Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sewing: Rick Rack Dishtowels for Christmas

One of the things I love about sewing is that it gives you the skills to transform something ordinary and utilitarian into a thoughtful creative expression. Even better if it is a gift! Perhaps dishtowels or dishcloths seem like the most mundane of gifts, but really they are the opportunity to add a thoughtful touch or even a bit of luxury to the every day. And, if they aren't perfectly to the taste of the recipient at least they can help with the work!

So I've take the rick rack approach to kitchen towels and made a Christmas flavor. I love the chartreuse variation on the traditional red and green.

If you don't want to gift a holiday-specific set you can always pick from the wide variety of rick rack to assemble something in your friend's favorite colors, or mimic the latest fashion palette. I think a handmade touch like this, especially it's custom made for one person, is appreciated for both the thought and the gift!

If you are interested in the tutorial it can be found right here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crochet: Sparkle Snowflake Applique (Tutorial)

Oh, it's hard to imagine that in one weekend we clean up the Thanksgiving feast, pull down the Fall decorations and get ready for Christmas! I didn't really. What Fall stuff we have (not a lot) is still up. But I do have the December holidays on the brain. I'm excited! We gathered with my family last night and sat around my sister's Christmas tree. It was the first Advent Sunday and we'll get together each Sunday until Christmas for singing and eating sweets.

So it seemed like the right thing to whip up some snowflake t-shirts for the girls! I had figured out this snowflake pattern to make gift toppers and then thought they were begging to be on some apparel. The bits of tinsel in this yarn make it especially seasonal and perfect for young girls! Mine love a bit of sparkle!

They were very excited about these shirts, which is always a big payoff for me. I made Scarlett's last night and showed Audrey and she wanted to wear hers today! Luckily this little project is fast enough you could pull it together in the time in takes to eat breakfast, if you happen to have a t-shirt on hand as I did.

So we have a white snowflake for Audrey and a hot pink one for Scarlett, to match her hot pink skirt.

Scarlett's shirt was a size or so too big for her so I shortened the sleeves and the bodice by adding a bit of shirring with some elastic sewn to the wrong sides. I don't have a how-to for it but I'm sure they can be found--I just pulled the elastic while zigzagging to gather the fabric. It's a cute solution. Suits her too to have the extra little flourish.

The shirts did the trick: the girls are singing Christmas carols. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" includes actions:

If you are interested in the pattern and the tutorial for this snowflake click to read more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Winner: The Cottage Mama Pattern Giveaway

Wondering about The Cottage Mama pattern giveaway? Well, we have a couple winners:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

FYI: Why I Love Thanksgiving

Next to Christmas, which I love for many reasons, most significantly the birth it celebrates, I love Thanksgiving. What could be better than gathering loved ones around your table for a meal and a prayer? I love the fact that the whole country pauses for one day, stops work of the productive and not-so-productive kind, and thinks about all we have to be grateful for. There is always something to appreciate...just look at nature around you.

I love what Abraham Lincoln said when he proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving during a difficult time in our nation's history:
"It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens." October 3, 1863

Our table today is certainly full. I am so thankful for my family, immediate and extended, for our health, and that our basic needs are being met, love being the most basic of all. I know we are fortunate, so fortunate in fact that we have the ability to create a little beauty in our lives above those basic needs.

It's fitting that Thanksgiving ushers in the Christmas holiday. We have a chance to act on our gratitude by doing what we can to help those who might not have as much. There are so many opportunities great and small to make a difference.

Happy Thanksgiving! My "FYI" posts share news or a perspective about something that's been on my mind. You can read them all here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cooking: Fresh Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving


Oh how I love Thanksgiving! I love everything about it this sincerest of holidays. Including the food! I am thankful to have spent many Thanksgivings with my in-laws, which are steeped in some well-loved traditions such as gathering as an extended family, eating the Thanksgiving feast early afternoon on a long covered patio (it's warm enough where they are), and preparing mostly the same menu. My favorite thing on this menu is my mothers-in-law's fresh cranberry relish, which she refers to simply as "The Cranberries." It's now Audrey's favorite thing too. So fun!

I learned to make it a few years ago and this year it is my assignment so I decided to document the process and share it with you!

One note: this fresh cranberry sauce needs to sit at least 24 hours to macerate--blending the flavors and absorbing the sugar (so if you were to make it right now you'd have just enough time!). 48 is better and you could certainly make it three or four days ahead. It's great for leftovers too, perfect for spreading on turkey sandwiches, and a thoughtful send off for your guests. Would be beautiful in little mason jars to take home.

Click through to read the recipe and see the how-to.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sewing: Once Upon a Thread

I am so flattered to be participating in the Once Upon a Thread series at No Big Dill today. I have really enjoyed seeing what Katy's invited collection of creative women have produced based on their favorite children's books. 

Come over and see what classic stories I selected, and what I sewed after admiring the illustrations again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Design: Thankful Notes

I have been meaning to send out thank you notes (these are part of my Woodland Picnic printables) to the family who came to Scarlett's birthday party and my intentions have just been intentions for long enough that it is now the week of Thanksgiving. And then I thought, why not send thankful notes instead, and rather than simply thanking them for celebrating and gift-giving, thank them for being in our family?

