Tag Archives: sewing

What I’m into: Holidaze

You know it’s the Christmas season when the kitchen table is covered in fabric and I’m trying not to step on straight pins!


I have my sewing machine out to finish up Eileen’s stocking, which involves quilting Moda Winterberry charms in a coordinating design to hang alongside her brother’s. (Pattern is a riff on this one from Prudent Baby).

The majority of my Instagram feed is either babies, dogs or fabric designers, and when I came across a festive tablesetting project on the fatquartershop feed, I was inspired to make it for my forever friend, Regina:


(I made my own template, but you can purchase them here.)

Regina and I got to meet up at my hometown Breakfast with Santa this past weekend and had to get a special photo with our baby girls.


My mom’s side of the family also celebrated, and this snap captures the feels from our family party:


Emmett’s wearing a Super Why cape my mom sewed for him. Super Why is a PBS superhero with The Power…To..Read! – obviously my favorite super power of all time.


Joe and I brought this New York Times chocolate whiskey cake, which features a half a cup of Irish whiskey and a bunch of coffee and pinch of pepper/clove. It was intoxicating.

I still have some last-minute crafting, so I’m going to cross my fingers the kids keep napping and put MAIDS’ new holiday song, “All About Xmas” on repeat. Softly.

P.S. I’m obsessed with all things Aziz Ansari right now. Joe and I listened to “Modern Romance” on our drive to/from Chicago and we’ve bingewatched “Master of None” and I laughed out loud watching his Madison Square Garden special on Netflix. He’s got this refreshing sincerity and feminism going on in the midst of all that funny.


Filed under Cooking, Getting crafty, What I'm into

Sewathon and then some

This past weekend, Meredith Corporation hosted the American Patchwork & Quilting 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge 24-hour sewathon as part of an effort to make a million pillowcases for charity.


Whenever my mom comes to town, we end up doing some epic crafting, so it was perfect timing to put some of that creative energy towards a good cause. We stopped into the sewathon in the evening and contributed four pillowcases each to the goal. It was a really cool setup (volunteers didn’t need to bring a single thing!) and we learned a brilliant, super-easy roll-it-up pillowcase technique. Watch a how-to video on the APQ site.


It was my first time using a serger and I fell in love. These instructions show you how to make the roll-it-up pillowcase using a regular sewing machine. Even if you couldn’t make it to the sewathon, you can participate in the challenge and whip up some pillowcases for charity. I’m thinking of making some as gifts for the kids in my life, too.

Speaking of kid crafts, after our pillowcases were complete, we worked on a few other projects. I made a fun felt pizza and cherry pie for my niece Norah’s second birthday. I got the idea when I saw that the lights for our closet came in what looked like mini pizza boxes.


I made a felt crust by blanket stitching some plate-sizes pieces of beige felt together for stability, and then just freestyled cutting sauce/toppings and berry filling/lattice topper. I decorated the box to look more like a pizza/pie box than something from the hardware store, and it was good to go. I love when a project that’s been in the back of my mind finally becomes a reality.

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Filed under Getting crafty, I love Des Moines

Stop scrolling

When I’m tired, it’s really easy for me to kill 45 minutes curled up on the couch, tapping away at my phone, re-checking Instagram or Facebook. I wish I had more time to read, or work on projects, and then I realize I do – I just threw away an hour mindlessly scrolling away. I think I’m going to just shut my phone down after 7 or so a couple nights a week to just completely eliminate the itch.

I’m almost finished with “The Most of Nora Ephron,” a collection of news stories, essays, a  novel, a play, screenplay and magazine pieces by the late writer.

The Most Of Nora Ephron

I appreciate her personal, chatty style, and have found it interesting to see how her life experiences recycle throughout her work. Certain themes – food, marriage, divorce, infidelity, Jewishness, etc. run throughout all of the pieces, and certain anecdotes show up multiple times in some form or other.

It’s a brick, but a quick read. It was a good book to bring on our road trip to Saint Louis – short chapters or at least easy spots to leave off and pick up. I’m sad I missed my book club’s discussion, though!

Last night I actually used the sewing machine that I had sitting in a corner of the dining room. It felt good to sew and accomplish something tactile after spending hours at the computer. I mean, these sweet fabrics are hard to resist.


What are your weekend plans? Joe got an invite to a Winefest event where he might meet Lynne Rossetto Kasper! Otherwise, we don’t have much on the docket aside from babysitting and maybe swinging by CelebrAsian.



Filed under Books, Getting crafty, What I'm into

Meditation on stitches

I picked up Anne Lamott’s new essay Stitches: A handbook on meaning, hope and repair when I was at the Drake library yesterday. I’m not currently in the depths of despair, but reading Lamott is sort of like listening to a funky California aunt wax on about the universe/her daily life in a way that’s both humorous and flip and randomly profound. And I’m always up for something that attempts to tackle the existential dread.

The book is one you can finish in the time it takes to bake up a loaf of banana bread, and I was drawn to it because the whole thing basically uses sewing as an analogy for carrying on despite all of the Bad Things that happen in life. I found it to be a little bit long on bobo-ish anecdotes (maybe I’m being unfair because pain is pain whether you come from privilege or not, right?), but there were some good nuggets in there. This was one of my favorite quotes on sewing:

sewingquotebackground quilt image via Stitched in Color 

Sewing gives me such pleasure, because it requires focus and attention and imagination and perseverance. Maybe that’s a bit spiritual. The book’s ethos kind of reminded me of my breakfast table thoughts from awhile back, and of the recent column on the art of presence. Also, Nancy Berns’ TEDxDesMoines talk on Closure, which has more than 13,000 views!

