iconic, colorful zig-zag knit is going for 50% off at $20-$25/yd. Even at a steep discount I was unprepared to put down that much cash on fabric I've no dedicated use for. Peeled myself away to hunt through the 10+ aisles of cotton including designer prints and organics.

With the amazing discounts comes a price though. Shopping at the fabric warehouse is not for the faint of heart. You'll contend with:
1- No sorting of designs, color or manufacturer. The only grouping is done by general fabric type. So cotton quilting, fleece, jersey/stretch, flannel, upholstery, etc is the only sorting you may count on. This creates aisles stacked as high as you can reach full of every option available within a fabric type. It's both beautiful and maddening.
2- Other shoppers and carts. Try shopping at a slow time for the easiest experience since the aisles are wide enough for carts to pass, but barely. You also really have to get up really close to examine prints.  Having to deal with other shoppers makes this virtually impossible. It's a situation where you can see the end of a bolt and just the general color, but you'll need to work it out of the stack a bit to see what it really is.
3- Don't think you can skip using a cart to make shopping easier. Much like thrifting, you'll want to pull down every bolt you think you'll want right as you discover it. Realize that if you pass up a bolt thinking you can go back for it, chances are you just won't ever find it again. So stack that cart high and asses your selections at the very end.

Well here is what I made out with! Found lots of prints to fill the holes in my stash (small scale designs for trimming/binding and lining and more boy colors/designs. What was extra amazing is that I came across something I'd pinned ages ago! At $4.50-$5.50/yd, I'll call it destiny.

If you make the trip to SR Harris, I hope you have some great finds!

February 27, 2013

Sewing for baby girl

Well it's finally my turn to have a baby niece!!! This is an extra exciting time for my family who have been blessed with all baby boys until now.

Once I learned the news, there began a million ideas of baby craft projects floating around my head for this little princess. The only problem was finding the time with my own little prince crawling around!

Number one priority though... The grandpa blankie. This is from the same pattern as my own son's version, it uses a flannel shirt from my late father (baby girl's grandpa). The best part of making a project the second time is having the experience to help you make it even better than the first. This time I knew to pin the flannel strips all at the same time before quilting them down. It made the quilt top look much more symmetrical when completed. It also occurred to me this time to add one of the shirt pockets to the blankie! I'm calling it a "binky pocket" and love the way it turned out so much that I'll probably add one to my boy's too.

Since every little girl needs a little pink, this grandpa blankie includes some pops of pink plaid flannel as well. The best part is, I had enough to make an adorable coordinating capelet! Just like a  "Little Pink Riding Hood", this should be perfect for the dreary Seattle days she'll endure. Before I give it away though, I was somehow able to talk my boy into modeling it for me. (Thanks sweetie!) This proves the pattern is a little bit big, but that's ok. It rains in Seattle year round and she can grow into it longer this way.

Other projects include:

-hooded towel. This is simply a regular bath towel plus a hand towel for the hood, edged with home made bias tape. It's my first time making my own bias tape and I'm really proud of the results! The idea for the home made hoodie towel came from my realization that all those adorable infant towels are way too small once baby reaches 5 months. My guy started using a real towel at that point, so this will have to be something I make for him too.

-appliqued t-shirt. I picked a cute vintage print with pink cowgirl boots and appliqued onto an existing t-shirt. My mom even made some pink boots (crocheted)! Can't wait to see it all together. :)

All in all, I'm really happy with the four things I was able to turn out before the baby shower this weekend. Hopefully the parents-to-be will be pleased with them too!


Project resources:
Flannel shirt blanket -  thismamamakesstuff.com
Capelet - Simpicity 4434 (without the pom-poms and fringe, added lining)
Hooded towel - my own creation based off an existing hooded towel
Appliqued t-shirt - my own creation

September 6, 2012

a big surprise

It's been forever since I posted. Not that I haven't been inspired, it's just that I'm a new mom. Yep, gonna play that card. There have been a couple small craft projects here and there that I just haven't taken the time to document. This week I'm inspired to share though...

