the year 2012 and some sewing goals

yes, I realize that it is mid-February and a little late to be talking about 2012 as if it were still on the horizon.  nope, it’s here and fully happening already but I’ve always been a little slow when it comes to these kind of things.  I am hoping that is part of what you love about me. right?

so, here it goes…deep, deep thoughts about 2012.  first, I’m so excited to be teaching so many amazing classes (by the way 2 spots still remain in the beginner–super tote class!).  it really has been a fantastic, inspiring adventure already.  I love the way that different people bring different and creative ideas to everything.  I find that it helps to fuel my creativity too.  so, I’m looking forward to lots more of that in 2012.  second, I’ve got some great commissions underway that are making me really happy.  I mean really, really happy. I’m like a humming, buzzing bee around my studio these days.  I can’t wait to share the details about these but later because I have too much other stuff to share today.  last, 2012 really feels like it holds so much incredible potential especially after how incredible 2011 has been.  feels like I’m starting on this incredible platform and ready to launch into a smoother-running sewing-teaching machine!

and, as a smoother-running sewing-teaching machine I have a plan.  this little plan started out as what felt like an ambitious idea and then it just grew until it started to take over my brain and became ESSENTIAL and something that I MUST DO.

the plan is to sew all my summer clothes this year! here is my justification: summer clothes can be simpler and so can be finished a bit more quickly than other season’s clothing; summer clothes are full of fun prints and so allow for use of fun fabrics; summer clothes include things like ‘beach dresses’ which can be loose and flowy rather than perfectly fitted; summer is a time for whimsy and fun clothes so I get to play, play, play; and most importantly, summer is months away so I have some time, right? RIGHT!

here is my list of things I want to make am going to make:

wow.  that is looking like a lot.  my rules are that I can only purchase summer shoes and no clothes.  if I want it, I have to make it.  we will see how it works out. I will certainly be blogging about it as I go.  but, I hope it turns out to be a splashy summer, my friends.  there is always the risk that I will just become that crazy patterned lady, too.  interested in joining me? we could do it together and keep each other updated?! let me know and I create a little blog button.  I’d love company.

alright, I do have a confession.  the truth is that I have already made the two skirts on my list.  they are the same as the skirt we make in my a-line skirt class.

this one is made from a japanese cotton-linen blend that I bought nearly a year ago and only just recently cut into.  I love the pop of colors on the soft gray background.  this skirt has just the right amount of structure to it that it is comfortable but still looks clean with smooth lines. I added a little red piping to the area near the waist hem and finished it with a blind hem stitch. I happen to be a big fan of the blind hem stitch, I like the way it looks professional and clean and not so becky home-ec-y.

  

this one I made a while ago…so I’m cheating just a little bit. it’s made from a table cloth that I got at a yard sale.  I cut it on the bias to combat how stiff the fabric and I like the way it drapes and the way it looks like a vine is wrapping around me.  it also really effectively hid some stains!

a-line skirt I’m a big fan of this pattern from wendy mullin’s sew u book.  it seems to fit everyone really well and even though it is a standard skirt, the a line shape is maintained better than other skirt patterns I’ve used.  that said, there is one gaping problem with this pattern and that is the sizing.  it runs so unbelievably small that the smallest size seems better suited for children, to be honest.  it really could benefit from some bigger sizes.  to teach it in my class, I’ve had to create my own size up, which is crazy.  that said, that’s my only gripe. the instructions are clear and include a great, foolproof technique for inserting a zipper.

ok, wow.  that is a long post. but, I’m very excited and very amped on caffeine.  I had better go direct that caffeinated energy on a few other important things…like tonight’s class!

the year 2011

sometimes a blog post is like an imaginary friend.  it’s living and breathing and writing itself in my head for so long that I actually start to think that I’ve written it already.  but when I sit down to actually write it all my ideas are scattered and my attention span is short and….well, it doesn’t happen.

this is one of those posts.  I’m late in writing it because, even though it is already written imaginar-ily, it’s a breathtaking reflection for me.

how to begin to look back at the year 2011?

