Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Portrait of an Herb: Echinacea

I want to showcase some herbs for you here on these pages.  The idea for this series started with pineapple sage, our favorite plant in our gardens.  There is not a lot of information available online about this plant.  There is almost no information about its medicinal properties (which are important and strong) and nowhere have I seen this plant properly praised.  We are waiting on it to flower before I showcase that herb.  But our echinacea is starring right now in our medicine garden, and so this is the herb I have chosen to showcase in installment one of my series "Portrait of an Herb."  These essays will include uses and growing conditions and culture for important medicinal herbs.  

I am happy to tell ya'll that Yahoo! has just bought the right to publish the first of this series of herbal portraits. 

 Read it at Associated Content
 Portrait of an Herb: Echinacea in the Perennial and Medicinal Garden
Please and Thank You!

Mr. Green bought me that solar butterfly as a gift, for Mother's day in the first year of that garden.  It changes colors at night, and we love it so much that he has now bought a total of three of these for our gardens. He would have gotten more if they hadn't sold out. But they are available again now at Amazon, so you can order one of these whimsical accents for your garden, too.

 Portrait of an Herb: Echinacea in the Perennial and Medicinal Garden

Sewing Space Organization: Small Spaces

Sewing Space organization  is something I have struggled with a lot.  It is apparently in my nature to make a big mess.  When I am creating I get into the flow and scraps fly.  But I have worked hard and put a whole lot of time and thought into the organization of my sewing space.  I am incredibly thankful to have a whole room devoted to sewing, and while it definitely gets messy, I can honestly tell you that it is finally well organized.  It is such a joy to always know where to find things and to have them easily at hand.  Tomorrow I am going to show you my room, and explain how this organization came to be and what works for me.  

For years, however, I did not have the luxury of a sewing room, and I had to figure out how to make space for sewing within rooms also used for other purposes.  I think the most important thing that I want to say on this subject, is that if you do not have your own sewing room (yet), then find some place where your sewing machine can live all the time.  I know it's a cliche, but it also is true that out of sight equals out of mind, and if you have to set up your machine before you can sew, you will likely often not bother.  Just find some small space somewhere to dedicate to this purpose and you will find yourself sewing.

My first place for sewing consisted of 2 feet of counter space in a corner of my kitchen with a small cabinet underneath to hold my supplies.  When my stash outgrew the cabinet, I was able to claim part of a drawer in the same room, and then I acquired a large rubbermaid tote that I stored nearby in the laundry room.

My machine has lived in a laundry room, too.  This was actually a nice arrangement and I found myself keeping up with my laundry more than was my usual habit!

I have also shoved my clothes tightly on one side of a closet and tried to carve sewing space from the other.  This didn't work well for me as it was impossible for me to avoid being overwhelmed by a mess.  But as I said, I tend towards messiness; for someone more inclined towards neatness this might work fine.  I once saw a photo of a beautiful space created from a dedicated small closet.  Maybe you could keep most of your clothes in your dresser and store your hanging clothes in the back of a child's closet to have a whole closet for nothing but sewing.  That would be a luxury!

 I once lived in such a small house that the only space I could find was behind the couch, which I pushed forward.  I made enough room for a small sewing table and a couple of bins, and while my room looked cramped and not chic, this worked well enough.

And then I moved again, and I was gifted a desk.  It has six drawers which can hold a lot of notions and a backboard with shelves which was made by some person, and not bought in a store.  There are two long shelves and then the top shelf has a lip going all around, which keeps things secure.  This arrangement held all of my supplies in my bedroom in a beautiful way.  Except for the fabric; I folded small pieces and stored them in an underbed box, and kept yardage neatly pressed on hangers in the closet.  This was my favorite arrangement until I was blessed with an extra room.  This shelving unit could be easily made by anyone who knows how to work a hammer and nails.  You will see it tomorrow.

Other options available are wardrobe armoires, entertainment centers, computer desks (my favorite for my machine; the keyboard tray holds pins and scissors right where you need them), even toyboxes.  A china cabinet or hutch could hold a lot of fabric.  How often do you use your china anyway?  Couldn't you just stash it in a box?

I have seen a crafter claim space in a hallway, with a bookshelf and desk.  My friend had a large family and small house.  But she had a huge dining room table and her machine had its place at the end.  All of her supplies were kept at hand in a set of plastic drawers on wheels.  This was kept out, with the machine, almost all of the time.  For Thanksgiving or company, she would wheel everything into her closet out of sight.

