Saturday, January 14, 2017

Scraptastic January: Unicorn Block

Close to Christmas, I decided I wanted to make this unicorn block for my daughter.  I have always been impressed with this amazing pattern but was intimidated by the complicated look of it... but one of my mantras is, "I can do hard things!"  So I went for it and I am so glad I did.

I used only scraps to make this beauty and it worked out so well.  I separate my scraps by color but also have a completely different storage system for solid scraps that are mixed all together (it's very sophisticated: two big giant zip lock bags stuffed under my cutting table).  As you can see, I used quite a bit of both solid and print scraps.  I dug into stash for the silver asterisk fabric for the horn.

Someone on IG mentioned they might frame a complicated paper pieced block rather than make it into a mini or a pillow- which is an awesome idea I wouldn't have thought up myself!  On Christmas Eve, I drove to my nearby Michael's and grabbed the perfect 18" square white frame with a 50% off coupon.  It was a great time saver and I already knew I didn't want this block suffering the abuse that a kids pillow gets around here.

Here's Charlotte after unwrapping her gift:

The whole theme of Charlotte's Christmas seemed to be unicorns.  Oh to be four years old!

Last month I won a giveaway on the Scraptastic Tuesday linkup from Fluffy Sheep quilting and it didn't take me long to zero on these beauties from Dashwood Studio.  These fabrics are so adorable and soft!

Thanks for reading!  Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Playtime Outfit with Birch Knits from MalinisQuiltCo Etsy shop

Shortly after I moved to Colorado from Massachusetts, one of my friends from the BMQG, Hema, opened a fabric supply Etsy shop.  I was excited for her but also a little bummed about the timing: wouldn't we all love to live near an awesome modern fabric store run by a friend?  When I visited New England this summer, I made sure to visit Hema to catch up and I also took the opportunity to enjoy seeing her shop inventory in person.  

When Hema and I were participating in the guild, Hema was all about practicing free motion quilting on her domestic machine.  She really became quite skilled.  Since that time, she's also been developing her skills at garment making - she's very prolific.  The theme of her shop does lean heavily towards apparel fabric selections: lots of knits and double gauze.  She has quilting cottons too and seems to have a unique selection; including Dashwood Studio (UK based fabric company) and lots of organic selections.

Periodically, I will be featuring a product made out of fabrics available from Hema's shop.  Today's post features Birch knits: Wildland and a red solid.  I decided to use the Playtime pattern by my favorite pattern designer, Liesl Gibson- of course.  

My fabrics arrived on Christmas Eve and I promptly threw them in the wash.  I always prewash knit fabrics.  I quickly got everything cut and ready to sew and put it all together this past Sunday evening.  Previously, when I made a quick shopping trip for buttons, I picked up a "twin needle" - something I only barely knew existed.  It wasn't too hard to use and I liked the way it helped me hem the tunic.  

I'll admit that I had some challenges making this outfit, all mistakes of my own doing: I only cut out one tunic/skirt panel and panicked when I wasn't sure if I could salvage another one from my leftovers (I did but it was close), I sewed too close to the edge of the skirt which resulted in some seam-ripping, and I experienced some stretching on the hems of the sleeves that made me feel pretty frustrated.... I expect that to improve with practice!  There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to sewing knits but there are some things that are easier than working with woven fabrics.  For example, I didn't have to do basting stitches and gathering to set in the sleeves.  Winning!

As you can see, Charlotte loves the outfit and I am very happy with how it looks on her:

The leggings were a breeze- I haven't blogged this but I have made at least six pairs for her and a friend from that pattern recently.

Here's a shot of another knit selection I selected from Hema's shop: Tall Tales knit paired with more of the red solid.  I am going to take a little garment sewing break but when I'm ready, I hope to transform these fabrics into a raglan tee ala Hey June.  I LOVE the Tall Tales collection - the jackalope slays me.

