Thursday, 9 October 2014

Finally, crafting again!

So I promise I haven't disappeared forever. My little Button, who is now almost 11 weeks old (how time flies!) flat out refuses to nap, or sleep in any fashion, unless he is on my lap or next to me on the bed. Needless to say, this limits my crafting ability somewhat.

Button napping in my lap <3

I have some projects lined up, the main one being a picnic blanket for next spring for us to play on with Button. I was just really turned off by all the boring options out there, so hopefully will have more on that soon. 

My current project is a knitted one, as it's something I can do with limited arm movement, and usually even when the baby is napping with his head resting on one arm. So my first project after the hiatus is a froggy jumper! I got the pattern out of the Rowan Summer Baby book, but it's a jumper, so I figure fine for winter too :)

Here's the back of the jumper all done. Next up, the front and froggy! :D

And Button just woke up. To be continued!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Life with baby!

I promise I haven't disappeared forever, really!

Things here are going well. Button is 6 weeks old now, and we are slowly (very slowly!) learning how to juggle life and a baby, all in the midst of moving house! So we are currently living amidst a mess of boxes and craziness, because unpacking has to be done around nappy changing and feedings and burpings!

It's hectic, but this little face makes it worth it :)

I can't wait to get back into some crafting again, but first I have to find the boxes containing my things, and also find a way to put the baby down once in awhile. Button is not a fan of laying in the moses basket for more than a few minutes at a time, so I am learning how to do everything with a baby in one arm or the other. It is so tiring! Also it's surprising how heavy a 9ish pound baby can seem after carrying him around all day. Hopefully when he learns to grasp and play with things he'll be able to amuse himself for a bit longer so I can return to being somewhat productive, but at the moment he seems to only be happy in my arms!

As a side note, those burp cloths I made? SO useful! I wish I had made more than 5, because I use them so much. They are extremely useful for tucking into my bra when I'm feeding to avoid getting milk all over my shirt, and for slinging over my shoulder while I'm burping Button, and even for laying down under Button's head so that when he spits up in his moses basket (the few times he's tolerated being in it!) it gets absorbed and the mattress stays clean! I definitely recommend them as a baby shower gift (or just for yourself).

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Button Arrives!

We have a baby! Button arrived on July 25, weighing in at a healthy 7lbs 2oz. He is gorgeous and perfect in every way!

Little Button!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sheep and Chevrons Car Seat Cover

So today I decided to FINALLY check out the fabric store that is (sort of) nearby. I trekked across Sheffield, which was a pain because of roadworks and a main road being closed and I had a bit of trouble getting around it, but eventually I made my way to Patchwork Garden. It's a really cute little store. Not really on the scale of fabric stores in the US in terms of quantity, but they had a lot of really cute fabrics and a decent amount of choice for how small the store was.

So I found some pretty cute fabric with little sheep on it, and a sort of matching stripey fabric. I didn't really have a particular project in mind when I went into the store but I had a quick look on Pinterest before setting out and decided this fabric would look cute as a car seat cover or a light quilt or something similar. So I got 1 1/2 metres of each fabric, so I'd hopefully have some extra depending on what I wanted to do with it.

So when I got home I eventually decided a car seat cover was a good project, and was something a bit different and would require a bit more engineering than just a standard quilt. I found a pattern on CraftStylish via Pinterest, and used this as a rough guide for measurements, but mostly I worked the size and everything myself, because I wanted a bit more of an intricate design.

My inspiration.

I decided to do a chevron pattern, so sketched out a rough estimate of how many triangles I'd need and the rough sizes, and decided on 6.5" squares to make 6" HSTs, to make an eventual cover that was 36 x 42" (6 x 7 HST squares).

The cute fabric cut into squares! Sheeps!

After cutting out squares, I used a fabric pen to mark cross corners of all of my gray squares. You can try eyeballing this if you prefer while you're sewing, but I don't trust myself to do that because I am a bit of a speed demon and tend to make mistakes that way.

Next I used one of my favourite techniques - chain piecing. I'm not actually sure if this is the proper name for it, but if you're doing something really repetitive like making a gazillion half square triangles, it speeds things up considerably, and also saves on thread waste as well.

Chain piecing in progress.

To chain piece, basically just don't break the thread in between pieces and keep on going. I sewed 1/4" to each side of the marked line. You can break the pieces after doing the first chain of seams, or if you're impatient like me you can keep them all chained up and just flip the chain around to sew the second side.

After sewing both sides, cut down the marked line, and press open - voila, a million HST squares!

Lots of squares! I did these all randomly, but if you have a directional fabric that you want to all be in the same direction, you'll have to do a bit more planning.