I'm a lucky lady. Hubby surprised me by taking the day off work on my birthday. He got up with the little one at 6 AM and let me sleep in until 9... score! The gifts were plentiful, including perhaps the best gift EVER!

Isn't she lovely? I am still in disbelief. My guy was supportive of the sewing classes I took during the Winter of 2010.  He must have really listened to my tales of woe, struggling with my cheapo plastic machine. Most impressive though, he also listened when I went on and on about how great my teacher and her sewing studio were, and that her vintage Singer machines were the most amazing to sew with. 

The last straw with my cheapo machine was during crunch time (of course) trying to get our baby's nursery furnished. It was a tall order to have chosen a home dec weight fabric for window coverings but I wanted something that would block the light from outside. Somehow I got those curtains made, it was not easy. The flannel blanket and pillow were a struggle as well. A cushion I had planned to cover a window seat is still unfinished. Good thing an infant doesn't care whether his window seat is cushioned or not!

Now I have the tool for the job, the Singer 503 Slant-O-Matic "Rocketeer" and I'm as giddy as ever to get to work. Having such little experience with vintage machines, I scheduled a mentoring session with a local restoration specialist who calls himself "The Bobbin Doctor". Steve taught me how to clean, maintain, and properly care for my machine. Upon meeting us (me and my Singer) he made my husband even more proud of his gift by expressing how great a find it was, and that he couldn't have done any better.  I came home from my mentoring session and got right to work on small project, a gift for a friend's wedding shower. It turned out GREAT!  No one at the shower could believe I made it, the apron looked so professionally finished. And it only took a few hours, mostly cutting and arranging the fabrics. The sewing was a breeze, the only functions I needed were the straight stitch, all purpose foot, and the detail foot.. I might need to make another.

Apron pattern from the Liberty Book of Home Sewing "Frilly Pinny"

The 503 runs as smooth as butter and includes the attachment and instructions for more tasks than I ever considered. Truly mind-boggling to think of how simple, straightforward and perfectly this 50 year old piece of machinery runs, compared to it's brand new (non computerized) counterpart.  I was not surprised that the 503 runs beautifully, it was the functions available and the detailed, user friendly manual that made my jaw drop. This manual will be just as important to my sewing journey as Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Home Sewing. Every function of the machine is well detailed and thoroughly illustrated within. I'll be able to create any apparel or home dec projects I could imagine (with the exception of large quilts) and they will turn out beautifully finished and without snags or ripped out/re-sewn seams.

Bigger projects await, now if I only had more time (and money for fabric)!

March 3, 2012

flannel love

Thank goodness for the internet and specifically, Pinterest. I don't know if I'd be able to create many of my latest craft projects without these resources. Being a picky person, it's often difficult to find that perfect fabric I envisioned at the local craft store or even the globo fabric mart; enter Fabric.com, and Ebay. Add to that, maybe there's simply no commercial pattern that exists for that project I conceptualized. And I don't quite have the skills to successfully plan my own pattern without the jumping board of seeing a how-to, or simply that it worked for someone else. Thus began my obsession with Pinterest; such a fabulous, searchable resource with lovely visuals linked back to craft blogs and how-to directions.

One of my many nursery projects that began this way was conjured last summer while preparing for our garage sale. I came across a few plaid flannel shirts that had been sitting at the bottom of a drawer, completely under-appreciated. After losing our dad, me and my siblings each kept a few of his many flannels. Being a machinist and avid outdoors-man, these were his uniform and he had a closet filled to the brim with all different colors. I have a couple of them, and got my brother to donate two more to my cause once I found this how-to blog post. Couldn't think of a better way to make use of some of my dad's things than to recycle them for our new arrival! The printable instructions were super helpful and I'm really happy with how mine turned out! I even used one of the shirt fronts to make a throw pillow, and if I have some extra time before baby arrives, I might try the blogger's other pattern to make a flannel hat using some of the other scraps.

This blanket is one of many sewing projects for our baby's nursery that I've been able to accomplish with free, online tutorials! More on those soon.

