Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Living Wake

This past weekend, my brother, father, and I threw a surprise party for my mom. Today she turns 65, and to commemorate this auspicious occasion, we thought it only fitting to give her something that she has always wanted... a front row seat at her own wake.

Now, I grant that some of you may be highly turned off by this whole idea... Lord knows most people at the party were when they received the invitation. But I assure you, the evening was hilarious and all done in good taste, even if it did have a rocky start what with my mother refusing to get out of the car... and she didn't even know what was in store for her yet!

Picture this... 70 of your closest family and friends are sitting in rows staring at a podium, a portrait frame (with you sitting in an over-sized arm chair staring back at them from the other side... of the frame, not the grave. Honestly, people!), and a gospel choir of blowup dolls... yes, I said blow up dolls (Don't worry, they were fully dressed in their choir robes).

After the laughter has subsided, your son-- dressed, naturally, as a priest-- begins the ceremony. First a reading from Marie's cookbook by your daughter-in-law, next a responsorial hymn by your son-in-law and the congregation, and then a reading from the book of Marie's favorite child (that would be me of course). Follow it up with a quick poem from your grand kids, and the homily by your son. Throw in a bunch of Amen's and Hallelujah's and you get the idea of what I'm talking about!

After the ceremony, we partied. It was great. For those of you who saw the shoes for my mom's cake, and are waiting for the whole shebang, here it is.

Edited: Ironically this was just posted on Facebook... I think it says it all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My new machine is a fabric snob.

Dear Nomee-
I fully realize that you are a sophisticated, high quality machine who deserves to be treated with the utmost respect, however your lack of consideration towards my feelings hurts me. It is not often, right now, that we get to spend time together, what with my caring for two very small children and all. But I make the time for you. All I ask is for the same kindness in return. I realize that the fabric I selected for the background is not of the finest quality, however I hardly feel that it is necessary for you to chew at my fabric selection for the Skill Builder BOM. Please understand that I purchased 5 yards of this material and that, like it or not, you will be sewing it together for me in every block. I would like this to be an enjoyable process, as the Skill Builder takes us through most of 2013, and it is still only January. Please be advised that if you continue to eat my fabric, I may have to put you into retirement for a while and show some love to Brother XR.


Monday, January 21, 2013

My first block in progress in quite some time!

So yesterday I finally took a little bit of me time in the morning, before my girls woke up, and began working on my skill building block. Based on the difficulty I had with choosing fabrics for this block, I'm going to assume-- or at least hope-- that this BOM will live up to it's name and actually build my skills. Here's what I got so far (and sorry for the crappy coloring of the picture)...

I can't quite seem to figure out whether these bars are in the "right" order or not. I think I'm just going to have to go with it.

Yesterday, Jen over at Quilter in the Closet posted about color theory with respect to the Skill Building BOM. It's nice to know I'm not the only one struggling with the concept. One of the things she did was pull her fabric and then examine it in grey scale to check her color values and contrast. I never thought of doing that, but what a great idea! So I hurried over to my selection photo and did just that. I have to say, I was really pleased. Since I'm still building my stash, and don't really have anything in the way of scraps I bought almost all of the fabric for this BOM. Here's my little test of how I did.

Here is my fabric collection for the project.

And here is the grey scale image of it. I'm actually pleased as punch. I guess my eye for color is better than I thought. My blues could have a couple of lighter values and my greens could have some darker ones, but overall, and for picking everything out on the fly in one shot, I think I did a job well done. 

Linking up with Heidi over at Fabric Mutt for Let's Get Acquainted Monday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WIP- Auction quilt officially started!

I figure WIP Wednesdays are a great opportunity for me to share my progress on the auction quilt. I am happy to say that the planning stages of this quilt are finally over, and we have begun the treacherous task of making this project a reality.

As you may recall, all of the artwork for this quilt was drawn by 5th through 8th grade students at the school. Below is a sampling of the artwork. We were really impressed with their drawings.

Once all of the drawings were selected, we came up with a design for the quilt. Traditionally, once the children draw the pictures, fabric is selected and parents interpret the drawings as closely as possible through applique. At first we thought we would keep with tradition and hand applique all the drawings onto blocks. We came up with a great design but ultimately, the fact that we were dealing with somewhere between 15 and 20 horses (and 30 drawings total) coupled with the fact that people just don't know how to sew anymore, led us to change our plans. I came up with the idea of having the pictures printed on fabric and then embellished through embroidery. The only problem was that the pictures had no color.

