Friday, January 30, 2009

Minky blanket tutorial.

Here is the tutorial I promised! When I first started making blankets I really struggled with sewing "Minky" (which is a super-soft, fleecy material, sometimes seen written as "Minkee").
Why is Minky so difficult to deal with? Well, it is slippery stuff. It stretches and slides and is basically a pain in the neck if you don't tell it who's boss! I had a few cursed attempts in which much swearing and ripping of stitches occurred. For the record, ripping out stitches in Minky is not fun.

Anyway, Google and the Etsy forums helped answer my questions (as in, how do I sew this stuff without throwing my machine out the window?). I did find a lot of info. Yet first and foremost, NO you do NOT need a walking foot! Many swear by them for Minky blankets, but I am here to tell you it is not necessary.

What is necessary, however, are pins. And lots of them.

Here are the basics...pretty straightforward but I figured I'd cover all of the steps for any newbies to sewing!

1. Cut your material. I like to cut my cotton (print) fabric about 1" beyond what I want my finished dimensions to be. I use a rotary cutter and mat so this is simple to do. I'm less exact when cutting my Minky, just make sure it is slightly bigger than your cotton print.
2. Lay the Minky down (I usually use the carpeted floor, it is less slippery than a table), right side up. 3. Place your cotton print so the right side is face down on top of the Minky. Line up your edges and make sure the pieces are similar in size. It is OK if the Minky is larger than the cotton print, because you will use the cotton as your sewing guide.
4. And now dear friends, let the pinning begin! I start on one side, first pinning each end and the middle. Then I place a pin in the middle of each section and I keep adding pins until they are 1 to 1.5" apart. Seriously, you need that many pins. Don't worry, it won't take as long as you think!


5. Once you finish that side, continue pinning the other three sides until the entire blanket is pinned, like so:
6. Time to start sewing. Because you have placed so many pins this will actually be pretty easy! Make sure to use a nice cotton or all-purpose thread, have your stitch length set to a medium length, and tension should also be at a medium level. Nothing fancy required. Just patience and a slow foot on the pedal. I like to start sewing between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way down on the first side - this will allow for an easy spot to leave open so the blanket can be turned inside out after it's sewn. I have tried to show in this next photo about where that would be:
7. As I said, GO SLOW. Having to stop to take out each pin will assist you in this! Try not to sew on top of your pins (easier said than done, I know) so your needle doesn't break. I like to do a 1/4" seam allowance, using the edge of my cotton print as my guide. Sew all the way around, stopping before you reach your beginning point - otherwise you won't be able to turn it! I leave about a 5" opening.8. Trim any edges of Minky to eliminate bulk from the finished blanket. I find it works well to pull it out of the way as I trim. Make sure your scissors are sharp!9. Now, turn the blanket right-side out. Here you can see the opening in the side.
10. Next, get your iron nice and hot. Fold in the edges of the opening and press in place. Then pin the opening shut so it doesn't slide! Continue pressing the entire blanket, making sure to give the edges a nice crease.


11. Finishing touches - you are almost there and the hard part is most definitely over! Topstitch around the entire perimeter of the blanket. I try to keep my seam allowance at 1/4", though often it is a little less when I am stitching the opening - I want to make sure I'm catching the folded-in edges of the cotton and the Minky. But it doesn't have to be totally perfect - what baby cares about his or her topstitching? Keeping it straight is most important here. Remember that you are stitching through pretty thick stuff, so a little (gentle!) pulling on the material as it goes under the presser foot may be in order. If you had a walking foot, you wouldn't need to do this.
12. Congrats, you're done! No swearing or throwing of the machine out the window was necessary. Mission accomplished! BTW, I would love it if you follow this tutorial...please let me know and send me a picture of your finished blanket!
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Update 3.17.09 - Here is a shameless plug...I just opened a new fabric store on Etsy this week...so if you're in the market for some cool fabrics to try out, you can check me out at iCraft! (Including the orange dot print pictured above). Thanks, and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For the love of Laura.

I've heard from a few that you, too, love the Little House books (or you did, once upon a time). When I was little it was all about the tv show, with that opening sequence of the braided little girls scampering down a flowered hill, while Ma tucks her hair in her sunbonnet and Pa laughs from his seat next to Ma in the wagon. Remember that? Can you hear the music, too? Remember Carrie falling head over heels as she scrambles down the hill?

I digress. This is about the books, and yes I do love them. I really do read the entire series each year, most often in the fall or winter. I find new passages that I enjoy each time...beautiful descriptions (she was a master!) or sometimes details of household tasks of a bygone era. I thought that as I go through the books again, I will occasionally share little bits with you. I'm currently reading Farmer Boy, but I will backtrack and start with the first, Little House in the Big Woods.

