Saturday, December 24, 2011

Take two

You'd think after making a bunch of these drawstring bags I could do them with my eyes closed. I was so proud of the seam I managed to close the bottom lining - so straight and so close to the edge. Then I went to put in the drawstrings when I discovered I missed one key step - leaving two spots open in the sides for the drawstrings. Unbelievable. It broke my heart to pull out the lovely seam, turn it inside out and rip open slots on the sides. Then I really couldn't believe it when I went to put drawstrings in one bag only to find I forgot when I stitched around one of the openings to rip out the stitches between! Again I opened the bottom of the lining, but oh boy was that seam perfect. I guess the third time is the charm. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The colour in the back is my newly painted bathroom wall. It's a little taste of autumn - my favourite season.

Arts and crafts time

Finally all the rooms in my house are painted! I finished the job this weekend with the main bathroom. (You'll get a peak at the colour - a rich rusty red-orange called Fallen Leaves - in the next post.)

I've also been doing a couple small projects around the house. I bought this bicycle key rack a while ago from an etsy shop, but it sat around for a while before I got around to my plan. I picked up a frame, took out the glass and wrapped fabric around the back. Then I nailed the frame and key rack on the wall. I think it looks a bit more finished than just hanging up the rack, and it keeps the keys from marking up the wall.

When I painted my living room a robin's egg blue, two groupings of paintings disappeared into the wall because the colours were far too similar. I came up with these two solutions and I think they turned out pretty well. Certainly you can't miss the pictures now!

I outlined a geometric shape with tape, then painted with this awesome green called Appletini. I had a moment of hesitation before the first brush stroke, but I love it.

I love the odd characters on these three paintings. Because they're small, I figured I could make them a bit more prominent by putting them inside a larger frame. I painted the frame (a cheap one I found at Michaels after several unsuccessful trips to thrift shops) with the pink from my craft room and behind painted the wall white. Now the small pieces are part of a bigger piece of art.

It's gonna be weird not having a painting project to do, but I'm sure I'll find plenty of crafting to fill my time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pseudo stockings

Stockings are a big part of my family's Christmas eve tradition, even though we're all now adults. My parents look after my sister's and my stockings and we stuff theirs.

A new part of the stocking tradition is putting all the gifts in something reusable - driven in part by the fact very little fits in the small crocheted stockings from our childhood. Lately my mom sews us pillow cases to fill with goodies. This year I decided to make my parents big drawstring bags that can later serve as handy travel bags. Travel is so much more civilized with nice fabric bags rather than the usual plastic one! My mom was especially grateful for the bags when on a recent trip she needed to pull something out of her overweight luggage. Too bad what she grabbed quickly was the bag of dirty laundry. That could have been all sorts of embarrassing.

I also whipped up a drawstring pouch (the smaller yellow one in the front) for my mom to use for knitting projects. I think that puts me up to a total of making five so far, with a couple more planned to hold Christmas presents.

Santa's on the way

I've been working like a Christmas elf in my craft room to sew presents for friends and family. These drawstring pouches were sewn with specially chosen fabric for each friend - including a certain friend with a fondness for squirrels. Amazingly my crafty friend (CFF) Tara and I made pouches with the exact same orange and blue for the same person. Such crafting serendipity!

These zippered pouches accompanied the drawstring bags. Now there are just a few scraps of my Italian sheep fabric left. I am still surprised that sewing the zippers went smoothly, and involved no swearing whatsoever. Progress!

Like with just about every crafting endeavour, I did run out of time so one friend is holding an IOU for a sheep pouch. Hmm . . . I should really stop blogging and get sewing.

A shout out to my crafty and wonderful friends who gave me so many great presents, including awesome mitts in my favourite teal inspired by my secret movie soft spot (anyone else on Team Jacob?), a zippered pouch made with lovely and confusing fabric (is that a sheep? deer? or some crazy cute sheep-deer hybrid?) and a fabric-covered notebook to record crafting inspiration, ideas and shopping lists.

For those who are also abashed Twihards, you may recognize this building and door. While I was in Italy this fall I visited Montepulciano, aka Volterra. I'm the teeny speck in front - about as close as I like to get for a photo. The town is beautiful in its own right, but I must admit I was excited to follow the special New Moon map marking all the shooting spots. Embarrassing, I know.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I have been busy crafting, but most of the projects are Christmas related. So stay tuned for posts when there's not a spoiler alert needed.

For now enjoy these pictures from my recent trip to Italy. St. Mark's in Venice was such an amazing place. Every inch was covered with mosaics made with the most teeny little pieces. Really it was overwhelming. While most people were straining their necks looking up, I couldn't take my eyes of the floor. The patterns were so intricate, many like quilt blocks. Really there was quilting inspiration just about everywhere we turned.

