I won again!

I've been pretty lucky lately, first winning the plushie from Heidi Kenney, and I just found out I've won another blog contest I entered! This time I've won a set of three pop-up poster prints from one of my favorite paper artists, Jurianne Matter

The concept of these is what I fell in love with (not to mention the beautiful designs). Each print comes with a few different colored backings that show through when you fold all the little pop-up cutaways out. I can't wait to get these and frame them, I just need to decide where they will go!

Also, I wanted to let you all know that I've got a very exciting tutorial that's all typed up and scheduled to post in a few days. It's a complete photo tutorial on how to make a simple quilt! I hope you will all stop by and give it a try if you've never quilted anything before!


Beer and Cheese Pairing Party

My friend Shannon turned 25 this week and in celebration she threw herself a "Beer and Cheese Pairing" party.

She works at a local cheese company, North Bay Curds and Whey, manning their farmer's market stall and I knew we'd all be in for a treat when she told me her idea. I'm so happy I went: her friends were wonderful, the food was to die for, and I loved her retro apartment building more than I should have! Shes such a sweetie:

Oh, the food... That's fig jam made by one of her friend's aunts, or grandmothers, or something. We all agreed that even if she couldn't remember which relative made it, if an old woman hands you a jar of jam it's bound to be good. There was creamy sheep's milk bleu cheese with apples, amazing crackers and honey drizzled on a cheese that was rolled in wine grape husks, mac & cheese made with gluten-free pasta, fancy cheeses, yogurt, and purple kale that got deliciously crispy while baking, salad with blue cheese, cranberries, apples, and walnuts, and beautiful tarts for dessert, along with brownies and a strawberry sorbet with lemon and ginger made by Shannon's boyfriend.

A good time was had by all and we left with full bellies and warm hearts. A happy, happy birthday indeed. There's a few more photos in my flickr set, here.


I won!

I don't enter a lot of contests online, but when I saw that Heidi Kenney of My Paper Crane was giving away some of her new large plushies from Kid Robot, I had to try. And I won!

She sent the different kinds out at random and I'm so happy she sent me the yellow jelly doughnut! It's so cuddly and adorable, and it's living on my sofa now. She's one of the crafters and bloggers who has always been a huge inspiration to me, and I'm so happy to have one of her pieces in the house finally. My favorite detail of this little guy is the little place where there's "jelly" seeping out from where the makers of plush pastries piped it in:



Little Farm

Up in the hills above Berkeley there's a myriad of family attractions to go see, including a giant old-fashioned carousel hidden in the woods, a natural history and conservation museum, and great hiking trails, not to mention the beautiful views you get to see on the way up. I'd never taken the trek up the long, windy, wooded roads before, but last week a dear friend asked me to go. Unfortunately the carousel and museum are closed during the week, but we got to take in the view of the bay and the sunshine and fresh air, and we got to roam the Little Farm. It's exactly what the name says - a sweet little farm tucked away in the woods, and it's a great place to take your kids to learn about good farming practices or just enjoy feeding and petting them.

 When I was a child I wanted to be a farmer. For real. And it was a long time before the dream died when I learned about big agriculture destroying the family farm. But the new local- and slow-food movements have raised awareness and the small farm is coming back into favor, so who knows, maybe someday I will get my farm. Until then I know where I can go to feed miner's lettuce to friendly black sheep and watch the wild turkeys strut their stuff. If I had a church this would be it.

There's more to see on my flickr, here.


No-Sew Mini Bunting Banner Tutorial

As promised, here's a little tutorial that shows you how to make a lettered felt bunting like I made for my table at a recent craft fair: 

Mini Bunting Banner

Materials Needed:
Steam-A-Seam Sticky Back Fusible Web for Applique (This is exactly what it says on the package, and you can find this at most places that carry fabric.)
Baker's Twine
Eco-Felt (Bought mine at Michael's for twenty cents a sheet.)
Fabric Scraps
2" Letter Stencils (These can be found in hardware stores in the same section as house numbers and signage.)
Sharp Yarn Needle
Iron & Ironing Board
Bunting Template (See below.)

1. The letter stencils I used come in a few different sizes. At first I used a 4-inch set I had, and when I was done with the banner I realized it was about three times too big for my table! It will be super cool to use if I have a big tent at a large outdoor fair, but I started over with the two-inch version. Here is a printable template for the flags (click on it to save the high-resolution image):

2.Print this on a full page and cut out the templates, and use them to cut as many flags as you need to spell out your message.