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But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, "This is now."

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

25 random things.

I wanted to post a sewing tutorial today, but at the moment I don't have the energy for uploading loads of photos! So in the interest of at least posting something, here is my list of "25 Random Things" that I posted on Facebook yesterday. I was tagged (hasn't everyone been tagged with this?) and I was happy to have the excuse to write a few things about myself. Let it be noted that I could keep coming up with items if given the space. I suppose I do have the space here, but your interest will undoubtedly wane. Anyway, here goes...

1. I have a huge sweet tooth.
2. When I was twelve, I decided that someday I was going to have three kids - first a boy, then two girls. And that is exactly what I have now!
3. Kirk and I met at Mulhall's Nursery, where we both worked.
4. Consequently, I love the smell of fertilizer.
5. My first job was at Taco Bell. It was awful.
6. I have always wanted to live in a city that was really close to the mountains. Not so I could hike or ski...just so I could look at them.
7. I love the sound of a vacuum sucking up dirt.
8. Every year, I reread the entire "Little House" series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
9. I wish Jamie Oliver was my personal chef.
10. I think Martha Stewart says the word "fantastic" entirely too often.
11. I have two aluminum poles in my dining room at the moment. Tonight, I was asked by friends if they were for Festivus. (They are not. Rather, a craft-show display in the works).
12. I have come to realize that I have sensory issues related to noise. I think it has something to do with being around rowdy children.
13. I love making things.
14. I am a bit of a nut about recycling.
15. Yet I have no problem taking a long, hot shower.
16. I also love photography and am pretty good at it.
17. Someday I want to have family portraits taken by The Image Is Found, based out of Oceanside CA. Guess that means we need to go to San Diego on vacation!
18. I much prefer hot over cold.
19. Every afternoon I drink a cup of tea and read a book, even if it's only for 10 minutes.
20. My household would run perfectly well for a week on batteries and scotch tape.
21. I am currently looking at a stack of papers on the computer desk - including a pet license notice, an investment statement, and folder containing new bank account papers. There are also two skeins of yarn, two digital cameras, circular knitting needles, and scotch tape (see?).
22. When I was little, one wall of my bedroom was covered with rainbow wallpaper.
23. My favorite toy as a child was a doll. I named her Angie, and I still have her. One of her eyes became clouded with dust so I always pretended she was blind in one eye.
24. I am a dog person. Sorry, don't love cats.
25. I have never had braces, nor have I ever had to wear glasses.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Notes from the weekend.

-Friday night - Mother/Son bowling with the cub scouts. The evening started at 6:30 and ended around midnight! It was fun (and I bowled surprisingly well), yet the flashing lights/loud music (yes, it was "cosmic") must have been too much for my sensory system. It took me over 3 hours to fall asleep. As I lay there (trying not to look at the clock) I could tell I was starting to get a cold...my first of the season, can you believe it?

-Saturday morning - Renew Your Soul event at church. Despite the lack of sleep it was great! Laughter really is the best medicine. If you ever get the chance to hear Liz Curtis Higgs speak, go! You won't be disappointed.

-Saturday afternoon - I hit the wall and slept for two blissful hours. Kirk even made the kids stay away and ended up taking them to the gym to climb the rock wall. They loved it, and I loved my sleep.

-Saturday night - Enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine while watching Jack Bauer take on the world. And, getting back into this show. A guilty pleasure for sure. Thanks to the wine, I slept very well that night!

-Sunday - Church, followed by house cleaning and shoving the kids out the door to play in the snow. Why do they need to be coerced sometimes? Then later came some chocolate chip cookie baking followed by our Life Group meeting (that was the only reason I cleaned...otherwise there would still be crumbs on the family room floor).

So today, I am still fighting this cold/virus thing. It's not a full-blown cold, yet I wish my immune system would just kick it already! I have gotten too used to being healthy this winter. Do you hear that sound? It's me, knocking on wood LOUDLY!

Friday, January 23, 2009

New items.

I'm enjoying my time today (alone!) while all of the kids are in school. Is this what it will feel like next fall, when the youngest goes off to kindergarten? Good thing I have lots to keep me busy. It's been a very productive day...something I've been missing lately.

Here, a new bag in Jenny Hofer Designs. The outer fabric is so, so pretty. I'm really digging the green and pink lately! (Grandma M., you'd be so proud!). Here, a new item for Beacon Hill. I've had this fabric sitting around for a loooong time. It was unintentional that the zig zag goes in opposite directions on each burp cloth...but I like the effect.And, the soon-to-be-official business is coming along nicely. Funny how some things are accomplished easily, when the timing is right.

