Friday, January 10, 2014

From rectangles to rows...

One of my New Years resolutions was to start AND finish a quilt for myself.  While I've seen, smocked, hand-stitched for years,  I'm not a quilter...actually, I've only made a rag quilt (tutorial on the blog) as a gift for a sweet mom's baby shower...and didn't really use traditional quilting techniques for that one.  I want to call myself a quilter, and this is the year. 
Naturally, in seeking inspiration, I went to Pinterest.  Yes, I DO what I pin...sometimes.  There are so many beautiful quilts out there in the iWorld, and great tutorials, too!  Oh, where to begin?!?
I didn't really want to spend $ on fabric, since it would be a trial run of sorts.    Besides, we all know that I have a few <hundred> fabric options to choose from.  *Hoarders, here I come!*. I settled on a pattern called "step in time" with an easy-to-follow *free* tutorial...and selected a line of fabrics from my stash called "The Simple Life" by Tasha Noel.  I love the red/turquoise combination for a summer quilt...and has chickens on it ;). 

My progress thus far...fabric pieces > 320 rectangles > 160 squares > 13 rows of 12 squares...still working on rows, but here's a couple of photos to show the progress...

All mapped to the sewing machine (and the iron, then back again)

What's on your sewing table this week?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Not Made to be Broken...

It's January 1, 2014.  People everywhere are resolving themselves to do something differently than what they did in 2013...lose weight...gain weight...spend more...fall in love...give to charity...embark on a new career...take a chance.  But, isn't that what resolutions are about anyway?  Taking a chance on try something, whether we succeed or fail?  I've never really been a fan of cliche New Year's resolutions.  I've set goals for myself, with reluctance.  It always seemed like I was setting myself up for disappointment.  Somehow, though, this year seems different, like I'm ready to grab this year by the horns.

Last year, I started a pinterest board and titled it "not made to be broken".  I filled it with things I wanted to do better in 2013.  Did I accomplish all that I set out to do?...well, not so much...but, looking back, I'm okay with that.  While the board was titled literally because of the resolutions it represented to me, it was more symbolic in it's meaning for me.  You see, I was reminding myself that "I" am not made to be broken.  I am not that fragile.  God crafted me intentionally...with ideas and plans and designs for my life...equipping me with all that I would need to succeed through him. 

So, here it is...January 1, 2014, and I am renewing that commitment.  I've known for a long time that my spirit is strong and that my faith is unshakeable.  However, there are certainly areas of my life where I have struggled...things about myself  that bring me down...that leave me feeling defeated and broken.  But, it's a new year.  It's the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, and I don't have to live down to my own expectations (or anyone else's) anymore.  And contrary to what society tries to tell us, I don't have to put myself first OR last to be a better me.  I just need to wake up each day with my heart looking upward and my eyes on the prize...the prize being me as a better child of God...a better wife...a better mother...a better ME!  I have my list...still tweeking it, but I'll share it soon :)   Happy New Year 2014!!

"I can do all things, through Christ who gives me strength." - Phil. 4:13

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sweet and Tangy Pork Tenderloin

It's summer.  We all love easy meals... meals that don't tie us to the kitchen when we would rather be enjoying the sun.  It doesn't get much easier than cooking in a slow cooker.

This recipe was born out of a desire to "use up" ingredients in my kitchen... to take advantage of the staples that I always have on hand.  Here's my recipe for delicious pork tenderloin cooked in my "crockpot"... it's fail-proof :)


2 lbs pork tenderloin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. Teriyaki sauce
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1.  Lightly coat bottom of hot, large pan with olive oil.  Lightly brown pork tenderloin on all sides.  This will take a couple of minutes for each turn of the meat.

2.  In medium size bowl, mix together the chicken broth, teriyaki, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and garlic.  Stir until sugar dissolves.

3.  Place pork tenderloin in bottom of heated crockpot.  Pour over sauce mixture and move tenderloin around to make sure the liquid covers the bottom of the pot. 

4.  Cook on medium heat for 6 hours, or until the meat literally falls apart with a fork.  In my family, it needs no extra sauce.  The delicious liquid from the meat is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy.

5.  Serve it with your favorite summertime sides, either on a bun or on it's on.  ENJOY!

Another Great Post from Riley Blake

I have a morning routine... coffee... retrieve toddler from crib... make chocolate milk for toddler... visit Riley Blake website to wake up the brain...

This morning, Cutting Corners, a page hosted by Riley Blake, featured a wonderful bag tutorial.  It is so worth sharing!