The next part I did a little bit oddly, and again this is sort of how you like to put things together, but I like to put bigger pieces together, so I basically just sewed all the squares together in pairs. I alternated them just to make sure I'd have them in the right configuration, but in hindsight I'm pretty sure this wasn't necessary.

The makings of chevrons!

I'll spare you the boring details, but basically I lined these bits up and sewed them into the top of the cover. I then pieced together the back using scraps, because I (once again) cut more squares than I needed. Sew the top and bottom right sides together, curving the corners if you want, leaving a space to turn. I then edge stitched the top all the way around, and lightly quilted along the chevrons just to keep the layers of the top from coming apart. You can embellish with rickrack or binding or whatever, but I just kept it simple. There are also some versions that have flaps to open the cover, but I like the idea of using this as a kind of light quilt or nursing cover or something as well, so I kept it as is.

I then pieced together some scraps for the handles, measured out where I wanted them - it turned out they were going in the exact centre of the top to fit my car seat, but if you have a particular car seat I'd advise measuring it to make sure it works for yours.

The inspiration used velcro, but as I couldn't find any non sticky velcro, I opted for buttons (also, buttons for Button - yay!). I had a bit of trouble with the buttonhole function of my sewing machine, so I practiced on some scraps beforehand, and used this tutorial which was quite helpful, and eventually I got 3 buttonholes on each strap.

I didn't take any pictures of this process, because my phone battery died, but basically the procedure in the tutorial on CraftStylish is pretty good, you may just have to alter the measurements slightly for your exact needs and how you want your cover to hang.

A finished car seat cover!

I think it's a little bit big, cause the edges are touching the ground, so if I made it again I might take off one row of squares from the length and then add a small border to get a better size, but overall I think it turned out pretty well. It's not got any batting in between the layers, so it's really lightweight, and I think it'll be useful for keeping Button asleep while we're out and about, and keeping the sun off him as well. Plus it will be useful for deterring random people from disturbing him while he's napping!

Still no signs of Button's arrival yet, although I've been feeling more and more intense Braxton Hicks contractions, so hopefully that's a sign things are moving along. This hot weather is killing me though! I can't believe I used to survive American summers, because it's only like 24 C (75 F) here and I'm dying! Granted we had air-conditioning pretty much everywhere in the US, so whenever I was inside I'd have sweatshirts on throughout the whole summer.

Despite no baby yet, A and I have decided to move back to Edinburgh to be nearer to family, which will be really nice once Button is here. Originally we were going to stay in England, because I absolutely love my job, but being on maternity leave so far from family and friends was a bit of a bleak prospect, and various things occurring at once that make it the ideal time to move back. Despite the sadness of leaving my coworkers here that have been so amazing and supportive, and leaving some of my clients and their pets that I've grown to love, I am extremely excited to move back to the greatest and most beautiful city in the world, and hopefully get back some semblance of a social life as well! It's all happening in the next month!

Cross your fingers Button arrives soon! :)

Friday, 18 July 2014

Finish it Up Friday! - Lattices & Lilies

Finally got my thread delivered, so managed to finish off the quilting of my Lattices and Lilies quilt!

I'm quite happy with how it turned out!

I decided to do something a bit different with the quilting here, because I didn't think an all over pattern would show off the lattice quite as nicely, so I decided to do a scrawly loopy freehand in each 'window' and then just a series of straight lines on the lattices and borders.

Quilt back.

I think the back needed this more intricate design to fill all the empty space. I was a little worried that it would look weird since the patchwork detail wouldn't match up, but aside from it being slightly closer to one side than the other, I think it worked out quite well!

Detail of the 'window' portion. It actually looks quite nice, despite being completely random.

Detail of the corner area with the borders.

So there you have it, another quilt done! I was originally going to sell this one, but I'm not sure I can part with it now. Also I'm not sure it's really perfect enough to sell, but maybe that's just me making excuses :P

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Fannie Farmer's Griddlecakes

I thought I'd share one of my favourite recipes with you for griddlecakes (a.k.a. pancakes!). My mother used to make these for us all the time, and I have a recipe card she copied in her handwriting, which is really special to me, and I love being able to have that little connection with her every time I make these for myself and A (and Button in the future!).

This recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks that we had growing up, which was made even more awesome by the fact that when I was little the name provided endless amusement and giggling.

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook! I wish I still had this cookbook, but alas it remains in the USA (and possibly is no more, I have no idea what happened to all the cookbooks!)

