Monday, August 18, 2014

Baby Gifts, part 1 - The Knit Blanket

Nearly a month ago now, I wrote about my brother and sister-in-law's baby shower.  Well, I'm finally getting around to sharing what I made for them and my niece!

First, there was Hugh Manatee, which I've already posted about here.

Next, I used this tutorial from Purlbee to knit a blanket. When I purchased yarn for this project, we didn't yet know the baby's sex, so I just got colors I liked. I knew I wanted a pretty neutral background with pops of color.

I used Spud and Chloe Outer in colors Rhino (main), and from top down: Wave, Sandbox, Soapstone, Leapfrog, and Carbon. It was my first time using Spud and Chloe, but I'd heard great things about it. It did not disappoint! I absolutely loved this yarn. My only complaint, which isn't even really a complaint, is that the skeins are super short so I ended up having to buy A LOT (I think my final count was 13 skeins) over the course of three different trips to the store. And obviously that's mostly a result of my inability to do math and properly figure out how much yarn I actually needed.

I also wasn't very pleased with how the blanket blocked - now it's a bit misshapen - but again that's my fault because I don't have a big enough space. The only cat-free place I can block items is in the bathroom, and it's just not large enough to accommodate a blanket. But you can only really tell when you hold it out. Draped over a chair or a baby, no one will ever even notice it's not quite rectangular.

Otherwise, I'm in love with it! The yarn is super heavy and warm, so I hope it's a cold winter and my niece can cuddle underneath it. Fingers crossed I'll get to spend a lot of time cuddling with her and the blanket, too.

Check back Thursday for one more baby shower gift.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So many babies!

So, I've said it before and I'll say it again - I've never been a huge baby person. I'm more into dogs (and I guess cats now, too). However, I think that might be changing just a little. Apparently I'm at that age where people I know start to have kids, and they're kind of cute (especially since I can play with them, and then leave them with their parents). I'm opening with this to prepare you for the increase in frequency of baby-item posts that is coming. It started with the shower for my niece, and continues with this blanket I made for my cousins' new son (who's bris is today, so this is appropriate timing!).

As with their first child, they decided not to learn the sex. Typically I stick to green and yellow for gender neutral, but I broke out of my comfort zone a bit with this one and added orange. I'm glad I did because I really like how it looks!

The inspiration for this blanket came when my quilt guild participated in a hand quilting demonstration day at the National Museum for Women in the Arts. I'd never hand quilted before, and I didn't have any other hand projects in progress, but I had just found out that my cousins were expecting, so I picked up some fleece and pearl cotton from JoAnn, and set about making this blanket. I sandwiched the two pieces of fleece right sides together with some batting and turned it as you would for a simple throw. To secure the batting, I machine quilted a few lines horizontally and vertically, then hand quilted a few lines in both directions to add more interest. This also proved a good beginner's project to demo at the museum since the cotton is thick and easy to see.

For the final touch, I used this tutorial from Purlbee to finish the quilt off with a zigzag blanket stitch. The pearl cotton I used is a yellow ombre, so it's kind of fun as it fades in and out. It's probably a bit too warm for this blanket right now, but they live in Michigan, so I'm sure it will be quite useful when winter (and gray skies) set in in just a few short months.

And thanks to my cousin Arlene (the baby's grandmother) for taking pictures for me. I took some on my phone before I gifted the blanket, but then my phone broke and I lost all my photos :(

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My second calling

In my next life, I'm going to be a party planner.  The other weekend was my brother and sister-in-law's baby shower for their first child (and my first biological niece!!![I love Rayna, but I'm excited for one of my own, too. Now Mr. T and I don't have to share.]), who is due in September.  Their friends were the official hosts, but seeing as they have their own adorable four month old daughter to look after, Mom, my SIL's SIL, and I all pitched in to help out. My SIL's SIL handled the bar, Mom made the desserts, and I provided decorations. The shower was simple - really more of an open house for my brother and SIL's friends to come say hi, drop off a gift, and have some lunch.  Co-ed, no games, no present-opening at the event.

We held the party in the clubhouse of my brother's neighborhood.  I had been in the room a few times, but forgot how massive it is until we actually arrived. Food, drinks, and the gift table were along the walls behind this photo, and dessert was across the room.

