Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hostess Gifts

With wedding and (for me) baby season approaching, it's also hostess gift season. All those showers take extraordinary work to pull together, and you don't want to forget about your host or hostess. For my baby shower last month, I waited too long to order something handmade from Etsy or other artists, and wasn't able to find local sources in time.

I put together a few gifts to reflect each hostess's personality, resorting to Target and a local boutique for two of them, and making one. A pot of herbs for the woman who helped with some of the food, souvenir-ish items from a local gift shop for the main hostess (she's from this town, but as a military wife has to leave it often and gets homesick), and stenciled tea towels for the good friend who did a lot of cooking and helped set up the party.

Every Christmas, I'm reminded to save cards to use as gift tags the next year, and I always forget. But why use holiday cards only? This time I cut up a thank-you card from a friend to make cute little gift tags. This works with birthday cards, Mother's Day and other holidays, not just the big winter holidays.

The tea towels were by far the most fun, since I made them myself. I got the art from Briar Press, a fantastic source for vector files (thanks, Presser Foot!), and used freezer paper for the stencils. And of course it was more complicated and time consuming than I'd planned, since I was cutting through 4 layers of freezer paper PLUS the regular paper stencil. I wanted to cut them all out together so they'd match, and felt like I had arthritis when I finished! But they do look nice, don't they? I think I'll make a permanent screen so I can use this motif on other projects (like a set of towels for myself!).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Finished Nursery!

Thanks to my mom, who has worked her tail off the last three weeks, the nursery is finally (mostly) finished! If it had just been up to me, you'd find me curled in a ball in the middle of the floor, weeping, surrounded by half-empty cardboard boxes and bouncy seat parts, with bits of fabric and paper stuck in my hair and to my clothes. Instead, we have this cuteness! Now we're just waiting for the occupant to come out and play. I still have a couple of little things to work on, but they're not super important. I'll be posting a little more information about some of the projects later, but for now here's just a good look. Sadly, there is no good time of day to take pictures in this room, since there's only the one window and the sunlight is blocked by the gorgeous big oak trees out back, so these photos could be better.

The view from the door. The chair was handmade by Harold Blair, a craftsman in Jefferson, Texas. My dad got to help out with it, so it's extra special. The curtains are made from an old set of white bedsheets I dyed blue (the pillowcases I dyed orange) and Mom put them together to make these cute curtains. More on that in another post! And of course you recognize the ottoman and the dresser.

The crib, with the bunting my mom and I made. Sparky's the nickname we came up with for the baby when he was a tiny speck. Thomas (his actual name) is on the other side of the bunting. And Daisy's upstairs bed (yes, she has two. Yes, she's spoiled.) is on the floor next to the crib so she can hang out with her new buddy -- there's a door into our room just on the other side of her bed. The rug's from Target -- isn't it super cute?

The changing table was my dad's childhood desk (and mine and my brother's). I made the fabric bin that goes underneath to hold diapers -- no, I will not be posting a tutorial because it was a total disaster. The only thing I'll say is make sure to get supermega-stiff interfacing stuff. Which I didn't have. But the bin is reversible! I also lined the drawers, and will be posting about that project later. The changing pad cover is from this Prudent Baby tutorial, and the fabric is a wipe-off laminated cotton for easy cleaning.

A close-up of the sampler above the dresser. My mom started working on this when she found out she was pregnant with me, but didn't actually finish it until I was 13 (at least I come by it honestly!). So it was packed away for my first child, and finally brought out and framed 16 years later. Isn't it adorable?

The bunting. Another lesson learned: batiks don't do well with Heat-n-Bond. The other side looks the same, but spells out "Thomas" instead.

Dinosaurs on parade! I used this awesome Steam-a-Seam trick from Sewing for Scarlett. How often do you get to iron your walls? I have a few more I want to put up, but they can wait.

