Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Tree Skirt

I got the Christmas tree skirt done three days before Christmas. The tree skirt was actually only in use for a few hours – the presents had to get packed up for the holidays right after this photo was taken. I don’t plan on making another tree skirt in my lifetime, so at least it will get a lot of use for all future Christmases. I also went ahead and made it double sided so if I ever want to change it up, I can just flip it over.

I got the idea from this tree skirt (this design is on a few other of their products as well). It’s essentially the same as the original – only I turned it into a pieced quilt, and have an open center and seam to allow it to fit around the water base for the tree. It’s from this great company, Ferm Living, based out of Denmark. If you’re in Europe, you probably have access to all their beautifully designed goods. In the US, especially in Kansas City, I’ve had a hard time finding their things.

This tree skirt has a diameter of about 47.25". The inner opening is about 14.75" - which is slightly larger than it probably could have been. I can't share the more intricate pattern, since I didn't design it, but thought I'd include the template for the basic pattern piece. Print out the three pages, and use the lines as guides to match up each page (the final pattern piece is close to 11"x17"). Quarter inch seam allowances are included. You will need to cut out 16 of these wedges total. The back of the tree skirt is made out of this simple pattern, using several different green fabrics.

The biggest mistake I made was using two different colors of “white”. I had enough fabric on hand to get half the pieces done, but had to order more. What I thought was Kona Snow, was actually Kona Bone. Oops. Fortunately, you really only see half the tree skirt when it’s under the tree, so I put the darker Bone color in the back. The brighter blue color is a Free Spirit Designer Solid, though I’m not sure which color – maybe Parrot Blue?

I also didn’t realize until after I printed out the templates, that it involved Y seams. I’ve never done Y seams before, and it required watching a few YouTube videos to figure out what I had done wrong the first time I tried sewing it together. In the end, the Y seams weren’t too painful to sew, and didn’t take too much more time – so I’m glad I just went ahead and tried it out.

Happy Holidays! See you in 2014!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Color Inspiration: Blabla Dolls

I first heard of Blabla dolls once my friends starting having children and receiving them as gifts for their babies. I actually just bought one for my niece this year – Colette the Cat. They are a little pricey*, but oh so adorable. One of the things I love most are the color combinations – a little unexpected, cute but still sophisticated. I think they would be fabulous in a quilt. I spent some time with the Kona fabric card and matched up my favorite dolls with color swatches. I’m going to try and do this more often when I see other color combos I like (and hopefully post here as well). It’s always nice to have a little inspiration before starting a new project!

*If you don’t want to spend the money to purchase a doll, they have miniature versions as finger puppets. Much more affordable, and just as cute!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Tree Ornaments

For that past few years we’ve been getting our Christmas trees at Home Depot. It’s close by, they have good prices, good tree selections, and they get the tree all ready for you to take home. By now, we have decided that the Frasier Firs are the best. I like the shorter needles and they aren’t sharp like other trees. We always have fun picking one out each year, and I love having the fresh evergreen scent in our home. Last year we kept ours up until the end of January – oops! I like keeping it up past New Year’s, but that was a little late:)

I have all my ornaments from growing up, but recently I have only been putting a few on the tree each year. This year they are all white ones – which happen to be some of my favorites! The bear is from when I was a little kid, the gnome was from West Elm a few years ago, and the snowflake was made by one of my good friends from college. Each year she makes ornaments out of different materials she finds at the hardware store. I’m lucky enough to get one each year, and it’s always fun to see what her new creation will be. She opened up an Etsy shop this year, and is selling these wonderful snowflakes made out of tile spacers!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Salt Lake City 2012

This time last year me and Jesse took a trip to Salt Lake City*. I had been hearing a lot of good things about the city, and plane tickets were a good price! We had 3 full days in and around the city – and I feel that we accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.

My Top Fives of Salt Lake City: 
1. The Little America & Grand America Hotels: You can spend a lot of money and stay in the Grand America, or pay significantly less and stay in the Little America. It’s right across from the Grand, so even if you stay in the Little, you can still trek over to the larger and fancier Grand America – which you should! One of the best toy stores I have ever been to is JouJou, inside this hotel. There is also a restaurant, café/bar, bakery and a few other things as well. Since we were there last year during the holiday season, they had the most awesome window displays – so fun to check out! 

2. The Salt Lake & Antelope Island: The lake is pretty desolate, as there are few living things that can actually survive in/near the heavily saline water. It’s actually a little eerie, and it has a very specific smell to it that I can’t describe. That sounds bad, but it was really interesting! The long road that cuts through the lake ends at Antelope Island. A pretty desolate island as well, though now there are bison and antelope that live there. There’s also a little museum you can check out. 

