Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year, New Blog Design

Though the S.P. archives go back a few years, this blog has only been around for the last month. I have kept a personal blog since Little Miss was 3 months old, which was actually right around the time that I became interested in sewing more. Every once in awhile, I would attempt to make something and post it on the personal blog. At the end of this past November I had gotten to the point in my creative journey where I felt that I wanted to join in on the handmade revolution going on throughout the blogosphere, so I decided to re-post and transition all my old creative entries from the personal into the public.  If you had an inkling, at all, to go back into the archives you'd see a few things:

  1. very sporadic posting.  Most of this stuff was very new to me back then, and I was getting random ideas from around the internet that I wanted to try out.  I had limited experience with my mom's sewing machine, and though I had been taught by my Nana to knit at a young age I had never progressed much further beyond knit2 purl2.  Because of this I didn't do much crafting, and when I did it took me awhile to get it done.
  2. terrible photography (we had a seriously awful camera back then) [sidebar: my apologies for the more recent less than stellar photographic work. I need to cool my jets from taking photos in my dark house at 3 am when I finish most of my projects. I'm a little too eager to post on things immediately upon completion.]  

All this to say, that I had no idea when I decided to transition the blog over a month ago, that it would take off as quickly and be embraced as much as it already has been.  As such, I didn't overly think through my original blog layout.  It wasn't the worst (honestly, there are some great blogs I read through a reader that I never actually visit because they are so visually unappealing), but it wasn't the best.  I'm no web designer, but I've been working for the last week on revamping the site to be a little more user friendy (and for the love, to stop the excessive scrolling scrolling scrolling).  I'd say be brutally honest with me about what you think, but frankly I've put in too much time on the thing to have someone tell me it sucks outright.

Ah forget it.  Tell me what you think.  I don't want to start off the New Year with an icky blog (not that I'll have much chance to work on it before we hit 2010, mind you)  Seriously, where did 2009 go?! . . .

Even if you read this blog in a reader, please consider clicking over to the site.  I'd appreciate the feedback.

Oh, and

Happy New Year, everyone!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Tools of the Trade: Gingher G-8 Knife Edge Shears

My wonderful husband really listens to me.  He does.  Do you know how I know?  Because he bought me the most beautiful scissors in the whole world for Christmas this year.

Apparently I've been mentioning my need for some better clippers quite a bit around the house (I honestly don't remember doing this much, if at all), and he has been storing away this idea for my Christmas delight.  I'm pretty sure he wasn't hip to which ones to get, but he had the link to my Amazon Universal Wish List (which I keep mostly for myself so I remember where all the cool things I find around the internet are hidden) and plucked this pair out of the pack.

These things are amazing!  They cut through fabric like butter.  It may have seemed like overkill to onlookers (not that there were any) how overly thankful I was to Mr. Skooks for getting me such extravagant scissors.  I think I told him approximately 24 times that I never want to use another pair of scissors again (well, excepting that I do want to check into getting some snippers for embroidery/hand-sewing purposes).  The fact that these cut right down to the very tip is amazing

(I want you to know that I *do* realize that if you have good and/or sharpened scissors, likely you will have this anyway - - I, however, have been using previously loved scissors which have never cut down to the tip for me and oftentimes jack up my fabric).

They're also weighty, which I like as well.  These are no sissy scissors, let me tell you what.

The price is not for the faint of heart . . . I would suggest definitely the use of a coupon or waiting for them to go on sale.  Even then, you may tell yourself, "They're just scissors . . . surely I could get cheaper scissors that would be just as good."  Perhaps.

But I don't anticipate ever needing to replace them which has to count for something, right?


Friday, December 25, 2009

I can't wait to see her face . . .

I know I haven't been bringing the craftiness hardcore lately, but I've been up to my eyeballs in this:

She's going to be so excited that I'm officially forgiving myself for not finishing all the felt food I started cutting out for her.  Soon.  I will get to it soon.

In the meantime, MERRY CHRISTMAS!  To those of you that follow along in secret and to those that visit with me to chat on my little ole blog, I thank you.  I can't wait for you to join me on even more crafty adventures in the new year.

