Just Checking In!

We’re in the middle of the holiday season, a time when I’m picking and choosing which holiday parties I can make it to, which ones I can host, and what we’re doing for so-and-so’s birthday (four of them in December!).  I did one craft show earlier in the fall and for the most part, my crafting is on hiatus for a couple of weeks.  I’m experimenting with some new things and saving up ideas for my next burst of productivity.


But one thing that does not go on hiatus is thrifting.  I’ve cut back on the clothing I’m picking up to work with as I have plenty in the closet, but if a piece really calls to me then I’ll bring it home.  Today I spent some time at a local favorite with two of my daughters and found a few fun things.  In addition to making things out of shirts and jeans I do also like to work with vintage linens, as well as some contemporary linens.  I found these sheets today, in great condition:


What a fun print!  I’m going to get a lot of use out of these.  So many possibilities…

In addition to linens I do sometimes pick up second hand fabrics when I see something I like.  I call them “rescue fabric” because I’m adopting them and bringing them home.  I found some pretty goodies today:


The two pieces of fabric in the bottom and bottom right are somewhat small, but eventually just the right inspiration will hit me and they will be perfect.


But the best piece of all was something my daughter found and just knew I had to have it:


Oh, yeah.  Hot pink hippos on a bright green background.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  I may just keep this to bring out and marvel at every so often.  Wowie kazowie!

I hope your holiday season brings you everything you are looking for and some things you aren’t looking for at all, but will still make you happy.  🙂


Promises promises

I promised this blog post ages and ages ago.  My summer, like all of yours, has been busier than I expected I guess.  Usually I’m out of the craft room and in the garden but this year I’ve been in the house, fixing up rooms that were emptied by The Great Daughter Migration of 2017.  Also travelling and working.

I was excited to share pictures with all of you of my desk renovation, but by the time it was all done it felt pretty basic to me.  I had planned on putting together a corner desk but the space was all wrong for the piece that I found.  So let’s start with that piece:

Everything you see in this picture came with.  Well, not the stuff in the background.  Or the floor.

This project started with the desk you see here.  We found it at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in West Madison, and it was literally on the last aisle of the store.  I had looked at everything else-kitchen cabinets, living room furniture, everything.  I was trying to find cabinets/hutches/drawers to work with and make a desk/worktable out of.  This desk had everything, except a desktop, which was fine with me.  I would have picked up a piece of counter top at the same time but at this point I was stuck on the idea of making a corner piece and figured I’d just make something.

My oldest daughter is always on the hunt for more shelving so I gave the hutch and shelves to her.  I really wanted to put them to use but my space is limited.

And then I started the usual process of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and sanding, sanding, sanding.  I really hate sanding.  It’s the main reason I don’t do more of this kind of thing.  I know you’re supposed to be able to skip a lot of the prepping with chalk paint but I’ve never actually worked with the stuff.  I researched it a little and it seemed like it might not stand up to the constant use I was planning.  Also, waxing?  Most sites I read recommended re-waxing every six months to a year.  I don’t even wax my legs that often!

Here’s a slightly blurry picture of the drawer units primed.

So I went with the traditional latex enamel.  Easy to work with and stands up to constant use.  And because this project was entirely for me, I went with a bright, fun color.

Peacock blue for the win.  It makes me smile.

The color was great, and it turned out that the pieces were mostly solid wood.  All I needed now was the hardware, which I had already picked up at our local resale shop.  A big bag of glass knobs for ten bucks!

This is before they went through the dishwasher.
This is after.

They’re mismatched but I don’t care.

Another grainy, weird picture.  

The paint color is not really this light.  My photography skills need work.

All that was left was the desktop, which I quickly made from a sheet of plywood I had sitting around.  Not the best choice, but I figured it would do for now until I spot a replacement at a garage sale or resale shop.  The benefit, of course, was that I could make it any size I wanted to.


I can’t tell you how much I love this thing.  I sit at it every day.  Would you like to see the rest of the room?  I have posted pictures of that on Facebook, too, but should blog it just a little.  Maybe later, for now I have to go make chili!

Shoulda Woulda Coulda

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since March!  Wow, I guess I’ve been busy.  Most of you reading this will already know, but my girls found a place together and all moved out at the same time.  Chaos ensues!  I’m still getting my house together in the aftermath-they each had their own bedroom, so I have three empty rooms to play with.  What a luxury of space after so many cramped years.  They also have a ton of space in their new place and I think they are loving it.

One of the benefits of all of that space, of course, is a new, dedicated sewing room.  I’ve been sharing my space for years, in various rooms, with various other activities.  And Todd is happy to have all of those tubs of old clothing out of our bedroom!  I have a couple of projects related to the new sewing room and hopefully will be blogging that soon.