The full post can be found here.  I think I'll add an exterior pocket and cute button closure... now I just need to decide which fabric to use :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rag Quilt Tutorial

Baby Rag Quilt Tutorial

My daughter and I received an invitation to a baby shower… I love babies… and I love celebrating babies! The fact that this mom had waited so long to conceive made this one even more special. To me, she epitomizes the verse “For this child I prayed”… so, I wanted her gift to be extra special (meaning handmade ;)

Knowing the baby is a girl, a smocked dress is the go-to gift… but mom isn’t overly girly, and my hands hardly stand-up to smocking these days. When pondering options, I was inspired by a rag quilt hanging in Zig Zag, my local fabric store/hangout.   LOVE!   I thought it would be the perfect gift, so I left the store with a few yards of fabric and a plan in mind…

Here’s what you’ll need:

1.5 yds of EACH fabric (this will be cut in strips lengthwise, so don’t get less)  *I used 3 fabrics for a total of 4.5 yards (can be cotton or flannel, but should be good quality)
1.5 yds batting
coordinating thread (it will be seen J )

Step 1: Planning

This step is very important! Don’t cut your strips until you figure out what you’ll need of each fabric. I wanted random… believe it or not, random is harder to achieve and is actually not random at all but is carefully planned.

When I was ready to tackle this step, it was about 10:00 at night, so I reached for the nearest paper and writing instrument I had…

fancy, I know… yes, it is an opened up envelope written in crayon and sharpie… what can I say, I’m a mom… anyway, I started with the assumption that I was going to stick with odd number widths, 9 being my widest, and center (roughly) strip. I measured all my fabrics and figured out how much fabric I had to work with. After playing around with colors and widths, this was how I planned:
5 3 7 3 9 5 7 3 5 3 7

I needed to cut double the number, to allow for the back of the quilt (which I didn't plan ahead... too much to think about).  So, finally, these were the fabric strips I needed...

Bird fabric: 1 strip cut to 9”
             2 strips cut to 7”
             2 strips cut to 5”
             3 strips cut to 3”

Pink fabric: 2 strips cut to 7”
             2 strips cut to 5”
             3 strips cut to 3”

Green fabric: 1 strip cut to 9”
              2 strips cut to 7”
              2 strips cut to 5”
              2 strips cut to 3”

*these measurements allow for ½” seams for “fraying”

Of course, this style “quilt” leaves lots of room for personal preferences… for reference, using the measurements outlined above, you will have 11 finished strips and a finished blanket measuring approx. 44” x 48”.

Step 2: Cutting Strips

I admit it… I’m a fabric ripper. That made this step really fast for me. I simply measured across the width of each fabric, taking a 1” snip in the top edge of the fabric at each hash mark (9”, 7”, 5”or 3”, based on my notes).  From each snip, I carefully tore my fabric down the length, giving me even and straight strips to work with. If you would feel more comfortable measuring and cutting, then by all means, go that route. I just can’t seem to cut a straight line, so ripping works for me ;) Don’t worry about having everything at exactly the same length. You’ll take care of that later in the project.

Once I had all my strips “cut”, I ironed, folded, and sorted them by width and fabric.

Step 2b: Cutting Batting

Because the batting is not included in the fraying, it was not necessary to include the seam allowance in the strip widths.  Therefore, here are the pieces I used:

Batting: 1 strip cut to 8”
         3 strips cut to 6”
         3 strips cut to 4”
         4 strips cut to 2”

Since batting can’t be torn (ask me how I know ;), I did have to measure out and cut each strip (it’s painless, I promise).  With my batting folded in half, I started at the selvage edge (I knew that one was straight) and measured the width of my ruler (2") for four strips. From the fourth 2” strip, I turned my ruler and measured out my 4” , 6” and 8” strips.

Once everything was measured out, I just cut til my little heart was content.

Step 3: Matching and Assembling Strips

Because everything was already sorted and stacked, this part was a piece of cake.  Simply match up your fabric strips (should be two different fabrics) with corresponding batting and set aside.

I adore the look of stacked fabric...  ;)

Before sewing, lay one fabric right side down, and center batting along this strip. Place coordinating fabric atop batting, lining up edges with other fabric (should be a ½” seam allowance on each long side).

With WRONG SIDES TOGETHER AND BATTING IN MIDDLE, sew a mid-length straight stitch down the center. Repeat this process for each of the strip “sandwiches” you will be making for the project. (The top fabric is flipped up just to show the placement of the batting. When sewing, it will line up with the fabric on the bottom.)

