Friday, December 12, 2008

Crafty Christmas, Part Deux

In my quest to make as many gifts as I have time for, I have relied on the wealth of knowledge of other crafters and artisans through the many great tutorials on the web. Having written one tutorial myself, I can truly appreciate the time and effort that is put into writing something with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and good quality photos.

You can find tutorials for just about anything on the web. Want a tutorial for a drawstring backpack? Just type "drawstring backpack tutorial" into your favorite search engine and voila! A whole list of them will appear.

One of my gifts makes use of two great tutorials.

Having school age children, there is always the dilemma of what to do for the teachers. My son is in 1st grade and just has one teacher. My daughter is in preschool and has three teachers. I'm sure every teacher has more "#1 Teacher" tchotchkes than they know what to do with, so I try to come up with something useful....or at the very least, a creative and different tchotchke.
This year I decided to do mugs and tea wallets. First of all, the mug. During the month of November, one of my favorite blogs, Sew, Mama, Sew, did their second annual "Handmade Holidays," where they posted gift ideas and links to tutorials daily, with each day having a different theme.

The November 8th entry featured gifts for teachers, and it was there that I found the link to the tutorial for the cute "Quilty Mug." And I just have to add, this tutorial was not only great from an instructional was funny. This blog, Lady Harvatine, has become one of my regular blog stops.

I dug through my scraps, picked out some cute calico fabrics, and string pieced it together onto a piece of muslin. Slide it into the customizable mug (which ended up being the toughest part of the whole project) and there you go....a quilty mug!

Next was the tea wallet. This was another tutorial I came across from SMS's Handmade Holidays, under "gifts for a gift exchange." My original idea for this cute tea wallet was to make one for my mother-in-law, who is English and an avid tea drinker. The one I made for her turned out so cute, and they are so quick and easy to make that I'm giving them as stocking stuffers for several people, as well as giving them to my kids' teachers.

I used some of the same calico fabrics that I used in the mug to create the tea wallet. It has room for four tea bags and has a button closure. I have no idea if any of the teachers drink tea, but oh well....if they don't, I'm sure they can find another use for it. And of course, I will be sewing some of my cute little fabric gift bags to put them in!

Overall, I'm very pleased with the teacher gifts, and I hope that they are pleased too. My children are fortunate to have wonderful teachers this year, and I just want them to know that they are very much appreciated.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crafty Christmas, Part 1

One of my goals this Christmas was to try and make a lot of our gifts. I'm actually making about half of them, and a few others I'm picking up from other artists on Etsy. The one gift I've spent the most time on is the one I've made for my niece.

When my son was about one, my sister-in-law made him a Quiet Book. It was such a great gift, that I decided I would come up with my own. So I took the one she made, plus a lot of examples I found online from googling "Quiet Book," and came up with my own set of pages.

This gift was truly a labor of love. I had no pattern, no instructions for putting it together. Just pictures and my son's book (which was put together differently than what I ended up doing). I sketched stuff up on paper and did a "mock up" to figure out how I was going to assemble it all. I know there are people who make and sell these, and my hat is off to you. I just don't know that I could do it and make it profitable....I'd have to charge $35 + a kidney to account for the housework that didn't get done while working on this!

I "super" sewed everything down to make sure no little choking hazards would come off...even used heavy-duty upholstery thread to secure the buttons. I tried to cover several different activities on my pages: textures, counting, zipping, buttoning, velcro, "peek-a-boo," and "I Spy" to name a few. I hope she likes it. I will be making one for my nephew too when he gets old enough to play with it (hmmm....first birthday gift.)

I also picked up a few injuries on this project: I sewed my finger (not the first time I've done this. Once, the needle went through my finger and stopped....and I had to turn the hand wheel to get it out), I cut myself with the rotary cutter, and I stuck a pin into the heel of my hand. Guess I shouldn't sew while drinking tired.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday...

Some things in life make me feel old. I'm not old (I will only be 34 this month), but some things in life definitely make me feel that way. Like the fact that both of my siblings now have children. Even my little brother, who is 12 years younger than me (I can still clearly remember the night that he was born) has a baby boy.

I have to brag a little here: I have the cutest niece, Kaitlyn. She's a little doll. Here she is:

Now tell me that is not cute! That's not even a decent quality picture (my sister is not known for being quick with the picture distribution) and she's still cute. The thing is, she looks so much like my sister (on the right, as if that's not obvious):

This was our annual Easter picture....circa 1982. (For those of you who know me in real life: yes, I had enough hair for 4 people even at the age of's a blessing and a curse.)

Kaitlyn is going to celebrate the big one next week: ONE YEAR OLD

My sister is having the typical big First Birthday Party. And since this is their first First Birthday Party, I'm sure it will be quite the affair. Since I am also Kaitlyn's Godmother, I wanted to make something special for her. So I asked my sister if I could make her an outfit for her first birthday party. My sister's one request: please make it very girly-girl.

Now that's a request I can oblige!

I thought it would be cute to try and follow whatever theme she was having with the fabric choices. She is using a Lil' Cupcake 1st Birthday theme:

So I started looking around, and I came across the perfect fabric online at J & O Fabric Center. It's called "My Little Cupcake"

After I had the fabric, I found the perfect "girly-girl" pattern: The Peasant Dress by Dainty Designs. I paired it with an all-purpose bloomer pattern that I happened to have, and the final result is just too cute!

Completely useless sidenote: Notice I didn't tie a bow with the sash, just a nice knot. That's because I am "bow challenged." I cannot, to save my life, tie a decent looking bow. That's because I have a really bizarre way of tying....I taught myself how to tie shoes when I was four from watching people tie my shoes. Since I was looking down watching them from a backwards angle, I now tie completely backwards....the result: ugly bows and my shoes never stay tied. Oh well....

Happy Birthday, Kaitlyn. Nanny loves you.