The main decorations were buckets of paper flowers that I made (with some help from Mr. T, Molly, Julia, and Lindsay. Thanks guys!). This photo was my original inspiration, and I used this tutorial (though they're quite simple, so once you make one the rest come naturally). I made 448 individual flowers, 112 in each color - yellow, pink, purple, and orange.  For the table coverings, I just used $2 plastic tablecloths in an off-white color, and then covered them with a loose-weave burlap runner.

Each bouquet had 4 different shades of the respective color, 3 solids and 1 print, just to add a little interest. I hot glued them to floral wire and then we filled the buckets with wet sand to hold the flowers in place.  The day before the shower, Mr. T and I showed up at my brother's place with 2 paper bags FULL of flowers, and 28 empty buckets. At 10:30 that night we all (including my 7mo. pregnant SIL) gathered around the kitchen table to stuff buckets, then I frantically glued the leaves on the next morning just in time to set up before the guests arrived.

There's also a large fireplace in the room, so I stenciled a few onsies with flowers in colors to match the bouquets, then used some twine and washi tape to hang them across the mantel.  Mr. T said this looked like babies strung up at the gallows, but I like it.

Mom knocked it out of the park with the desserts.  She's a trained pastry chef, though she doesn't work in the industry anymore, so she's always recruited for this role at events.  At Thanksgiving, she brings an entire suitcase just of dessert, and a small carry-on for her clothes.

She made two kinds of brownies (chocolate orange and double chocolate), two kinds of macarons (mexican chocolate and, my favorite, salted caramel) and her famous sugar cookies (I may or may not have taken most of the leftover sugar cookies home).

Is that one on the left bothering anyone else? I wish I had noticed and moved it!
Finally, on the gift table we had sachets of candy-coated sunflower seeds for guests to take as a party favor.  Mom ordered FIFTEEN POUNDS! of seeds - individually packaging them was another of our night before activities, along with making the paper flower bouquets.

Overall, it was a success! My bro and SIL had a good time, they got some good gifts (I'll share what I gave them soon), and I got a lot of compliments on my flowers!  Thankfully most of the bouquets were claimed by family and friends (I have one in my office), so I didn't have to throw too much of my hard work in the trash.  I also received some advice on how to monetize my crafting, but for now it's just a fun hobby.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap

Last month I was one of the 600 people who participated in round 2 of the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap.  I probably shouldn't have, given all of the items on both my crafting and life agendas, but I did - and boy am I glad I did!

First up, here's what I sent my partner, Alexis (note - I lost my photos, so I stole the ones she posted on Instagram)

In the information Alexis provided, she seemed very enthusiastic about tea, so I took that as my inspiration and ran with it. I paper pieced the teapots in the four colors she listed as her favorites, using this pattern (teapot block #1), with a variety of gray background fabrics. She also said Lizzy House was one of her favorite designers. I was trying to work only from my stash, and this was the only Lizzy House I had, so it became the backing.

Participants are also encouraged, though not required, to send a few extras. I sent a fat quart, some washi tape, note cards, tea, a Dr. Who bookmark, and a boatload of gummy candy.  Everyone says it, but it was really hard to part with this quilt. I don't even like tea, but I thought it was pretty fun. At least I know it's going to someone who appreciates all the work that goes into even a mini quilt.

Now on to what I received! Getting my own quilt in the mail definitely made it a bit easier to part with the one I made.

Angela made this quilt for me and I LOVE it! I wrote that I love bright colors and retro (as in featuring retro items) prints, and she nailed it! Plus, that quilting is unbelievable. I had it taped on the what for a bit, but then it fell off. But as soon as I have time I'm going to sew a hanging sleeve on. It's already got a nice empty space of wall waiting for it!

Oh, and here's the rest of my loot!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

DGS June 2014

A few days late, but here's the next installment of do. Good Stitches blocks, this time for Linda using this tutorial.  She requested blocks of complimentary colors.

Fabric: Dear Stella (peacock feathers) and Denyse Schmidt for JoAnn (orange)
And because quilters love cats:

Mitchell photobomb!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A lot of my crafting these days is centered around surprise gifts for my brother and sister-in-law (really for my niece), so I can't share any of it just yet. Instead, I'm finally posting some photos from the trip Mr. T and I took to Colombia in March.

Street of Bogota
Hanging flowers outside of a museum in Bogota, though now I can't remember which (naturally).

Bolivar Square - llamas and pigeons everywhere! At one point a guy walked his llama to our right and we starting hearing running water. We thought the llama was peeing, but it was actually the guy....

