June 30, 2008

To Progress or Not To Progress

On Friday, I thought it was Monday. Today I feel like it's Sunday. I don't know what's going on other than that I've been very busy. I've delivered the first 3 Hawaiian shirts I've been working on. I made 4 new zipper pouches for this past week's markets and now have two left that I can list in my shop.

I made this new little messenger bag last week and added it to the shop last night. I've been thinking about a small messenger for a while. I'll adjust the measurements slightly before I make it again. It was fun to finally use some of this great fabric. Yes, it will be a pattern at some point.

My hands are still feeling pretty bad, but I'm trying to take lots of breaks to prevent as much pain as possible. I can barely crochet at all now so new monkeys will be few and far between for a while. This makes me really sad...really. But my wrists start to hurt as soon as I pick up the hook. I think that's my body telling me something so I've decided to listen as much as possible. Not being a person who can sit still, this is proving very difficult.

June 29, 2008

I heart Circa Ceramics and My Husband

I've been admiring the work of Circa Ceramics as long as I've been a member of Etsy. So, when I had to come up with gifts for the male side of my wedding party, I finally got a chance to make a purchase!

I have to tell you how impressed I was with Nancy & Andy. They were so helpful and willing when I said I needed a sailboat on one of my cups, something they didn't have available. At the last minute I added a cow and a California Highway Patrol car. No problem. I was just so pleased and when the box came in plenty of time I was really excited. They even put a special message on the bottom of each cup from Nick & I. These cups made great gifts and I was jealous of our friends who would be receiving them. (I got one for Nick too, that's his with the mini.)

Well, there's more. Nancy & Andy offered to make a cup especially for me as a wedding gift and even let me choose the design & color. Naturally I chose a sewing machine on a light green cup.

Apparently my wonderful new husband had the same idea. He signed up on Etsy, contacted Circa Ceramics and asked if they'd make me a cup with a sewing machine! Can you believe that? They told him they'd already promised one to me and offered to put a message on it from Nick. How nice is that? Well, I wasn't expecting that at all when I opened my cup this week.

Now we have his & hers Circa Ceramics cups and mine even has a super secret and lovable message from Nick. It's great to know there are still nice people out there, eh? And great ceramics too.

p.s. Nancy & Andy also enclosed a very nice card made by the lovely littlepretty

June 24, 2008

The Aftermath

This weekend, though we had friends in town (more on that later), Nick and I managed to get a few things done. We had a very large and broken TV sitting behind the couch (for a year) - that's been recycled. There were two large piles for the Goodwill - delivered to the donation bin. The last big project on my list started here:

Yes, it all started with my recent wedding. Gifts started rolling in back in February or March, sometimes every day! There weren't many at the wedding, most were delivered. This left me with quite a lot of box recycling and worst of all - MASSES of packing peanuts. It took weeks to get them consolidated into 3 gigantic boxes. Those boxes have been sitting in the living room since before the wedding. Well, the solution came to me via a customer. She came by to pick up her order and suggested giving those peanuts to a shipping store. I just about lost my mind with excitement, and it's exactly what I did.

I called my local Mailboxes Etc. & asked the dude (he was a total "dude") on the phone if I could donate packing peanuts and he replied, "yep". So now that's done too. My living room is now twice the size and I can sleep at night knowing I didn't throw away 8 tons of polystyrene. Sweet!

Other places that might help keep packing materials out of the landfill:
-The UPS Store
-More info on recycling polystyrene packing material - including the bulky stuff.

June 20, 2008

Your Opinion Please

I'm working on some more sewing patterns to add to the shop and I need your help. Which one should I finish first?

The handy dandy shopper tote with interior pocket?

Or 5 variations of the ever-popular tissue cozy?

Tell me which one to complete first. I'll be working on these this weekend, though I've got some top secret plans already. More on that later. Right now I have to get ready for another trip to the city to meet up with Christina! How cool is that?

Well, it's unanimous, the Shopper Tote wins! I'm working on the pattern now. It's coming along very slowly as I can spend very little time on the computer at the moment.

Update #2 - The Shopper Tote is now available in my shop!

June 19, 2008

Lonely little monkeys

My poor little monkey friends have been feeling left out lately so I decided to give you a peek at what they've been up to. This morning I introduced Monkey Travel Club Greetings into my Etsy shop. This is the first of many travel note cards that will be available...

I've got several London cards and some California ones too. We'll see how well they do before I get crazy making more. haha

And last week I added the new monkey pendant/charm to the shop.

This is what it looks like when worn as a necklace. I think they're pretty cute, but I'm kind of partial I guess. Anyway, stop in & see these new guys if you like. There's a new striped coffee cozy too if you're feeling patriotic, you might like Sam.

June 16, 2008

Road Trip!