Have a happy (and warm) weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Starling.

This is much, much prettier in person! Can't quite decide what I'm going to do with it yet! (Alexander Henry's "Pink Starling," a relatively new print).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

History.

I love the fact that just about everyone I know watched the inauguration.

I love that my kids' school made sure that every child in every grade watched as well.

I loved Aretha (and her hat), and equally loved the Simple Gifts theme. One of my absolute favorites.

I did not love the poem so much.

I love the historical grandness of it all.

I love that 1.5 million people were there to witness it. And not one person was arrested in that vast crowd.

I love that people who didn't even vote for him were able to find joy and hope in the collective American spirit of the day.

My hope is that those who could not find goodness, or joy, or hope will at least be able to show respect. For the man, for the office, for the nation.

And, I love this:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

-President Obama, 1-20-09

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cinderella.

A moment captured...
So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Growing.

Little by little, this venture of mine has grown. From home-printed business cards and the first few orders from friends, to Jenny Hofer Designs and Beacon Hill and the Wonderful World of Etsy. I am blessed, I know, to be doing something that I love. It is a gift, and I do not take it for granted. I love the fact that I get to play around and make stuff just like I did when I was nine.

The time has come to grow again, just a bit. I'm making the business legal and taxable (sorry, local friends!) and adding some structure to the way I'm conducting business. I have had ideas in mind for a very long time - why I did not act on them before I'm really not sure! But this is the right time for me, and it is scary and exciting all at the same time.

Once the trade name is approved and the tax stuff is worked out I will unveil a little more, I promise! Thank you to all of you (and you know who you are) who have helped me along the way the past 14 months or so. For making a purchase (or two), for asking "how's the business?" and for the wonderful words of encouragement and praise. I love you all!

p.s. The boy is much better. He had to stay home (that darn 24 hour rule on antibiotics!) and let's just say that at 3:05 this afternoon I was threatening to drop him off at school for the last half hour. Yes, he was back to his old self.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One of those days.

I knew things were heading south yesterday afternoon, when a pale-faced Reed was complaining of a sore throat. Long story short, he woke up with a fever and is staying home from school.

Today of all days, though, I was slated to bring a boatload of food to our MOPS group, in an effort to provide a variety of samples for taste-testing recipes from The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious. I had brownies, and cookies, and a crock-pot full of mac and cheese...plus I had food for the main buffet table. Oh, and handouts (which were put together around 8:30 at Kinko's last night) and copies of the books, and who knows what else. It was a lot of stuff.

So Lauren went to school in the -15 degree arctic blast, Reed was dropped off at Kirk's office to hang out in a "cube" for a couple of hours, and Grace and I sped off to MOPS.

Not even 1/2 hour into my morning, school called. Lauren was in the health room, saying her left ear "really, really" hurt. Hmmm. No fever, no cold symptoms...could it be that my child is feigning illness so I would come pick her up? I laid it out and said no, I cannot come now to get you, and Dad cannot come either. If you are really sick you can rest in the health room and we will get you later. That was 9:30 am...it is now 11:55 and I have not heard back. I'm guessing the ear got better all of a sudden.

And then, 30 minutes later, Kirk called to ask if I am on my way. Um, no, I told him I am in the middle of my Sneaky Chef talk and the food is still being taste-tested. "But I have to go to a meeting," he said, yet poor Reed was sitting there with his book and DS and probably felt miserable. So did I, by then. Luckily there were very few people in his office, and it was OK for Reed to hang out while Kirk left. Grace and I left MOPS in a hurry and sped back across town to pick him up.

I'm glad to have my truly sick child back home, yet he is sulking because there are no good movies in the house. Sigh. It is always something. As for me, I think I'll eat a brownie and drink some tea, and maybe curl up in the sunshine like a cat this afternoon. That is, unless school calls back about a child with an ear that is still "really, really" hurting.
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Edit: After watching Reed attempt to eat (which looked like pure torture with every swallow), I got him into the doctor. My intuition was right on the money - he has strep throat. What's making him feel loads better at the moment, however, are the two James Bond movies (Sean Connery - old school!) that Grandpa brought over. You rock, Grandpa! And, guess what? School never did call back.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New template, and power tools.

I finally managed (well, "got around to it" would be more accurate) to find a new, three-column template for the blog. Thanks to Kirk for helping me get the code in the right place! I like it...still need to figure out how to do a few cosmetic things, but frankly, I don't think I'll be learning photoshop anytime soon! Those can wait, at least for now.

