October 5, 2013

Fall Wreath

I spend too much time on Etsy and Pinterest. I know, without a doubt, I could have finished so many little projects, folded laundry in a timely fashion and would never stress over not having enough time in my life to get things done. Will I stop looking? No. There are some rather ridiculously complicated ideas that you might think will be easy there is a very great likelihood that you'll be missing large chunks of hair having pulled it all out in a fit of rage: but if you can look beyond the flashy things you'll come across ideas that are really quite good. And for me, once I see them, I always think "well why didn't I think of that?" but I didn't and so I can just be one more copy-cat. 

This burlap wreath with felt rosettes is my latest idea-theft, the first (successful) one being the ribbon topiary decorations I made for C's party. I have the bad habit, however, of just seeing something and only half-reading up on the instructions so I ended up buying a wooden wreath that is pretty on its own instead of the suggested wire wreath. I was not to be diverted from my ultimate goal, however and so decided to start by wrapping my length of burlap (I found one at JoAnn's that was 30 feet long, 8 inches wide) around the wreath first to give me a 'covering' so that then I could sew down the folds I made.

You can see my clumsy stitches tacking down the top folds onto the wrapped layer. If this sounds confusing I apologize. I was actually not even sure this would work out while I was doing it so I did not bother taking photos. I am still kind of impressed it actually worked - or has managed to so far. 

I also love the wreaths I've been seeing with these felt flowers and wanted to include them with the burlap. I just looked up online 'felt flower tutorials' and found a wealth of YouTube videos to get me started. These guys are unbelievably easy to do and great for watching a show at the same time. 

Fall has definitely arrived here in Washington - the cooler temperatures were quickly followed by leaves starting to turn. We have had a few rainy days but we keep getting graced with these gorgeous sunny afternoons that still pull the kids outdoors. What makes this project even greater is that I set myself a crafty task and completed it with some measure of success even after having to improvise a little. 

Until next time... 

October 2, 2013

Here we go...

Are you ready for a super, duper long post? I mean, this is kind of ridiculous thinking of all the things I'm going to try and cram in here for (I hope) your enjoyment. September was I.N.S.A.N.E. around this household and now that it is October I have plans to do very short of absolutely nothing of any importance if I can avoid it. I guess I will still pay the bills.

I had planned to share with you all my summer of gardening success but I seem to have flaked on that sometime around August. I've never been much of a successful planter-gardener. I can tend to things just fine if they're already there, but my planting seeds/bulbs and getting a product seems to elude me. Until 2013! I had Gladiolus flowers everywhere in my yard as well as these massive zucchini plants. My success wasn't total as I couldn't manage to grow herbs (three basil plants died), Brussels sprouts or pickling cucumbers.

I had ALSO planned on sharing these pictures of the gorgeous scenery we saw out on the Olympic Peninsula this past July. (Apparently I was pretty ambitious in July). We stayed in a cute little beach town called Seabrook Village and were super close to the ocean as well as the Hoh and Quinault rain forests. On one of our walks we collected that huge haul of sand dollars which became somewhat of a silly game of trying to outwit the seagulls so we could find whole ones instead of the cracked open ones strewn everywhere. Two guys/gals ended up stalking us for about 10 minutes knowing full well what I was hoarding in my sweatshirt. If you're ever looking for a great vacation I highly suggest checking out this part of the world. Some parts of it are truly desolate but right around every corner was always something to see and enjoy!

Something happened to August and now I'm thinking it might have had something to do with these guys. We've apparently been hoarding V-8 juice and have decided the best way to go about depleting our stock is to enjoy that great summer beverage - the Bloody Mary. We looked for an interesting twist, though, and Jeff was able to find a couple that incorporate Old Bay seasoning into it. YUM! Check out this one and this one! Both are delicious but have quite a bite to them so back off on the horse radish, hot sauce or Old Bay.