So, now that the room's finished, who wants to bet Thomas'll decide to wait another three weeks before making his appearance?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Pasquale Sandwich

In Naples, there's a tiny little corner shop/delicatessen (a salumeria) run by a little old man named Pasquale. It's not a restaurant, but if you ask nicely, he'll make you the best sandwich you've ever had in your life. You can point to what you want on it, but Pasquale will decide what you really need -- and trust him. He's always right. Chris and I hit this place at least twice when we were in Naples last winter (it's behind the Archeological Museum on Via Salvator Rosa, no 10 - the Salumeria Pasquale Carrino).

When we got home, I set out to duplicate his efforts as best as I could. The main ingredients are various types of salamis and marinated meat, along with marinated olives and sweet red peppers and the freshest mozzarella cheese. Of course, the most important ingredient is fresh Italian bread and Pasquale's exuberant Italian chatter. This isn't your typical dried-out, anemic train station sandwich. I wish I had photos of it!

Chop the olives and other marinated vegetables before putting them on the bread, and layer them with the meat and cheese. Don't stuff this sandwich too full -- you want the bread to be the star, just accented by the savory, vinegary fillings. It's marvelous for a picnic, so make it right before packing up to leave to let the vinegar soak into the bread a bit. Perfect for a hot May Saturday picnic!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WIP Wednesday: Nursery Progress

The Craftsplosion is contained -- if you considered Chernobyl contained. The bonus of using the guest room as my craft room is when there's a guest, the bed at least has to be cleared off by the end of the night (this only works if the guest is my mom or someone equally crafty, though).

I thought I'd show you a few pictures of the nursery, since we got it straightened up yesterday and I don't know how long that's going to last. I'll give more details on the individual projects in the next couple of weeks (there's a great story behind that alphabet sampler over the dresser). Today I'm going to be wrestling with making a fabric storage bin to go under the changing table.

Still on our to-do list are curtains, a changing pad cover and some more wall decor to brighten up the white walls. I'm also making a few amigurumi airplanes to string up as a mobile. Think we can get it all accomplished by the end of the month? Talk about procrastinating. My biggest gremlin is underestimating the time it will take to complete a project, and overestimating the time I have left. It manifested itself in college with marathon reading sessions for my seminars, where I'd read the week's book the night before class and write the short reaction paper during lunch the day of class. Now I've had to call in backup to help me get everything finished because there's no way I can do this all myself (and I've caved and bought things I'd planned to make, but I don't have to do it all myself, do I?).

Ok, off to make a mess and that box!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And the winner is ...

Beth of An Accomplished Young Lady and Eggplantia, one of the founders of the Bronte-Along! Congrats, Beth (and congrats on your MBA)! I'll have your prize in the mail this week.

I wish I had enough for everyone, but it would take me the rest of the year to make them! Luckily, you can make your own -- just click here to download the chart.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sneak Peek Sunday

And don't forget -- tomorrow's the last day to enter the Jane Eyre cross-stitch giveaway! Leave a comment on this post or tweet about it (make sure to @isfive me) to enter.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Craftsplosion (and giveaway reminder!)

My mom came in this week to help get ready for the baby, so today we've had a craftsplosion in the guest room and nursery. Curtains, storage bins, wall decoration, crib sheets, changing pad cover -- all on the agenda for our mini-sweatshop (my machine in the guest room, Mom's serger in the nursery). I'll be more sporadic for a few weeks, but bear with me!

And don't forget about the cross-stitch giveaway. No Bronte-along participation necessary (but it's super fun)! Just leave a comment here or on the original post (even if it's just "Hi!" or "Yay!"), or tweet about it (make sure to @isfive me) to enter!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wuthering Heights and a Bronte-Along Giveaway!

