Friday, January 23, 2009

Tutorial - Tea Cozy

A few years ago, my husband and I went to visit friends up in Minnesota. During our visit, we had tea in the afternoon as is habit around their house and with me as well. One thing I noticed when we were there was the beautiful tea set they used. In order to keep the tea warm, they used a tea cozy for the pot that did not fit with the rest of the matched pieces. I decided then to be on the look out for some fabric that would match to make a tea cozy for them. I finally found it and decided to make a tutorial to go with my making of this surprise gift for them. So, without further adieu here is my tutorial with notes on how I would have improved the project if I make one again in the future

Tea Cozy Tutorial

Materials needed:
~ ruler
~ scissors and if you would like a circular cutter
~ circle cutter or 6.5 inch circle template
~ 3/4 of a yard of cloth
~ something to make your pattern with, I used pattern ease, you can use paper or interfacing as well
~ needles and pins
~ marking pencil
~ button or velcro
~ batting or fiber fill

First, prepare your fabric by washing and drying it according to the care directions. This not only helps to prevent shrinkage of the finished project but it also helps to remove the finishing chemicals that may remain on the fabric. Next, make your pattern pieces. I was trying to guestimate the right size for the cozy, so I made the bottom a 6.5 inch circle, so it would have a half inch seam allowance built in. The side pieces are constructed like an arch way. The bottom of the arch I made was 10 inches. The height of the arch at the highest point was 8 inches. I made the straight side portions four inches before I began the arched top. I drew this by hand and eyeballed what I thought looked right, then folded the piece in half and cut them to be exactly the same on both sides to eliminate any differences in the curves.

Next, I placed my pattern piece over the fabric to see if I had designs that I liked on the outside pieces. You will need to cut four side pieces over all. If you wanted, you could use plain colored cotton on the inside, but I decided to just use the same material for the inside and outside.

After you have the four side pieces cut, you will need to cut two circular bottom pieces. I used a circle cutter, and I highly recommend spending the money to get the Olfa circle cutter. I don't know how I got by with out it now that I own one.

Here are my pieces grouped together. I am showing the outsides, or the pieces that will be seen when the cozy is assembled. I chose to put pieces of the fabric that had more bright highlights on the outside, and the dimmer pieces to the inside. NOTE: if you are using batting, you will need to cut two side pieces and one bottom piece of that now as well.

Next, place the pieces right sides together. Do this for the bottom and both sides. NOTE: IF you are using the batting, place the batting on one of the wrong sides of the fabric for the side pieces and the bottom as well. Pin the pieces together.

Sew the side pieces together starting with a quarter of the flat bottom side, up the straight edge side, the curved edge, down the other straight side, and part way across the flat bottom side, leaving three or four inches open in the middle of the bottom edge. I used a quarter of an inch seam allowance for the side pieces. Make sure that you pull the pins out before they reach your needle on the machine.

Clip the curved edge so that it will lay flat when turned right side out. Make sure that you also do not clip too close to the stitching so that it does not pull though the stitch line. Repeat these steps for the other side. Also, sew the bottom in the same manner, leaving an inch or so open so you can turn it right sides out. For the bottom, I used a half inch seam allowance. NOTE: in the picture below, I did not sew the bottom as you should. Please do make sure that you sew the bottom edge leaving a three or four inch opening in the middle for turning the piece right side out.

Turn the pieces right side out and iron them so the seams lay flat.

I top stitched the pieces in a darker color thread as decoration. I did a fourth of an inch seam on the sides. IF YOU ARE USING FIBERFILL, DO NOT TOP STITCH THE BOTTOM OF THE SIDES PIECES AND DO NOT TOP STITCH THE BOTTOM CIRCLES YET.

If you are using velcro, just sew one side of the velcro to the inside of each side piece of your cozy. Make sure that they will line up with each other.

If you are using a button, measure one side piece to find the middle. From there make a marking that will be big enough for your button to fit through, making sure that you center the mark on the center line of the side.

Sew in your button hole either by hand or machine.

If you used batting, skip this step and the next step.

IF YOU ARE USING FIBERFILL stuff the sides and bottom so that they are slightly full, but not bumpy. In the next picture, the bottom is totally open on my sides. This is something I learned in making my cozy that was not really necessary. I ended up needing to slip stitch the entire bottom of both sides closed. If you leave just a small, 3 or 4 inch opening, you can stuff the sides easily and not have to do as much slip stitching. Stuff the bottom circle piece as well. Once the sides and bottom are stuffed, I then pushed down on them to try to flatten out the fiberfill as much as possible to take the loft out.

Turn the edges of the opening under and pin. Slip stitch the openings closed. If you want, now you may top stitch the bottom of the sides and the bottom circle.