Thanks for reading... Next up is lots of cutting for a Patchwork Swoon... I can't wait to start working on a big quilt for me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Christmas Dress and Year Wrap Up

The end of the year project that I focused on was a Christmas dress for my daughter.  It's pretty obvious that I love dressing her up and the combination of the new Liesl Gibson pattern paired with Brambleberry Ridge fabric seemed like a great idea.

I bought the book at Fancy Tiger in November when I took a break from all of my frenzied craft fair sewing and drove up to Denver with my friend Annee to meet Liesl Gibson for the book signing.  It was a really fun night and Liesl is so gracious and easy to talk to.  I'll admit I was a little star struck:

The Building Block dress book gives a basic pattern for a sweet dress that appealed to me.

I've made a dress with a Peter Pan collar before and I didn't have too much trouble:

But it was tough!  My frustration with it made me want to avoid sewing all together.  The part that gave me so much trouble was the collar.  On the dress above, the pattern "taught" me how to install a lined bodice.  With the Building Block instructions, you install a bias strip to encase everything around the neckline.  It was not easy and I did my fair share of seam ripping:

The only alterations I made to the pattern was to add handmade bias piping around the collar and I added an inch of length to the skirt on the size 5T (I'm very glad I did!).

Charlotte has loved the dress and was able to wear it many times throughout December.  I don't plan to put it away for a while, despite Christmas being behind us now.  I'll admit that the frustrations with this dress made me think about how much easier (and even cheaper!) a time I've had with Christmas dresses when I've bought off-season fancy dresses off of the Dillard's clearance rack......

I made matching plaid bow ties out of the scraps of fabric I had leftover.  The boys looked darling.  Owen looks so sad in this picture: it was well past his nap time when we took this picture.

Here's a cute picture of Gregory wearing the bow tie, I think he felt glad to be included in my apparel sewing for once but honestly I don't feel bad that I don't sew clothes for him.  He's very picky about what he wears and prefers his t-shirt and basketball shorts hands down.

Another fun thing that came to fruition in December was a feature of my thread wreath in the Australian magazine, Homespun:

This year, I made Charlotte eight dresses.  I completed five quilts.  I participated in vending at two craft shows.  I made a quilt almost completely out of scraps (Hello Kitty). I conquered my fear of sewing with knits.  I made a king size quilt for my brother.  I made lots of lovely bags.

A few weeks ago, when I was laboring over Charlotte's dress at a guild sew-in, a person made a comment  amounting to something like this, "I would never work so hard on something that would just be grown out of."  I know what she was saying but I didn't really love or appreciate the sentiment.  It feels worth it when I look at these pictures and remember the excitement she shows when I make her a new dress.  She's probably the one and only daughter I'll have and I want to relish this time when making her a dress is usually affordable (1-2 yards is enough!) and her enthusiasm for my creations is contagious:

(she can fit into this one now, I'll have to post a picture!)

Edited to add: I forgot about this Hide and Seek dress I started the night before we left for NH.  I was so stressed about taking a long flight with three young children, this project helped my anxiety calm down a little:

She wore it to Lego Land:

My husband has had a ton of time off for the holidays and my mom is coming for a visit this next week- so I've definitely been in vacation mode lately.  I haven't wanted to hide away in my sewing room while everyone's home- which is probably a good thing- although I miss it and even feel a little guilty.  But I have been cleaning up and organizing my sewing room some and thinking about my 2017 sewing goals:

  • Finish the Hello Kitty quilt.
  • Make a quilt completely from scraps.
  • Open and maintain an Etsy shop.
  • Make a quilt using some of my favorite and long-hoarded Lizzy House Constellations fabrics
  • Make a skull/Halloween quilt for Gregory
  • Finish at least 3 WIPs.
  • Make more quilts- 10 will be the goal.
  • Attend the February guild retreat.
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sewing Gifts Given and Received 2016

  About two weeks before Christmas, I tried to talk myself out of making any handmade presents.  I conceded by making my in-laws some patchwork dish towels and hexagon coasters (but forgot to take a picture!).  A week later, I finally admitted to myself that I just had to make something for the kids.  The compromise that I made with myself was that I didn't have to make something for the baby because he's too young to remember it and I was running out of time.

