Friday, February 27, 2009

Red at the Head of the Bed

In order to gain proficiency at machine quilting, I did a little home decorating project.  I am very picky about furniture, so I have not yet bought a bed frame for our bed since we moved and got this new mattress, over a year and half ago.  As a makeshift headboard before, I had 2 euro sized pillows hanging from an ikea curtain rod.  I finally decided to use the same curtain rod to hang a little quilt from, so I gathered a bunch of my red fabrics and put them together (with a little shock of yellow) in a strippy patchwork headboard.  I'm pretty proud of it for less than 2 days' work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


One of the good things (slash very bad things!) about working with kids is I have an opportunity to buy Girl Scout cookies every year.  This year I was smart and made sure to only order 1 box from the first student to offer them to me, assuring myself that I would support all my little girl scouts equally by buying 1 box from each.  To my surprise, she was the only student to sell me any cookies.  Had the rest of them quit the Scouts this year?
As it turned out, no.  When I arrived at my final lesson this evening, I was greeted by a living room infested with Girl Scout cookies.  "A dream come true!" I told the mother.  At the end of the lesson, while peeking around over 100 boxes of cookies, the mom asked me what my favorite kind was.  "The peeeeanut butter ones!" I said.  
"The sandwich ones?"  
"Oh no!  The ones covered in chocolate."  
Imagine my delight when I was presented with a box of Peanut Butter Patties, free of charge.  This is the life, I tell you!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Final Touch

I've been meaning to make up some labels for my projects that I give as gifts, so I printed some labels out of microsoft word onto some printable fabric and just ironed one into yesterday's bag.  
I'll make the next one a little prettier; that's always the case!  The font I used is actually my own handwriting, which I did a few years ago with fontifier.  I remember it was a frustrating process but it's fun to have my handwriting on my computer, and now on fabric!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Boat 'n' Totes

Since my last post, about 5 hours ago, I have started and finished a bag to send to my mom for her birthday.  My family has a thing about ice bags, AKA LLBean Boat 'n' Totes.  I have a pretty decent collection of them myself, most of them proudly display my name.  
For my own interpretation of this timeless classic, I used some red canvas fabric I've had for a long time and a more recent acquisition: a Heather Bailey Pop Garden fabric which I love.  The colors might be a little bright for my mom's usual taste, but I think she is going to love the bag and use it often.  I love green and red, especially together, and jump at the opportunity to use them in a non-Christmas project.  Here's the bag, alongside all of my other ice bags.  It seems so happy with all the old bags, maybe it wants to stay here with me?  No, I'll stick to the original plan and send it off to mom for her milestone birthday!

Fat Quarter Swapping

Crafty Jenny talked me into signing up for 2 fat quarter swaps last week.  I have to say that giving away 1/4 yards of some of my precious fabric, which I've been hoarding, was not appealing at first.  But I was easily convinced, once Jenny told me what great fabrics I could be getting in return which I might never find on my own.
Jenny came over and spent a long day with me yesterday watching lots of How I Met Your Mother, and some of Nate playing Rock Band, eating some good food, and crafting as usual.  As we're sending our fat quarters all over the country (and Jenny is sending some to Germany) we decided to make some cards to go with them that were representative of our own Chicago.  Here I am cutting out our small representation of the Chicago skyline.
The packages we sent consisted of: the fabric, our Windy City postcards, ribbon which in most cases matched the fabric, and some chocolate lollies which we made for fun (not pictured).  

When I drove Jenny home last night, we made a quick stop at a mail box to send our fat quarters off into the world.  I can't wait to see what I get in return!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Multiple cakes

for multiple loved ones!  Yesterday was Nate the Great's birthday so we did a nice, grown up dinner party which of course degenerated into a huge Rock Band marathon (Rock Band was his big bday gift from me).  At his request, I made him a lemon curd marbled cheesecake for his birthday cake.  He is a zombie for cheesecake!
Happy news this week: Jenny got into the UIC architecture program, which means (if she wants to) she can stay in Chicago and keep crafting with me forever!  In honor of this, and to give her extra incentive to stay, I made her a special Frank Lloyd Wright cake, also for the party.  A birthday party with 2 cakes.  It was a hit of course.  Here's Jenny's cake.  I'm considering sending this photo to the Ace of Cakes people in hopes I might get a job. . . 

