Monday, February 28, 2011

Green Me Up, Scotty!

Not feeling terribly inspired lately to create much. So very frustrating.

Instead of wallowing in the feeling, however, I decided to check out the Etsy offerings and make my first lil Treasury.

You can check out all the goodies I found here.

It was so much fun!  This may become a new side hobby.  :)


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wait - - WHO Read My Post??

While I haven't received a whole lot of feedback on my latest CPSIA post (yet . . . I know more of you are going to come through for me), I did come to the realization this evening that Cool Mom Picks (yes - THAT Cool Mom Picks) somehow read it and posted a link to it on their site!

Seriously?  How did they even see it?!

Cool Mom Picks has been all over covering this thing since it all began a few years ago and have LOADS of great resources on their website. Do take a look if this is a topic of interest for you.

I hate to think of all the small business owners that have already folded under the pressure of this law . . . as well as the businesses that may never come to be.

Save Handmade Toys

Still dreaming over here.  And not quite sure how to proceed . . .


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bee Vintage - The Starburst Block

A notable difference between my BEE Vintage quilt block swap and the Vintage Sheet Freedom Bee project is that in one I decided which block I wanted to make (and made it over and over again in everyone else's fabrics) and in the other I am being asked to make a block of someone else's choosing in my own fabrics.

Got that?

So while you may have tired of seeing the Shoofly Block ad nauseum, you will now be treated to a variety of blocks as I work through this bee that I may or may not have any proficiency in making.

Case in point:

Starburst Block #1

Starburst Block #2

Both of these blocks were made using a tutorial for The Starburst Block found at Film in the Fridge. Please note that I am not faulting the writer of the tutorial . . . I just had quite a time figuring out the whole "points in the center" thing. And if you scrutinize the photos above (or even if you glanced past them) you probably noticed that they are not quite . . . well . . . as pointed as they ought to be.

As much as I wanted to keep on keeping on until they were perfect, I was starting to lose my mind this weekend as I worked on them. I also noticed my modest vintage sheet pile dwindling immensely as I made assorted mess-ups. Is this a craft fail? Based on some of the other stuff I worked up, I'd say no . . . but it's not exactly something I'm strutting my stuff excited to show off either.

Anyone else try that tutorial? Is there a secret to the inner points that I'm missing? Because I've got to say that I think it's going to make a totally awesome quilt in the end . . . maybe even with my stubby "points".


Monday, February 21, 2011

Weeding Through the Regulations

Starting my "shop" has been on my mind a lot lately.  In good ways and bad. 

To review:

  • I have no shop yet.  I went in and signed up my shop name on Etsy but haven't done anything else with it up to this point.
  • My original idea and plan was to make and sell all things KID.  The ideas were pouring out of me around this time last year in crazy amounts.  I was so beyond psyched to continue to hone my skills and collect patterns to make up a little product line.  I even took an Indie Business Course.
  • As many of you are aware, there is a fair amount of controversy these days over children's products and how they are regulated for safety in this country.  Laws have been made and alliances have been formed to push Washington to amend these laws to take some of these 3rd party testing burdens off of the small time producers of handmade goods.  It's only gotten so far.
  • I went through a period (which I'm still not sure I'm completely out of) where I considered abandoning the production of children's items altogether.  That I know of, there aren't crazy regulations on making stuff for adults so a whole new world of handmade possibilities opened up to me.  I started to look for new things I could get excited about making.  I have come across some things that I'm interested in, but there is a part of me that is still very much holding onto the ideas I have for kids.  Which has led me to:
    • Trying to weed through what's currently "allowed" and what's "not allowed" when making anything for kids under the age of 13.  (Quite a range, wouldn't you say?)
    • Getting very frustrated with how dry this document is and wondering if I'm understanding it correctly.
I'm bringing this up for a few reasons: 
  1. If you are a person who makes and sells things for children, please help fill me in on what's OK and what's not.  So far I think I've figured out I can use fabric without worry, but I don't know if I can use things like ribbons, buttons, zippers, etc without having to endure 3rd party testing and the costs associated with it.  Also, how do you "track" your products (if you do)?  I can't tell if this is required if you're using exempt materials or not, but it's giving me a headache just thinking about it.  If this is not something that you want to put out on the internet in the public comments, please consider emailing me.  My intent is to understand and be encouraged . . . I would love to make safe and unique handmade goods for kids without living under constant worry that I'm breaking a law I don't fully understand
  2. Since I have no real grasp on who is actually following along with my blog (past the regular commenters), it would be interesting to hear what kinds of things my readers consider purchasing handmade.  For me, I've looked to Etsy to purchase art, patterns, supplies, jewelry, and gifts.  I assume quite a few of my readers are sewers themselves . . . is this true?  Are you a person who already buys handmade?  I'm not taking a survey, I'm just curious about these kinds of things and wonder who might play along with my questions.   :)
Is anyone else out there feeling held back by the CPSIA?  I'd love to commiserate with you.  Please comment below or email me at skooksplayground[at]gmail[dot]com

Here's a helpful resource I've found if you want to muddle through this with me.  Please?