I’ll start with numbers:

1 conventional job left behind

1 home life and 2 small boys with lots more mama time

1 website created and 8,003 html codes gone wrong

9 sewing classes taught to a revolving ragtag group of 28 amazing people (and growing!)

at least 10 sewing machines newly nestled into to the homes of that ragtag group

28 new, crafty, creative friends to obsess about sewing with

2 craft fairs

2 very special quilts

100 cups of coffee, 145 (or so) yards of fabric and 310 (approximately) spools of thread

here it is in pictures:

work hard, sew hard max.quilt.sneakpeek            

thanks so much to everyone that made 2011 a stupendous year.  every single person that has waltzed through my classes has not only been a natural sewer but also become a friend.  you all make the *work* behind a happy stitch worth it. I’m guessing there are easier ways to make new friends but none are nearly as fun as this.

2012 is already swinging with an incredible skirt class under foot and a bag, beginner, and superhero cape class up ahead.  plus, I got a few soon-to-be-revealed sewing goals in mind as well. maybe you will want to join me with those? huh? huh?

 

make it :: felted heart pocket pillows

this year, the three boys in my house are getting heart pocket pillows with a love note and candy tucked inside.  I made two different kinds…two hearts with the seams inside and one (for my husband) with the seams kept outside for a ‘raw edge’ kind of look.

it all started with a pretty honest moment between me and my closet.

no melissa, it really isn’t appropriate to wear a sweater that requires you to keep one hand permanently on your hip and never raise your left arm because of two ever-widening holes. give up the ghost, these sweaters are done.

so, fine.  the sweaters landed in my ‘felting’ pile and instead of lingering there I took charge and did actually felt them along with a few others that were waiting patiently.  to felt them, I cut the sweaters apart at the seams and threw them in the wash on a hot, heavy soil setting.  then, they were shipped off to the dryer on the highest setting.  I had to repeat that whole cycle once more to get them to truly felt.

they went from this……………………………………………………….to this.

  

once wool is I felted it holds together tightly and the edges don’t fray so it can be used for a gazillion crafting purposes. to make the pillows with hidden seams I used a pretty conventional method: cutting out two hearts from the felt; sewing a pocket on the front of one side and sewing them right sides together; leaving a small opening; turning it inside out; putting in some stuffing (and even shredded sweater bits for heft); and finally hand stitching shut the opening.

to make the raw edged felt heart I came up with an easy method that I’m going to share with you just in case you also have an honest-closet moment:

cut out a heart from paper (fold the paper in half and cut out a half of a heart; open the paper to reveal a heart just like grade school!!)  position two pieces of sweater felt and one small triangular swatch such that it will form a pocket at the bottom of the heart. place the paper heart on top of your sweater felt and pin it in place.

 

don’t cut around the pattern, simply sew around the pattern.  keep the paper in place, just pulling pins as you sewed like a conventional pattern but leave a small opening, about 2.5 inches without any stitches. it should look like this:

then, cut around what you’ve sewn and stuff in polyfill fiber as well as some of the remaining sweater felt cut into tiny pieces—it’s a great way to use up the sweater scraps and gives the heart a little heft.  last,  sew the opening and there you have it, a felted heart pillow pouch.

just for fun I hand-stitched on a little heart from another piece of sweater scrap. voila!


valentine idea :: paper heart table runner

 I love a decorated table but not in the fussy-perfectionist-way….more in the extra-special-fun way.  this paper heart table runner is exactly that.  I made it last year by cutting out hearts from a mix of red and pink papers and simple running them one by one through the sewing machine.  alongside some red placemats and berry smoothies it made for a great way to greet an otherwise ordinary valentine’s day breakfast. the best part? I get to pull it out and use it again this year.

valentine idea :: from the archives


I thought I would share of my past valentine creations this week starting with these cards from last year.  I’m particularly proud of them because I got to use up fabric scraps AND sew on paper, which is a weirdly satisfying thing to do…it feels almost naughty. they are pretty simple and it’s probably pretty obvious how to make them but indulge me while I share what how I went about it.