Now that your pieces are filled with either batting or fiberfill and are all turned right side out and top stitched if you want, now is time for the quilting. I found trying to hand quilt my pieces that I filled with fiberfill was nearly impossible, so I opted for machine quilting. Feel free to try hand on your pieces or machine. Really do whatever is most comfortable for you. I used a slightly lighter blue thread to outline the fruit and flowers. It took a little doing to get over some of the thicker areas of the fiberfill, and I think I would try a thick batting next time, but the fiberfill really did work fine, and I did not want to buy a package of batting just for this project.

Next, with right sides together, whip stitch the bottom to the side pieces. I had an overlap of a half inch on the sides. I also whip stitched the sides together up two inches.

Turn the tea cozy right side out. If you used velcro, you are finished! If you are using a button, attach your button to the inside of the piece opposite your button hole.

Button the sides together, and you are done! Now make some tea in your pot and use your cozy to keep it warm and toasty.

I hope this keeps you all busy while I am away visiting my sister next week. I will return to writing when I get back at the beginning of February. I still have a lot to do to get ready to go. I wanted to make some napkins to match the cozy out of the left over fabric today, so Dan can mail it off for me tomorrow. I also have to do the laundry and pack for the trip as well as a little house cleaning before I go. I wish you all creative thoughts and fun times while I am gone and look forward to hearing from people on their tea cozy adventures!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Short and Sweet

Not much time to write, so I am keeping this short. I have tutoring in a few hours, and a lunch meeting to get to in San Francisco and this morning is pretty much over. I finished off the pictures and construction of the item I will have in tutorial for you. I hope to get the pictures edited and the copy written so you can perhaps make this project next week while I am gone and off the blogging trail. I guess that is it for today. Well off to dry my hair and get ready to head out into the wonderfully foggy and rainy day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weekend at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Yesterday I said that I had taken a bunch of pictures at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, It was a great time there, and the drive down was beautiful. I think that it was good for Dan to get away. The building that the aquarium is housed in is partially recycled from the Hovden Sardine factory. They had to demolish the building, but they kept the boilers that were used to power the plant.

They had a wonderful short video of the factory at work in the 1940's as well as displays talking about the old cannery row that used to be on the shore. I thought it was great that they tried to maintain the architectural feel of the old site while embracing the new functions of the space. To me they totally succeeded in this pursuit.

There were all sorts of animals and marine life there. We went to the outside parts of the museum first in case the fog rolled in early and made it too cold to want to poke around outside. They had a great little display of a native California trout stream. There was even my favorite, a turtle, out sunning itself on a fallen log.

There was a tidal pool simulator as well as other interesting displays of what marine life there was in the more shallow areas of the beaches. Next we went inside and ended up in the kid friendly confines of the touch pools. Dan was not up for it, but I touched some star fish and other marine life. The stingrays, however, were having none of it. They were safely tucked away in the farthest corner from us and refused to swim toward all the people wanting to pet them. We next went into the aviary. That was very neat. The birds were so calm and so used to people that the pictures I took make them look like stuffed birds and not the real thing. They were very calm and preening themselves with no regard for the loudness around them.

After that we walked around some of the deep water tanks. There were tuna and schools of sardines. It was neat to see all the prehistoric looking fish swimming around. Sharks slowly pursued smaller fish, and then one of the huge fish would swim toward the sharks and they would disperse. I could have sat and watched the tanks for hours. One of my favorite fish was the sunfish. Having been raised in a family that took a fishing vacation every summer of my life, I thought I understood what a sunfish was. I had no idea that there was a sunfish that existed in the depths of salt water. When I first saw it, the only thing I spotted was the bottom of its fin. I though perhaps there was some sort of sea turtle in the display somehow, but upon further exploration, this is what I saw:

We took a lunch break and then went into the smaller tank areas after visiting the otters. In one of the small tank rooms, they had this awesome display showing the flat fish that hide in the sand. This tank was my favorite because all of the sea creatures reminded me of Dr. Seuss books and characters.

If you look really close in that picture, you can see some of the fish that hide in the sand and have skin that looks like that sandy bottom. It was easier in the tank because you could spot all these eyes looking around and at you. They also had a tank that contained embryonic skates. They are left by the mother in a birthing sack of sorts. We could see it just hanging out in the membrane of the sack.

From there we found the jellyfish. Jellyfish are my all time favorite, well them and seahorses. I took many pictures of the jellyfish tanks, but these are my favorite pictures. Here is Dan contemplating the big tank at the back of the room:

I really liked how that picture turned out. I think it really captured how everyone looks when they turn the corner and catch that tank. The jellyfish in there reminded me of the Chilluly exhibit that I blogged about. Here is the tank with just the jellies up close.

They really looked like his glass sculptures. From the colors to their delicate tails, I was awed by the intricate action in the water and the beauty of movement. They also had moon jellyfish. I like them as well because of their pearl essence in color.

We then wandered into one of the kid friendly areas. The kelp forest. We did not last long due to the numerous strollers and screaming kids. It was approximately nap time, so I blame the lack of naps for the noise. We quickly moved on from there and ended up somehow at the penguin tank just in time for the afternoon feeding.