I found that by placing my fingers on fabrics as shown below, it helped to minimize the natural puckering of the fabric and allowed me to better feel the placement of the batting underneath.

Step 4: Layout and Design

Once all strips are sewn, it’s time to lay out the pieces and see what you think.  This was a rewarding part of the process.  My daughter and I tried this at least half a dozen ways, and finally ended up with this layout.  I wanted to be sure that none of the fabrics were lined up beside themselves on either side, so we found it helpful to keep the top edges folded down.  Loved our final layout J

I’m not sure why this step took so long… ;)

JS loved the strips of fabric...
Step 5: Assembling Quilt

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of most of this process. I guess I was so excited I forgot to take pictures. Basically, you will want to carefully pick up each strip, going from left to right, and stack them one under the other. When sewing, you will line them up WRONG SIDES TOGETHER and sew down the ½” seam allowance, occasionally picking up the batting to prevent it from bunching up when washed. I didn’t pin all of my pieces before I began… I just took it one strip at a time. Once all strips are attached, you will have one side with no seams showing, and one side with all seams showing. These will be snipped for the fraying process.

Step 6: It’s all in the little details

To ease my mind about having the batting not bunch up (it is a gift, after all), I stitched horizonally at the ¼, ½, and ¾ marks of the quilt. I also stitched down the two outside vertical edges at the ½” seam allowance, because I knew I would fray that rather than bind the quilt.

When stitching my horizonal lines, I snipped the seam so that it wouldn’t get caught and flatten my fraying. I just made sure to open up the “v” and sew down the middle.

*I had no problem with my batting bunching up, so this step could be omitted if you prefer.

This is also when we deal with the uneven length that we didn’t worry about earlier. Starting a the shortest point along the top edge of the quilt, draw a line from edge to edge across the width of the quilt. THIS WILL BE YOUR CUTTING LINE, NOT YOUR SEWING LINE. Measuring a ½” seam from this line, straight stitch across your quilt. After sewing this line, cut along the line you drew. Repeat for the bottom edge of your quilt. (mine was really uneven because two of my fabrics were a touch over 1.5 yds).

Once the edges are even, carefully… CAREFULLY, at ½” to 1” intervals, snip all interior seams to about 1/8” from the stitching line. Do this for the perimeter seams, as well.

Step 7: Wash and tumble dry your quilt.

I opted for using a gentle detergent and a gentle wash cycle, but this is cotton, so it’s very durable. I tumble dried on medium and checked my lint filter twice during the process, just in case. Not as many strings as I had anticipated.

The final product…

This super-soft quilt features both a smooth side for peaceful napping and a tactile side, perfect for stimulating tummy time.

I was so happy with how the quilt turned out, and can’t wait for it to be enjoyed by sweet Lila Jane  ;)

Thanks for stopping by!  I'd love to hear from you... please feel free to ask questions or leave comments :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Modern or Vintage?...

via Anthropologie

Aprons... just the mention of these delicious little accessories brings to mind a plethora of images...

Barbara Billingsly as June Cleaver, "Leave It To Beaver"
couldn't resist this picture of June and Ward... isn't this apron glorious?

Donna Reed as Donna Stone, "The Donna Reed Show"

Jane Wyatt as Margaret Anderson, "Father Knows Best"

Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo, "I Love Lucy"

Marion Ross as Mrs. C, "Happy Days"

The apron represents the quintessential housewife in all her glory... fresh baked cookies... being "dressed for dinner"... nostalgia, plain and simple.  Or maybe the person that comes to your mind is someone more familiar... your mother, or perhaps a grandmother.  Regardless of the depth of the connection, there is no denying the fact that this little piece of vintage America has made a comeback.  They are everywhere and they are fabulous!  A quick little google search will yield you thousands of images and retailers.  Pinterest will point you to no-less-than a dozen tutorials on how to make your own slice of american pie.  Here are some of my favorites...

via Anthropologie

via Anthropologie

via Anthropologie

via Anthropologie

via ModCloth (no longer available)... inspiration, maybe?
via Pinterest
via Pinterest
free downloadable pattern here

I love them all!  Most of these run between $30 and $40 dollars, and while that is not terribly expensive, I am drawn to the idea of making my own.  I find the idea of selecting my pattern, fabric, and trim wonderfully tempting.  I set out to my favorite fabric store to find inspiration.  Here's what I found :)...

The Stella Apron by Grand Revival here... perfect!  Flirty but sensible.  Available in both full and half apron styles, with a selection of pockets if desired. 