Did you make it through Wuthering Heights? I have to say it's one of my least favorite stories in English lit, and I've never seen the appeal. I picked it up again for the Bronte-Along, hoping to find something redeeming in the nearly twenty years since I read it last, but sadly, Heathcliff and Catherine seem to have grown even more awful. Emily Bronte's prose is a redeeming quality, and I loved the gloomy, dark language she employed. Heathcliff and Hareton's rough, foul language is so earthy and Catherine's vitriol so sharp and awful. The very gothicness of this book is what makes it great to me, not the romance. Because there's nothing romantic about an abusive couple who hate everyone and make lives miserable all around them because they're too selfish to do otherwise. A man who marries a woman just to take revenge on her brother by beating her senseless is not an ideal man to me. Don't get me wrong -- I love a broody leading man like Darcy or Rochester any day, but they're attractive because beneath the rough exterior they have good hearts. Heathcliff's just mean and nasty, and Catherine is, frankly, a bitch. And their children are no better.

So. Need something a bit more swoonworthy to sweeten the bitterness of Wuthering Heights? I started this cross-stitch silouhette back during Jane Eyre, and based it on the lovely fireplace scene in the 2006 film version -- the scene after the fire where Mr. Rochester first calls Jane by her given name, and she realizes she's in love. Silouhettes were hugely popular in the Victorian era, and tracing a lover's shadow was a common parlor game. So I thought a silhouette would be a perfect Bronte-Along craft.

And the best part about it is it can be yours! Just leave a comment on this post! I'm interested in what you've gotten out of this Bronte-Along, but you don't have to address that to enter. Has it gotten you interested in reading something you'd never have picked up before? Given you a greater appreciation of the sisters' work? Even just introduced new delicious actors? Gotten you back into a craft you've neglected for a while? The Bronte-Along has given me a new appreciation for Emily Bronte, and although I'll always loathe her characters (my God, isn't Joseph insufferable?), I do understand she was using them to make greater statements about bleak realities of life for women and religious fanaticism.

The giveaway will be open for a week. I'll do a random drawing Monday, and post the winner Tuesday! Also, I'd be happy to paint the frame another color before shipping (it's just kind of whitewashed right now). The finished piece is about 6"x6" (not counting the frame).

Want to make your own version? Here's the chart for download:

As usual, I'd love to see pics of your version -- I think it'd look quite stunning done in black on charcoal linen. Also, non-commercial use only, attribution please.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Quick Strawberry Jam

Strawberries are such a welcome sign that summer is coming. That first fragrant, juicy, sweet fruit is just a taste of what's to follow -- blueberries and blackberries, peaches, tomatoes, all my favorite summer produce. This spring, I've tried to make myself sick of strawberries while they're in season, but it hasn't happened yet.

Earlier this week, I picked up 2 pounds of berries at the grocery store, and was disappointed to see they were from California. Because Florida's so much closer, the berries are usually ripe and tasty when I buy them and don't have to be left out for a couple of days to sweeten, so they get eaten before they start spoiling. So this batch of strawberries went from underripe to overripe before I had a chance to catch them, but that's ok. Overripe fruit is perfect for jam, and this quick strawberry jam recipe from Pink of Perfection (one of my faves) will take you from almost-spoiled berries to a small pot of jam in less than 30 minutes! All you need are a pound of strawberries, 1/4 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice. No canning, no processing -- this jam goes straight into the fridge for up to 10 days (and it probably won't last that long, anyway).

Get the recipe here on Pink of Perfection.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Date Due Shirt

I made a couple of these cute shirts for friends last year who love libraries. Can you believe I didn't end up making my own (and I'm a librarian!) until last week? Ha, only a few weeks to wear it, but that's ok since I've never been able to get the iron-on transfer stuff to hold up well in the wash anyway.

I downloaded a scan of a vintage date due slip from Flickr and added my due date in the Adler typeface from, printed it in reverse on my iron-on transfer sheet and slapped it on my shirt. It's a bit crooked, but so are the date due slips when I'm the one sticking them in new books anyway! I look grumpy in the picture, but really it was just naptime. This makes a quick and easy gift for library and book lovers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WIP Wednesday

It's May! And I haven't even come close to finishing April's Flutter-by Socks. So I've decided to put my Project of the Month ... er ... project on hiatus for now. I don't want to abandon it entirely, because it was a great way to make some progress on several languishing items, but now I have too many works in progress.

