December 21, 2011

Handmade Christmas: A Hedgehog Mugshot

This little hedgehog, cousin to this one, is holding a big stuffed felt heart. He recently flew to California to send a whole lot of love to my cousin Christine.

He's handsewn from wool felt, and his "needles" are needlefelted wool roving yarn. I used it as hair for this doll, and it's very fun to work with. I'd like to find another skein of it, perhaps in yellow, orange and black too. The heart is simply sewn out of felt as well. I originally made it as an ornament for our holiday party, but I don't have a lot of use for heart ornaments. So a few quick snips, and it's been repurposed!

December 18, 2011

Handmade Christmas: "Making" Soap

Mike and I spend a lot of money every month buying handmade soap from New Seasons, so I've been wanting to make my own for a long time in the hopes of cutting down costs. Last year Rebecca gifted us two handmade bars of soap that we just loved. While I thought the bars were a great success, she quickly declared that she would not be doing it again. She had made her soap from scratch and had a very difficult time getting all the ingredients to balance out and come together.

At our sewing get-together in October Danielle mentioned that we could buy premade soap blocks from craft stores and add our own scents and additives; altogether eliminating the need to "make" the soap. Last weekend we made this idea into a project!


 I purchased two blocks of shea butter soap from Michaels, and Mom gave me a block of clear glycerin soap. Rebecca bought the Olive Oil and Goats Milk soap blocks, as well as some clear.


Danielle set us up with scents and colors. My favorite scents were lemongrass, rosemary and teatree. She also had all sorts of additives for us to use, including, lavendar, herbs, oatmeal, spices and tea.

The process is pretty simple. Cut the large soap blocks into smaller pieces (they are already portioned into ice cube sized pieces). Melt the cubes four at a time for 1 minute in the microwave. Next, add "goodies" and mix it up! We used plastic soap molds (also available at craft stores), and before adding the soap we sprayed each mold with rubbing alcohol.

 The above soap has a little blue coloring and glitter! Soap that Barbie would like!

Next we poured the soap into the mold, sprayed the tops with alcohol again (to eliminate bubbles) and let the molds set up. We put some of them in the fridge to get them to set faster. If you do this, the soap will start to "sweat" when you bring it back into room temperature, so be prepared to wrap them up quickly.

I made a wide variety of soaps - above is Chai Spice, and below are Chai Oatmeal, Chamomile Lemongrass, Oatmeal with Almond Oil and Lavender Vanilla. I also made a Kitchen Herb, TeaTree and Cinnamon Oatmeal.

Rebecca was making gifts for her nieces and nephews, so she brought small rubber toys to suspend in each soap bar. The tricky part was getting them to stay directly in the middle of each soap bar.

This project was a great success (at least the making part was - I haven't actually tried to use any of the soaps yet). All of the materials are easily available at Michaels Craft Stores and online (Hobby Lobby for one). Price wise, it's cheaper to make the soap this way than to buy it. The large soap blocks are $10 at Michaels, and you get about 12 bars per block (varies depending on the size of your molds). The scents range from $3-$5, and the additives can be super cheap (oatmeal) or a little pricier (lavender and lemongrass). All in all, I think I made each bar for around $2. That doesn't include the cost of labor, but since this was so fun and easy, I think it's safe to call it a wash (a clean one).

December 8, 2011

Two Lovely Ladies

When my friend Patty commissioned me to make her grandson a mobile she also ordered two dolls for her granddaughters. Recently completed and mailed off, here they are!

These are much like the other dolls I've made, with a few unique features. I found a new yarn for the brown hair; it's very suede-like, though Aidan thought it was shoelaces. Their eyes are black beads instead of the safety eyes, and I tried out a new style for their mouths.  I also had too much fun making all their clothes - providing a few extra outfits for mix and match.

December 5, 2011

Guest Pillow Covers

With our new guestroom/office recently completed (sans wood trim), I've been finding ways to gussy it up a little, while still keeping it functional as both a guestroom and an office.

I wanted some accent pillows on the couch/sofabed, but I knew I wouldn't have any place to store them when the sofabed was in use. I also had guest pillows that needed a place to live when the sofabed was not in use.

As a result, the accent pillows became guest pillows, and the guest pillows became the accent pillows.

I fell in love with the front fabric at Bolt and waited until their big sale before buying it. I didn't want to spend the money to get enough to make full two pillows however, so I got just enough to make pillow fronts. For the back I used far less expensive cotton fabric (flannel for one, just plain quilting cotton for another). The backs are quite simple, no fasteners, and are easy to remove and clean.

Then, after Thanksgiving we went to Fabric Depot and Susanna found a sample piece of fabric in their "Yard Sale" for $1.25. Perfect for a third pillow!

I now have a ridiculous number of throw pillows for one small couch.

November 30, 2011

Thankful for Turkey

Thanksgiving has come and gone - I took six days off to prepare, enjoy and clean up. We spent the time surrounded by family and food. We relaxed plenty, crafted some, and shopped a little. It was perfect (except that Sara and Bobby weren't here - that would have been perfect).

Mike and I hosted the holiday meal in Portland this year for one very important reason - we wanted to meet our new niece!

Remi and Andrew welcomed their daughter Freya on the 22nd, but were unable to leave the hospital until the 26th. With the family in town we were all able to get up to the hospital repeatedly for visits, and even bring them turkey dinner (courtesy of New Seasons).

