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Autumn is the mellow time.

24 Sep

We live in a walk-up apartment built in 1929 that is – with the exception of the stick-on (!) laminate tile in the kitchen, a new toilet in the bathroom, and several dozen coats of paint – what I believe is known in the home renovation business as “authentic.” Some aspects of our home’s authenticity are more charming than others, but we love it, quirks and all. (Well, except for the window unit AC and space heaters, but I won’t go there.)

One of my favorite parts about our place is the stairway itself. It was never finished, leaving the raw wood that would have otherwise been covered by plasterboard exposed. The cracks between the boards fascinate me to no end – I wonder how many people have dropped pieces of mail or other identifying papers down into the space over the past 82 years, hoping that someday they will be found and remembered.

Decorating in the stairwell has been pretty sparse, despite its great potential. I’ve had fantasies of adorning the walls with old thrift shop paintings that have a vaguely unifying theme, or maybe installing some quirky faux taxidermy; but Mr. Right is more of a minimalist than I am, so we’ve stuck with a few framed pictures, a plant or two, and the occasional gourd or garland during the holidays. But, yesterday I got a little bit crazy, and made this:

I won’t condescend to you with a step-by-step tutorial, since the process was super simple. I used The Google to find a nice few words about Fall, typed them up using Courier in a landscape-oriented Pages document, and printed them on an old paper grocery bag that I trimmed to 8.5 x 11” sheets to fit in the printer. I thread a salvaged ribbon through slits cut on either side of each word and, voila! Near-instant seasonally-themed banner.

Do you have a favorite feature or quirk of your house? Something you’d rather do without? Do you have decorating plans that have never come to fruition? What would you do with a paper grocery bag?

Spring Break

24 Mar

Mr. Right took vacation during my school’s spring break, and while we had originally planned to go to Dallas to see a Gustav Stickley exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, an unexpected heating oil bill for Home Up North had us reconsidering and ultimately canceling our plans. We didn’t do anything remarkable – perhaps ate out a bit more than we should have and slept in later than usual – but still had a fantastic time together. In between our leisurely activities, household maintenance, and my catching up with calculus, I even had time for some knitting, and finished a jumpsuit for Viv:

Sadly, while cleaning on Tuesday we discovered that moths had gotten to a sweater I knit for Mr. Right several years ago. It was in storage under the bed and was devoured within a matter of weeks. I’ll freely admit to crying – it took me months to knit and it was a special gift that I was really proud of making for my husband. After some tears, though, we got down to business and with any luck have destroyed the last of the moths. And, in a fit of feeling it quite necessary to show the now-defeated moths that they can’t get me down, I decided to knit Mr. Right another sweater, and set out experimenting with several different yarns. While I still haven’t found the perfect new yarn, I’ve been stopping after each new swatch to make use of the remainder of the skein, and have been knitting up a batch 2011 Christmas gift hats in the process. I have another yet one on the needles, and am also working on a crocheted yoga mat bag… The moths may be gone, but the yarn/craft bug has definitely bitten.

Hats, Swatches, and Cats

 

Jungle Safari Diaper Cake and Sleep Sack

13 Mar

Our friend Kay and her husband (who works with Mr. Right) got a positive pregnancy test about six weeks after we found out that Vivian would be joining our family. They aren’t finding out the gender of Vivian’s future playmate, instead opting to go with a gender-neutral jungle safari theme for the new baby’s nursery. Of course, this gave me an excuse to go to JoAnn Fabric and find some appropriate material for a sleep sack:

I’m co-hosting Kay’s baby shower with another girlfriend, who is due a few weeks after Kay (and whose husband also works with Mr. Right). We’re sticking with the jungle safari theme for Kay’s shower, too. On Friday I had the good fortune of having no obligations other than a morning appointment with my OB, and gathered the supplies to make an appropriately-decorated diaper cake. Whew, diapers are expensive! We’re planning on using cloth diapers with Vivian and had already done plenty of research about cost savings, but I still had sticker shock looking at the shelves of disposables. Fortunately, the store’s generic brand happened to perfectly match Kay’s shower motif.

Fun, isn’t it? I’m looking forward to putting the rest of the shower together. And to more sewing for babies – I’m considering making some matching bunting to welcome Kay’s shower guests and will definitely sew a couple of bibs out of the leftover sleep sack fabric! Meanwhile, I have yet another scrappy sleep sack for Viv waiting to be sewn up, and need to start thinking about sewing for A’s baby, too. And then there’s that whole school thing… So much to do! Seven weeks until finals and seven weeks until Vivian’s due date. Yikes!

Vintage Vivian: Bib Sewing Tutorial

5 Feb

Simplicity 3043

On Thursday afternoon I decided to pull out a few of my most recent vintage pattern acquisitions and see what I could make of them. Of the three envelopes I chose, the first was strictly toddler patterns (making the size-season guesstimation a little bit risky), and the second contained lots of fancy things involving pin tucks (I have neither the material collection nor the patience to mess with tiny garments that appear to be part of intricate baptismal sets), but the third envelope, Simplicity 3043 from 1949, appeared to be just about right in terms of complication and cuteness. Sort of. Upon closer inspection, the simple patterns for baby shirts and swaddling bags seemed almost too simple, and in definite need of fancier fabrics than what I had on hand. So, I decided to sew a bib. I’m not sure what about it is especially vintage, other than the fact that it’s cut from an old pattern, because different decades don’t exactly have distinct bib shapes. Oh, well. It’s cute even if it doesn’t scream retro awesome and I’m sure it will come in handy.

