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, 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.