February 20, 2012

onesie decorating party

Over the weekend, I hosted a onesie decorating party with a handful of other expectant moms. It was a super fun time getting to know these ladies and everyone got to go home with something handmade for their little one. In fact we had so much fun that I completely forgot to take photos! We even hung all the finished onesies along a makeshift clothesline which I'd meant to use for a photo op. Oops :( Looks like I'll have to work at  remembering to have my camera at the ready once our little man arrives.

Originally the idea for onesie decorating came from helping host my friends baby shower a couple years ago. As an activity instead of games, I brought an assortment of plain onesies, fabric pens and paints so that everyone could create a unique onesie for little Oskar (who happens to be turning two today)!! Here he is at almost two months old in one that I decorated with pens.

Having since taken up sewing and discovering a soft spot for adorable fabric, I decided to ditch the paints and provided only the pens and some fabric scraps, simple stencil shapes and Steam-A-Seam for adhesive (no sewing required!). I also had a few extra iron on letters from a previous project. This worked out really well! Here are my creations:
I already got the baby a Heart In Oregon onesie, so it seemed appropriate for him to represent Minnesota as well. The idea for MN Grown comes from a friend who saw something similar for sale. She made an incredibly adorable version for her little girl that can be viewed here.

Some helpful tips for onesie decorating and  no sew fabric applique:
1) Prewash the onesies and the fabric scraps to be used. This eliminates shrinkage and better preserves your design.

2) Use templates/patterns cut from cardstock, not regular paper. It's easier for tracing your design onto fabric.

3) When using the iron on applique technique, make sure the adhesive webbing goes all the way to the edge of your cut design, all the way around. This will help keep your fabric from lifting and fraying after washing. 

4) When drawing on your onesie, fit a rectangular piece of cardboard inside the garment. This is helpful for two reasons: First, the ink from fabric pens will bleed through the fabric. Having a protective layer between the onesie's front and back will stop the ink from going all the way through. Secondly, fitting the onesie over the cardboard will slightly stretch it, providing a more firm surface for easier writing.

February 2, 2012

haute dish

Having been a Minnesotan for just over two years now, I decided it was time to make the alluring Tater Tot Hot Dish. Although they can't be all that common in these parts because I haven't had the opportunity to try hot dish of any kind since moving here! Oh well, I'm pretty excited to have come up with this fabulous treat that my hubby called "sublime". Mine is of the sweet potato variety because we're kind of obsessed with them right now (way more nutritious AND delicious.)

Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Bitch - I latched onto this version because it doesn't use canned cream of mushroom soup. This way I can better control the sodium and besides, homemade just tastes better. Didn't really take all that much longer to make either.

Sweet Potato Tot Hot Dish

1 1/2 bags sweet potato tots (Alexa Brand is available at most grocers)
2-3 lbs. combined cooked meat & diced assorted veggies (I used shredded leftover chicken, fresh asparagus & carrots, frozen peas & corn)
1 lb. fresh sliced mushrooms
Herbs to taste (I used about 1 tsp. each of thyme, marjoram and rosemary)
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 pint of cream/milk (or a combo of both)
3/4 cup grated cheese (I used gruyere)
Salt & pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste

Cook/shred chicken or brown meat in advance.
Roast the diced fresh veggies in a single layer tossed w/olive oil in a 350 degree oven. If using some frozen veggies, heat those in a pan on the stove.
When all veggies are roasted/heated, add all to the stovetop pan, then add the mushrooms, cooked meat and herbs. Set aside.
Make a white sauce by melting butter in a saucepan, then whisk in flour. Meanwhile, scald the milk/cream in another pan. Once the roux stops tasting like raw flour, stir in the dairy and reduce. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Sprinkle in the grated cheese and stir to combine.
Spread the cooked veggie/meat mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and pour the sauce over. Then layer the tater tots on top and bake into a 375-degree oven. Check after 20 minutes- when the tots are crispy, the dish is done. (If it seems like the tots are cooked but not crispy, set the oven to broil for a few minutes watching closely to ensure you don't burn them.)

Enjoy the creamy, cheesy, seasoned goodness.