Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Michaels Haul

Some of the blogs I follow (The Halloween Tree, Old Fashion Halloween, and Vintage Halloween Collector) eagerly alerted me to the fact that Michaels has begun to put out their Halloween decorations.  (For those of you that don't know, Michaels is an arts & crafts store in the US & Canada.)  I had errands to run today anyway, so I figured a quick stopover couldn't hurt.

My first stop was the JoAnn's that's practically across the street from my house.  While they keep out their leftover Halloween fabric year-round, they only recently got their new shipment of fabric for the season.  There are some fun new fabrics, such as this purple one, but I particularly love this poison fabric.  It would make a fun tablecloth for a Halloween party, but knowing me, it will likely end up as a dress.  Sadly, my store doesn't have that in stock.

I had stopped in a few weeks ago and noticed they already had out their Thanksgiving decor out, but no Halloween.  I was certain that it would be out by now, but they still had nothing.  I asked a clerk and he said he didn't now.  He asked a manager and was answered with a shrug and a vague "soon."

Though I went to Michaels next, I will save that trip for last.  Third on the list was Hancock Fabrics.  I have only been to the one nearby my house, and I must say that I am not impressed by it.  It's mostly the poor service that gets to me, so I usually only drop in when JoAnn's is closed, JoAnn's doesn't have what I need (and I need it immediately), or to peruse their Halloween items.  They also had out their Halloween fabrics.  Some were nice, but not nice enough that I wanted to buy them at full price, so I skipped on them.  They did have out some minimal Halloween decorations, which is a good sign.  Service was much improved this time around, so I might stop in later in the season when prices are cheaper.

My final stop was Target.  When I finally found a clerk (after almost approaching two customers because they were wearing bright red shirts with khakis - oops!), I was given an apathetic "Uh...  Maybe mid-September?", which seems to be pushing it a little close.

Back to Michaels.  As I approached the store, I saw a bin of crafting pumpkins outside the store entrance, which I (correctly) interpreted to be a good sign.  I opened the door and was immediately welcomed into a store festooned in black and orange, with beautiful accents of green and purple.  I do not exaggerated when I say that I felt like I had come home.

I wish I had thought to take pictures at the time; a full single aisle full of decorations, plus numerous endcaps and several bins had so much variety of spooky goodness!  I had a hard time limiting myself to these items, but make no mistake; there will be many trips in the coming weeks.

These books are so cute!  Last year I decorated the organ in my living room with actual novels (Dracula, the works of Poe, etc).  While I knew they were there (as I was the one who arranged them just so), I don't think they stood out enough for my guests to realize their appropriately spooky nature.  These are festively distressed and easy to read, so I think they will be perfect for the organ.  And, if not, I will arrange them on the coffee table.

I plan on using those flasks in the kitchen, nestled among the Halloween foods.  I was a little (pleasantly) surprised at Michaels' variety of poison/witchy flasks.  I will likely purchase more in the coming time.  As for the tombstones, I do not have a particular plan in mind for them.  I might just take them to work to decorate my desk.  But regardless, they will be used.

I cannot express how excited I am for the coming season.  I have already started to plan the menu for my Halloween party and arrange games.  (Along with a fun little contest for the blog, if things pan out.)  Of course, I still don't have a costume picked.  Drat.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Halloween Is in the Air!

This isn't sewing-related, but I thought readers might appreciate a change from the baby stuff (which is over until the next relative or friend is expecting).

I was picking tomatoes in the garden this afternoon when I noticed this little gal nestled among my tomato cages.  I have only successfully grown a pumpkin once, but I keep planting, year after year, hoping this will be the time that I am triumphant.

I will definitely have to do something about the slugs though.  Beer traps or something of the sort.  They are usually what kills my baby pumpkins. :(

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It's a Jungle out There: Part II

Two weeks ago, I left you with the finished top for the quilt I am making for my upcoming nephew, made in Patty Reed's Jungle Babies.  Last week, instead of finishing it, as I should have, I just cut out the binding.  I put in a long day in the sewing room yesterday and finally finished it.

I am a big believer in doing things my own way.  When I first started quilting (receiving no formal instructions), it never occurred to me to use a plain colored fabric for the quilt backing or binding.  It just seemed to me that you chose a fabric that matched the front.  I also never thought to use invisible thread (or plain white) - I thought you'd use a thread that compliments that fabric.  What can I say; I don't think like a normal person.  Thus, I used the Jungle Babies Patch fabric for the back, another for the binding, with green and brown thread for the quilting.

One thing I always do with my quilts is use cotton batting. While polyester has the benefit of not shrinking, the cotton will shrink with the fabric. I also prefer natural fibers; both because they're easier on the skin (IMHO), but trimmed batting can go int the compost (where all my natural fabric scraps go). Has anyone ever tried bamboo batting?