3. Trace your letters onto the web side of your fusible interfacing. Be mindful of letters that are not the same forwards and backwards (or right side up/ upside-down), as your finished letters will be mirrored. I messed up the S's and N's the first time. After you've got all your letters traced, cut them out inside rectangles as they're easier to detail cut after you stick them to the fabric.

4. Peel off the paper backing and stick the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric. Trim away the excess fabric.

5. Carefully lay your letter on the center of your felt flag. Now here's where you need to make a decision: This felt is basically plastic, and therefore it's easy to melt it with a hot iron. You have two options: 
A: Set the iron to just a touch higher than the recommended setting for acrylics and do a couple passes, checking afterwards to make sure the interfacing has been melted and the letter sticks -or-
B: Do what I did and put the iron on a high heat and make one very swift pass over the flag.
Option B worked just fine for me, and with one swipe of the iron the webbing was fused and I was good to go. If you're not very familiar with ironing then I'd go with option A.

6. Thread your yarn sharp with the baker's twine and, starting with the last letter of your message, thread through the front of the upper right corner and back out the back of the upper left corner of each flag.

Hang it up and get the party started!

Oh, also, if you want to make the 4" bunting, I did a zig-zag stitch on the outside of the letters and it felt more finished. Totally optional though!


Sheer and Utter Terror, or, A Tutorial for Peace of Mind.

As most of you know, I've been doing a lot of little custom projects for people for extra money as I try to get my business together online. I've done everything from professional organizing to hemming pants and I'm having a blast! Recently, a good friend of mine asked me if I had ever installed a zipper in a sweater, and if so, could I do it on one she was knitting for her father-in-law's birthday? Sure, no problem, I've sewn with zippers many times. But there was a catch: the sweater's pattern called for it to be knit as a pullover, then have the zipper installed, then be cut open. Dear sweet mother of God, what have I agreed to? I was faced with the very terrifying prospect of not only having to neatly sew a zipper into a hand-knit garment that a friend had painstakingly made, but I'd also have to make sure I didn't completely destroy it as I cut it apart. The idea of holding the fate of a gorgeous hand-knit piece of art in my hands, not to mention the fact that it belonged to someone else, scared the crap-o-la out of me. But I'm sure it scared her even more, being a novice seamstress, and I knew I could do it, so I agreed. Now, in the end, it turned out brilliantly. And the process went on without a single hiccup. So for everyone out there who feels ill thinking about such a task, I'm here to offer my method  along with the knowledge that everything really will be okay. So take a deep breath.

First of all, Ms. Aleene is your new best friend. I use all the glues this company makes on almost a daily basis. You'll want to get some of their No-Sew Fabric Glue for Basting.

When you've got a zipper that's the correct length and color, start by separating the two halves. Place a fine line of the fabric glue on the edge opposite the teeth, and glue them to the front of the sweater, on the right side, on either side of where you plan to cut. You want them to be butted as close as possible without overlapping, with the toothed edges facing away from the center (see the photo below). Allow the glue to dry thoroughly. Set your sewing machine to a small zig-zag and stitch along the edge of each zipper half. When you're done, go back and stitch along the same path with a larger zig-zag stitch.

That should be sufficient to hold everything together so you can cut the sweater apart... Just typing that makes me sweat a little, but really the fear is totally unfounded...

At that point I think I blacked out for a sec. Every fiber of my being was telling me that what I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong. I was convinced I was going to kill the sweater and lose a friend...

Huh. That wasn't so bad. Nothing came unraveled, or exploded, and I didn't die. It actually held together great! I trimmed off the excess ends of yarn that were sticking up above the edge of the zipper:

That kinda weirded me out, having a pile of fluff that was once hand-knit stitches...
I decided to do my "poor man's serger trick" aka a zig-zag stitch that goes off the edge of the fabric to further reinforce the edge:

I zipped up the zipper and it was perfect. (Well, I decided I wanted a little less of the zipper facing to show, so I added another row of large zig-zag stitching a little closer to the row of teeth. I may have also added that row juuuust to be on the safe side.) I wish I had photographed the end result, but I had to run to get the sweater back to my friend so she could finish knitting the sleeves and didn't have time. But it looked amazing and was much easier than I anticipated. She's very happy with it. In fact she says she wants me to do it to another sweater she's working on... Oh goody.