I decided to make a skull pillow for my oldest son, Gregory.  As I've said before, he loves all things Halloween, all year round.  I spotted an amazing looking skull block on Instagram and found that the pattern was from the new book by Tula Pink and Angela Walters: Quilt with Tula and Angela: A Start-to-Finish Guide to Piecing and Quilting Using Color and Shape.  I made one block out of some glow-in-the-dark fabric and black Kona, I added some borders to the block to make it 18.5" square:

I used some of the Halloween stash (also fabrics that glows) for the back to make a zippered closure:

Gregory really loved it and especially loves that it glows.  We've been talking about me making a full Sugar Skull quilt soon- but let me tell you- making quilts for your kids increases in difficulty as your children start voicing their opinions- opinions that are strong and do not budge.  He's really intent on me using this darn panel I've had for ages and nixed my idea of doing a colorful bright solids version of the quilt..........  to be continued!

I can't wait to share what I made for Charlotte, but I will save that post for the next Scraptastic link-up (I won a prize this month and I'm motivated to continue my participation with that fun blog activity!).

I was spoiled by my husband in crafty goodness for Christmas gifts.  I've wanted Blueberry Park fabrics for ages and the warm palette bundle is simply perfection.  I've also wanted Mostly Manor and my husband snatched some up during a FQS flash sale when the bundles were 50% off.  I'm going to undo the pretty bundles and sort the pieces into color order into my stash tonight.  I also scored a yard each of Tiger Lily ballerinas on white and some older Christmas Anne Kelle.

Every Christmas, I tend to get lucky and receive some awesome crafty additions to my sewing related library.  I've checked out Handmade Style at least four times from my library and even made a quilt from a pattern therein, so I am very happy to finally have my own copy.  I heard Amy Gibson speak at our guild in the fall and was dying for her "Quilt Block Cookbook."  I was able to see many of her quilts from the book in person and they're simply gorgeous.  Finally, the "By the Bundle" book is one that I like every pattern within the book- I seriously want to make them all!

Thanks for reading.  I hope you are enjoying this holiday season and finding some time to be creative.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Scraptastic Tuesday: Thanksgiving Table Runner

 Here's the truth: I think sewing so much for those craft fairs this fall burnt me out a bit.  I haven't been sewing very much lately.  I'm tired.  When I have some spare time, I have preferred to go to bed earlier, read, and watch the occasional Netflix drama.  I'll admit that I feel a little guilty for not churning out lots of sewing projects.  I will say that I am still enjoying the fruits of my craft fair spoils: I bought myself winter boots that actually fit (I've been using a pair of thrifted ones a size too large for years!) with some of my proceeds and I've been using some of my craft fair inventory as gifts to family, friends, and teachers.  It's felt so good to just rifle through all that stuff and pull out something cute and handmade that is ready to go.

So I guess this post is a little overdue, but the night before Thanksgiving, I decided to start a table runner, in hopes of finishing it in time for the next day's meal.  Nick and I reached our ten year anniversary in June, yet we've never had to cook our own Thanksgiving turkey- but this year was the year to finally do it!  Nick took charge of it and my responsibility was potatoes (we had friends over who brought other dishes too).  I didn't feel too bad focusing on this spontaneous idea/project because the meal preparation was minimal for my part.

In early November, I spotted these "Grateful" Target placemats in the Dollar Spot (they were actually $3 each).  I decided to use them as the focal points of the runner:

We have a very long table, so this runner was almost two yards long (13" wide).

I had quite a bit of Insul-brite (that batting that is supposed to be great for making pot holders) and pieced together a long piece to use as the top layer as batting (I also added another layer of thin polyester batting as well).  The thickness made it all a little tricky to sew up neatly, but I think I did okay.

