Sunday, December 23, 2012


I know what you're thinking. I've seen these pillowcases already. I must have seen these pillowcases. Sweet Jebus tell me this is repeat blog post and not yet more pillowcase sets.

Yeah, this girl's got a serious case of crafting OCD. I figure I've made at least a dozen sets now (I gave two as gifts this Saturday alone!). That is a whole whack of fabric. Hmm ... I wonder how many metres are on a bolt.

Bonus - the fabric is its own lovely wrapping. Tie it with a strip of selvedge and it's a sweet little bundle ready to go to its new home.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Crafty holiday

A few friends and I got together recently to celebrate a belated birthday and Christmas. A crafternoon, as we like to call it. For each I made a present. Yup - more pillowcases, but I just want to share the handmade pillowcase love! The bunting fabric and co-ordinating fabric were scooped up at my favourite fabric shop Greenwood months ago, amazingly for me with a plan and a person in mind. (Literally they had to move all the bolts to free the last bit of bunting fabric covering the table.)

I found the pattern for these scarves in the Moda Bake Shop. Just an FYI: I don't know in what reality they are making these projects and estimating the time it takes, but it's not the same I inhabit. This one is listed as a 30-minute project. Right. But project length aside, they have some great ideas and the tutorials are easy to follow. Not that you really need a pattern for this project, but it gave me the idea for the charm packs I've long had stashed away. They're backed with flannel to make them super soft and cozy.

I saw a neat post about surprise balls, and tucked the idea away in my brain. Basically, you get rolls of crepe paper and wrap layers around small gifts. As the recipient unrolls the paper, the gifts appear. The light went on - roll presents in the scarves! Below are the scarf present rolls as well as the pillowcases rolled and tied with ribbon.

The presents I made paled in comparison to the lovely hat my CFF Tara knit for me. She is one talented and prolific crafter and I'm sure lucky to be a recipient of her work. And here's a take-home lesson: there is such a thing as crafting karma. Pass along a nice pattern and it may come back to you finished!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pretty sparkly

Mornings, to put it mildly, are not my thing. But I couldn't help be happy on the weekend when I woke up to see a gleaming white wonderland, like something out of a fantasy movie where everything is covered in sparkles. Hoar frost is a rare morning treat so enchanting that I went for a walk with my dog, popped inside for my camera and headed out on another walk. My dog didn't know what was going on, but she wasn't complaining about the extra go around the neighbourhood.

I like this photo best. This poor little evergreen was dead, its needles long faded from green. But with the frost they became a lovely muted copper, moving gently in the breeze like a plant flowing in water.

One last leaf clinging to the branches:

The rustic pine in my backyard:

Thankfully my dog stood still while I perched on a stone wall for this one:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A step forward, then many back

During the crazy windstorm recently I braved the weather to rescue the bunting hanging around my front porch. Being out in the sun and rain all summer sure took a toll. I can't believe how much it faded in just a couple months. But I like my sun-bleached bunting even more now. Rather than being tucked away safety like many sewing projects, the bunting was used and loved. And it will go out again next year, partly because I have trouble finding my house now. So it's not only pretty, but practical.

Yesterday afternoon I was determined to finally pick up a knitting project started too long ago. I like knitting a lot - the click clack of the needles is very calming. But I also feel like a huge knitting dummy. I think that's why I gravitate to sewing and cross-stitch - I can see and understand what I'm doing. It's like I have knitting dyslexia. That's why when I was set on a relaxing afternoon of knitting, I was very disappointed to find I made a mistake starting several rows back. I braced myself and did something I have never before - yanked out the needles and started ripping. I even got it back on the needles with no huge problems. But I just couldn't figure out the edges and how I was supposed to knit those with the markers gone. So now I'm waiting for a knitting rescue by my mom, the guru of all crafts. She'll get me on track again.