After that, we were almost fish watched out. We went into the room where the octopus were kept. They were hard to photograph. There was one that looked like a ghost it was so pale and white. The other one was an orange one. It was the classic looking octopus, and boy was it active. It was crawling all over the side of the glass. I tried to take my best picture in the ultra dark room, and this is what I cam up with:

We ended the day by going to Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing. Dan and I agreed to not feel guilty about eating fish after the day of watching them all swim around. The aquarium is big on conservation, obviously, so they had many education stations about over fishing and what fish you should try to not eat because they are endangered or the fishing methods are harmful to the ocean. Therefore we also agreed to start making our "smart fish choices" on Monday.

Yesterday was good. I went to the studio for the first class of the new session. We have been on studio break since December, so it felt great to get back to dancing. I do have to say that I miss doing my yoga before class already. I am going to try to somehow start making time for yoga and working out more at home since Ariellah is no longer able to offer the yoga class. I guess I am just addicted to it. I am also realizing how excited I am about visiting my sister and the family. So I think my life seeming to be back in order has made me also realize how much I miss some people. Normalcy does that I guess.

On the plate for today, I want to desperately finish my tutorial. I would really like to have that up and in place for people to experiment with when I am gone in Delaware. I also want to get down to the gym today, but it is already starting to get kind of late. I guess that means I should really get going on the day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Short Thoughts and Many Plans

This week is going to be really packed with things to do. I spent a great weekend with Dan in Monterrey at the aquarium. I have taken a bunch of pictures and am going to edit them tonight to post up tomorrow, so look for that then. We also had a fun Monday together. I know that it was a national day of service, but we get to see each other so rarely that I told him my volunteering at 826 each week should cover us both for the day. We did the grocery shopping and had a wonderful fondue lunch. He is really good making a perfect cheese fondue!

The tutorial is still in progress. The project has hit a few snags, but I learned some things to change for when people want to actually do it themselves. I can improve the directions for this from the really bad ones on the project sheet I have. I hope to get that also finished off today before I head out to the dance studio for the first class of this session. I am going to work on those photographs and writing it up tomorrow.

I cannot believe that I will be on a plane this Saturday bound for Delaware to see my sister and her family. I cannot wait to get to visit and play with the kids. I will be out of the studio for a week, so any orders placed at that time will not be shipped until I get back on January 31st. I may still be able to answer convos here and there, but no promises. Well I am off to sit back in front of the television watching the coverage of the Inauguration. (Hence why the blog posting is so late.) I hope that you all have a productive day. I am trying to make sure mine is as well!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The CPSIA, Me, and You

I have been bouncing the idea of writing about this issue for a while and have avoided it because I did not feel informed enough to write about it. Yesterday, after watching a video of Julie Vallese the outgoing Director of the Office of Information and Public Affairs for the Consumer Products and Safety Commission, I decided it was time. Hey Julie, this one is for you. Oh and no, I am not a "Mommy blogger" and I don't appreciate your implications that you are making by using that kind of language. Thank you very much. In the vein of being fair, a quick summary of this interesting piece of legislation and then a link to the video she did that made me so angry about the whole CPSIA law.

So we need to set the way back machine to last year. Remember it? The recession was some sort of Chicken Little kind of thing that a few were squawking about, but we had a bigger problem, lead in imported toys. Everyone was screaming about the lead paint, dangerous small falling out magnets, and other clearly unsafe conditions on mass manufactured toys. I know that this was the end of my buying toys that were not from EU countries. I in fact kind of made it the excuse to get further into toy making for my nieces and nephews since I loved it so much. So Congress, jumped to action once they heard the cry, "Won't someone please think of the children!" With that, they made some of the most restrictive legislation for children's products imaginable. They basically decided that anything that a child 12 and under can come in contact with needs to be tested and also have low levels of phalates. Here is the law in its entire glory for your reading pleasure.

Sounds good right? Well in theory it is great, no lead and no dangerous cancer causing materials in plastics. OK.... let's really think about this. Anything that can be considered a children's product. So hand held gaming systems? Yep, can't have any lead in those. Not sure how you are going to make those circuit boards, but no lead please. Books, those can't possibly have lead right? Nope, not likely, but they still need to be tested by a third party testing facility. Cloth and clothing? Yep. Toys, well of course they caused the problem in the first place. Bikes? Yep, the lead inside the tires can't be there.

Now I do not know about you, but I do not foresee too many kids licking PC boards with out someone stopping them. But hey, I expect parents to do something after all, they are their kids. So why am I still so hot on this? Well the law requires batch testing of all finished products. This is an easy thing for mass manufacturing to accomplish. They can find the first, middle, and last of a product run easily. They can do all the labeling requirements as well. They can also afford the very pricey independent testing. (Some estimates I found have ranged from $400 per test all the way up to $1000) How does this affect me? Besides the prices for mass manufactured items for children going up, this also puts strain and restrictions onto cottage businesses.