Onward and (hopefully) upward,


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sewing Machine Experts . . . PLEASE HELP!

I received a comment on my last post that I addressed as best as I could, but I thought I would also share it with the group at large (in case you're not a person that trolls the comments on random posts just for fun) in the hopes that someone might be able to offer a little more "seasoned" advice.

Here's the situation:

I am having some issues... extreme issues with my sewing machine...

The thread was bunching... the tension was just not measuring up.
I changed needles
I adjusted bobbin screws
I cleaned the machine using compressed air...
I opened the cover and tightened every screw
Put it all back together again.
I gave it a hug
And still....

It seems to cope best a the highest upper thread tension level... no matter what the bobbin screw was at.. It varied... a lot.. I tried it until i was ready to kick it out the window.. and still....

What else could i do?

Just keep trying with the bobbin screw? I mean I've been adjusting the screw on my bobbin holder piece. Heeeelp!

(Not the sewing machine in question, but another gal who's broke-down.  Ain't she a looker?):

Aaaarrrrrrwwwggghhhh! Help!
Image by storebukkebruse via Flickr

 I'm going to include my response so you can see what not-super-helpful advice I had to offer:
Ok . . . I am totally NOT a sewing machine expert, but the one thing that stood out to me that you said you did was something I feel like I read/heard somewhere that is a major no-no which is using compressed air to clean it.  You're talking about removing the throat plate and cleaning the lint out, right?  I've always read that you're supposed to use that dumb little brush because the compressed air can actually blow the lint into spots even more and jack things up more.  Soo . . . that's obviously not what started the problem, but that also probably did not help the situation.  Hmm . . . at this point you may just need to bring it in to a sewing machine repair person and get them to work with it.  The only other thing I've ever known that sometimes makes a difference is using better quality thread.  I tend to use whatever I have on hand (which includes a lot of vintage thread that my mom gave me when I took up sewing a few years ago), but even on my much newer machine, I can tell that it sews better with gutterman than it does with some old coats and clark (though I haven't had problems with new coats and clark).  Have you ever brought your machine in for a tune-up?  I started out sewing on my mom's machine (which was about . . . .hmm . . . 30+ years old when I began) and it had NEVER been tuned up.  The last time I used it (sometime within the last year to help my sister make some kitchen curtains) it was making some crazy noises . . . like JACKHAMMER noises and I kept having to fiddle with the tension.  My theory is that all the years of NOT being tuned up got it to this point, but I do believe if it was properly serviced it would work great again.  (No idea what kind of machine you have, but hers is a Singer Stylist . . . not plastic parts or anything . . . so not a lot of bells and whistles, but built to last, you know?)

Wish I had more to offer you.  I love that you said you gave it a hug.  I would have done the same thing.  I am a total spazz when my machine does something weird and somehow I always think sweet-talking it (Think: "C'mon, baby.  Don't do this to me.  You can pull through this girl."  Oh yeah . . . the dramatic stuff) will help.  So far my problems have really been user error issues, so I've eventually figured them out.  My machine is fairly new and hasn't been the problem.

Do you still have your manual?  Sometimes there is a troubleshooting section in the back or so that will help you figure out what you need to do for a variety of different issues. 

Ohh . . . I'm so sad you're having troubles.  Nothing feels worse than sitting down to the machine when the creativity is flowing and finding she's not feeling good.  Let me know how it shakes out.
Ok, my sages.  Here's where you come in.  Any other brilliant bits of advice for a sewist in need?  Please leave a comment if you can.  If it was my machine, I know there'd be some nashing of teeth until I was able to get the issues resolved.

Thanks, friends!


Let's Here It for the BOY

So . . . I'd love to post about something more meaty (and something I actually did), but I'm working on borrowed time here on a borrowed laptop.

Yes, my computer bit the big one . . . AGAIN . . . this past weekend.