And then there are wonderful cabinets made just for this purpose.  I looked over at Amazon to see what I could recommend, but to be honest, I saw a nicer one that will be a better price on sale starting July 8 in the Hancock flyer.  It's not online yet, or I would give you the link.  What I did see at Amazon are these plans for building one yourself.

There were several things that helped me when I was cramped in small spaces.  The first I have already mentioned, clear plastic bins.  I don't like to buy new plastic, so I acquired these mostly from thrift stores, and  While clear bins are helpful in letting you see what's inside, I found these worked better when I labeled each box.  Gallon Ziploc bags are wonderful for storing pattern pieces and fabric.  When I am planning a quilt, I often group fabrics for the project together in a ziploc.  This helps me remember I have plans for this fabric so I don't grab it for something else when inspiration strikes.  I also group like things together in smaller ziploc bags in my sewing toolbox.  A tackle box works great for storing and organizing your tools, too, by the way.

I have even used cereal boxes for grouping and stashing.  Just cut off the top and cover the box (you could use wrapping or construction paper, or fabric)- these are nice for storing your ziplocs!  Now I use a thick binder with sheet protectors to store patchwork and small unfinished objects neatly on a shelf.

Baby food jars work great for buttons and pins, beads, or other small notions. You can also make pincushions from these, which are as cute as they are useful; here is one link.

Another thing that is helpful is to also claim wall space.  A bulletin board can hold pattern pieces, design sketches, or inspirational photos.  Or what I prefer is a piece of flannel tacked to the wall.  The flannel will hold quilt blocks magically so you won't have to use pins.  You could get a thread rack that hangs on the wall, and/or hang nails or hooks for storing your ruler, rotary cutter, and scissors.  A piece of pegboard and hooks could be painted to match your decor.

There is an advantage in not being cloistered away.  Having to share space for your sewing means you will work within view of your family and home.  This is really helpful if you have children to watch!  It also helps partners to not feel abandoned for crafts!

Be creative and resourceful and you could transform any bit of space into your own sewing haven.

I want to encourage ya'll to comment if you can add anything on this subject.  Please tell us about your small sewing space and what you have found helpful in organizing it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Garden Recipe: Strawberry Astringent for Natural Skincare

I want to share with ya'll this garden recipe you don't eat.  I first made this about 3 months ago, and I have noticed a big improvement in my skin.  Strawberries have salicylic acid, which discourages acne, and this toner is loaded with antioxidants.  You won't believe how smooth and soft and clean your face feels after you use this.  It is so cooling and fresh, and reminds me of the "Sea Breeze" astringent I used as a teenager- except this is all natural, with none of the harsh chemicals.

Here is all you need from the garden:

That is 7 strawberry leaves (and by 1 leaf, I mean all three leaflets) and one long rosemary sprig.  Or you could use several smaller sprigs....this isn't rocket science and you don't have to be exact with your amounts.

Chop up this vegetative matter and throw it in a pot with a cup of water.  Add 1 organic green tea bag.  Boil all of this, and then cool and strain.  Add 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar (use the unfiltered kind that says "with the mother"), 7 drops patchouli essential oil (patchouli is great for the skin; you really won't smell it in the final product once everything is mixed), 8 drops peppermint essential oil, and 1 drop pine essential oil.

The peppermint is the only nonnegotiable oil in this recipe, as it gives the cooling effect.  As I said, patchouli is really great for the skin, and definitely recommended.  But if you don't have any, you could substitute lavender oil instead.  You could also use tea tree oil instead of pine, if that is what you have.  I do really recommend using the patchouli and pine, though.

I pour my toner in a Grolsch beer bottle, which has a handy flip top lid.  If you don't drink beer, you can usually get these from a bar for a quarter apiece, or you can use whatever you have available in approximately the same size.

 After you add your mixture, fill the bottle the rest of the way with distilled water, cap and shake well.  Apply to your face morning and night.  You could use cotton balls or pads, or if, like me, you prefer not to use disposable products, you can do what I did and find a nice soft old tee shirt and cut it into squares for this purpose.

You will love the cool tingling sensation and how soft and smooth your skin feels after using this.
I discovered recently that it works pretty well as a deoderant, too.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

More Jammies and One Yard Wonders

Have ya'll seen this book?