Oh, and if you *do* happen to be a lurker, maybe your New Year's resolution could be to come out of the closet and comment once in awhile.  I'd love to get to know you all.  :)


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Etsy: Too Much Work to Be Worth It?

I guess it depends on how you plan on "doing" Etsy.  What do you plan on selling, what do you hope to get out of it?  Are you looking to quit your job and make a living wage off of it or are you just looking to share your hobby with others and make a little bit off your craft on the side?

These are the kinds of questions I ask myself all the time.    I read a New York Times article on the Etsy phenomenon this evening which mentioned the idea of women thinking they could "have it all" (all, as in, the ability to stay at home and be with their families, do what they love, and make a profit off of it to the point that it would be more lucrative than the career they may already have) . . . and interesting read to be sure.

I'm including a link to the aforementioned article to get a little discussion going here on your thoughts on Etsy.  Do you sell on there already?  Do you hope to?  Do you approach Etsy as a legit business or look at is a fun sidebar to the crafting you would probably be doing anyway?  What do you hope to get out of it?  It's appropriately titled, I think:


Monday, December 21, 2009

Feeling Like a Twit

I just signed up for a Twitter account. Yes, just. I'm still learning what it's all about and how it works.

And by learning, I mean I'm sitting here staring at the site with befuddlement.

Do you tweet? Want to tweet with me? Is that the lingo?

I am a complete dork.

Let's just see how it goes, shall we? I added a little button over on the sidebar there in case you want to follow my twit-i-ness.

Or just click here:


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Getting Creative with Kids: Homemade Crayons

This is not a new idea, and I know that you probably have seen it, thought about it, or even tried it yourself. If you haven't for some reason, I'll let you in on the gift that the Little Miss is giving to her cousins for Christmas this year.

As I mentioned previously, Little Miss is a color-a-holic. I am not the only one privy to this information about her, and as a result she has been given hordes of crayons by family and friends. An especially big haul came after Kee-ku was born and so many well-wishers came bearing gifts for both of my kids to celebrate his arrival. With all the coloring that goes on in this house, there are bound to be some casualties of her craft. I happened to already have a fun ice cube tray from Ikea (probably others would work, but you would need to make sure they are silicone so they won't melt in your oven) and gobs of crayons bound for the crayon graveyard when I stumbled across this post. I think you could mix and match any way you want, but I elected to at least group them in color families so that I wouldn't end up with a bunch of brown little stars. After all, who wants to only color in brown?

I googled up different ways to make handmade crayons and this was by far the easiest. Another popular method included melting them in separate tin cans in your oven and pouring them into molds. Pshaw to that I say. Unless you have molds that can't stand the heat of the oven. However, if you have them, these Ikea trays work great for this project and cut out a whole step! I tried it for you first so you know I'm not just making it up because it sounds like it would work. You can easily do this on your own, but why not get your favorite little people in on the fun?

First preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Then get your little person to help you take all the wrappers off the broken crayon bits. Little Miss got bored with this part quite quickly so I ended up doing most of it. Here's what she was up to while I was going at the paper:  (This tiger has also been known to munch on baby carrots when Little Miss is around.)She got a bit more interested in the next part: breaking up the slightly larger pieces so they'll fit in your tray:Bake in 250 degree oven for about 20ish minutes. Just watch em. I was nervous the tray might melt so I put it on a foil lined cookie sheet. I don't know that it was necessary (I saw no evidence of anything melting other than the crayon pieces), but I did it anyway.

Per the previous post's mention, I popped them in the freezer to harden them up faster. Honestly, I don't know exactly how long they need to stay in there. With my first batch, I popped the first one out and it broke a bit, so I ran some warm water on the back of the tray to loosen things up and that seemed to help. With the second batch, I broke the first one I tried to pop out again, only this time after I ran the hot water over the bottom the second one busted too. I think they just weren't done hardening so I put them back in the freezer. Still waiting for that batch to be "done" completely.While I was setting the crayons in the freezer for the second time, I came across this post where I found some cute PDF printouts of little gift boxes. I didn't have any cardstock on-hand, but remembering that cut up file folders work in a pinch I printed them up and started assembling them:while Little Miss tested out the new product:
Success! Pair these little boxes with a coloring book or 2 and you've got some sweet little gifts that any creative little person would enjoy.


