Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Nook (Case) of One's Own

Only a few months ago, annoyed by all of the Interweb chatter that made it sound like everyone on the planet either had an e-reader or wanted one, I wrote an article about how I did not desire an e-reader. I waxed rhapsodic about all of the reasons they were inferior to books (no book smell, expensive, easy to damage, no tactile experience...you've heard it all before, from embittered, old-school English teachers like me). Then, over the summer, I downloaded the Kindle and the Nook apps for my iPod out of curiosity, to see what all of the fuss was about.

Lucky for me, my procrastinator tendencies worked in my favor this time, since I never did shop the article around for publication. I say "lucky" because, of course, as soon as I tried an e-reader, I knew I wanted one. Had that article been published, I would have had to eat crow. Or maybe even an entire vulture, since I really liked the apps.

After reading most of The Hunger Games during a screening of Rio with my kids, I was hooked (how can you not love something that helps you avoid watching yet another animated piece of kid-centric nonsense at the theater?). I played with both apps for a couple of months, researching which was "better" (a hard question to answer, since both devices have passionate supporters and equally passionate haters), and I decided in August that the Nook was probably the way to go for me. My husband bought me one for my birthday.

Nook, where have you been all my life?

I love that the Nook has a touch screen and not a separate keyboard. I love that Barnes and Noble still has physical, brick-and-mortar stores that can provide customer support if need be (bonus: you can read books for free in-store on your Nook, as well as be alerted to bookstore and coffee specials. Starbucks, how I have loved thee, too). I love that it's light. I love that I can borrow e-books from the library and read them on my Nook (which is true of the Kindle now, too, but only as of a few days ago). I love that there are lots of FREE books on it, and every Friday they have a Free Friday feature so I can download tons of free books by others I might not otherwise discover. I love everything about it.

But it didn't come with a case.

I was unwilling to spend $30+ on the poorly-made, cheap covers I saw in the stores. I knew, however, that I needed a case, since my Nook goes with me everywhere and is bound to get beat up in my bag. I also knew I had a hankering to go to Goodwill, since I hadn't been in a while. A woman knows what a woman knows. And I was not disappointed. No, I didn't find a Nook case. But what I found was better.

I found a mint-condition Mary Kay mirror case, complete with like-new mirror inside.

I knew K would love the makeup mirror, and the case itself looked to be exactly the right size for my Nook. I gave the mirror to an ever-grateful K and measured the case against my Nook.

Perfect! And it even has these little markings on the inside, which I didn't need to build my case, but make it look even more like it was meant to be my Nook cover.

The process itself was so simple - and, frankly, so satisfying, and I JUST WANTED MY NOOK CASE TO BE DONE - that I didn't take pictures. I just:

1. Added some cardboard, which I measured to fit the back panel.

2. Covered that cardboard with some spray adhesive and some non-slip rubberized shelf liner and added some elastic (about 3" pieces) to the corners with hot glue, to hold the Book in place (see photos). I glued that piece to the case with hot glue.

2. Had K cut out some shapes from felt, using the Sizzix machine, so the case would be all prettied up. I glued them on (later, I did go back and decoupage them, so they'd be sturdier on the case).

3. Added a simple pocket to the inside so I can jot down notes or book suggestions when I'm not in WiFi range. The pocket is made from a vintage sheet and an upcycled curtain and glued to the inside.

All done!

Chances are you won't find this exact same Mary Kay mirror case in your Goodwill, but the possibilities for what you can find are endless. There are cases and pouches of all kinds there that, with just a little tweaking, would make perfect cases for e-readers, tablets, phones, laptops...I feel like making cases for gadgets I don't even have, just because there's so much out there.

So who needs the overpriced, commercially-sold cases? I love this one. It's durable, it has a pocket I need (which none of the retail ones I saw had), it's upcycled, and it's all me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Funeral for a Friend


OK, "friend" may be overstating it somewhat, since we just met him this morning. "He" is the beautiful, blue-tailed lizard (gecko?) we found this morning. He was laying smack in the middle of the mauve-colored carpet that belongs to our friends, for whom we are house sitting/cat feeding. I'm thinking he was the victim of the bored-all-day cat and was a welcome plaything for lonely Charlie, who must have had fun with him.

When the kids saw him, they immediately scooped him up and brought his lifeless little body home.