So since this is not my computer and I don't have access to any of my photos and jazz from my actual hard drive, I'm just going to announce that Celebrate the Boy is BACK at MADE. :)

Oh how I adore fresh inspiration for the little men in our lives. Kee-ku needs more handmade loves from his mama . . . and did I mention that I had TWO nephews born in the last year? And that my BFF growing up just found out she is having a BOY?

Thanks, Dana. You, as usual, rule.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kona My World, Baby

I think it's pretty safe to say that based on the last two Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Days, my favorite part about them is finding new fun blogging friends.  (The first one I participated in led me to the Vintage Sheet Freedom Bee which was so much fun and helped me to get to know some awesome ladies from around the world.)

One of my big wins from this last Giveaway Day was from AnneMarie over at Gen X Quilters. She made an adorable mug rug that has taken up residence on my sewing table so I always have a place for a little drink and snack while I'm sewing up a storm in there.  She tossed in some adorable fabric with it as well (which I'm still pondering what I most want to make with it.)  It is SO cute and definitely my style.  :)

Anyway, while getting the goods was definitely a mood-lifter, getting acquainted with her blog was just as gratifying.  Immediately I joined up with a swap she was organizing:

Kona Your World

Anyone else out there have a deep abiding love for Kona Solids?  I must admit, it's becoming a new favorite of mine . . . especially after some particularly poor quality purchases I've made over the last few months at Jo-Ann Fabrics.  They do sell some Kona I think, but I've gotten some of the knock-off solids and in my experience they've been quite uneven and the texture and quality are just not up to the level for me.

Anyway, the prospect of swapping 12 fat quarters of one color and getting a rainbow of goodness back was quite appealing.  Especially because I found a super hot deal on some Kona on Etsy awhile back.  (Thanks again, Michelle!)  I tossed in Kona Cotton in Melon and this is what I got back:

Just kidding. 

I haven't gotten the goods yet, but I'll be sure to share all the dreaminess when they come.  Just keeping you on your toes people. 

I DO know they're on their way though.  Annemarie just posted this little update yesterday.

I can't wait!  :)

Been involved in a swap lately?  Do tell.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sprucing up Some Bench Cushions

It was a little anticlimactic after my mostly non-creative month of January to have the first project I dive into be recovering some bench cushions, but it is what it is.

A few months back, while I was in the middle of the baby boom and Christmas-making rush, Mr. Skooks' aunt asked me if I could recover some cushions for her. She had heard/seen the couch cushions I made for Mr. Skooks' mom and decided to "hire" me for the job.

I know everyone likes a good before and after, but alas . . . I didn't take a before. I guess you'll just have to trust me that the fabric was some beyond repair white and blue floral print that hadn't been tended to much for 10 years or so. I was able to salvage the zippers and reuse them in the new cushions which were then recovered in some very simple and basic, but sturdy, blue fabric.

Woohoo. Are you excited? I know I was 8 hours later when they were done. Oy.

Remind me . . . no more cushions for awhile, mmmkay? They are not difficult, but they are tedious and not very exciting to make. I'm looking forward to working on some more creative projects soon.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

On the Fly: Little Elephant Baby Carrier

Throughout most of January I was swamped with work and had very little time to do much of anything else.  Perhaps you noticed my very infrequent posting from last month?

One thing I did manage to squeeze into the small cracks of time I had was to whip out this little dolly baby carrier for Little Miss.  A few weeks ago she told me that she really needed a backpack for her baby.  [It's been awhile since we have, but both LM and Kee-ku have been worn in a variety of baby carriers over the years.  The two that I used the most frequently with Kee-ku (hence the ones LM was thinking of) were a Beco Baby Carrier and a beautiful rainbow Octi Mei Tai (I think it's an Octi . . . it's got wrap-like straps) that was made out different baby wrap scraps.  Is that confusing?]

Anyway, she got it stuck in her mind that she needed something to this effect for her own baby (which incidentally was MY baby when I was her age) and kept bringing it up to me.  Knowing this could be made fairly quickly and painlessly (especially because a dolly baby carrier doesn't need to be load-bearing, etc), I set out to make her one.  We worked on it together over the period of a few of Kee-Ku's naptimes.  He is a very brief napper, so if you have a baby that takes normal naps (like more than 20 minutes at a time) you could easily get it done in one sitting.

Can you tell someone has been watching "Heidi" a lot lately?