And here are all the ladies who I went to Taliesin with in August.  Let's face it, the Frank Lloyd Wright cake was a hit all around.  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Placemats a'bound!

Amongst prepping to make a couple of cakes for a dinner party tomorrow night (see future post!) and cleaning the apartment, I found some time today to finish up my placemat project.  I bound one of them following directions for the midwest modern quilt, then the second one with my own interpretation (which I think was better/cleaner/faster) of those instructions.  
I haven't read through the directions you sent me yet, Jenny, but I will before I bind the quilt!  I still have to quilt it, so it'll be a while anyway.  But these placemats are a good taste of what is to come!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Midwest Modern Placemats

When I first set out to make my Midwest Modern quilt, I had thought I would be sending it away to a real quilter for the actual quilting.  As I worked on it more and more, grew more attached to it, and thought about the process, I started to think I could quilt it myself on my sewing machine.  Also, I plan to give it as a gift to someone, and I would really prefer to do all the work myself, to make it more special.  
So the real issue became making sure I know how to quilt on my sewing machine.  My cousin, Beth, after reading about my quilt and gushing over the colors and fabrics, planted a seed of an idea; she mentioned how cute it would be as a table runner.  I took it a step back and decided to make 2 placemats with some of my left-over fabric.  
I pieced them together on Friday and moved on to the quilting today.  
Beth, these are for you.  I should be done with them soon; now I just have to bind them with a coordinating fabric.  

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday the 13th . . .

is also known as Colgate Day, for all Colgate Alumni to wear Colgate gear and get together (probably drinking, let's face it).  
Since my friends and I have taken over the Colgate Alumni Club of Chicago, this event was exciting because it was the first one we've really run.  Super props to Dan, who I'm sure does not read this, for doing a great job in planning this event.  We probably had 40-50 people there, which is a huge improvement over the turnouts at alumni nights when I first moved to Chicago.
In college, I was in the Swinging Gates, an all-girls a cappella group.  Some of my best friends here in Chicago are other Swinging Gates who I have gotten to know so much better in our new city.  Last night, for the first time in a loooong time, we had all 4 voice parts at the party.  So with a little planning, we put together a short, 3 song set, and serenaded the rest of the crowd with some oldies but goodies.  It was so great to be singing again with these beautiful ladies, and I can't wait to go back for my 5-year college reunion at the end of May to sing with the whole group again!
Colgate Day was also the perfect opportunity to wear the vintage-looking Colgate sweater that Nate the Great got me for Christmas.  As it turns out, we were not the only people wearing new Colgate sweaters.   Some people asked if I had knit it.  No, I hadn't, but maybe I will be able to someday!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weekday morning patchwork

Since I am a piano teacher, I work mainly in the afternoon/early evening.  This leaves my mornings free for me to be productive (sometimes) with my other interests.  
I've been working on the Midwest Modern quilt.  The picture on the website makes it look a little confusing, but it's really just a basic patchwork.  That means that the hardest part is actually cutting out the fabric, which I did last week.  Once you get on the sewing machine and start putting the pieces together, it goes along pretty quickly, especially since you see how fast the quilt is growing, and you're more eager to finish it (at least that's how I am).  
Yesterday I started putting together the center blocks for the quilt.  In the above picture are all the pieces sewn together, ready to be ironed, trimmed down to a perfect square, and sewn to the other blocks.
And here is the entire center block, patchwork-ed together!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bachelorette weekend in St. Louis

My friend, Jessica, is getting married in April.  The other bridesmaids and I decided to surprise her with a bachelorette party, which ended up being this past weekend.  I have to give us all a pat on the back for pulling it all off - Jess really had no idea what all was happening, including having 4 old friends flying in from the east coast.  The party was loosely Little Mermaid-themed, and we all gave Jess beachy-themed gifts for her to use on her tropical honeymoon.  The beach bag and bikini bag I made in the past few weeks were both for Jess and I was pleased at what a good reception they got.  
I had also put together a DVD slide show on my computer of old and new pictures of Jess.  Lots of the other girls had sent me old pictures and I really enjoyed going through all of Jess's memories (in a mildy stalker-ish manner).  She is such a great character and I'm so happy that she's one of my closest friends, ever since we met on the first day of high school 12 1/2 years ago!  Congratulations again, Jess, and I can't wait for your wedding in April!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Midwest Modern . . .

