Posts tagged crafts
Last week as part of my 30 Days of Creativity, I decided to make Jose a card for Father’s Day instead of buying one at the store. I scanned through several pages of designs in the Silhouette store but couldn’t find anything quite right, so I went in a completely different direction and went with one of Jose’s favorite things — stars. I created a simple 5×7 design in Illustrator of one big starburst surrounded by tiny stars and pinpoints.
I saved the file as a JPG, imported it into the Silhouette software, tweaked it to make sure the cuts would be done right and voila! A pretty little star field cut out of navy blue cardstock! I backed the design with some yellow striped scrapbook paper and pasted the whole thing onto a piece of yellow cardstock folded in half.
Overall, I am having a lot of fun using my Silhouette Cameo so far. You may remember that I bought it almost a year ago, but it sat in its box as taking care of Emma occupied the majority of my time. Now that I finally set it up and have made several things, I’m kicking myself for letting it sit untouched for so long — and I’ve barely even scraped the surface of what it can do. I’ve also started to keep a list of my own tips and tricks as I get more experience using the machine. The star patter above is the most intricate thing I’ve cut so far, thanks to the tiny circles, and I was impressed with how well it turned out. My biggest lessons learned so far:
- The blade setting recommended by the software is not always the best. When in doubt, go one setting up (i.e. if it recommends a blade setting of 2, use 3) and select the “double cut” option. I’m not sure what the downside of using a double cut could be — I guess it probably puts more wear and tear on both the blade and the cutting mat meaning I’ll have to replace those sooner, but the benefit of knowing I’ll get a super clean cut is worth it.
- The cutting mat was TOO sticky at first. Now that I’ve used it several times, the stickiness has been reduced to a more usable level where it keeps the paper in place but doesn’t make removal after cutting so difficult. Using the spatula tool (which came included with my machine) is also very helpful when removing the paper from the mat.
- The Silhouette software isn’t super user friendly; in fact, it’s downright clunky to use in some situations. One of the biggest reasons I bought a Silhouette vs. a Cricut is the ability to make and cut my own designs, but I didn’t realize until I started playing around that it costs another $50 to upgrade to the “Designer” version of the software (which can take SVG, aka vector-based, files). The good news is that even the basic software can import a JPG image. As long as my design is pretty simple, I can import a JPG and quickly use the “trace” option to turn the lines in the image into cutting lines. For intricate designs, however, I suspect this would be difficult. I may upgrade my software at some point, but for now my workaround is acceptable. As for the software itself, it gets easier to use as I play around with it more and more. Adobe Illustrator it is not, but it’s sufficient.
- The machine does need a decent amount of space to work properly, since it runs the 12×12 cutting mat anywhere along the full range of front to back as it cuts. When I set it up on my desk, I treated it more like a printer with the back against the wall — and the first time I used it, the sheet promptly got crunched against the wall which screwed up the cutting. I need to keep the machine against the wall most of the time just so it takes up less space, and I therefore I made this mistake several times! Finally I stuck a post-it on the front of the machine reminding me to pull it away from the wall before cutting.
June 7 – I sewed the fabric I’d prepped the day before and created two new throw pillows for our couch. (Well, two new covers anyway.) This was such an easy project that it’s embarrassing to admit that I’d been sitting on the fabric (which I bought specifically for this) for more than a year. From start to finish it took about 45 minutes to make two pillow covers.
June 8 – One of Emma’s three main teachers at daycare had back surgery on Wednesday and will be out for a couple months. I made her a card to thank her for everything! She was great and it’s a bummer that she doesn’t get to finish out the year with Emma and her classmates…but hopefully she’ll be back and feeling better in the fall. In August Emma will move from Room 1 (babies) to Room 2 (young toddlers), which is right next door, so I’m sure we’ll still see Ms. Joy.
June 9 – A little more work on Emma’s Christmas stocking.
June 10 – I saw a necklace at Target a while ago made of embroidery floss and metal rings. It occurred to me that it’d be very easy to make something similar so I bought the materials a while ago…and of course they’ve been sitting with the rest of my craft stuff for months. I finally dug the bag out on Monday evening and made this necklace. It didn’t turn out quite like I’d envisioned — tying the knots took up more of the length than I’d anticipated, so the necklace ended up shorter than I’d wanted. But overall it’s not too bad and I had fun doing it.
June 11 – Yep, more cross stitch!