Imagine all that work for people to walk over! Astounding. Looking around the cathedral, I could imagine the people painstakingly putting each bit of stone into place. The place was made all the more charming by the waves in the floor caused by the repeated flooding. Luckily St. Mark's square was sitting high and dry while we were there.

I am forever getting distracted by patterns and neat little details when I'm on vacation. How many people do you see taking photos of the floor? Well, I've got plenty. The first is Siena and the second in Florence, I think.

And ceilings, too. Here's in the Vatican museum.

And roads . . .

Looking through my Italy photos makes me want to go back. I can almost picture myself sitting in the square of a quaint old stone town, at a little cafe sipping an espresso. Just like this spot, where my parents and I stopped for a quick coffee.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Almost there

Reluctantly I took a weekend away from crafting to paint my living room. I've been putting this off for a long time because it's a big job and I think I was worried about my colour choice. It certainly was a lot of work, but I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out.

Called embellished blue, it's a lot like Tiffany blue - which is a trademarked colour if you can believe it. I picked the green for the dining room and kitchen (in the background) to complement the blue. They're bright and surely not for the colour shy, but I love how cheery the main floor looks now.

Just one more room to go - a small bathroom - and then the whole house is painted! I did it all myself, except for the two-storey foyer and stairs. I'm an accident prone painter likely to fall off a stepping stool (and have), so I left that to a professional with a sturdy ladder. My best painting oopsy was in the living room when I stepped in the paint tray and then had to hop on one foot to the sink. Even at the time I thought it was funny. But not so much later when the dog stepped in the tray and then onto the carpet.

Little kitties

This cute print of kittens playing with yarn turned up in the sale bin at a recent visit to my favourite fabric shop. How could I resist? I made this lined drawstring pouch, thanks to a tutorial my crafty friend Tara found. The pouch came together easily and quickly. I can see myself making this again as a good use for fat quarters.

I lined it with another vintage-looking fabric with small playing kittens in blue, then made the ties with the same pattern in pink. For a sweet little detail, I stitched on a few teeny crocheted flowers.

Christmas is coming

This necklace was made as a last minute addition to a parcel my mom was sending to relatives in the Netherlands. I started with nifty lampwork beads with an irregular shape. I put a crystal and metal spacer around the focal beads, then a blend of teal beads between.

Pizza, espresso, gelato and fabric

I recently enjoyed three glorious weeks in Italy, the first two relaxing in Tuscany and then a more hectic week in Rome. Of course we managed to fit in a bit of crafty shopping between all the sight-seeing, eating and eating. We did a lot of eating.

A bit of research before the trip pointed us to a big old fabric shop in Rome. It did not disappoint! Fabric was stacked wall to wall, floor to ceiling. And there was room after room after room. It was overwhelming.

I picked up a few half-metres of sweet little prints. Just getting the fabric was a whole procedure. I told the woman what I wanted and, not speaking much English, she wrote down the price and amount for me. She cut each piece, asking first, then carefully counting the fabric and writing up a list of what I got. She gave the fabric to another woman and the receipt to the cashier. Only after paying could I actually touch the fabric.

While in Tuscany we stumbled on a fabric shop in Lucca, a great old walled town. The owner didn't speak much English and was super excited to have a chance to chat with us. It was especially fun when he was trying to tell us about the animal prints he sold out. He stretched his arms out, and leaned down to mime a dachshund. I got this cute sheep print on heavy cotton. The fabric was 2.8 metres wide! I figured just half a metre would be more than enough.

He cut the fabric, neatly folded it and then wrapped it up in special waxed paper with his shop's name. How lovely. I was hesitant to unwrap it when I got home. But I had a project in mind - make drawstring bags to fill with some Tuscan goodies for my friends. I bought olive oil soap that smells amazing and panforte, a traditional Tuscan fruit cake, in San Gimignano - the scenic old town just minutes from our villa.

The trip was just wonderful and I'll be reminded of Italy when I see the fabric. Amazingly I spotted the fabric shop in Rome while we were on one of those hop-on, hop-off buses. Talk about a keen crafting radar!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sew cozy

I pinned a sewing machine cover tutorial long ago, then finally felt inspired when I picked up a couple colourful fat quarters with cute bird and owl patterns. Oddly, it turns out, it's the same fabric as used in the tutorial. You'd think I purposely got fabric that matched the crazy wall colour, but that was accidental too.

