Handmade Holidays underway

Got a little sewing done this weekend. I’m finishing up the binding on baby Erik’s (my gorgeous new nephew) quilt – finished pictures coming soon on that – but here’s a little preview.

Baby Erik's quilt progress

Also made some ornaments for family members. I used the awesome pattern and tutorial by Elsie Marley posted here. Super cute and simple. The best part about her pattern is that she sews the gingerbread man down to a felt rectangle and THEN cuts him out! So much easier that cutting two gingerbread men and sewing them together around the bite marks. Very smart!

Oh no!

And finally, I got to work on a zipper pouch – I needed a gift for a man…hope it’s manly enough! I used this super simple tutorial by terrabytefarm.com posted here. I’ve made quite a few box pouches, and they were all kind of a pain. This tutorial was super easy. The key is that the inside is unfinished. But since I’m not crazy about all those little threads and stuff, I think next time, I’ll add a 1/2 inch to the length on one side when cutting the fabric and do french seams. I also added a handle by jamming a little rectangle of fabric into my corners before I squared them off. I’ll definitely use that tutorial again!

Zipper pouch

Zipper pouch

I also made these pillow cases a few weeks ago for some ugly leather pillows we have. It’s funny, now we use those pillows all the time – it seems like someone is always putting one behind their back. I swear no one ever used them before. So that makes me happy!

Some new pillows for the tv room

holiday spirit

I’m working hard on Christmas gifts. I’m trying to avoid the last minute purchasing spree because all the crafts I had planned never got made. So, so far, I’ve completed two quilt tops, one back and binding – ready to be sandwiched, one waiting to be ironed.

I’ve also finished cloth napkins for everyone. These are about 8″ x 10″ – one fat quarter makes two. I’ve got enough here for six different families :) This is one part of my “green” Christmas, where everyone gets a reusable grocery bag and cloth napkins. And maybe something else – but I haven’t decided what yet. Any ideas? Here are my napkins:

cloth napkins

Thanks to Unspeakable Visions for providing this fun naughty and nice list for planning gifts. I love it! Also, thanks to the Handmade Holiday 2008 group on flickr for keeping me honest and inspired. I do still plan to give a few Oxfam gifts this year though – if you haven’t been on Oxfam America Unwrapped, you should check it out. Lots of great gift ideas – especially for people who have everything!

Just a note about those cloth napkins. I instituted them at my own house about six months ago, and I thought they might be a pain, but actually, they’re awesome. First of all, I love to use them – they get softer and softer with each wash because they’re made of good quilting cotton. Second, they make me feel fancy, even when I’m eating ramen. Third, we have been using the same roll of paper towels for about 4 months now – and it’s still over half full! When they’re dirty, I set them on the washing machine, and they just get thrown in with whatever load I’m doing. If they get too stained with spaghetti sauce or whatever, I’ll just make some new ones, but so far, they are perfect. I highly recommend them for everyone! Reduce – Reuse – Recycle!

just around the corner

I joined a “handmade holiday” group on flickr, to motivate me to finish all my holiday gifts this year, rather than not finishing any of them, and ending up buying a bunch of gifts right before Christmas. I’m not doing that great this year either. It’s already Sept, basically, and I’m still in the idea phase. I have been buying lots of fabric in preparation for the things I’m GOING to make, but it’s not the same as making them, now is it?

Plus, I need to plan a few Thanksgiving gifts first anyway. I have some patterns for table runners that I think are so adorable, and would be perfect for my step-mom. She changes her table decorations for each holiday, so she’s the one person who could actually use seasonal table runners and place mats. I love making these small projects. Plus, I’d love to make some cute little felt napkin rings with leaves or turkeys or pilgrim shoes. Since everyone is getting cloth napkins for Christmas (which I’ve yet to make), they’re going to need napkin rings, right?

I also have some super cute panel fabric to make trick-or-treat bags for Halloween. My nieces just moved here from Germany, so that panel I bought that makes 3 bags is now perfect for my 2 nieces and my son. I just have to GET SEWING.

Finally, there’s Christmas. I have the 3 quilts kits that I bought for gifts for last year, still neatly tied in their piles in my fabric bins. One is the cutest fleece with hot cocoa cups all over. I’d really like to make that one. Plus, I got special fabric for small quilts for my nieces and nephews.