June 12 – This was my low point of creativity this week since all I did was hem some work pants. Necessary, arguably crafty, but not very creative. Also? My blind hem stitch and I do not get along very well. I had to rip it out twice before finally being somewhat successful on the third go-round. And it still turned out wonky enough on one leg that I may rip it out again and just sew the hem by hand.
June 13 – I designed a simple card in Illustrator and imported it into my Silhouette software. One reason I bought the Silhouette instead of a Cricut is that I wanted the ability to make my own designs! Importing them into the software is a little kludgy, but as long as the design is simple it’s not too much of a hassle. The card turned out really cool so I’ll post a photo of the finished product once the recipient has received it!
This was a great week! I did a lot of fun little things.
June 1 – I started off easy with a project I’ve been working on for months — Emma’s cross stitch Christmas stocking. I got started back in November and December, and then in languished for a while until I picked it up again in April. I’ve made slow but steady progress since then. I leave it out next to the couch where I can see it, and that’s enough of a reminder to keep at it. Cross stitch is a pretty mindless activity, so it’s easy to add some stitches while hanging out with Jose and watching TV. As you can see from the photo, it’s got a snowman theme. I estimate I’m ~20% complete right now.
June 2 – My friend Melissa has some cool magnetic photo sleeves in her cubicle, and a few weeks ago after finally using my Silhouette cutting machine for the first time, I realized I could make some neat “frames” on my own. I ordered some adhesive magnet paper (sticky on one side, magnet on the other) and my idea worked perfectly! I stuck scrapbook paper to the adhesive side, designed a frame shape in Illustrator, and then figured out how to (clunkily) import that into the Silhouette software. After one false start because I didn’t install the cutting blade correctly, it worked like a charm. I’m so in love with these!
June 3 – I laid out and ordered my first-ever photo book! I can’t believe I’ve never done one of these until now. I went with Blurb and am excited to see how it turns out.
June 4 – In some of my blog surfing, I came across an idea for a computer desktop “organizer.” I am really bad about keeping my desktop cluttered with files, and it makes it rather difficult for me to ever quickly find reference material or other documents I might need. I took 20 minutes and whipped up my own version of a desktop organizer, and I am not even a bit embarrassed to admit how ridiculously happy this makes me. I’ve got 3 categories that are appropriate for my two primary roles — Emergency Operations and Russian Vehicles — and one box for Other. The hardest part was figuring out how to size things just right, but that just involved finding the monitor resolution, dividing by the number of icons that can fit from left to right and top to bottom, and drawing appropriately sized boxes. (The sizing is also designed such that when I switch from docking station to laptop and the display resolution changes, my icons won’t scatter randomly.)
June 5 – More cross stitch.
June 6 – I bought two yards of home decor fabric at Ikea over a year ago to make some throw pillows but never got around to it. Throw pillows are SUPER easy to make, so yesterday I prepped the fabric and I plan to sew them up today.
Until next week!
Way back in December, a few days before Christmas, I was at Joann browsing the aisles and came across a cute little kit for a shopping cart cover. Emma wasn’t sitting up yet back then, but I knew she would be soon so I scooped up a kit and put it in Emma’s stocking. Because, you know, it was really a present for HER, right?
The included some pretty adorable animal fabric for one side, and a nice blue and green pattern for the other side — the cover is reversible. It also included a long piece of elastic to make the outside edge conform around the shopping cart, and a set of rudimentary instructions. I had to provide the thread, batting to sandwich between the two layers of fabric, and embroidery floss for tying (vs. quilting) the cover together.
Construction was pretty easy — sandwich the batting between the two layers of fabric and sew the edges. I then sewed around the edge again, about a half inch farther in, to create a casing for the elastic. I measured and cut the two leg holes and secured those edges, and then tied the quilt using floss. I had never tied a quilt and that technique was a little time-consuming, but it worked great. (In fact, I am inspired to FINALLY tie the t-shirt quilt I made almost 10 years ago. Hopefully I’ll do that soon!)
The final step was learning how to make buttonholes! I needed two of them, each ~2 inches long so allow the buckle and straps from shopping carts to pass through so we can still secure Emma in the cart. My sewing machine has an automatic buttonhole feature — but it couldn’t make a hole long enough! I had to go old school and sew the buttonhole manually. Fortunately that process was pretty straightforward.
Once she was able to sit up well enough, we started putting Emma in the car whenever we are out running errands and she loves being able to sit up and look around. Good thing I gave her such a great Christmas present, right?
(Also: Her hair has grown a lot in just the 2-3 months since these photos were taken. Wow.)