I didn't make up a tutorial for it, but it's terribly easy.  Here's the Reader's Digest version of the steps.  If there is any interest at all in a picture tutorial, I'll see what I can do for you.  :)
  1. Measure the baby in question.  If you think it will be used for a variety of different sized dolls, take the measurement of the biggest one.  I totally eyeballed this by just laying the baby on a piece of fabric and cutting a rectangle out around her. 
  2. Cut out a piece of fabric the same size as your first rectangle for the lining.
  3. Cut 4 pieces of fabric for the straps.  I don't have the thing in front of me at the moment, but if you've ever tied a mei tai before just pull it around your little person and see if it's long enough to tie in a bow.  Works for me.
  4. My straps ended up being terribly skinny because I was using a scrap piece of fabric that LM picked out and so I just worked with what I had.  Since her doll is not heavy this is not a problem.  I think the straps were probably 3 or 4 inches wide when I cut them and ended up being about 2 inches when they were done.  Since I didn't want to monkey with turning such skinny straps inside out, I just ironed the edges under, folded it in half, and sewed down one side.  If they had ended up larger, I probably would have topstitched them down on the other side too, but I wasn't going for perfection here and it was hardly necessary.  I turned one end tip down 2 times and sewed it down so as not to leave a raw edge.
  5. After I did this with all my straps, I made a little mei tai sandwich placing the outer fabric face up, then the lining face down on top of that, and then putting the raw edge of each strap in the four corners pointing inwards.
  6. Sew around the whole rectangle making sure you don't sew the straps down in the wrong spots (as in, watch what you're doing because those strap pieces are long and can easily get in your way) and leaving an opening at least 3 or 4 inches open at the bottom for turning.
  7. Turn it inside out.
  8. Iron the opening down and topstitch the whole way around.
  9. Tie it on your little person and watch them squeal with glee.  :)
Anyone out there reading a babywearer?  


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BEE Vintage

As I'm sure plenty of people across the midwest experienced, today was a SNOW DAY. We had a blizzard here, and broke the record for most snow accumulation in a 24 hour period for our town. It took Mr. Skooks a couple hours this morning to dig his way out of the driveway. I thought about taking the kids outside to play in the snow banks, but it was pretty stinkin cold out there so we stayed in.

No plows had come through our street yet (still haven't actually) so Mr. Skooks was told he didn't have to come in to work if he couldn't get out safely.


You know why?

Because Snow Day for Mr. Skooks = SEW day for me!

Except no. After he finished digging his way out of the driveway, a neighbor helped him dig his way through the street and since we're not far from a main road that WAS actually plowed, he actually DID go into work this afternoon.


So, no sewing for me today.


I'm jazzed up all over again, because I've just joined up with BEE Vintage . . . another little quilting bee featuring my favorite new fabric . . . vintage sheets. :) One of their members dropped out and they needed someone to take her place. Huzza!


My month is in April . . . which is keen (yes, that word is making a comeback in 2011) because my birthday is in April . . . which means I'll be SHOWERED WITH BEE BLOCKS ALL MONTH LONG. :D

SO excited. I'll keep you updated on the progress of this new bee (as well as my Vintage Sheet Freedom Bee which is still not over yet) as usual. I've got some scraps of sheets left over from the VSFB and I've acquired a few new ones on the side so I'm stocked up and ready to roll.

Anyone else do quilting bees? I still don't think of myself as a quilter, but my participation in quilting bees seems to indicate otherwise. ;)


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pom Love

Tissue paper poms have been all over the crafty blogland for quite some time now . . . I know.  But my house was feeling the need to cheer up a bit this week so though it's not a super-original project, it's still fun.  We're quite literally weathering some serious snow storms and wicked cold around here . . . if you've ever lived in West Michigan, you know that it's not that the winter FEELS like it lasts forever . . . it practically does.  At the time of the year when I feel like winter MUST be almost over because it's been going on so long already, I have to find new ways to feel good about hunkering down a bit more.  Where I live, it'll be winter for a few more months yet.

And yes, I can feel your envy over this.

With a lot more gray and a lot less actual sunlight to lift the gloom, we've been working on ways to make the indoors more cheerful.

Enter the poms:

Little Miss and I worked on them together last week sometime . . . I vaguely thought about blogging on it when we did it, but with no sunlight coming in the pictures were turning out even worse than usual so I put it off.  Originally I was planning on making more, but I ran out of tissue paper.  

I also realize that I never took a picture of the completed Mi Amor, My Love banner that I blogged about previously.  Here's a (terribly lit and artificially brightened, but the best I could do) picture of it in action hanging above our entryway:

Completely out of the loop on the pom-making?  A very easy instructable on how to make one can be found right here.

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