It's pretty awesome.  There are 101 projects, all of which can be made from just a yard of fabric.  There are things you might never think of, like a cover for a 2 drawer file cabinet, and also basic things like purses and other bags.  There are things for you to wear, clothes for babies and children, toys, gifts, aprons, even a collar and leash and coat for your dog.  Or, if you are a cat lover, there is a pattern for a darling little teepee for your feline friend.  The book is hardcover, with the pages mounted on a spiral, and all the pattern pieces store in an envelope inside the front cover.  If you haven't gotten this book yet, I encourage you to order it now.  It's perfect for stash busting!

I plan to make lots of the projects in this book, including more than one for our holiday gift making next month.  I thought I would show ya'll the short jammies I made following two of the patterns found here.  The top was designed by Rae Hoekstra, and could also be worn with jeans.  The "perfect fit" shorts pattern includes a handy-dandy formula for measuring and making shorts that fit exactly right.

I actually made these from a vintage sheet, and have enough fabric left over to make something else, too.  They were super simple and fun to make.  Don't you want to order this great book and make some for yourself too?  I appreciate your ordering through Amazon by following links on my blog.

I will see ya'll tommorrow.  Have a great night!

Recon: pillowcase pair to nightgown

This must be the absolute easiest possible way to make a nightgown.  I started with a pair of pillowcases.

Someone gave me these and I love the print, but I have already made plenty of pillowcases for my bed, so these will become a nightgown instead.  I also found part of a coordinating pillowcase in my scrap bag, left over from a previous recon.

This is just enough fabric for me to use to make the chest band and straps for my nightgown.  You could use whatever you can find in your stash; you won't need much.

So, you start by cutting the pillowcases.  Remove the side and bottom seams to make two flat panels.
Then sew these panels together at the side seams, lining up the hemmed edges, which will be the bottom of your gown.

Then make your chest band.  Measure your chest, above the bust, under the armpits.  Make the band as you would binding, by pressing in half and then pressing the raw edges under 1/4", and then sew the short ends together to make the band.

Now set your machine to its longest stitch length and sew a basting stitch around the raw edge at the top of the gown.  Pull on the bobbin threads carefully to gather this piece to fit your chest band.  Encase this inside the band, pin, and then topstitch all around to attach the band to the gown.

The last steps are the straps.  Sew them right sides together and turn.  Then you will pin them to the gown and try it on to determine placement before you sew.  Once you are happy with where the straps sit, sew them in place on the inside, near the top of the band.  Clip your threads, and you're done!

Happy sewing!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Upcoming: stay tuned

Happy today, ya'll.

I can only (try again to) make a quick post today as we are experiencing technical difficulties. It's a good thing, though, as I need the time for weeding and pruning extreme rampant growth in the garden.  Lemons to lemonade, right?  Shutting down the computer is a good way to make time and get good things done.    

The next post will be a tutorial; a pair of pillowcases to a short pajama gown. 

And then we will work on sewing space organization (and of course we must garden) until the end of the month. 

We (that's YOU and me) will get our spaces sorted and shined just in time to make a big mess, because we are going to be BUSY making gifts for the holidays every day in July.  With this in mind, if you would like to do a guest post next month, or if you know of some great tutorial that MUST be included in our fun, please let me know.

Some of you are going to win some special gifts, too, but more on that later.

Hopefully this computer will not crash again as I post this now.   I hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Have you tried and failed at knitting? Try loom knitting instead

Have you tried and failed at knitting with needles?

I did, many times. I don't know if it was my left handedness or what that made me completely unable to learn knitting by looking at photos or drawings in books or on websites.  I tried at least a dozen times, using as many different books and sets of instructions as I could, but I never succeeded in making anything but a mess.

My travels through fabric stores always included a wistful look at the yarns accompanied with a big sigh. It was very disheartening to want to work with yarn but to not be able to teach myself to use it.

Then the beautiful day dawned when I found out about Knifty Knitter looms.

I wondered if this might be a way for me to finally learn to knit. I thought about it too long (as I am prone to do), and finally decided it had to be easier to wrap those pegs than it was for me to understand what to do with the needles and yarn. I knew I could return them if I couldn't work them, but I had to give it a try.

Well, Glory Day it was when my new looms arrived, because that was the day I became a knitter. Knitting on these looms is so easy that a child could do it as play. I call them hand knitting machines, because your project feeds through the bottom, evenly and quickly, like something professionally made.

The day after I first put my hands on my knifty knitters, I had already worked through three gorgeous skeins of yarn and made myself a roomy new purse.

It's certainly not perfect, and I have since learned a better way to sew on straps.  But it is a functional bag which is now my favorite purse.  I get compliments on this almost every time I stand in line.  I knit it in the first day of having my knifty knitter looms and have since then conceived, created, and completed many more knit projects.  Anyone could; knifty knitters are a great way to finally learn knitting.

Knifty knitters come in long looms and round looms.  I like the long looms and how they are able to make "double knitting," which was used on that purse.  This knitting is thick enough to use for making rugs.  You can also do single knitting and knitting in the round on the long looms.  The round style are useful for hats, but you can not produce the thicker, double knitting on the round looms.

SO, if you have always wanted to knit, NOW you can.  Order some knifty knitters from Amazon (and while you are there, check out their yarns), and soon you will be knitting too.  Be sure to check back here, as I will be sharing tutorials and patterns, including the best little dish scrubber you could make.

I think I should also tell ya'll that after using the looms for a little while, I was able to understand knitting enough to also figure out how to use needles.  However, loom knitting goes MUCH faster and I will be using needles only for small projects that need a tight gauge.  I really can't imagine using needles to knit something like a baby blanket, which could be finished in a few days on the looms.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Recipe: Green Family Chicken Chili

We just changed the name of this recipe tonight.  When we first made it, last summer, we had lots of orange bell peppers and so the colors made us start calling this Flag of Ireland Chicken Chili.
But, alas, we are still waiting for our orange bells to ripen and used green bell peppers this time.
That is the nature of eating from the garden; your recipes will vary according to what is in season.

This is our favorite garden dinner.  And although we have made this without them, the real key to this dish is yellow pear tomatoes.  
I am sure I will post more later about these, our favorite heirloom tomatoes.  
Here is the recipe:

Green Family Chicken Chili

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
5 cups cooked navy beans
1 c chopped red onion
1 c corn
3 large sweet bell peppers; we like to use yellow and orange best, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 cayenne, seeded and chopped
1 red hot cherry pepper, seeded and chopped
1 sweet banana pepper, seeded and chopped
1 hot banana pepper, seeded and chopped
2 c yellow pear (or substitute other grape or cherry sized) tomatoes, cut in half
2 Tbs garlic, chopped
2 c chicken broth
2 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tbs cumin (or to taste)
salt to taste
Cilantro, to taste
Sour cream, for garnish

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.  Place in a skillet and cook until chicken just begins to brown.  Drain.  Use a large pot and add the cooked chicken, beans, peppers, corn, garlic and onions, chicken broth, cumin and oregano.  Stir and simmer for approximately an hour.  Then add your little tomatoes, cut in halves, and a lot of chopped cilantro.  Cook this way on low for about 30 minutes, or until you can't stand waiting any longer.  Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.  Enjoy!  

This is the recipe we wrote down last night, as Mr. Green cooked it.  It is always really good.  When I cook this, I like to brown the onions and most of the peppers a little first, before adding them to the beans and chicken.  I also put the cayenne in the oven on 300 for about 10 minutes, until it is lightly toasted, and then I chop it finely and soak in a tiny bit of water about half an hour, before grinding it into a paste and adding to the pot.  Mr. Green contends these steps are unnecessary.  His is always delicious, so he must be right; I will probably skip these steps next time.
Cooking this dish a long time mellows the peppers.  While there is some heat, the sour cream tones it down and it is not too spicy, even for children.  This is about the only dinner we cook regularly that has our son asking for seconds.  
Please let me know if you make this, and how it turns out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Today's harvest

Those are asparagus beans, which are just beginning to produce.  I measured one; it was 19 inches long!  Also pictured are our very first cayenne to turn red yet this year.  There are 30+ long, still-green cayenne in the garden, as we are growing nine of these pepper plants this year. Other peppers pictured include red hot cherry, hot bananas, mammoth jalapenoes, an anaheim chili, and some sweet bells.  Those are also the first ichiban eggplants we have pulled off the plants and the largest onion we have harvested yet.  I had to cut back the basil heavily today, as they are already wanting to flower, after which they will be too strong to eat.

We made salsa last night and so started with an empty bowl this morning; this was harvested today.

We are so thankful for and blessed by our garden, which is not particularly large (our 2 vegetable beds encompass approximately 250 square feet).  We didn't have a lot of experience when we started our first garden together, and we have never used any chemicals in growing our food.  We love gardening and know that it is easy and so much fun and we really encourage everyone to grow pure, clean, healthy and organic food.