Could be a description of me.  But it is actually the name of my next big project, which is an Amy Butler design quilt.  I've been ordering many different Amy Butler fabrics from Etsy, but since I never follow instructions to a T, I didn't have enough fabric for all of the back panels, so I set off to JoAnn Fabrics this morning to pick out a few solids to go with the fabrics I already have.  
The poor, bored woman at JoAnn's who cut out my fabric said they were nice colors and asked if I was making a quilt, which I took to be a green light to talk about all of my quilting plans.  I showed her the few A.B. fabrics I had brought with me to match colors to.  With the blankest of looks, she said "that will be lovely."  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What goes around

When I was first learning to play piano, I learned by ear, so it took me quite a while to be comfortable reading music.  When I was about 12, I was at a music store with my dad and I picked up a book of Scott Joplin rags and announced that I was going to teach myself how to play The Entertainer.  My father, skeptical, paid for the book and home I went to figure the piece out.  I taught the whole piece to myself and worked and worked and was waiting until I had it perfect before I surprised my teacher with it.  
Then one day, my sister came to a piano lesson with me and at the end of the lesson asked "when are you going to play The Entertainer?"  Gaaaah!  She spilled the beans!
(the picture is of me, around age 7)

I was just about to leave my last lesson yesterday when my student's mother asked me if he had played Linus and Lucy for me yet.  "No!" I announced, and then was delighted to hear a very skilled performance of the beloved Peanuts theme.  While this student never struggled with reading music like I did, the effort he put into this piece on his own really impressed me.  It was so nice to be on the receiving end of such a great surprise.  The family also asked me to stay for dinner, but unfortunately I had to turn them down since Nate was at home making dinner for me.  But believe me, their dinner smelled good!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Putting opposable thumbs to good use?

Actual conversation as I'm leaving a student's house yesterday evening:

Student:  ow, my eye!

Me: what happened to your eye?

Student:  I poked it.

Me:  Have you ever heard of the Darwin Awards?

Student: yyyeeeeaahhhhhh.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cupcakes and Sewing Crises

In order to finish last weekend's purse, I had to hand-sew the 2nd purse fabric to the inside of the 1st fabric and I was not happy about it!  My sewing machine was having major issues with the amount of fabric that I was trying to put through there and was doing all kinds of things to get out of doing the job (breaking the thread, eating the fabric, etc.)  Many thanks to Jenny, who came over to craft with me on Sunday and ended up helping fix my machine, which ended up to be not that complicated - I had just installed the needle backward a while ago.  Hmmm, I guess it's time to read the instructions.  We did take the top off and cleaned all the dust out of the inner cavities.  Years worth of dust - no wonder my sewing machine was not behaving!  
Armed with a newly fixed machine, I was able to sew a storage bin with Jenny, and later a little bag to go along with my beach bag.  This one is for storing a wet bathing suit, or other things that need to be kept separate.  I used some flannel-y Little Mermaid fabric for the outside and the inside was made of fused-together plastic shopping bags.  As always, it wasn't as perfect as I had imagined in my head, but hopefully it will get the job done, and look cute doing so.  
Sunday afternoon was, of course, the Superbowl, which fell on Ruthie's birthday this year.  In honor of her birthday, and the fact that everyone loves cupcakes, Nate and I hosted a Cupcake Bowl and 5 different people brought cupcakes.  Too bad we were all pretty full from the awesome pizzas that Nate had made from his dad's pizza dough recipe.  (Side note: when Nate called home to get the recipe, he said "Hi Mom, is Dad home?  I want his pizza dough recipe," and she said "oh, I thought you were calling to wish me a happy birthday!"  That Nate, what a good son!)
We had probably 6 times as many cupcakes as people, and we were all so full that hardly anyone wanted to take leftovers home.  Does anyone want to come over and help me eat cupcakes? Here are mine; mocha cupcakes with coffee buttercream frosting: