Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vacation, hotel life.

Alright, as promised, a recap of my trip.

First, we stayed at the Occidental Grand Cozumel which had two pools and the most wonderful beach.

Most days went like this:
-6:30 - wake up, shower
-8:00 - buffet breakfast
-9:00 - head to the beach
From Cozumel, Mexico 2008

-9:05 - claim a canopy bed
From Cozumel, Mexico 2008

-9:10 - enjoy the view
From Cozumel, Mexico 2008

-10:00 - take the Hobie Cat out for a sail
-11:00 - snorkle (I saw a barracuda!)
-12:00 - buffet lunch
From Cozumel, Mexico 2008

-1:00 - back to the beach
From Cozumel, Mexico 2008

-2:00 - hang out by the pool
From Cozumel, Mexico 2008

-3:00 - relax in the shade
From Cozumel, Mexico 2008

-5:00 - sunset and back to the hotel…sand flees come out after dark!
-5:15 - shower
-5:30 - read or nap
-6:30 - buffet dinner (so much food!)
-8:00 - back to the hotel for bed
*or*
-9:00 - watch various performances in the courtyard (including a fiesta one night where I won a hat in a game of darts)
-10:00 - shower (sand and sunblock, the banes of my existence!)
-10:30 - bed

Up next, various adventures outside of the hotel!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Caballo y carro.

Oh no, it seems like I won't have time to post about my trip today. I did manage to set up all my pictures so it'll be easy to post something once I have two minutes to think about what I want to say. Until then, here's the only picture I have of me in Mexico:

From Cozumel, Mexico 2008


We were driving through the city of San Miguel while waiting for the ladies to finish their shopping. The focus was accidentally on me and not the horse and buggy. A serendipitous accident, I think.

You can click the link to see all my pics if you don't mind seeing them again when I write about my trip. If you want to wait, I promise to post something better tomorrow.

It's good to be back!

I’m experiencing a lot of feelings today. So many different feelings that I’m having a hard time sorting them out.

First, I feel happy and relaxed. I had a wonderful trip filled with wonderful adventures. I’m also very happy to be home. I’ll do a proper vacation post once I can sort out some pictures.

Second, I feel conflicted. Conflicted because I have a new love. Conflicted because I want to spend every waking second with my new love. Conflicted because my new love is a fictional character in a very popular book that I promised myself I wouldn’t read. Yes, it’s true, I’ve succumbed to Twilight fever. There was a lot of downtime on my vacation and my friend Karrie lent me the first two books right before I left and, well, I finished the second book just last night. I’m completely and utterly hooked. I’m also completely and utterly in love with Edward. My heart is filled with unconditional and unrequited love…it hurts and yet it is the most delicious pain I’ve ever felt. How’s that for dramatic? I haven’t had the heart to tell my boyfriend yet. He’s going to make fun of me which will hurt my poor heart even more.

Third, I feel overwhelmed. I thought I’d come back and everything would be calm but I should have remembered that coming back from a vacation is never calm. My goals for this week include organizing the sewing room (which pretty much exploded the week before I left) and cleaning my bedroom (how on earth do I have so much stuff and why does it all end up in there?) I’d like to exercise every day and start (and hopefully finish) a quilt that I can use to write up a tutorial here. I also have to help my brother finish a costume tonight which means I get my beloved sewing machine back. I also have to finish a holiday gift that didn’t get done in time. Add to this my obsessive reading (I bought the third Twilight book last night so I wouldn’t have to be parted from my dear Edward for any amount of time) and I’ve got quite a full week. I’m excited to get started but I’m also overwhelmed.

Fourth, I feel sad. I miss my boyfriend terribly. He’s been in California since December 18 and won’t be back until January 6. Also, I miss my friends and don’t know if I’ll have time to see them this week (or if they’ll have time to see me). Also, I have a feeling that something bad is going to happen to Edward in the next book and I can already feel the heartache. Also, I’m back at work which is self explanatory.

Anyway, despite all these feelings, I’m mostly just happy to be back. I’ll have some pictures ready to show you later today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane...

Alright, just stopping in at the boyfriend's house to steal some internet. I just made it back from the cabin despite the ice and snow. I'll be at my house in a few minutes where I'll do some laundry, some packing and some last minute cleaning. Then to bed early to catch the 4:30am train to the airport.