I made all the measurements and cut out the fabric, which required a fair bit of tedious piecing since I was working with fat quarters and then I figured while I was piecing I might as well make it interesting. But then I left it part way done, I think because I was afraid I made a math mistake that would only become apparent when I put it all together.

Today I summoned my courage to finish the cover and against all odds it fits perfectly. So another happy accident! (I know I measured, but really it is amazing it worked out.)

I'd definitely recommend this tutorial. It's well written with lots of pictures and the trick for the corners sure is nifty.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Crafting superstar

My mom is a crafting superstar. I was looking for a messenger type bag I could take with me to Italy that would hold a lot and be rugged, while also looking nice. I found a bag I liked online and asked my mom if she could make me something similar. Silly me. Of course she could. I gave her the fabric - Echino cotton/linen blend with bicycles that I've been saving for just the right project, and Laura Gunn poppies in complimentary colours - and let her do her thing. I would have taken weeks and weeks for me to get this together, but my mom whipped it up in a day. I'm sure with lots of time leftover for other crafting, followed by a martini with her feet up.

How awesome is this bag?! I can't wait to tote it around the Tuscan countryside.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy birthday, birthday twin!

These pillowcases are made with Amy Butler's Love collection. The paisley pattern was a bit busy, so I used just a splash of that for the cuff and used the larger patterns for the main part. The set is a present for my birthday twin. She's one person I know for sure I won't forget her birthday!

Today I'm having my family over for a birthday brunch. Although does it count as brunch still if we won't be eating until after noon? I'm making a couple breakfasty casseroles and I whipped up a beautiful fruit salad we'll have with Greek yogurt with honey. It should make for a lovely meal. Now I better get to work getting the house ready!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New addition

I've been quite remiss lately in crafting and posting. But a new addition to my home is a bit of a distraction. Meet Alexi, a three-year-old Borzoi. Borzoi are sighthounds, so related to a greyhound only more hairy. Her fur is so soft and shiny like silk. With big black spots underneath her mostly white coat.

I haven't taken a lot of photos just yet. Although she seems quite adept at posing. She and the cats are slowly getting to know each other. The cats aren't so timid (they spent a few days on top of the furnace) and Alexi is learning they don't want to play (a few hisses and swats later). Hopefully soon we'll all settle in.

Turkish delight

My lovely friend Tara was so sweet to pick out a Turkish spindle for me while she was recently at the Sock Summit. I saw them while I was at a spinning retreat last fall, but hesitated on buying one more thing when I had already splurged on so much fibre.

These spindles are handmade by a man in the states who I think can barely keep up with the demand. You can really see the care that goes into them. The Turkish spindle is a neat design because you can pull all the pieces apart and you have a ball of yarn ready to knit or easily ply. Bottom whorl spindles also spin way longer and smoother than a top whorl. This one is pretty teeny and I plan to take it on my upcoming trip to Italy. I'm sure my mom and I will get some interesting looks while spinning in the airport.

Not only was it super sweet for my friend to pick this up for me - and use some of her valuable yarn-buying time - she gave it to me as a birthday gift!

I know I like them

Today I'm going to a friend's bridal shower. Along with a gift card, I wanted to give her something handmade. So, yes, another set of pillowcases was made. It gave me a project for this amazing fabric I picked up not long ago. (It was still sitting on my sewing table to admire.)

The pillowcases are so pretty on their own I don't think anything more than a ribbon is needed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Picnic minus the grass

I wanted to get a shot of this picnic blanket on grass, but my new yard is still waiting for sod. I just got soil, which I guess is something. Not having grass does have a big advantage - time I would have wasted mowing and weeding is freed up for more sewing!

I whipped up this picnic blanket when a friend and I planned a lovely afternoon under a tree in a park to escape the sweltering heat.

I pulled the fabric from my stash - teeny flower and fruit designs I thought were perfect for a picnic blanket. I could have used a bit more yardage, but worked with the bits I had. Every bit. The binding is pieced together with leftover fabric strips and the remaining scraps weren't big enough to save.

It's reversible with the same patchwork design on each side. I prefer the blue side, which is the one I quilted with random squares and rectangles.

I can't believe how quickly I made this small quilt - pretty much in a day - compared to the long toiling over my first one. Now I feel ready to tackle a bigger project. Thankfully I need not look any farther than my stash again, with a few kits just waiting for me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Quick and easy

I whipped up a set of pillowcases tonight for a friend's birthday with these batiks I picked up last week. The one print, predominantly a deep blue/black dotted with lighter blue triangles, kinda looked like a night sky sparkling with stars. Seemed like a perfect choice for pillowcases. The other is in matching blues with flowers.