3. Alta Ski: As a Midwest girl, I did not grow up skiing like Jesse did in Colorado. To be honest, I don’t really like skiing – but I try to be adventurous (and I love the scenery), and Jesse has fun! Since we went early in the season and on a weekday it was pretty empty – less people for me to avoid skiing into – yay! Not that I have much experience, but the snow quality seemed nice and just as good if not better than Colorado. I’ve heard this is where the locals ski, and probably cheaper and less crowded than Park City. 

4. Ruby Snap: Fresh baked cookies… mmmmm. I’m a cookie girl, and this place did not disappoint. Their cookies are represented by vintage pin up girls. We tried several, but my favorite was Penelope, a peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate. 

5. Temple Square: This was really neat to see, especially at night when all the trees were lit up. Since we’re not Mormon, we couldn’t go inside, but the outside was pretty amazing on its own. When we came back at night, a church service had just finished, and the whole square was filled with people and families, there were luminaries and trees lit up – it was really magical.

Transportation is pretty easy. The Little America is really close to the TRAX stop, and that will take you through the center of the city. We did rent a car for two days, which we took to see the Up House, Antelope Island, and Alta. Public transportation can take you to everything else in the city, and it’s really easy to use. We got in late the first night, so we took a taxi from the airport (only $20 some dollars), but leaving we took the bus, and it went directly to the airport, super easy and cheap. SLC is a very accessible city for tourists. It’s not too big or crowded and everyone was really friendly.

Other places of interest: Capital Theater & BalletWest, Eva, Takashi, Up House, and lots of vintage shops.

*Having been to SLC only once, I'm no expert on the city. But I thought I'd include some things we enjoyed, and things we figured out along the way in case you want to visit someday! I got recommendations from friends and co-workers, and it helped a lot!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Target Gift Cards

I LOVE Target gift cards. I started collecting them several years ago, and am always amazed at the new ideas they come up with. There are two seasons they go all out on their gift cards - summertime and Christmastime. Every store is arranged a little differently, but I tend to find the super fancy gift cards near the greeting cards and the toy section on an end cap of the aisle. 

In many conversations I end up being the unofficial Target gift card ambassador. So here’s the deal – gift cards are free! The only catch is that you have to put a minimum of $5 on each one. But they are gift cards, which means you can turn around and use the $5 next time you’re in Target and they never expire. If you have a smart phone and the Target app, you can even load your gift card amounts directly into that app on your phone (this helps a lot, as I always forget coupons and gift cards when going out shopping).

This year is PEZ and HexBug Bullseye. My favorite Target gift card of all time is when they teamed up with Lego. I too, LOVE Legos. Not only did you get to make a cute Bullseye the dog, but the packaging and illustration was amazing too. The illustration/design company, Invisible Creature, does many of Targets gift cards (including all the ones I’ve shown in this blog post). You should definitely check them out!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving in a few days and getting to spend time with my family. Me and Jesse actually spend Thanksgiving separately. He heads down to Springfield, Missouri to spend the day with his grandma (she’s 100!) and his parents, and I go up to Iowa and get to spend time with my grandparents. It works well for us:)

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is watching the Macy’s parade! There’s something so nostalgic about it. Nobody else in my family shares my love for the parade, so I only catch a few minutes here and there. I love seeing the different balloons, watching the marching bands perform and seeing the different formations they do, and lastly, watching the performers fall forward when the float starts moving again:) Am I the only one that thinks that's funny?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kansas City: Thomas Hart Benton Home & Studio

A couple of weekends ago me and Jesse took a bike ride to enjoy the beautiful fall day. We decided to venture to an undiscovered (to us) area not far from where we live, and landed in the gorgeous Roanoke neighborhood. I love neighborhoods in the city. The beautiful old homes with big trees on quite streets, with the benefits of living in the city and enjoying all it has to offer (and walking/biking distance to those things)!

As we were biking along we ended up at the home of Thomas Hart Benton. We didn’t know who he was, but it was a State Historic Site, and a beautiful house and I wanted to go inside. We got there right as a tour was beginning, learned who this guy was (a painter, born in Missouri and who spent the last 30 some years of his life in KC) and toured his studio and the inside of his home. And oh my goodness, it was a gorgeous house! The master bedroom was the best room of the house. A little area off the main part of the master had the cutest window seat and was his wife’s sewing room. Yes, that would be the perfect crafting shell for me – I could spend all day there! It even had doors that opened to a little covered porch – so perfect:)

We have talked about visiting the Missouri state capital in Jefferson City, and now we have more of a reason to go - one of Mr. Benton’s largest murals is in the capital building. Another one not too far away is in Independence, at the Harry S. Truman Library. Definitely have to check this man’s artwork out!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fractal Quilt Phone Wallpaper

In honor of the Fractal Radiance pattern coming out, I thought I’d provide a little freebie! Not only does fractal make a fun quilt pattern, but it works great as phone wallpaper too. The colors and pattern add just enough interest as a backdrop without being too distracting. And the little bit of texture from the quilting softens it up a bit.