Friday, December 18, 2009

$5 Towards a Pattern? Yes, Please!


Although I didn't become an official "follower" until today (sidenote question: what makes someone go from being a reader to a follower? I, myself, read a lot of blogs but only officially "follow" a handful of them), I have been subscribed to Homespun Threads in my Bloglines for quite some time. When my husband and I decided that we were giving Little Miss a play kitchen this year, I almost (just a few days ago actually) bought this cute little Apron, Hat, and Oven Mitt pattern so I could whip up some accessories for her to go with it. Ultimately, I decided I was taking too much on to try to finish it all by Christmas so I held off thinking maybe I'd do it once the whirlwind of the Christmas season wound down. As it is, I just bought a little felt pattern for making some grocery staples like milk, eggs, and cans of soup (even as I'm in the middle of finishing that nativity I started working on back here).

How much time do I think I have left before Christmas again??

Anyway, all this to say that as I was perusing my Bloglines today, I saw that Homespun Threads was running a crazy giveaway. Crazy why? Because EVERYONE wins. Yes! This, I love. I am not a crazy enter-er of giveaways on blogs, but this did catch my attention. Especially because it would make the aforementioned kitchen accessories pattern a mere $0.50!

Head on over to Homespun Threads to enter yourself. She's got some cute patterns for baby shoes as well as bags and aprons. Check out her shop offerings here.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Decorating - In My Imaginary Sewing Room

So, yeah. I don't have a sewing room. I have a corner of my living room and all my supplies shoved in a not terribly easily accessible closet. This, however, is WAY better than what I used to have which was a tiny rolly-cart that I had to pack up completely and stow after each and every project. Oh, but how I dream about having a sewing room of my own one day.

I'm ok, don't worry. I just have so many ideas of how I would do it up if I did. And since it's Christmas, decorations in the key of sewing have been floating to my mind. I saw this post recently that made me laugh. In case of emergency ornaments = genius. I have a knitting buddy who I'd send this to if I was organized enough to make it happen this year. Alas, as she'll recall I sent her a huge box of all my yarn stash when I got out of the knitting groove and into the sewing groove (which means I'd have to buy a whole skein of yarn to achieve the ornament). The aforementioned post did, however, give me a brain wave as I was going through my sewing box later . . .

Back when all I did with sewing was mend a few things (poorly) here and there, I went out and purchased a little sewing kit. Which I promptly lost. So I got another. Which I lost. And another. I only know that I got this many because I found all of them as I began unpacking all the boxes after I moved over a year and a half ago. When you upgrade from cheapy sewing kits to legit sewing threads and notions, those early standbys take a backseat. Or rather, they end up on the bottom of the sewing box and you wonder every time you see them why exactly you're saving them. As my few faithful readers of this blog may recall, I've addressed this sickness before. So the tiny sub-par "tools" remained loitering in the basket while I moved onto bigger and better things.

I realized that these little gems would be great to decorate a mini tree with. In my imaginary sewing room. In my mind. And they could not be easier to whip up!

First, take some "choose your own adventure" glass ornaments (whichever shape will best fit your notions - easily obtainable at any craft store worth its salt).

Second, take notice of completely worthless items you can't seem to get rid of. In my case I had about 40 or so teeny tiny rolls of thread that I had managed to never need to use in the last, say, 5 years. I also have like 6 tape measures, one of which was paper and would probably rip immediately were I to ever need to actually use it.

Third, shove them inside. Ooh and aah at your cleverness.(pictured above: the el-cheapo paper tape measure)
(above: another of the many tape measures I had lying around. This one was a bit nicer quality, but kinda on the short side.)

Here's a parade of ornaments featuring the tiny spools:Fourth, pause for a moment and slightly panic that you might need those items and they will be tough to get back out again since they. just. barely. fit. in. the. hole.

