Friday, February 28, 2014

Once Upon a Time


Before I had Nora I spent some time stocking up on sock yarn, thinking I'd likely not be spending time down in my sewing room for a while, and thought I'd probably still want to have something to work on and keep my hands busy, when they weren't feeding the baby or changing diapers.  I was right on all accounts, except the knitting.  For some reason once I settled into some semblance of a routine a few weeks after she was born, I was jonesing for a cross stitch project to work on.


I've worked on a few of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's patterns before, and am never disappointed, so I went right to their shop and started ordering.  I actually tackled the Gingerbread Lane pattern first, but it is at the framers getting framed as we speak, I should have it back to share in the next week or so!


After finishing Gingerbread Lane, I was just in time to order the Once Upon a Time Sampler and get stitching.  I am loving this pattern more than words can say.  Each month an adorable little fairy tale scene appears in my email to stitch up and each pattern is ridiculously cute with its own teeny tiny characters and details.


So far we have stitched up Snow White and her helpers doing laundry in January and The Frog Prince and Princess with Cupid's bows in Febraury.  The color palate Amanda and Ashleigh have picked is so bright and fun, and can we talk about the amazing border??  Castles and crowns and scrolling flowers all stitched using Weeks Dye works thread.  I just love the pink color they picked, Blackberry, the variegated color goes from a bright fuchsia to almost purple, so so pretty.


This is the second cross stitch project I've done on linen instead of aida cloth, and I'm definitely a convert.  I just love the way the stitches jump off the cloth.  It definitely took a little getting used to, but I don't think I'll ever use Aida cloth again.  This is my favorite linen, I ordered it from here, its the perfect "natural" shade with the prettiest opalescent threads running through the linen.  I've used it on this project and also on my Gingerbread Lane project.


I can't wait for March's pattern to arrive on Saturday, I am so looking forward to working on this each month throughout 2014, after its complete, I think it will be the perfect addition to Nora's nursery!  Hard to believe she will be older than a year at that point!  I just can't imagine her toddling around and saying mama or dada, we had a heart to heart yesterday, and she promised me she would stay this small, but I'm not sure she'll be able to keep her word :-)

Monday, February 24, 2014

adventures in photoshop

I don't know what has taken me so long, but this weekend I hopped on the Photoshop train.  It's funny, when I started blogging, I had no idea about anything photography related.  My focus was solely on what I was making and snapping a completed picture was purely an afterthought.  Taking pictures of quilts splayed out in the hallway or kitchen in poor lighting wasn't anything I batted an eye at and had no concept of editing those icky pictures to at least make the colors look true to life.

As I started reading more blogs, I got the hint that taking good pictures was just as important when it came to blogging!  Duh, nobody wants to look at cruddy dull poorly lit photos that weren't doing my quilts and projects any justice.  I started making every effort to take pictures outside, or at least in front of a window for the most natural light.  Shockingly this helped immensely!  Then I upgraded my camera to a Nikon DSLR, which also made eons of a difference.  It was tricky to get the hang of, but with the help of online tutorials I now grasp the basics of what all those buttons and dials do, and even make an attempt to shoot in manual mode!

I have toyed multiple times with purchasing Photoshop to edit my pictures, but have managed ok with using online editing software like PicMonkey, that is until starting to snap pictures of the baby.  PicMonkey did a decent job on editing stationary objects, like quilty photoshoots, where I really just needed to balance the colors or adjust exposure, but for trying to edit people, it just wasn't cutting it.  

Enter Photoshop.  I bit the bullet and spent the $99 on Photoshop Elements and really am kicking myself that I've held out so long.

PicMonkey Collage

Its been a few days since I've shared a Nora picture, so I'll share a few from her (and her buddy Sophie the giraffe's) 4 month pictures we took yesterday.  I will be the first to say that when I opened my first picture in Photoshop I was completely overwhelmed and didn't know where to start.  I promptly closed the program down, and started googling "photoshop for beginners" which yielded about a bajillion tutorials, so I decided to just start learning things one task at a time as I needed to know them.  I then searched for "how to lighten photos in photoshop" and this was much much more manageable.  I was shocked that in just a few key strokes there was such a difference between my original photo and the edited one!

PicMonkey Collage

I'm definitely still learning, but I'm now itching to go back and lighten and brighten all the pictures I can get my hands on!

