Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Breathing new life into old jeans

I made a startling discovery a few weeks back: I'm a closet jeans hoarder. 

It all started when my husband needed new jeans for work. The jeans he'd been wearing every day were wearing thin and already had a few holes at the corners of the back pockets. So, we picked up a few new pairs and I promptly rotated the old ones into the closet as back-ups (I think I see now why I have a problem...) and too out the old back-up jeans (three pairs) thinking I should probably toss them since I couldn't imagine thrift stores wanting jeans with holes in them.

And then, since I'm easily distracted and can be rather lazy when it comes to cleaning, the old jeans sat in a pile in our bedroom for a week or so. Every day I saw them sitting there, and for some very odd reason I just couldn't bring myself to throw them away. 

Finally, it hit me: maaaayyyybe I could make a jeans quilt out of them! I knew I had a few more pairs of old jeans in the closet, so I started digging. 

I found two extremely worn and tattered pairs of mine that had holes in the knees and were completely unwearable. They were hiding on a shelf high up in my side of the closet.

Oh, and then there was that pair in my drawer that I never wear because they fit waaay too loosely in the waist.

A little more digging in the closet produced another mystery pair of jeans. What's going on here?

A quick check of my kids' closet revealed two very ratty pairs of little boy jeans, complete with patched knees, and a very old pair of little boy jean shorts. Also too ratty to wear.

So, final count (including the original three from my hubby's closet): nine pairs of jeans and one pair of jean shorts. Most completely unwearable.

What happened to me? When did I become the crazy jeans lady?

Yikes. Well, I figured this was as good a time as any to put my crazy jeans collection to work.
I spent about a week cutting each pair at the seams, then carefully rotary cutting denim rectangles to leave as little waste as possible. I even figured out that I could squeeze little more denim out of each pair if I cut up the back pockets (most of them had holes at the pockets, so I didn't want to incorporate the entire pocket into the quilt).
Now that every single pair of jeans has been sliced and diced, I'm left with a hefty stack of denim rectangles. What you see below is able half of what all of those jeans yielded. Next up, I need to pick up a denim needle so I can start piecing them into strips!
The plan is to make it into a twin-sized quilt, with a Lightning McQueen sheet that I have in our linen closet (washed, but never used) as the backing. Then, a some light straight line quilting and it will be off to our church's St. Vincent de Paul ministry so they can give it to whoever needs it most. Hopefully, it will help keep some sweet little guy warm this winter.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nurturing Catholic culture in our home

Sometimes I think it's hard for adults to share our faith with friends and even family. We worry that we might offend or make someone feel uncomfortable. Heck, I've sat here at my computer for the last 10 minutes wondering how I should start this post.

Children, though, don't carry all of the worries and social filters that we do. They ask the tough questions without realizing how much they're making us squirm. They don't beat around the bush. And they aren't shy about sharing their faith and love for the Lord.
Watching Miss C. (and now Master W.) attend Catholic school these past few years has been an incredible experience for me. Intellectually, I understood the both the secular and spiritual value of a Catholic education. Heck, I attended Catholic school myself until we moved the summer before 6th grade, and eventually went on to graduate from a Catholic university. 

But it wasn't until my own children were attending Catholic school that I realized just how completely I had underestimated the true value of a Catholic education. Sure, we said prayers together at night and before meals. But in the last two years I've come to realize something about myself:

I've been running on a spiritual cruise-control for a looooong time. And it's time to get in gear.

So, here I am muddling along, trying to strengthen my own faith, teach my children about theirs, and create a home filled with Catholic culture. Here and there, I'll slip in a post about what we've been up to. I hope you enjoy a little peek into the Catholic side of my life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cars, trucks and arrow tails

I can't wait to put this cheerful little quilt in the mail! My cousin gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy nearly two weeks ago and we're all just so excited to have another little guy in the family. 
Master W. finally has a boy cousin! The two of them are still badly outnumbered with 10 girl cousins, but there's always still time to add more boys to the clan. 
This was such a fun quilt to make. I drew inspiration from the Arrow Tail quilt tutorial from Sing All You Want. I don't have a working printer so I used my Sidekick ruler, which makes the very same shape. I used up every large scrap I had, so I felt a little stricken after I sewed all of the rows together only to discover that the quilt was not quite long enough. I like my quilts to be longer than they are wide (or at least square-shaped), and I just couldn't stomach the idea of the arrows all facing the wrong way if someone held it up... so I added a strip of fabric to the top and one to the bottom to make the quilt a square. Crisis averted! At 45 x 45", it will be perfect for snuggling well into the preschool years. 
I just adore little boy prints, but never seem to know anyone having baby boys. I finally got to use up a bunch of the scraps left over from Master W.'s Traffic Cone Quilt, and I still have plenty left for another quilt down the road. 
As an added bonus, I pieced the back with large scraps and a few bigger pieces from my stash that I was at a complete loss as to how I should use them. I was never quite sure what to do with those red, blue and green prints, but I think they look perfectly at home on this quilt back.  Hooray for purging! (Have you heard about Rachel's Purge Along? This is my entry for this week's link-up.)