With my knitting ambitions stymied, I turned to a lap-sized strip quilt. The top and bottom were both done, so it was ready for batting and pins. I forged ahead, maybe bolstered by my knitting failure and in spite of having to move a very heavy table to make enough room to lay it out, and got the sandwich pinned together. Sadly my crafting was derailed entirely by a migraine, but I'm glad I accomplished something, even if it was just a small step of a bigger project.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween craziness

When a woman at the leash-free park said my dog Alexi looks so elegant that she should have a unicorn horn, a seed was planted. How could I resist making her a unicorn for Halloween?

Plus I figured it would be a quick project - just roll some paper and add a ribbon tie. But how wrong I was. Turns out tape doesn't stick to tightly rolled glitter paper. Neither does glue. Even shaping the thick paper into a horn was no easy task. Finally I got out thread, needle and pliers. Presto, a unicorn horn!

I'm not sure if it was the unicorn horn or being forced to stand for several minutes, but she wasn't so impressed with the whole experience.

So, yeah, I'm now one of those people who dresses their pets for Halloween.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Filling in the gap

My bunting bunting found its home in my craft room, right above my sewing machine and the only spot free of the clutter that spread all over the rest of the room like creeping ivy.

Found and finished

These fingerless gloves were knit a couple years ago. But my attempt to sew them together was, to put it nicely, an utter disaster. Frustrated, I ripped out the sloppy seam and tossed them in a drawer. And there they've sat unfinished and abandoned. Until yesterday. Suddenly I remembered the cheery gloves so close to being wearable and decided it was time. Even more important, I remembered the guidebook on knitting tricks my mom gave me (maybe to get a bit of a break on my crafting questions).

The photo on the front promises a nifty technique for an invisible seam. I was doubtful, but rolled up my sleeves, threaded my needle and followed the instructions. Then came the swearing. But unlike my usual craft-induced profanity, this was an unadulterated expression of joy. Magic! Yank the thread and the seam disappears. Rarely is finishing a project fun, but I was actually sorry to be done zipping up the seams. What a thing of beauty. And today I could finally wear my pretty new fingerless gloves, perfect for the unwelcome chill and - gasp - hail.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


My CFF Tara kindly picked me up this awesome faux cross stitch fabric by Anna Maria Horner. Like all nice fabric, I shudder at the idea of going at it with my rotary cutter. Can't I just admire it? The solution - a simple tablecloth. That way I can admire the fabric every day while saving it from a terrible fate on the cutting mat. The corners are mitered like the napkins I made, so basically it's a big ass napkin.

But every breakfast I look at those crosses just begging for colourful floss. I'm sure the embellishment would look lovely, but part of me just wants to jump onto the next project. Oh the dilemma. Since I can go at it with a needle and thread anytime, I think for now I'll just enjoy the breakfast view.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

At last

Finally I have my own set of pillowcases. The fabric's called floating mums. So cheery!

(Sorry for the creases. I say meh to dragging out the iron.)

Meta crafting

Bunting bunting!!!

Really, how could I resist?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Adorable dreams

How freaking cute is this fabric? I love the owl looking at the squirrel: "WHO are you?" That nosy little creature looked out for me, making sure I sewed the fabric together in the right direction so he wasn't left hanging upside-down.

And, yup, it's another set o' pillowcases.

Fabric fancy

Ikat seems to be everywhere these days. I saw this ikat-inspired fabric and instantly knew it needed to become pillowcases for a good friend's birthday present. Although, I must admit, it was very tempting to keep it for myself. Which reminds me, when am I going to make a set for my bed?!

I picked up these three fabrics below during a recent jaunt to NYC with my CFF. The colours are so vibrant, the patterns so unique. By Westminster Fabrics, it's inspired by the Victoria & Albert Museum of decorative arts and design in London. At home, I decided napkins would be a great way to show off the fabric. Back at City Quilter, I didn't have a plan. I just picked three fabrics I liked and got a yard of each. I wish I found four, since a set of three napkins is kinda weird. Or maybe innovative?