I'll be back next Tuesday with pictures and stories of my travels! Have a great holiday week!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A link to the past.

Paper chains were always my favorite holiday decoration. I was a purist and a control freak and made sure that all paper chains in our house were only red, green and white. I hated when my brother made a chain to count down the days until christmas. He'd remove one link every day which made me terribly sad. A chain with only a few links? Tragedy.

I was thinking about paper chains the other day, thinking that if I did decorate for the holidays this year (which I’m not), I’d definitely make one. And then I thought "why not make one that can stay up all year?" and then I thought "why not make it out of fabric?"

So, instead of packing for the weekend, instead of making a dress for my trip, I made some fabric "paper" chains:

fabric (paper) chain

Here’s how to make your very own: cut two pieces of fabric 1.5” x 8”. You can use one fabric or two different fabrics.

Cut a piece of Heat & Bond 1.5" x 8" or slightly smaller. Bond fabric together per instructions on the package.

Now, here’s the fun part. Decide if you want your links to have a straight edge or a pinked edge. Trim them accordingly. I found that even the straight edges needed a final trim with the rotary cutter.

Cut a small strip of H&B and iron it to one end of your chain as close to the edge as possible.

Photobucket

Remove the paper, pass strip through previous link, adjust so ends overlap and iron.

Photobucket

Add links until you reach the desired length.

fabric (paper) chain

fabric (paper) chain

I searched around and found a couple different tutorials for fabric chains. Here’s one that uses starch and glue and this one shows you how to make your links detachable so you can arrange them differently whenever you feel like it.

fabric (paper) chain

I hope you like these as much as I do. I'll have to resist the urge to decorate every doorway with these. Or maybe I won't try to resist...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Missing: sunshine.

quilted potholder

I really love this photo. I was sitting at my sewing machine on Saturday and the weak winter sun was trying to shine through the clouds.

I can handle the cold, I can handle the snow, I can handle the added holiday cookie pounds but I really, really miss the sun.

Working with these bright yellows did me a world of good this weekend. I’m not normally a yellow person but right now, it’s irresistible. I’m thinking of making some cafĂ© curtains for my kitchen. They would be white with a border of yellow on the bottom. I already have the fabric picked out.

It feels like -16° outside right now. Snow, clouds, icy roads. In less than one week I’ll get a glimpse of the sun, though. Until then, lots of yellow fabric…

A trifecta of goodness!

So, good news all around today. I just mailed off the packages (what a line!), I stopped by the fabric store and bought some fabric to use for bathing suit wraps for my vacation and I finished the potholders!

quilted potholders

I think my mom’s going to love these. They’re so bright and fun.

quilted potholders

I made these without loops for three reasons:

1) I don’t know how to make loops. I would have learned but then…
2) my parent’s kitchen cabinets and drawers don’t have handles so hanging these isn’t important and
3) without loops they can also be used as, um, whatever you call the thing that you set under a hot casserole dish when you put it on the table. I mean, they could be used for that with a loop but without one they look like they’re made specifically for setting out on the table.

quilted potholders

Here’s a view of the backs. I used one layer of Insul-Bright and one layer of regular cotton quilt batting. I layered everything together, quilted, and put the binding on…first by machine, then finished by hand.

quilted potholders

I love this color combination, don’t you? Ok, enough about potholders. For now! I don’t actually have any at my house so I’m going to make some for me after the New Year. They’re fast and fun!

And, since a couple people have expressed interest in quilting tutorials, I’ll start putting some together when I start my yellow/green quilt when I get back in town. I can document the process start to finish which will also help me actually finish the quilt. What do you think…good idea? Bad idea? Boring idea?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Progress.

Pop Garden bow

Well, good news and bad news. The bad news is that I didn't make it to the post office today. I forgot the gift for my cousin...the reason I was going there in the first place. For everyone who won my giveaway (and who sends me their address by tomorrow morning (I only received one so far...wait, I just got another one)), I'll send them out tomorrow afternoon.

The good news is that I finished the binding on 5 out of 6 potholders. I have the purple one left to do and can finish it in about a half an hour tonight. Have I told you all how much I love to sew binding by hand? It's so satisfying!

That's it for now. More updates and pictures tomorrow. Possibly a mini tutorial...

Can't see the forest for the trees.

I’m reaching the stage of pre-holiday-ness where I think I’m pretty much done with everything when in reality I have so much more to do. I slack off until the last minute and then drive myself crazy trying to get everything done. Part of the reason for starting this blog was to break bad habits and that’s just what I plan to do in this instance.

