Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year, New Fabric, New Activism

I was so excited to win this giveaway from the fabulous Sew, Mama, Sew blog. If you have never visited, please go there right now. She has the most incredible fabric selection and some great patterns and tips. I chose a yard of this amazing fall release from Tina Givens' Treetop Fancy collection, called Fairy Tip Toes in Silhouette Polka Pink. How darling is that? I can't wait until these little birds fly onto my machine. If only I could decide their destiny...any ideas?

Also in the giveaway post were several resources about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new law designed to ensure the safety of children’s products. From what I have read, this law, though well-intended (to eliminate toxins like lead and phthalates from toys, and to raise the standards of imports from China), will effectively destroy handcrafted toy entrepreneurs. The law goes into effect February 10, 2009. To learn more and to suggest amendment to this law for the protection of handmade toys, please visit Sew, Mama, Sew, or click on the 'Save Handmade' button on the left.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Recycled Christmas: Photocard Magnets

If it is hard to dis-card your old Christmas greetings, it is even harder to say goodbye to those holiday photos of your loved ones. Each year more and more of us are going the way of the digital photocard, but what becomes of them? I used to stick them to the fridge in their entirety, but by February I was sick of the holly and snowflakes. So we came up with a solution in January that has lasted us all year. Today, big B and I created this year's collection.


MATERIALS: Holiday photos, scissors, magnetic tape
STEP ONE: Cut the figures of the people in each photo, leaving the background piece in tact (see Bonus Idea One).STEP TWO: Measure and cut a length of magnetic tape 1/4" shorter than the longest part of the photo.STEP THREE: Curl the magnetic tape in your hands to flatten it out, working against the curve of the roll.STEP FOUR: Adhere the tape to the photo. Press for 5 seconds.STEP FIVE: Adorn your refrigerator!
BONUS IDEA ONE: Create a puzzle using the cut figures and the backgrounds. Big B loved this. He asked and/or announced the name of each person in the photo he was trying to match. Flip the backgrounds over for a more challenging version.BONUS IDEA TWO: If one of the people lucky enough to grace your appliance is having a birthday or special event, create a little homage to them with their magnet and other decorative items. Snap a picture and email it to them--instant e-card.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Project Update: Zig-Zag Quilts (alternatively: Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown)

After an assembly line process that would have done Henry Ford proud, there is a bright light at the end of the zig-zag tunnel. Two of the six quilts are finished, quilted, bound and presented; three more are pinned and ready to quilt, and the last, the one I'll keep, is sandwiched. I have learned so much about this kind of mass-production and have absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed every stitch.I am very grateful for the tutorials and advice of some experienced quilters in the blogosphere. I was originally inspired by this design from crazy mom quilts. Her use of the red and green color palette, though not for Christmas, sent me straight to the fabric store, where my idea for a handsewn holiday took shape.A tool I found to be invaluable in both precision and efficiency was this tutorial from a quilt is nice. By facing two squares right sides together, marking the diagonal and stitching 1/4" on either side, you are left with two perfect 5" squares made of two contrasting triangles. While this was gratifying, it was also by far the most labor intensive and long piece of the assembly. There were 324 of these pieced squares that each had to be cut and ironed. Papa joined in one late night over a bottle of beer, a sweet conversation, and the Sufjan Stevens holiday Pandora music selection.After laying out the zig-zags (I opted for the deliberate Charlie Brown-esque arrangement over my usual random piecing), I used this tutorial from the purl bee to pin my sewn top, my batting, and my backing together. This is the first time I've used curved safety pins and I doubt I'll ever use anything else again. Once I was all pinned up, I had to make a decision: to stitch-in-the-ditch, or to try free motion quilting. The only time I'd free motioned before was on the short arm quilter at Sew Worth It. This was for the log cabin quilt I made during little b's pregnancy (shown beneath his cute little foot in the upper left column of this blog). A short arm quilting machine allows you to move the needle, rather than the fabric, so you are basically drawing your stipple pattern as if you were drawing on paper. When you free motion quilt on a normal sewing machine, you use a darning foot to allow free motion of the sandwiched fabric. This is pretty much the exact opposite of the method I'd learned. So I bought a walking foot and prepared to stitch-in-the-ditch, but then I couldn't bring myself to do it! I LOVE the way free motion stippling looks on a finished quilt, and I feared that stitching in the ditch with this pattern would show every little misalignment (and there were several) that the pattern so beautifully hides. So I made a practice sandwich and went for it. I am so glad I did.
THE BIG FINISH: Binding is the most difficult part of quilting to me, albeit the quickest. I was literally pushed to the eleventh hour of Christmas Eve when deciding whether to make my own binding or use double fold bias tape I had in my stash. Then I was led to this tutorial from the angry chicken, who taught me how to completely machine bind my quilts, quickly and easily, using the pre-fold. And her tutorial is hilarious. I look forward to finishing and presenting the final three, and to opening up my Christmas storage boxes in 2009 and finding this folded neatly on top.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mission: Yard Santa

Digital photography has changed the way I parent. In line at the post office, at a restaurant, even at home, the use of the digital camera is high on my list of distractions. This holiday season was no exception. The annual increase in inflatable yard decor combined with big B's love for treasure hunts sparked a very fun idea in our family: Mission Yard Santa.