My mother once sent out cards at Thanksgiving instead of Christmas and included a beautiful letter about gratitude. This gesture isn't quite as large, but I'm sending a simple note this week to thank my family for surrounding us with their love and support every day of the year. We are especially thankful for that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Party: Scarlett's Woodland Picnic Birthday (Printables)

When I was thinking about Scarlett's birthday party this year I felt strongly about one thing: I wanted to have all the food prepped and ready about fifteen minutes before my guests arrived so I could wipe the sweat from my brow, take a deep breath, and just enjoy the party!

As much as I loved playing hostess it seems that often the event wraps up and I feel like I spent more time with food and clearing than with my guests. I think it's always the predicament of the hosts. It's an art to be sure to throw a great party with tasty food and interesting details and have some great, full-length conversations with your guests too. I can think of some fun ways (I've read, and seen, and tried) to do this and most of them involve not cooking everything yourself. I'm learning...

So Scarlett's party this year was designed to be casual: I invited our family to a Woodland Picnic. A pack-your-own picnic to be specific. And it worked perfectly! It was such a fun way to throw a party!

I was, in fact, able to have everything prepackaged and ready to go a few minutes before start time (which also gave me time to take pictures of Audrey and Scarlett in the wrap skirt and apron wrap dress I'd made for the occasion) and the guests had the fun of picking, choosing and packing from a spread of picnic foods.

The only thing that wasn't as perfect as the idea was the weather. That's how it goes in the Fall. It was warm enough to pack a picnic outdoors but not warm enough to sit and eat it there! So even though I'd gathered wood stumps for stools and made an over sized picnic blanket (imagine how fun that would have been!), this picnic was eaten indoors! Oh well. We all still had a great time.

Click to read all the details about the food, favors, printables and a surprise visitor!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crochet: Shimmer Snowflake Gift Topper Tutorial at TipJunkie

I love gift toppers that are something other than the ubiquitous paper bow! How about a crochet snowflake to top gifts this season? Check out my tutorial at TipJunkie today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sewing: Polka Dot Felt Garland (Tutorial)

While planning the "Oh baby! Oh boy!" baby shower for my sister-in-law I wanted to honor her aesthetic, which is modern, a bit restrained, and yet a little earthy with plenty of organic. So I wanted to lean more towards fibers than papers. I was thinking about making large felt mobiles (similar to these from Martha Stewart) to hang over the tables, which would be fun to do sometime, but I didn't want to suggest I was trying to decorate the nursery!

I'm not sure how I landed on the idea but I decided on a stitched polka dot motif for the invitation, and the swaddling blanket gift, and wanted to pull that through the party decor too. I have made these stitched fabric garlands, perhaps one could call them "buntings" too, in the past for the July holidays (see my star garland here), and there are many great examples online, including this recent one Dana MADE. I decided on felt for this one. So tactile and simple, and so many great colors available these days! I bought some from this Etsy shop and some from Joann.

I've got a little how-to here if you'd like. So simple and so many possibilities: you can hang them vertically from the ceiling, drape them over furniture, use them as table runners. I think they'd be cute arcing over a crib in a nursery too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sewing: Shortcake Romper from The Cottage Mama (Pattern Giveaway)

Tess has a new, cozy romper. I love easy one-piece outfits like this. There aren't as many gaps to let in a chill and it's easier than hunting for a matching set!

I made it with Amy Butler's Soul Blossom corduroy in Dancing Paisley Lemon. Such a vibrant, pretty print! And soft. On the reverse is a plum stretch corduroy from Joann. I'm not recommending pairing a stretch with a cotton because things can get a little wonky, but it worked this time, and I had the plum fabric on hand--always nice to save a trip to the fabric store! More importantly, the fabrics are soft and extra warm for Tess. Though extra warm probably isn't a need for her right now because she is always on the go!

This darling romper pattern is the new Shortcake Reversible Romper & Dress from The Cottage Mama! Lindsay has done such a beautiful job with the release of her first two sewing patterns.  I love the Janey Jumper as well--those scallops! The patterns are clear and easy to follow and the designs are classically cute. I also love the illustrations on the patterns themselves and her treatise to the handmade lifestyle found inside. The patterns even include a recipe--such a nice touch. I think she is right, women who love handmade clothing and home decor likely enjoy cooking and baking as well. I would think they would also love a pattern giveaway, which is just what we have going on here today. Lindsay is giving away two Shortcake patterns to my readers! (See details below)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sewing: How to Make Bias Tube Tape Binding (Tutorial)

Oh, that title sounds like a tongue-twister! And it looks like a tongue-twister! I showed my good friend, Sue, this binding project while I was in the middle of it and it made her head hurt. But, if you take some time and look through these steps, and try it, I promise it works! And it's kind of fun. I don't know if it's easier or faster than the "regular" method--the cut, cut, cut, and sew, sew, sew method--but it is certainly more interesting. And if something seems less rote to me I enjoy it more. Or so I've learned.

