Monday, December 29, 2008

Partridge in a pear tree

I wanted to make fabric apples for monkey pants' preschool teachers from Heather Bailey's Fresh-Picked Pincushions pattern for Christmas gifts, but I couldn't convince myself to spend almost $13.00 plus shipping on a pattern to make apples and pears. By the time I convinced myself, it was too late to order it. Well, it all turned out because I found this cute, free online bird pattern from Spool. What could be better -free and downloadable.

It was such a fun, quick, and easy little project and it was specially sweet because monkey pants was so excited to help make it for her teachers. She picked out the fabric scraps, I cut and sewed the birdies, she stuffed them, and I hand sewed them shut. She was surprisingly good at stuffing them and didn't even abandon the birdies half-way as I might have thought.

We simply stuffed them into clear gift baggies and attached a home made card with ribbon. I made the card using this adorable little figure from a free gift tag download from Kitty Genius.

I think her teachers were pleasantly surprised by the fact that monkey pants had helped to make these with her own hands and I felt it made it all the more special.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Emmeline Apron 2

Just got done with this one. Another Emmeline Apron for a Christmas gift. I wanted to try something different with my choice of fabrics this time, although not too different since they are still Amy Butler prints. I chose some darker blue fabrics from the Daisy Chain (Aquatic) line that I wouldn't normally be drawn too. But I'm glad I did. I really like the result.

This time, I did a few things a bit differently. One thing about the pattern I'm not fond of is the wordy, yet poor instructions on how to place the waist straps onto the sides of the apron at the right angle. I really don't know why the correct angle isn't just printed on the pattern. So to minimize the trial and error approach encouraged in the pattern instructions, [TIP:] I laid out the fabric and the strap as it would appear once constructed and simply marked a line on the strap corresponding to the angle of the apron. Then, I flipped both apron and strap layers over together; lined up the strap with the marking flush to the side of the apron and pinned; then basted in place.

I also didn't cut the halter straps on the diagonal. I don't find this necessary at all and it just takes up more fabric. Last, I was able to get away without hand-sewing the finishing touches. As long as the bodice top and the straps are well pressed, you should be able to pin them in place and just top stitch through everything and come out with a fairly decent top stitch on the other side too.

I added the oven mitts from the Amy Butler patchwork apron pattern and that's it.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Pattern: Tuck-in or Bow-Knot Scarf
This is a free pattern I found on the web a while ago, but now I can't remember where. I did find another link to it here.
Materials: Mission Falls "1824 Wool" (I thought this was worsted weight, but upon checking, it's not) Aran 100% Superwash Merino Wool, Rhubarb 534
The yarn was a little irregular in places and one of the balls had a join in it which bugged me. And it didn't pull out from the center. I was drawn in by the colors.
Amount: patterns says it will come out of less than one 50 gram ball but I had to buy a second one to finish with this yarn.
Needles: US4 bamboo
Cost: $12.00

I made this scarf a couple of times before and decided to make it again using a superwash merino wool because I thought that would be practical for gifting. I picked this super saturated crimson color I couldn't resist. I thought it might really liven up a dull wool coat or a neutral jacket.

This pattern is pretty easy to make and super fast. Another one of those rewarding projects for immediate satisfaction. It's made up in garter stitch and has a slot on one end through which you insert the other end to hold it in place. I made it last year from a cashmere blend in a smaller gauge for an accessory that's more wearable even away from the cold.

I also made another scarf gift in the same yarn. The website says the color is Charcoal 004, but it looks more like Ink 022. It's a deep blackberry color. I used two 50g balls and just made it up in moss stitch for the bow scarf's counterpart. Moss stitch is apparently very stretchy which I guess should work well for a scarf. My only concern is that it might get kind of mis-shapen easily. This seemed like a lot more knitting compared to the bow scarf. Boy, I really like that bow-knot scarf pattern. This scarf doesn't look too exciting just laying there, but it looks really cute sophisticated and cozy on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kimberly Bag

Kimberly Bag from Amy Butler pattern - check. Again, used the same fabric as the pattern (different colors). I love this bag in this pattern in pretty much all the colors. I would probably like to keep this one too, but it is a Christmas gift.