I’m glad I’ve whipped up a few small projects recently. I think it helps my equilibrium. Here are some others I’d love to try:

A quilted kitchen mat seems like a good medium-sized project to tackle

The geranium dress would be cute on some girl babies I know. Maybe a good first garment project? I’d love the Washi dress for me, but I don’t think I’m there yet.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have the patience for a honey pot quilt (in LOVE with the fabrics) but a hexagon mug rug might be more do-able.

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Filed under Books, Getting crafty, Life lessons, What I'm into

Handmade gifts for babies

It’s a bumper crop of babies here in Iowa, with roughly 90 percent of the women (only a slight exaggeration) I know set to give birth in the next few months, or having just named newborns. Exciting!

I’m totally behind on my crafting (sorry new baby nephew Nico!),  but I wanted to share a few things I came up with to celebrate a few of these little ones, and ideas I’ve pinned for future projects. Making something for tiny people is a lot of fun, and I’m improving on my sewing skills although I still don’t love measuring or doing binding.
Project 1: Quilted Baby Sleep Sack

You know what sleep sacks are, right? Somewhere in between a swaddle/straightjacket/blanket. I got it in my head I wanted to make one from scratch, without a pattern, and quilt it. Clearly this was for the first baby in the bunch, because the project was insane.

I made it for little L, Amy’s baby, because I know Amy has a huge appreciation for handmade and it’s her first girl. The finished product isn’t  perfect, but I’m really proud of how I kind of eyeballed the pattern and hand-stitched hearts all over the back and inserted a zipper all by myself. I really need to work on binding, though! Joe made fun of me for bringing my quilting to the I-Cubs games this spring.

Project 2: Handwritten story book

I would say that these are the baby craft I feel most confident about. I purchase an 8×8 album from Michael’s (typically for about $8, after some sale they’re having) and then a bunch of craft paper. I have a giant stash and don’t actually scrapbook, so this is what it all goes toward. I like to write a story starring the baby as a kid, and then I illustrate it with cut-out paper and stickers.

The four books I’ve done for kids so far all have a lesson in them, too. The first was about my friend Bethany’s son, Strummer, going to his first concert (“Strummer Takes the Stage”) and then I did one for my niece, Caroline called “Caroline Bakes a Cake.” Inspired by my friend’s daughter, Pippa, I wrote “Pippa Packs Her Bags,” since she’s half-British and has family overseas. The latest is “Ami & Mari’s Goodness Garden,” to celebrate my friend Theresa’s kids, Amelie and Mariella. (Prettiest names ever, right?)

I really get in the zone with these, and after the story is written, can complete the book in about a day, with paper strewn all around the dining room table. Joe loves it when I craft. Ha.

Project 3: Pinwheel/Nautical Quilt

I’m upping the ante on my quilting difficulty. My mom was in town when I started this project, and she’s been taking some classes, so we opted to try a pinwheel border for the quilt I decided to make for Arin’s little boy. Arin’s dropped some hints that his name has nautical connotations, so I appliqued an anchor in the center. This technique for making pinwheel blocks is awesome and a huge time-saver.

I hand-quilted the center when we were down at the farm over Labor Day from a freestyle design I drew on with pencil. I’m definitely not a perfectionist with my quilting because if I tried to be, I’d probably melt my brain.

Project 4: Eric Carle Brown Bear onsies

I am obsessed with this fabric, which I picked up at the Quilt Block in Valley Junction. I used it to make my first quilt for Caroline when she was born, and I’ve wanted to find a way to use the scraps. So for my friend Megan’s baby, I cut out a couple of the cutest characters and backed them with fusible webbing to make them sturdier.

Then I hand-stitched around them with embroidery floss and did some details on the collar. This was a pretty stress-free craft, and you could easily do an iron-on, no-sew version, too! I paired the onsies with a gift bag full of medicine cabinet must-haves, like a thermometer, Baby Ayr, Baby Powder, etc. that are not the fun things to shop for but really can come in handy. (It’s a practical idea I stole from my friend Sara, who stole it from Darcie, so it has to be brilliant.)

Other ideas I’d love to try:

Tiny shark hoodie!

Busy/quiet books

Dinosaur softie

Baby Toms


Filed under At home

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Admission: My new job keeps me much busier than anticipated. The other thing that’s been keeping me busy? This hunk of burnin’ love:

I used some Christmas money to buy a new machine (60 stitches!) and have been spending some QT with my new Brother on these blizzardly nights. First try, turn cute fabric squares into a festive bunting for new new cube. Ironing and pinning are my least favorite activities, so I propped up the ole’ laptop and used the sewing time to catch up on “Friday Night Lights,” a guilty pleasure addiction of mine. Netflix ‘watch instantly’ is crack.

A few hours later and I had a garland to dress up my drab office space:

Pretty cute perk-up. But this little corner of the world I call home for most of the week will need some more livening up soon.

Then I got to work on curtains I’d been meaning to make for the past few months. I kept it simple and it turned out they’re a few inches shorter than I’d intended (measuring isn’t my strong suit), but they’re better than just the blinds we’ve been living with. AND I MADE THEM!

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