I am a small manufacturer of pants. I also made kids toys for family. If I wanted to sell those toys, made from cotton cloth, polyfill, and thread, I would have to take them for testing. I don't know about you, but I do not see my pelican going for over $400. I am not against safety, I mean that is why I started making the toys in the first place for them. The excessive testing and cost is what I don't really get. So, there is now a huge grass roots movement, Julie that is what it is called, not Mommy Blogging, to get the law amended or changed to allow for some small business exemptions. People who run these child centric business can't seem to get straight answers from anyone about the law, and as written, it will affect anyone, no matter the size of the operation.

So, when I was on the phone with the family and everyone was encouraging me to start a second shop selling my toys, I told them about this. "Oh you can't be reading that right." was said, or "Well don't worry no one will catch you." Um yeah, I am a legitimate business registered with the state, I will get caught. So, people have stared contacting their local press about all this in order to get things changed. This brings me back to Julie and her no no on camera. One of the things affected by this sweeping legislation would be resale and consignment shops; yep that is right Goodwill. They are coming after you for keeping things out of landfills because things could be dangerous.Roll the tape please of Julie explaining how this is not the case.

Did you understand that? And she is blaming people like me for messing others up and spreading misinformation? Maybe if you explained things clearly to us, this would not happen. So resale shops need to use some sort of special powers to know what contains lead and what doesn't? I think if they want people like myself and other home crafters to not be so up in arms about this, they need to come out and explain it because right now the only exemptions to the rules have been won by companies and industries that have large lobbying arms. Like jewelery makers have had gemstones declared safe for children. Hum. Fluffy stuffed toys and hairbows illegal and gemstones legal? Not trying to hurt jewelry makers feelings or anything, but you have to admit it seems odd that some things get the exemption when others that seem to make more sense don't.

I will leave you with some more websites to check out and keep up on this yourself. I guess for now I am going to be putting off making my toys for sale until this gets all sorted out. I wonder how this overall is gong to impact the economy right now? How many homes will lose some vital side money from this that helps keep ends met? How many other dreams are going to be deferred because of legislation that no one seems to understand, even the people who wrote it and have to represent it to the public? - Great Blog that is all over the CPSIA and how it affects her business - The people who are doing a lot to keep things straight and organize the grass roots efforts to get this stopped or changed
A Great Op Ed piece that does a better explanation of this situation than I can do myself.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday's Musings

Yesterday was productive. I got a lot more done on the machine quilting, and I hope to finish that today before I head off to tutoring today. There are only a few more areas that I want to do on the second side, and I will then be ready to get the bottom put on it and stuffed. My goal of getting this done for the end of the week is starting to slip away, but I can still hope.

The thank you notes goal from yesterday, yeah, not accomplished. I am thinking about trying to get them done before I leave for the Pirate Store today. I really only have a few to do, and I don't quite understand why I always put them off. I should really just get off the computer now and do them. In fact, I am going to put dinner together in the crock pot and do them next. Then I will work on the sewing work. Yep, I think that is the goals for today. I am hoping to make a run out to one of the fabric stores tomorrow to pick up some parts for a new belt. I hope to get that mostly finished before I leave for Delaware, so I can list it when I get home. Here is to hoping.

Now... on to beef stew.....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back on Track?

I am attempting to get life back on track a bit more before I head out to visit my sister. I still have to write thank you notes for Christmas, oops! I forgot to do, and I really wanted to get back into that habit this year. I am going to work on those this evening while I watch the news. I also want to get back to exercising. I tried to do a jog on the ellipitical on Monday, and only got through 15 minutes before I had to stop. Between my cold and not exercising for a while, I was really out of shape. I am hoping to do 20 minutes today at a lower intensity than Monday. Hopefully I get through it all otherwise I will be pretty disappointed in myself. I also hope to wrap up the work on my new tutorial. I want to get that posted sometime late this week or early next week.

I have learned quite a bit when doing this tutorial. First off, I wished I had a third hand. There were times when I wanted to take a picture, but I also needed my two hands to show what I was doing. I also learned that using fiberfill instead of batting made hand quilting almost impossible for this project. I gave up on that and went back to the machine. I also found that trying to hoop this project when using fiberfill was also not able to happen, so I did not get to try out my machine in its footless embroidery mode. I have placed a lightweight foot on it, and it is slow going, but I am making good progress on getting one side of the cozy done. I hope to get it all finished and photographed today.