Lydia update: she now weighs 4.5 lbs (slightly more than 2 kg), doubling the weight she was when we got her nearly two months ago.
All of quilts go through a rigorous cat-approval process.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pac-Man Fever

I fully intended to post part II of It's a Jungle out There, but I haven't finished it yet.  I have made progress on it - I cut the binding today - but it hasn't been quilted yet.  Too much stuff came up this week: late nights at work, an unexpected trip to the vet, running errands, etc.  And then yesterday I just wanted to unwind from all that, which consisted of a a nice picnic with some friends and then eating brownies while watching MST3K.  So instead, I have another edition of It Came from My Closet! (though, in truth, this comes from my husband's closet).

He should know better by now than to dare me into sewing him something, because I will respond with something like "okay, what color do you want that in?"

When he jokingly asked me for Pac-Man PJs, I went to eBay on my fabric search.  This was before the Geeks Gone Wild Pac-Man fabric was released, and I found nothing that fit the bill.  This left me with the choice of either buying something custom from Spoonflower or the like, embroidering fabric with my machine, or doing appliqués.  I didn't think embroidery would stand up all that well to the stress of PJs, and he told me straight up not to spend a lot of money, so Spoonflower was out.  Appliqués it was.

While I might have skill with a needle and thread, I am not the world's best artist.  I know some people can free-hand their custom appliqués, but I am not one of them.  I did the designs on paper and then pinned them on the fabric as patterns.  For the things that were circular in nature (Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, pellets, etc), I traced whatever was round and of appropriate size.  I think the big Pac-Man on the chest might have been the lid from a pot and the eyes were from a candle snuffer.

Pretty much everything else was much tougher, and I made multiple patterns before I settled on one that I liked.  I think the damn banana (top picture, bottom right leg, which you can barely see) gave me the most trouble (which is probably why it is on the bottom on the pajama leg).

The final touch was putting Pac-Man and Ms Pac-Man smooching on the butt area.  I thought this was hilarious, but apparently some people don't share my sense of humor.

Overall, I am happy with how these pajamas turned out.  It was a lot of work, and I wouldn't have done it for anyone else except him. :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's a Jungle out There: Part I

This post is neither spooky nor nerdy.  You have been warned.

I have a very large family; counting the steps and halves, there are eleven children.  Throw in my cousins and friends, and it seems like I'm making a baby quilt every few months.  This one is for one of my step-brothers, who is expecting (along with his fiancée, of course) a boy next month.

And it seems like they're usually quilts featuring baby jungle animals; this is the fifth I've made in four years.  I'm not sure why this theme is so popular, but it's okay - it means there are a lot of different fabrics to chose from.  I chose Patty Reed's Jungle Babies for this go.  It's available from a number of different retailers, including and JoAnn's.

I have a love-hate relationship with quilting. While I do enjoy the designing and piecing, I don't particularly care for the actual quilting.  I don't do elaborate designs, because I get frustrated by them, and I don't do large quilts, because I get bored before I'm done.  Therefore, a patchwork baby quilt just right for a weekend project.

I was planning on finishing the whole thing this weekend, but it was ridiculously hot here.  Quilting in the heat is not fun.  Even just piecing the top today (which was about ten degrees cooler than yesterday) was unpleasant.  I will finish this off sometime this week, hopefully.

This is my first experience with a quilting panel (the large piece in the middle).  I have never run across one that I particularly cared for, but as I said, this is the fifth baby animals quilt, so I wanted to introduce some variety.  It took some meddling to get everything to align correctly with the panel, but it wasn't too bad.

My apologies for the weird angle of the picture; I had to place it on the living room floor and photograph it from stairs.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Have Too Many Patterns

I have many patterns.  Boxes and boxes of them.  I'm sure this surprises no one.  Whenever new patterns are released, I cackle and immediately take note of anything I'd like to make.  I had been using a note-taking app on my phone to keep track of what I'd like to buy, but I'm still piqued by the pattern catalogues at the store.  This is the problem.

Because I spend so much time perusing the patterns online, I have a hard time remembered what I have and have not purchased.  If I have sewn a pattern, especially for myself, I can usually recall, but that is not always the case for something I haven't made yet.  As such, I've ended up with a couple of duplicates in my collection.

Knowing something had to be done, I turned to Google Documents.  Any sort of records for my patterns had to be accessible from my computers and my phone, so their spreadsheets were ideal for this task.  I created six: Butterick, McCall's, New Look, Simplicity, Patterns to Purchase, and Other (which includes Burda, Laughing Moon, Vogue, etc).  Each has four columns: pattern number, description, the fabric I made it in (blank if I hadn't sewn it yet), and notes.

While this makes me feel a little anal retentive, I feel accomplished that I managed to organize them and there will hopefully be no more mistakes.

Can you guess what I did to celebrate?  I bought more patterns!