Here is a great reference to get you started:

We have learned a lot from this author, use a lot of his methods, and refer to his book regarding spacing requirements and organic fertilizers and other things.  We do not adhere strictly to the square foot method, nor is it necessary in order to learn lots from this book.  This is definitely the first book I recommend to anyone interested in beginning vegetable gardening.

We are going to make our special garden recipe "Irish Flag Chicken Chili" with much of today's harvest tonight.  I will be posting the recipe later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

10 Easy Things to Make with a Serger

Read this article, 10+ Easy Things to Make with a Serger, at Associated Content. They pay me per page view, so I appreciate your click!  All of these projects are fast and easy, and many will make excellent gifts.

I thought I was a beginner at serging.  Well, I would have called myself an advanced beginner, but Ezine articles just sent me a notification that I qualify for expert status.
As Featured On EzineArticles 

LOL.  THAT's how easy sergering really is!  I went from absolute beginner to qualifying as an "expert" in a few short months.  I'm telling ya'll, every home sewist needs a serger!  Serging (with a Janome serger) is FAST and its FUN and its EASY.

Here is another link to my serger review page.  The 7034d Magnolia, linked above, is what I recommend buying RIGHT NOW, as the best deal going.
If you shop around and research, you will know you want to buy a Janome serger from Amazon.  Please bookmark this blog, and when you do buy your Janome serger (you will), and other products I recommend and review- and NOW is the best time- I thank you for buying through links here to Amazon. Please and thank you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chic and Simple Sewing (Book Review) and my little black dress

My sweetie ordered books for me for my mother's day gift, and I got some really great stuff.

Chic and Simple Sewing, by Christine Hayes is an amazing resource for your sewing room.  This book has at least 20 full size patterns for every season of the year.  There are dresses, tops, skirts, even jackets and a cape, none of which need zippers or buttons or any other daunting construction details.  These garments are stylish but all are really easy to make.  This book will be useful for anyone, from an experienced home sewist, to an absolute beginner.  There is an ample section at the beginning of the book that explains the basics you need to know, from equipment to laying out and cutting  patterns.  So this is the perfect book for you if you want to update your wardrobe, even if you have never made a garment before.  I love how the pattern pieces are included in an envelope in the front cover of the book, and while the book is hardcover, the pages are mounted on a spiral binder so it will lay flat on your sewing table.  I highly suggest heading over to Amazon now and ordering this for your sewing library.

While I have made a few garments before, I had never made a dress (except for this, made for a baby).  With the help of this book, I have made MY first dress, and I absolutely love it.  

I made this from the "Retro shift dress" pattern in the book.  However, instead of yardage, I was using an oversized, ugly long black linen dress from the back of my closet, and there was not enough fabric to cut it as wide as the original pattern pieces.  So I made adjustments and this dress is more fitted than the shift in the book.  I had purchased silver metallic thread to embroider on the dress, but I loved it so much as is that I decided to skip the embroidery on the dress and made a simple purse to go with it, instead.

So I am thrilled that my first dress turned out as well as it did, and I can't wait to make more of the patterns in this book.  Again, I encourage you to order your copy of this great book today.

Tutorial: men's button-down shirt to ladies (or maternity or nursing) summer top

This is an easy and thrifty way to make a comfortable, roomy summer top that would work great for maternity or nursing.  You start with a mens button down shirt, which can usually be found in a good thrift store for around a dollar.  You will also need a coordinating fabric to make the straps and bands.  I have cut up another shirt for these bands on other tops (see previous post), and for this particular shirt I am using cotton quilting scraps.  You will also need binding for the armholes.  You can make this from your coordinating fabric or use purchased bias tape.

You do not need a serger to complete this project.  However, as with most anything you sew, using the serger will improve the quality of your finished garment.  Most patterns and tutorials do not include instructions for the serger, but I am going to do so.  If you don't have a serger, skip the serger steps.  Also,  I did not go into lots of detail, assuming you know how to apply binding, etc.  If anything is not clear or if I should break it down further into more details, let me know.

Measure your chest, above your bust, from armpit to armpit
and get someone to help you do the same across your back.  These measurements are for making the top bands.