They planned an impromptu funeral in the backyard. Completely their idea. They even made little headstones out of some of our beach collection. New Jersey comes through again. Who would have thought?
It was wonderful to see them getting along with one another for so long. They had a common mission. A goal. And they worked toward it. Preparations were remarkably complete. They thought about what they should use to line his grave (toilet paper, natch), where they should dig the hole (in the pile of mulch behind the shed), and what they could use to honor his gravesite (a snail shell won).



They even invited me outside so I could say a few words in honor of Mr. Lizrd, since they have never been to a funeral and didn't know what to say. It was a very somber occasion. They were very serious about it. I wasn't quite sure what to say, either, never having been to a lizard funeral myself. I just said he was a brave lizard, doing his job, protecting other creatures from dangerous bugs. And I asked God to accept him into heaven and keep him safe.

R.I.P. indeed, Mr. Lizard. You certainly brought peace into my house this afternoon, and for that, I am thankful.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A (sort-of) tutorial: Upcycled Madras Madness Sundress in 60 Minutes

I love madras plaids. I love the feel of the fabric, I love the way they look rich and complex, I love the way they conjure up the unmistakable feel of summer vacations. I always picture a photo that might appear in one of my mother-in-law's Yankee or Country Living magazines, portraying sophisticated madras-clad adults merrily drinking wine as they watch their ridiculously well-behaved and ridiculously well-dressed children frolicking on the ridiculously well-kept lawn. I have never been to Nantucket, but in my jealously-laden fantasies, this is what it's like.

So when I saw a madras skirt at the Goodwill during our annual trip to New Jersey last week, I snatched it up, knowing it would become something summery and wonderful. I might never live a life of luxury, even in the summer, on Nantucket, but I can still wear madras.

It's a size large, and I thought I'd just cut into it to make something entirely different, maybe a pillow or a new skirt for K. After all, there's a lot of fabric there, and since it usually costs over $10 a yard at the fabric store, I knew I had scored big. But when I tried it on and pulled it up right under my arms, I realized that it would make a perfect dress - for ME! I've heard people say that sometimes fabric just tells the seamstress what it wants to be, but I never understood what that meant until now. This skirt was clearly begging to become my newest sundress. I wasn't going to disappoint.

When I got home, I put it on Audrey


This is, in fact, the first time I've used Audrey in constructing clothes. I love the way she looks in my sewing room and she makes me feel like an authentic seamstress, but I have to admit that even though I got her last summer to celebrate the new season of Project Runway, I have never actually fitted clothes with her. Until now. I used her for the whole project, and I have to say, it was wonderful to not have to try on the dress myself, mid-construction, with it full of pins, to get a good fit. I just trusted Audrey, and I was not disappointed in the final result.

I didn't take pictures of my process (I was anxious to get it done and didn't realize how much I've love it, so I wasn't planning on sharing it), but it was one of the simplest and most rewarding refashions I've completed; the whole dress was done in under an hour.

In a nutshell, this is what I did:

1. Made the straps from a scrap of heavyweight, yellow, upcycled cotton from my stash. I made 4-ply straps, much like I'd make bias tape, but I cut the fabric in straight strips instead of on the bias. Here's how I did it:

a. cut two 15" x 4" pieces
b. folded them in half the long way and ironed them
c. opened them up, and then folded in the raw edges to meet the fold and then ironed again
d. folded in the ends about 1/2" and ironed them
e. re-folded the entire strip to enclose all of the raw edges
f. topstitched all the way around

Viola! Straps! I used this same method to make the belt and the belt loops, too.

2. Sewed the straps to the top (formerly the waistband).
3. Decided where I wanted the waist to be and shirred three rows around the middle, just to give the dress more shape. My shirring started at about 11" down from the top and the rows were about 1/4" apart.
4. Made the belt loops and sewed them on, right on the sides, centered over the shirring. The belt loops are not absolutely necessary, but I think I'm just belt-impaired, since non-secured belts tend to slip and slide all over me, so belt loops make life less frustrating. Whatever it takes.
5. Made the belt.

It just so happened that the skirt was exactly the right length for my dress (36"), and the "waist" of the skirt was exactly the right width to fit around the top of my bust comfortably, so I didn't need to address those two areas at all. Even if I had to, though, it would have meant a simple hem at the bottom and/or a simple casing at the top for new elastic. I could have made it shorter, but the length means I can wear it even on occasions when I'd rather not have bare shoulders; I can just add a sweater or shrug and it will be just fine.