Sewing mitered-corner napkins is a nifty trick. But a damn lot of ironing. Combine lots of time at the ironing board, a sweltering day and a stuffy craftroom and things start to heat up. The result: no-pants sewing. The added advantage is that errant threads don't stick to bare legs. The sweaty sewing session was totally worth these lovely napkins with smart little corners.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fine doggy dining

I was tired of looking at the low-rent plastic mat under my dog's food and water bowls. Using four fat quarters I picked up on a shop hop, I made this much nicer looking placemat. Very dignified for doggy dining.

The project, of course, was not without a snag or two. I pieced together a strip for the binding with all four patterns. I had a sinking feeling in my gut as I rounded the corners and the binding got shorter and shorter - then stopped with a two inch gap. OK. I can deal with that. Except I didn't have any pieces left that were wide enough, necessitating a fix for the fix. Sigh. But then it was smooth sailing.

Thinking it wasn't enough work to sew together 25 strips, I decided to go for an even 50 to do both sides with one-inch strips before finishing it with quilted diagonal lines. The fabric appealed to me because the colours are nothing like what I usually go for, but often those are the things you end up really liking. I hope my spoiled pup likes it, too.

Addendum: This is how much thread was left on the spool when I finished. So close!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sink or swim. Or a bit of both

Alexi made her first trip to the beach this past weekend. I wasn't sure how a pampered city dog like her would do at the cottage. But I was pleased to see she settled into the rustic life, sleeping on the sand, gobbling up bones, barking and charging at people who had the nerve to walk on the beach in front of the cottage and, yes, going into the water. I learned doggy paddling does not come naturally to all dogs. She wasn't sure what the heck to do with her back legs, so mostly they floated. She kept trying to shake the water out of her ears, not realizing one she stopped paddling she would sink. Then she'd forget what to do all together and start madly thwaping the water's surface with her front paws while her back end sank. But she kept bravely wading in, giving swimming the ol' Borzoi try. I think she was just happy to cool off, even if it did mean a near-death experience with each trip out into the waves.

Here she is relaxing on the sand:

She also liked to sit inside on the dog bed in the path of the breeze coming in through the screen door, rustling her extra-white fur from a dip in the lake.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Crazy head

So what was I doing the night before my New York trip with my CFF? You'd think packing, right? Any sane person would assume so. But no. I was sewing pillow cases for my parents. They did turn out lovely with the Amy Butler fabric.

I find it's best to leave packing until the last minute, anyway. Otherwise I just start throwing in more and more entirely unnecessary stuff. Pack 15 shirts for five nights - Why not!? Something could happen, like a leaky cup dripping coffee down my shirt or dousing myself with a bottle of sparkling water. True stories.

Welcome home, friend

Finally my sewing machine returned home from the repair shop. Old friend, it seems like you've been gone for ages. Thankfully the repair was simple and (relatively) cheap with only a blown fuse to replace. (And it's a relief my clumsy sewing didn't cause a catastrophic problem. Phew!)

And how best to celebrate its return - sew bunting!

I got started with a tutorial, then made a few changes and additions. Unfortunately while I was finishing the project, I realized a couple of stupid mistakes I made along the way. Oh well, craft and learn. (And I'm probably the only one who will notice the oopsies anyway. I beg you - don't look closely at the photos!)

True to form, I had to make it a bit more complicated than the tutorial by stitching around all the triangles (30!) with a complementary pinkish thread, but I think the extra work makes them more stable - especially since they'll be outdoors - and neatly finished.

The tutorial shows loops at the end to hang them on the wall. Instead I sewed on an extra length on each end to make a handy tie. Then I figured I should make some matching fabric ties. Again, more work. Thankfully I picked up yards and yards of bias tape in a great New York trim shop to skip the tedious step of making my own.

Finally it was time to hang the bunting today!

So sweet, I think. The pinks and flowers are perfect for summer. (I am a bit worried my neighbours will think the single girl has really gone off her rocker.)

I must admit I had to take a break from this post to take it all down and adjust it for reasons that will really make me sound crazy. But now it's just right.

