Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Top Ten Tutorials for 2009

I can hardly believe the year is over -- and what a crazy year it's been! Towards the end of last year I didn't even know craft blogs existed (can you believe THAT?), and this year I have one of my own! I've had so much fun sharing my projects. And the biggest thing I've learned?

The more time, effort and energy you put into working your creative muscles, the more creativity will come to you!

Here is a quick list of my top ten tutorials for the year!

10. I-Spy Fabric Scrap Cards

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Car Mat Quilt

It was a car Christmas for my boys. I've been collecting fun hotwheels/matchbox cars for a little while now with this car mat in mind. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find basic cars like mail trucks, school buses, fire trucks, ambulances, etc? You can always find tons of ridiculous "concept cars" that look really, well, dumb. But there is usually a serious shortage of normal ones. And hey, has anyone out there EVER seen a matchbox minivan??

Anyway. I digress. Here's my project:

I must say, this project evolved, evolved, and evolved again every step of the way. I ran into so many snags -- wrong products purchased, wrong amounts of fabric purchased (more than once!!), forgetting vital components to the "city," measuring wrong more than once, etc. Sigh. Some projects just seem doomed from the beginning.

But I muddled through, and here it is!

(What city is complete without a place for dinosaurs to play -- complete with erupting volcano, lake, and cliffs?)

Parking spaces -- and lots of them -- are an absolute MUST.

How I did it:

It started a few months back with a roll of butcher paper and a Sharpie. (There is just something about drawing with Sharpies!!) I taped a large sheet of the paper onto the kitchen table and started drawing, taking cues from the boys as I went along.

We loved how it turned out, and it actually stayed on the table for a couple weeks. We just ate our meals right on top of it! I started thinking about how to make it permanent and, being a quilter, of course fabric was my first thought.

I drew a bunch of pictures on 8 1/2" x 11" paper, scanned them in to the computer, and colored them in Photoshop. My intention was to print them on fabric sheets you run through the printer (yes, you can make these yourself with your own fabric and freezer paper and save a million bucks), then sew black sashing in between to create roads. I busted out my store-bought fabric sheets, ripped the package open, and realized I had purchased FUSIBLE fabric sheets --basically fabric with fusible webbing ironed on the back. So each "block" section of my city is fused onto a large piece of black fabric. I was going to use yellow ribbon to make the dotted lines on the roads, but ended up using the scrap edges of my fusible fabric, cut in itty-bitty pieces, all ironed on I also eyeballed the center of my fabric, which accounts for the one end that is a one-way street. After layering the quilt together, I quilted by sewing down the edges of each fused on piece. For the dotted lines, I sewed straight down the middle using monofilament thread.

Oh well. It isn't my original vision (personally I like the black-and-white butcher paper drawing better!), but it did turn out fairly cute and they do like it.

What I learned:

I wouldn't recommend the fusible fabric sheets. They are super stiff, making it difficult (and somewhat worrisome!) to fold the quilt. And they definitely are not 100% cotton. They almost feel a little plasticky. One difference between the fusible fabric sheets and the sew-in fabric sheets is that you can set the ink after printing on the sew-in sheets by soaking them in water and pressing them dry with an iron. With the fusible fabric sheets there was no way to do that. I am concerned about the ink's durability. I think I would be too scared to wash this quilt (fabric says hand wash only but I'd be afraid of even doing that). Guess we'll just find out how it wears!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Leftovers -- Stocking into Red Riding Hood Cape!

This project tickles me to no end! A couple weeks ago I bought a giant felt stocking at the dollar store, simply because it was an awful lot of felt for a buck. I knew I would come up with something to use it for.

I turned it into matching Red Riding Hood capes for my 9-month-old daughter and her dolly!

~ giant stocking
~ coordinating ribbon

STEP ONE: Turn your stocking inside out and cut away the seam from the top back down to about the middle of the bottom of the "foot."

STEP TWO: Gently peel away the interfacing/stabilizer. It comes of quite easily.

STEP THREE: After trying the stocking on my daughter and marking with a pin where the top of the hood should start, I laid it out on my sewing table and cut a cape shape.

STEP FOUR: Hem all edges of your cape. Felt will not fray, but it will stretch and distort. Hemming will help eliminate some of that distortion. I simply turned my edge under about 1/4" and sewed.

STEP FIVE: Try your hood on your subject again and mark where the gathering should be.

STEP SIX: Create a casing for your ribbon. I hope this photo helps my explanation! From the right side of your cape, lay your ribbon about 1/2" below your pin line. Take and fold the pin line over the top of your ribbon as shown.

STEP SEVEN: Sew exactly on the edge of your fold. Make sure you don't catch your ribbon in your stitches!

STEP EIGHT: I sewed a few stitches at the top fold of each end of my casing, as shown. I didn't take a photo, but I also sewed down the center back seam of my hood just over the ribbon to ensure it wouldn't be pulled out of the casing.

