Monday, April 27, 2009

Puppet Theatre

I found myself with two free hours this past weekend, and after tooling around in the sewing room for 20 minutes I was struck with a bolt of creative lightening, direct from Amy Karol and BTRS. I was flipping through the book, looking for a quick project that would be enjoyable. Something challenging, but not too demanding - something creative, but not another tote bag.

I found just what I was looking for with this doorway puppet theatre. The girls have recently started acting out Little Ms. Muffet with a stuffed ladybug and one of their play chairs, and this theatre will hopefully take that playtime to a whole new level.

I love this theatre for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that the height is adjustable. It is truly an activity that will grow with the kids (and adults!) over the years. Plus because you hang it from a suspension rod you can place it all over the house and it is so easy to store and set up. The pattern even has directions for an easy storage case, but I skipped making that for the time being.

All told this project took about 4 hours. The most time consuming part was the measuring and hemming involved. And the best part is that I made this one entirely from stash fabrics. My husband picked up a huge bag of bright, satiny, floral fabrics at a garage sale for 25 cents last summer. At the time I profusely thanked him, but quietly clucked my tongue, thinking "whatever am I going to use those for?" What a silly fool I was! The fabrics stepped up to the plate nicely alongside a thrifted white sheet. Oh, and don't let me count the ways I use thrifted or garage sale sheets around here...I must have a stack of 10 in the sewing room just waiting to be pressed into service. I had the the suspension rod in the closet from when we first moved and had some temporary curtains, and the dowels are straight from my husbands workshop. The only new purchase for this project was a yard of the fringe. I thought about making two mini buntings instead, but the fringe really adds to the formal theatre vibe. All that's missing are the velvet seats for the audience and a crystal chandelier.

I haven't shown it to the kids yet - that's my husband playing with the elephant puppets - but the next rainy day it will surely come out of the closet. They have a set of cute, cute, cute IKEA puppets just begging for a curtain call.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baking Bread

The number of people in my life either making this bread, or talking about making this bread, has grown exponentially over the past 10 days. It was like every time I turned around someone else was singing the praises of this method, or thrusting some freshly baked goodness under my nose to try.

I actually got the book from the library a couple of months back but didn't try it at the time. This past weekend I got the recipe from my sister-in-law and there's no stopping me now. I love it, my kids love it, my husband loves it, my parents love it, my grandpa loves it. And it is so easy to make!! I have a friend that talked about making this freshly baked bread for her family and midwives while she was in early labor. That's how easy it is.

You can get started with the master recipe, generously printed here. [Admittedly, I don't use a baking stone as we don't have one, but a baking sheet seems to work out well too.]

My own copy of the bread book it on its way to me, along with a copy of Michael Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food. Looks like I'm gearing up for another summer of foodie reading. Any recommendations from you on what to add to my list?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stitches Midwest

Plans are being laid to attend Stitches Midwest. It will be my first big knitting event and I'm pretty excited!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A little of this, a little of that

My knitting basket is starting to gather a slight layer of dust, and after finishing up my in-process sewing projects I haven't felt the urge to cut or sew. I haven't really felt the pull to do any sort of crafting lately.

The knitting is coming along nicely, I am just feeling a shall we say...bored?...with it. I need to put my nose to the grindstone and finish the two projects I have on my needles so that I can move onto to something fun and new. I realize that I tend to thrive on challenges. I love the learning that comes along with trying something new; and the way that something new fully captures my attention.

My attention is slowly being pulled towards our yard - and the garden that I should start putting in this weekend. There's broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and pea seedlings to get in the ground. The flowers and tomatoes are coming up nicely, but it will be a few more weeks before they are planted outside.

On a really happy note I successfully defended my dissertation proposal and am now officially a dissertator. I am still finishing off my last class, which will come to an end in early May. I will now spend the next 12-18 months gathering my data, analyzing it and writing up my results.

This past week was also full of new summer recipes. I'd never made fresh tabbouleh before - but believe me, this will be a summer staple around here. I tweaked the recipe to double the feta, and added more salt, pepper and lemon juice. My other recent favorite finds are courtesy of Trader Joe's: truffle brownies (from a box) and lemon curd. big projects on the horizon at the moment. I'm just waiting in the calm moments for inspiration to strike again. Some friends were singing the praises of freezer paper earlier this week, maybe I'll look in to that.

In the meantime I'll enjoy the days that are getting longer and warmer - and the fact that we are eating dinner in the backyard again!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bad Sewing Machine

After completing my spring wall hanging I was totally excited to do more sewing. One of my goals for this spring/summer was to try out making some clothing for the girls. I've never sewn a garment that was meant to be worn for real, (I've done Halloween outfits) and I thought this year I would give it a go. So I started with the Oliver + S lazy days skirt. Another goal is to finally figure out how to sew in a zipper. Sadly, I won't be accomplishing either of these things in the near future.

About half way through the first skirt my machine stopped working. The thread was breaking before making even one stitch. It did this over, and over, and over again. Likely a problem with the tension disk, but after taking the machine apart I wasn't able to see anything to fix. So I packed it up and put it away.

My husband surprised me with this machine as a gift about 2 years ago. A very generous a and kind gift to be sure. But, him getting me a sewing machine is sort of like me purchasing him a table saw. Neither of us know enough about each others craft to really make an informed purchase.

Aside from it not being the machine I would picked out for myself, I've always had trouble with it. The tension/stitching never worked properly and has given me constant headaches.
After a call to the two local machine repair shops, it seems the cost of maintenance or repair to this one would be at least half the original purchase price - so I'd rather put my money towards a new machine. About a year ago we started a small savings fund to get a new machine, born from the proceeds of my husband selling an underused drill press. The other thing I don't like about this machine is the amount of plastic on it. It just doesn't feel like a sturdy, durable machine.

For now I can borrow my mom's machine to get me through the skirts and another dress I have planned. There is a lot of web research to sort through before I decide on a new machine. There are also a lot of blog posts that discuss this very journey. [If you have a story to share, please let me know and leave a comment - I would love to hear about your experiences and why you use the machine you do!]

So it will probably be awhile until I am up and running again with the sewing. Oh well, there's no better excuse to keep knitting or explore some fun hand sewing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring sewing

With spring finally around the corner I found myself back in the sewing room gazing upon my fabrics. I have been watching this amazing quilt tutorial and so wish I had the time to jump in on it. Regardless, I really wanted to get my machine going again. I settled on a small wall hanging to go at the top of the stairs - a stacked coin quilt with vintage fabrics.

I participated in a vintage fabric swap last summer and have been using bits and pieces for various projects. In the fall I got a little ambitious and planned out a quilt project that would really show off the fabrics. Denyse Schmidt has an amazing pattern for flying geese and I was hooked. Unfortunately, my execution was awful. I spent time cutting what felt like a zillion triangles, laying them out in just the right order, and then sewing them up. The rows turned out terribly - really crooked and I never managed to get the points of the triangles to match up. (Does anyone else have this problem?) So the cut fabrics sat in a corner. Until a new idea hit me: a stacked coins quilt, inspiration here and here. I cut down the remaining triangles and re-purposed them.

Here it is, hanging at the top of the stairs. It is a tri-color front with vintage floral prints and the back is made from another vintage fabric, with a bold blue stripe down the middle. I think it measures about 22 x 24 inches. The sashing is a white Kona cotton solid - what a dream that fabric is to work with!

This piece just screams spring to me. Now...where's the spring weather?