Fannie Farmer's Griddlecakes (Makes approx 6 pancakes about 6" diameter)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup (125g) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

1. Beat or whisk 1/2 cup of the milk, butter and eggs.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, and add to first mixture, being careful to mix only until smooth and not overmix. Add the rest of the milk if mixture is too thick.

For a proper American pancake you want the mixture to be fairly thick so it doesn't spread out too much in the pan. You want it to coat the back of the spoon and 'plop' off rather than being runny. This is why I add only part of the milk first, as I've found that depending on the moisture in the air and various other things it seems to require slightly different milk amounts every time I make them.

3. Heat a griddle or frying pan on low/med heat and lightly butter or spray with cooking spray.

4. Pour about 1/4-1/3 cup of batter onto the pan, depending on your desired pancake size.

This is how the batter should kind of stay relatively compact in the pan, otherwise it'll be too thin.

5. When pancake is beginning to bubble on the top (about 2-3 minutes), flip over. Underside should be golden brown.

This one ended up a tiny bit overdone on the bottom, (I find the first pancake is always a bit of a tester anyway), so adjust the heat as necessary. For some insight, I started my heat off about 5/10 and ended up with it at 4/10, but it will definitely depend on your hob top (ours is induction). Electric ones are really more finicky and slower to change, so start them off really low.

6. Serve with maple syrup.

Sadly we only had a tiny amount of maple syrup left, so I added a bit of my leftover melted butter. Normally I'd just put a little bit of butter or margarine on each pancake.

You can also add fruit or other things to the batter just before cooking (my favourites are blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips, raspberries, blackberries or chopped up strawberries).

So there you have it. Fannie Farmer's Griddlecakes!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Scrap-Buster Project #2 - Burp Cloths!

My recent absence has not been because I've had Button (I wish!), it's only been because I ran out of thread while working on my lattices quilt, and the store hasn't re-stocked the right colour yet since I cleaned them out last week, so I've been trying to come up with some new projects, but I'm really bad at committing, especially when I don't have that much of a fabric stash to play with.

Fancy burp cloths!

So today's project happened because I'd gone to get lots of nursing shirts at the local Mothercare and Kiddicare, and I happened to find some terrycloth nappies on sale, so I got a bunch because I'd seen some examples of burp cloths on Pinterest that looked really easy and fun. You can also probably use just a cheap bath towel or pre-fold nappies, or the Mio Bambino nappy inserts would probably be great too (and much less messy to work with!), but probably more expensive. So depends what you like and what you want the finished product to look like.

I didn't really use a pattern for this, so I'll just go through what I did. The finished size of my burp cloths were dictated mostly by my scrap sizes and by the size of the terrycloth nappies, but they're roughly about 7 x 20.5".

1. Cut out your fabric in 7.5 x 21" rectangles (or desired final size plus about 0.5" on each side for seam allowances). 

I used 2 terrycloth layers because I felt that just one layer wasn't thick enough, but I wasn't sure how my machine would handle 3 layers, so I decided to go for 2. If you like a thinner thickness, by all means layer them how you will. If you do decide to use more than one layer, as I did, I'd recommend sewing them together around the edges first, as otherwise the layers tend to move around and everything ends up squint.

2. With RIGHT sides together, pin your fabric to your terrycloth and trace the curved edges (I used the top of an ice cream container as my guide). 

I traced out the full shape in that picture because due to my lack of rotary cutter my pieces were by no means straight edged.

3. Sew around your tracings, making sure to leave a gap for turning, and then cut off the excess fabric.

I like to use pinking shears for cutting as I think it reduces fraying and excess bulk. However, be warned that if you're using terrycloth, you will get terrycloth 'droppings' EVERYWHERE. I was literally covered in tiny white bits of terrycloth after this. I need a decontamination zone between my crafting area and the rest of the house. Sorry husband dearest! :P

4. Turn burp cloth right side out, iron, and fold in the seam where the gap was, and then edge stitch around the whole thing.

5. Fold cloths into thirds, and sew 2 straight lines to divide it lengthwise into thirds. This makes it easier to fold the cloths, and also helps keep the layers in the right place.

There you have it! Easy as pie! I cranked out 5 of these in about 2 hours. It's really easy and requires minimal sewing skills. They'd make great baby shower gifts. You can also embellish them with ribbon or embroidery or appliqué or other things if you like, but these are just for me, so they're not perfect, they're a little wonky in places, and they're fairly plain. I have lots of leftover terrycloth, so I might make some more and try to fancy them up a bit, but we'll see if I can find some other creative uses for them first!

A stack of finished burp cloths! Tie together with some matching ribbon for a nice gift!