Friday, March 29, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 
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{this moment} ritual from Soulemama

Thursday, March 28, 2013

More Napkins

The collection grows.

I've blogged about possibly my favorite thing to sew before, but last October, after I stopped blogging, I was charged with planning a baby shower!  I've never even helped plan a baby shower before (and sadly, somehow, I took no photos of the actual event), but I was very excited to make more. cloth. napkins.

All different vintage sheets.

I love vintage sheets so much.  This is the easiest project to showcase their beauty without dramatic alteration, that still allows for reinvention of something that has typically exhausted life in their first round.  Even a bed sheet with rips or stains can be resurrected as a set of napkins.

Tidy stitches.

And because they are so simple to sew-- really the iron does all the work here-- I can really crank them out.  I think I made 40+ napkins for this baby shower, and I used additional vintage sheets as table cloths.  I'm really kicking myself for not photographing the event.  I was positively giddy to be able to put my stash and favorite go-to project to use.  We also used the vintage sheet buntings that hung at my wedding.


My favorite combinations of fabrics are florals and geometrics.  Usually one side is busier than the other.  In my house, we know to wipe greasy hands on the busier side so any potential stains are more difficult to detect.  But a wash in warm water with Oxyclean has taken care of any lingering food marks these puppies have encountered so far.  We don't eat many meals where we're really messy (buffalo wings?  If only), but those would be the meals we would break out the stash of take-out napkins.

I'm glad to have a big set of these for future events.  Dare I say, I'd be eager to host another event if it meant I could use them?  And this is another item that I'd love to receive an Etsy request for at any time.  If you find yourself interested in switching to cloth napkins, or would just love a set of vintage sheet napkins, find me on Etsy and we can work out the details of your order.  These napkins finish up at 17" square, with turned edges and topstitching, but they could be made in any size or combination of fabric.

Did I mention they are also good for the environment?  They are zero-waste napkins!  In addition to preventing disposable napkins from being sent to the landfills, vintage sheet napkins also reinvent vintage sheets, almost all of which either are orphaned items (no fitted sheet or no pillowcases), or are salvaged (can no longer be bed sheets at all).  And, they are just darn pretty.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Alanna's 5th Birthday Quilt

Backtracking again, through the things I have recently done but did not blog, here is the quilt I made for my niece's 5th Birthday:

Alanna's 5th Birthday Quilt: Purple Gingham.

I wanted to make her something big because the 5th birthday seems like a big one.  After all, it's after the 5th birthday that children in the US typically start kindergarten, begin learning to write their own name and tie their shoes.  Plus, they also have the social development to be able to play games and generally are a little more fun and independent.

I kept the stitching simple.  I wanted her to receive it on time, and it mimics the simplicity of the quilt.

Her favorite color is purple, so I focused on that in this quilt.  I used two shades of kona purple solids, a white solid and a vintage lavender and white striped sheet for binding.  I bought the supplies and sewed up the entire quilt top in Binghamton in December.

I love the gingham look effect!

This isn't he first blanket I've made for Alanna, but it's definitely the most exciting and grown-up.  It's just her size, so she can use it for naps, cuddling on the couch or bring it on a sleep over (at age 5, I'm fairly certain that is something she is allowed to do!).

Mark was super excited to step out into the hallway to hold it up for me to photograph.  As you can tell.

I used a super soft vintage sheet for the backing.  I love the floral print here, and there is purple although it's not overwhelmingly purple.  I used new fabrics for the quilt top, so I had to sneak in some vintage sheets for the backing and binding.  It's surprisingly difficult to find good purple vintage sheets.

Not to draw attention away from the quilt, but excuse Mark's socks.  I was too lazy to crop this photo.
Close up of floral vintage sheet.

I am not often timely with my gifts, a deficiency I am trying to work on because it seems so much more important with children.  But this gift was finished and received on time!  Alanna was able to open it at her birthday party.  Sadly, Mark and I couldn't be present, since we live 1,500 miles away.  But my lovely sister captured the moment, and I think Alanna really liked her quilt!

Yes, that is a Trader Joe's paper bag and pink ribbon.  Have I mentioned I don't believe in wrapping paper?
First glimpse!  She looks excited!
Not sure what it is...
It's a quilt!  And she loves it!  Hooray!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

brioche and spring snow

our window view on Monday.

A few weeks ago, my area was predicted to see one seemingly last final snow of the season.  We were scheduled for several inches over night and in preparation, schools, offices and businesses closed down.  My work was closed pre-emptively.  And then the city waited for it.  And waited.  And the snow never came.  Essentially, the city ground to a halt for... rain.

looks more like Christmas is coming than Easter is coming.

It was much more than rain yesterday, however.  Somehow under the radar, Sunday evening and Monday morning were predicted 1-3" of snow.  Not getting wide media coverage, however, many in my city woke up to a wintery surprise yesterday morning!  Disconcerting because the calendar says it now is spring, this (hopefully) is the last big snow of the season.  And for her efforts, we were awarded only a delayed opening at work this time.