Here are the holiday cards I made this year. I sent out one batch and then forgot to write and send the rest.

Holiday cards 2008

That’s on the to-do list for tonight. I also need to finish up the potholders (I’m madly in love with them so expect lots of pictures tomorrow), make some bookmarks, sew some buttons and crochet some mini cloths.

Holiday cards 2008

I have to do laundry, clean my house and make cookies for the work holiday party on Thursday. I have to wrap gifts and buy something for my brother and (hopefully) buy new jeans for me.

Holiday cards 2008

I have to spend some quality time with my boyfriend before he leaves for California for three weeks. I have to pack for a weekend at the cabin and a week in Mexico. I have to do all this by Thursday night.

Holiday cards 2008

I’m not worried, though. If I worry I’ll get stressed and I don’t want to be stressed. I want to be happy and enjoy the fast paced life I find myself in around the holidays. I want to get everything done so I can relax with my family this weekend. I want to be relaxed for my first ever trip to Mexico. I want to come home to a clean house and work on a lemon yellow (with green accents) bento box quilt…assuming it’s still calling my name after my trip.

My immediate future happiness depends on my hard work over the next four days. It’ll be so very worth it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're all winners here...

Well, we're two movies into our James Bond movie day. In a minute we'll be off to find some dinner before watching the third and final movie of the night.

Since there's a break in the action, I thought I'd let you know who won the little giveaway I posted on Friday.

Allison the Meep, Lacie bug and PK aka Arlene...since you all commented, I think you should all win! Please send your addresses to crystal.bergstrom at gmail dot com and I'll mail them out tomorrow.

Thank you all for your kind and encouraging words. I hope you like your mini-gifts!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A giveaway!

I know I haven’t been blogging for very long and I don’t think I have many readers but I’d like to do a mini giveaway anyway.

crochet washcloths

I crocheted these dishcloths myself. They’re approximately 8” square, 100% cotton and have a cute picot edging. Each pair looks like this…

crochet washcloths

..one solid color and one variegated…both matching but opposite. The only pair that doesn’t have variegated is the pink green set. One dishcloth is pink with green edging and the other is green with pink edging.

crochet washcloths

Just leave a comment telling me your favorite set (click on the first and second picture to see the color notes on my flicker page) and I’ll pick one person at random to win it. Actually, I’ll probably pick a few people because, well, I like giving things away.

crochet washcloths

I’ll announce a winner on Sunday afternoon and I’ll need your address by Monday morning. I’m already going to the post office Monday afternoon and since I really hate going to the post office, I’d rather send out your gift while I’m there.

So, anyway, that’s it. Thanks for participating. I hope you win!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An orange mood...

I like to space out my blog posts because I like reading blogs that are updated daily(ish). So, I take lots of pictures and get them all set up and write up posts and then sit on my hands waiting for the next day to come. I don’t want to post everything on one day and then be left with nothing to post on the next two.

But I’m so inspired by the pictures I took this morning that I just can’t stop myself. When you’re in an orange mood…you can’t help it. You have to share it with the world!

orange potholder

Here’s the orange top for the rainbow potholder collection. Only one to go. I received most of my yellow fabric yesterday and washed it up. I would have worked on the yellow top last night but the fabric I wanted the most hadn’t shown up yet. No batting either…I hope they both get here before the weekend.

orange and yellow fabric

orange and yellow fabric

And since I had the orange fabric out and since I like to chain piece when quilting (to save thread because I hate buying thread), I worked on the aqua and orange squares quilt at the same time. I’m losing momentum on this project so I’ve decided to make a small quilt instead of a large one. 4 squares by 5 will make a 40”x50” blanket, perfect for a baby or lap quilt. I have 4 blocks to go…all 4 are already in various stages of completion. It’ll be nice to finish it up. I need to buy backing and then I’ll be all set. Maybe I’ll make it out of fabric I already have…we’ll see.

Seriously…buttons!

I pulled a tiny package from my mailbox yesterday and found these inside:

red buttons

My lovely online friend Amie sent me red buttons for my collection! Just because she knew I’d like them. Just because I’d used up all my red buttons and had no red buttons left. Just because she’s a kind and generous person.