You can also find this quilt linked up at:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pattern testing: Rae skirt

It's been many, many years since I've sewn an article of clothing for myself... since freshman year of high school to be exact. My mom and I wrestled a beastly teal knit into a long-sleeved princess-seamed dress. It was all very '90s, let me assure you. And no, there is no photographic evidence of said dress. 

Thank. Goodness.

I do not look back on that dress with any fondness, but every once in a while I get the urge to sew a dress or a skirt for myself. I have this fantasy wherein a design a gorgeous vintage-style dress with a fitted bodice and full skirt. You know, for everyday wear. It would be just perfect for a trip down the hall to change diapers, right?

Usually good sense ("Those women's patterns in JoAnn's are awful!" or "I hate fancy fabrics!") or budgetary constraints prevail, and I'm back to my scrappy quilts and bags and zippy pouches. A dress can be many yards of fabric... and fabric is expensive (read: I'm too thrifty to spend that kind of money on myself).

Recently, though, I had the opportunity to test the (now released) Rae skirt for Sewaholic Patterns. I've been following the Sewaholic blog for years now, and have been on the pattern testing list for quite some time but never saw the right pattern testing opportunity come up until just a few months back when Tasia put out a call for ladies who wanted to test out a beginner's skirt pattern.

I emailed her back right away with all of my info (size, sewing experience, etc.) and waited eagerly to see if I'd be one of the lucky few to be chosen. Of course, then reality set in and I realized that I'd just volunteered to test a skirt pattern designed for pear-shaped women. And I'm not pear-shaped. At all. Somehow or another, in my excitement I'd completely forgotten that all Sewaholic patterns are designed for pear-shaped ladies.


I was excited, yet a little scared when I discovered that I'd been chosen as a pattern tester. Would it look terrible on me? Was I about to waste money on fabric only to make something that would look terrible on my figure?

I hauled myself out to JoAnn's, busted out my coupons and chose this pretty floral print from the apparel section. I'm not sure what it is... maybe some sort of faux-linen? It drapes well and is quite breathable, so I like it. Whatever it is.
I ended up sewing View C, which is a fuller, longer version of the skirt. The waistband is a simple elastic casing and the entire skirt only used two pattern pieces. The skirt came together in a couple of evenings (this would probably take less time to more experienced garment-sewists) and I have to admit that I was completely wrong to be afraid.

I love it! It may have been designed with pear-shaped ladies in mind, but I'm a little bit more straight-up-and-down and it works just fine on my shape. I really, really love it and can't wait to make another... when I can convince myself to splurge on fabric again. Maybe something for fall!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

For my mom-in-law.

We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when my mom-in-law came out of surgery nearly two weeks ago. The surgeon was quite pleased with the results and assured us that she'd make a full recovery. After less than a week in the hospital, she was ready to come home and is really starting to recover nicely. Hooray!
The kids were sick the day we were scheduled to visit before she went in for surgery, so I had to send the quilt via hubby post. She called me later to tell me that she loved it, and was excited to see that it is a perfect match for her living room decor.  I wish I could have been there to give it to her in person, but we really didn't want to pass on any viruses right before she went in for surgery. No use making her recovery any harder than it has to be, right?

Now that she's home recuperating, I've had a few chances to visit and I love seeing her quilt draped across the back of her couch. It's been a bit too warm to snuggle under it yet, but I know she loves it and will use it in the colder months.
I chose a lovely green arrow print from the designer section at JoAnn's and the green is a perfect match for the greens in the Incarnadine charms I used on the front. The cream fabric used in the sashing and borders is American Made Brand in cream, and boy do I love it! I am so excited to be able to support an entirely American-made line of fabric. The hand is quite nice, and the excellent quality reflects what I've come to expect from something made in America. 

The quilt is somewhere around 54"x70" in size (I think... now I wish I'd written that down!). The quilt design was based on the Jungle Lattice quilt over at Craft Buds. I followed Lindsay's directions for cutting the fabric and constructing the rows, but added addition rows of charms to increase the size from baby to lap and had to make some minor adjustments to get everything the proper size. It's a great pattern and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to dip their toes in the on-point waters. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be!