For the past week or so, we have taken as many circuitous routes as possible in our outs and abouts, in search of the not-so-elusive Claus on the lawn. We have had such a great time amassing this collection! We have also had the opportunity to share the Christmas spirit with many a homeowner who wondered why a four-year-old was dangling a camera out of a car window to photograph their house.

Here are a few of our favorites. There are many, many more. Whenever possible, Big B took the pictures.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, little b

One year ago today, little b was born, at home on the Solstice in the twinkly glow of the Christmas lights. I give deepest thanks to the universe for bringing his little soul into our family. He is kind, compassionate, sneaky, hysterically funny, brave, soft, crinkly, gentle and wise. His birth was a dance of love that will live with Papa and me and all who were present for the whole of our lives.Little b has recently begun to play with little figures. If I use a high-pitched voice with a lego character, for example, and then hand it to him, he will imitate me, usually with the syllables 'doo-doo-doo-doo.' Big B now affectionately refers to all little people or animals that appeal to little b as 'doo-doo-doo-doo men.' There is no way that I can type words to do justice to the cuteness of this charade. So for little b's birthday, I decided to create a little family of doo-doo-doo-doo men, that poorly but happily replicate our own family. I used round headed clothespins, pre-drilled 'head beads,' doll stands, acrylic paint, and a homemade protective sealant of coconut oil and beeswax, courtesy of The Laughing Monkey. I sewed a simple pouch for safekeeping and tucked them in. For this year's celebration we are just having close family over for dinner and cake (little b's first experience with chocolate) made by big B and mama. As I was dusting the cake with powdered sugar, it occurred to me how much this cake looked like the groaning cake I made exactly one year ago, pictured below.I have been thinking of ways to make little b's birthday special in the years to come, and separate his day from the holiday festivities. Today, Papa, big B and I continued the recycled paper chain theme into birthdayland with this magazine-cut-out birthday garland. Next year, I may try my hand at a Solstice calendar, like this gorgeous one from Green Kitchen, to count the days to his birthday. Or perhaps a birthday crown he can wear each year. Whatever we decide, it will be easy to make our sweet boy feel special, because that's exactly what he is.

My heart is so joyous,
my heart flies in singing.
Under the trees of the forest,
the forest, our home, our mother.
In my net I have caught
a little bird,
a very little bird,
and my heart is caught
in the net with the little bird.
(pregnancy song of the efe peoples)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent Activity: Snowflake-a-Day

The one Christmas request I wasn't able to make good on this year was for Big B to see snow. So we began a new tradition, one that I hope will last many years. Each day since December 1st, we have cut and hung one snowflake. There are some great templates available for young and seasoned snippers alike (Big B cut out his own shapes; we'll use the templates in a couple of years). Here are some of our favorites, photos courtesy of Big B.
We were hoping for snow when we went to visit Nanny and Paw-Paw. Instead, we made a bit of our own while we were there, using the pipe cleaners and beads from our road trip kit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Recycled Christmas: No-Stick Paper Chains

This is the coolest. I saw a way to make these folded paper chains, then adapted it (with Biscuit's help) into a square-ish, modern version. Instead of wasting brand new construction paper to make these, we used an old Christmas coloring book and some Christmas magazines, tore out their pages and folded away.Click here for Snip and Snail's first download-able template!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Project Update: Little Birds

I am continuing to make these little ornaments, adapted from this great pattern from Spool Sewing. I make about half a dozen little inside-out bodies at once, then flip them, stuff them and hand-sew them shut whenever I need one. I will be making these for years, I suspect. I adore them.
As the first birthday of little b approaches, I am reminded of how strongly little birds resonated with me as I carried him. I had a gorgeous little henna bird on my belly during my last week of pregnancy. My sister made a little bird mobile to hang over my birth pool. And I found myself singing songs about little birds all the time, right through my labor and into his sweet birth.

The Littlest Birds :: The Be Good Tanyas
Little Bird, Little Bird :: Elizabeth Mitchell
Winter's Come and Gone :: Gillian Welch
Three Little Birds :: Bob Marley

Perched throughout our house, these symbols of playfulness, lightness and song grace the season.