Tie a bow and you're done!!

I ended up with just enough leftover felt to make a matching cape for my daughter's dolly, creating the same general shape to fit the doll. I didn't create a casing, but simply gathered the neckline to fit the doll and sewed it in place. I then attached two pieces of ribbon in the appropriate spots and tied it on!

Can you tell how pleased she is?
Who says babies don't like to play dress-up??

I-Spy Quilt and Game

I managed to complete an I-Spy quilt that I love! This one went to my sister-in-law and her family for Christmas.

I used 143 "spies," alternating with a very friendly blue fabric with lime green dots.

Simple construction, but it really shows off those I-spy squares!

I didn't manage to take any pictures of them, but I also included a bunch of cards listing things to look for in the quilt to make it a family game. Examples are:

Things you might see in the sky
14 birds
Things that fit in your pocket
Hot things
Cold things

I tried to make two categories -- fun groups of simple things for the littler kids to look for, and some slightly more obscure or abstract things for the older kids to look for.

I also added each family member's name to a block that represents them in some way!

It was such a fun project! I hope they enjoy it!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Toffee Problem -- SOLVED!

So I had my husband help me make one last attempt at English Toffee, and -- well, the butter separated, but the toffee was deliciously crunchy. He wasn't willing to give up so, even though we had to leave the house in 30 minutes to visit family, he called the expert -- his mom. Now why didn't I think of that? Round two was quick and perfect! Want all the secrets? Okay!

English Toffee

1 C butter
1 C sugar
1/4 C water
chocolate chips (I always use semi-sweet!)
chopped nuts, if desired

Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan (one you have a lid for!) on medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon until it all melts together. Make sure the sugar no longer feels "grainy." Then ditch your spoon -- straight into the sink! -- and put the lid on your pan. Wait 60 seconds or so, making sure the sides of the pan steam up. This removes any crystalized sugars from the sides of the pan. Remove the lid and stir with a clean wooden spoon until it turns the color of a brown paper bag. Watch it carefully, and don't stop stirring! Pour onto a marble slab or foil-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and wait until they are soft enough to spread, then sprinkle chopped nuts over the whole mess. (I usually put the nuts underneath the toffee, but do it however you like!) Ta-da! Cool, break apart, and EAT!!

Thanks, Carol!!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Dish Towels -- TUTORIAL

I could have sworn I'd posted this earlier this week! It's the Christmas madness getting to my head, I suppose!

Anyway. Last Saturday (the morning of our family Christmas party!) I whipped a pair of these together in about 20 minutes -- one for my sister-in-law and one for my aunt! Simple and festive!

~ flour sack tea towel
(you can find them at the dollar store!)
~ Christmasy fabric scraps
~ trim (optional)

STEP ONE: Cut off the hem of one of the short sides of your towel. (You may use this opportunity to square it up a bit if necessary!)

STEP TWO: If you are using pom-pom trim, attach it to the WRONG side of your cut edge using a narrow seam allowance.

STEP THREE: Cut your fabric scraps in 4" strips, then cut in different-sized pieces.

STEP FOUR: Sew them together, alternating prints, and press the seams open. Be sure the total length of your fabric strip is at least 2" longer than the width of your towel.

STEP FIVE: Lay your pieced fabric strip face down on top of your towel and trim, as shown. Leave at least one inch overhang at the top and bottom of your fabric strip.

STEP SIX: Carefully sew. I chose to take a greater seam allowance than the band of my pom-pom trim so the band wouldn't show, but you can do it however you choose.

STEP SEVEN: Turn your fabric strip around to the front of your towel and press. Almost done!

STEP EIGHT: Turn the long edge of your pieced fabric strip down about 1/4" and press. Flip it again to the right side of your towel.

STEP NINE: Tuck in the two sides of your fabric strip, aligning the folded edge with the edge of your towel.

Press in place.

STEP TEN: Carefully pin along the edges of your fabric strip. I usually avoid pinning whenever possible, but it really will give you better results in this case!

STEP ELEVEN: Sew along all the folded edges!

STEP TWELVE: For extra stability, sew one more line just above your pom-poms. If you like, throw on some rick-rack -- you'll be sewing that line anyway, so you might as well add a little more trim! Just be sure to fold under the edges at the start and end.

Ta-Da! Quick, easy, and SO festive!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More LOVES in the mail!

During Sew, Mama, Sew's giveaway week I discovered so many fun blogs, including a very fun one called Noodlehead. After looking over all the fun projects, I decided I needed to become a follower. Lo and behold, I was number 100!! Later the talented Anna (the brains behind the operation!) contacted me about sending me somthing for being number 100. Today I received a fun little package from her in the mail!

A super cute pocket tissue cover, a sweet flower pin, some covered-button ponytail holders, and two of her FABULOUS pencil pouches. LOVE!! (My boys have already snatched them up and filled them with pencils and other treasures!)

Jealous? Have no fear! She has a tutorial for the pencil pouches!