I'm especially pleased with how the quilting turned out. Who knew that straight lines could be so dramatic? 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A baby boy quilt under construction

Master W. is the only boy cousin in my entire extended family. My brother has three girls. Two of my cousins have several daughters each. And I have two girls. Right now, he's outnumbered 10 to 1!

As you can imagine, I haven't had many opportunities to make little boy quilts these past few years. In fact, I've only made two (Master W.'s traffic cone quilt and my Scrappy String quilt)! I've had a lot of fun making quilts for the new baby girls of the family, but have been waiting... waiting... waiting... for another boy to come along so I could finally make another baby boy quilt.

All that waiting is about to pay off because another one of my cousins is about to give birth to her first baby (she's actually in labor right now!)... a boy!!!


[Cue the fabric scrap confetti and crazy amounts of time at the sewing machine.]

Since I've been waiting so long to make a baby boy quilt, I've had more than a little time to dream up the design and fabric choices.

I decided to draw inspiration from the Arrow Tail quilt tutorial from Sing All You Want. I don't have a working printer, so I couldn't print out the template for cutting the diamonds. But I do have my Sidekick ruler, which makes the very same shape. Woot!
The fabric choice was a no-brainer. I've been saving all of the scraps from Master W.'s traffic cone quilt for this exact occasion, so I pulled out the bags that I'd set aside when I finished his quilt and started cutting.

I only hit one snag when putting this top together. There were only so many large scraps in those bags, so in order to make the quilt the size I wanted I had to add a strip of the traffic signs print to the top and bottom. It's actually grown on me quite a bit!
This is a stash purge of the best kind. (Have you heard about Rachel's purge-along that's going on right now? This post is my entry for this month's link-up.) I had a ton of transportation-theme scraps laying around that I wanted to use but simply couldn't. I love each and every print since I had carefully chosen each one for Master W.'s quilt, and was so incredibly excited to finally have a quilt to use them on again.

Of course, I didn't manage to use all of them up – I still have a bag full of small scraps left – so I need to start dreaming up another baby boy quilt for the next wee one!

As you can see, I've already sewn up the back and pin-basted the layers together. Now I need to get cracking on the quilting and binding since the wee one should be here very, very soon. Finishing up this quilt is my top priority this month, and is my goal for A Lovely Year of Finishes August goal setting party over at Fiber of All Sorts and Sew Bitter Sweet Designs.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The squirrelly skirt

Miss C. loves squirrels. Her love for squirrels knows no bounds.

Let me count the ways:
  1. In our house, we don't call our furry friends "squirrels". It's pronounced, "Skaaaaaa-wuuuurllee!"
  2. She has five little stuffed animal squirrels that she sleeps with every night. 
  3. She has a squirrel calendar. She often flips through the pictures on said calendar to see which squirrelly is her favorite.
  4. We've set up a miniature blue adirondack chair in our front yard for the neighborhood squirrels to recline on whilst dining on their corn cake (which we happily restock whenever they've polished one off).
  5. We often discuss the time that the smallest of our squirrel visitors came right up to the window during lunch one day this summer and watched us for a minute or two from the windowsill. We were all riveted!
  6. We own a Lego Friends squirrel set.
  7. Miss C.'s great-grandmother heard about her love for squirrels and sent her the coolest-ever squirrel pen.
  8. We've set up an entire wall of squirrel art above her bed.
  9. Squirrels appear in most every picture she draws.
  10. Miss C.'s summer sewing project was to make a skirt, only it wasn't going to be any old skirt. She made a squirrelly skirt!

Whew! If you got all the way to #10, you'll see that we've reached the apex of our love for squirrels since our furry friends have made their way into the sewing room!

Last summer's sewing project was a pillowcase. This year, with a little help from me (serging, making the casing and pinning the hem), Miss C. sewed up the most adorable skirt I've ever seen. We spent quite a bit of time selecting the perfect squirrel fabric at JoAnn's, but after that she set to work and we had it finished in a couple of nap time sewing sessions.

We didn't use a pattern for this skirt, though I used the same method that was employed on the chicken skirt. Basically, sew up a tube of fabric for your top layer and a longer tube for the bottom layer. Then baste the two layers together, create a casing and finish your hems. Easy peasy!

I just love that she picked squirrels for her skirt. She found the perfect way to put her own personal stamp on this project. Smart girl!