I’ve provided two sizes, one for iPhone 5's, and the other for Android (I’m not sure if this works on all Android phones. The one shown is a Google Nexus). For iPhones, click and hold on the image, and select ‘Save Image’. Go to your settings, under ‘Wallpapers and Brightness’ and select ‘Choose Wallpaper’. The saved image should show up in your ‘Camera Roll’. For Android, click and hold on image, and choose ‘Set as Wallpaper’.

ABOVE: iPhone 5/5c/5s
BELOW: Android

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Change of Perspective

I have a tendency to get “stuck in my head”. In those moments I start to over-think things, worry too much and become anxious. Sometimes I just need a little change of perspective to help me snap back to reality. My favorite go-to videos: Steve Jobs’ wise words and Leslie Hall’s body rolls and high kicks.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Outer Space & Sewing!

Me and Jesse went to see the movie Gravity this weekend. I was somewhat skeptical about seeing this film (I mean, how long can you watch someone stranded in space?) but it was the only movie that looked interesting, and it has a really high rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Jesse suggested going with the 3D version, and I’m so glad we did. It seems everything is going 3D, but it worked great for this film. I loved this movie despite the fact I was hyperventilating right along with Sandra Bullock the entire movie. I think space is absolutely amazing/beautiful and terrifying at the same time, and the plot of this movie totally freaked me out. There are several key plot points that are completely unrealistic, but I didn’t mind. The emotions of the characters and the zero gravity movements all seemed believable to me.

I can’t stop thinking about this movie and outer space. So, here are some photos of space from the NASA website. They have an image gallery where they put up a new image each day along with information about the photo. Also, check out this amazing print I purchased a few weeks ago. It shows all the layers of Earth and the atmosphere – it’s fun and cute (the layers have happy faces!!) AND educational.

After I wrote this post, I continued my space and astronaut research, and came across this amazing woman, Karen Nyberg (photo above in her “sewing space”) who is currently in space on the International Space Station. Not only is she an astronaut, but a quilter as well! And she has been doing some zero gravity sewing while on board (check out her Twitter page – which has lots of fun space photos too). Watch the video below! She is hosting a quilting bee from space – which I think is one of the coolest things ever!! To participate, create a 9.5 inch squared star-themed quilt block. She will sew them together to enter at the International Quilt Festival in Houston next October (2014). You can find more information here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from Whazzat Kangaroo!

Happy Halloween from Whazzat Kangaroo! Since the age of 3 I have wanted to be the pink kangaroo from Zoobilee Zoo. Today, me dream came true! And somehow five of my co-workers were convinced to join the Zooble pack too! I’m fortunate enough to work at a company that allows you to dress up for Halloween AND has a costume contest. We spent many weeks of costume preparation, and even rehearsed the intro of the show to perform at the contest. It all paid off because we won first place! We had some tough competition this year, but I’m so glad that people recognized who we were and the time we put into our costumes. 

I had to make the majority of my costume. You just can't find pink kangaroo costumes, and 80's bib vests these days. I'm not sure how many times I'll wear this costume again, but realized how great a full body fleece outfit would make for winter pjs, and the importance of having a pouch to carry around important things like a phone or chapstick!

Happy Halloween! I will now sit and wait for trick-or-treaters that probably won’t come:(

UPDATE: Find a little tutorial on how I made this costume here:)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fractal Radiance Quilt & Pattern

I’m very excited to announce this next quilt, as it’s the first pattern I have ever written! It started with a pillow I made for my friend Lindsay (photo below) which I turned into a small quilt for myself (photo above). It gets so cold at work, and I need something to bundle up in! About the time I finished the quilt, the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild I’m a part of announced they were hosting a pattern contest. Anyone in the guild could submit a quilt idea, and they chose mine! It was such a great learning experience, and I was just one of many, many people who helped get this quilt pattern out into the world. I’m so grateful for each person’s help, advice and feedback.

