Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Snack sacks... revisited

We're enjoying using the cotton draw string snack sacks that I made. I really need to make up a few more because we've gotten use to using them really regularly. I also made up a few very practical ( ie. too boring to take pictures of ) flour sack bags for veges and fruit purchases. They're super light and add nothing much to the scales.

These monkey bags are made with some laminated cotton that I recently purchased. The laminate is on the outside, and only cotton is on the inside. My hope is to use these in combination with the cotton sacks. Yesterday they were great for cut up carrots, and would probably keep said carrot sticks a few days fresher in the fridge. I noticed, too, that the outside of them didn't absorb the dampness from the cooler. That was a nice little bonus. My kids loved the velcro... a two year old's idea of good stuff. Now I need to put them to the wash test and see what happens.

I've handed out a few to friends so they can use them and tell me what they think. Do let me know what you think, as well. I'd like to put some in the shop in the next few weeks...

Monday, June 29, 2009

This weekend was filled with fishing, but not so many fish.

I'm not going to lie to you... asking a two year old to remain compliant throughout several hours of fishing in a boat is a recipe for frustration. The four of us had our moments, many of them, though were really fun. The good outweighs the bad, I'd say. We managed to fit in 3 fishing trips this weekend. It was daddy's birthday weekend, and the kids gleefully agreed to his request for a family fishing weekend for his birthday. I honestly thought he would want a whole weekend to himself, but maybe that's just where I'm at right now.

Of course, I had to get a picture of the "new" hat; she was thrilled by it. The honey bee is copied from a stencil I accidentally found at Walmart which is a place I go on average of about once a year. (As an aside, I personally abhor the place, but not just because it's politically un-pretty . I'm convinced that at any given time, it has the largest percentage of predatory humans in one public place. I swear, it really has psychotic energy about it. Every time I've ever gone, I walk out feeling exhausted and sad.) Anywho... I stitched this sweet bee during one of the fishing episodes this weekend. My secret is that I don't ever fish. I just hang onto the two year old, read, stitch, daydream, or knit. It works for us.

This was a spectacular siting for us. We sat and watched them for a long time. There are three... see them? One of my favorite parts about cruising around in a boat are the glimpses of wildlife that we might not see from a dock. This was a tree that had fallen into the water many years ago. I was awash with memories of growing up on the Tennessee river, and the things we would see when we cruised along with my dad. Some things are worth repeating.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where did the week go?

Wow! It's Wednesday! How did that happen? I'm still recovering from having family here and the wedding. It was fantastic, and really nice to visit with my sister whom I rarely get to see. I'm enjoying getting back in the swing of things with the kids, and not accomplishing much in the last few days. Sometimes I'm content to let my mind unravel, and only focus on the bare necessities. Around here that has meant not very complex meals and of course, swimming. The weeds in the garden are on a joy ride... they're loving being ignored.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Something for my little guy

I can be a crazed woman at times. I go through get spurts of productivity, generally followed by periods of quiet exhaustion/reflection. I try to keep it all in balance... I have my good days and my bad. My sister's wedding is this weekend so to make myself extra frantic to get it all done I SEWED A SHIRT FOR THE WEDDING! What was I thinking?! Last night I was happy to get it done, but chiding myself that surely I could have found something for him to wear among all his hand me downs. (I should explain that I can't fit extra hours into a day by staying up late. I need my sleep or everyone suffers.) This shirt should have gone pretty quickly, but I kept making mistakes. The fabric is Robert Kauffman. The pattern is from Heather Ross's "Weekend Sewing." I was pleased with it, but the sizing runs REALLY large.... or maybe my sweet boy is really small. Hard to say, but the size 3 in this shirt fit my 6 year old, so I had to cut it down. Now... for a crazed morning of cleaning this house which has suffered through the past several weeks of sewing. Hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Free Motion Quilting

Several folks have asked if I have any tips, and I have just about ten minutes this morning. (That's my disclaimer before I give you a quick list.) I'm no expert and I make mistakes all the time. There are plenty of great tutorials already on blogs and definitely worth checking out. I find that kind of generosity amazing because it must take quite a bit of time to write a good tutorial. This blog gives a really nice overview for any beginner.