I think I have some other skirts in my refashion stash that I'm going to use for the same thing. This one, though, is perfect for right now. I think maybe I'll sip a cool beverage at sunset tonight so that before our simple, un-gourmet dinner, I can sit on the deck and watch my loveable-but-muddy-and-not-always-behaved kids wrestle each other in our unmowed back yard. That's summer. And it's perfect.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blogging the Summer, Day 1: Crayon Tarts

I'm not nesting, but lately I have been cleaning and organizing and straightening up the house like mad. Maybe I figure as long as I'm sweeping up so much white dog hair, I might as well go the distance and actually go through some of the stuff I've let pile up "until I have time."

Last night it was the dining room (or, as my husband calls it, "Your sewing room."). I'm always looking for ways to consolidate and get rid of useless supplies; last night, I came across a small bin of crayons that had to go. K loves art supplies and has a bunch of newer ones in her closet/art studio, so I knew she wouldn't miss these forlorn, broken crayons with the tattered wrappers. I can barely get J to stay still long enough for him to brush his own teeth, so it goes without saying that he couldn't care less what I do with a bucket of crayons.

I didn't want to throw them out, especially since we're so into recycling here, and I remembered an idea I had seen somewhere, sometime long ago: melt them down and make new crayons. Sounds like a plan.

I couldn't have guessed that J, of all people, would be so taken with this project. A kid who moves like the Flash and usually prefers electronic entertainment over all others actually sat down, peeled the wrappers off the old crayons, and went to town with our crayon tarts. He approached the entire project with gusto and even scoured the house for other old crayons when we were done, just to see if we could make more. It occupied us for a good hour and half. It was awesome to see him so into something like this.

Here's what we did:

1. Peel the crayons.
2. Break them up into small pieces that fit into mini muffin tins.
3. Bake at 250 degrees F for 15 minutes.
4. Cool for about 20 minutes in the freezer.

Our tarts, about halfway through baking. Don't let them bake too long, or all of the colors will blend together and you'll be left with cups of that dark green, grotesque green color you get when you're using watercolors and you wash out your bush in the same water over the over again.

Soon...presto! Crayon tarts.

We used mini muffin wrappers, which I happened to have here, so I could use my regular mini muffin tin and not have to throw it out when we were done. The wrappers make the outside edges a little more rugged and less smooth and pretty, but my kids like the way they look like rainbow versions of peanut butter cups, so it's all good. We had some leftover crayons after we made the mini versions, so J wanted to make some in bigger muffin cups.

I love how the back sides of these look like little world maps (pre-Continental Drift, perhaps?). J loved deciding what color pieces to put in which cup to make maximum color fun when they were done.

The big ones leaked into the actual muffin pan, which means I now I have a dedicated crayon/polymer clay/craft muffin pan, which is fine with me, since it was kind of yucky to begin with and now I have a valid reason for picking up another next time I'm at Goodwill. Win-win.

Packaged in a cute cello treat bag and tied with a ribbon and card from the kids, this is a perfect addition to our gift back for my niece when we see her next month.

Let the games begin!

Monday, May 9, 2011

I'm participating in the Kids' Clothes Week Challenge over at Elsie Marley. The idea is to spend one hour sewing summer clothes for your kids every day this week. Easier said than done with a full-time job and two full-time kids, but I'm trying it out.


My first entry this week will not set the creative world on fire, but it is Monday and all...and the shirt is cute, even though I didn't have to sew any of it. It's a plain t-shirt embellished with a flowered peace symbol iron on. I love it, and K loves it, so win-win. The shirt is new, but this could just as easily have been done with an older shirt that just needs some sprucing up (just like I did last year here to cover up a stain on another shirt).

The iron on was only $3.99, full price, and with the 40%-off coupon it was a little more than half that. Well worth it, I think. Especially since K decided to wear several of her good t-shirts when she pained deck chairs with her dad a few weeks ago, so she was running pretty low on non-painted shirts. This certainly fits the bill. She wore it today with a pair of green capris (only a 7-year-old can get away with wearing a pair of lime green capris, I think).

I used these iron ons


which I really like. They're made with soy-based inks and they had lots of cute designs, which is what drew my eye to them.