This bag took me a bit longer, probably three days. I had a bit of a set back when I started cutting because I didn't realize I was out of fusible fleece and had to go back to the dreaded Joann's. I think I need to take psychotropic drugs to deal with the people at the cutting counter. Anyway, this pattern doesn't take up a lot of fabric which is nice, but apparently I didn't realize the fabric I picked from Amy Butler's Nigella line is a home decorating weight fabric that is also 54" and not the usual 45" so I ordered a yard and you really only need 1/2 yard for the exterior. I used a subtle two tone floral from Amy's Midwest Modern line for the lining. I was surprised that the pattern didn't include an inside pocket, so I added a little one with a zipper. For the main zipper, I used the same technique I came up with for the Sophia Carry-All Bag, but I used a slimmer one instead of the more bulky coil separating zipper that is used for the purse zipper.

The bag was fairly easy except for dealing with the bulkyness of the interfacing and zipper on the sewing machine of course. I had better luck with the fabric fusible interfacing this time than I did with the Sophia bag as I followed the instructions a little better. But I'm still not a fan of it. It seems to ripple a little no matter what. The zipper ends on the bag don't look as tidy as I would have liked but I think that's as good as their going to come out with the sewing machine I have and the fact that it needs to be oiled and I can't figure out how to oil it.

I was pleased with the result. I think it makes a cute gift so I'll probably make it again.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Frenchy Bag

One Frenchy Bag from Amy Butler pattern done. I know, it's not very original. I used the same fabrics on the pattern, but I really liked it that way. I made this for a Christmas gift, but I have to admit I took it for a test run to see how well I would like it. The pattern design has two large open pockets on either side of the inside of the bag and I wasn't sure how practical that would be. Well, it really isn't very practical. Things get kind of jumbled up in there a lot and it's hard to reach in and find stuff because you don't know if your hand is the the bag or in a pocket. But, I'm still having a hard time parting with it. I guess I could always make it again and try to improve on the inside pocket design.

I really liked that I was able to make this bag in one day from start to finish. It doesn't require any heavy duty interfacing or zippers. It was pretty easy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Village Frock

The Village Frock from Sugar City got completed in time for Thanksgiving. It was such a cute little project. I think this is the first real item of clothing I've made for monkey pants. I wanted to make it out of a lightweight denim, but I didn't have enough. I took a trip to the dreaded Joann's and decided on this creamy wool that was on sale. I thought it might be a nice wintery version. My only gripe with is that I would have liked the sleeves to have been longer so the billowy part was further down the arm. I thought the arms looked longer on the pattern but I don't know what happened there.

I decided to make the three year old size and use the four year old length to give it a more fitted silhouette (European cut as the pattern instructions would say). I like the little booklet pattern instructions and the hand written pattern pieces were very charming for a change. The instructions were pretty thorough and I liked that it included good measurements for the different sizes. Not even the commercial flower girl dress pattern I made had a full finished length measurement for the dress which I struggled with quite a bit.

The gathering was a bit of a challenge but not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. I lined the inside so monkey pants wouldn't complain about the gathered seams scratching her and so the dress wouldn't stick to tights. I lined each piece instead of the dress as a whole to make it easier. Alas, I searched high and low for some brown italian styled leather boots to go with the dress and found nothing so here she is wearing with pants which actually seems to work somehow.

I think this is a very unique little design and I've already got my lightweight denim ready for a spring version of the dress.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Upcoming little projects

I have a bunch of little sewing and knitting projects planned for Christmas gifts again this year:
- maybe an Amy Butler bag or two,
- some matching pajamas for the whole family from Heather Ross Mendocino fabric to start off a Christmas Eve tradition, and
- some fast bow tie knitted scarfs because god knows anything bigger than that has a 50/50 chance of being left uncompleted
- oh, and a little "village frock" from Sugar City for monkey pants which I plan to have done before Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween costumes

Trying to decide what to dress up the kids as this year didn't come to me very quickly. I certainly didn't plan to slave for hours over costumes that would probably only be worn once and likely be stained with sticky stuff, mangled, and who knows what. After shooting down the idea of Batman (for my 4 year old girl) and Robin (for my 1 year old boy), I decided to go back to basics and I couldn't resist this costume idea from