I also made bread yesterday. I had a great sponge for the sourdough started, but I ended up adding a bit too much flower and over kneading it. It tasted okay, but the crumb on the loaves was really tight. I hope to keep working on my sourdough recipe until I get it right. Bread making is an art that I have yet to master. Well I suppose I should get in gear and put my jogging shoes on. I hope to have more to report tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Holiday Wrap Up Day 6

I find it hard to believe that I am writing about Christmas gifts when the weather outside is determined to be summer. It is a sunny 70 degree day out in Oakland, and to be honest, I kind of miss winter. When I confessed this to my sister on the phone today, she assured me I would get my fill of cold weather when I come to visit her on the other side of the country in Delaware this month. I am sure that I will be happy to be back to the sun and warm once I have been away.

Today I wanted to just wrap up all the other presents I made this year for people. Here are all of the less cute, but still fun presents I made for the adults of the family. By no means did I make stuff for everyone, we did buy a few things, but a majority of the presents this year were handmade by me or purchased from other handmade places.

For my sister, I made her some Scrabble tile pendants. I went to a wonderful art store to pick out some Chyiogami papers. I did not realize how big the sheets would be, but I had to have two of them none-the-less. I think that some other projects can be made out of the left overs of the paper. Here are the tiles while they were drying:

It looked like I had some sort of odd science experiment going on. I thought that by putting some glasses over the tiles as they dried, I would prevent any dust from landing on them and being in the glaze. I really enjoyed making them and can totally understand why there are so many sellers out there. It was a fun, quick, and satisfying project. Here are my six finished tiles:

I also wanted to keep them covered to make sure that any errant glitter from the project I did for my Mom would not interfere. I made a candle holder project from this year's Martha Stewart Holiday magazine. I am always a sucker for her holiday issues, and this was no exception seeing as it boosted having a ton of handmade gift ideas. One that I really liked was this project that involved copying a picture into several sizes and placing it into the candle holders. You then were supposed to take glue and a fine tipped bottle and squeeze it on to cover the black parts of the image then sprinkle on the glitter.

Here they are getting ready for their glue bath. I found that the small tipped applicator bottles did not work well with the thick glue I bought, so I ended up painting on the glue. It worked out well, but the holders took forever to dry. By the time they would have been ready for their close-up, I was snatching them up to pack them for shipping. Sorry there is no finished shot!

For my sister-in-law Kathy, she wanted one of the burned velvet wreathes I made for my Mom and Beth. Luckily, I still had some of the materials left over. I found this project also courtesy of Martha Stewart a number of years ago. I finally got up the nerve to make one and bought all the materials and made all the rubber stamps. When it came time to do the actual project though, I made it for my sister for Christmas a few years ago. When my Mom's present that same year did not turn out, I cranked out another one for her. I was hoping to have the next one I made finally be mine, but I ended up making it for Kathy. Thank goodness I over bought on material the first time due to reading the directions wrong. I hope I have enough to make one more for me. Here is a picture of the one I made for Beth originally, but Kathy's looked almost the same:

I think that the next one of these will also be the last one, unless someone wants to purchase it from me. ;)

The last gift that I made that got out on time is the scarf I knit for my Grandmother. This is one of the first things I got done actually. I of course did not take any finished product pictures of this either, but here is it when I first started:

This was the first thing that I have ever knit. It is the "My so called scarf" pattern, and I really like how it looks. I am thinking about making one for myself too with some yarn that I bought at the same time. It is the same yarn just different colors, more purples and dark blues than this.

Well today I am going to try something new, free quilting on my machine. Since it does not have a stippling foot, I am kind of intimidated with this process, but I am going to give it a shot. I also have bread to attend to. I hope that it turns out. More tomorrow.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Holiday Wrap Up Day 5

This weekend was another nice and relaxing time. Dan left his work at the office, and we spent the time trying to get over this cold that we both seem to not be able to kick. We played games of scrabble and tried to get our DVR below 50% full. It never seems to break that point since we got it. We also forayed into the realm of canoli making. They tasted good, but I needed to roll the dough out more so they would be less doughy and more crunchy out of the oil. We also made the filling out of mascarpone instead of ricotta, and it turned out just fine. The weather this weekend was gorgeous, but it is never fun to go out into the nice sunny weather when you feel miserable, so we just hid inside.

The parts for the serger came in on Friday, so I was able to get that all put back together. I am going to string it back up and test it out on fabric today. I am pretty excited about that and can't wait to have it back on the team. I promised myself that I will work on some sewing machine covers as soon as the new tutorial is finished. I want to protect them from dust now that I have just cleaned them out again and want to keep as much dust and lint out of them as possible. Well at least the lint and dust that I don't create when using them at least will not get into the machines.