Fifth, remember that you paid less than $4.75 for 10 ornaments. If this were a real emergency, you *could* break the glass and not feel terrible about it.
Sixth, kind of hate yourself for even thinking you might need to break open cheap glass ornaments to get even cheaper notions that you have never needed (even when you bought them thinking you might someday).

Seventh, notice you have several tiny pairs of scissors that couldn't cut through anything. Seriously. Nothing at all.Fancy in your imaginary sewing room tree that you might tie some festive ribbon around their handles and dangle them as ornaments along with the rest of your creations.

And finally, troll Etsy looking for some handmade fare that would complement your tree trimming. Catch yourself from purchasing items. Even cute ones that would totally work with your fabulously cute and theme-y tree. Ok . . . maybe not fabulously cute. Maybe just fabulously cheap. And theme-y.

And ridiculous.


Oh well. Pat yourself on the back for only spending $4.75 to create decor that you have nowhere to put (just as you realize that you could totally use some of your remaining tape measures as garland . . . )


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taking a Break for Bling

Ok, not "bling" exactly. I don't think Mary gave birth in a stable all glitzed out. But I also don't think she was legless and cone-shaped and stuffed with poly-fil. What I'm trying to say is she needs some trim. Problem is, I don't have any.

I see a trip to Jo-Ann in my near future.

I've also got a quirky and fun idea for decorating a mini tree. If I'm able to scrounge the supplies together on my little outing tomorrow, I'll share the results with you.

It is not necessary (nor is it actually called for) with this pattern to do it all via hand-sewing, but that is what I'm doing. Don't ask me why. I have an awesome machine that would be making this nativity look a lot more polished if I was actually using it (not to mention it would be coming together MUCH more quickly). It's fun to try different things once in awhile though. . . and sitting on the couch sewing little nativity stuffies while watching Arrested Development DVDs is quite a nice way to spend an evening. And festive. Because what says Christmas more than "Hot Ham Water"?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Handmade Nativity

Over the last week, I have been plugging away on this felt nativity pattern that I found on Etsy. I got the *working with felt* bug just before Thanksgiving as I got to working on the now ultra famous annual kids' ornaments of 2009.

Seriously. I got a lot of hits on that post.

Anyway, my hand has been getting bored with all the tedious cutting of tiny pieces. I find that often my least favorite part of this process of making stuff comes from all the cutting. Maybe I would enjoy it more if I had better scissors to work with? A topic for another day probably, but now that I mention it, I am in the market for some nice shears as well as for some nice snippers. Those are the technical terms. If you've got some suggestions on a brand or direction to go in for new scissors leave me a comment. I wouldn't mind putting a little bit of money into some nice scissors. Or rather, I wouldn't mind putting it on my Christmas list. ;)

So as I have been toiling away with my less than stellar scissors, my in-laws stopped by for a visit. And with them came this:My husband's grandfather is a pastor and both he and his grandmother have traveled extensively. If you've ever seen their home, you would know it instantly. They have been collecting mementos of their travels since forever and their home is a veritable museum of goodies. They also have many very traveled friends and know lots of missionaries who have brought things back to them as gifts. During the Christmas season, they decorate their impressive bookcases with nativities that have been collected from throughout the world. It is one of my favorite parts about spending time with them at Christmas. I love all those different and unique nativities. It is interesting to see how different cultures envision the same story and how all of them evoke different feelings of the same wonderful event.

This handmade nativity was passed off to my mother-in-law to give to the Little Miss. Great Grandma has such a huge collection, she said she wouldn't miss it and thought Little Miss would enjoy it.She was most definitely right! It has been touched and arranged and played with it every day since it's been at our house.

I'm trying not to let it take the wind out of my sails to finish my little nativity. I'm thinking there is a place in our lives and homes for both of them. Actually, the more I look at the little figures, the more inspired I become. My favorite part of this nativity are the animals. The details they've included (especially on the camel and the donkey) make it something very special.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting Creative with Kids: Holiday Edition

Little Miss is 2 1/2 years old. She is at such a fun age for getting into crafty activities with her mama. It's only a week into December, so we haven't busted out all the fun for the month, but I wanted to share a few of the things we have been up to together to get into the (crafty) spirit of the season.