I can't believe it's been a week since I blogged! Oh my gosh, I hope you're still here. Sorry about that. I've been suffering from overuse this past week. Meaning, my hands and arms are in a lot of pain and I haven't been able to be on the computer or craft much. I haven't crocheted at all. :( I'm still taking it easy, but I had to check in with you.
I had a really bad farmer's market on Thursday - probably the heat - so Friday I decided to go for a little outing. I can't bear to sit still so I thought it would be a good way to pass some time while I rest my hands.
I started out in Santa Rosa, about 35 miles north of me. I found a couple of fabric shops in my Quilter's Travel Companion that I haven't visited yet. The first shop is called Material Girl. I really liked this shop. It's not huge, but they have an excellent selection. Quite a good mix, not too vintage and not too trendy. Just a bit of everything, which is what I like in a fabric shop. They also had some great vintage aprons and melamine dishes around the shop. I love that kind of stuff, and I love that linoleum floor!
My mission was to find some fabric to make a more trendy version of my Diana Handbag to photograph for the pattern listing. I want to appeal to a broader audience with my patterns, so trendy is a must. My stuff tends to be a little too pretty. I went for a Heather Ross print for the main part of the bag and some coordinating dots & a vintage inspired floral for the rest. I spent a little time cutting out the bag yesterday, but that's about all I could manage with my rubbish hands.
I also visited Beverly's while I was in Santa Rosa. It's more like a JoAnn type store but with more crafty stuff. They do coupons, so I had to stop in & see what I could get. I picked up some new monkeys and a great fabric from the Ginger Blossom collection by Sandi Henderson. I have to say, I'm falling more and more in love with those Ginger Blossom prints. I'm coveting this one right now. It was all I could do to leave it behind in the store. I so don't need more fabric right now. Don't even mention Sandi's new collection, Farmer's Market. Stop it!!
Next, I headed east to Sonoma to see another little quilt shop. It was the cutest little place, set up in an old home off the main road downtown. The Quilted Cottage was very sweet. I love fabric shops in houses. Such a perfect setting. I didn't buy anything, nor do I have pictures, but it was very sweet and worth stopping in if you're in Sonoma. This is a great time of year to drive through wine country, all the grapevines are covered in leaves. I'm so glad I got myself out of the house for the day!

This was a great little sweet shop with lots of vintage glasses, aprons & other wonderful treasures.

June 07, 2008

Reporting Back

I know you're all dying to know where I ended up going yesterday. We didn't make it to the fabric shop (not that it's a bad thing), but we did do some other fun things...

I picked up 3 new Japanese inspirational craft books at Kinokuniya .

Here's a peek inside one of them.

We also went to a great art store where I picked up a few things for a monkey project I'm working on.

And before I went out, I tried out one of my bias tape makers. I've had them sitting in the closet for months! Why, oh why have I not used these before? What a great sewing tool this is. I used my 1" bias tape maker to make the ties and some bias binding for this little drawstring bag I whipped up for my friend Amanda's birthday. No plan, no pattern, I just went for it. I'm fairly pleased with the result, and Amanda was too. Sorry the picture is so rubbish, but I was running out the door.

And now it's the weekend! Where do I begin?

June 06, 2008

Off to the City

Today is our friend Amanda's birthday, so I'm headed for the city with Nick at lunch time. I get to run around SF all afternoon with Amanda while Nick works, hehe. I need to go here for thank you card bits (and a super secret shop idea I'm working on), and maybe we'll swing by the cool vintage fabric shop Amanda heard about on Apartment Therapy. I hope she wants to go check out the Japanese bookstore too. Last time I got this. I'm aching for some new inspiration. I'm excited to have a day out. Can you tell?

I managed to get something made yesterday. I'm going to be writing up a pattern for my shopper tote, so I made this one to illustrate the steps. I actually made a mistake sewing the pocket in so I guess I'm going to have to keep it for myself. Oh well.

Look where the handles meet the pocket...whoops!

I used French Seams on this tote, and added the pocket. My old ones have serged seams and no pocket. I think that will make for a better pattern, and a better bag. Oh, and if you're curious about French Seams, check out this post by Tess over at the Sew Mama Sew Blog. It's a great guide for different seam finishing techniques. Cool! So have a great Friday and I'll catch you later.

June 04, 2008

Lets Talk About Feet

The other day I was working on something and noticed my favorite presser feet (That's a weird thing to say, isn't it? Presser feet?) sitting to the side of my sewing machine. Naturally, the first thing that pops into my head is, "I should blog about that!". So I've decided to share my presser foot collection with you today.

Let's start with my tried and true favorites. I use these 3 almost exclusively, even though I have a lovely collection of the fancy ones, I tend to stick with these guys most of the time.

The Standard Presser Foot. This came with my machine and I love that it's clear on the end. I use those little lines & grooves all the time. That's how I stitch those even lines around bibs & such. My PFAFF comes with a feature they like to call IDT, it's basically an integrated walking foot and it's awesome, just sayin'.

The 1/4" Quilt and Patchwork Foot. Okay, so this foot is great for making quilts because it's exactly 1/4" wide on either side, and also has handy 1/4" marks at the front & back. That's a really great feature when you're coming to the end of a seam and you want to stop 1/4" away from the edge. Very handy indeed, and not just for quilting.