My friends Katie and Andrew welcomed a baby boy a few weeks ago, and I wanted to make him a little something to celebrate his arrival. Katie is a language arts teacher and LOVES the Harry Potter books, so my original idea was to find some Harry Potter-themed fabric and make a baby blanket. However, apparently Harry Potter fabric was only produced for a short time and more than a decade ago. (This was pretty surprising to me, but I guess Rowling is fairly protective of the brand!) While there are still some pieces from 2001-2002 available on Etsy and eBay, the average price is around $100/yard. Not exactly what I was hoping to find!
So I took a different approach and started searching for Harry Potter-themed quilts. This led me to a WHOLE WEBSITE dedicated to quilt patterns for fans of various things — Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, etc. It kinda blew my mind and made me fall in love with the internet all over again. It also had exactly the right thing for me with a huge selection of Potter-themed paper-pieced quilt blocks. I’d been wanting to learn how to paper piece already, since it lets you make some very intricate and impressive blocks. This seemed like the perfect excuse.
I chose the Gryffindor crest — a very cool lion — and decided to turn it into a taggie toy/sensory blanket backed with soft red minky and bordered with some pieces of ribbon for Baby Boy to grab. I had to enlarge the pattern slightly to make it what I wanted, but that was easily done on the computer. In retrospect, I certainly could have picked an easier block for my first attempt at paper-piecing! But I took it slow, triple-checked everything before sewing, and got the hang of it as I went. (This paper-piecing tutorial from Fresh Lemons was also quite helpful.)
The lion was made up of 6 smaller sections that were then sewn together into the final block. (The picture above shows the 6 sections.) I thought it would take a lot longer than it actually did. After the first few pieces, I started to get the sequence down and the repetitive nature lent itself well to just plugging along — sew one piece, press the seam, cut a piece of fabric for the next piece, line it up, and repeat.
I did make a couple mistakes and you can see the biggest one in the upper left corner. That piece was the first of the six that I did, and I didn’t fully understand yet how important it was to cover every single bit of the seam allowance. I didn’t realize how critical this was until I had sewn the whole block together. Fortunately I was able to fix it by changing the shape of my crest — if you look at the first photo showing my completed blanket, you’ll see how I made the top corners of the crest curve inward. Doing that eliminated my error. Whew!
Once the quilt block was done, the rest of the project was super simple — just a normal blanket with the pieces of ribbon thrown in for fun. (Be careful if you’re using the photo above as a reference for actually making something of your own. That was just me figuring out where to place the ribbons, but it’s NOT how you should line them up for the final sewing! Before you sew, they need to be tucked in between the layers of fabric pointing towards the center, so that they stick outside when the blanket is turned right-side-out for finishing.)
The lion himself is made from several different fat quarters in a variety of yellow patterns, and the crest is a single mottled maroon print. The background is a cool navy fabric with tiny gold polka dots. I chose three different kinds of ribbon to coordinate, and used some nice bright red minky for the back. I think I’ve used minky in at least half of the baby items I’ve made. It’s just so soft! I love it.
I packed this up in an envelope and mailed it off to Ohio only a day or two before the baby arrived — I think this was probably waiting in their mailbox when they got home from the hospital! I was SO happy with how this turned out. I think it looks amazing and can’t wait to take on another paper-pieced project in the future.
And I think Robert likes it too!
A few weeks ago I went to a baby shower for my friend Cindy, who had a baby boy a few days ago! Even though she works for one of NASA’s contractors here in Houston, I first met her through Twitter a few years ago. Now we’re real-life friends as well and I can’t wait to meet her little boy!
I decided Cindy could use a few of the awesome swaddle blankets that we liked so much with Emma, but I also wanted to add something handmade. I originally had visions of another quilt or baby blanket but…I ran out of time, as per usual. (My friends who had babies after I learned how to sew but before I had Emma definitely hit the sweet spot in the gift department!)
So I decided to make a plush toy rocket! This was a fairly easy project, partly because I already had all the materials I needed! I used a tutorial from The Long Thread that I had pinned a while ago, but simplified it by skipping the “astronaut” since I didn’t have the materials for that. I used some very stiff heavy duty interfacing that I already had in the rocket fins instead of cardboard, and that worked just fine. You may recognize several of the fabrics as well — I used scraps leftover from last year’s zig zag star quilt, plus some starry yellow flannel I had leftover from making burp cloths.
The only thing I would change if I made this again would be to put the fins a little higher up on the rocket — so that the bottom of the fins are almost flush with the bottom of the rocket itself. The interfacing in the fins is stiff, but not stiff enough to hold the rocket upright so it would probably be better if it could sit on its bottom.
