Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fish, rocks, and a ladybug

Our weekend with the stepkids was unusually educational. On Friday, we went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It is such an amazing place to explore and learn, and the creatures that live there are unbelievably beautiful. Here is a photo of my expedition team in the tropical rainforest:

Let me assure that Emily was not as unhappy as she looks. I think that is the standard age 13 female response to a parent's camera. We wouldn't want any photographic evidence of her having a good time with the old dorks, right? She looks like that in every picture. Louie, on the other hand, probably really was miserable. He absolutely REFUSED to leave his coat in the locker. After winning that battle, he insisted on wearing the thing like a big sweaty trophy for the rest of the day.

On Saturday, we went down to D.C. to visit the Smithsonian Institution. In keeping with our biological theme, we decided to go to the National Museum of Natural History. We managed to cruise through most of the animal-related wings, but we ended up lingering in the rock and mineral collection. The Hope Diamond is the big attraction, of course, but there so many other incredible stones on display.

On the way home, Emily asked if I could help her make a Christmas present for her mom. We had gotten an early start, so there were still plenty of sewing hours left in the day. I let her chose the pattern and fabric from my stash, and I did most of sewing. She helped out by ironing, picking up pins, and grabbing things off shelves. Here is what we made:

The pattern is the LadyBug Shoulder Bag by Sew Spoiled. It is a great size, and I love the cute shape. I think Emily made awesome fabric choices, too. The yellow striped fabric is something I bought to make curtains in my last house (never happened, obviously). The vintage pink floral was a yard sale score. The two together give a very sweet "shabby chic" look to the bag. We embellished the top band with pink ribbon roses and glass leaf beads.

I'm back to working on my gift list today. Del is driving the kids home to upstate NY. The roads are icy, so I'm of course fretting. Del grew up in that type of weather, and he assures me that he will take his time and will be fine. Hopefully he will get there and back without incident, and I will get some sewing knocked out today.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Anyone...Bueller? Bueller? (CONTEST) anyone out there, or am I just talking to myself? Ok, I talk to myself (and my dolls, and my plants, and my fish) all the time, but blogging to myself puts me that much closer to wacko-dom. So if you are out there, and are actually reading my attempt at a blog - please leave a lil' comment (any comment will do, just so long as it isn't obscenity or spam). You will be entered in a drawing that could win you THREE CarlaC patterns of your choice (see the e-patterns in my sidebar for options). That is a $29.85 value - Wowza! I'll do the drawing on Tuesday, 12/2/08.

Come on (tapping on the mike really hard) - do I have an audience, or should I slink back into weirdo lurkdom right now (after one hard week of blogging)???

Mama's Holiday

After a week of serious cleaning, unpacking (we are officially "out of boxes" now), and general fretting, I was so looking forward to a relaxing Thanksgiving day. Chef Del got up at about 4:00 to get things started in the kitchen. He has this amazing ability to single-handedly put together an incredible feast. He is so focused and organized - it is really something to watch. For the most part, though, I stay out of the kitchen when he is in that "mode." We both stay happy (and married) that way.

While he was getting the turkey in the oven, I treated myself to a 45 minute yoga practice. It wasn't anything too vigorous, just some nice stretches and twists. Lou was still sleeping, so I was able to get deep into the poses without fear of being trounced. My shoulders have been feeling tight and achy (too much hunching over the keyboard, I think) and it really helped release the tension.

Our household is a little bigger for the holiday - my stepkids Dan (18) and Emily (13) are here. They are so much fun to have around, and they are great with Louie. Dan is Louie's hero.