Here's my advice, for what it's worth:

  • Practice, practice, practice. No one is a "natural" and like anything you will just get better the more time you put into it.
  • Relax. I like to listen to some upbeat music. Don't hold your shoulders tight... breath.
  • Think a little in advance of where you're headed as you quilt.
  • Work on your rhythm. You will actually keep the needle moving pretty fast, and you will move the fabric under it at a rate that keeps the stitches even.
  • Sometimes I use "sticky gloves" from the quilt shop. On a humid day my hands can be really sweaty and it's hard to "grip" the fabric.
  • I like to work left to right if I can... I can see where I'm going.
  • Often, I start at the center if it's a quilt, and work outward (if I can.) That means you end up working sections. Sometimes I work in quadrants, sometimes I go around and round, spiraling out. I have also worked from the left edge to the right edge. It kind of depends on the size of the quilt/work, for me. Just be careful that you are not bunching your underside. There is no hard and fast rule. Try different starting points to see what works best for you.
  • I roll the quilt up tight (like a mat) at the edges if it interferes with the underarm of the machine. Then, if I'm working left to right, it unrolls as I go. I actually hold onto this roll as I work, sometimes to keep the quilt taunt.
  • Periodically check the underside of your work to make sure that the backing fabric is not bunching on you. Things can look good up top, while you're "bunching" underneath.
  • If it's a bigger work (like a quilt), it actually takes a bit of muscle to move the fabric around. You're forearms will be working hard to keep the "sandwich" taunt as you work. Take little breaks if you need it.
  • Have fun, and don't stress it too much. Mistakes are made by quilters all the time. If you're even bothering to read this, then this work is most likely for someone you love or yourself. It will be cherished and no one will ever notice the imperfections. It's not a contest... it's about the process, the beauty, and the act of giving or having something that you created entirely on your own.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bags, bags, bags

I made three more to fill an order, and forgot to get pictures of all of them before they went out the door.

I did get a picture of some of the detail work . I really love doing the free motion quilting on these bags...

More next week, and I think they'll make it to the etsy shop.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quilt Top's Finished

This one looks like it's growing up out of the garden to me. It was refreshingly simple and fun. I joined the quilt along at Old Red Barn. Go check out everyone's beautiful creations in the flicker group! I love the way one pattern lends itself to so many creative expressions. Mine is actually cut down to 2 inch strips and a 45 x 60 inch total, so it will look really different from some.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Works in progress

I've finally got my square's done for Dana's quilt along. I'm enjoying the bright colors... it feels like summer around here. Mornings start really early in our home so by 8:30 there's usually plenty of little works happening. I took a few quick pictures (mostly to share with my sister who checks in every morning.)

Yesterday morning was rocky, but today it's really peaceful. I don't know why... maybe we're all just getting in the groove. Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason, I've decided. My little guy really enjoys dimensional art, and we've got a cupboard full of things that he likes to work with... toilet paper rolls, Styrofoam, tissue paper, cardboard, toothpicks... the list goes on. My friend recently shared a tip that her little boy treasures his office size tape dispenser above all. It's on my list as a birthday gift for my sweet guy.

My six year old got some scrap booking supplies from a friend for her birthday. This morning it was a huge hit. She worked on putting the pictures of her friends from school on some of the pages with all of her amazing little touches.
Lastly, these are some bags that I'm making to fill an order. Now... I've shown you the pretty pictures, but you should know that whenever I'm putting energy into one thing several other things are not getting done. There's plenty of cleaning to do, laundry, all the usual hum drum. But I know you'd rather look at pretty fabric than my dusty corners. So... whatever your works in progress today, whether the hum drum of work or the passion of creative endeavor, I hope that you find some peace and joy in the process.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