You can check out more information here, on the KCMQG site. The pattern includes instructions for a small and large lap quilt, and a small pillow. I hope people enjoy it, and I can’t wait to see what quilters create with this pattern!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Inspiration: Historical Gravestones

Somehow last year, I ended up visiting three cemeteries in three different states. This was completely unplanned, and to be honest, I’m not exactly sure how it happened. I don’t seek out old cemeteries, and they aren’t normally places I enjoy spending my vacation time. But when you are visiting old cities with lots of history, it inevitably becomes a part of your trip.

I was actually surprised at how unique each cemetery was, which tells a lot about the city and the people that lived there. New Orleans has above ground tombs because they’re below sea level. Many of the gravestones in Granary Burying Grounds in Boston have skulls with wings. The ones in Savannah are elaborate, and the cemetery is almost like a beautiful park with large trees with Spanish moss and gardens. There's not many places that can be slightly creepy and beautiful at the same time!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Movie Foodie: Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus is one of my favorite Halloween movies! Even though it celebrated it’s 20th year, it still feels just as relevant today as it did when I was 9 (though I understand a few more of the jokes now). This one was a little tougher to create a menu for, but "Life Potion" plays a big role in this movie, and that can count as a foodie item, right?

I had to stretch the concept on this one a little bit, but ended up with five food/beverage items. 
Life Potion: Sierra Mist + Lime Sherbet. Makes a lovely, bright green color. Add dry ice to make it nice and bubbly. 
The Children of Salem: pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. I really wanted to do pumpkin bars, so I used a gingerbread cookie cutter to cut them out, and called them “children”. 
Apples: a healthy option, and a small reference from the movie. If you want to turn it into a game, you could bob for apples – but do people still do that, and is it even sanitary? 
Dead Man’s Toe; with Oil of Boil, a dash of Pox and Newt Saliva: breadsticks, and olive oil, paprika, balsamic vinaigrette for dipping. This is pulled from the spell ingredients for Life Potion. The Dead Man’s Toes recipe was an alteration from this Witch’s Fingers recipe
Halloween candy: pick your favorite! I think Reese’s are the best:) 
Apple Cider: Not many people drank this since Life Potion was the main beverage, but it’s nice to have an alternative option.

For decorations I tried to recreate Billy Butcherson’s gravestone out of cardboard. My illustration skills are lacking, so this was really frustrating for me. They didn’t turn out like I had hoped (the skulls “wings” look more like alien tentacles) but it made a good backdrop for the table set up. Black tapered candles (a connection to “the black flame candle”) add to the décor and create mood lighting. The rest of the items were things I had around the house: old books, crusty bottles, an old crate and a few serving dishes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Halloween Decor Kit

I put this together a couple years ago as part of a Halloween swap at work. I still kind of wish I had kept it for myself:) It was pretty easy to put together since I already had some of the materials to work with. I had several crusty bottles left over from our wedding (you can find these at antique shops – I try to spend less than $2.50 a piece, but they can be priced much higher if they are in good condition – so stick with the dirty ones), and had a collection of solid and vintage fabric. The fabric pumpkins came from this tutorial and were fun to do. They are pretty easy, but it does take some hand strength to get the yarn nice and tight for the pumpkin indentions. I found the tapered candles at William Sonoma. They don’t have the exact ones from 2 years ago, but I think these ones are pretty similar. I had to cut them down (using a warm knife to cut the wax) and had to melt the ends a little to get them to fit and be stable in the bottles. The crate box was found at an antique shop and the gravestone place cards were made using a laser cutter (you could cut them out of paper for a simpler option). I painted them with chalkboard paint so you can write/erase and reuse them each year. I quilted a little mini quilt as the runner, using fabric I already had and that was leftover from making the pumpkins.

These are just a few ideas to make a cute holiday centerpiece for your table, or as a little Halloween kit for a friend. A few of the items could even work into Thanksgiving, depending on the fabrics you use.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Scalene Right-Angled Triangle Quilt

Another baby quilt I made last year! You can make this one too. It's really easy and fast to cut out, and pretty easy to sew as long as you don't mind matching up a few points.

Below are a few test photos I took playing with different ways to lay out the triangles. Triangles are fun because they can create so many other shapes and designs just by the way you rearrange them. Since these are scalene (all unequal sides) triangles, it makes the quilt just slightly longer than wide.

The finished dimensions are about 36" x 45", but you could add more triangles to make it a bigger if needed. Cut a rectangle 10 1/8" x 12 5/8", and than cut the triangle in half diagonally. Repeat this step 16 times total, with half the triangles in navy (or another color) and the other half in brighter colors.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hello Fall, Goodbye Summer (and CSA)

Like a lot of people, I love the fall - it’s one of my most favorite times of the year! As excited as I am for the cooler temps, all things pumpkin spice, and Halloween and Thanksgiving, I’m going to miss the unending fridge full of good food. I eat melon in the summer like a bear during salmon season! 