Thank you Amie! What a wonderful surprise!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finished quilts: 2008

2008 is the year that I feel I actually became a quilter. After fooling around, starting projects and never finishing them, not pushing myself, I bought a nice sewing machine in hopes of improving myself and my sewing skills. Around the same time, a friend had a baby and I knew I wanted to make a quilt as a gift.

I wanted to free-motion quilt it and put the binding on the proper way. To do this, I had to practice which meant making a practice quilt:

finished blanket

It's too small to be useful to me but I didn't want to give it away since it was full of mistakes. I use it for picnics and I don't mind when it gets dirty.

finished!

Block Name: none, it’s just two pieces of fabric with batting in between
Blocks: none
Borders: none
Finished size: 44”x60”? I never measured it
Quilting: free-motion to follow the flower pattern
Binding: double fold binding, sewn on by machine and finished by hand
Backing: pink stripe cotton
Memorable movies watched during construction: I don’t remember watching anything while quilting but during the binding phase I watched Marie Antoinette (the new one)
Funny story: I bled on this quilt when I hooked my finger on a pin during quilting. Ouch!
Lesson learned: sew fast, move quilt medium. Also, don’t quilt where you can’t see.

After this was finished, I quilted the baby quilt. I had so much fun picking out fabrics and sewing the blocks. It’s the first time I used orange!

washed

I really wanted to keep this for myself…or at least make another one for me. I didn’t have enough fabric leftover and it’s probably for the best. I was a little sick of making log cabins.

detail

Block Name: inspired by this quilt
Blocks: 8”x8”
Borders: none
Finished size: 40”x56”
Quilting: free-motion stipple pattern
Binding: double fold binding, sewn on by machine and finished by hand
Backing: light pink flannel with tiny white dots!
Memorable movies watched during construction: Lots of episodes of The Munsters
Funny story: Nothing really went wrong with this one…which was a relief.
Lesson learned: practice, practice, practice.

The last quilt I finished this year was made from fabrics already in my stash. That is, it was supposed to be made from my stash but I needed more green. And blue. Oops.

blue green quilt

I’ve been using it on my bed because I love it and it also happens to match the green walls in my bedroom. Finally, a quilt just for me!

blue green quilt

Block Name: inspired by Denyse Schmidt’s “Hop, Skip and a Jump” quilt
Blocks: 15”x13.5”
Borders: none
Finished size: 60”x81”
Quilting: free-motion stipple pattern
Binding: double fold binding, sewn on by machine and finished by hand
Backing: cute blue and white plaid flannel.
Memorable movies watched during construction: Lots of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Funny story: I quilted the entire thing with the feed dogs up! I couldn’t understand why the quilting was so hard…I thought it was because it was a larger quilt than the previous two. Nope…feed dogs up.
Lesson learned: obviously: double check the feed dogs. Also, gardening gloves with little rubber dots help when the quilt doesn’t want to move.

So, that’s it...seven quilts in just over two years. I do have a lot of quilts that will be easy to finish quickly. Two are nearly completed tops and I have all the blocks completed for three more. I would really love to finish them and give them away so I can move on to things that are more inspiring. Maybe I could try to average one finished quilt a month for the next year? We’ll see..

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Finished quilts: 2007

2007 was a year of frantic quilting that didn’t result in many finished quilts. Actually, the first quilt I finished wasn’t until November! I can’t even remember how many ufo’s I have in boxes around my house. I can think of at least ten.

Grandma's quilt

I made this quilt for my grandma’s 70th birthday. She loves purple and I loved the Arkansas Crossroads pattern. I was a little sick of quilting large quilts so I made the pieces really small…1.5” squares!

tiny squares!

Block Name: Arkansas Crossroads
Blocks: 6”x6”
Borders: I can’t remember
Finished size: 52”x64”
Quilting: diagonal to follow pattern
Binding: single fold and machine sewn all at once…bad idea
Backing: purple flannel
Memorable movies watched during construction: The entire season of Firefly…twice
Funny story: I don’t think anything bad happened while making this one.
Lesson learned: small quilts with small pieces are just as much work as larger quilts with larger pieces. Triangles are still annoying.

Next we have the cat quilt. I thought it would be fun to make small quilts and since none of my friends had babies, I made one for my brother’s cat. It took me a year to make a few squares and then one day to finish it all up.