I cut my front band at 12" by 3"
and the back band 14" by 5"
If I wasn't sergering these, I would cut them about 1/2" shorter and narrower.
I like having the back band be a little wider than the front.  You really could make these bands wider or narrower, according to your preference.
 I cut my shoulder straps at 3" by 10"  HOWEVER, I have previously made and fitted this pattern for me and so I know for certain that these will not be too short.  I would advise you to cut yours longer.  They can always be trimmed if they are too long.
Cut your shirt like this:

Then you can serge all 4 sides of each band and strap as well as the cut edges of the shirt.

Then take these pieces to the ironing board and fold over 1/4" and press.  Do this on all sides of each band and strap.  Then fold each piece in half, and iron again.
Next, apply bias binding to the armholes.

You may need to trim the top of your shirt a bit more (notice I did) if the armholes are way too deep.  My shirt now has 5" between the top edge and the bottom of the armhole at this point.  We can adjust this further when taking in the side seams later.

Then, sew a long basting stitch along the top edges of the shirt.  Gather the shirt to fit the bands, and pin in place.  Then sew.
Check for fit at this time.  I cut my bands with just enough slack to fold both sides of each over narrowly towards the inside and stitch.  If you didn't, then you can enclose the outer edges of the bands inside the straps....that is why we didn't sew them yet.
Once your bands are complete, it is time for the straps.  If you do not have a dress form, then you can either pin the straps in place and try on your top until you get your straps to the proper length.  Or, you can have a loved one assist and pin the straps to length for you.
As I said, I have finished the sides of my bands and so attached my straps to the inside, so I sew my straps closed first and then sew them to the inside of my top.  If you attach the straps to encase your bands, you will leave them open, pin in place at the outer edges of the bands, and then sew them to the blouse and close them at the same time.
Now you are almost done!  Try on your top again.  The armholes on mine are too low, showing my bra under my arms.  And the shirt is too wide.  So now it is time to take in.  Try top on and pin the slack under the armholes to determine your seam line.  Then sew this seam, starting at the armhole where you marked your fit with pins, and sloping in an a-line to the hem of the shirt.  If you are making this for maternity you will make this a line slope towards the original side seam, leaving more room for you and your baby.  If you are not, then you will probably want to take in more, although this top is comfy being roomy at the bottom.
When you are happy, you will have to cut and remove the bulk at these seams.  I sew my seam on the inside of the shirt and once I am satisfied with the seam placement, I run it under the serger to trim the excess and neatly finish the edges at once.  If you don't have a serger, you can finish this seam in whatever way you want, although what I would do is sew a french seam; that is, sew the seam on the outside of the shirt and then encase that seam in a second seam line sewn on the inside.
And now you have a cute, comfy, summer top that I hope will be your new favorite!

Have fun making these for yourself.  This is one my original designs; do not sell what you make from my tutorials without my permission, please and thank you!  My etsy shop will be opening soon.

This is the first tutorial I have made, so please let me know if anything is not clear. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recon: mens' button down shirt to ladies summer top

This has been hands down my favorite top this season.  I made it from a thrifted (size L) man's shirt I had picked up for Mr. Sweetie, but he wouldn't wear it because he thought the colors were too girly.  I loved them, though, and set out to transform it into something feminine that would fit me.  I found another shirt, which was too small for me and anyway had a big hole, in my scrap bag, and I used this to make the coordinating bands.  I loved that shirt for years and it looks great with the colors in the mens shirt, don't you think?
I took the side seams in a whole lot to make the big mens shirt fit me (loosely), but this shirt would be PERFECT to make for maternity, and if I was pregnant in summer, I would make up a bunch of these.  The buttons make it perfect for nursing, too.

So, I made another one of these today and I took pictures as I worked and hope to have a tutorial for this finished and posted tomorrow.  Although it is pretty simple and I am sure you could figure out how to do it just by looking at the picture!  But I need the experience making the tutorial, and maybe it will help you to make a top you like as much as I like this one.

I am working on another tutorial, too, as well as preparing for Christmas in July, here, next month, when we will be busy making all kinds of gifts and crafts.  And between now and then we will get into some serious sewing room organization.  So please stay tuned!

if you ever wanted a serger

Now really is the time to make your dream come true, as prices have recently dropped drastically.  You probably have wanted one in order to neatly and professionally finish your seams and projects, but you would be amazed at the endless possibilities adding a serger will open for you.  I cannot emphasize enough how much my serger has revolutionized and improved my sewing.  I just absolutely adore mine.
I spent a lot of time in careful consideration and much research and when Mr. Helpful told me to buy one,  I bought a Janome entry level serger, and I have not stopped thanking him since.This sweet little baby is the most satisfying and helpful product I have ever purchased!  I have only owned it a couple of months and already I just cannot imagine how I could get along without it; I use it every. single. day. in multiple ways.