Then September showed up and my life went into overdrive. I had my last month of school with all the usual nonsense that seems to pile up at the end, a friend's wedding, my daughter's birthday and my mom and dad stopped by for a visit from Virginia. Crazy, I tells ya!

Cinderella still seems to be the reigning (pun intended) favorite of the Disney princesses in this house so I was happy to throw together a princess tea party with at least a theme that carried the colors of Cinderella. I am kind of a snot and purist about the old Disney movies and seriously dislike the fact that every thing that can be marketed with a Disney princess is done so - but in that cheesy, too cartoonish way of the "updated look."

I took some inspiration from Pinterest and Etsy and made the ribbon topiaries and then just used mine and my grandmother's wedding china for the teacups and serving dishes. I'd like to mention that the first time my wedding china has ever seen any use was for my four year old's birthday party. Just sayin'...

Throwing the tea party was actually a lot of fun. We invited our friends as we tend to drag Caroline with us to most social events and she's quite the social butterfly - our friends are her friends, we've been told. I made a variety of open-faced tea sandwiches but by far the favorite was the cucumber with dill and cream cheese, but my personal favorite was the one with blue cheese and walnut spread with apricot preserves on top. It was a fantastic party in my mouth. We also had goat cheese with pear and honey; brie, apple and smoked ham; and fig preserves with prosciutto. I felt fancy.

In the days since my life has slowed down I've been determined to put in some serious cross-stitching time. I was able to finish the #9 block of Anniversaries of the Heart by Blackbird Designs and make headway on block #10. I'm looking forward to finally finish this one but before that I have to figure out whose initials go where.

Maria's Sampler from GigiR designs is also coming along. Because of the darker fabric and it being 40ct I have to work on this one when I can get really good natural light. My Ott-Light seems to do something odd between the fabric and threads, so it actually makes it harder to see with it on. Bummer! Since night time is my usual stitch time I'm thinking this one is going to take me a bit longer to complete. 

Deep breath - we're almost done. I won't bore you with more writing but just share with you my meager fall decorations that I recently dug out. I am planning a trip to Pier1 to help fill it out some. 

 Until next time... hopefully sooner and shorter!

August 18, 2013

End of Summer

The nights are definitely getting longer here letting me know that the peak of summer is even further behind us and we are slowly drifting towards fall. I always feel a bit of longing when I notice the light in the sky shift towards that Fall hue; but, I also get excited thinking about all of the Fall-happenings. So this time of year is a definite bitter-sweet moment for me. I have decided to add a little something to my blog and considering part of the title is 'and things,' I think it'll work quite nicely. More on that later.

My fabric shop-owning friend brought back a lot of fun things from the most recent market, some of which I showed in the last blog post, but this stack of delicious wool fat-quarters was actually the first fabric purchase, ever, requested by my husband. I was just mentioning that she had brought back a stack and was going to divide it up to sell in smaller bundles (each fat quarter is supposed to retail for $10.00!) but he actually asked me to call her and ask if we could purchase them all since he was really interested in having a wool quilt. Lucky me!

It is fairly soft wool and I definitely love the colors. My only dilemma is that it is pretty thick, so I think I'll have to get some coordinating cotton fabric to use in addition so as to cut down on the seam bulkiness. I'm still thinking about how to tackle this particular issue but I'll get there!

This was just another one of my 'I'll figure out something to do with this' purchases from Fabric Chicks but I really couldn't say no once she pulled it out of her goodie bag. It's 24 fat quarters from a Riley Blake line that comes in 3 color-ways to make this adorable collection of fabrics. Sad thing is, I haven't really had too much time (again) to work on any big projects. I am getting to a semi-burned out state with school right and its hogging all of my free-time or desire to do anything.

Every once in a while, though, I'm finding a few moments to put some time in on Maria's Sampler 1831 by GigiR Designs. This sampler is certainly full of motifs I've never done before but I'm pretty excited to see the whole thing finished.