A tip of the hat to another crafter . . . my dad made the lovely wooden planters at the front of my house. I can't believe how much the plants have grown. Another lesson - buy less plants than you think you'll need. Some of them disappeared under the petunias.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On edge

My sewing has been derailed indefinitely by a broken sewing machine. Of course that happened while I was just a few stitched lines away from finishing a quilt top. Frustrating! I took it into the repair shop a little over a week ago and I'm still waiting to hear what needs to be fixed and, gulp, how much it's going to cost.

Meanwhile, I'm getting rather anxious about not being able to sew. I broke down and called the shop a couple days ago and the polite but somewhat annoyed woman on the other end reassured me they would call. By coincidence my mom also had to take her sewing machine in for a repair. Lucky for her she has a back-up, but not lucky for me that she needs it when I could too.

The woman at the sewing shop said she'd put a rush on my machine. I wonder how many frantic calls she gets from women anxious to get back their sewing machines.

Thanks Mom

Today is Mother's Day and a reminder to me to be thankful for a great mom who is also my crafting paragon. She taught me most of what I know craftwise - knitting, sewing, crocheting, cross-stitching, needlepoint and more - and her great skill and passion are both inspiring and humbling.

Yesterday we went on a shop hop together - my first and I'd definitely recommend one. It was nice to see four fabric shops I've never been to before, but I especially enjoyed the drive through the area countryside on a lovely sunny day with my mom. And of course a lunch break between all the fabric browsing. She mentioned she'd like to make a blue and yellow quilt, so I wrapped her Mother's Day gift in a blue and yellow fat quarter and tucked another fat quarter under the yellow ribbon - appropriately blue ribbons on a yellow background.

Inside is a gift card for a spa visit - manicure, pedicure and facial. She definitely deserves pampering and a little break from her intense crafting. But not too long a break because she always has a long and ever-growing list of projects.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Cats cannot resist sitting in the most unhelpful spots. On the newspaper you're reading. On the fabric you're cutting. On your freshly washed and folded laundry. Here Ariel and Aurora help with a quilt sandwich I'm pinning together. Maybe they want to make sure none of the layers shift.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The best dog bed in the world

A moment of insanity is the only explanation for me looking at a fat quarter pack of Anna Maria Horner fabric and thinking they would make a great dog bed. The project started out simple. I saw these neat dog beds online that were basically like a doggie duvet that you filled with old towels and clothes. Brilliant! I thought I'd piece a simple quilt top, then make it into essentially a giant pillow. Easy peasy, right?

Next thing I know there's piping, fancy blocks and a quilted bottom. That would have been enough to keep me busy into the far future without the technical problem of a sewing machine no longer interested in proper or even inconsistently bad tension. Then came the hindsight is 20/20 part. After many an adjustment by my mom, we forged ahead with the wonky machine. Then I forged ahead with ripping out all the quilting because it just wasn't good enough. So much ripping. I did find a nifty trick because I sure had a lot of practice.

With a borrowed sewing machine, I finished the quilt top. And I have to say it looks pretty good. How can you go wrong with that fabric?

Putting it together was another challenge. First starting with my lost shank and foot. Thankfully it was found with the borrowed machine, but not before tearing apart my craft room and crawling around on my hands and knees to peer under cupboards in case the cats got frisky. Even more thankfully, my mom came by to walk me through the entire process. Who am I kidding - I often let her take over. She's so fast! Everything I do is painfully slow and nowhere near as accurate. Maybe in 50 years I'll be a sewing superstar too.

Then I needed to rustle up enough stuff to fill the bed. You can't imagine how much got tossed in there - sheets, blankets, old sweaters and a whole bunch of those long since out of fashion clothes buried at the bottom of drawers. Still I could use a bit more to fill it out.

Here's the spoiled pup taking a tentative sniff of her new bed:

It seems to meet with her approval. I should really hope so considering the huge expense for fabric and supplies and then the hours and hours that went into making it. At least now the gigantic beast finally has a bed she fits on. And look at that elegant face - she needs an equally lovely place to sleep. Plus it's a nice addition to my living room that looks so much better than a plain ol' dog bed.