Because we would be printing onto fabric we needed to be careful that however we chose to color these images would not give way to crazy coloring lines. You know the kind I mean... crayon lines in all sorts of mismatched directions, with varying (yet unintentional) shades.  So we enlisted the help of the upper school art teacher who recommended water soluble crayons and pencils that, when gone over with a wet paint brush, give off the look of watercolor. Perfect. With the help of one of the girls in the senior class, the drawings were given some life through color.

With the coloring done, I was finally able to take the first batch to the printer-- no easy feat finding one, mind you, due to needing to print on 11x17" fabric paper! But here they are in all their glory... It was really interesting to see how the watercolors were picked up by the computer. We found that greys and blacks printed out in shades of blues, not overly accurate for horses, but we think we can make it all work out. If not, I know we will have at least one "horse of a different color," if you get my drift... heh heh.

As soon as they were printed we took them for the thread and have picked everything out. We will be distributing them this week or next to our volunteers who will begin the task of embroidering them.

I'm really happy with the process thus far, although I have made many, many, many notes for next year should we go this route again. If anyone has questions, I'd be happy to share what I've learned  so far. Just let me know.

Linking up today with Freshly Pieced.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Leopard Print Fondant Tutorial

So I've been working on some shoes for a cake that I will be making at the end of the month, and I decided that I would do up a quick little tutorial for how I make leopard print fondant. Let me preface this by saying that I had always thought this idea would work, but I was so relieved that it worked once I tried it. My only word of advice should you try to use this technique, however, is that you only have one shot to make it work so it had better be right the first time! ...you'll understand why once you see the process.

I started with a box of Wilton's Natural Colors Fondant, multi pack. Since I was only using this for accent pieces I didn't need a whole lot. The multi pack comes with four colors-- light brown, dark brown, natural pink, and black. To do this effect you will need mostly light brown with a tinge of the dark brown and black.

The first thing I did was mix a small amount of the dark brown with a small amount of the light brown, maybe half and half, to achieve a medium brown color. Set that aside.

Next roll out your light brown, almost all the way, leaving it a bit thicker than you actually want. Once your base is rolled out, take your medium brown and put tiny dots randomly onto the light brown fondant. Press them on lightly so that they stay put, but don't squash them in. Next roll tiny bits of the black and place them over the dark brown dots, making sure to curve them around the outside edge of the dot. Make sure you do these steps quickly, because you don't want the fondant to dry out too much; if it does, it'll be a big cracking mess.

Once all of your dots are laid out and the black strips are applied, go ahead and take your rolling pin and roll the fondant out some more to the desired thickness. Don't worry about only rolling in one direction. When you roll in multiple directions, it stretches the fondant out and gives the spots a nice natural look.

Here's my finished leopard print shoe.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Skill Building Commencing

Pile O' Fabric

So, for some crazy reason, I decided to join another BOM over at Pile O' Fabric. It's a skill builder which is perfect, and beyond that, it is a quilt as you go, which is even more awesome! The only problem is that I'm a little torn about starting it. I have soooo much on my plate, but at the same time these things are a really nice escape for me. Since it is a free block of the month I figure I will, at the very least, read all the instructions, try out a couple of new techniques, and then go from there.

Knowing that I needed a butt load (yes, that is the technical term) of fabric for this quilt along, I stopped at my local JoAnn's since they are getting ready to close at the end of the month. Their  sales were crazy-- nearly all their fabrics were 75% off-- so I took some time to find some stuff that worked. I honestly can't decide if I love or hate my selections, and I suspect I won't be able to tell until after I start assembling, but at least if I hate it the fabric didn't set me back too much... :o)

Here are my selections. I'd love to hear what people think... for better or worse!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A project in motion

I mentioned a while ago that I would be working on a quilt for Diva's school auction. I'd like to take a moment to tell you a little about it.

Every year Diva's school hosts an auction/dinner-dance to raise funds, with both live and silent items. The very last item to be auctioned off during the live auction is the annual quilt. The blocks of the quilt are drawn by some of the middle-schoolers, and then interpreted into fabric by parents, grandparents, staff, and friends of the school. Usually between 18 and 24 children's artwork is selected for the quilt. The quilt brings in anywhere between $7,000 and $22,000 for the school. Pretty redonkulous, right?!

When I arrived at the first auction meeting, I learned two key things that threw me into a panic. 1) Our theme for the event, and thus the quilt, was the Kentucky Derby, and 2) I was a co-chair of the quilt committee which meant that the responsibility of making this thing happen was up to me and one other woman (who doesn't really sew but takes care of the logistical part of the project). Crap. My first year in the school as a parent and probably the hardest topic for a quilt... ever. And so began the project in motion.