I'm using the selection of threads, mostly Gentle Arts cottons, suggested by the designer and the fabric is a 40ct Lakeside Linen... something. It's fairly dark and molted but I think that was done to get as close to possible as the original now looks. Also in the works are, as usual, Frances Eden (so close!), Hannah Pepper (which I've had to pick out again) and various others that I'm trying to finish up borders and random motifs.

Now onto my 'new thing'...

So I've read more than once now that wine 'experts' apparently are not all that 'expert,' or at least they are human and subject to make mistakes when judging swill from ambrosia. These declarations, however, often result in one bottle costing upwards in the hundreds of dollars, or being found on your grocery shelves for $5.00. Most of our 'pedestrian' palettes will probably never taste the high-brow vintages so we content ourselves with Robert Parker's usual grading system, as such, to purchase wine. Maybe you take the advice of an acquaintance. Or, like me, perhaps you choose to take a shot in the dark every once in a while to see what you get. This is what happened to me the other day at Trader Joe's. I have a great time playing in Trader Joe's - to me it's not a real grocery store but more like a fantastical world of hidden wonders and nifty packaging. Well, my happy-go-lucky experiences took a wee stumble when I opened this bottle of Malbec and sampled the goods. 

My untrained tongue was immediately affronted with the powerful taste of - and this is technical, you guys - tires. Or what I imagine tires would taste like. There was just something completely off in this bottle of wine and granted, it could have been a bad bottle, but I know that I won't be taking another chance on this particular Malbec. There's no use in discussing the 'full body, coffee taste, hint of blackberry,' yadda, yadda, yadda because I could not get past the tires! So. My personal vote would be an absolute no - I wouldn't even try to cook with it. 

Up next on my, what I hope might become a lucrative career ("Idiot Tastes Wines" has a good right to it), wine guide I will sample and describe to the best of my abilities 3 of my current favorite white wines. Hopefully this takes off and you guys enjoy it! If I can't seem to find time to cross stitch or quilt, I can usually find time for a glass of wine.

Until next time...

June 20, 2013

Bi-Monthly Post

Well, it seems one of my resolutions for the year is about half-way out the window. I cannot seem to get on a regular schedule for posts - we all have our failings. Perhaps there should be a Semi-annual Resolution just so we can refresh ourselves half way through the year.

First off, I am trying to be domestic once again now that DH is home. He very often leaves for work long before I'm willing/able to get out of bed so I pulled up some muffin recipes and picked this lemon raspberry muffin recipe that is supposed to be, at least, a little better for you. It does have a lot of raspberries in it... Anyhow, when I tasted one it was kind of really amazing. The recipe calls for buttermilk and I think that it is some magic ingredient great chefs are hoping to hide from us. I mean, it's so simple but makes a world of difference in so many things I've baked. Moving on...

I'm finally getting my sewing room in order. The big white table off to the left is actually an island for a kitchen but as our house isn't really set up for one it was lingering in the garage collecting all sorts of dust. It's actually a very nice piece but I decided it could be incredibly useful as a cutting table. I put the board from my old cutting table on top of the nicer wood so I'm not scoring all sorts of lines into it. Plus, it's also the perfect height so I'm not cutting for five minutes and then giving up because I have a sore back!

It's just so pretty AND useful.. who knew? 

Exciting news! I finally took the plunge and ordered an adjustable dress form so that I could start practicing with draping and fitting for my own dresses. Making dresses for my little one is SO EASY compared to constructing fitted clothing for women but I'm looking forward to this new challenge. For whatever reason, I keep wanting to call her Maud. In any event, the bra is there because I kept reading on the world wide web that the fit of the breast and under-breast areas was kind of tricky and a helpful way around this was to put one of your own bras on the dress form and work around that. So far, so good!

I've already found it incredibly helpful in placing and then fixing the pleats in any dresses. Also, it shows me that I really need to work on installing zippers! I can't imagine I'll be auditioning for Project Runway anytime soon but I hope I can pick up enough so I can make some of my own things that fit me well and are made out of fabric I like.

 Oh yeah, I'm also painting again. This time it's the guest room that's getting a makeover. Moving on...