I know I love my handmade pillowcases, so I hope she does, too. I'm going to bundle the pair with a bottle of shower gel and sponge, all tied together with a ribbon.


My quilted tabletop is finally finished! I started this long, long ago. Well, last summer. Then it gathered dust all winter. And summer arrived. Again.

I think the delay was really just my nervousness. I made the squares when I first started sewing and I just wanted to play around with pinwheel blocks cuz they looked like a neat technique. Making an actual quilt with them seemed way too daunting. Really it wasn't too scary once I jumped in. It's by no means perfect, but I learned a lot along the way. And, hey, it doesn't look too bad.

The quilt adds a nice splash of colour to my cafe table. Now it looks like the perfect spot to sip on an iced coffee and read a book.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lesson learned

Ah, the credit we give our memories. I figured I knew what size my bathroom window was and I could just guess how much fabric I needed when I found one I loved. That did not work out so well. My memory imagined a much smaller window. Normally I'm cautious and get more than I think I need, but this was kinda pricey fabric and I didn't want a lot left over.

So I have half curtains for my downstairs bathroom. The design was a necessity due to a mistake, but I actually think they work just fine. They give enough privacy while still letting a lot of light into the small room. Plus I've learned a valuable lesson to always measure for a project. (Seems obvious, right?)

The fabric is Anna Maria Horner cotton voile. Very nice, but takes patience to sew. The bright colours go perfectly with the quilted wallhanging my mom made. Below the wallhanging you can kinda see a swatch of the paint colour. A bright, light blue called cloudless, I just had to paint a patch because it looked like white in the can. I seriously thought they must have missed putting in the pigment (and, I admit, was a bit outraged at the presumed mistake when I thought I'd have to take it back to fix). The room will look great when it's all done, and surprisingly bright for a teeny bathroom.

Two birds

Here's the yarn I spun from the fibre I dyed with red cabbage. The colour variation is subtle (read: barely noticeable, especially in the photo) from mixing at the spinning wheel the two slightly different fibre colours I got from the original dye and then adding baking soda to half the batch for some chemistry magic. First the fibre was muted blue, and then the altered pH turned it more green.

This picture also shows the rather outrageous colour in my craft room. I love this deep pink. It's so invigorating! Too bad I can't admire the colour because that room door must be closed unless I'm in there crafting. Too many tempting goodies are in there for the kitties to resist.

Pretty and silly

Finally I overcame my fear of sewing curtains. I don't know why I was so hesitant. It's probably the easiest sewing project. Do a little ironing, sew a few hems, press and voila! Curtains! I made these for my upstairs hallway with Cloud 9 fabric.

The walls will eventually be a light grey, which happens to be in the print but is a colour I'm bringing from my old place. My favourite picture is beside the window - a limited edition print by Berkley Illustration. It's so peculiar - in a good way. I love their quirky animal prints. Check out their etsy shop ( for a smile.


My old iPod shuffle fit perfectly in a pocket at the front of my biking backpack. My new, wider touch did not. The new gadget is also way more fragile than my sturdy shuffle and I wanted to keep it safe while I out riding on bumpy country roads.

I sewed this little pouch to hang off my handlebars and it does the trick. I just can't easily skip tracks like I used to. That's probably a good thing anyway. I put all those songs on there cuz I liked them, so I should just listen to whatever tune pops up on shuffle and focus more on the ride.

Ps. I'm not alone in thinking we're spoiled by digital music. Check out this recent post on THXTHXTHX, a blog of daily thank you notes.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hanging in

My posting and crafting has been quite lacking lately. It seems any weekend I'm not busy with friends or things to do, then I'm painting. Including my craft room - which is now an amazing, deep pink called dragonfruit. I will post a photo, but I have to be around for the right light so it doesn't look like a crazy person picked the colour. Lots of people may think that no matter the light. It's intense, but I love it.

I spun up the fibre I dyed, but haven't taken a photo yet. And I made curtains for my upstairs hall tonight. Paint and curtains are steadily spreading through my new home, thanks mostly to my talented and fast-sewing mother. We got some amazing Echino fabric on the weekend for the living room.

Last week was absorbed unfortunately with the loss of my sweet dog Marie. I wasn't feeling much like crafting or anything really. Here's a photo of my lovely girl I took just a few months ago.

Those big, dark eyes are what I first noticed about Marie at the adoption centre. What a gentle, wise look. How could anyone resist that face?

Monday, May 9, 2011


One cat on this couch cushion is already a strain. Two cats are definitely too much for the poor cushion to handle.

But it was sunny and the cats were too drowsy to notice their precarious position. Yawn.