But first, just a little peek at a project I made while all of the chaos was going on.  This was a special order for a family member.  By the time I got to the end I really regretted not taking pictures all along to blog in detail.  This bag was a great exploration of just how my creative process works.  For example, it took a week at least to choose which fabrics/pieces of clothing to use.  And maybe some of you are aware (or maybe not), but I’m not working with a pattern.  It’s more like an idea of a pattern and then go from there.  I also chose to work with a pair of jeans on this one, and that’s new for me.  I’ve done that a couple of times and haven’t loved the results, but this time something clicked.  Here’s a look:


I made this tote about the same standard size that I make all of them, 18″x 14″.  The handles are approximately 30″ long.  Isn’t that a great print?  That is a vintage sheet I found at a resale shop and it was perfect.  In fact, I’m making curtains for my new guest bedroom out of what was left.


Sometimes it’s the little details that make a piece.  Here I used swivel clasps to attach the straps.  Those are the belt loops holding the rings.


Also a special zipper, and you can see here that I used the waistband from the jeans as binding on the pocket panel.  I’m still getting the hang of installing zippers, so I could have been happier with this one.  But it had to be installed like this so it could do this:


Yup, she’s reversible!  Aren’t those cute pockets?  I actually did wish to keep this one when I was done, despite the flaws.  (If you can’t see them, I’m not telling you where they are!)  I can’t wait to make another one!

Shirts and Skirts

For the past couple of years I haven’t done nearly the amount of crafting that I had in the few years previous.  I’ve been too busy with other things.  But now I’m just working at one job, and the other people I drive around have cut back on the number of jobs that they are working at.  And it’s still winter, despite the thermometer, so it’s still sewing time.  All of which adds up to some inspiration, in the form of tote bags.

I started with a simple, basic pattern.  It’s about 18 x 14, and doesn’t have any pockets.  And because it’s so simple I couldn’t resist making it reversible.  That’s a thing for me-I love the reversible stuff.  Here’s bag one:

Can you see why I’m calling this post shirts and skirts?  I’m digging into my stash of thrift store and garage sale finds to make these bags, almost entirely from repurposed shirts and skirts.  It makes for some interesting details.


This is the second bag.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but there is a pocket on the reverse.  Handy!

And from there I went nuts.  I started adding more pockets and tabs to button the bag closed.  Each one is a little different, depending on the clothing I was working with.  Smaller shirts meant a smaller bag.  Sometimes I was able to incorporate existing pockets. Take a look!

Fun, right?  Now I’m ready to move on to the next idea, another set of totes made from pants.  Let’s hope it goes well!

Spring Cleaning in February

If Pinterest is any indication, those of us who craft and sew and create are in constant search of ways to organize our stuff.  I know there are creative people out there who thrive in chaos and feed off of that, but it seems most of us get butterflies from organizing into matching bins and marking everything with a label maker.  I tend to reorganize my space in some way about twice a year.  Once after a big bout of creativity and all of my stuff is everywhere, and another sweeping organization when I come back to crafting after the summer gardening season.  In fact, if you ask my family they will tell you that the whole house is like that, and the way we store and organize everything is in constant flux.  Last year I posted pictures of an organized attic space on my Facebook page.  Today I can’t get in my attic to take pictures.  Maybe that’s the next big project…

The big impetus for my latest clean up was my scraps, which were part of the subject of my last post, here.  There have been pictures here and there that indicate just how chaotic it’s gotten.  The “system” I was using just wasn’t working for me anymore.


Here you can see what is mostly scraps from repurposed shirts, separated by color into little baggies and then into bigger baggies, kept in a laundry basket.  Somewhere in another basket is yet even more scraps.


Once I decided it was time again to clean up, I started by gathering all of the scraps into one place.  You’re looking at everything-pieces of shirts, leftovers from quilts, squares from other projects, etc.  In order to re-sort I had to get it out of the way and reorganize my sewing space.

Remember these pictures?  This was my space in the middle of a project, but it accurately reflects what was going on.  Besides needing better storage of scraps, I had come to realize that my sewing machine would probably work better if was next to an outlet instead of me always tripping over the extension cord.


I used to keep scraps of glass in these bins.  When I stopped doing glass work I tore this down and stored it in the garage-for years.  Sydney and Emma helped me gather all of the pieces, get them cleaned off, and put it all back together.  The scraps themselves are still in little baggies because dust, but I’m super-happy with this.  There are bins that are empty, too, and some with trims, etc.


I kept the denim scraps in the big bins and put them in a cabinet with the interfacings/fusible fleece, etc.

The sewing machine moved to the back wall, and I pushed out the wood-topped cabinet.  We used to have a love seat in front of it but that’s gone now, so more room for me!  You can see my fabric yardage folded and sorted by color/fabric type.  It’s an okay system, but digging around to find the right piece usually makes a bigger mess.  I picked up some containers on our last trip to Costco and they are just right.  I need more!

Ultimately, I still share this room with four other people who are using it for entirely different purposes, so this is my space within a space.