If you are considering getting a serger, I encourage you to read this page I wrote that contains a lot of helpful information about choosing the best serger for you. Or just go ahead and buy this serger, right now, from Amazon, at the best possible price (with free shipping), by following this link:

This is not the only option, however.  My serger page lists the differences in several models.  As long as you stick with the Janome brand, you will love your serger, too.  I hope you will order yours soon.  When you do, please do so by following links to Amazon through my blog.  I thank you, as does Mr. Green and our sproutlets.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

patchwork flag wall art quilt

(UPDATE: 6/27/10- Here are much better pictures of this flag!)

My dear wants me to show you his flag that I made for him.

I am sharing this here for personal use only; please do not make these for sale.  I will open my Etsy shop soon, and will be taking orders for these myself.

The proper ratio for the flag of Ireland is 1:2, and so I made this to measure 21" by 42."  Each colored section is made up of 7 2" strips string pieced with scraps of similar color.  These strips are joined and then embellished by satin stitching on the green and orange sections.  The white section is finished with echo quilting around the four leaf clover at 1/4" intervals.   I first tried to use scraps on the four leaf clover, but we determined that the single green felt for the applique worked best.  Here is a close up of the quilting:

Mr. hard worker has bragged endlessly about this flag at work and so a friend has requested a Scottish flag, which has been trickier, but the top is nearly complete.  I have a date with the seam ripper to do a little bit of tweaking later.   I will show pictures of that here too, once it is finished.

But first,  I plan to share some ideas about organization and management of the sewing room, and share that little tutorial which will help with this task.  -So stay tuned-

Speaking of which, my sewing room needs some management right now, as I have had a productive weekend, making multiple father's day gifts and even a christmas present, and a dress, slip, and purse.  So I will be working on getting it back into order today and I will show you how my sewing room is organized soon..
I hope everyone has a very nice day!

Garden Roast

I had thawed a chuck roast for dinner and we had the previously pictured bowl of vegetables for accompaniment.  This was on Thursday night, just after I left the previous post.  I didn't post right away because initially I thought it might be a little silly to blog about dinner, but after reflecting on this, I have determined that this is definitely worth sharing.
So,  I decided to cook the vegetables in with the roast in a covered dish in the oven.  So I placed the roast and sliced the onions and squash, trimmed and threw in the small handful of beans, and tossed in the grape and cherry tomatoes whole.  Then I harvested and chopped a lot of thyme and oregano and a little bit of rosemary, sprinkled some Greek Seasoning and a dash of worcestershire sauce.  Then I was going to add water, but on a whim poured in apple juice instead.
 then I took a picture before I stuck it in the oven- I knew it was going to be good!

Well, actually, I was a little worried about the squash.  I usually cook it in butter and I had no idea if it would work with roast.  Boy, did it, though!  The squash pieces were delectable.  But it is the grape and cherry tomatoes that made this roast dinner extraordinary.  My gardening guy called them "explosions of awesomeness."  My Capricorn son, who never likes anything, was trying to stick his fingers in the pan to devour the last tomato and there ensued a vigorous argument between three people, two of them adults, over who would actually get that last tomato! The pan juices and the apple juice combined with the herbs to make this truly the best roast dinner I had ever cooked or eaten.  If you have grape or cherry tomatoes in your garden (or if you don't, get some the next time you go to the farmer's market), you simply MUST try tossing them in with a roast so you can experience for yourself how these things work so beautifully together as something totally new.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Welcome to my new home online...

This is my first blog, and I will be learning as I go.  I am moving in now and hoping to get comfy quickly.   Helpful comments are welcome if you see something I should be doing differently!
I will start with a picture, our harvest from today:

(blurry photo removed!)

it's blurry because i have A LOT to learn about digital photography. For now, i am just happy to be able to share.

I wanted a sweet bell pepper in that picture, and in our dinner. But these are destined to be orange bells, and my sweet gardening guy admonished me to please leave them to turn on the plant.

I tried to show you all FIVE of the fruits growing closely together, but look how i focused on the one i wanted for dinner....
and speaking of dinner; it is time to get on that. I will be back soon.