I know, I know

Yup. Another fabric basket. But this one's not for me. My mom uses the fabric basket I made her all the time for knitting projects and I thought she could use another one. Plus she loves Laura Gunn fabric, so I was inspired when I found these two fat quarters in my stash.

And, to be fair, I'm not in a total basket-sewing rut. That day I did try two other projects first that caused extreme and mounting frustration, pushing me to toss fabric into a heap on the floor. (Once the careless high wore off, I folded it up neatly.) Understandably I went back to a project I knew I could tackle. Ironically, that didn't go smoothly either. A loud rip as I was turning it right-side out is never a good thing. So a tedious repair later (thankfully it was the lining that tore) the basket was done. Let's hope my next sojourn at the sewing machine will go more smoothly.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring baskets

These four baskets were made with lovely fabric bundle a friend picked up for me at Purl Soho. I started with the teeny basket with small squares following an online pattern, now at home in my kitchen holding tea.

Then I made three more of varying sizes and patchwork designs I figured out along the way. The last one got a bit tricky, fitting together enough pieces from the dwindling bits.

These baskets are so bright and perfect for spring. All the fabrics are lovely, but I especially like the pink one with the simple, hand-drawn looking flowers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


This project is barely worth mentioning, but I like the photo. I recently got a new phone, switching from a flip style to one with a sleek, but easily damaged glass face. Knowing my tendency to drop and then often kick my phone across rough surfaces, like a gravelly garage floor, I thought it wise to give the new gadget a little protection.

So I whipped up this phone pocket using a batik fat quarter and flannel left over from another project. It's simple, but serves its purpose.

What's noteworthy is the reflection I caught in the phone of the sweet face of my cat Aurora, who of course had to check out what I was doing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Finishing and starting

I finally finished my second mug rug, after waiting so long for a chance to do the binding. It turned out super cute. Unfortunately the strip on the left side of the hippo disappeared under the binding. Next time I have to be careful pieces don't get lost at the edge.

I didn't have too much time for crafting this weekend because I've launched into the huge task of painting my new house, which is white, so white. I figured I'd start easy with a small bathroom. Right. The problem with small rooms is there are lots of corners and nooks and crannies, and little room to manoeuvre in. The bigger challenge with this room is getting an even colour. I chose a very dark cranberry - inspired by a decorated room I saw in an Icelandic museum - on a base of very light, not so great paint. This is the second coat. I'm hoping the third one will do the trick.

I have to say, this colour a bit of a shock. My old house was all painted with rich colours, but my new one is a blank slate. Soon that will be remedied. Now that I have a splash of colour, I want to get the whole house painted! Next I'm going to do my bedroom a very delicate, but still bright purple.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jumping on the mug rug

I kept reading about mug rugs on all the great handmade blogs I subscribe to and just had to make one, too. Ah, crafty peer pressure.

Here's my first go:

A mug rug is a good chance to try a few new things on a small scale. I hadn't done much piecing or machine quilting before, so I learned a lot along the way. And I got to try binding again, this time without my coach to get me through the tough spots. Although I ended up doing a quick online search when I got to the corners and just could not remember the trick. God bless the internet!

Mug rugs are also a great way to use little scraps. I dipped into a scrap bag I got at a great fabric shop in Burlington, Vermont ( for my second mug rug, not quite done yet:

I think this one is already a step up from the first. I did more piecing and with smaller bits. I normally wouldn't pick these colours (yellow - eww), but I really like them together. It's very bright and cheery. I need to quilt and bind it, then it's onto the next project. I am thinking I need to start one of my quilt kits. Considering how slow I am with sewing, that should keep me busy for quite some time. A very long time.

Elusive organization

Here's the current state of my new craft room. It's pretty good, but needs a bit more tweaking. There's lots of room for cutting fabric and spreading out projects. There's plenty of storage. There's separate space for sewing and beading (after a rather tricky process of moving the desks around in the cramped space by myself when the large desk proved too wobbly for sewing).

I don't expect perfection in a craft room. It seems complete organization is elusive and a mess always appears once I start on a project. As long as I can find things and have room to work, that's all that really matters.

This is the sewing area:

On the other side is the beading area and storage cupboards - one for fibre and one for fabric. I was a bit surprised/guilty/aghast at how these two cupboards filled up quickly.

I'm really eager to paint the room, but just can't bear the idea of moving everything now that I've got the room set up. The colour I've picked is a kinda crazy and totally awesome pink. Check out dragon fruit on I was inspired by this year's Pantone colour of the year - honeysuckle. I may also throw in a few dashes of last year's colour - turquoise. I recently bought paint for four rooms, so I'm a bit relieved I need to do those (far easier) rooms first.