 

I started by ironing my fabric scraps (cut cleanly using my trusty clear ruler, rotary cutter, and cutting mat) onto freezer paper.  freezer paper is this crazy stuff with paper on one side and a waxy coating on the other side and it just so happens that it sticks to fabric superbly when ironed.  you can find it in the grocery store, sometimes it requires a bit of hunting but most places seem to carry it.  I used the freezer paper to stabilize the fabric so that my cutting and tracing could be more precise.  next, I traced some hearts using cookies cutters onto the fabric using a fabric marking tool to make uniform heart shapes.

after cutting out my hearts, I peeled off the freezer paper and held them in place while I sewed them onto the paper.  you can’t really pin through the paper without actually making things more difficult and/or sloppy.  other than that, it’s just regular sewing, except it makes a cute punch-y sound while you sew.  I used alphabet stamps and standard stamping ink to print the letters.

easy-peasy.  and, so cute and modern looking…in my humble opinion. I had a few clear vellum envelopes leftover from some other card-making escapade and I especially liked how those looked when you could see through to the card as below. 

valentine ideas

I’m crazy about valentine’s day. it’s got none of the heavy expectations that come with other winter holidays.  and, in all honestly,  I’m just better at pulling together something special without all that pressure.  in fact, it’s not impossible that I have friends out there who have never received a Christmas card from me but have been getting hand-crafted valentine’s cards for years now. I plan to share more of what I’m making soon but, for now, here are some of the love day craft ideas that have got me inspired to make away.

    

       

top to bottom: {felted heart garland} {fabric heart cards} {heart zipper pouches} {danish heart pockets} {love mobile} {love song stenciled pillow} {heart enclosure envelope}

p.s. all of this (and so, so, so much more) is up on my pinterest page.

the aprons

a close friend of mine asked me to make match-y aprons for four of her dear, far-flung friends and I jumped at the chance.  the great thing about taking on a commission like this is that I got to hear all about the challenges and joys these women have had in the past year and carried all those stories in my mind as I was sewing away.

 

 

my friend chose ty pennington’s block print style fabric for the aprons, which is so homey but at the same time still looks fresh.  I got it here.  the apron is a pattern I made by mixing the bottom of an Anna Maria Horner apron pattern and the top part of one from Lotta Jansdotter….and a few other personal alterations and tweaks.  I just love an elegant neckline and prominent waistline with a full apron bottom so I threw them together.

  

 

each apron got it’s own drawstring bag…in case they ever get together for some serious baking.  I love aprons because there is hardly a milestone in this life that doesn’t involve food in some way.  may these aprons be the hardworking splatter-catchers for a whole host of future joys and challenges!

handmade holidays :: kool-aid play silks

these were the one mama-made gift the boys found in their stockings Christmas morning.  they are play silks, simple scarf-sized pieces of silk dyed in different colors. as a toy, they have limitless potential—so far in our house they have been a way to carry cars, a cape, an umbrella in a fake rainstorm, water under a boat adventure, something to float in the air while you are dancing and on and on.  we had these growing up in a shiny, metallic fabric and we must have used them for everything.  probably the hardest working toy in our house back then.  in a boutique kid’s shop these can get expensive.  so, I was thrilled when I came across this tutorial that goes step by step through how to make them with the food safe dye available in every grocery store in the country–kool-aid.  yup.  it dyes more than just tongues.  I didn’t read the directions closely on first read so I didn’t grab enough packets of kool-aid when I was at the store. as a result, the colors came out a bit week and mottled as you can see:

  

I was especially worried that the yellow would become almost a cream color so I scoured the internet for natural dyes (once I get going on an activity I really don’t have the patience to stop and pick up missing supplies, it leads down lots of interesting roads).  I discovered that turmeric is a great natural dye and we have tons of it.  so, I boiled a big pot of turmeric water for 30 minutes or so before adding the kool-aid and the silk scarf.  the color turned out fantastically vibrant, I am thrilled with the amazing sunshine look. I was less excited about the smell that resulted from combining turmeric and lemonade flavored kool-aid.  in fact, I was fairly certain I had managed to somehow poison myself and rushed around opening windows.

  

{the silk goes into a pot of boiling water with the dye}

but, it was worth it, don’t you think? look at that color! I got my white silk scarves from dharma trading company, which has everything dyeable under the sun. for anyone interested in doing your own color dying, they are incredible.

well, I’m finally at the end of all my handmade holidays.  from here on out it’s all about looking forward onto the horizon of 2012! which, quite frankly, is looking awfully bright and involves lots of sewing.  I do still do that every once in a while!

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