If you want to make one too, you’ll need at least 10″ each of two varieties of fabric, and around 1/2 a pack of double fold bias tape that’s either 1/4″ or 1/2″ wide*. Here is the pattern – just print it out; it’s full-sized and doesn’t require any adjusting, although the very top and bottom edges are cut off (but not enough to make any difference).

Short version of directions: Sew a length of bias tape all the way around the outer edge of the bib, then repeat for the inner (neck) section, using long piece of tape so that you have a couple of ties. Or, just sew the tape all the way around the bib and use a snap for closure. (I haven’t tried the snap version, but I have full confidence in the ability of snaps – especially the no-sew variety – to triumph in just about any issue involving closing stuff.)

More in-depth directions:

Step 1: Cut two pieces of fabric (a front and a back) on fold. I used leftover flannel for the back and an old Amy Butler cotton for the front. I’ve also used old towels for bib backing with nice results.

Step 1: Cut fabric

Step 1.5 (optional): Baste with 1/4″ seam allowance around entire bib edge. I skipped this step because my fabrics weren’t sliding around on each other and because I’m lazy all about expediency.

Step 2: Pin bias tape around outer edge of bib and sew on fold closest to bib edge.

Pin bias tape around outer edge of bib

Step 3: Fold newly-sewn bias tape over raw edges and stitch in place. I like to sew from the front side, just inside the bias tape. You can also “stitch in the ditch” if you want your sewing to be less obvious.

Stitch over bias tape to secure folded tape

Step 4: Your next length of bias tape should be somewhat longer than the remaining raw edge of the fabric as you’ll need it to serve as a tie, too. Find the center of your length of bias tape and begin pinning in the center of the neck of the bib. Sew only the part of the bias tape that is pinned to the fabric. If you’re having trouble positioning the tape at the corners, check out this awesome tutorial from Smashed Peas and Carrots.

Pin bias tape around neck hole with excess for ties

Step 5: Cut notches around the curve, flip your bias tape over the raw edge, pin, and – beginning at the very end of your bias tape, sew again.

Finished bib! Hooray, bib!

Voila – you should have a cute little bib! *If you’ve used 1/2″ bias tape, it may be a little bit sticky-outy around the neck. If this bothers you, use the 1/4″ version for a more subtle effect:

Bib with 1/4" bias tape

Original Inspiration For My Sleep Sack Sewing Binge

28 Jan

Friday is for finishing, and indeed, I finished another sleep sack for Vivian.

Lining and Label

The pink and green paisley patterned flannel is actually what got me started on the idea to sew sleep sacks in the first place – I found it at Joann Fabrics a while ago and was so smitten with the delicate yet bold design that I had to make something with it, and the only something I could think of that called for any sort of flannel was Anna Maria Horner’s sleep sack design.

An early Valentine's Day present...

Now that I’ve used the pattern a few times, the sewing goes along pretty quickly. In an effort to be even speedier I used my machine to sew the bias tape down – and, while it’s not terrible, I think the stitching looks too obvious. Next time I’ll stick to hand-sewing it for a nice, professional look. While this is the last sleep sack I’m planning on making for Vivian, I have two friends who are expecting, so I’m looking forward to making more of them in the future.

Sweet flower detail

Notice the tomato plant in the middle photo? It’s been growing in our breakfast nook for well over a year now – and, it’s finally starting to flower, too!

Big Plans For Little Baby: Refinishing a High Chair

27 Jan

Early Tuesday morning I discovered a darling wooden high chair on Craigslist. By Tuesday afternoon it was all mine:

It was difficult to stay focused on school work all Wednesday as I dreamed of what I could do with it. So many possibilities!

I had a few more, er, vivid fabric prints in mind, but Mr. Right gets veto power, and his design taste tends toward the more sensible. With a little bit of laminated Amy Butler fabric (“Passion Lily Fern” from “Soul Blossoms” collection via Fabric.com), a borrowed sander, and a can or two of high gloss spray paint, I’m hoping to turn my retro cool high chair into something fun, funky, and modern.

I have yet to finish stitching the border on Vivian’s quilt. Oh, and there’s another sleep sack on the way. And the Clara dress. At the rate I’m going with planned projects, it’ll be a miracle if I finish everything before she arrives.

Sleep Sack Success!

17 Jan

I finished up the first of the sleep sacks on Tuesday afternoon. Sewing up the final seam caused considerably more effort and frustration than it should have, as I was stubborn in my desire to use my serger. For the record, my serger (and possibly yours, too) does not like multiple layers of fabric: Two bent needles and an inch shorter than specified in pattern later, I gave up, went back to my Elna, and was done within a matter of minutes. And, I’m pretty pleased with the results. The pattern is insanely easy once you get the hang of it – I think that if you machine sew the entire thing, cutting out the pieces may actually take longer than the sewing itself. (Then again, cutting fabric is easily my least favorite part of sewing and takes me ages.)

I have one more sleep sack planned for Vivian, and will probably make a few more for friends who are due right after I am. I also need to get back to the quilting. I’ve had a difficult time deciding on a border pattern that I like, and this little dilemma has made it easy for set the quilt aside in favor of the sleep sacks, which offer near-instant gratification. I have classes again beginning tomorrow and probably won’t get a chance to work on anything else until Friday, which is good – plenty of time for day-dreaming and planning in between lectures. Plenty of time for calculus, too. Sigh.