And, lots of prepping for the craft show has been going on. My project today was to find a drill bit at Home Depot that could drill into a steel pole. Sounds ambitious, right? I am pleased to say that I not only found the right bit, but I was able to drill six perfect holes into two separate poles, then install eye screws. I promise a photo of the finished product, once the entire project is complete! I'm excited...I think it will look really cool.

Hope you are warm. It feels like 50 below (OK, slight exaggeration...but not by much) so we are hunkered in. Planning on chicken tortilla soup tonight.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Today.

Anticipating a play date today. Grace is excited and nervous, because her friend's mom is German. She is afraid she won't be able to understand her. Thus, lots of talking going on about language, and accents, and foreign countries. I don't remember having this conversation with my former four-year olds.
And, the perpetual Lego village in the family room. Every evening the set-up is quite elaborate, which then gets torn down and rebuilt after breakfast. Must be careful where we step!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Presidential domestics.

I just came across this article and thought it was a really interesting read. I love hearing about the day-to-day, domestic details of presidents. Obama is on the cusp of his inauguration, and I had not given thought to the fact that he has to cover his own moving expenses! I can just imagine the White House staff going crazy in the 6 hours or so (on Inauguration Day) of moving Obama in, and Bush out. Making sure every detail is just so, from curtains to bed linens to floral arrangements. I wonder how this was handled a century ago?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Out the front door.

The door bangs open, two kids jump out and tumble onto the driveway; racing to see who can reach the corner first. The air is cold and biting, but I am drawn to take in a lungful of the frosty January-ness. And, realizing it is the moment of sunrise, I step back in, run up the stairs, and grab my camera. Back down again I step onto the stone-cold porch and frame the shot. My feet are freezing. But it is a good moment, feeling the exhilaration of being outside in January and listening to my children laugh and shout from down the street.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Some things.

A few things that have me excited these days...

...we are finally meeting with an accountant, to help me get set up to collect sales tax. Why this has been such a huge hurdle for me, I have no idea. Still, I am stoked because this will allow me to buy goods wholesale, which will be a bonus to the pocketbook!

...I decided to do a craft show this spring - Millard West High School, on March 14. I am really looking forward to having something to look forward to! My mind has been spinning thinking of booth display ideas. I may do more than this one, but either way it lets me plan and design and execute before next fall, when I definitely hope to get in on some more sales.

...kids that are surprisingly health-food concsious, leading to a little recipe experimentation thanks to The Sneaky Chef. I have tried some before, then set the book aside for the better part of a year. So far we have learned that hiding "purple puree" (ie blueberries and spinach) in a box mix of brownies = goooooood.

...and did I mention school started back on Monday? Yes, that has been excellent for my mental health!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gift exchange.

OK, I know I promised I would share more details of my Christmas gift exchange with Kirk. In years past we have not exactly been consistent with our gift giving, either giving one large expensive item (XBox, laptop), or else various smaller (and not extremely meaningful) things. I happened across some great ideas about a year ago out here in blogland, and some of the ideas were still floating in my brain as we approached the holidays a month or two ago.

So, what did we do? We gave each other gifts for each of the five senses. Five senses = five gifts. I figured this would help rein in costs a bit to limit the number of gifts, and would also encourage some thoughtfulness on each of our parts.

In my previous post, you saw the lovely and warm fleece blanket Kirk made for me, which was for my sense of touch. I also got an iTunes gift card (hearing), a cleverly written coupon for a date night out (taste), The Office season one on DVD (sight), and a jar of body cream from this Etsy shop (smell). I also consider the fact that Kirk is now a registered user on Etsy to be a bonus!

I had a few of my gifts to him planned pretty much as soon as we agreed to the five-senses thing (well, after I convinced him that we should do this). He received a gift card for a massage (touch), a book of sheet music for his bass (hearing), a set of laser-battling remote-control helicopters (sight...and yes, I did buy that in the toy dept), a dozen of his favorite cookies from Eileens, and beer soap from this Etsy shop (smell). That's correct...soap made from Guinness beer! It is good stuff and no, one does not end up smelling like he or she just bathed in beer. It has a light, almost vanilla-y scent that's really nice. Especially for folks like us who don't care for foo-foo stinky bath products!

All in all the gift exchange was more engaging than in years past. A little thought had to go into it which made it interesting for both of us. (Incidentally, I can't tell you how stumped I was on "smell" for him. He doesn't wear cologne, and doesn't have any hair, so I was lucky that Etsy saved the day after doing a search on "Bath and Beauty" followed by "Men," which is how I found a variety of beer soaps. Once I saw those, well, that sealed the deal!).

p.s. I ended up benefiting from the massage gift card! It was enough for an hour massage, but then he offered (or did I convince him?) to split it so we could both get 30 minute massages at the same time. We went yesterday afternoon, and it was heavenly!