Ta da! Rocket! To the mooooon!
I’ve barely made anything for Emma since she was born, which is kind of hard to explain. I think it’s a weird side effect of having so many things I’d like to make that I can’t seem to actually get started on ANY of them.
Fortunately, she has two awesome grandmothers who have picked up the slack and made her two adorable dresses. The first was a bright blue smocked dress from my Mom. I showed a picture in Emma’s 7-month letter, and my mom will be happy to hear that I got over the fear of it getting messed up and put Emma in it when we went out to dinner over the weekend.
My mom included the leftover fabric in the package, and I used that to make a matching diaper cover. It was a good little project to do with my new serger, since I didn’t care about making it absolutely perfect. I used this pattern and tutorial for The Perfect Diaper Cover by Dana (her “Made” blog is one of my current favorites!) and it was super quick and easy.
And a few weeks ago when they visited, Jose’s mom brought this impossibly cute pink butterfly dress (and matching diaper cover) that she made just in time for spring.
Emma, your mom has been kind of a slacker so far. Hooray for grandmothers!
One of the many (MANY) craft projects that’s been on my list for a while was some kind of cute door decoration for Emma’s room. This was pretty low priority and I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, but it turns out that Joann’s is running a contest via Facebook called “Create with 8″ that challenges people to make something using 8 materials from a list of about 20 different items. Winners get a $250 gift card, which turned out to be just enough motivation for me to finally knock a door decoration off my list! Who knows if I’ll actually see anything, but either way, I get to enjoy my creation.
Since the whole idea was to use 8 materials from the list, I picked the 8 materials I thought would work best for what I had in mind (styrofoam, yarn, felt, buttons, scrapbook paper, ribbon, paint, and a wooden letter) and roamed the aisles at Joann’s with a general blue/green color scheme in mind. When I got home (I did this a couple Fridays ago when I had taken the day off work), I just pulled everything out of the bag and made the rest up as I went along.
I cut out the interior of a styrofoam disk to make a ring, then wrapped the ring in yarn. The yarn was just one skein that varied in color from white to yellow to green to blue — but when I started wrapping, I was surprised to see that it ended up making stripes around the outside. It was a neat and totally unintended effect.
The white background is a piece of felt, and I sewed a ring of buttons around the edge. I painted a wooden letter E, then backed it with two different sheets of scrapbook paper. After that, I just added a piece of ribbon and it was ready to hang on Emma’s door!
I took a “mental health day” on Friday and it was fantastic. I saw Jose and Emma off and then went for a nice 3 mile run. After that I put the finishing touches on a sewing project (that I will blog about soon) and went out for a pedicure. Ahh. I got back home and still had an hour or so to spare, so I tackled another sewing project — this time, something quick-and-easy that I just hadn’t gotten around to…
DIY baby legs! You can buy these online from tons of sources (I got Emma two pairs of Babylegs recently when they were on sale on Zulily) or you can make your own from a pair of cheap knee socks!
I used this tutorial by Bowdenisms (via My Sister’s Suitcase), and a pair of black and white striped socks that I found at Target for about $3. The leg portion of the sock becomes the leg of the legging (obviously). The foot part gets narrowed and folded in half to make an ankle cuff. The heel and toe get tossed.
Cute baby legs! (And cute baby teeth!!)
I picked up two more pairs of socks at Target today. $1.75 each on clearance! I might be obsessed with baby leggings…
When our Christmas vacation started a few days before Christmas itself, I decided that I wanted to make something for Jose. The only thing I’d ever made him to that point was a pair of pajama pants! So I decided to make him this quilted patchwork laptop sleeve. It only took a couple hours, and most of that was spent doing the quilting, so all in all it was a pretty easy project.
I used this tutorial from Oh, Fransson! to make the quilted panels. I used several fat quarters in shades of black, white and gray to do the patchwork, then added a thin layer of batting and a piece of muslin for the backing fabric. I thought it would be sturdy enough, but I should have used some sort of utility fabric for the backing like the tutorial recommended since the bag turned out a little flimsier than I’d hoped! But that’s a minor detail.
Once I had two quilted panels, I put them together with a zipper and green flannel lining exactly as I did a year ago for my brother’s Nook cover. (In other words, this was my second time using this tutorial from Little Birdie Secrets to make some sort of tech device sleeve.
Ta da! A nice boy-friendly laptop sleeve!