Monday, December 14, 2009

Custom Handbag

About a week and a half ago, a mom who is on PTA with me told me she heard that I sew bags (thanks, Missy!). She told me that her mom has a bag she loves, but that it's a floral print and she wishes it were solid. She asked if I might be able to recreate the bag for her. The one catch? Her mom lives out of state, so I would have to rely on a couple of photos and measurements. I thought it sounded fun.

I finished it yesterday and am dropping it off today. I am so nervous! I think it's cute, but I am not positive it is what they both envisioned. So keep your fingers crossed for me!

Here is is with the ties loosely knotted. It's pretty much rectangular.

And here it is with the ties as tight as they go. It's a more rounded appearance, as you can see. She liked this feature on her current bag.

Here's a close-up of the button and front pocket. See how the black fabric is quilted? I bought it like that-I did not actually quilt it. It's really cute! And the batting provides stability, so the bag doesn't fold in on itself.

And the inside, with some pockets. Actually, all around the bag there are pockets: a couple for pens, one for a cell phone, a few to hold papers. I didn't do an inner zipped pocket and I kind of regret it.

Like I said, I am really nervous for her to see it! It's really hard to try to recreate something for someone, especially when you can't actually touch it and see how it was made.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Sunday means family dinner in this neck of the woods. Literally, considering I pretty much live in a commune.

This Sunday we're celebrating my brother in law's birthday. His name, coincidentally, is Kevin.

Family dinner is potluck, and I made birthday cupcakes. Keenan, my nephew, told me his dad's favorite color is blue, so I went with it. Why not?

Our gift to him? A hat, of course. Meathead, to be specific.

As soon as I saw this hat, I knew I had to make it for him. He is a social worker and he enjoys entertaining his clients with his crazy hats. This one fits the bill.

The yarn is Mirasol Sulka, a blend of merino, alpaca and silk. It's incredible-so soft and warm. I am in love with every Mirasol yarn I have touched. Hope Kevin likes it, too.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Busy Times

Oh, this fall. This fall has been so busy, I have hardly had a chance to breathe. It seems like there is something going on every single day, and many days, there are multiple things. Which is why I haven't posted anything in 2 weeks.

I have been working on this leaf beret for a long time-maybe two months! See how it's finished here? What you can't tell is that it is gigantic. I tried it on and it was at least 2 inches too big around. It fell into my eyes and looked so ridiculous.

And so I ripped it out. I unraveled the whole thing and wound the yarn into a ball so I could start over. And now I am almost done with take 2. And it is so much better! It fits like it should, which is lovely.

If you click on the photo, you can see it much larger. Which you should do, so you can see the leaf pattern. This was my very first time knitting from a chart! And while it was a little weird at first, I kind of love it now. It makes sense for something like this, where every round is different than the one before it. My mother in law bought me a really cool metal board and magnet set, so I can put the chart on the board and hold it in place with the magnets. There's one really long magnet to mark your spot with. So great, this set. I am not in love with the leaf pattern, but I do like knitting it and I love the yarn. So much. It's Mirasol Tupa, and it's half merino and half silk. It is so soft and it has this sheen to it. I love it.

And this is my new yarn for my new project, which I will begin as soon as the beret is done. It's Manos Del Uruguay Rittenhouse, which is a plied merino. It is incredible! So soft, so lovely, and the tag for every skein has the name of the woman who spun it written on it.

I am about to embark on the biggest knitting adventure I have had: my first sweater. Well, technically my second sweater, but my first sweater was size 6-12 months and was for Baby Dana. It took me 9 months to knit that tiny thing! This sweater is for me, and it will be significantly larger and more complicated. It's the Central Park Hoodie, and if you look at the pattern you will notice it is cabled. I am both terrified and excited to be starting this. Thank you to Tracy, who invited me and Dana over to wind my skeins into cakes on her swift. THAT was fun!

And a little bit of sewing has happened, too. Just a bit. I made Dana a skirt out of scraps. She loves it! Even though it isn't pink or purple, her two approved colors. She had no shirts to go with it, so I found a tank and a long sleeved shirt at Old Navy and spiced them up with the Amy Butler print and some Wonder Under.

Clearly she has had her photo taken before. Little ham!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Random Produce

My parents have a Granny Smith tree in their yard. It is a prolific tree that produces gigantic fruit. Unfortunately, the apples are dry and sour and not useful for anything other than baking. And really, you can only bake so many apple treats at once.