We set up a day in November for the 5th-8th graders to draw and, quite frankly, were blown away by their artwork. Their horses and scenes were amazingly impressive, and I don't even mean just for their age. We selected 30 kids artwork to appear on the quilt and came up with an amazing design. We would create a center panel which would feature 13 of the kid's drawings appliqued on-- horses running around a track-- and the rest would create a border around that center panel. It looked great on paper and everyone loved it. There was only one hitch. From speaking with the (only) 10 volunteers who agreed to help us, we had a lot of people who did not feel comfortable with a challenging design. Unfortunately we categorized 80% of the designs as having "medium" to "extremely hard" difficulty levels. Crap. We needed to scrap the idea and come up with a new one.

 I decided to think waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy outside the box. The quilts are always appliqued and embroidered and/or embellished, but with the horses I just didn't see how that was going to be possible. Being somewhat of a techie, I came up with a radical idea. I just hoped the school staff, auction/dinner-dance chairperson, and live auction chairperson liked it. I proposed printing the kids artwork directly onto fabric and then just embroidering and embellishing them without any applique whatsoever. I got some fabric, and did a sample to show them. Everyone liked the idea, though we do need to make some improvements.

Now its just a matter of figuring out the logistics and making it happen. At this point, many of the pictures have been painted with watercolor by one of the high school students. My next step is to take the finished (now) paintings to the printer to have them transferred onto fabric, then rally some more volunteers! The auction is not happening until the end of April, but I'm hoping to have the quilt wrapped up by the end of March.

I'll post progress updates as we go.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Two firsts in the New Year

On New Year's Eve I finally got the fabric for the play lap quilt I planned to make for my bff's son's birthday this weekend! Not knowing what my week would hold (Diva's got walking pneumonia and Little Loo had a fierce cold) I dove right in on New Year's Day, and I'm pleased to say that I even managed to finish it today! I thought I would take this opportunity to do my first tutorial too. It's not the most amazing tutorial, but I hope it gets the job done. Feel free to ask any questions. I hope you enjoy.

I started out with a yard of Road Work by Evenspor which I picked up on Spoonflower.com. Since I wanted the play mat to be small and compactable (is that even a word?) for traveling I cut the yard in half to 36"x 21". I then cut my sashing (Get your kicks at Route 66 Signs- RED) to 3" strips (2- 21"x3" and 2- 42"x3"). Sew the sashings to the main panel, starting with the short sides.

That's the top. Pretty cinchy!

Next I layered the top with some batting and a backing fabric (mine was Hot Rods Ride Again Cars- Green). I left the batting and backing slightly bigger in case there was some shifting during quilting. I used the roads to quilt the fabric, following along every stretch of the highway. It created this wonderful effect where the roads seemed to pop away from the grass-- very cool. 

After everything was quilted I trimmed away the excess batting and backing fabric. Next was the binding. I used this great Lollipop binding from Lollipops Designer Binding. I wish I could tell you which one it was, but they no longer seem to have it, and I can't recall the name.

Next it was time to create the bag. Using the same fabric as the backing (since you want the bag to match when it is all folded up) and a complimentary fabric (could be the same as the sashing, or a different contrasting color) cut both fabrics to the following dimensions. You'll have to bear with me since I didn't get any usable pictures for this part...

Once the fabric is cut, with right sides facing, sew along the outer edge leaving a 3" opening in the center of the bottom side. Turn that right side out and with the contrasting fabric out, make the corners of the bag by bringing the two 3" sides together so that they form one edge. Sew that edge together, and repeat on the other side. I found it to be easier sewing from the outer edge (ie: where the circles are) inward, but that might just be me.

Next we are going to make the straps. Using the sashing fabric (or contrasting fabric) cut 3.5"x22", fold in half with right sides together and sew along two of the sides, leaving one short side open so you can turn this out. Make two of these.

Attach one strap to the semi-finished bag with it's ends spaced about 7" apart, and extending about an 1.5" down. We'll wait to attach the other strap to the quilt once the bag is attached to be sure spacing is well matched.

Next attach the bag to the back of the quilt, matching sides together, in one corner of the quilt. Sew along the sides and bottom, leaving the top open. Next, add the second strap to the back of the quilt, equal in location to the strap on the bag. It might help to fold down the top edge of the bag and use that as a guideline. Be sure to use complimentary thread, or translucent thread, for these two steps so that you will not notice these seems as much. Then that's it. You're done!

Fold up and take with you, or open out and enjoy!