The Zipper Foot. Obviously.

Click the image to see it larger.

Now for the less used and much more specialized presser feet. I keep the majority of these in a box with miscellaneous hardware & spare rotary blades. When I bought my latest PFAFF, I diligently took every class I could in order to get the most out of my machine. Unfortunately, if you don't use that knowledge regularly, it kind of fades away. I had to actually look up some of these on the PFAFF website {blushing}.

The Roll Hemmer actually came with my machine and it works really well if you can manage to keep the fabric inside the foot. It tends to pull out and be a little tricky. When it works, it works well. I used it recently to finish the edge of the sash on this dress. An excellent tool to have if you've ever hemmed organza, yuck.

The Blindhem foot would have been a complete mystery to me if I hadn't taken a class to learn how to use my machine. It's another tricky one to use, but brilliant once you get it. This foot also came with the machine.

The Stitch-In-Ditch is another quilting foot. It's great for stitching right in a seam line.

The Beading Foot is pretty cool, and difficult to photograph. It's got a great big groove on the bottom so you can sew down strings of pearls & such. You just set the machine to zig-zag and run the beads through the groove.

The Braiding Foot is used to stitch down narrow things like cord or yarn. You just feed the trim through that little loop in the front and the foot guides it right under the needle.

The Gathering Foot does exactly that. You just run one fabric through the slit in the foot, and the other fabric stays underneath. Sew with a zig-zag and it gathers your fabric for you. Just adjust the size of the stitch to adjust the amount of gather. I love this foot when I can remember to use it.

The Decorative Trim Foot is really similar to the Braiding Foot, but it's for flat trims like ribbon. It's surprising how much motion you can get just by having a foot to guide your trim. You can stitch in circles with perfectly stitched trim if you remember to use a foot like this.

Last but not least, the Pintuck Foot (sorry, I know it's hard to see in the picture). When I took the presser foot class I was blown away by this one. I've never used it, of course, but it's fantastic! You have to use a twin needle with this foot, which opens up a whole other world of possibilities. Just stitch your first pintuck, then run it through a groove on the bottom of the foot to sew your next one. It makes nice, evenly spaced tucks.

Now you know some of the tricks of the trade, eh? I think the trick is to know how to use all of the features of your machine, and the tools available with it. This post should be a good reminder to me to use some of these fun feet next time I'm making a new handbag or zipper pouch. It also reminds me that I want a non-stick foot, for vinyl & other hard to feed fabrics! Better run to the sewing shop....

June 03, 2008

See store for details

I did it! After weeks of planning and sewing and graphics & testing, my Diana Handbag Sewing Pattern has finally made it's way into my shop. I'm super excited about this, I've seriously been planning it for a long time.

Thanks so much to you ladies who volunteered to test the pattern for me too. I'm confident that it's clear and accurate at this point & there are still a few more testers out there working at it for me. Can't wait to hear what June and Heather think.

Thanks so much: Jenn, Kristi, Veronica and Jodie, your comments were all so helpful. Here are a couple of the bags that were made during the testing phase...

Kristi's bag is so pretty in pink!

And Jodie's chickens are fantastic!

Look a these gorgeous colors! Thanks Veronica.

June used her own covered button! What a great idea.

Heather's bag is lovely in Amy Butler fabric.

Now I can get back to my Hawaiian shirt frenzy that I spoke of yesterday. I went through the fabrics and found that I have 18 shirts to make!!!! ouch There's one calling my name from the cutting table right now. Better scoot.

June 02, 2008

Lots of New Things

1. QUILTED TOTE - Flea Market, 2. GEMMA Coine Purse - Red Sock Monkey Portraits, 3. SHOPPER TOTE - Retro House, 4. SHOPPER TOTE - Natural Daisies, 5. LITTLE BOX ZIP - Chocolate Strawberry, 6. ZIPPER POUCH - Flea Market Lime, 7. PATCHWORK ZIPPER POUCH - Orange & Green, 8. QUILTED ZIPPER POUCH - Amy Butler French Wallpaper, 9. SARAH Handbag - Denim & Daisies

I had a very good day at the market on Thursday, which led to 3 days of sewing here in the sweat shop. I tried something new...I just made things. I tend to not only be a very slow sewer, but I think I spend way too much time in the planning stage. This past week I just went for it. I pulled out some fabric and made whatever popped into my head. I'm proud of myself for being able to make so much, and this isn't even all of it!

Guess who made their farmer's market debut?

I did well again yesterday, so it's back to the old drawing board later this week. My next market isn't until the 12th so I can rest a bit. I've got a big custom order I'm working on today for some Hawaiian shirts, a nice change of pace.

And later this week, maybe even tomorrow, I will be listing my first sewing pattern in the shop for this bag...

I've gotten some feedback from my pattern testers, so once I've made some tweaks, the pattern (and the bag) will hit my shop. This is something I've been planning for a long time so I'm really happy to have this little project almost completed. Now, I really need to get into the sewing room.