  PicMonkey Collage

I just started playing around with some quilty pictures, and am using the same couple of techniques I used with these pictures.  If you have any sites or tutorials with regards to photoshop for newbies, I'd love to hear about them!

What about you, do you edit your photos?  If so what sort of program do you use?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

plus quilt tutorial

I've had a few questions about the pattern I used to make my plus quilt top I shared last week, and while the design idea is certainly not unique to my quilt, I didn't follow a pattern per se, but did my own quilty math for the plus size dimensions I wanted.  In case you'd like to make your own baby/lap sized plus quilt, I thought I'd share a quick tutorial with cutting and assembly instructions.


This quilt top will finish at 50" square, making a generous baby quilt or lap sized throw.  I chose to keep the rectangular centers of each plus as one piece, versus the entire quilt being comprised of only squares.

Plus Quilt Tutorial

Please read instructions in full before beginning.

Fabric Requirements
(12) Fat Quarters measuring no less than 18" x 22"
3 yards backing fabric
1/2 yard fabric for binding

Cutting Instructions
From each of (12) fat quarters:
  • Cut (5) 3" x 18" strips
    • Subcut (3) of the 3" x 18" strips into (2) 8" x 3" strips
      • You will need all (72) 8" x 3" strips
    • Subcut (2) of the 3" x 18" strips into (6) 3" x 3" squares
      • You will need all (144) 3" x 3" squares
Choose (8) of the remaining 7" x 18" pieces of fabric:
  • Cut (1) 3" x 18" strip
    • Subcut 3" x 18" strip into (1) 5.5" x 3" strip and (3) 3" x 3" squares
      • You will need all (8) 5.5" x 3" strips
      • You will need all (24) 3" x 3" squares
Assembly Instructions
Once your fabric is cut, you can begin laying out your quilt top.  The majority of your quilt top will consist of whole pluses consisting of (1) 8" x 3" strip and (2) 3" x 3" squares.  There are also variations which are included along the edges of the quilt.  Please see below for a breakdown totaling the number of each plus variation.


65 total 
Consists of (1) 8" x 3" strip and (2) 3" x 3" squares


7 total
Consists of (1) 8" x 3" strip and (1) 3" x 3" square


      7 total
      Consists of (1) 5.5" x 3" strip and (2) 3" x 3" squares

      1 total
     Consists of (1) 5.5" strip and 1" 3" x 3" square

single 3" square:  16 total


Use the above photo to help layout your quilt top.  Once you are happy with the layout, begin sewing each row together, taking care to keep all strips and squares in the  correct position.  I find it helpful to sew one complete row and place it back on my design wall to keep things from getting out of place.  If you do not have a design wall or somewhere to keep things laid out for a few days while assembling, use post its to number each row to help keep things in order.

Hope this tutorial was helpful!  If you make a plus quilt using this tutorial, I'd love to see it in the SewCraftyJess flickr group!

Friday, February 14, 2014


Just wanted to pop in to say Happy Valentines Day!  Our Valentine's Days have become pretty low key, but this year we have our little love bug to share it with!

Photo taken by Melissa Helman Photography

Have I mentioned one of my favorite parts of having a little girl are all the fun clothes and accessories??  And making fun things, like legwarmers and tutus and headbands for her to wear?  Well in case I haven't, or in case you missed it, it definitely is!

When I realized that Nora's 3 month pictures would be taken just in time for February, I immediately decided she needed to have a tutu.  A nice fluffy bright pink one, and a headband to match.  Actually I had made the headband before she was ever born, but when I tried it on as a newborn, it was entirely too big and almost comical, but now 3 months later it seems to fit just right!

The tutu was incredibly easy with the guidance of Pinterest, I seriously wonder how the crafty part of me survived before Pinterest.  I can remember scouring the internet "for that one tutorial I saw, somewhere, a few weeks ago"...and ultimately never finding what I was looking for in the first place.

Anyways, I want to try my hand and sewing some clothes for her, but don't know the first place to start, if you have any suggestions for beginner friendly baby garment sewing, I'd love to hear about them!  In the meantime, have a Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

something quilty


Someone alert the media!  Something crazy has been going on in my sewing room, to the tune of finishing a quilt top!  I think my machine was in shock, as I'm sure it has been feeling neglected over the past few months, but it certainly felt great to get behind the wheel and stitch away.