I raided my orange/yellow/brown scrap bins and bags to make a scrappy patchwork front.  I've heard a lot of people often say they "hate" the color brown for quilts but I think it's underrated.  Dark chocolate brown adds such a nice contrast, it truly helps other fabrics shine.  

I'll admit that I didn't finish the runner in a super-timely manner, it was all done about twenty minutes after all of the food was ready.  I did take sewing breaks to help with the meal but seriously- you guys- my husband is just a great guy who is so supportive and really showed patience with my crazy idea to make a table runner none too soon before the big day.

Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fall Finishes that weren't for the Craft Fairs

During my hectic craft fair preparation, I made a commitment not to work on craft fair stuff on Sundays.  My religious faith places great emphasis on not "working" on Sundays (when possible, we all know there are many professions that need to be available 24/7) and reserving that day for worship, service, rest, and family time.  I'll admit it was tempting to break that commitment because I felt so overwhelmed and like I had so much to do... but it was important that I took a break.  Most of the time, I didn't sew at all on Sundays but I made one exception when I decided to make the baby's Halloween Trick or Treat bag:

Man my bag making skills have really improved since I made the first Trick or Treat bag about six years ago ;)

And just after the craft fairs finished, I wanted to challenge my brain after so much monotonous sewing and make something a bit challenging for me: a knit dress in a pattern I never tried before.  I made the Me Hearties dress by Patterns for Pirates in a 5T out of "Cattitude" in plum by Lizzy House.

This dress was surprisingly easy and Charlotte adores it!  She has been wearing it every chance she gets.

She has a thing for this print by Lizzy House.  I made the Oliver and S Rollerskate dress out of the same print in quilting cotton about two years ago and she LOVED it.  It now fits her like a tunic and it's still cute.  It's so fun that Andover fabrics re-released this print on knit.

Aahh... this post makes my heart happy.  I really do sew for the love and joy of it....  I don't know if I could ever only focus on making things to sell...........

Monday, November 28, 2016

Craft Fair Part III: The Shows

 Well, I have had some rough spots over this weekend and insomnia is the result: I am pretty sure I left my handmade Aragon Echino diaper bag in a parking lot on Friday and tonight I sliced my thumb bad enough to necessitate five stitches.  I can't sleep and need to distract myself from online Black Friday fabric shopping, so it's time to talk more about my recent experiences selling at craft fairs.

Originally, I just signed up to participate in a craft fair at my son's school, but I soon became unsure of putting so much effort into making for just one craft fair.  It was very late in the season to start applying to lots of craft fairs, all of the ones I researched were no longer accepting applications.  I saw a flyer at Joann's for Sunnyside Christian Church and was able to get on the waitlist.  Two weeks before the Sunnyside craft fair, I was informed that I was off of the waitlist and had a spot.  I have since learned that being accepted to shows very late into the season is a big red flag, it probably means that there is not a big demand to vend within them and there is desperation to fill all of the spots.  Luckily for me, I was very satisfied with my experience there, so I guess I really lucked out.

On that note and somewhat curiously, the folks at Sunnyside gave me a really nice spot to vend- right by the main entrance where everyone entering the fair came in.  The stream of customers was quite steady and I made my first sales within a few minutes of the craft fair starting.

Here's my setup.  Since this church is only about a mile from where we live, it was easy for me to have Nick bring all of my stuff in and I came later to arrange it all the day before the show.

These next few pictures were taken at the end of the day and show how everything became a bit disheveled.  This rack was an awesome yard sale find from the summer, just $3.  On the 8" long table, it didn't take over like it might have on a shorter table.

The patchwork dish towels were some of my best sellers, I sold nearly one dozen and this is what I had leftover:

I used clothespins to hang the many hoop Christmas ornaments for display on a bathroom shelving unit.  Most customers didn't seem to pay much attention to them and I sold none.