snack sacks

I've been thinking about ways to recycle, renew, reuse, reduce. Earth Day is what spurred this for me. So you can see, it took me a few months to follow through on some of what I've been sorting out in my brain. There are some things we do fairly well around here.... recycling, composting, reusable bags at the stores, and just generally trying to cut down on consumer waste. One of our downfalls though, is certainly the number of plastic baggies we use for snacks and lunches. This is one of the snack bags I came up with to avoid plastic. I used fabric samples that were passed on to me from a friend's company. They work great... grapes, crackers, popcorn, apple slices... you name it! It doesn't really matter if they get gooped up. I made up about twenty of them so I can keep sending them through the laundry for reuse. I've ordered some laminated cotton for sandwich wraps and more snack sacks. The ideas I have for these are admittedly ripped off and duplicated. My friend had several for her kids. Some smart, crafty individual had made them. I'm ashamed to say that when I saw them, I traced patterns of them. Ummm... and took pictures. I do good research... what can I say? When I get the fabric, I'll whip some up to share with you. You can rip off and duplicate, too! We can all cut back on the waste together while cutting back on our monthly dollars towards plastic baggies. The best part of all is that my kids think it's big fun to get their snacks in a colorful bag, rather than the boring old plastic. Smart kids.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Needed a change of pace

I got a little burnt out on sewing cards for teachers so the last few sets I printed up with the stamps that I carved previously. Remember these?

Yesterday, we harvested a bunch of sugar snap peas despite that pesky varmint that's been killing the vines. They were so amazing... refreshing, crisp, and sweet. I found myself remembering this time last year when they were all tough and tasteless from drought. It's been a very wet spring in these parts and I hope that we continue to get afternoon showers.

We lost our first bee hive yesterday. I came home with my little guy, and they were gone. It was the "bee tree" hive, and we had tried to relocate them to a box this past weekend. There were a number of factors involved, and as a result, a number of lessons to be learned. My husband is so bummed, and totally blames himself. It's so interesting to me how attached we've gotten to these bees. He and I both feel like we're the caretakers and we don't want to fail them. My guess is that he feels that responsibility even more deeply than I do because he spends so much time taking care of them. Ah... life. It's good when the more difficult things to deal with are lost bees... I think.
P.S. I came home this morning to find a yearling black bear in our trash. The worst part was that it wasn't very bothered by a mini van honking at it. I think this one is used to being around people. Bummer for me because now I will have to be especially hyper vigilant when the kids are out in the yard this summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

3 tier skirt... my way

One for my daughter and one for my niece. I made this pattern up, and was pretty pleased with it. It's 3 rectangles, that's it. If any one's interested, I can send you the dimensions I used. It's probably a girl's 6 to 8, or 120 if you use European sizing. I did a rolled edge hem with the serger and will definitely do more of those. I also used the serger to gather, and won't go back. Easy peasy. My magic book told me how to do it. When I inherited my mom's serger, I had no idea how to use it or how to sew garments. I purchased the magic book, "Sewing With Sergers: the Complete Handbook for Overlock Sewing" by Gail Brown and Pati Palmer. It specifically addresses using sergers to sew all kinds of garmets. This little book was less than $10, has the most boring title, and is the most used sewing reference book I have ever bought. Should you find a serger by the side of the road, definitely spend money on the book. It's worth every cent.

Friday, June 5, 2009

End of the school year

I've been feeling a little grouchy because I somehow said "yes" to volunteering for a school project which has turned into a whole lot of work. I have such a hard time saying "no." I need to keep working at that. The thing is, I can see how much of a difference I make when I say "yes." So often these days I notice that other parents aren't stepping up to the plate. I'm not judging, just noticing. Our time makes such a BIG difference to schools, teachers, and students. There is simply no way to quantify the effect that parent involvement has on the entire picture. So... anyhow... I'm hanging onto that as I toil away at this project when I would rather be spending any precious free time in any other way... even laundry. (Now, if you know me at all, that's pretty bad.)

I've also cranked out a bunch of teachers' gifts. I forgot to take pictures of the bags before I gave them away, but here are some of the cards. I bundled them in sets of five (the magic number for some reason.) I dug into the scrap bag, and it was really just loads of fun to make these. I want to do some more.

Remember some of these Amy Butler prints from the early days. I challenge you to find them for sale anywhere now. (And then email me immediately afterward.)