Feeding pigeons in Bolivar Square. Apparently this is going to be a recurring activity for us. We did the same thing in Turkey.
Inside Zipacura. None of my photos inside really turned out, but it was neat. Though we didn't want to pay the extra money for the English-speaking guide, so what's written on the wikipedia page is about all I know.

Inside the Centro Commercial Santa Fe in Bogota. I was cracking up at this little animal pen. You can rent them for kids and they scoot around the mall on them. We were staying with a friend's sister in Bogota, so we checked out the mall to compare clothing prices. Based on our limited survey of the GAP, US prices are about 50% cheaper.

In Medellin. We happened to be there on a holiday, so a lot of things were closed which was disappointing, but it's a really neat city. Lots of young people and lots of things to do.

Plaza Botero, Medellin.

 Guinea pig betting in Plaza Botero. Spectators put coins on top of the bowls to guess which one the guinea pig will enter. If he enters your bowl, you win! I think. It was unclear whether the organizer actually gave money to any of the winners, or if you were just forfeiting your coins to watch a guinea pig scurry around.

At the Museo de Antioquia. By Frank Stella. I want to make "his" and "hers" quilts with the design.

Medellin metrocable. It's part of the metro system (which is much better than the one here in DC...) and connects some of the poorest neighborhoods in the area to the city center. It also goes to Arvi Park, but unfortunately we weren't able to go.

Empty street in the early morning in Salento, in the Zona Cafetera (coffee zone).

I think this was my favorite place outside of Bogota. The architecture and colors were amazing!

Naturally, we went on a coffee tour in Salento. We did this one. Very interesting and thorough.

Different stages of coffee beans, from unripe through roasted and ground.

Grinding freshly roasted beans!

Pineapple! (They grow a lot more than coffee on the farm we visited).

Exploring the Cocora Valley in the rain.
Castillo San Felipe de Baraja in Cartagena

Jugo de mora! (blackberry juice)  I love the jugo in Colombia. So fresh and refreshing, which was extremely important in the high temperatures of the Caribbean coast.

These sculptures were everywhere. I think this is in Getsemani as we walked from the Castillo to the Walled City.

Clock tower at one of the entrances to the Walled City.

Inside the walls.

Candy stall
And after that, my camera died.... Our second day in Cartagena we went on a boat trip to scuba dive and visit Playa Blanca, and we dropped it in the sand/a hint of water, and now it is no more. After Cartagena we went back to Bogota for two more days. Naturally, I dragged Mr. T to a craft fair/flea market. We also ate lots of Crepes and Waffles - 3 times in 10 days; I wouldn't put it past us to go Colombia for a weekend just to eat there again if we could find cheap enough flights.

Overall, we had a really good time. Finding food was difficult at first - we're both vegetarian - but got easier as the trip went along. Surprisingly, I think some of the best food we had was in Salento, a town of roughly 4,000 people.

Highlights included:

- Metrocable
- Coffee tour
- Montserrate at night. We ate chocolate completo (hot chocolate, cheese, and bread) in a small cafe at the top. Muy romantique! (We tried going during the day, but the queue was at least 3 hours long. So glad we ended up going at night. The views over the city were beautiful, and we didn't have to wait at all!)

Things I didn't like so much:

- Playa Blanca - mostly because we're not really beach people and you have to pay to sit anywhere; also, we don't eat seafood, so the lunch options were quite limited
- Zipacura - probably would have been better if we knew what the guide was saying; also, we went with some strange people who kind of soured the experience for us
- La Puerta Falsa - this place got great reviews on TripAdvisor and our guidebook, so we stopped in our first day in Colombia. Maybe it's because we're veg, but it was super disappointing. The people working there were all very nice, but the food wasn't as good as we were expecting based on the reviews. The chocolate completo we had on top of Montserrate was much better.

Lastly, I mentioned earlier that I learned a bit of Spanish using these podcasts (just the free level, not the subscription options) and they worked great for giving me a base. Unfortunately, I fell off the Spanish-learning bandwagon a week or so after we returned, but I'm determined to become proficient in another language within the next year or so, so I've jumped back on! I'm using Duolingo for now. I just started so I can't provide a review, but I've heard good things. It's a similar platform to Rosetta Stone, but it's free.  The concept is really cool - check it out.

 Okay, adiĆ³s mis amigos. Hasta pronto.