Thursday, 29 January 2015

#15cookiesin2015 : Intro, and part 1 + 2

I just realized that, while I meant to blog about my intentions for 2015, I never did!  My last post of 2014 kind of touched base on some of my other broader intentions for 2015, but I do want to mention my "task" intention for the year.

This year, I would like to bake more cookies.  I really enjoy baking, and I really enjoy cookies, so it seemed like the perfect project to take on this year.  Especially with last year being so limiting in what I was able to comfortably eat, I feel like I earned a year of cookies!!

I was a little wishy-washy about how many batches would be my goal.  At first I was thinking a batch a week, but I didn't want to gain a hundred pounds.  Then I was thinking to do every other week, but even that seemed like quite a large amount of cookies.  But one per month didn't seem like enough!  So I settled on 15 batches for 2015, because I like the ring of it! However, I am welcome to make more and exceed my goal, of course!

I have the Martha Stewart Cookies book, which is one of my go-to's for recipes.
I have already made 2 batches of cookies from this book.  The first was Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies, which were so delicious and amazing.  I kind of want to make 15 batches of these!
The second was Orange-Cardamom Madeleines.  But, lacking a Madeleine pan, I used a bunny pan, and a cupcake pan.  

These I was a little disappointed in, mostly due to the fact that Martha and I must have differing definitions of what comprises a cookie.  These are most definitely little cakes.  They were tasty, but not a cookie.  I am still debating if I count this as part of my intention.  I guess we shall see how many I am at come December!

Mini quilt mania pt. 2 (in which I receive an amazing gift!)

I've written before about participating in the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap (here and here). And today, I got my package in the mail from my partner! And her name is Laura too!
So exciting!  And in pretty good shape considering it was opened and inspected by customs!
I was so excited to open it, I rushed through putting away the groceries so I could dig right in. I am so glad it arrived on a day I had off of work, because I was able to really take my time opening and enjoying and appreciating all the love and care that went into this package. 

First off, the quilt. 
The front
That's right, it's a cat quilt! I seriously love cats so much. This is perfect. And the colours are so beautiful, and I love quilts that have bright patches of colour on a white background. It looks so clean, and it really makes the fabrics pop. 
And the quilting is so perfect, just look at the cute little face! The quilting echoes out from this cat through the rest of the quilt, and it looks amazing. 
The back
Then the back has the nice stripey print and a label in the shape of a cat! I love how it echoes the front so nicely. 
The label
I love this quilt. I feel like this is already one of my treasured possessions, and I have had it for less than an hour! It is going to fit in so well in my sewing room. And lucky partner that I am, Laura also sent me a bunch of special-for-me treats! 
So generous and tailored perfectly to my tastes!
She made me a mugrug from some Tula fabric, and put together a little mini charm pack from all the fabrics she used to make the quilt. Since I love knitting, she sent some stitch markers that are like little rainbow balls of yarn (so cute). She sent washi tape as well, which I am actually super stoked about, because I have never owned any before, and it is so much cuter than boring old masking tape. For a tasty treat, she included some cookie butter, which is like peanut butter, but made of cookies. And the best part of all, she passed along a recipe for her family's favourite cookies to include in my #15cookiesin2015 intention. Trust me, those are definitely up next!! 

So hands down, I can most definitely say I love my package, and that this swap was a roaring success! I had so much fun making for my partner Laurie, and I feel so special that my partner Laura took the time to get to know me so well and put together such an amazing gift for me. 

Thank you to Schnitzel and Boo for hosting, and thank you to my fabulous partners for being such great participators! I can't wait till the next one! 

And speaking of which, I have signed up for two more Instagram swaps happening soon. One is Charley Harper themed (so obviously I would participate in that!), and the other is Cotton and Steel themed, which gave me the perfect excuse to finally sign up for the Pink Castle Cotton and Steel Monthly Club. So I can't wait to get my first package from them and get started on these new swaps!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Mini quilt mania!

I have completed my first swap via Instagram, and so far, I have loved the process! I signed up for the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap in November, and was assigned a partner. The whole thing is a secret swap, so your partner doesn't know that you have them, and you don't know who has you. Then, you get to know your partner by reading their signup questionnaire, following them on Instagram, looking at their Pinterest pages, or reading their blog (if applicable). Once you have a feel for their design esthetic, favourite designers/colours, and personality, you make a mini quilt to send to them (and some fun extras as well).  It can be a little stressful at times making something for someone in secret, especially someone you don't actually know, but it is quite a lot of fun. You take a little of them, and a little of you, and hope for the best! 

I decided to make a mini quilt using a couple panels from Alison Glass's Feathers pattern. She said she likes bright colours on dark backgrounds, so I chose a dark charcoal grey for the background and a mix of prints in greens and blues. I used a yellow print for the binding. This was my first time foundation paper piecing, and it was so much fun. You can't argue with that kind of precision! 
The front all finished
I did straight line quilting a quarter inch apart to fill in the spaces between and around the feathers. I didn't quilt over the feathers, because I wanted them to really pop. I am often terrified to quilt. I am scared that the quilting will ruin the quilt, and that all the hard work piecing will be a waste. In this case though, I think it only enhanced the piecing! 
Love the quilting
Detail shot

Close up
The label on the back
With the mini done, I turned my attention to some fun extras. I chose some scrapbooking papers and stickers because she likes to scrapbook, some pencil crayons because the packaging remained me of the quilt, some Himalayan rock salt, because those crazy pink crystals make me grin every time I see them, some cozy socks because cozy socks are great, and some candies from a local company (Morden's of Winnipeg-try their Russian Mints!). 
The whole package
I packaged everything up in a cardboard box and decorated it with a quilt block from Tula Pink's 100 Modern Quilt Blocks. 
The packaging
This I wrapped in brown paper, addressed, and sent it on it's way! My partner received it and had only good things to say, which is so nice! 

I really enjoyed the whole process of this swap. It was exciting meeting so many new people with similar interests through Instagram, and their feeds are constant sources of awe and inspiration. I loved the "stalking" portion of the game, getting to know a person you have never met, and making them something you hope they like, without being able to get their feedback. The whole swap community was so helpful, supportive, and encouraging from start to finish. I can't wait to see what is in the mail for me!! 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I need a needle book

I need a needle book. This is what holds my needles now:
A worn out piece of paper with more holes in it than a golf course
It's time to treat myself to something better. 

I have been itching to cut into my August collection that my husband got me for Christmas (is he not the best?!), so I figured who better to do that for than me! I went with an improv feel for this. I didn't have a plan in mind at all, besides that I wanted a lion and antelope featured. The rest just flowed. It feels good to be creative! 
Open book
I did some straight line quilting every quarter inch on the outside only. I didn't feel like doing any binding, so I sewed the lining to the outer panel with the right sides together, leaving a gap to turn it right side out. Then I top stitched around the outer edge to tack it all down after righting it. Worked like a charm! 

I attached two pieces of felt to the inside with a straight stitch down the centre of the book. This makes the pages. 
Inside view
And I attached snaps using my snap pliers. I only had white snaps, and I thought it looked a little stark on the outside. Then I had the genius idea to paint the snap with a little nail polish! A dark navy fit the fabrics perfectly. 
I used After School Boy Blazer from Essie
Needle book.... I love you.

What a fun little project! And how great that I get to admire August every time I need to use a needle. Sometimes, one just needs to do a little selfish sewing! 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Weathering Winnipeg Winters

I live in Winnipeg, which has the most ridiculous weather. We have a swing of 100 degrees Celsius from our coldest winter days to our hottest summer days. It's hard to handle, honestly. I find there are only a couple months of the year that are actually pleasant to spend outside. 
At least the sunsets are nice
Presently, we are enduring winter. Maybe I have a terrible memory for pain, because I am always so sure that the winter I am currently in the midst of is the worst I've ever seen. I seriously hate the cold. I really wish hibernation was an option for humans. But since it isn't, I do what I gotta do, which is bundle up crazy well with lots of layers. 

I have been aching (in the face area specifically) for something to keep my nose and cheeks warm. I have a big chunky scarf, but I find it just isn't tight enough around my face to keep it protected the way I'd like. When I came into some beautiful hand-dyed 100% wool yarn from my mother-in-law, I knew just what to do with it. It was a small skein, so I needed a small project, and the face warmer was it! 
I heart this wool!
I cast on 64 stitches, joined in a circle using size 8 circular needles, and went to town with a knit2 purl2 rib for 10 rows. After that, I switched to stockinette stitch until I felt like I was getting close to the end of the yarn. I switched back to the ribbing, and continued until I had just enough yarn to cast off. A note about cast on choice: I used a long tail cast on, because it gives me good stretch, which I need to be able to pull this over my head. I was aiming to have the top and bottom the same, but the last set of ribbing is longer than the first set. This serendipitously worked out perfect, because it gives me a perfect amount of stretch and flare to cover my neck. Couldn't have asked for better considering I was just winging it!
This will definitely keep me toasty!
Face warmer in it's natural habitat
 And the best part is, I used up almost all the yarn. Just a tiny tail of left over! 
Waste not, want not
This face warmer will make winter just a little more bearable for me. Now, to find some ski-pants..... 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Black Adam likes to fight!

My nephew turns 3 today. How time flies! I feel like he was just born, yet here we are celebrating his birthday. What a spunky kid, and so funny. Just this past weekend, he was telling me that he is trying to grow a beard. Okay three year old!
Trying on a pipe cleaner moustache
One thing my nephew loves is super heroes. He has a collection of "his guys" that he just adores. Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, and a ninja turtle. But lately, he is obsessed with Black Adam. I know what you're thinking.... Who?! 

Black Adam is a villain that likes to fight. This picture of him is from a book my nephew has, and I guess it just resonated with him! And it seems like he is not very well known. So of course my nephew likes him. His previous favourite person was Roy Orbison. He has very esoteric tastes for a 3 year old! Since he is a rather obscure character, it isn't possible to find a Black Adam version of "his guys."  So, in typical Auntie Laura fashion, I made him one!
I used his Superman guy as the basis to design and make a pattern for Black Adam. 
Superman has the tiniest waist
Using black, yellow, and cream colours of fleece, I cut out all my pieces. 
A whole heck of a lot of fleece!
The fleece was very thick, and I had a hard time seeing through it to trace the face for embroidery. But I had a brainstorm to take it to work and use one of our old xray viewers as a light box, and it worked great! The face I embroidered is very similar to Superman's face. The eyebrows are more evil though. 

I tried very hard to be generous with my seam allowances this time around. I find I so often don't allow for enough space around the face, and it looks squashed when I sew it all together. 
Black Adam looks a little like Spock...
I put everything all together in a similar fashion to how I made my other dolls, which was a mistake in hindsight. After I had constructed the arms and legs separately, I realized that the Superman guy was made by making a front and a back and sewing them together. Ah well, it just meant a little more handsewing than I was hoping to do, but in the end, I think he turned out great! 
Full length view
Close up on those quilted cuffs
Black Adam likes to Fight!
I was going to make my nephew a Black Adam tshirt with the leftover yellow fleece, but apparently it is impossible to find plain black toddler tshirts. I did manage to find some more Black Adam pants for him (aka black sweatpants), so at least he can rotate through a few pairs while the others are in the wash. 

So Happy Birthday to a great little guy! Let's hope this year brings as much fun and laughs as the last two did!