This was our second year of participating in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It was such a great learning experience and saved us from the weekly dread of figuring out what meals to make and what to purchase from the grocery store. We tried and made lots of new things. Some of our favorites – baby bok choy, eggplant parmesan, coleslaw, kale chips and veggie stews. We tried beets for the first time, and several new recipes. It was like a food adventure in our kitchen, and a great project to work on together as a couple. 

I would highly recommend joining a CSA next year! We got a variety of fruits, veggies, canned goods, eggs and cheese, meat, bread (about 9 items a week) – and it was all local and fresh. I didn’t think I liked melons until joining CSA. There’s such a difference between a fresh/ripe cantaloupe, and one that’s not. So you get wonderful and healthy foods, and you support your local farmers:)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lettered Envelopes

I've discovered a new way to letter envelopes! Well, I'm sure this has been done for many decades, but it's new to me! 

I have become very computer dependent when it comes to lettering which makes it very difficult to write on envelopes. I make it even worse for myself because I get so tense knowing that it's for a special occasion, and inevitably I start writing down hill, or I make a mistake:( I cannot write in a straight line!

So, with this new technique I can letter on a large sheet of paper (plenty of room to letter it a few times) and than cut it down to size. This also works great if the envelope paper isn't suitable for the medium your lettering in (watercolor, pen & ink, etc). I make a cut in each corner - making sure to cut through just one layer of paper - and than slide the lettered sheet into the corners. This wouldn't hold up through the mail system, so hand delivery is best - perfect for a wedding!

We love this wedding card - I think this is the third or fourth time we have given it:)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Colorado Quilt

UPDATE: You can now purchase my Welcome to Colorful Colorado quilt pattern on Craftsy!

This quilt was Jesse’s 30th birthday present, and it was quite the process. Last year Jesse won a very large stack of Oakshott cotton at a Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild event that I brought him along to, and he very graciously gave it to me! I knew I had to make something for him with it, so the fabric was the first decision I made in making this quilt. I decided on Colorado for the theme, since he was born and raised there, and chose to use lots of graphic shapes for the pattern.

I started in June, giving me plenty of time to finish it. I didn’t want him to know that I was making it, so the only time I could work on it was when he wasn’t around. Fortunately, I found a few hours here and there each week. But, boy, that was stressful! I never want to have to quilt in secret again:)

The Oakshott fabric (oh my goodness, I love this fabric!) came in fat eighths, which definitely added complexity and time to the quilt. It all worked out in the end, but having fat quarters would have helped tremendously - not that I can complain, it was free after all. I drew everything in Illustrator, figured out the sizes, and also assigned every piece to a color since I was limited on fabric. My brain got a total workout on this one!

The quilt works both vertically and horizontally. Vertically, it’s like your standing in a field, looking at the sun setting behind the mountains. The large brown piece on the right represents the flat irons, which are located in the Boulder area where he grew up. If you hold it horizontally, it reflects the map of Colorado. Jesse actually taught me this, but Colorado is divided into thirds, with the mesas on the west (the reds) the mountains in the middle (blues are rock, white is snow, and green is the trees) and the plains (yellows, greens and browns) on the east.

I decided to name the quilt “Welcome to Colorful Colorado”. It only seemed fitting - a colorful quilt to represent the state’s motto. I used freezer paper and fabric paint to do the label on the back, and a facing finish binding to complete the quilt. 

I gave him his quilt last weekend, and he loved it! He’s so excited to have a quilt all his own.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Baby Quilt

This past year was full of several of my friends having babies. I guess I am at that age where people start to procreate – even though I still don’t feel old enough to take care of another human being!

The fun part of friends having babies (besides the cute babies) is getting to make quilts for them. Baby quilts are the perfect size to make. Anything bigger just seems unmanageable and way too time consuming.

One of my favorites I finished was for my good friend Jenn’s baby girl. Jenn and her husband have a very modern design aesthetic and picked lots of bright colors for the nursery, which made it even more fun to make! I used solids, and free-motion quilting that added a lot of texture. I used this fabric on the back, which helped inspire the quilt too. A lot of people thought it looked like the Trivial Pursuit game piece, or a game spinner – not intentional, but it would be really fun to do game inspired quilts in the future!

I was so excited to see her monthly photos taken on the quilt. Isn’t their baby girl adorable?! She’s even bigger now and almost 7 months old!