The pictures make it seem crowded, but there is plenty of space for little ol’ me.  Everything is close at hand but there’s plenty of table-top space to spread out.  ( I didn’t even notice until now that my coffee cup had it’s picture taken again. )


In  addition, I also have The Wall of Totes along the back of the room.  These are my raw materials, the shirts and jackets and pants I’ve been collecting for a few years now, sorted by color/type of clothing.  Believe it or not, this is after a couple of hard purges.  I’ve embarked on a new project that has me going through all of it again and I’m finding a lot of good stuff.  😉


And finally, here’s my closet under the stairs.  That’s where “the other stuff” lives.  Well, some of the other stuff.  There’s still an attic full of totes, most of which is display stuff but there is also fleece and batting and foam stuff for ornaments and….

Something Just for Me

One of the universal problems that anyone working with fabric faces is what to do with scraps?  Sewists, quilters, we all have little pieces of fabric taking up room and mocking us.  They’re still useful, can’t throw them out, what to do?  I suppose knitters have the same problem with yarn.  After Christmas and all of those projects for others I took a little time to make something just for me, only using scraps.  (And then after this project I took some time and reorganized my crafting space.  So claustrophobic!)


I started this project with the blues.  I mean, a lot of blues.  I’ve been looking for a while for a good foundation pieced block pattern to use up scraps like this.  I like foundation piecing, especially for weird little shapes, as it helps stabilize what may otherwise stretch out of place.  I came across this blog in my search:  Pintangle’s Crazy Quilt

I’m not into crazy quilting, but these blocks were perfect for what I wanted to do.  I chose to only work with block one and rotate it throughout the quilt.  I was also inspired in my design by this quilt, which I pinned in Pinterest a while back: Bottled Rainbows


Here you can see how I modified the block by adding a 1/4 inch sash between each piece.  Below are close ups so you can see that even the white fabrics were scraps of all kinds.

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The blocks started coming together, and that’s when I realized my big mistake.  When printing the blocks I had copied and pasted the pattern into Word in order to fit more than one onto a page, and inadvertently stretched the block by about a 1/4 inch on one side.  Not a big deal, except I was flipping the blocks as I was sewing them into rows.  You can see in the picture above that it was creating a problem.  I did end up unsewing quite a lot of it and did some trimming.  It got better, but I’ll always see where it’s wrong.

Next is the border.  Still working with scraps, still foundation piecing.  I cut longer strips of plain white fabric and pieced directly onto that.



Every so often I stopped, flipped it over, and trimmed.  Yes, I’m making more scraps.  It’s a never-ending loop!


I kept the quilting simple, as I always do, by stitching in the ditch with variegated thread.  Quilting is my least favorite part of the process, so I keep it simple.


And here it is, hanging in my room.  It reads a little warmer in this light.  It’s actually the first quilt I’ve finished in a while, and it was a nice mental re-set to move on to the next thing, which was to reorganize my sewing space.

The Handmade Holiday, Part Five


When I declared this holiday was going to be as handmade as possible, I’ll admit the reception was pretty lukewarm.  But Youngest Daughter (Katie) was enthused.  We had been watching Over the Garden Wall on Netflix, an animated miniseries, and she had been planning a Wirt cosplay.  For those not in the know, cosplaying is when you dress up like a character, sometimes from animation or live action, whatever catches your fancy.  Katie is really into it, and makes videos online while in costume.

Wirt is the boy on the right in this picture.  Katie figured his cape would be an easy make, so she asked for that.  It wasn’t hard, but I’ve made easier.  You don’t see it as well in the above picture, but the lining is red.  So I cut up a blue sheet and red tablecloth that I had, and my friend, Polly, donated some gold-toned buttons and voila!  A cape!


This turned out to be one of those projects that actually inspires me, and once the idea for the cape was solid, I started to think of more things to add to the cosplay.  For one thing, I had plenty of leftover red tablecloth to make a hat.  So I made the hat (no picture, though).

I should mention that we all watched this miniseries, some of us more than once, so I was well aware of how important the relationship between the two brothers was.  You can’t have Wirt without Gregory.  And I started to think, how can I make a Gregory?  Katie used to be into sock monkeys and I thought it would be fun to make a cosplay for one of them, and to make it look kind of like he made it himself.


And there is Gregory!  I made his teapot hat from a piece of fleece, his coverall from a t-shirt, and his pouch from a scrap from some pants.  I couldn’t find a frog in Katie’s old toys, so Sock Monkey has a chameleon instead.  The pouch isn’t empty, either.  Gregory’s pet rock is in there, as well as his taffy:





I also took one of these:


and added a brooch pin finding to the feet.  This is Beatrice and she is important to the story, too.  Now Katie can pin Beatrice to her shoulder.

I think it all came out well, but of course by the time Christmas came around I think Katie was kind of over it.  I did have fun making it, though.  Sock Monkey was happy to have a costume.