Due to my late inspiration for creating our own Advent Calendar (will definitely try that for next year), I have been doing an easy Color a Picture a Day printout courtesy of a blog I discovered recently called Elsie Marley. She's been doing a PDF a day of her own simplistic wintery-inspired coloring book pages which I have been giving to Little Miss every morning to color after she eats her sacred oatmeal. Sacred only because she does. not. ever. deviate. from. this. breakfast. I've been taping them up in the playroom/office/guest room/rumpus room (I should probably just call it the "multi-purpose room" like they called that big front room in grade school, but I like slashes. Lots of 'em.)

She is *way* into coloring lately. So much so that the other day when my back was turned she colored all over the walls in the hallway. And as her sweet daddy was cleaning them off (and *after* she got off her punishment), she proceeded to sneak into the playroom/office/guest room/rumpus room, pick up a crayon, and color all over the windows. All this to say, this is an activity that is right up her alley and she is excited to do it every day.

A few weeks ago, I put in an early order to get some Busy Bee Bags to prepare myself for a month of fun activities to do with Little Miss. I discovered this sweet little company maybe a year or two back. Little Miss was way too young at the time to be able to participate in the activities they provided, but I got a big bag of craft-making fun for my niece for her birthday (and have been excited to try them out with my own little girl ever since). They're very fun, open-ended little crafts that are great for little people. For the easily sidetracked, disorganized, or just plain busy mom (or dad), each bag provides all the materials needed to make a particular age-appropriate craft. That means no rummaging around for a glue stick, or little person friendly scissors, or crayons, or paper, or whatever it is that you might need. In general, I'm a pretty organized gal, but the degree to which this is brainless is a huge relief when you have a toddler whose energy and exuberance need to be diverted off of her sleeping 4 month old brother and onto something else. A few days ago, Little Miss made the fun antler headband (from the Special Edition Christmas Busy Bee Bag) that is being modeled by the lampshade. She's been wearing it around at random and tends to don it when we start working on a "fun project" together (like coloring, watching her newest DVD, reading books, sweeping the floor - - ok, maybe just "projects").

You may have noticed that the baby I made for her way back when is sporting some new duds. I took advantage of Joy's liquidation sale (back while it was still going on) and snapped up a sweet homemade velour bunnysuit for Little Miss' baby. She LOVED it, and it was a perfect fit. :)

Earlier this evening (read: not early enough to start such a project without running into Little Miss' bedtime), my husband and I embarked on a completely misguided attempt to make a gingerbread house with her. This is as far as we got:
This was after I, a) did not read the directions thoroughly before beginning, b) messed up by putting the icing in the plastic tube BEFORE I put in the frosting tip, and c) got Little Miss excited about making a gingerbread house only to realize that you have to construct the house to the above point and let it dry for *at least an hour* before you can move onto finishing it.

In short, she had to go to bed before she was even able to help with any part of it. Oh well. Lesson learned, I guess. Hopefully the icing will still be good and we can work on it together tomorrow sometime.

What about you? Working on Christmas cheer with the kiddos? Do tell.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tools of the Trade: Vanishing Fabric Marker

You would think I might have figured this out sooner, but until recently I was going about working with patterns all wrong. I guess I was recalling watching my mom work with Simplicity patterns to make our Halloween costumes growing up. You see, I thought that pretty much in any given pattern situation, you would just pin the pattern pieces to your fabric and cut away.

Which I do think is how you do it if you are using tissue paper pattern pieces. For the record.

The thing is, I can count on 1 finger how many times I have used a traditional pattern as such. Much more often, I have been inspired by patterns I find around the internet. Patterns that are written by people and doled out in PDF format. Patterns that you print out of your printer.