For the review of the holidays today, I am going to show you what I made for Jozef. He is the newest member of the extended family. Jozef is the first child for my brother Kurt and his lovely and talented wife Kathy. I made a playtime quilt for him to use while he is still a stomach baby that is a non-rolley polley. I made one of these last Christmas for Craig when he was almost too old for it, but Beth said at the time that he seemed to really enjoy it. The quilt consists of nine squares, each having a new activity to explore on it. The outside is lines with black and white visually stimulating fabric. Here are all the pieces as I am getting ready to sew:

I assembled all the squares first, doing whatever appliqué or sewing was needed on that particular square. The directions for the quilt originally called for using fusible web for holding all the applique designs on when you sew. I found this to be not only unnecessary last time, but it also made me go through needles quickly. They would get dulled very quickly sewing through the web. Another change I made with this quilt was one of the heart blocks. It originally was supposed to have a musical button in it, but I decided to use bells instead. Not only are they less annoying in the long term, but they also do not run out of batteries. Another significant challenge to this project is always finding squeakers for the car block. I cannot seem to ever find them in craft or fabric stores. I have even struck out at hobby supply stores. I have resorted to trying to find them in other items in dollar stores and scrapping the item for the parts. Last time, I found a children's toy that squeaked in the head, but was a blanket at the bottom. I used the blanket's material for the duckies on both quilts and even have some left over for another quilt or two. There was only one squeaker in this one, so I had to find a new one for this year. I found it in a pair of dollar store mittens for a baby. This time I had two squeakers; one for this quilt and one for the next I have to make. I worked on this project from the Friday morning before Christmas through the night. I finally went to bed at 5 am and slept for a few hours before heading out to lunch with some friends from college. On the way to the lunch, I hand sewed the quilt binding to the backing fabric. Here is the fabric I chose this time:

In the original design, you used plain white fabric as a backing and appliqué the designs down so their colored outlines show on the backside. My machine is not the best at doing this technique to begin with let alone through all the layers of a quilt. I did not like the plain back so much last time, so I chose this colorful one this time. Here is the front of the final product:

I really enjoyed making this even though it was a late night doing it. Kathy has told me that Jozef is enjoying exploring it and finding new things each time he is on it.

On the plate for today is more knitting on Da's gift as a break when I am not working on the tutorial that will be coming up on the blog soon. I really wished I had the muscles in my arms and hands built up for knitting. I just am not there yet for long sustained knitting with out breaks, so I just knit during my breaks. ;)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Holiday Wrap Up Day 4

One of my favorite projects this holiday season was the toy I made for my nephew Craig. He is the youngest of the set of children my sister has. I decided on a pelican project and went to work on it. I loved working on this. It had so many great little details to it. I also learned through the project how top stitching can so dynamically change the look of things. Here the pelican is right before he received his wings:

Once I got the wings and feet on the pelican, I put his eyes on. I found that the eyes on this bird really did look sly. I placed him under our tree and kept thinking that the bird must be up to something. Dan agreed that he had a sly look about him. I guess the reason he looks so sly is his secret beak. The pouch under his beak is a nice little holding area for a color and number learning set of fish. It zippers closed so the fish cannot escape and get lost when the pelican is not being played with. Here he is eating fish number ten:

I also did not sew the eyelid of the pelican in an upright position. I like to let some things be loose for kids to explore and play with. I decided that the ability to make the bird awake or asleep should be up to the person playing with him. Here he is after a large meal of fish taking a nap:

Just like this was my favorite toy to make this year, it was one of the favorite things I made this year with the adults. I have already been told by Kathy that one needs to be made for Jozef when he is old enough. Jozef's present will be tomorrow's little show and tell.

Today on the slate I have my first day back tutoring at 826 Valencia after the holiday break. It will be good to get back to working with the kids and getting to brush up on my 5th grade math further! :) I am also going to work on my knitting on the train and try to get some parts of the tutorial photographed today. We will see how much gets done before I head out. I also have this dream of making cannoli for dessert tonight. Time will be the judge of these things.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Holiday Wrap Up Day 3

Yesterday was pretty productive on the whole. I continued knitting on my project for Da, and the house cleaning came to an end. It was a tough job that took two days for me to be satisfied that it is clean, but now I am thoroughly enjoying a clean abode. So the English muffins are still waiting to be made, and I am going to start a new craft tutorial today since the cleaning is finished. I also have to make a trek outside to pick up some tea and other dinner supplies. I really wished our neighborhood had a small grocery store in it, but alas it does not. I will be relying on other places to acquire my supplies, mainly a World Market and BevMo. Let's hope I can get everything I need there. I am also going to cave in and take a nap since this cold is not going away. I need to get better before I fly out in two weeks.