Not too shabby for less than $7 and a few minutes of time. That's my kind of Monday project.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Adventures in Bias Taping

I am participating in the Re-Purpose Along over on Greenstitch. I should have posted about it earlier, because the deadline is tomorrow (Earth Day), but I'm just getting my last item in tonight after our last day of school before Spring Break.

For my last item, I took a vintage sheet

and, using my new Clover bias tape maker, I turned it into gorgeous, multi-purpose bias tape:


I love the bias tape maker. I got the 1" one, which makes 1/2" double-fold bias tape. I will admit, however, that the bulk of the work comes not from folding and ironing the bias tape, anyway, but from cutting and sewing together the strips of bias fabric. This tool doesn't change that. But I love it, anyway. LOVE IT, I SAY! If it inspires me to make more bias tape, then it has done its job, I think. I don't have a specific use for this 164 inches yet, but I know I'll find lots of projects for it. I'm thinking I'll start with a skirt made from another upcycled sheet, and use this around the hem.

There are lots of bias-tape tutorials on the Internet, so I won't re-create the wheel. You can find a good one here from MADE, and a different technique here from the Quick Unpick.

As I was taking pictures on the deck, K could not wait to include two of her newest friends in the photo shoot:


Speaking of the deck, my husband recently re-stained the whole thing in a gorgeous, calming, retro-gray color and painted four Adirondack chairs to go with it:

I absolutely love it. It has transformed our deck from an extra, unloved space in our house into a space that is screaming with color. Added bonus: it's a great backdrop for photos. It's a wonderful place right now, before it gets to be 95 degrees and buggy out there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief

I am part of Artist Aid on Etsy. It's a group of artists who have banded together to offer goods for sale, with the proceeds to benefit different organizations helping Japan. I have one of my dresses up for sale

It's $38, and I'll give all of that to the Red Cross.

I keep watching the news and reading the updates. Part of me thinks, "What is my $38 going to do? How is that possibly going to help a woman who has lost her children and her husband, or the man who doesn't know if his kids are lying in the rubble of their school?" I don't know how it can. I don't know how the money will be used. But it's what I can do, from here, right now. If I can do more, I will. But for now, this is giving me the feeling that I'm not doing absolutely nothing but refreshing CNN.com every 10 minutes.

You can search almost any key word associated with the disaster - Japan, Artist Aid, tsunami, relief, earthquake - to find items for sale on Etsy to help Japan. If you can do a little bit, please consider it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

T-shirt Transformation #1

My new blog header is a photo of all of my husband's worn baseball and football t-shirts he cleaned out of his dresser on Saturday. Judging by the logos on the shirts, you might surmise that he's from the New England area.

You'd be wrong.

He just loves the Red Sox; I feel obligated to point out that he's loved the Red Sox since he was 10 years old and he went to a Yankees game and bought his first Red Sox hat. So he's not a bandwaggoner, just someone who genuinely loves the team. Even so, he has a lot - a LOT - of Red Sox shirts, so imagine my genuine shock and gratitude when he handed them to me, solemnly, on Saturday, and asked, "Can you make me something out of these?"

I was a little choked up. There was my husband, Mr. Buy It New, asking me to upcycle something for him. Using his beloved baseball t-shirts. That's marital trust, in a big way.

So I made him something, and I'm making more of those somethings. I hope to post them into a tutorial soon. In the meantime, I made something for K, since, as I pointed out so gleefully yesterday, it is warm here, and she needs some spring pajamas. So one of the shirts there became this:

It's a simple nightgown, made just like the one I made a couple summers ago. In a nutshell, I used an existing nightgown for a guide and added a little bit of room all the way around, since my baby is getting bigger and taller. For this one, I also used a serger, since I now have one, but it's not necessary. I like the way the stitching around the outside reminds me of a baseball, though, so I'd probably do it again just for the look. And because I still love using my serger.

It's comfy, it's cozy, it's upcycled, and it's free (now...I don't know how much the shirt cost him originally, nor do I want to, I know). Plus, Daddy loves seeing his little girl wearing one of his beloved t-shirts. Everyone wins.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dare I say it...spring is here!(?)

I make no secret of the fact that I don't like winter. I am often reminded, by people who know me, that I grew up in Western New York, a place know worldwide for its brutal winters, biting cold, and massive amounts of snow. While it is true that I grew up there, it is also true that I don't live there anymore, and one of the reasons I have chosen to NOT live there is because I hate cold weather. I physically hate being cold, I know it affects my mood for the worse, and there's nothing nice about it. While appreciate the passing of the seasons, I am especially appreciative of the fact that winter does, indeed, pass (except for in The Day After Tomorrow...but that is a post for another day, perhaps when my chosen topic is "Cheesy Movies I Love.").

So it is with great enthusiasm that I declare, today, that SPRING IS HERE! Yes, I know the calendar indicates that the first day of spring is technically a few weeks away. I am also aware that other parts of the country are still experiencing what can only be described as winter weather, period. I'm sorry for that, I really am. But in the southeastern portion of the United States, we are experiencing a blissful mini heat wave. I hope I don't have to eat my words, as I remember seven years ago we experienced a massive winter storm right at the end of February, so I know we're not out of the woods yet. But today it is in the low 80s, the sun is bright, and the windows are open. Plus, the groundhog did tell us that spring would be right around the corner from the day he didn't see his shadow on February 2nd, and who am I to argue with a rodent who apparently is more into following the weather than I am?

Spring has sprung, ladies and gentlemen (do you think many gentlemen read this blog?) and for that, I am more grateful than you know.

Lately I have been more aware than usual of waste. Waste regarding money, waste regarding food, waste regarding actual garbage. I have been a pretty avid recycler for the past few years, but I'd say over the past two years I've become pretty passionate about it. The more I realize the impact our decisions have on our pocketbooks, the planet, and our children, the more I feel like it's my responsibility to do as much as I can about it. Today in the checkout line, I had a pretty meaningful conversation with the teenage cashier about the giant garbage pit currently floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. How, he wondered, could a cyclone of garbage the size of Texas get to be that big before anyone thought of doing anything about it?

I don't know.

I cannot, today, do much to rectify the situation with the garbage pit in the ocean. I can, however, do a little bit to make sure I don't add to it, and so I'm trying to do that. Baby steps, Bob.

I first heard about morsbags through the Greenstitch blog. Morsbags is a movement that aims to curb the world's rampant use of plastic grocery bags because of their harmful effects on the environment, specifically their effects on wildlife. Take a look at the site and I promise you'll look at your shopping bags in a new light. Inspired by the idea, this weekend I created the first two of what I hope will be many morsbags:

K will be taking these two to school tomorrow for her teachers. We're hoping to make it a bigger project involving other members of her class, since the pattern is simple and the goal is lofty. But we're committed to the project regardless of who is involved, so we'll be making more.

This one is bag number one, for Ms. Arshia:


And bag number two, younger than her sister by just a few minutes, is for Ms. Heather:

These are made from heavyweight fabric that I am often able to find for next to nothing at the thrift store. I love the bags themselves. The seams are strong and sturdy, and almost any fabric of any sort can be used, so they're a perfect project for upcycled fabric, remnants, stuff in your stash that's kind of ugly and won't be used for anything else, whatever. Plus, just making them has inspired me to remember my bags and not leave them in the car. I want to use my own bags. They're prettier, they feel good in my hand, and I know it's a good thing to not add to the number of plastic bags being used.

On our way back from running errands today, J became determined to count the number of discarded plastic bags he saw on the side of the road. So just on the way back from our errands, which was only a 12-mile trip, just one 8-year-old boy looking out just one car window on one side of the car found 104 bags. 104! In the bushes, up in trees, tangled among other garbage by the side of the road. Even I was surprised. I never noticed all of them before.

But it's amazing what you see once you're looking for it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Favorite Things Friday: Podcasts

I am not old. But every day - every day - I can't help but think about how technology has changed the world, radically, over the past five years. Five years!

It's easy to believe that we've always had the Internet, always had blogs, always had iTunes...but as I constantly tell my students, "back in the day" when I was in college, doing research meant going to the library (physically going there, trudging through the snow, paying for parking), checking out books, getting reading material off reserve (reserve? what's the Reserve Desk?), and actually reading the material, not on your time, but during the hours that the library was open, while you're at the library. Then, of course, there was citing the material, not using a plug-in source citation machine that you found online (because, remember, the Internet does not exist yet), but by looking at another book, finding an example of the material you needed to cite, and doing the labor. It was time-intensive. Along the same lines, sitting through a class meant sitting through a class, probably listening to a professor talk, maybe, once in a blue moon, watching a video to enrich the class discussion...

I am only 39.

Sigh.

Before I start going into a dark hole of How the World has Changed and Ways the World is Different and Why We're Going to Hell in a Handbasket (that one's for you, Gramma), let me talk about ways in which I love technology. One of my favorite pieces of technology to emerge over the past few years has been the podcast. I love me a good podcast. I love that information is out there, free, just for the taking, about any topic imaginable. What's even more amazing is that people take the time to write, record, and post their podcasts, which is often no easy feat. Still, they have enriched my life (and, by extension, my teaching) in amazing ways. Thank you, Podcasters of the World. Your efforts are not ignored.

Some of my favorite podcasts have become my companions as I drive to school in the mornings, which are currently very dark and very cold. Our new car has the capability of playing iPod selections through the car speakers, so I can just call up the podcasts and drive in peace for thirty minutes, all the while listening to a comforting voice talk about topics that interest me and keep my mind occupied. It is a luxury I do not take for granted.

My husband is always amazed that I listen to craft-themed podcasts. "How can you listen to someone talk about sewing?" he asks. "How much is there to say without you actually just seeing it or even doing it yourself?"

Gee, I don't know. How can you listen to someone talk about football on sports talk radio? Wouldn't you rather see a guy throw a football or, better yet, actually throw one with the guys? How entertaining can it be to just listen to someone talk about it? We all have our own thing. I cannot set up my sewing machine and sew while I'm driving to school, so the next best thing is to listen to a podcast about it. There isn't a (non-Sirius, at least) radio station totally devoted to crafting. There is no Craft Talk Radio (although I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it). But crafty podcasts? They're awesome.

Some of my current favorites, along with the links to their blogs and/or the podcast itself, so you can listen yourself. You don't need an iPod to listen; many of them stream right from their websites, and even for the ones that don't, iTunes is free. You can listen to it right on your computer.

1. Greenstitch. This podcast is Many of the Things I Adore, all rolled into one podcast. It's about sewing. It's about being eco-friendly. Anne is articulate, knowledgeable, and timely with her podcasts. I have learned about sewing, upcycling and recycling, all topics delivered in her soothing, calming voice. I look forward to her podcasts the way I look forward to having actual time at my sewing machine, which is saying a lot. I check for updates frequently.

2. Quilted Cupcake. You never knew a podcast about sewing and thrifting and quilting could be so entertaining, but it is.

3. CNN Student News. Surprise! This one is not a craft-related podcast. But if you can only listen to 10 minutes of news a day, make them these 10 minutes. Carl Azuz delivers the headlines in a way that even high schoolers love, which is no small task. He's a master of delivery, and you'll learn a lot. It's not dumbed-down; adults will get just as much out of this as students do. And I dare you not to laugh at his puns. Hats off to CNN for delivering this every day. You can download the video podcast every day from their website or directly from iTunes.

4. Craftypod. Anyone who delivers a podcast of this quality is a friend of mine. In-depth interviews, funny commentary...this one has it all. You'll learn a ton and have fun doing it.

5. Yarncraft. By Lion Brand Yarn. It's nice to know that other people have lots of Unfinished Objects, can take months to finish a project that is supposed to take "a few days," and have more ideas for crochet than they have time to actually tackle. Listening to this is like cozying up with my actual yarn basket.

If I had a podcast, my sign-off for each episode would be: When you can't actually craft yourself, the next best thing is to listen to someone else talk about doing it. That fits for listening to podcasts, too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Love Note Pillows

I did not plan on continuing my fascination with pillowmaking, but when inspiration calls, I try to listen. So...what do you get when you cross a snow day with a mom who is craving time to sew with two kids who are busy playing with neighbors outside in the winter wonderland?

How about Love Note Pillows?

I'm pretty sure I saw this project first (or one similar to it) in Amanda Blake Soule's Handmade Home book last spring. I don't own the book, but when I checked it out from the library I think I saw it in there. At the time, I had no need or desire to make the pillows. If I recall, hers were made from an upcycled wool blanket (like the banners I love) and were meant for families to leave little notes to each other in the pocket.

Until recently, my little people were not into leaving me notes. Suddenly, a few months ago, K, who loves to write, started writing notes to me and really wanted me to write her back. I remembered this project and knew it would be perfect for us.