Happy Easter!

My parents came up to visit me recently and brought me some truly precious treasures from my childhood. They cleaned out the rafters and brought me some awesome relics, including my collections of action figures, Breyer horses, and Beanie Babies (Ha!) that I thought were lost to the ages. But the most precious of all, pictured above, were two minuscule Easter baskets I made for them when I was in middle school, probably the year 2000.

Yup, they're that small. And guess what they're made out of? No, not plastic, but REAL EGGS! I don't know how I ever made such things as a kid; I could barely set them up to photograph them today! I remember it clear as day, using cuticle scissors to cut tiny pieces out of a hollowed-out egg. I think I broke 2 or 3 before I got two good ones. And the bases are paper pieces that I cut out of a doily. I can't even see the glue where I attached them, but they're on there real good!

I filled the basket with tiny toys, little creatures I made out of pom poms, and candies made from play dough. My favorite are the cookies; little flat disks of yellow clay wrapped in cellophane. There used to be a store in the Victorian district of Paso Robles that was the home and workshop of a woman who made the most amazingly detailed miniatures and dollhouses I've ever seen. Mom and I would go there all the time, and while we couldn't afford to buy much, my tiny brain was overcome with inspiration and the need to create tiny masterpieces. This is the closest I ever got.

I made the bow and the flowers on the baskets too. The flowers are fringed embroidery floss and wire. All of the ideas came from Martha Stewart Living, to which I had a subscription for much of my junior high and high school years. Even as a kid I was destined to be a blogger - I remember the year I made these baskets I had challenged myself to make at least one thing from each new issue of MSL that arrived in our mailbox. I didn't have a blog back then - heck, I don't even think there really was such a thing yet. But I did the challenge and all my friends and family were witnesses. This was obviously April. I remember in February I made rice krispie treats with Valentine-colored M&M's and the crayon hearts shown here.

The chick gets me. It has little feet, a little beak, and even eyes made from dots of a single strand of thread or embroidery floss. Gee whiz. There was also a big version in the container:

My dear friend Star brought me easter lillies last weekend when we had a little dinner party. I made a fantastic creamy leek soup, and I'll post the recipe/tutorial later on. Anywho, Happy Easter! May you be surrounded by tiny miracles.


Fridge pickles!

Remember when Dennis and I made pickles with Splenda? Well I am happy to report that they turned out swimmingly! The sweet onions are superb - you can't even tell that it's not real sugar and the cinnamon and anise make them so spicy I couldn't believe it! Anywho, while we canned the four separate jars, we also took the veggies that wouldn't fit and mixed them in a tupperware and stuck them in the fridge. About a week later I made caldo de pollo and we ate the fridge pickles with the soup and tortillas, and they were so good! So, for those that are intimidated by canning, here's my recipe for quick and easy fridge pickles!

Mixed raw veggies, cleaned and cut into manageable pieces. Mine included carrots, beets, and fennel, but cucumbers, cauliflower, etc, would work well too.
2 tbsp dried whole mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
2 whole Thai chilies
1 tsp. whole coriander
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp. salt
Enough cider vinegar (or a mix of almost any light-colored vinegar except distilled white vinegar) to completely cover your veggies.

Put all the ingredients in a nice large tupperware and let it sit for at least a week before eating. These will keep a good long time in the fridge. That's it! So yummy and so easy!


Making Friends (Friends Who Make Things)

Since about September I've been helping a local artist, Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs, with her crazy-busy holiday production. I adore working for her - her studio is so inspiring, her products and project concepts are amazing, and she is just an absolutely delightful person. I highly recommend that you browse all around her site and see all the lovely things she has going on, there are so many cool interactive projects you can do. It's so nice to be working for someone who is running an extremely successful "cottage industry" business, and I feel like I'm learning a lot about what it takes. As an added bonus to the job, besides Lea I have met a lot of local creative types, one of whom is Sharon Murriguez of Casa Murriguez. She hand-prints fabric and paper goodies with her own beautiful artwork. I love her stuff so very much, and she and I will *hopefully* be joining forces for a special project, but that's a bit down the road. Anywho, a few weeks ago as I was palling around in downtown I wandered into an adorable boutique and fell in love with a little packet of gift tags. The packaging looked oddly familiar and then I realized they were Sharon's! I'm such a goof. And when I mentioned it to her she gave me a pack!

If you think these are cool, you should check out the pillows in her shop! Oh man I love them.