So today my dad called. He was working outside and caught a glimpse of the Granny Smith tree, leafless but heavy with fruit. And he thought he would taste one. Just for the heck of it. And they are delicious! He suggested I come over and pick a bunch, not for baking but for eating.

So we put on parkas, hats, mittens and boots because it was cold out, and we trekked next door with a bag. We each tasted an apple, and WOW-my dad wasn't kidding! They are awesome! Juicy, sweet and delicious. Apparently they need to freeze 30 times or so before they are edible. So we picked a tote full, which probably weighs 20 pounds.

And then we picked some carrots. Check out the size of this one! That is MY hand, not a child's hand. Just ignore the Littlest Pet Shop bandage. I had a run-in with a paring knife while prepping the carrots.

And at dinner tonight, we finished off the first jar of pickles. Remember back in August when I made pickles? They are finally done and are amazing. What a relief!

So remember way back in January, when I made vanilla out of beans my parents brought back from Huahine? I've been using it for a couple of months now and it is so very nice. I split this into 5 smaller bottles for easier use, and I have already finished one of them. There's a teeny bit left in this bottle, as you can see. But do you see that brown stuff all over the bottle? That's the vanilla caviar. It is lovely stuff.

I am finishing up a small knitting project, and hopefully I can post that tomorrow. Things have been crazy busy around here for the last 2 months. I am thrilled that things may slow down. Even with the holidays approaching, it can't be as nuts as September and October were.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Whatever it is I think I see...

My sister has a big costume Halloween party every year.

She is crazy about Halloween-she has a Halloween village and everything. There's a trophy for the best costume, and votes are drawn out of a plastic pumpkin. Serious stuff, folks.

The past couple of weeks have been incredibly busy around here, and I didn't have a chance to even think about what my costume would be. I know we had a whole year to come up with something, but it seemed so far away, and there was so much else to do.

So yesterday afternoon, we met Grandma Bev and Great Grandma Gloria near the mall so that they could take the girls for the night while we went to the party. Kevin had a costume figured out (Jack Bauer , complete with CTU badge-so funny!) but I had nothing. I ran into the fabric store with a half-cooked idea (someone on a blog I read made a costume like this for her dog) and came out $13.08 poorer with a bag full of felt.

We got home at 4:30pm and by 7:00, I had this:

I was in a hurry, so I used Thermoweb to make iron-on letters, which worked pretty slick. Last year I was a crayon, also made of felt, and I had the bright idea to use Velcro all up the back. That was a mistake. This year I sewed in a 22-inch zipper, which was simple and much more effective.

Despite the fact that there is absolutely no shaping and I look like I am wearing a potato sack, I am pretty happy with how this came out. I will probably wear it trick or treating with the kids. And it's gigantic enough to fit a nice, thick sweater underneath.

I didn't win the contest, but I don't have room for some lame-o trophy anyway. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I haven't posted in a while because I haven't really finished anything lately. I am in progress with Nora's Halloween costume, three trick-or-treat bags, a hat (my first attempt at knitting from a chart), harvesting and freezing carrots, and various PTA duties.

The only thing I have finished lately is this:

And right now you're all scratching your heads, trying to figure out what the heck. Well, I will tell you what the heck. Dana wanted to be Lavagirl for Halloween! Her favorite movie is The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lavagirl. It's a Disney film, a few years old, and I could not find a ready-made costume. In fact, I couldn't even find a real photo to go off of. Everything I could find was much like this, which is so not helpful. But I found a superhero costume pattern and did some heavy improvising, mostly using liquid lame. Gorgeous!

I have since added a few details, but I don't have photos yet. I just added some fancy buttons on the belt and gauntlets that are supposed to look like control knobs and such. Dana loves her costume, and I have learned a valuable lesson: lycra isn't very fun to sew. It's slippery and hard to cut. And while the stretchiness came in handy a couple of times, it mostly was annoying. Yet it was still fun to sew the costume because the girls were both so excited about it.

Nora is going as Dorothy, and the pieces are all cut out. I started sewing early this morning but didn't get very far. Maybe tonight. We'll see.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

Miss Josephine turns 3 tomorrow, and her birthday party was on Saturday.
She told her mama, Charity, that she wanted a Scooby Doo party, and I, of course, had a cake pan for that!

