6 year old b-day gifts!

One of the things I love about having younger cousins now is that I get to make them fun little kid gifts. It can be hard, however, to pick things out they would like—and that their parents would approve. One of my cousins, F., is turning 6 this summer and recently became infatuated with make-up and fashion, but I know her mom would be horrified if I got her lipstick!

Luckily F. also loves knitting, and in fact recently started learning to knit herself! So I thought it might be fun to make her some things that encourage that interest by inspiring her a bit, while still being very fashionable of course. 😉 Scarves seemed like the perfect solution—no need to know sizing, and they can look quite fancy. With some kids, of course, scarves can present a choking hazard, but F. is a very responsible girl, and already has some she wears safely.

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Because her birthday is in summer, I wanted to include something she could wear right away, so I made two scarves for different seasons. 🙂 For winter, she gets a bright teal scarf knit in an easy but fancy-looking lace pattern, made of an alpaca/acrylic blend. The alpaca adds drape and softness, but the acrylic makes it a bit easier to clean.

For summer, I sewed a simple cotton scarf out of Kaufman fabric’s floral lawn. I thought this pattern looked very cheerful, so perfect for a little girl. 🙂

To tie the two scarves together, I added an embroidered label on the cotton fabric to the back of the knit scarf, and a teal pom-pom trim to the ends of the cotton scarf.

I’m excited to give them to her, and hope she likes them! She has one more present coming, but that’s more of a back to school gift. 😉 I’ll share that one later.

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oilcloth lunch bag

I made a project with my sewing machine! It turns out the thought of sewing through two layers of oilcloth is enough to finally inspire me to tune up my vintage singer and learn (kinda) how to use it. Okay, well goad my dad into tuning it up for me.

I saw this tutorial and really liked the look of the bags, so I ordered some pretty oilcloth prints a few weeks ago. My sister and I have a longstanding campaign to encourage my mom to use more reusable containers, so this seemed like the perfect solution to her daily brown paper lunch bag.

 

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Who doesn’t love kittens with roses and yarn?

My top-stitching is…not the greatest. I actually didn’t even use the motor on my machine, just the handwheel, because I kept messing it up. But isn’t the kitten print cute? Maybe that makes up for it. 😉

I used a bit of velcro to keep the bag closed and make it easy to use. It’s just a bit roomier than a brown paper bag, although not so much bigger that it’d be difficult to put into a tote or backpack. If you’re looking for a way to cut down on throwing things away, I think this is a great alternative!

favorite tools!

I’m sure others have experienced the gradual accumulation of crafting tools—you start with a pair of knitting needles and a skein of yarn, and soon you somehow have a spinning wheel, tens pairs of size 00 dpns, and half a room of “stash.” And of course, the more crafts you do, the more this multiplies.

So I thought it would be nice to pare back a bit and show off the top ten crafting tools that I didn’t just “end up with,” but that I genuinely enjoy using most. Some are craft-specific, others I use for any and everything. 🙂


9. clover patchwork pins

Not being very good at sewing (or realizing how many cool sewing supplies are out there!) I spent years using cheap plastic topped pins that were frequently dull and even more frequently poked giant holes into my humble projects. These clover pins were such an upgrade! Also I love the cute case they come in. 🙂

8. brittany crochet hook(s)

These hooks look beautiful and also happen to be my favorite ergonomically. The wood keeps stitches from sliding too much, while the long handle allows me plenty of room to grip. And I love tools that are as beautiful to look at as they are to use—it makes crafting even more special.

7. stone whorl spindle

Spinning is one of those crafts that can feel just incredibly ancient. I think about all the women who used to have to spin hour after hour to make enough yarn for clothing and other household necessities, and am a bit awed by taking part in such a long, arduous, tradition. These stone whorl spindles really accentuate those feelings. They’ve become one of my favorite types of spindles to use, and it helps, of course, that they’re extremely well made and nicely balanced.

6. turtlemade 3d spindle

In contrast, these 3d printed spindles are eminently modern. 🙂 They’re also perfect for traveling—I slip mine into a coat pocket or purse, and bring it everywhere! I’ve even spun with mine in Disney World. 😉 These are also the favorite spindles of my little cousins, who have taken to asking after them if I neglect to bring them. While I wouldn’t recommend them for beginners, due to their light weight and high speed, for a more confident spinner I think there is no better travel option!

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6. a portable iron

Ironing was another of those simple, exceptionally obvious skills that improved my sewing. I like using a small, portable iron, because I travel and move frequently, and I don’t really need a bigger iron for my clothes. Having a little iron and tabletop ironing board allows me to set up a space almost everywhere, and just start sewing!

5. my handmade nalbinding needle

Nalbinding is one of my favorite types of wool-based crafting, because it’s so portable and looks great with my rather uneven handspun yarn. 😉 When I first started nalbinding, I made my own needles out of sticks, because I didn’t like using metal tapestry needles (a cheap beginner option) and didn’t want to purchase one before I knew I like it. Now, a few years later, I have quite a collection of needles! The three below are my three favorites, made of elk antler, mammoth ivory, and one I made myself! Not only do I love using my little wooden needle for finer projects, but I’m also very proud of it. While my dad is a woodworker, I rarely do anything with wood. But I have had a little pocket knife since I was 5 for whittling, and I guess it finally paid off!

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4. sajou embroidery scissors

I bought these scissors in France, and I love them. Embroidery can be so delicate, so pretty—doesn’t it make sense to have a pair of scissors that matches? Of course, they also have a very sharp edge, and the blades are paired, so they work beautifully too. But I will admit I mostly enjoy them for their looks!