The policy of this craft fair was that vendors must set up the day before.  I brought Charlotte with me to do the setup and she had the great idea of hooking the bibs to the poles of this stand instead of setting them inside the shelves like I had planned.  Genius!

The whole day of vending at Sunnyside was fun, exhilarating, and exhausting.  I was very stressed with the poor wifi signal that made accepting credit cards on my Square reader very slow and frustrating.  I am definitely more of an introvert personality and found the task of interacting with so many people to be very tiring- I mean, there's a reason why some of my greatest happiness is being in my sewing room, sewing away in solitude!  I also had fun because the sales were very steady and it was so validating.  I was so tired from so many late nights of sewing but to see people appreciating and purchasing my work was simply awesome.

So I should explain that one reason why the Sunnyside fair went so well is because I many friends personally came by to the fair to purchase from me.  They knew I was going to be there because I posted about it, with pictures of my items, on Facebook.  I'd say about one third of my sales were to friends.  I honestly have to admit that I did not expect this.  My main motivation for posting on FB about the fair was to get feedback about what people like to buy and get advice about selling; I received a lot of helpful feedback from friends who have had experience with vending at shows.  I also have to admit, on a personal note, that it was a big confidence boost to have friends make the point to come by and say hi- several didn't purchase from me and that was absolutely fine- it really meant a lot to receive that kind of support and really made me feel loved.  I've written on here before about how lonely and rejected I've often felt here in Colorado but having so many be so kind was a big boost.

The RMCA (Rocky Mountain Classical Academy) Market Day was the following weekend after Sunnyside.  I spent that week making more items of my bestsellers from the previous show: reusable snack bags, dish towels, and bibs.  I also added a new item: the chalkboard travel rolls (which didn't sell at all).

I setup my booth the day of the fair, arriving there around 7 in the morning.  It took quite a while to carry it all in and set it up by myself, but I was ready by the time it started at 9.  I had a little more room to setup than I had at Sunnyside, so I brought along a borrowed clothes drying rack (shown right) to display lots of bibs.

So this fair was a big disappointment compared to my experience at Sunnyside.  I already had confidence in my items and prices since I had done so well previously.  I knew what the big problem was: there were so few customers.  It was not a popular fair to attend.  Apparently it was the sixth year they've hosted one, but I swear, the show felt like a ghost town!  At Sunnyside, I didn't dare leave to go to the bathroom- it was so busy!  (Well, I did once, of course).  But at RMCA, I was bored and there wasn't much of a need to be strictly at my booth the entire time.  I saw some people come into the vendor area who didn't bother to walk around and check out all of the booths; there simply weren't many "serious shoppers."

My biggest customers at RMCA were other vendors: two women nearby came by and bought bibs.  It's kind of sad if nearly half your sales are from other vendors- sales like that should be a "bonus," not the majority of one's profits.  The day was depressing and boring.  I brought cross-stitch to work on and chatted a lot with the girl seated behind me (this was her first fair ever and her items were adorable and impeccable! I tried to assure her that the slow day was not due to her awesome and gorgeous stuff).

The fair organizer checked in with me at the end of the day and asked me how it went, when I told her my sales were nearly quadruple more the previous week, she was a little defensive.  It was awkward for me because I didn't want to be rude or ungrateful; but I really think anyone would've noticed how empty the whole day was, it was SO slow.

At Sunnyside, the fair organizers asked all vendors to donate 10% of their proceeds to the church.  I made $369 there and donated $37 as requested. The RMCA was a $40 flat fee, I made $101.  Most of the money went back into the family bank account to cover the many costs I had accrued.  I do plan to use some of the money to clean and service my machine, which has seen so much use that it is once again sewing on it's own and acting a little crazy.  I have also used some of the money to indulge in some fabric shopping; shocking, I know.

In my next post about the craft fairs, now that I've covered a lot of the logistics, I will try to go more into my thoughts and feelings about the whole experience as well as future plans for selling handmade items.