The cupcakes are supposed to look like Scooby and his spots.

Dana adores Scooby and wanted her photo taken with this cake.

I've used this pan to make cakes for Zak, Keenan, Nora, Dana and Josie. Everyone sure loves Scooby Doo!

Friday, September 25, 2009


My little brother, Sam, asked for salsa. I had a bunch of tomatoes left after making all of the spaghetti sauce, so I harassed my knitting group for recipes and then grabbed onions, limes, cilantro and jalapenos at the grocery store and went to work.

I used a recipe for fresh salsa from my friend Jill. She advised against canning it. Which is cool, because my friend Heidi provided 2 recipes that are great canned. I think that will be our weekend project.

Onions, garlic, cilantro and jalapenos. Can you smell it? Almost, right?

It made about 3 pints. I kept one and delivered the other 2 to Sam and Liz's refrigerator, being extra careful to go in the back door to avoid Diogi, who, in his skunk-sprayed state, was locked in the front porch.

I think this salsa is fantastic. In fact, I think I will go have some right now!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tomato Sauce

Yesterday, Dana and I picked these from my mom and dad's house:

So just to clarify, we picked 2 gallons of cherry tomatoes and a big basket of regular tomatoes. Plus, on top of these lovelies, Kevin's mom gave us a gallon of tomatoes.

And so, since Nora and Dana ask for spaghetti every single night for dinner, I thought it would be smart to can a whole bunch of sauce. (Let me clarify that I do not actually serve spaghetti every single night.)

I halved the cherry tomatoes and sliced the regular tomatoes into thick pieces, chunked up some onions (some from our garden and some from the grocery store), cut the tops off of several cloves of garlic, drizzled it all in olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and roasted it for half an hour in a hot oven.

Doesn't it look gorgeous, all browned and juicy?

I carefully transferred the roasted items into the food processor, along with fresh basil (some from my garden and some from the grocery store) and whirled it up.

I did this many times.

I ended up with 16 pints of spaghetti sauce!

I know that some of you can't understand why I made pints instead of quarts. The thing is, a pint of spaghetti sauce is exactly the right amount for two adults and two little girls. Nothing ends up in the garbage, and nothing ends up getting moldy in the back of the refrigerator.

Tomorrow there will be at least 2 more gallons of ripe cherry tomatoes. My little brother has requested salsa with lots of cilantro. I have never made salsa before, much less canned it. I may have to do some research here. Anyone have a good recipe?

Fall Fest

Fall Fest was on Saturday, and it went pretty well!

I sold eleven bags! Now, that may not seem like that many, but it became pretty obvious that this was the wrong venue for selling bags. People were buying apples, pumpkins, corn, jam, pickles, flowers. Bags? Not high on the list.

My friend Charity was awesome! She procured a table from her mother in law, drove us out to Chester Bowl, helped set up, and sat with me under the blazing sun all. day. long. Then she helped me load everything up, drove me back to her house and made me a nice, cold drink. I love her so!

I learned some very good lessons. For example, don't start sewing 3 weeks before the festival. Bring a tent. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Bring lots of water and a cooler.

I fell asleep around 6:30pm on Saturday and didn't wake up until 8:00 Sunday morning. And I had a great time cleaning up my gigantic sewing mess from the kitchen table on Sunday.

Don't get me wrong: I love to sew. I never got sick of sewing. I just wish I would have had more time so I could have enjoyed it more. Because rushing through it sort of sucked all of the joy out towards the end.

Next year it will be so much easier!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tote Mania

My love took the girls out on the town yesterday so I could sew. I finished six bags, and I am up to 12 done now! Not bad for less than 2 weeks.

I started with these two Amy Butler prints.

The girls have been really into playing with Duplo blocks lately, and the other night Kevin pointed out that Nora had a little block assembly line going. So I took a cue from her and sewed these two bags simultaneously. And you know what? It didn't take twice as long to sew two bags.

Then I moved on to this, as I have been imagining how lovely it would be since I sewed its mirror image last week. And I love it. I am tempted to keep it for myself.

Then I sewed the other one of these.

On Thursday night, my friends came over to help cut out fabric. I sewed four of the eleven totes they cut out, starting with these funny doggie totes. Dana selected this fabric. You might have to click the photo to see it larger.

I love how these bright totes turned out. So cheerful!