Pinning actual paper paper (I meant to say that twice) onto fabric and cutting around it is challenging. And annoying. I am embarrassed to admit that I did this A LOT before I discovered the Vanishing Fabric Marker. If you are experienced in the sewing realm, you are probably thinking, "I am going to stop reading this blog right now. This girl is an idiot." Well. You'd be right about that. At least when it comes to my familiarity with the notions wall at Jo-Ann. In fact, often when I go to that store to use my plethora of 40% off coupons on things like thread and interfacing, I find myself lingering over that wall . . . just staring and thinking things like, "I probably could use that. I'm not sure how that works, but I bet it would make sewing easier for me somehow." Most of the time, I don't purchase any of the stuff I see. Have you ever noticed that so many of those notions lack a good explanation on what they're for or how they really work? I had to make bias tape for the first time back when I was working on an apron for my sister-in-law. There were instructions on how to make bias tape in the pattern, but I saw a bias tape maker on that notions wall and went and bought it.

I still haven't figured out how it works really. I ended up making the bias tape by hand per the instructions.

Anyway, one of my more recent projects (the fleecy monkey maybe? I don't recall.) called for tracing the pattern pieces on the fabric before cutting them out. I went back to the old wall and looked and looked. I came away with the vanishing marker and have not looked back since. Call me a genius, but here was something that I could figure out how to use. I know. It's a marker. I'll say it again: CALL ME A GENIUS.

I do have a question though. I only have seen these pens in purple. What happens when you have to trace your pattern piece on black? Or purple for that matter? What do you use then? I have a white fabric pencil that may as well go light itself on fire for all the use it's ever been. I'm not sure when I even acquired it, but even on dark fabrics, the thing sucks.

Oh. And it needs to work on felt. Pencils don't work on felt.

Experienced sewists, inquiring minds want to know.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Ornament Legacy

1. Snow Child Ornament 2009 - for Kee-ku, 2. Snow Child Ornament 2009 - for Little Miss

I am in the *crafterglow* at the moment. You didn't think that was a word, did you? It's what I would call the feeling of completing a project that turned out well. Not to be confused with the *crapterglow* that comes when hard work does not . . . well . . . pay off.

As I eluded to in a previous post, I have not always finished the projects I have started. Even some of the ones I have been super excited to start have been put aside for a few too many days and before you know it, pieces and supplies get lost and the motivation dries up. But since it is holiday decorating time around our house, I have uncovered the ornaments that I was talking about here. The ones that my mom made for me each year. As it turns out, she didn't make one for each year of my life. She did, however, make one a year for 7 years. That's a lot of ornament making considering I have 2 sisters who have their own Ziplock bags of handmade holiday fare. Just seeing them, I was encouraged afresh to finish the ornaments for my own kids. I didn't ask my mom if it was ok to share these with you, but I'm pretty sure she won't mind.

I believe this first one was made in 1982 (when I was 3). It's the only one not labeled, so I may be mistaken on that. I suppose I could likewise be mistaken that my mom even made it since it's not labeled, but it was in the Ziploc so I'm just gonna go with it:1983:
1987 (I remember picking blue for my angel . . . it's always been my favorite color):
1988 (I specifically asked my mom to give me the design that had a dog on it. I was constantly begging my parents for a dog until they finally broke down and got me one for my 11th birthday a few years later):

So now you can see where the ornament urge comes from. I hope I can continue the tradition on for my kids for years to come. Even if they don't seem to care.

Because I do.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Get One for Yourself

If you became intrigued about any of the patterns I have been rattling on about over the last few posts, here is your chance to get your hands on one of them. Jojoebi is holding a choose your own pattern giveaway on her site (your choice of a Organic Space Cadet Kit, a Serentity Mermaid Pattern or a Waffle-Snort Pattern.) She's even willing to sew you a Waffle-Snort if you don't know how to sew yourself! The runner-up gets to pick one of her cute little brooch/decoration PDF patterns. I don't see the Snow Child pictured here, but it's likely part of the giveaway. If you win, you could get one for yourself. :)

Did I mention that as a thanks to me for coming up with the idea to convert her patterns to PDF for her shop, Jo sent me a free pattern? I got the cute little tree. Maybe for next year's ornaments? Gifts? We'll see!

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