So, in looking forward to summer, I'm trying to get in the right mind set. I start out enthusiastically embracing time with my sweet ones. Somehow, though, I always lose my groove. It's the "law of diminishing returns," I guess. As time passes, I am less and less able to be my very best with my kids, and vice versa. We'll see. I have a few tweaks to my plan this year. One of them includes being a little more gentle with myself. I'm always too critical of myself as a mama. Another part of my plan is to reward as many positive behaviors as I can. Build on all the best, I say. Cause in a little less than a week, my friends, "Camp Heather" begins for the summer. I really want to make the best of it because deep down I believe this time is precious.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What's growin' and goin' in our garden

These are the peas that she and I planted on her birthday. We've done it every year since her first birthday. We got to eat our first ones this week and it was exciting. Especially because some critter keeps digging holes and munching the plants off at the roots. If I could catch that critter it would not be pretty. As of now, about half of our snow peas are dead on the trellis. Big sigh.We picked our first raspberries the other day! She ran in and asked for a photo document. That gave me a good chuckle. She planted just six canes with her grandmother and grandfather three years ago. It was a birthday gift from them that has multiplied about ten times. We now have at least 30 raspberry plants, maybe more.
This morning my little guy and I took advantage of the overcast weather. We got busy on some weeds in the vege beds, and seeded some more arugula and carrots. The heirloom tomato plants that I got from this wonderful farm are cranking. We'll be headed out to the local tailgate markets this weekend for some of what we don't have in our garden. Mmmmm.... I can taste the goodness already.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Busy little bees

Remember when I told you that we had two hives? Well, now we have eight! It seems that our sweet honey bees have been busy.

I swear... for the past two weeks every time I look up there's another swarm. We've become so hyper vigilant about watching for swarms that my six year old discovered the last one. We've got cricks in our necks from walking around looking up.

This is not the best picture of a swarm ever, but it gives you a pretty good feel. We're pretty sure that all of our swarms have come from "the cabin hive." When you look inside that hive, you can see the queen cells (the new queens that they've been raising.) Some of the swarms have been 75 feet high in trees, others have been lower in dogwood limbs. Good thing my husband is a climber. I've helped with trapping each swarm, and it's pretty intense at times, but I've never gotten stung. In fact, I got stung for the first time the other day when a bee went up my skirt in the garden and got stuck between the fabric.

Our kids are really comfortable around the bees now. They know the differences between the male (drones) and female (workers). They know that males can't sting, and the women can if they're bothered. My daughter will pick up all the bees, female and male. She's got a really gentle touch, and hasn't been stung yet. My little guy has been stung twice, the first time was for trying to squeeze a bee. Ah... lessons. We do have a prescribed epi pen... if you're wondering. It appears there's no allergies around here though.

So... it looks like we'll be able to rob some honey pretty soon. Our sweet girls have been working hard and several supers are full. Somehow we've gone from backyard beekeeping to a small production. It will be interesting to see what the next leg of the adventure holds. This weekend we will be cutting out the bee tree and introducing those bees to a box. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A girl's gotta sew...

This is not what I should have been doing last week. I should have been cleaning my house and getting a handle on the laundry. I had several things that had to be done, and some other real life stressors that aren't worth going on about. When I can't get a handle on my anxiety by working in the garden or with exercise, I sew.
Our friends from Australia came last week, and I just couldn't stand not to make her a bag. She's never seen my house really clean, so why start now, right? I mean, she would probably have been seriously shocked if when she arrived the house was immaculate, and the laundry was all in the drawers. She may have questioned my mental stability... I've never been much for house cleaning. Besides, our kids were stuck in the house for most of the visit due to inordinate amounts of rain. Translation... the house got trashed, anyway. Imagine four active kids, and four, sometimes more, adults in this little 900 square foot house. I'm pretty sure I heard our house sigh... no maybe it groaned.
So this is the bag I made her, and it's a pattern I came up with. I was pleased with the dimension in the end. Of course I free motion quilted it here and there. It's too much fun to draw with thread! I did restrain myself a bit on this one, though. I didn't want to interfere with the gorgeous graphic, just complement it.I'm thinking about getting some more fabric from this line and making them up for the shop. The weight of the fabric is lovely to work with and I adore the saturated colors.