I still have a problem with starting and finishing things. I'm still working on Frances Eden from Handwork Samplers...

But then I've gone and started Hannah Pepper from the old Fine Lines magazine... I started this thing almost a year ago and found that I had miscalculated the fabric requirements. It's quite amazing how something like that can completely throw you off your game!

I'm using NPI silks and the fabric I dyed just recently. For anyone interested in this pattern, I'd highly suggest stalking eBay or Etsy to see if it pops up. I do hate finding patterns I really like and then discovering they're out of print!  I'm also working on probably a million other projects at the moment, but I won't bore you with my itsy-bitsy progress!

So I meandered down to my local fabric store where (and I presume here) my friend Melanie runs an adorable little haven of fabrics. She had just been to market in Portland and pulled out some of the new goodies to show me. I, naturally, had to go home with this 'stack' from AdornIt called 'Nested Owls'. It comes in a couple of colorways... which of course I had to buy both.

I mean, look at these guys! They're so cute. I have no idea what/who this is going to be for but I really love just about any fabric that has owls on it. Despite the design being a bit 'young' it might just be my own special quilt all for me. When I get around to it. Ten years from now.

I think I really just added to a stash of fabric that is getting a little out of control. When summer winds down and the sun decides to hide from us again, I'm sure I'll be able to find more time to work in my sewing room... fingers crossed.

Until next time...

June 1, 2013

Dyeing Linen

Well, again it's been a while since I have posted anything but not for any lack of things going on here. Most importantly...

Someone very special arrived home safe and sound. In fact, several special someones arrived home - there were quite a few new dad's meeting their babies for the first time, which always brings huge tears to this sap's  eyes.

This past deployment was considered successful for the squadron and here on the home front all was relatively quiet and drama-free.

The excitement all around was infectious and I know the other families are eagerly awaiting their own spouses to rejoin them. My DH told me there are about 350 or so people that are a part of his squadron, so it's quite a feat to move all of them plus 3 or 4 planes half-way across the world in any sort of coordinated manner. I am guilty of venting (excessive) frustration at the "military operations" and though some of the procedures might be considered superfluous or ridiculous to outsiders, I'm very often learning there's a rhyme and reason to everything. That is not to say it makes any more sense, but it helps with the blood pressure level.

The latest project I have going on here is trying to dye my own linen. Do not get me wrong - I love Lakeside Linens, all of them, even ones I'll never use... they're all great - I just wanted to see what this dyeing of fabric was all about. I jumped on the idea of doing my own when I had some free time in a fabric store and stumbled upon some bolts of linen. I was out for something completely different but the thought struck me right away that I could buy just a little and do a wee experiment. So I picked up one of these bolts, asked the ladies for a ruler and a stick pin and counted out the weave count - an exact 36 count linen that was a perfect natural color.

So on to the next part of the idea to pick up some fabric dye - even though Rit is not always considered the best on the market, I was too impatient to wait for the dyes from Dharma Trading Co. to show up. Besides... this was just an experiment! Following the instructions - somewhat of a novelty for me - I was sure to add the detergent and fixative to the dye bath to insure I would get the best results.

I, again, followed the instructions for 3 lbs of fabric which is roughly 2 yards. I had a little over 1.5 yards so I just went ahead with that amount.

So here's the first dye bath using 'tan'...

 ... And I can't say there was much difference. I was happy with it, though, for a little while. I had also purchased some dark brown to perhaps tint the tan a bit darker. I don't have pictures of this fiasco as I was distracted by my project going awry but let's just say when I went to tint the tan bath a bit darker, my linen came out this brown-pink color that just was absolutely not going to work... at all.

I also, amazingly, planned ahead for disaster and purchased the Rit color remover. I decided to try and take the mistake out and ended up with a linen that was now buttercup yellow. Ugh. Here is started wishing I was using a much smaller piece of this linen... oh well.