Basically, I need to get off this macbook and get sewing. Today. See ya.

ahhh, family

As I’m sure is true with many of you, these last two weeks have been a whirlwind of family. Mother-in-law in from Paris, my brother-in-law’s wife and two kids (that he’s been “separated” from for the past year) in from Germany. Trips back and forth between my sister-in-law’s house. Hotel stays on Christmas night. It’s been a lot.

I started back to work today, and I really feel unprepared. My brother-in-law’s family is still here for a few more days and they’ll be staying with us for the weekend. I don’t know how I’m going to do my work-from-home job and entertain these people.

I’m sure it will be fine.

Anyway, I got the most beautiful key chain for Christmas from my friend Megan. It’s AWESOME, but sadly, I keep forgetting to call her and tell her it was my most treasured gift! I got lots and lots of awesome gifts. And most of my handmade gifts went over really well. I know for sure that two of the scarves were big hits and are getting lots of wear.

No strange gifts this year – like the time I got equestrian riding apparel. (I don’t ride.) Although, my mother-in-law did give me two identical shirts – one of which I’m positive was intended for my sister-in-law. When I asked her about it, she said when she finds something she likes, she buys two, but I know the truth. I’ll make sure my sister-in-law gets it. We can wear them on the same day :)

Hope everyone’s holiday was full of joy and that you’re now able to put your feet up and rest for 11 more months!

better than cash

I’m always on the lookout for unique gifts. As I’m sure you are. This year, I’m making most of our gifts (sewing) and most family members are getting a photo book off of snapfish. But this new photo gift card might just be my favorite gift yet. Next to Oxfam Unwrapped, of course.

GiftCardLab lets you create custom Visa gift cards with your picture on them! How cool is that? So in addition to the custom stamps I want to order with my sweet kid’s face on them, the photo books I’m having made with my sweet kid’s face, now I can also send a Visa gift card with my sweet kid’s face! It’s like a dream!

Seriously, I love this idea. So much better than cash.

I guess you can also upload custom artwork instead of photos. How cool is that? I really really love this idea.

Sustainable Christmas

Trying to live green? I know we are, and it’s not always easy. I’ve been looking for some different ideas and best practices, and here are a few ideas:

Reuse wrapping paper, gift boxes and gift bags. If the paper is too wrinkled, use it as packing material to pad your presents. Doesn’t that sound festive? Use other things for wrapping paper – like newspaper or fabric. Ask department stores for their gift boxes, and then don’t wrap them at all. Have your kids color on them. Or cover them with Christmas stamps (like rubber stamps) or stickers.

I have this big coloring/painting pad that my almost-two year old colors in. I tear out the used pages and use them as wrapping paper. Let’s face it, he’s really just scribbling, so I’m not going to save every sheet in a scrapbook, and this is a nice treat for the grandparents.

The biggest point here is to try to reuse anything you can, and to be sure to recycle any paper products you receive.

This year, save the holiday cards you receive, and then cut their covers off, and reattach them to cardstock to make your own cards. You could get really creative here by cutting out specific shapes or words and attaching them to the cardstock with dimension dot stickers, paint on them, add glitter, etc. I think that would be a fun project for kids.

I read an article on treehugger.com about how plastic Christmas trees can be harmful because they are generally made of some sort of plastic that is dangerous and harmful to create, and they leach toxins after a while. They recommend getting live trees from sustainable growers.

Finally, there are new options for Christmas lights available. LED Christmas lights use 80-90% less energy than incandescent lights and can be reused year after year. They really should be a part of any sustainable holiday celebration. Now, you can find LED Christmas tree lights, Warm white LED Christmas lights and Outdoor LED Christmas lights.

We can all reduce our carbon footprint a little. The holidays are a great time to start. For more ideas, check out this article:9 Things You Can Do to Make Your Holiday Greener.

Fall Schmall

cat pumpkinI love Fall. It’s getting cooler, my football team made an appearance on ESPN2 last weekend, and the deli always has fresh pumpkin pies. But sadly, when I start seeing bags of Halloween candy and pumpkins, my “it’s almost Christmas” panic starts to set in.

As you may recall, I went on quite the spending spree purchasing fabric in preparation for Christmas. Now, I have a million gifts to make, with the days just dropping off the calendar like fur off my cats (which falls off fast and often – in case that analogy was confusing.)

Oh, I have lots of christmas gift ideas, but do I have the time to execute those plans? We shall see. But regardless, I better get off this blog, and haul out the sewing machine. See ya later. Go Knights!