Here's the mirror of the Eiffel Tower tote. I think I like this one better, with the towers as the accent.

Finally, the other turquoise tote.

I have fabric for four more cotton totes and three canvas totes cut out, thanks to my friends. I hope I can finish them all by Friday night!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bold Tote

Final tote for the weekend. I am officially out of interfacing.

More Michael Miller fabric. The blue stuff is called Pod Vine. I can't figure out the name of the floral.

Inside view. I used a black zipper.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yep, another one.

I made another one this afternoon.

The fabric is Michael Miller, Lava Flowers and Lava Leaves.

I swear-I love each tote more than the last. And I am getting faster at sewing them, too. Which is nice. Because I have many more to make.

I have another one in the works for tonight, and then I am taking tomorrow off. Mostly because I bought all of the interfacing they had in the weight I needed at the chain fabric store, and my favorite neighborhood shop is closed until Monday. At least, I hope she's open on Monday, what with the holiday and all.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Some Progress

I spent two after-bedtime evenings cutting up fabric. I cut ten yards to make ten totes. I intended to then interface all of the pieces, then move immediately on to installing the zippers on all of the inside pockets. However, at some point, it got sort of boring. So I stopped cutting interfacing when I had enough for 4 bags, and have moved onto actually sewing. I have finished two more kid totes and two more adult totes, with a third planned for tonight.

This spider fabric is pretty cute, but was sort of hard to work with. My rotary cutter did not enjoy it. I am not sure why. My girls really want these for Halloween.

Is this cute? I can't decide. I have been oohing and aahing over the Eiffel Tower fabric for months. See, when Nora was 3, we asked where she would like to go on vacation, and she told us she wants to see the Eiffel Tower. What kind of 3 year-old wants to go to Paris? I love that she thinks big, and we promised to take her there when the girls are a bit older.

Nora thinks this bag is lovely, so if nobody buys it, she has dibs on it.

Here's the inside. I used a red zipper and I think it came out pretty nice. I am not afraid of zippers.

I really love this fabric combo. It's from Laura Gunn. I can hardly wait to make the mirror image tote. The green fabric is gorgeous, with little birds in cages. It's a bigger print, so it doesn't show its true beauty as the contrast fabric, but I think it's going to be amazing as the main fabric.

Here's the inside. You can see the print a bit better. I used a green zipper, but it looks sort of gray in this photo. Weird.

Anyhow, I promised the girls ice cream, but I have to vacuum out my car first (don't ask). More sewing tonight, and more photos when I have a few more finished. Feedback would be much appreciated.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What have I gotten myself into?

My friends talked me into getting a table at Chester Bowl Fall Fest.

I tried to tell them all of the reasons I couldn't sell bags. I told them it takes too long to cut out all of the fabric. They organized a fabric cutting party so they can help me. I told them I don't want to stand there all alone all day, hawking tote bags. They offered to help me man my table. I told them I don't even have a table. They said they do, and I can use them. Then they talked about putting 3 tables in a u-shape, and covering them with pretty fabric, and then with my bags. My friend Charity works at Maurices Corporate and even asked people in her office what they would look for in a tote bag or purse.

And so, I went to the Chester Bowl office and bought the very last table. Then I bought some graph paper, looked through some catalogs to figure out the perfect tote bag size, and set to work making a pattern.

And here is my prototype. I found a couple of pattern issues, but they're easy to correct and I think that pattern #2 will be perfect.

This is the inside. See the zippered pocket? I wanted to add more pockets, but friends, I have to sew at least 20 of these by September 19. I have to keep it simple.

And this is tote #2. Same pattern. I made the pattern so that I take 1 yard each of two different fabrics and make mirror image totes. Does that make sense? So one bag takes one yard of fabric.

These two yards are Amy Butler. I always look at these two fabrics and swoon. I am really excited to make a bunch of bags in combinations I have been imagining. I have so many swimming around in my head right now!

I am going to make a bunch of these kid totes, too. They are perfect for a coloring book and a box of crayons, or a few books, or some guys, or a water bottle and some snacks. The possibilties are endless. I am making some in Halloween prints so they can go out trick or treating.

I am kind of scared about this whole thing. I will have to sew a bag every day from now until Fall Fest in order to have 20 totes for adults. Plus I have to squeeze some kid totes in there, too. Good luck to me!

If you're at Fall Fest, come and visit. I'll be looking for you!