While Dan entertained Louie, Emily and I snuck off to the sewing room. She's been my sewing buddy ever since she was 6 years old. She KNOWS fabric and fashion. She'll be on Project Runway someday, I'm sure of it. Here she is drooling over designer fabric online:

When I was in my organizing frenzy last week, I set aside fabrics for the specific projects I had in mind. This is what I picked out for my SIL, Sonja:

Sonja is 6 months pregnant, and has nothing but baby on the brain. I was there not so long ago, so I can totally relate. I decided to make a boutique style diaper bag for her gift. A girl can never have too many bags, right? Since we already know that she is having a little boy, I decided to go with fabrics that were blue, but still soft and pretty. The sweet toile is something I picked up at Affordable Fabrics in Rocky Hill, CT. Oh how I miss that place! Everything is $1.99 a yard, and there are some scores to be had. At that price, I allowed myself to pick up three or so yards "just because." The Minky is leftover from a raglan I made recently. That stuff is oh-so nice and soft, and that color just sceams baby boy. The lining fabric is cream muslin from my stash.

I used the Aivilo Pocket Handbag pattern from I love that it comes in a range of sizes, and includes optional instructions for adding a zipper. It was such a fun and easy project. I was able to whip this baby out in half a day (and that includes taking the time to digitize/stitch out the monogram, eat a feast, and catch a nap).

So I'm chalking yesterday up to the perfect holiday. Not only did I get to do yoga, spend time with my family, and eat like a queen, I was able to cross a gift off my list (and I didn't spend a dime on it)!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some nifty thrifty stuff to share!

The "Thrifty Under Fifty Challenge" is in full swing, and my team is off to a great start!!! We are organized, motivated, and ready to sew - WOO-HOO! Two of my team-mates have already made significant progress towards their goals. I'm very pleased to introduce you to them and show off their fantastic creations!

First off, meet Wondermommy, a mama of two and bona fide supercrafter. This gal does it all - crochet, sewing, painting, name it! She doesn't just stand around and show off her crafting muscles, either. She shares her patterns, tutorials, sew-alongs, and links to other amazing resources. She made her first half-dozen gifts from a free pattern by Wee Wonderfuls.

These sweet little "Wees" remind me so much of Russian matryoskha dolls. I love the use of fabric in these babies! What a feast of colors and designs! And guess what??? She didn't spend a single dime on this project! In fact, she has joined forces with a few other team-mates (myself included - eeeek) in the superhuman challenge of making ALL of her gifts from existing stash! These babies are proof positive that Wondermommy has the power to minimize consumption and maximize creativity. To see additional pictures and learn more about her projects, tune into The Adventures of Wondermommy.

Next, meet another superhuman seamstress over at Dragonfly Flittings. Talk about energetic! She has FOUR little ones, and has already made great progress towards her holiday gift-making goals. She is another jack-of-all trades, is wise beyond her 26 years in the craft category. She knocked out 10 of these soothing presents in no time flat!

Vist her blog to learn more about these great hot-packs, cold-packs, and eye pillows. She gives a detailed breakdown of supplies and price. The ingredients are natural and yummy, making this the perfect gift for the granolas (like moi) on your list! And can you believe she is making 16 presents for under $2??? AMAZING!

And I squealed out loud when I saw this creation on her blog:

She made this awesome hoodie for her son Cameron. You aren't going to believe where the materials came from, either. The solid fabrics are cut from T-shirts (two were outgrown, one was free). How is that for repurposing? The adorable dinosaur fabric (which looks an uber-expensive import) was a deep-discount score from a local fabric shop. So for just a few bucks, she made her son an amazing one-of-a-kind garment that is going to be so special to him. Are you wondering what pattern she used? Come on, you must be :) ! I am beyond proud to tell you that she used MY pattern "All the Rage Raglans" - YAY! This eBook contains patterns and instructions for making raglans in sizes 6m-10/12 years. It includes info on working with knits, reconstructing old T's, and adding hoods. I am so thrilled to see what this talented little bug made from those instructions (though the pocket and sleeve stripes are totally her own creativity at work)!!!

So what did I accomplish this week? Err...Not much. I've been in serious cleaning mode, but I did get some things cut out and embroidered. These ladies and the rest of my team have me so inspired - I can't to get back into the sewing groove!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The spill has been contained

I used to work with radiation - 32P to be specific. If there was a bad spill or contamination outside the designated "hot" area, Radiation Safety (complete with jumpsuits and Geiger counters) was called in for the cleanup. It was a serious process, and the responsible grad student/postdoc/technician was made to feel like a criminal. Believe it or not, I never actually caused a serious infraction. I was scared of that stuff, and treated it with the greatest of reverence (which I owe entirely to the meticulous people I worked with). I still have nightmares about it, in fact. A recurring one involves me finding vial of neon green stuff in my home freezer and trying to figure out how to dispose of it properly without getting caught.

Anyways, dealing with my awful mess of fabric was the closest thing to a decontamination effort I've experienced in a long time. The sheer volume of "waste" was overwhelming - it was tangled, disorganized, and full of evidence that I have some personality disorders working.

Cleaning always inspires self-reflection, right? Here are my theories on how my fabric mess got so out of control:

1) I am a PACK RAT. This is no new revelation here. I'll hang on to a gum wrapper if it is pretty, shiny, and possibly useful.

2) I used to sew for very tiny dolls, so even the smallest scrap could be enough for a tiny dress. I used to buy 1/8 yard cuts, can you believe???

3) I currently do applique, so even the tiniest scrap could be just the thing I need for a beak or a lug-nut. I still buy 1/8 yard cuts, can you believe???

4) I really do myself I disservice by not "cleaning up" my fabric before releasing it back into a drawer. Those strips hanging off the usuable fabric love to entwine.

5) Without a system, I have to rifle. Rifling causes even more disarray.

It took me a couple of days, but I was able to organize my stash into categories that made sense to me. I then placed the nice, folded pieces back into the clean drawers. I even have room to spare!!!

I learned so much about my stash throughout this process. For one, I don't have as much "folding fabric" as I thought. The bulk of my pile was composed of teeny, tiny scraps. So I had to make some choices - if it was big enough (and the appropriate scale print) for an applique, I saved it. I only allowed myself two drawers of teeny scraps. Stuff that absolutely was too small to use was trashed. This is the resulting bag:

This is probably two drawers worth of stuff. I feel terrible about putting it in the landfill, but is beyond usable. Heck, most people would deem the stuff I saved for applique unusable!

I also learned that the stuff I LOVE and the stuff I HAVE are entirely different things. I thought for sure I would have a drawer full of polka dots and stripes. Nope! I could really stand to bulk up that aspect of my stash. I have a few nice, long cuts of designer fabrics, but the things I am more likely to grab and use up are the good old basics.

The stuff I DO have...many small cuts of homespuns, ginghams and tiny floral calicos (some go back to the 80's, some are relatively modern)! There are lotsa lovely little pieces of fabric in there. I'm sure I would have used them up by now if I had continued sewing for teeny-tiny dollies. As far current usefulness goes, I found TONS of great fabrics for making gifts. I'm not going to have to buy a single fraction of a yard! There is stuff in there that I had completely forgotten about, and it will be absolutely perfect for the projects I have in mind.

My next few days will be filled with cleaning, eating, enjoying family (yay), and shopping (yuck). When the Thanksgiving holiday is over, I will be happy to return to an organized stash and a "scintillatingly" clean sewing room!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stash Talk

Our group has been comparing and contrasting our beloved fabric collections - inventories, favorite designers, and organization systems (or lack thereof, in my case).

The poor souls who have either worked or lived with me know what an unbelievable pig I am. I can trash a room in seconds, and that is not an exaggeration. I'm not purposefully destructive - there is just some disconnect in my brain when it comes to picking up after myself. Clutter builds and builds, and it doesn't bother me in the least until I am drowning in it. My husband does more than his fair share in trying to keep the house sane. He is totally in charge of the kitchen (hooray for me), and he is great about decluttering and putting through loads of laundry. The one room he won't touch is the sewing room. He doesn't even go in there. It is that bad.

People are always willing to share pictures of their freshly organized sewing rooms with neat stacks of fabric arranged by color, and their nice clean desks awaiting the next project. Hoping to find a kindred soul (or someone even worse off so I could feel better about myself), I proposed a mini-challenge for the group. I asked them to share pictures their workspaces without any tidying and reorganizing.

The first few pics came in almost instantly. These ladies had gorgeous, serene, well-organized spaces. Sure, they had a few little "in progress" piles here and there, but definitely nothing to be ashamed of. So that got me worried - oh gosh, if I show them my space as is, they are going to have me put away (or at least removed as team captain for reasons of insanity). So I cheated a bit and removed some items that didn't belong in there anyway - coffee mugs, shoes, towels, trucks (lots of trucks), etc. I also went over the carpet really quickly with a shop-vac (a regular vacuum just wouldn't survive the debris). After the spiff-up, this was my room:

Not so bad, right? Well, what I failed to mention is that I haven't sewn in there in over a month. I've been working in our spacious dining room since before Halloween. This is what it looks like:

Again, not too horrible. Keep in mind this is a common area, and I know that anything I leave down is subject to being trashed (either by the tidy husband or the mischievous child).

Back up to the sewing room. I decided to be a little more forthcoming and show what really lurks within...

This is drawer 1 of 12. That is right, I have pictures of a dozen drawers stuffed with wads o' fabric. As I was uploading the photos, more and more images of beautiful Martha Stewart-worthy workspaces popped up in our forum. ACK! So I freaked out a little and did something drastic:

Yup, that is the bulk of my stash right there in all its glory. See anything you want? The pile started on the desk, but I ended up throwing it on the floor so I would have a folding surface. Louie enjoyed rolling around in it, and Buddy enjoyed sleeping on it.

This was Friday a.m. Since then, I have been folding, organizing, and taking stock of my stash. I'd so much rather be sewing, but I really NEEDED to do this. I'm making great progress, and it feels amazing. I'm really glad to be starting out the challenge on the right foot. It will help me so much to know exactly what I have and where it is. I usually spend so much time digging and hunting, so I think this little expenditure of time will pay off in the long run. And even though I didn't get to do any sewing, my embroidery machine was hard at work.

I did all the applique work on the Kimberbell Kids Name Pillows I am making for Del's niece and nephew. They are turning out so cute - I can't wait to show them off! And hopefully I will soon have some lovely pics of my incredibly organized sewing room to share!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thrifty Under FIFTY challenge!

The Thrifty Under $50 event, sponsored by, is challenging participants to make as many gifts as possible and save big this holiday season!

Now, I'm not only a participant, I'm a team leader :)! I have the privilege of collaborating with most amazing group of 9 women and 1 man (I'll be introducing them to you in the coming weeks).

We kicked off the challenge by sharing gift-giving lists. We are now at the stage of tossing around ideas, and working on money saving strategies. I am so inspired by this challenge! I always have the best intentions when it comes to making handmade gifts, but invariably put it off until the last minute and end up spending too much money on supplies and/or botching the project. This challenge, which has to be completed by 12/15, has me thinking way ahead. I really hope to have some of the smaller gifts finished before Thanksgiving!

None of my friends, family, or other loved ones have any idea that I am blogging. That is a good thing, because I'm going to be posting exactly what I'm making each person, and how little I'm spending on it. If they do happen to see the blog down the line (hopefully after the holidays), no big deal - I'm a notorious cheapskate and I doubt they will be at all surprised/offended.


testing 1 2 3
testing 1 2 3

Am I blogging? Oh good, it looks like I am...finally!

I've been hemming and hawing over what I should say in this dreaded first blog post for weeks now. I was thinking of giving a long, drawn out biography that describes who I am and how I arrived at this point in my life. After deciding that would be too sappy (and not to mention, boring), I decided I would just jump in and start posting about the things that are important to me - namely sewing, food, frugality, and of course, my family. Hopefully you will get to know me along the way :) .

So without further ado...

Wow, that wasn't so bad!