I selected fabric from my existing stash and sat down at the machine.  It didn't take long and went together pretty easily.  The one exception is creating that "perfect binding" in the corners.  It took some work, and I personally think she skipped a step in her directions.  No problem.  I'll hook you up with what worked best for me...

I followed her directions for attaching the bias tape around the perimeter of the apron, but when I got ready to turn the bias corners to the right side I simply lined up the top of the perpendicular binding (right sides together) and stitched diagonally.  I tested my corner by turning it right side out, and trimmed when I was satisfied with the seam.  Hope that helps!  

Here is the end result...

The fabric is Large Whimsy Doozie by michael miller
Now, let me warn you, this pattern does seem a bit narrow in the bib.  After all, my daughter is only 9 and it fits her perfectly.  But, never fear, this pattern is super-easy to modify.  When making this as a gift, we simply moved each piece off the fold by 1", adding 2" overall to the size of the apron.  Because both main pieces are to be cut on the fold, this technique worked perfectly.  You could easily make this as large or small as you like. 

I see lots of possibilities with this flirty little apron.  Coordinating fabrics, trims, double skirts, patchwork... the sky's the limit!!

A little sneak peek at what's next on my list...

The Emmeline Apron by Sew Liberated

Hope you have been inspired to create a little vintage America for yourself :)   Happy Sewing!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fussy little Peanut...

Wow.  What a day.  With two children already in double digits, this is certainly not my first trip to the rodeo.  My eldest was the king of the tantrums, so I am keenly aware of what comes packaged in the adorable little body of a two-yr-old.  I also have a tween daughter... I am equally aware that it doesn't necessarily stop when they hit three.  But we aren't even two yet!  All this to say, this is not just typical toddler behavior... especially this toddler.  He is usually a wonderfully happy, playful little fella!  So cute, with those squeezable cheeks :) 

1/100  f/4.5  ISO 800  55mm
but on this day those smiley cheeks were nowhere to be found.  Instead, we got lots of this...

1/125  f/4.0  ISO 800  53mm, with flash
Still cute, right?  Even with 20 minutes solid of tears, I was optimistic... certainly all was not lost.  I assumed when we got home and out of the car, he would perk right up... the clouds would lift and the rays of sunshine and happiness would shine once again.  Besides, he looked so cute... sporting his Jungle Book tee.  I thought this might be a great afternoon to grab my camera and go play around in the yard...  maybe get some great candid shots.  *This is where I would love to insert some catchy little cliche about being naive, but I have no words*  When we spilled out of the car, there were no rainbows or lollipops.  I got this...

1/250  f/4.5  ISO 160  60mm
and this...
1/160  f/4.5  ISO 160  63mm
and this...
1/250  f/4.5  ISO 160  63mm
Not having much luck capturing my adorable jungle book boy, am I?  Disappointing?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Yes.  See, he's normally such an easy subject... so much more natural than my older two.  He's busy, and curious, and fast... he keeps it interesting :)  But, since he was really not fond of the camera *completely rejecting me at every shutter click*, I switched my focus to more cooperative subjects...

1/160  f/4.0  ISO 160  40mm
(does anyone else see the brontosaurus in this cloud?)

1/1000  f/3.5  ISO 160  28mm
and when he wasn't expecting it...

1/500  f/4.5  ISO 160  28mm
Yay, me!  Adorable little grin, isn't it!  Sadly, though, the smiles didn't last long, and I was already bored with statues and clouds.  I turned my attention to my eldest... and I shot about 20 like this...

1/500  f/4.5  ISO 320  28mm
Not much variety on a pogo stick...basically the same photo over and over and over.  But he was focused on not falling... he was natural... not posed and certainly not saying "cheese".  I think he liked the attention... though he would never admit it ;)  We stayed out a little longer, but the sun was fading behind the house, and it was taking my optimism with it. 

1/250  f/4.5  ISO 200  28mm
Reluctantly, I surrendered to the will of the littlest and we went inside... we got our magic snack of fruitloops and milk... and we sat down with some cartoons... we were happy... finally...

1/80  f/4.0  ISO 400  50mm, with flash
but he still didn't want his picture taken...

1/80  f/4.0 ISO 400  45mm, with flash
Luckily, this was not a typical day.  Later in the evening I discovered a new tooth emerging... and that's enough to make anyone cranky.  He's still not back to his infectiously happy self, but he will be soon.  In the meantime, the advil is helping us both ;)