Also, I have this crazy thing called a baby coming in 4.5 weeks (hopefully!), and the nursery's a wreck, the guest room's a wreck, my whole house is a wreck and we're living out of laundry baskets (at least the laundry in them's clean). Since I know this will describe my post-baby household perfectly, I need to spend the next few weeks getting things sorted out so it doesn't just get worse.

I have a billion things left to do in the nursery, and that's what I'll be focusing on for the next month, as well as a few last-minute baby gifts for some friends. I have curtains to finish, a storage bin for the changing table to make and I'd like to do some wall decor and a few other little things like a changing pad cover and a mobile. We'll see, though. Luckily, my mom's coming next week and bringing her crafty mojo to help me whip things into shape.

Also, I'll be scaling back on posts fairly soon. I'm still going to shoot for three per week, but please don't take off if I don't make that. I'll be back once I get my head back above water.

In the meantime, check out these fantastic to do lists and calendars:

Twenty-10 Calendar by redstarink
Weekly Blog Planner from Indie Fixx
Printable To Do List from Torta Gialla
May 2010 Desktop Wallpaper Calendar from June Craft

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Garden Party: Baby Sunhat and Shoes

Remember that bias tape I made a few weeks ago? I used it to make this cute little sunhat using a tutorial from Prudent Baby for a friend a couple of weeks ago (and baby E arrived yesterday! Hooray!). The shoes are the kimono shoes from Homespun Threads, with bias tape, piping and applique embellishments.

Both patterns are very simple. The free shoe pattern is only for 0-3 months, so I got a 6-12 month pair of shoes and traced the sole and resized the pattern that way. I also wanted to make one pair reversible, and struggled a little bit with figuring out how to do that. I didn't take any pictures of the process (sorry!), but I pieced together the shoes except for the outer sole. That piece I laid wrong-side up on top of the shoe, sewed it down except at the heel, turned the whole thing inside out and hand-sewed the heel closed. Make sense? Probably not -- sorry again for no pictures.

These shoes are my favorite -- I appliqued the ladybug markings on the shoe's upper before sewing it all together, and added the antennae at the very end with embroidery thread. They're fleece lined, so they'll keep E's toes warm and cozy in the fall.

The sunhat pattern was much easier to follow than the shoe pattern. I did make some adjustments -- because I used a thin cotton, so I added interfacing and a hat lining.

1. Cut four hat pieces from the flowered fabric, four interfacing and four from a plain white cotton lining. Iron the interfacing onto the flowered hat pieces, then sew them together according to the tutorial. Sew the lining pieces the same way. I overlocked the seams just because.

2. With the wrong sides together, pin the lining to the hat. Try to fold the seams over so they lie in different directions.

3. On the outside, sew about 1/4 of an inch from the seams on either side, like a baseball cap. Just go from edge to edge, criss-crossing at the peak of the hat.

4. Attach the brim to the hat according to the real tutorial instructions. Because of all the fabric, I chose to simply enclose the raw edges in bias tape instead of using the stitch-in-the-ditch method of sewing the brim lining to the hat lining. It was just easier for me to figure out.

5. To do this, pink or overlock your raw edges.

Then enclose them in double-fold bias tape and sew.

6. I also attached some ric-rac to the brim. To get a tidy seam with the ric-rac, you'll fold the finishing end under like this (this picture shows the beginning end, just so it's easier to see the fold):

Finished, it looks like this:

I finished the hat with a crochet button. Be very very careful with buttons of any kind on baby clothes and toys -- this one's big and sewn on quite tightly. It'll also unravel if it's pulled off -- it's just a crocheted dome stuffed with yarn. The last thing you want is for a little one to pull that button off and choke!

Thanks to Prudent Baby and Homespun Threads for the patterns!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sneak Peek Sunday

Yow, that's PINK!
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