A very kind woman at a locally owned fabric shop showed me this and I am so grateful! She had a reference sheet,  "Bias Tube Construction"  from Lamb Art Press, Inc of Parsons, Tennessee. I can't find them online but I did find something just like her xeroxed sheet on eBay! And another identical reference here. So here we go. If you'd like to learn to make bias tape binding the tubular way (it is totally tubular and there is some geometry thrown in--the last math subject I remember loving!) then keep reading. This method has you start with a square, cut and sew two longer seams and then cut in a spiral and voila! You've got yards of bias tape!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sewing: Chevron Chenille Baby Blanket (Tutorial)

I am a bit ecstatic about this blanket! I have been thinking about making it for a few months, wondering if it would work, and it worked! It worked!

This is what I'm calling my Chevron Chenille Blanket. It's created using the technique I used for Tess's Heirloom Cut Chenille Blanket, but with the very fun variation of the stitching following the chevron pattern in the fabric. I think it's a beautiful quilted look. In fact it looks pieced until you look more closely. But more importantly, the zig zag stitching results in:

Ta-da! Chevron-patterned chenille on the reverse side!

Isn't it cute?! Don't you want to roll around in it? I think it is so much fun!

I was crossing my fingers the blanket would fray this way. One has to make this cut chenille by stitching and cutting on the bias so it frays nicely instead of creating a stringy mess. Since the ups and downs of these chevrons are on the bias I gambled that it would work. In typical fashion I wasn't wise enough to try a test swatch so when I pulled it out of the dryer I thought "hooray!"

This chevron fabric is Premier Prints "ZigZag" in Girly Blue. I found it at It's a 100% cotton home dec fabric categorized as a lightweight twill, which makes it a bit heavier than quilting cotton, but it's still pretty soft. The chevrons are about 3/4" wide, so the stitching is also, and therefore the chenille is a little "floppier" than on the original cut chenille blanket; an equally good, though different effect. A bit more modern looking I think.

Premier Prints has a bunch of really cute variations of this fabric: mustard and white, natural and slate many fun possibilities. Some are a bit heavier than this fabric I used--medium/heavyweight canvas--which would still work, but be slightly less soft. I think of these blankets more as lap blankets or stroller blankets or coverlets or playmats, than swaddling blankets, anyway. And they don't look bad hanging over the side of the crib as eye candy either! (Look carefully because some are outdoor fabrics, which I wouldn't recommend.)

This blanket is all wrapped up and ready to go to my sister-in-law, along with the polka-dot-embellished swaddling blanket I just made.

If you'd like to make one click below to read the tutorial.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sewing: Swaddling Blanket with Polka Dot Garland

When I was expecting Audrey, my mother's-in-law (and now my!) good friend, Sallee, gifted me a pile of plain cotton flannel swaddling blankets, which she had embroidered with a few little flowers. Such a simple gift, and I loved her handmade touch, but I had no idea how much I would use them. I think I used one every day until I was finished swaddling Audrey and then used them for her little sisters. (Thank you, Sallee!)

So as I was putting together a gift for my sister-in-law I thought about including this great basic, with a handmade flourish inspired by Sallee's. I picked a polka dot garland--some felt polka dots in various shades of blue and grey stitched down in an asymmetrical curve.

To make, I bought enough flannel to form a square (44"), and finished it with a turned hem. I like to zigzag the edge because it makes it easier to turn, and then turn it under twice and stitch down with mitered corners.  You could also of course buy a plain flannel blanket--the appliques are such a cute and simple way to make it unique.

To make the polka dots I cut felt circles that vary in size from that of a quarter to a dime. Then I played with their arrangement in one corner of the blanket until I liked them way they looked, and stitched down.

I love the way this turned out. It was such a quick way to personalize the staple flannel swaddling blanket. And hopefully it's a gift my sister-in-law will find useful. I would have liked to make a whole stack of them, but I ran out of time after working on another blanket, which was a bit more complicated. I'll be sharing the tutorial for it next. (There's a little hint in the photo above.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Room Design: Bleached Tablescape (Kirtsy Slideshow)

I have always loved the monochrome. Pick your hue and layer it with different depths of saturation and that's my kind of ensemble or room or tablescape! I think it's both modern and timeless, and I think it's a great approach to holiday entertaining.

This year I'm bleaching it. I'm going with white-on-white. I love the way it forces you to look at ordinary, natural objects, such as a pinecone, differently.

Somehow it accentuates the subtleties of texture and shape. The white isn't totally opaque so the warm wood tones come through, which I find captivating. This bleached tablescape could lend itself to a frosted wintertime look, especially if you mixed it with mercury glass and silver, or it could be warmer, say with touches of gold on plates or serving platters. And this restrained palette allows the food--which is really the focus of holiday entertaining--to be standout.

This Bleached Tablescape and a photo DIY is part of a Kirtsy slideshow, called 10 Perfectly Pretty Party Projects (now that's my kind of alliteration!). It's curated by Sarah Bryden-Brown of BlogStar, and features 10 lifestyle bloggers, many of whom I know are familiar to you. Check out all the great ideas for styling a party during the holidays and beyond.

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