In the holiday wrap up today are the gifts I made for Claudia. She is Brenna's younger sister who loves art, read as coloring, and is less into running around like her older sister. I decided to make her an I Spy bag. It was rather simple and helped me keep my goal of using up and buying less in the way of supplies. I used some pieces of red fleece that were leftovers from a shopping cart cover project for Jozef. I had to buy a bit of clear vinyl for the window, and this was my first time working with the stuff. It went pretty well, I just hope it holds up. I filled the interior with small pieces of plastic that are used for weights in stuffed toys or bean bags. I had those left over from a snow people project I did for my sister one year. I also had to buy the objects for her to find in the bag. I found these interesting buttons and button covers at a craft store that were on sale, so those became the objects. Some of the buttons were animals, some were farm related objects, some were food, and still others were beach things. It made for good variety. Here is the finished project:

I also made her a crayon roll. I found a great tutorial from Sew,Mama,Sew's Blog and their handmade holidays series. They do a great job of compiling great easy to finish projects for handmade gifts. They had a tutorial from Skip to My Lou. It was very easy and straight forward. The pictures were great and the directions were very easy. I made this entirely out of things I had except for the iron on vinyl. I made the interior fabric from scraps from Craig's gift, that is tomorrow's edition, and the puppet theater I made for Brenna's birthday last year. I also trimmed it with left over rick rack from an old Advent calendar project. Sadly I forgot to take a picture of it when I was done. I did make mine bigger than the tutorial so it would hold 24 crayons as well as a small pad of paper. I also did not put the iron on vinyl on the entire back piece after reading about how it made the crayons slip out. I made sure to keep two inches of the fabric uncovered. I figured any crayon marks on that part would not be seen any way due to the front of the pockets. Well that wraps up her homemade gifts.

Now I am off to work on a new craft tutorial for the blog. I hope to have that done and out to you once the holiday wrap up is over.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Holiday Wrap Up Day 2

After an interesting return to the computer yesterday, I am beginning to wonder how I ever functioned with one screen. Having all this room seemed kinda like overkill when Dan showed it to me, but now it is so nice, and I believe there is no going back. I got some cleaning done including the most dreaded thing for me, the shower. It is not like I leave the thing to get too grungy, but once I start in on a shower, I am almost obsessive about scrubbing every single inch of the thing. Even Dan, a child of an admitted cleaning addict, came in to tell me to stop cleaning the thing last night. I made a killer dinner last night, getting rid of some more of the Christmas Eve ham left overs. I even found something to do with the sage I cut from the window box. I know that you need to cut herbs periodically to keep them growing and producing, but I always find it hard to throw the stuff out. I always want to only cut when I need things, but that leads to some bad results in the past incarnations of the herb garden. I am trying to learn my lesson. I also got a lot of computer organization done for the shop. There is more to be done in the coming days and some website redesign issues to be tackled, but I think that will come after my trip. If you have stopped by the Etsy Shop lately and read the shop announcement, I have said I will be out of town for a week in January. I will be flying out to Delaware to visit my sister and her family. It has been two full years and lots of change since we have seen each other, and I am really looking forward to getting to see all the family but especially the kids. On the note of the kids, I figure I should jump into a holiday wrap up posting to show one of the projects I did while taking a month off from the blogs and pants.

After getting Brenna's felt board done, I decided to start on her Christmas present next. This present was a tag team effort, and I tweeted about it once in a while on my twitter stream. I decided to make her a tipi, or tepee for your less formal types. I asked my sister what Brenna's favorite color was, and it turned out to be green. So, my search began for enough green fabric to make the tipi. It turns out that even though it was the Christmas crafting season, green fabric is kind of hard to come by. I ended up settling on some lime green fabric with different colored green polka dots. When I measured out the yardage, there was not enough of it to make the tipi. Only enough to make half was in the store. I decided to not hunt all over the Bay Area for more, so I looked for a solid lime green counterpart. Here is what I ended up with:

It was a pretty quick sew seeing as there were mostly just straight seams to make. The hardest part was dealing with the unwieldy amount of fabric I was having to sew. It ended up using around 10 yards of fabric. I did also have to make some adjustments. I did not have quite enough width on the lime green solid fabric after prewashing it, so I added some polka dot fabric strips in to cover the seam allowance and act like seam binding.

Once I got it all sewn up, I boxed it and sent it off to my Dad to have him build the PVC pole components for the tipi frame. I think it went pretty well. The top is gathered with a ribbon through the poles and wooden beads as spacers.

It ended up being overall way taller and bigger than I had originally thought it would be. I guess once totally set up, an average height adult could almost stand up in the center. During the family Christmas call, I found out that it was a hit. Kids were in the tipi, adults were in the tipi, kids and adults were in the tipi. We were running around, in, and out of the thing.

I guess this also could not have come at a better time since Brenna was out growing another tent that my sister had bought for her. She was just getting too tall for it. I cannot wait to see it in action when I visit them in a couple of weeks.

Well since this is a late posting, there is not a lot left on the slate for today. I was debating making English muffins today, but I think that will wait for tomorrow. I will finish all the cleaning that needs to still be done, and I am going to at least cut out the next tutorial project I will post for the blog after my trip. There is still some major work to do on Da's present still. Yikes more than I thought now that I am reading that over. I guess I should get down to it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to the Blogs

I can hardly believe it has been a month since I have written in the blogs, but it has been a fun and work filled month. The house seems extra quiet after the holidays, especially since my husband is back at work for the first time in two weeks. The machines are quiet after a month of toy and gift production, and any noise from the animated tree ornaments has now gone back into the holiday boxes for the year. This posting marks a couple of firsts. It is the first posting for the Fabulous Pants studio of 2009. It is the first posting from my desk that was abandoned when our office became a dumping area for still unpacked boxes. It is also the first of my December in review postings. Many things were accomplished last month, including making almost all of the gifts we gave to others and getting them out on time. Only one gift is unfinished, and I am planning on working on that like mad for the next few days to get it finished up and out the door to my father-in-law.