Here is the fourth dye bath. This time I doubled the concentration of tan in the dye bath - and NO TINTING WITH BROWN. And voila! success at last!

I wasn't necessarily going for any particular color, just something different and a close approximation of some of the linens I've purchased in the past. So - I very much appreciate the hard work that goes into the great colors we all get from Lakeside Linens or any other specialty fabric-dyeing company. I don't think it'll ever be an exact science for me but I think for projects where I'm not prepared to spend a lot of money on premium-dyed fabrics this method will suffice. Despite my frustrations I found I quite enjoyed it, so I have some more plain linen that I'll probably tinker with here in the future. I'll be using higher-quality dyes and will definitely keep posting as I succeed or fail.

Until next time...

May 7, 2013

Amsterdam Sampler by K&V

I don't even know myself anymore - finishing up two samplers in two weeks! Here is what I think is being referred to here in the U.S. as the Amsterdam Sampler by K&V. At least this is what it was going by on Attic Needlework's site when I found it a while ago. I used a combination of Hand-dyed Fibers, Belle Soie and Glorianna silks on 40ct Meadow Rue by Lakeside Linens. I have the thread conversions written down so if anyone would like them, just let me know.

When I started this one I was really excited about it and then something happened where I just lost all interest and it began to be picked over in favor of other UFOs and newbies. I am sad to say I had to MAKE myself WORK on it just to complete it. Now that it's done, however, I am really happy with it and cannot figure out what put me in such a funk. For the first time (probably ever) I think I had to pick out stitches only once and my counting lined up just fine. Who knows why we are drawn to these things and then lose interest. It's definitely different than what I usually gravitate towards and perhaps that's why I drifted away from it - oh, well. It's finished!

I haven't been working on my sampler collection that much but neither of these past two samplers had much left on them to complete and I am excited to be going home with them to frame. Who knows - I brought along some other UFOs and I wonder if I'll be able to finish any of them. I'm really taking advantage of this break from school right now.

Framing might have to wait a bit as there are still some house things to purchase when I get home but as I have a wonderful framer in town I'm going to take advantage of her excellent skills while we're still stationed on Whidbey Island. In my time left on the East Coast I'll be working on either Frances Eden or Elizabeth Mears - I just need to get past all those Queen stitches.

I'm sure a lot of you are already tuned into Nicola's Scarlet Letter SAL - what are your favorite pieces being done? I'm finding myself inclined towards Elizabeth Sheffield and Manifesto, but I think Manifesto is one I will always appreciate vicariously. The stash grows...

Until next time!

April 29, 2013

Isabella Fox

Presenting Isabella Fox by GigiR Designs! I think she's my first finish for 2013 but I might be wrong about that. It should count for something that I'm almost finished with the Amsterdam Sampler by K&V. I really enjoyed working on this one and using the over-dyed threads from Gentle Arts. It's been a while since I've used something other than silks but I do think the Forest Glade and the Buckeye Scarlet are now my two favorite colors.

I decided to just go with only personalizing with the date stitched over one in the top corner. I was trying to find a good place to stick my initials in there, but I couldn't decide the best place for them so I just moved on. She was stitched using the recommended threads on 40ct Exemplar (I think) from Lakeside Linens.

I finally finished this last semester and am so relieved it's finally over. This one in particular seemed to be a real drag and there were always plenty of other things I wanted to do than read about different schools of modern philosophy of history - not a personal favorite by any means. But now I have a month off to relax and hopefully try to get some stitching done. I'm currently out visiting my families (in-laws and mine) on the East Coast so I won't be distracted by making clothes, quilts or working on house projects. I'm also heading to NYC with a fellow Navy wife for a nice vacation!

So I'm coming up on 100 blog posts and I'd like to do a give-away but I'm trying to think of something neat to put together. I'm thinking it might be a collection of little goodies from around Whidbey Island, WA and the Skagit Valley with, of course, some sewing and/or quilting toys thrown in. Could you all please let me know if a local gift sampler would be enjoyable? 

Until next time...