3. kromski minstrel

One of my biggest crafting tools, the Kromski Minstrel is my long-awaited first spinning wheel. As you can probably tell, I enjoy a certain aesthetic style. 😉 The Minstrel looks somewhat antiquated, but because of its castle-wheel setup, doesn’t take up too much space. I got it because I wanted a very versatile wheel, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. While I still do particularly fine spinning on my spindles, I’ve found it easy to switch between fine and think yarn on this spinning wheel.

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2. rhodia grid notebook

I am…not the most organized person in the world. But while I don’t mind digging through a pile of mail to find my bills, I hate to lose pattern or project notes and ideas. My solution has been to save one notebook, a rhodia gridded one, and use it for everything! While I still keep notes in other places, or use larger notebooks to design patterns, this little notebook always has at least a note or initial sketch. That way, if I somehow lose the other pieces (which has happened…too many times), I don’t have to start entirely from scratch. 😉

1. gingher shears

My sewing shears get top place. 🙂 When I was a kid, I used to scoff at all the sewing tutorials I found that instructed me to use real sewing scissors. What could possibly be wrong with my normal paper scissors, other than the fact that they had nicks all over them, were incredibly dull, and occasionally didn’t even close properly?

Obviously nothing, right? 😉 I’m sure it’ll surprise no one that my sewing magically improved ten-fold when I finally invested in this pair of gingher shears. Suddenly I could cut in a straight line! My seam allowances no longer looked like mice had chewed the fabric apart! I could actually follow patterns! I’m still using the same pair, and I still love them.

So these are some of my absolute favorite crafting tools—what about you? Which do you use most often, or enjoy using the most?

 

 

embroidered lunch bag

I still can’t get past my love for white-on-gray linen embroidery. It’s simple, pretty, and decorative without being ostentatious—perfect for things I want to use daily. I decided to make this latest project after realizing that a bag to carry my lunch in would be useful. My normal schoolbag is a leather satchel, which while perfect for keeping papers un-crumpled, isn’t that spacious. I usually clip my water-bottle to the handle, and figured I could do that with a lunch bag too!

I used this zakka book once again for inspiration (the last project I used it for was my pincushion). The bag will be a simple drawstring one, with embroidery on both sides—although I might just put a decorative initial on the back.

You can see I still have a lot of work to do! While I love the look of chain stitch, I’m not very fast at working it yet. Oh well, practice makes perfect. 🙂

I’m designed this bag to fit the box I used for these lunches, but I hope it also fits the new (slightly bigger) lunchbox I just ordered. While I like my other one, I wanted one that a) looked somewhat more like an adult would use it and b) was stainless steel. I haven’t used my new one yet, but I did test the seal—it didn’t spill anything!

Embroidery and sewing things that I can use frequently is one of my favorite things about these crafts. Every time I spot my handmade item, I feel like the day gets a little more special. 🙂 What are your favorite things to make?

patchwork chair cushions

I said I had more plans for my kitchen—here’s the next addition. 🙂 I decided to cut down on my fabric scrap collection by making some scrappy patchwork chair cushions. I’ve only finished the first one right now, but it turned out very cute.

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I apologize for the random plant in the background—I’m procrastinating studying for finals by redoing my whole gardening set up, so pots and plants are currently all over my kitchen.

Doesn’t the cushion look cute though? I’m not a big fan of those serious foam cushions, but I did want this to have a bit of padding, so I used 3 layers of 1/4″ loft batting and then tied it rather than quilting. All of it is pieced and sewn by hand, but it wasn’t so bad, as most of it is just squares.

Let me know what you think!

finished lily-of-the-valley pincushion!

I finished my pincushion! It turned out super cute. I went with a Rifle & Co. print fabric for the back, and also used it to make a covered button.

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I really like how the embroidery turned out. I found it a little difficult to steel myself to cover up parts of it, since although it didn’t take that long to do, it still was work. But the end result was totally worth it.

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You can see some of the lily disappearing into the seam. 🙂 I really loved this fabric too, I mean most of rifle & co’s prints are great, but the blue-heavy floral made an excellent contrast to the gray & white of the embroidered linen. I only got 1/2 a yard before, but I may have to order some more! Or if anyone knows of simmilar fabrics to recommend…? 

wall quilt & garland

One of the less fun things about being a grad student is the lack of money. This is especially a problem, if like me, you tend to prefer handmade furniture and oil paintings (I know, I know). My dad is a very good woodworker, and has so far indulged me in the desire for very nice furniture, but I’ve had to be a bit more economical with art and decorations. I decided to combine my desire for less-blank walls with my desire to improve my quilting skills, so I’ve been making wall quilts! They’re not exactly my favorite pastoral oils, but they are very cute. 🙂

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This is my first finished one—I made it to hang in my kitchen. I thought that the redwork embroidery looked a bit vintage, and the teacup of course makes it very suitable. I didn’t do a very complicated block, since this was for practice, but I did make sure the cat fabric formed a nice border. I think my hand-quilting has improved somewhat—the stitches are getting a bit more even!

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Once it was done, I thought the wall still looked too blank, so I added a little crochet garland. The stars are very simple, only two rounds, so it went quite fast. I used scraps leftover from the cotton I use for my dishcloths, which luckily I’ve made in a nice variety of blue shades.

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Overall, I’m very happy with this simple decorating! I still have a few more things I’d like to make for my kitchen, and then onto the next room. 😉