It was a good holiday season here. Dan and I decided to spend one Christmas with just the two of us. It was relaxing, and a tiny bit lonely with out all the family around. I did make my first attempt at my Mom's Christmas coffee cake. I did it a bit differently than she does because I had the luxury of time and a house that was not going to be filled with a zillion family members. I did all the beginning steps of the recipe like she does up until the second rise. After all the shaping, I place the cake into the fridge for an overnight slow rise. It did a great job and turned out perfect and hot on Christmas morning. (My mom bakes hers all in one step the day before Christmas.) Here is mine right before I frosted it and seconds later it was demolished by my husband and I.

So to begin the monthly catch up session, I thought I would let you in on the few things that I did that were Fabulous Pants related. I worked on several sheets of wrapping paper in case of any last minute holiday orders. I have found that making my own wrapping papers is not only relaxing but very satisfying. I like the mindlessness of stamping over and over again for designs. I usually do very regimented stamps every so many inches because I found that my attempts at randomness did not work that well. That problem may have been solved with some of the reading I did over the break for learning new techniques for the shop. I am a subscriber to the magazine Threads, but I never seem to get time to really sit down and read any of the issues. I finally did that a bit, and they had a great technique for creating randomness when making designs. They suggested pitching pennies out onto the work surface and placing your designs where the pennies fell. I am going to hopefully give this a try in a few days when I catch up on other things to see how the technique works out.

One of the biggest projects that I did this break was going through all the fabric I own and organizing it. I have gone into all the big bins and refolded, photographed, organized, repacked, and written a file up on all scraps and pieces. It took me three days of lighthearted effort to get it accomplished. My work on organization motivated my husband to finally tackle all his boxes and items that needed to be put away in the office area we share. We both took all the items off of our desks and decided to start fresh. We filed papers, placed items in order in boxes, and played keep toss with other things. One of the things we decided to toss was my old computer, so I am now writing to you on a lap top that we bought for the both of us to use. The hubby is now on his new and much improved laptop we got him for Christmas. It is nice to be back on my split keyboard with a real mouse and for the first time dealing with dual head monitors. I think I am going to get used to this set up! :) We even hung some new lighting in the office area that was basically unusable at night due to it being a dark corner away from any light sources in the apartment. It is now so inviting and nice back here I cannot see myself working anywhere else when doing computer related work.

Another shop related thing that was accomplished was the tune ups of the sewing machines. While attempting to see what happened to make the serger needles and throat plate not line up, we found that the needle clamps were actually broken inside the housing. Needless to say, no pants can be made until the replacement parts show up sometime in the coming days. It was somewhat upsetting, but I am glad we figured it out now rather than trying to limp the machine along and having something very catastrophic happen to the loopers or other parts of the machine.

On a happier note, I got a some very awesome presents this year. Dan completed my Tori Amos catalog, which makes me a happy girl. I do not have all the singles, but I do finally have all the major albums I would want. He also got me an AeroGarden. Now I know that it seems kind of cheesy, but he and I have joked about getting one ever since we saw one in the SkyMall catalog when we where headed out to California for the first time to see where we would live. For a long time, he joked about making it my housewarming present. Well he finally made good on our joke and got me one. It is actually a pretty neat hydroponic kind of plant system. I of course could not just do the easy thing and plant one kind of pod like you are supposed to. I of course wanted to mix and match even though they make it seem like you cannot. I decided to use some of my lettuce packs and two of the three tomato packs.

The seeds that we bought were out of date by a year, but I thought I would toss them in and see what happened. They did in fact germinate, and in the time that was stated on the pods. I ended up doing one of each starting feed in the water, and when the first feeding comes up, I will do the same with the regular feeding packets since it seems to be working. I do have the lights and water circulation meeter set to the tomato setting and not lettuce. Here is a picture of the garden up close after a week.

The one pod with the plastic lid off is lettuce. It has grown the fastest even though it was not the first to sprout. The back two pods are the tomatoes. I will take more pictures as things get bigger. I look forward to this continuing science experiment in the kitchen. It even makes Dan happy as it reminds him of the Land exhibit that used to be in Disney World. I guess they used to do all sorts of food hydroponics in this particular display, but he seems to think that it is not there any longer.

Well I guess I should get into some other work now. The house really needs to be cleaned after some major neglect from me, and while it is wonderfully organized right now, it is also rather dusty. I also want to get some more work done on the computer with the Etsy store to prepare it for my next time away. More on that soon.