Also, it gave me an opportunity to use the old, beautiful quilt that I procured from my gramma back when I was 12.

I used the quilt for years as a bedspread. It wasn't made by my gramma, but it belonged to her, and it brought me great comfort after she died. She was a big part of our lives; when she was gone, I really felt adrift, like one of the few normal adults in my life, and certainly the one who was my anchor, had left. The quilt was made by one of her sisters. I'm pretty sure it was made from pieces of other projects and scraps of "upcycled" fabric, way before upcycling was fashionable or even had a name. I love to think about where all of that fabric came from. Plus, I'm fairly certain that the entire quilt was sewn by hand, since I don't remember seeing a sewing machine in my great aunt's home during any of my visits. How long it must have taken to make this!

Unfortunately, until fairly recently I knew very little about caring for and preserving a quilt, so I just used to wash it with the normal clothes loads. As a result, it became threadbare and sorry-looking after many years, way beyond the help of even the most skilled quilt restorer. So it sat in our linen closet for the past several years, until I got the idea to use it for my Love Note Pillows.

I made a heart template from the newspaper (how fitting that it featured an article about how we were going to experience a pretty bitter cold spell...). Then I took the quilt, two pieces of ribbon, and a scrap of an upcycled sheet from my scrap basket:

My husband was surprised that I cut up the quilt, since he knows how much I love it, but I really had no qualms about it. It was either cut it up and make it into something else, or fold it up and put it into storage. It was an easy decision. Plus, I'm pretty fearless regarding taking scissors to things. I will cut up and re-do almost anything. The dogs better watch out if their hair gets too scraggly.

I simply made a pocket from the sheet scrap, sewed it on the front of one of the hearts, then sewed the hearts together, making sure I caught two pieces of ribbon at the top so I could hang it. I stuffed it, sewed the opening up with a whipstitch, and now they're ready to go:

The quilt was already pretty shabby-looking (in a good way!), so any imperfections in my whipstitching look like they're just part of the quilt.

Now one of these is hanging on my daughter's doorknob, and one is on my bedpost, waiting for the pocket to be filled with a note. I get to see K's writing every day, tell her how much I adore her, and look at this beautiful quilt, which is so important to me in so many ways. I love that it has been recycled into something to be filled with love; it won't sit in a dark linen closet for the next several years. It has a new life, in more ways than one.

Even J wants one of his own, which I'll get to tonight. When your 8-year-old son tells you he wants a special pillow so he can write you notes, you don't procrastinate. I've been told that he will grow up all too quickly. And if he wants his mom to make him a Love Note Pillow right now so he can tell her how much he loves her...I'm going to do it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

More Upcycled Pillow Power

A thrift store near us sells fabric by the bag - the bag! - for $3.98. It's a giant bag, the size of a trash bag, packed with all sorts of goodness. Besides the fact that I love creating with recycled materials, it is a beautiful treasure hunt to go through those bags. I have found yards and yards of gorgeous cotton prints, half-finished fabric projects, quilt tops, curtains...everything. It's amazing. In one bag, there was a giant piece (3 yards? maybe more) of blue felt. Perfect for a project that required a lot of felt, so I didn't have to buy multiples of the small rectangles they sell at the craft store.

Last Sunday, my daughter spent time doing this for me

She cut dozens of felt scallops for me on the BigKick machine, which I got for Christmas, and which I adore. It makes cutting out shapes so much easier, since it cuts felt and fabric and even, according to the directions, thin sheet metal (which I have not tried). We used the scallope die. Anyhoo, she cut me a nice big pile


which I love seeing in a stack, too

I cut each felt scallop in half and pinned them in circles around a square of felt that was exactly the same size (14") as my Ikea pillow insert. I made a few rows of petals that way. For the center, I made some small buds with the same scallops (see this post from honeyscrap for a better description of that process) and hand-sewed 3 of them to the center. Then I finished my envelope pillow (see this post from Sparkle Power! for a great tutorial on how to do that) and PRESTO


You can't even tell this photo was taken in our cold, blustery backyard just this afternoon, as we await a winter storm and it is downright frigid and it is windier than I have seen it here in quite some time.

Good thing I have my cozy flower pillows to get me through the winter blast that's coming. What's that? You say spring is on the way? I'm good with that.