I'm still learning how to fit everything into the day, it's certainly been an adjustment to find a balance between baby, home life, work life and finding time for recreational activities like sewing.  I had been used to having huge chunks of time to sit at the sewing machine and stitch to my hearts content, and that's just not the case anymore.  Instead its more like maybe 15 minutes here and there.  I find myself often avoiding working on a project knowing that I only have those couple of minutes, but I need to learn to take advantage of any time I can, and be okay with the fact that a quilt top may take 2 weeks to put together now instead of 2 days and thats ok.  Oh that pesky learning curve.


Anyways, during naptime yesterday I was able to stitch the last few seams and sneak outside for a hot second to snap some pictures, and good thing I did as we are in the midst of what seems like the gazillionth snow storm of the year!  Although I guess I shouldn't complain, as the eastern part of the state is getting 10 times what we have gotten today!


My mom asked if I could make a quilt for a work friend of hers expecting a little boy.  She gave me free reign on the design and only requested I use blues, greens and grey.  As those colors are huge chunk of my stash, it was fun digging out my favorite aqua, lime and grey prints for this baby quilt.  I really love how the lower volume grey/white prints sort of blend together with the lighter aqua and lime prints and let the bolder prints sort of pop off the background.


This plus layout as been on my "quilts to try" list for sometime now, and I'm happy to report I only needed to unpick one seam for sewing a row together backwards!  This pattern really is timeless, and would look great in any sort of color scheme, so I'll have to keep this in mind for future baby quilts.


If this craptastic weather keeps up and were kept inside, Nora does make a great sewing buddy while Bella makes a great "baby sitter," so perhaps we'll find some time to hole up downstairs and get this quilt finished!

of course Bella (the dog) is 100% supervised when near the baby, but she sure does love her "little sister"!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Look mom, no pants!

So before Nora was born, and we found out we were having a girl, its sad to say but one of my first thoughts (after immediately starting to plan her nursery) were all the fun clothes and outfits we I would be able to dress her up in.  I really am impressed at my self control, as I didn't buy much myself, but boy, did our amazing family and friends!  She is now in a size 3-6 months, and we have newborn outfits and 0-3 month outfits that I am packing away with tags on!  


We received so many "outfits" that I was overjoyed at the cuteness factor of at the time, but I quickly learned that about 98% of the time we spent our days in nice and easy to wear cotton or fleece footed sleepers (preferably ones with zippers to make things even easier) and about 2% of the time in complicated "outfits," that while off the charts in the cuteness factor were just not practical for every day wear.

We quickly learned a short list of things that we liked to put her in, and most of those items were ones that made diaper changes as quick as possible, and ones we could quickly change for spit ups and diaper blow outs.  We learned this list did not include: outfits with hoods, outfits that had plain shirts and not onesies, socks weren't high on the list, as I realized I spent half my day putting the socks she kicked off back on her feet, just to name a few.  So again, sleepers (with zippers) were high on the desirable list!


Enter Baby Legs.  Have you heard of these things??  Baby legwarmers.  Need I say more??  The cuteness factor is too much.  I  I had seen a few tutorials while I was scouring Pinterest for things to make before Nora was born, but didn't feel the need to make any.  While we were in Target one day I found the section of womens knee high socks and these legwarmers popped in to mind.  I grabbed a few cute patterns, and when I got home started cutting them up.  There seem to be a gazillion tutorials, I followed this one and actually might make my next batch more like these ones so they are a little more snug in the ankle.


They took about 10 minutes to stitch up the set, and I love them!  Not only are they adorable, she now has "pants" to wear with the 1000 random onesies we have in her dresser!  The hubs is even a fan of these, as he says its "easy access" for diaper changes.  And again, we are all about easy.  I can't tell you the amount of times we've put her pants back on before snapping the onesie closed.  #diaperchangefail.  This just means one less thing to fuss with.  And did I mention the cuteness factor??


We've also worn them under skirts and dresses, because have you tried to wrestle a 3 month old into a pair of tights?  Its for the birds.  I'm now constantly on the lookout for cute cheap knee high socks, if you've seen any, let me know where!

I promise eventually it won't be all baby, all the time around here, but for the meantime, I agree Nora, there is "Snowbody cuter than you!"