I convinced myself that I didn't really have to sew anything and it didn't really look too hard. And it wasn't. I did end up having to make the pilot's cap which could easily be found here due to time and money constraints. I'm not too fond of making up my own patterns for things so I searched high and low for a free pattern download for this very basic cap and came up with nothing. But somehow, I managed to make my own pattern in two different sizes even. And, it came out great (aside from the dreaded trip to Joann's which always ends up making me feel like going postal; standing in line to cut fabric for 20 minutes with people who can't keep track of what number they are on despite the gigantic digital screen. They've also never heard of ribbing or fusible vinyl [nothing to do with this project], anyway).

All the materials and instructions are on the Martha Stewart site so I won't rehash any of that. I don't particularly like hot gluing anything as it is my experience that nothing ever stays glued on. The felt comb on the hat has stayed on well though, and I only severely burned by finger once. The gloves on the sneakers, not so much as my "monkey pants" is no twinkle toes to say the least. So I used a piece of yellow duck tape on top of all the folds at the back of heel to hold everything down and it worked beautifully. The feathers are a bit of a pain to tack on by hand but it's doable especially if you're sitting in front of the TV while doing it. I didn't find a white leotard so I tried to bleach a pink one white but settled for pale pink. For the little suit, I used a long sleeve onesie. And that's about it. I dressed up as farmer girl to complement my little chick that I have to carry around with me most of the time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Birthday Cake

Having done the 3D pumpkin and frog cakes for my daughter's previous birthdays, I decided to do something more of a traditional cake shape but stylized this year. I thought I would do a cute polka dot and bows type of thing to tip the scales more towards a feminine balance. So a couple of days ago I came up with this idea inspired by a Meomi's September desktop calendar that I totally loved.

It didn't turn out exactly as I had envisioned it and I wish I had more time to have added a couple extra details. Because I've only been doing cakes in fondant, I'm not used to making decorations with butter cream anymore so my fern leaves were very blob-y. I should have used royal icing but that pesky time thing again. Although this cake is pretty gender neutral I think it fit the "cute" requirement I was looking for.

"Monkey pants" gets so excited about cake she even ate the pine cone guy. She also caused me a lot more work when I left her eating her lunch on the kitchen counter alone with the orange fondant leaves that were set out under a paper towel to dry. I was in such a hurry to take her to preschool that I didn't even realize the devastation until I came back to clean up the kitchen. All the leaves were gone ... totally gone; not even a fondant crumb was left. It was a good thing she was at preschool because it gave me a couple of hours to cool down.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Face painting

For my daughter's upcoming birthday party, I decided I might try my hand at face painting. I collected some photos from the internet I liked, check out a book at the library, and bought some face paints at the party store. The face paints are not very cheap but cheaper than hiring a face painter, right.

Here's a couple of the faces I've tried so far. Now if I can only get my face painting time down to ten minutes from twenty minutes a face for the party. I think I may have to enlist a volunteer to help out too.

The painting part is actually much easier than it would seem. The only thing that makes it challenging is that the canvas is constantly moving around (at least my canvas). It's not too hard to wash off, but the black takes a bit more scrubbing as the paint is grease or oil based. It makes for a fun activity especially as it gets too cold to go outside. My 3-year old thought it was "amazing" when she looked in the mirror. I even talked my husband into letting me practice on him.

Links & References

I ordered a 14 paint set made by Snazaroo from Ebay but I don't think it will get here in time for the party so I was able to find some locally at my local Zurchers discount party store. I got a 5 paint set made by Mehron for $8 and a couple of single color cups, green and orange for about $3 ea. (although I don't see that they have Mehron paints online).

Here are a couple of really good videos:
Kid's Tiger (I used this one for the tiger I did but changed the forehead to look like "Master Tigress" from Kung Fu Panda with which my daughter is currently obsessed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wedding Cake

This is the first wedding cake I've ever made. It's a very simple cake but it was very stressful not knowing if I would be able to pull it off for such an important occasion. There's not exactly a plan B scenarios if something goes wrong. But it all worked out.

The cake was french vanilla with raspberry filling; butter cream on the outside covered with ivory "Fondx" fondant. This was the first time using this fondant which I had to order online. I've only used Wilton fondant before on birthday cakes. I was hoping this fondant would be more workable and taste better, plus I wanted to get one that was already colored ivory. I took a gamble but it paid off. It had a lot more elasticity than the Wilton fondant so it didn't wrinkle as much when covering the cakes and it tasted way better, more natural. I used a milk glass stand from a set of stands I got for my birthday last year. I love these cake stands because I have them in four different sizes and they are so versatile, kind of vintage-y. They elevate the cake quite a bit giving it more height like being up on a pedestal.

I had to cover the cakes the afternoon before the wedding because I had to go to the Bridal Shower in the morning and the rehearsal dinner in the evening. The wedding was in the morning the next day. I had a friend help me mostly to calm my nerves about messing up the cake. I covered the middle tier first and ended up with some small waves on one side because I couldn't get around the cake very well on top of the kitchen counter. I covered the largest tier next and had no problems. I used a stool and put the cake on the corner of the counter so I could work around it better. I did the smallest tier last and it came out great too. I was very happy with the results. The only thing was that the cakes settled a bit by the next day so they didn't look quite a smooth. I ordered the sugar paste magnolia flowers premade to save me time and stress. I was happy with those as well. I only had a little bit of trouble getting the one on the bottom tier to stay put as it had nothing to sit on. I glued it with a little piece of fondant and piping gel.

I transported the tiers separately and assembled the cake at the wedding location figuring that would be the safest plan. I used hollow plastic dowels on the bottom and middle tiers which were already in place and put just three flowers on. Everyone loved how the cake color and ribbon matched the brides dress. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the cake but I don't think I could make a wedding cake again as it is too stressful to think about messing up a cake for a wedding. Now with this months birthday and wedding out of the way, I get to relax a bit until my daughter's birthday next month which I'm sure will bring on more fun projects.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Flower Girl Dress

Here is the flower girl dress I made for my daughter. I don't have any pictures of the sewing progress because I usually didn't get started working on it until late at night.

It looked like a simple enough pattern (McCalls 5570), after all, little girl dresses are pretty simple, a plain bodice with a gathered skirt, right. I was somewhat oblivious to all the layers that are required to go under a dress like this to make it puffy specially because the length was all the way to the floor. The puckered up effect also made it hard to determine the right length as the pattern had no finished length measurements for the dress.

My daughter turns 4 next month, but patterns in my experience always run big so I started off making the 3 year old bodice size. It was too big. I had to unpick it all and make the 2 year old size. I also ended up cutting the skirt for the 2 year old size as it look gigantic. This size turned out exactly right even though my daughter is not small.

I was a bit intimidated by the dress when I got into the skirt part of it, but as I went along it really wasn't too hard. I was very happy with the result. I had to borrow a gathering foot and my sisters old Bernina to gather up the netting that goes inside the dress as I could not imagine trying to sew on the edge and pull on the strings on 12 very long lengths of sewn together pieces of netting. I did skip one of the three layers of regular lining because I thought the taffeta I used was fairly thick. This dress takes a surprisingly large amount of fabric. The cost came in probably just under $50.00. Which is more than I had planned to spend on a home sewn dress but I guess fairly reasonable compared to the $120 dresses at the bridal store.

And next -the wedding cake.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Noah's Ark Cake

Apparently, staying at home is proving to be more work than going to work. And somehow, more time at home means less time overall. Still trying to make sense of that but really enjoying being at home. This month I'm ramping up for a few projects though; the first of which was a cake for my son's first birthday.

This cake took me .... um, all day long. I almost started regretting it as soon as I got into the third animal but I decided to press on. This cake is from Debbie Brown's 50 Easy Party Cakes which is probably a very misleading title for this book but I guess they are easy compared to the cakes in the rest of her books (of which I have purchased none because the "easy cakes" are still proving very challenging for me).

This is the first cake I've made that we decided not to cut and serve during the party as we were having more family visiting the next day and we wanted it to have a longer viewing life. Really, it doesn't make any sense not to cut it. It is a cake and what good is it if we can't eat it. But since fondant does preserve so well, we'll probably be cutting into it soon [squirm].