Cat quilt

I didn’t actually give this quilt to my brother’s cat…I sort of forgot about it because I didn't like it. I don't like giving away things that I'm not proud to have made but it doesn't really matter. It's a cat quilt! I'll throw it in the wash and wrap it up for christmas this year. Then I don't have to store it anymore.

*edit* My boyfriend requested this quilt for his cat and since my brother doesn't even know this quilt exists and might not even like it, I gave it to Vector (my boyfriend's cat). He got all spazzed when he saw it and flopped around on it for a while (the cat, not the boyfriend). It was pretty unusual for him to take to something like that. I'm glad he liked it. *end edit*

Cat quilt

Block Name: I designed my own
Blocks: 12”x12”
Borders: I can’t remember
Finished size: 41”x41”
Quilting: diagonal to follow pattern
Binding: single fold and machine sewn all at once…bad idea…again
Backing: medium green cotton (main color from front of quilt)
Memorable movies watched during construction: The Graduate
Funny story: Nothing bad happened with this one either.
Lesson learned: batting can be pieced together to make a larger piece.

So that’s it…two finished quilts in 12 months. How disappointing. This surely inspired me to finish more quilts in 2008…right?

Finished quilts: 2006

I thought it would be fun to show you the quilts I’ve made in my two short years of calling myself a quilter. First, 2006:

My first quilt!

I wanted a reason to make a quilt so I made one for my boyfriend. I had no rotary cutter or cutting mat, I used ½” seams and I learned to line up squares.

Scary!

Block Name: Um...a 25 patch?
Blocks: 15”x15”
Sashing: 5”
Finished size: 65”x85”
Quilting: stitch in the ditch
Binding: none (I sewed right sides together and turned…like sewing a pillow)
Backing: mottled red flannel
Memorable movies watched during construction: Episodes of The West Wing
Funny story: once I laid all the squares out on the floor in a configuration I was finally happy with, I walked by my folding screen which accidentally pushed it flat which made it fall onto the floor which sent all my squares flying everywhere.
Lesson learned: always take a picture of your final layout before doing anything else. Also, put a pin at every seam and all your corners will line up.

I made this next quilt for mom for the Christmas of ’06. It’s supposed to look like sand and water and is why I now hate triangle squares.

Sand and water

I really enjoyed plotting out the design...making sure the right colors ended up in the right spot.

Back

Block Name: adapted Shoo-Fly
Blocks: 9”x9”
Border: 4”?
Finished size: 67”x85”?
Quilting: stitch in the ditch
Binding: I wrapped the quilt top around to the back and sewed…instant binding!
Backing: blue green flannel
Memorable movies watched during construction: Phantom of the Opera over and over and over…
Funny story: I was getting frustrated by this quilt and thought a glass of wine would make it easier or, if nothing else, I’d at least have more fun. Then I sewed three blocks together wrong and spent the next hour picking out stitches.
Lesson learned: Check twice, sew once. Also if a block isn’t quite perfect, you can still make it work. Also, pins hurt!

I finished these two quilts in three months. For 2007 I had big plans for new quilts, especially a quilt just for me. The ultimate prize would be mine…or would it?

Monday, December 8, 2008

As christmassy as I get...

So, this weekend I did not work on a bento box quilt. With only two weeks until I leave town, I decided it would be best to work on holiday gifts. The bento will have to wait.

First, I saw this tutorial on making a quilted mini wreath and thought my mom might like one. A little bit of pattern drawing, a little bit of fabric stash digging, a little bit of paper piecing and a lot of time later:

quilted wreath

Then I made the tiniest bias binding ever…¼” and very fussy. I didn’t dare sew it on by machine:

quilted wreath

Then I picked out buttons from my stash. I think the wreath needs a little decoration:

vintage buttons

I’ll sew on the buttons and the loop sometime this week.

My second project for the weekend was inspired by the world’s most gorgeous potholders. My mom loves rainbow colors, I love making quilts (mini quilts count) and so I got to work:

quilted potholders

So far I only have the “tops” finished for red, green, blue and purple. I’ll work up the orange top tomorrow night as well as cut the backing and binding strips for the rest. I don’t have any yellow fabric in my stash so I had to order some this morning. Dang! I also had to order some Insul-Bright which should be here later this week.

quilted potholders

And, if you have the time/inclination to decorate your whole house in quilting fabrics, check out these great tutorials for quick patchwork dishcloths, reversible rickrack napkins and even a patchwork kitchen mat.