For those of us not at the hospital, we gathered at our house on Thursday afternoon for some hanging out, football and food.

We ended up with a Yam dish, a Potato dish and two Sweet Potato dishes. We also had Pumpkin Fondue and two Pumpkin pies. There was a cranberry relish and a cranberry jelly roll. Not least were the Bread and the Bread Pudding. In the center of it all was our 22-pound Turkey. Simply cooked, and simply delicious.

Post-dinner, Pre-pie


 Aidan & Mike played endless games of Xbox football.

I asked Papa & Sharon to cut shapes out of re-positionable vinyl for use in marking glasses. I only asked for simple shapes, but they went above and beyond...

We got the hot tub wired up and completed in time for Thanksgiving (check that one off the list).

Aidan got an early Christmas present from Mike and I - tickets for he and Mike to go to the Civil War game at UO. In preparation, Susanna and I decorated masks for them to wear to the game (and one for me, for next year). We used Sharpie oil-based paint pens (awesome) and glow-in-the-dark hockey masks.

Mike said they had a great time, and that it was so much fun to see the excitement on Aidan's face. After the game they were able to go down on the field and toss the football around. Something we've never done before, and Aidan was pretty thrilled. It made the 8 hours in traffic all worth it.

November 21, 2011

Sewing Machine Cover

I've been giving my old Pfaff Sewing Machine a workout lately with so many Christmas presents in the making. I decided to return the love and make the machine a cover.

With a yard of apple oilcloth and some aqua bias tape, this project took about 40 minutes. I measured the dimensions of the machine and cut out three pieces (2 end pieces and one long piece that stretched from front to back). I added the bias tape last because I wasn't sure if all the edges would properly align once sewn together (they didn't). After trimming off half an inch, I added the bias tape and it was finished.

Of course the presser foot needed a home too. Using one rectangle, I sewed up the bottom and side, gusseted the bottom corners (see here for a tutorial) and added bias tape to the open top. I couldn't figure out my "snap" tool, so I found some black velcro and sewed that in.


Since I still had plenty of oilcloth left, I decided to make a sewing scrap/trash bag as well. I followed the same method as with the presser foot bag, just minus the velcro closure. And to avoid being too matchy-matchy, I used orange bias tape instead of aqua.

November 18, 2011

Coffee Table

Mike and I have been searching for a coffee table for years. We have a small living room, but we do a lot of living in it. We wanted a coffee table that matched our aesthetic, our lifestyle and our budget. Unfortunately we couldn't find the trifecta. Our solution was to have Mike build something.

So while I was sewing with friends Mike enrolled in a weekend class at The Joinery to make us the Hotchberg Coffee Table. Handcrafted from Cherry, with Walnut risers and end pegs, it fits perfectly in our living room.


Mike's class took place over a Tuesday evening, followed by two full days on Saturday and Sunday. He had a great time working in the shop and had wonderful things to say about the instructor (Ariel) and the incredible tools that they had to use.

 Clamps and a planing sander 

 A multitude of routers

Part of our "living experience" in our house includes entertaining and sometimes eating dinner in the living room. While we have these awesome handmade coasters from my Mom, there are times where we don't want to worry that everybody is using a coaster.

For those times, I made a fitted cover for the coffee table out of laminated cotton (coated cotton).

I simply traced the table top onto the back-side of the fabric and cut it out with an 1/8" bleed. The edges are 2" strips of fabric, trimmed with orange bias tape, then sewn onto the top cover. I sewed the corners so that they slightly angle in, which results in a snug fit. Luckily I got a little too much of this fabric, so tomorrow I'll be finding some additional projects to use it on!

November 12, 2011

Nailed It!

Sweet Max, of the round cheeks and red curls, turned 2 this month!
And within days of that event, Momma Kate and Papa Jamie bought a house!

Knowing that Max would have to help Mom and Dad out with the new place, I made him this set of tools for his birthday.

The hammer and saw patterns are from the book Big Little Felt Universe (same place I found the patterns for Lilly's fruit & veggie basket). To complete the set I sewed two blocks of "wood" and some felt nails. The blocks have lined holes in them that the nails can be hammered into. The blocks also have magnets in them so that they can be stuck together and then "sawn" apart. I only had 1/8" neodymium magnets so the hold is not that strong. I've order some larger ones though, so I'll be prepared for next time!

November 7, 2011

Ducks & Cougars

Last weekend we took our annual trip to Eugene for some University of Oregon football.
And this year we were joined by Alan and his nephew, Adam.

While we came prepared with rain jackets, ponchos and down jackets, it turned out to be a fabulous Fall day - sweatshirt weather!
The ducks warm up

We partook of hot dogs, salmon sandwiches, popcorn and soft pretzels. It's not a real game unless copious amounts of nitrates are consumed.

UO beat Washington State 43 - 23

After the game we headed to our rental house and tossed the football around in the front yard (I was told that while very good at pushing, I lack a little knowledge on the rules of the game). After we burned off the football game food, we headed to Ninkasi for more soft pretzels (best ever) and beer, then to La Perla Pizzeria for some excellent Napoleonic Pizza. I highly recommend the Bianca al Prosciutto.

Another great trip to Eugene - Happy Anniversary Mike!
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