Maybe I should have made my resolution to be more consistent in updating my blog.  I had to take an extended mental leave of absence – the last two months have been so overwhelming.  I have been doing a lot of crafty things while I’ve been away.  Let me show you some:

Terrariums:

I went to this art fair in Irvington at the Benton house a while ago with my friend Jess and while we were there, we went into the conservatory.  I love plants.  They were selling all sorts of interesting little plants, and while I was looking at all of them, I came across this domed glass container.  It was dirty and rust stained, but I knew it would make an awesome terrarium.  I’m not sure what exactly it’s original purpose was.  So, I picked it up and bought some plants – all succulents.  When I went on the internet I found out you can’t keep succulents in a closed terrarium because it is too humid for them.  Oops!  So then I scavenged some containers I had around the house and made two desert terrariums, and got some new plants to go under the dome, I went with a more ferny, mossy, woodsy style in that container.  I love how they turned out.  I added a little ceramic good luck pig from Chile that I got a while ago to my domed terrarium.  Here’s a better picture with the dome off, since there was a lot of glare on the glass.

When I have time, I would like to go looking for some more cool glass containers and make some more.  I will have to start giving them away, because I don’t have enough flat surfaces to display them all.

I like how domed terrariums have an old fashioned-ness about them, and I like seeing the strata of organic materials in the clear glass.  You can pretty much make them in anything – jars, glass ornaments – and there is lots of inspiration on the internet.

Christmas Treats:

I went a little crazy this year with the holiday baking.  I just really love making cute stuff.  Edible cute stuff – even better!  I don’t have a sweet tooth, but cookies and candy are about the most fun thing to make.  I made so much stuff, I mailed boxes of treats to a few friends, and gave boxes to ones locally.  I still had a ton left over to bring home for Christmas.  My cousins’ kids were happy – no one else made cookies this year!

Some of the cute things I made this year.

Unfortunately, it is not easy for my to photograph what I am making when my hands were constantly covered in sugar and flour, so not everything got it’s picture taken.  That box has quite a few though.  There’s chocolate cherry mice, chocolate covered pretzels, sugar cookies (tree and snowflake), cornflake wreaths, plain ol’ chocolate chip cookies, and potato candy.

Yes, potato candy!  It’s very rich and sweet.  My dad was talking about how his grandma used to make it every year when he was a kid.  I made a mental note to try making it, and I surprised him when I came home for Christmas.  It’s easy – 3 ingredients – a potato, 2lbs of powdered sugar, and peanut butter (creamy).

mashed potato

Boil and mash a small potato (trust me, a 1/2 c. of potato makes a ton of this candy).

potato - sugar chemical reaction

Now take the HOT mashed potato and put it in a mixing bowl.  Add sugar a little at a time.  I don’t know why but when you first add the sugar, it liquefies to potato and you get this strange colored, glue – like mess.  Don’t worry – just keep adding sugar and stirring.  You will get a ball of white “dough” that is play-doh consistancy.  Split it in half and put one half between two sheets of wax paper to roll out.

ready for pb

You need to work fast.  You have to get this done before the dough gets too hard to roll.  Roll out to about a 1/4″ thickness.  Looking back, you should probably make it shaped like a rectangle, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time because it was the first time I did this, and really didn’t know what I was doing.

the hardest part.

Now, spread your candy with a thin layer of PB.  If there is too much PB, then it all squishes out the ends when you roll it.  Take the bottom piece of wax paper, and use it to help you roll it up.  Its kindof like doing sushi, if you’ve ever made that.  Take your log and wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for it to firm up.  Repeat with the other ball of dough.  Then you can cut it into slices and enjoy!

finished candy

I also made some cornflake wreaths. During that same conversation with my dad, my brother said his favorite Christmas cookie was a cornflake wreath.  After my inital “seriously?! WTF” reaction, I decided to surprise him as well.

It’s basically a rice krispy treat with cornflakes instead of krispies and lots of green food coloring.  This is another beat the clock recipe, because you have to get them all made, shaped and the candy “berries” stuck on before it cools and they wont stick anymore.   I think help from a friend would make this a lot easier.

I also made some old fashioned sugar cookies.  I think they tasted better than the frosted ones.

I also made some marshmallows and dipped them in chocolate.  I dont have any pictures with them dipped.  Marshmallows are really easy to make if you have a kitchenaid mixer.   Once you get everything together, you have to beat it on the highest speed for 10 minutes.

just beat it

Pour it in a greased glass pan, let it sit overnight, and the next day turn it out and slice.  I used a pizza cutter, it worked really well.

marshmallow mountain

one 9×13″ pan makes about 50 1.5″ square marshmallows.  roll them in powdered sugar so they wont be sticky.  Quick side rant:  I went to the Indy Winter Farmer’s market last week and they had a new vendor there selling nothing but marshmallows.  Apparently they got a best of Indy award from Indianapolis Monthly magazine for best artisan marshmallows.  They were giving free samples so I tried one.  Mine were WAY better.  WAYYYYY better.  Granted theirs were flavored, and I just made vanilla, but flavoring cant change the marshmallows that much!  They were just really dry and chewy and looked really ugly.  They were all lumpy and uneven and ugly dull colors.  Mine are relatively square, bouncy, light and fluffy.  Anyway, I couldn’t believe these people were charging 3 dollars for 4 of their crappy marshmallows.  And people were buying them!  I called my mom and ranted to her (like I am now)…she said I should start selling my candy.  Coming from my mom, who can find something wrong with anything, that is a huge compliment about my candymaking skills.  That gave me a lot of confidence I can do this.  Next year.  I swear.  I will be at that Winter Farmer’s Market, and I will be selling my marshmallows!  And other candy.  I am really into this idea.  I like sewing, but not for profit.  I tried and wasn’t that successful, because the time and expense of making sewn goods rarely makes it profitable to sell.  Non-crafty people don’t realize the amount of time and skill and money it takes to make really nice baby quilts or cute bibs from imported japanese fabric or designer fabric from someone like Heather Ross.  With candy, it’s relatively cheap to make, even if you are using all organic ingredients, and you can make a large amount in a comparatively short amount of time.  And people don’t think about spending a couple bucks impulsively, whereas they are going to think long and hard about spending 75 or 100 bucks on a handmade quilt.  I think I can do this and be successful. And I have like 8 months until the next season of the winter farmer’s market to practice and plan.  I am really excited about this right now.  You may be seeing a lot more candy making in my blog in the near future.

I should have blogged about all this Christmas baking when it was actually Christmastime, but maybe it will inspire someone to try something new next year.  And I like posting pictures!

Sewing:

I FINALLY finished my poor bee member’s blocks for November.  I am ashamed! They were sent out the Monday before Christmas.  I am happy with them, it was my first time paper piecing.  I liked the technique, I will have to try it again.

I still need to finish my Dec. blocks.  I have one done, but I am only halfway done with the other one.   Then January!  I will finally catch up this month.  I need to start thinking about what I want to send out…my month is coming up in March.  I am really looking forward to seeing everyone else’s blocks with my fabric.

I also made a reversable quilted tote bag for my mom for Christmas, but I forgot to take any pictures of it.  It turned out pretty well, considering I didn’t have instructions on how to finish what we started in the class I took!

So Happy New Year everyone, I hope you had a nice holiday season.  Let’s see if I can keep that blog writing resolution!

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Christmas fabric

September 11, 2009

michael millers funky Christmas

michael miller's funky Christmas

Part of me thinks it is way too early to think about Christmas, but really, if you plan on making something for the holidays, you pretty much need to start doing it now so it will be done in time to actually be used as decorations for the holidays.  I’m planning on doing an advent calendar and tree skirt.  Hopefully I am not trying to be too ambitious!  I’m sure there’s some Christmas gifts that I will want to make too.

I got netbook for my birthday! Since it is so shiny and cute, I didn’t want it to get all scratched up or damaged when I was carrying it around.  So I decided to make a padded sleeve for it for protection.  I used this super cute mushroom fabric called Tillbrook Toadstool in lime green and just a bright pink solid for the inside lining.  In between the two, I used fusible fleece as the padding, and to give it some body to stiffen it up.  I am mostly happy how it turned out, if I did it again for this netbook, I would make it about an inch shorter in height, just for a closer fit.  Width wise it is perfect.  I also would have boxed the corners to give it a little depth.  Overall, this was a pretty simple project.  I am thinking of offering these in my etsy shop as custom orders, that way I can make them to fit the customer’s specific laptop dimensions.  I feel like this is a useful thing that people would also like to have fit their personality with the fabric choices.  My etsy shop hasn’t sold anything in a while, I’m hoping this would help boost my sales.

SewingMachineMonthWThis month is sewing machine month at the sew mama sew blog, and what better way to jumpstart my return to blogging than with a meme?!