I'm dreaming of a white... Easter?

 Although I could have accomplished more at home with a closure, the delay made possible the. most. delicious. brioche I have ever eaten.

Brioche is a wet dough, requiring overnight refrigeration for the easiest manipulation.  Not knowing about the snow, I easily assembled this dough in my Kitchenaid stand mixer on Sunday night and with the delayed opening, I had time to pull the dough out, shape it and let it rise this morning.

I rushed home on my lunch break to pop my risen brioche loaves in the oven.  I'm very lucky to be able to get home for lunch most days.  With just 40 minutes of baking time, I was able to pull the most beautiful loaves from the oven right before I had to head back to work.

soft and buttery, the edge of the loaf gives you an idea of what's inside.
an egg and milk wash gives the exterior of these loaves a beautiful crust.

Thinking about this bread the rest of the afternoon had me itching for quitting time.  You can be sure the first thing I did when I arrived home was to cut into one of these puppies... and share a taste with Mark.

The dreamy inside.
beautiful, soft, buttery crumb

It was fantastic as-is; the eggs and butter give this loaf great texture and flavor.  A plain slice is a real treat, as, I'm sure, would be a toasted slice.  We slathered ours with butter and strawberry preserves, and limited ourselves to one slice.  Thank goodness the recipe makes two loaves.

adapted from The River Cottage Bread Handbook
yield: 2 small loaves

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons white bread flour (or 400g)
1 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast (5g)
2 tsp sea salt (10g)
6 Tbsp warm buttermilk*
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
7 Tbsp softened butter (unsalted)
4 beaten eggs
semolina flour, for dusting*

for eggwash
1 beaten egg
2 Tbsp fat free milk*

In a stand mixer with dough hook, combine all ingredients.  I find it is easiest to use my kitchen scale with the mixer bowl for the fewest additional kitchen utensils.  This way, I can simply spoon or sprinkle in ingredients and use no measuring cups/spoons.  Mix on low for 10 minutes, until smooth and shiny.

Carefully shape dough in a round, place in a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate over night.

In the morning, divide the dough in half and form two loaf shapes.  Dust with semolina, to prevent dough from sticking.  Let rise, covered, for 3-4 hours (it will take longer to proof because dough is cold).  I dusted my loaves and let rise right on my baking stone, covered with plastic wrap for a little over 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 425, and brush loaves with eggwash (mix 1 beaten egg and 2 Tbsp of milk).  Bake for 10 minutes at 425, then lower oven temperature to 375 for an additional 30 minutes.  Cool on wire rack completely before slicing.

*a note about semolina and the milks.  you can use whatever type of milk you have on hand.  I had buttermilk, so I used it.  I also like semolina on the exterior of my baked goods (think of the crumbs on an English muffin), but you could use extra bread flour if that is what you have, and any kind of milk, both in the dough and for the wash.

brioche, butter and strawberry preserves. heavenly.

Monday, March 25, 2013

this boy... also loves vintage sheets.

Moses: "Oh, hey mom."

Moses has a definite thing for vintage sheets.  Look at how he's wiggled himself up between the pillows to get to the soft pillowcases?

Moses: "Ignore. Ignore. Ignore."

Also, of course, for pillows.  Because just lying on the Beauty Rest pillow-top mattress is not quite soft enough, especially when there's also a pile of pillows there, am I right?

Moses: "This is getting a little awkward... I would never photograph her nap..."

Too bad he doesn't also have a thing for being photographed.  He's so photogenic!

Moses: "Maybe if I hide... she'll go away?"

At least, when he allows himself to photographed.

Moses: "If I can't see her, she can't see me."

Love this pup!

Friday, March 22, 2013

mark's ukulele kindle cover

Cross that one off the list.  A year later.

Mark received a Kindle from his parents for his birthday January of 2012, and approximately... one year later I got around to making him a cover for it.

Time really flies, doesn't it?  Good thing it's custom-made for him and has ukuleles on it, so that makes up for all those months his poor Kindle spent naked.

Kindle in cover - front.
Kindle in cover - back.

I cannot remember the designer of this fabric, but I bought some as soon as I saw it because at the time, Mark was just learning to play the ukulele.  Which means I probably had it in my stash earmarked for some project for Mark a year before his parents gave him the Kindle.  I still have some left, so if I ever remember my original plan I can probably still execute it.

Kindle case fits the Kindle Touch like a glove.

I lined the pouch in a yellow and white circle fabric I picked up at the thrift store.  Which hardly matters because you barely see it.  But just in case you were worried, it does coordinate.

Lining of Kindle case.

I used an elastic hair tie for the closure.  I'm a big fan of this type of closure.  First off, you get to pick a cool button, and I love buttons, so any excuse to add them to a project is good news to me.  Secondly, hair elastics are cheap, come in many colors and are relatively reliable (it's unlikely a hair tie will unravel, for instance, the way a ribbon would).