I wonder where my next crazy idea will take me. Oh right, I still need to make the matching pillow to go against the railing. Crazy, crazy, crazy.

Looong absence

Forever and a day has passed since my last post. I haven't much been in a crafty frame of mind lately. Plus I got distracted by the second two Hunger Games books. But I have been plugging away on a couple things.

I finished a nice Frank Lloyd Wright cross stitch kit from my CFF. Now I have to decide how to finish it off. I'm thinking wall hanging. I got started on my first needle point kit - a pillow that looks like a Klimt painting with rich colours and gold in geometric and swirling lines. It will be lovely.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Never too late

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend about people who send out with their holiday greetings a summary of the past year in their life. I guess that took a while to foment in my brain cuz suddenly today I started thinking about all the noteworthy moments for me in 2011. And there were some big things, both glad and sad, but definitely all memorable.

In January I moved into my new home. This is already the third home I've owned, but this felt like the real deal because it's a single house. It took a while to finally get here, starting with a condo apartment, where I stayed only about a year after a nasty legal battle over my dog, and then a townhouse, which I thought of as temporary but stayed for seven years. Now finally I've made it to a honest to goodness house and home that truly makes me proud. This will sound super dorky, but I still get a kick out of walking all the way around my house - and four walls that are all my own! Silly, I know.

This December, I finally finished my ambitious project of painting every room in my new house. I got it done just under the wire of my self-imposed one-year deadline. Phew! I had to hire someone to do the two-storey entryway, but otherwise every room was painted by my aching hands. Of course, being me, there were many hilarious/disastrous moments of clumsiness - the best probably when I stepped into the paint tray and had to hop on one foot to the sink.

In May, I said goodbye to my sweet dog Marie. The decision had to be made suddenly, which was difficult at the time but in a way a blessing because she could go while still happy and feeling relatively well. Often we hold on longer than we should for ourselves, not our pet.

Then in August I brought home Alexi, a three-year-old Borzoi. In many ways she is so much like Marie - both incredibly sweet and calm. But she's also goofy and loves to play. This is the first dog I've had that will fetch and sit on her own playing with toys. Greyhounds are far too dignified for such doggy behaviour. My only teeny issue with Alexi is all the freaking hair. I simply was not prepared. How is she not bald by now!?

In October I had an amazing three-week trip to Italy with my parents. We spent two glorious weeks in Tuscany, exploring the countryside and all the old stone towns, and a week in Rome seeing all the storied sights and amazing galleries. Italy is also where I learned to drive a standard. I'm not gonna lie - the first few days were stressful and at times embarrassing. Driving in a foreign country with weird signs, lots of roundabouts and notoriously aggressive drivers is a challenge all on its own. But now I miss driving a standard. I would have gladly missed the day I had to stop for a light on a steep hill in Siena and stalled the car numerous times before finally ditching the driver's seat for my mom to take over. Thankfully after a while the cars behind me stopped honking. I'm sure they had some choice Italian expressions for the stupid tourist who can't drive a standard.

This past year I also really got into sewing. I think it's taken over as my craft of choice. I've done lots of relatively projects - bags, mug rugs and small quilts. Actually I finished my first quilt - a bright summery table cloth - and I felt pretty accomplished, even if it was small. This year I want to launch into bigger projects that take a little more dedication than a couple hours and stretch my skills a bit more. But first placemats and a dog bed. Related to my new-found love of sewing, I started building with great dedication a fabric stash this past year. I probably have enough now to get me through this year!

I'm not sure yet what this coming year will hold for me. Except I do have a trip to New York planned with my CFF Tara to go to the Renegade Craft Fair. We went together a couple years ago in Chicago and had a great time. That's also when she introduced me to the mouth-watering yet odd taste combination of Chicago mix popcorn, which I crave still. I went back to Chicago the next year with my mom, only ever so slightly motivated by getting another popcorn fix at the Pier. I hope another trip or two will also pop up, which is quite possible since I'm not generally a plan-ahead sorta person.

I invite you to think about all you have to celebrate and remember from 2011 as well, and start thinking about adventures for 2012.