What brand and model do you have? I have a Pfaff Hobby 1132

How long have you had it? I’ve had this machine for a little over a year now, 16 months

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? around 400.00

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)? I started out making purses and stuffed toys, as my skills improved I  began quilting, which I love.  I also like making handy things for myself, like most recently a padded laptop cover for my netbook.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? I sew a lot, I usually go through phases of working daily on a project, finishing, then taking a long break, and coming back to do more projects.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? I love my machine, its very powerful, I never have problems sewing through layers and layers of fabric.   I’m very happy with my machine, its a good all purpose sewing machine.  I don’t have name for my machine, because I think naming inanimate objects is dumb.

What features does your machine have that work well for you? My favorite feature is the automatic needle threader, so handy!

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? I wish the arm was longer so it would be easier to quilt!

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it! I have sewed through my index finger before, making a sock monkey!  I started sewing when I was laid off, with my mom’s old brother sewing machine.  I found that I really liked to sew and I was good at it, so I started making more and more ambitious projects like making quilted purses, and I kept breaking needles.  The machine stopped working, so I took it to get repaired, and found the timing had gotten messed up.  I got it fixed, and seriously less than a week later the same thing happened.  So instead of getting it fixed again, I just bought a new machine.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? Yes I would recommend because its a great all purpose sewing machine with a powerful motor to get through tough fabrics or many layers.  It has quite a few different stitches, and you can change the position the needle so it makes it easier sewing zippers or using special feet.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? I think it depends on the individual sewer, everyone has different things they find important.  For me, at the time I bought my sewing machine, I wanted something reliable and powerful, with a good variety of stitches and feet.   I will say that I feel trying the machine out before you buy it is extremely important, so you get a feeling of how it works and if its going to work for you.  I bought my sewing machine at a local sewing shop, not a big box store or online, so I was able to do this.  If I am going to be spending a lot of money, I want to be sure its what I wanted!

Do you have a dream machine? Now that I do more quilting, my dream machine would be a long arm quilting machine with a frame.  I tried one out at the IQF in Chicago, and I fell in love!  Too bad they are huge and cost thousands of dollars.  A girl can dream though!

my etsy shop is open!

April 7, 2009

furry friends bib

furry friends bib

I know I haven’t posted in a month, but hopefully I will be posting more regularly in the future.  Sometimes life gets in the way, to use an old cliche.  But I am excited to announce I finally opened my etsy shop! I am very excited to have followed through on this.  I started out by posting 20 items. I will be adding new things every Monday. I haven’t figured out yet how to add the etsy mini widget to my blog, but I have added a link to the right that you can click on to go shopping!

candy stripe shoes

candy stripe shoes

I spent this weekend doing trial and error with some baby shoes and bibs. I was trying to figure out sizes and the design of the bibs and shoes I wanted to make.  There are so many different kinds different crafters have made and shared online, I took what I liked from them and tried to do what I thought was best.

These shoes were the 3rd draft, I liked how they turned out.  I used some black polka dot fabric that I got from the sew mama sew fat quarter swap, and some non skid nubby fleece for the soles.  I was able to get 2 pairs of shoes out of one fat quarter!  It is a good project for that size fabric.

The bib was my first draft.  I think turned out adorable, but I am still wondering if it is too small.  Its hard for me to judge, because all baby stuff is tiny, and I didn’t have a baby handy to measure.  I went with some rough estimates based on other bibs that I have seen online.  It has a little pocket in the front to catch crumbs or drool or whatever. I love this sushi fabric, and I think the cute food themed fabric is perfect for bibs. I also decided I need to use a strip of velcro on the back of the bib to make it more adjustable than just using two dots of velcro and to leave the opening to turn the bib on the side, not the bottom, because it is really noticeable on the bottom of the curve.

These were my first tries, and I’m pretty happy with the results, and I definitely learned what I need to change to improve the end results.

much cuter than brown paper

much cuter than brown paper

Did you know that 1 Person + 1 Sleeve per day = 5.5 Lbs Garbage/Year?  When you add it up, those little paper cuffs create a lot of unnecessary waste.   A reusable coffee cuff is a quick and easy gift to make for your coffee-loving friends and family.

all you need

all you need

Basically all I did to make these was loosely trace a Starbuck’s cuff so I had the coffee cuff shape and size to fit a standard cup.  After that I sewed right sides together, turned right side out, topstitched, and attached a little velcro circle to the ends to close the cuff.  That’s it!  I made 5 of these last night and it took less than an hour.  I think this is a great last minute gift since they are so simple to make.  And best of all, they were completely made with leftover fabric from my stash, the exteriors are heavy home-dec weight and the linings are fleece.    Your friends (and the earth) will thank you!

cute and enviromentally friendly

cute and enviromentally friendly