Elastic closure. 
Kindle case opening.

That button?  It's wooden!  And I got it as part of a swap I did one month last fall through Swapmamas.  I haven't swapped again, but I would recommend it to others.

Detail of wooden button and stitching.

Mark sure was happy when I gave it to him.  And I actually enjoyed making it.  I know my Etsy shop currently has no listings, but if anyone ever wants a custom Kindle, ipad, tablet etc. case, I'm happy to arrange a custom order.  These puppies are lined with 100% cotton needled batting, top stitched to give a thick and sturdy feel, fully lined but lightweight and everything from the fabric, to the button, elastic and thread can be customized to your preferences.  Makes me wish I had a Kindle so I could make a case for it from vintage sheets!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

my anthro-inspired ottoman

I mentioned in my back-from-my-six-month-hiatus post that I had re-upholstered an ottoman while I was away.  It's no exaggeration to say that it took me almost that entire time to actually complete the project.  Not because the project itself was really time consuming, but because there were parts I needed help with that had to wait until Mark and I were at home for Christmas.

But I'm finally done!  And I LOVE the finished project!  Without further ado... the before:
 ... and the after!

I don't know about you, but this is the sort of project I'd probably see and dismiss because it looks so simple.  A little paint, a little fabric, some staples, voila!  But in actuality, the bottom shelf of the ottoman had to be completely re-fabricated.

Since it's my blog and I want to remember, let's walk through it.

I picked this baby up for 25% off $3.99 (plus tax).  It was a steal!
$3.99... plus 25% off!

As you can see, it was a little rough around the edges, but I had a feeling it would end up a (cheap) diamond in the rough.

A little rough, but a solid piece.
That's Moses' beloved Goat in the background!
The legs and feet were wood but the shelves were compressed particle board with vinyl edges.  Not eligible for painting.  It didn't matter with the top shelf, because I already knew I wanted to upholster it and the edges and surface would all be covered.

View from the top.  Thanks for those orange socks, Diana!
So, that's what I did.  The table came apart really easily.  The feet unscrewed and then the legs did, too.

Removing the feet.
The table completely disassembled.
At this point, I did upholster the top shelf and paint the legs and feet.  I used paint I had on hand-- first paint and paintbrush and then a final coat of spray paint to smooth things out.

I bought high density foam (3" green padding) from Joann during a 50% off sale.  I used spray adhesive to stick the foam to the shelf, then I used fabric from my stash (first a fleece I knew I wouldn't use and then another piece of fabric to cover up the fleece print) to cover the foam.  I stapled the fabric in place, making sure everything was tight as I could get it and saving the corners for last.  Then I did the exterior fabric.  Because this ottoman is not getting a lot of use (some feet, books, computers- more of a nice upholstered table than additional seating), I didn't think twice about using this fabric, even though it's not an upholstery fabric.  If I knew we would be sitting on this ottoman a lot, I would probably have used another fabric.  The rubs (from your behind!) would eventually create pills and either look horrendous or require reupholstering.

I finished the bottom with a black mat board I bought from Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon.  I didn't use the entire sheet, so I have some of that leftover for future projects.  Again, since I was pretty sure how this would be used, I didn't sweat over using what is basically paper on a reupholstery project.  There are no drinks allowed on this ottoman, so I don't have to worry about spills.
Not exactly professional, but cheap and looks good to me.
I was pretty much done at that point except for the bottom shelf.  As I previously mentioned, it couldn't be painted (at least not with a nice finish), so I ignored the brown shelf for a few months until Christmas.  

Then, with my father-in-law's help, I re-fabricated the bottom shelf!  I bought a piece of quality plywood from Lowe's, and we cut it to the right size in his shop.  We rounded the corners on the bandsaw and drilled the holes for the legs.  After a coat of paint (several weeks after Christmas, 'cause sometimes that's how projects get done), the ottoman was completely done.

beautifully rounded corners!
And that's it!  We use it, we love it.  I don't get tired of looking at it.  It's busy, but not that much of the rest of our furniture is (intentionally.  Have I mentioned my desire to reupholster our couch?) busy so it doesn't overwhelm us.  It's great when we actually watch our TV and want to put up our feet, or more often when we watch a show on our laptop and use it for that.

See Ana White's "Handbuilt Home" there?  A MILLION projects I'd love to do.
I keep magazines and library books underneath.
I love this piece from every angle!
The ladies at Joann gave me crazy looks when I told them I was using this fabric for upholstery.
They might still think I was crazy, but I think I'm genius!  Don't you think it looks a little Anthro-inspired?
I don't know the total price tag on this project since I didn't save receipts, I used my materials for other projects besides this one and I completed it over several months, but as far as custom-ottomans go, it was cheap :).  Not to mention the perfect size for our space!  Check that one off the list: a totally functional project completed!