Thursday, September 15, 2016

1st Grade Valences & Sink Curtain

My daughter's new first grade teacher is new to the district and new to first grade.  I sent her an email welcoming her to our school and offered to do some sewing for her.  I was remembering how fun it was to make the Native American props last year and wondered if there would be something similar appreciated this year.  However, I did mention in my email that I could probably be talked into making curtains for the classroom.  I had no idea how many windows she would have though!
First Grade Curtains Valances

Because I had the various curriculum topics on my mind and also remembered one of my favorite projects making Kessa's Kindergarten quilt, I thought it might be fun to include different prints to coordinate with each curriculum topic.  After trying to explain my vision and showing the teacher a small picture from Kessa's quilt, she was on board.  The teacher also requested a curtain to hang under the sink in the classroom.  There was already velcro hanging there.

For the under sink curtain, I just made it 1.5 times the width and just one layer of fabric with all raw edges hemmed.  I added tucks every so often to have it fit the velcro.  I loved that I had extra of the crayon print for some detail.

The first step for the valances was to gather various prints I already owned.  I had been researching the different curriculum topics and started searching for fabric prints for each to buy.  Some topics were easy to consider and for others I needed to think more creatively.  Not every topic is well represented either.  I wanted to include many children's book prints too.  There are so many out there.

Some of my favorite fabric prints I found were chicks for the eggs they hatch in the spring, the many children's books including prints from Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

Each rectangle of fabric was 4.5" x 6.5".  I added in small strips of light blue every four rectangles.  The finished valances are 18" long and I ended up having the front and the back be one continuous piece of light blue connecting at the prints.  My header was 2.5" to be sure to accommodate whatever hanging method the teacher found.  For the side seams I just serged them and folded and top stitched.

Because the large windows were eight feet wide, I opted to sew two separate panels for each.  I did repeat the prints between the two large windows and small single window.  Some repeated more than others.  I also added some basic prints to add variety.  These valances also were 1.5 times the width of the windows.

It was really fun searching for prints and finding old prints of mine.  One red print with dinosaurs and books was from a pair of shorts I made for a toddler friend in 1999!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sewing for a little friend

I wanted to make something for a friend who will be undergoing surgery soon. I tried to think of something I could make to make life more pleasant during this time.

The first thing I considered was a pillowcase. I have made pillowcases before to be donated for hospitalized children. Pillowcases are also a nice gift for any child in their favorite themes. I found out the child's favorite things are My Little Pony and Disney Princesses. 

After making the pillowcase, I had more My Little Pony fabric leftover and decided to make a quiet toy for her too. I made three "I Spy" bean bags with little toys and buttons I thought she would enjoy. 

After delivering our gifts and talking more with her mom, I learned that keeping her well is very important before the surgery and afterwards as well. I remembered seeing a child wearing a surgical looking mask at the bowling ally and wondered about making masks out of fabric. Fortunately, I found an amazing tutorial at Craft Passion. I also saw some people copy paper surgical masks which also seemed doable.  

The Craft Passion pattern was very easy to use. I did need to make the elastic pocket slightly larger after my first attempt. Also, I found it helpful to sew with the elastic tucked into the pocket area. The small fit the four year old well with an 8" elastic tied into a knot. The medium fit a six year old with an 8.5" elastic tied. I tried to cut the prints so the characters were visible on the masks. They came out really cute!
We have a surgical paper mask that is part of a play doctor kit. I copied it as a pattern as is and also made a smaller version. The smaller version is 6.5" wide and 5" tall. I pressed three pleats and then serged all four edges and turned them under. Adding the elastic was the last step and used 6.5" long pieces on each side. 
I wanted to make something for the big sister too. She likes Shopkins and finally has some wiggly teeth!  I made up a little tooth pillow with a felt tooth shape pocket on the pillow. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

50th Anniversary Cake

My parents were to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and my sister and I wanted to recognize the milestone. Earlier in the year my family took a big trip togther to celebrate. I started thinking about a cake at the minimum. I hadn't remembered that my parents had a square cake for their wedding, but when my sister started pulling photos for a slide show of 50 years, I was able to see the cake.
My sister and I also planned to have a cake celebration after my parents' church service, so I knew I would need to have cake for about 100 people. 
My first impression of the cake was that it was very ornately decorated. I wasn't sure how much uninterrupted decorating time I would have, so my main focus was on the roses. I didn't have a rose tip or a flower nail, so I started there, even before making the cakes and was able to make 10 buttercream roses which I refrigerated. 

I looking at square cake pans and figure out how much cake I needed. I found great tools out there for how many cups of cake batter for different sized pans. I decided to use devil's cake mix and white cake mix and instead of the directions, I added just under a cup of vanilla Greek yogurt, 2 egg whites and 1 cup of water. Both mixes turned into perfectly moist cakes that baked level using the guidelines for 8" square cakes and 16" square cakes. I ended up making the four cakes separately. First the 8" and made some cupcakes with the leftover batter, then another 8" with leftover cupcakes. Then I make the 16" cakes using two boxes of mix each and had a bit leftover each time too. 

After the cakes cooled, I placed each cake on a cake board and wrapped them in plastic wrap. This sort of wasted some cake boards, but did keep my cakes level and prevented cracking when handling them. I cleared off and cleaned my top shelf of the refridgerator for the cakes knowing I would need a big space for once they were assembled and frosted. 

I spent some time watching videos and looking at tutorials for stacking cakes and frosting. I decided to start frosting the two 8" layers. One video I liked in particular was with Alan at Global Sugar Art. One thing he did differently was to use a lot of frosting on the top and sides (applied with a decorator bag) and then take off the excess. I used angled spatulas which were great and also a pastry scraper which also worked well. I also already had a plastic cake turntable which was able to hold the weight of all the cakes. 

The 8" white cakes sat on one 8" cake board and were layered with buttercream frosting. After frosting the 8" layer, it went back in the fridge and I went to work on the 16" layers. The devil's cakes sat on a 14" foil covered sturdy cake board with some frosting to stick it in place also layered with buttercream frosting. 

Once the cake stacking started happening, it became apparent how heavy the cake was getting. I had already planned on using dowels under the 8" cake with it's cake board. I bought 1/4" dowel from the cake decorating department and needed to cut them down. I measured one dowel in the cake and cut four. I read sanding can be a good idea too to minimize splintering in the cake. I did wash and dry the dowels afterwards. 

It was helpful to have the extra cake board I used for wrapping the cake layers individually and used that to figure out where the 8" layer would sit on the 16". I placed the extra board down and made marks with a toothpick. 

Once the 8" cake layers were on the 16" layers, it was time to decorate and make more frosting. I placed the big cake on my shelf in the fridge and hung a sheet of waxed paper up to keep it safe. 

For decorating the cake, I knew I had the roses. I also watched some tutorials which used the rose tip for making arches. another tip I picked up was to use half of a disposable cup to mark the arches. One more component I wanted to include were shells using a star tip. I did use the plastic cake turner I had and it seemed to hold all the weight well. The square cake was easy to decorate.

Finally I added a 50th cake topper I had purchased and I added extra roses on top. 

Other things I researched were how to transport the cake and how to cut the cake. I found a box we had and was able to slide the cake in one end and then make a card board barrier so it couldn't shift. Having the square cake for transport and cutting actually seemed to make things easier. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Native American Medicine Pouch Craft

My daughter's kindergarten teacher mentioned she was preparing for their new Native American unit. She was playing around with patterns and ideas. I told her that sewing is something I love to do and I could look around too. One craft idea I saw was for a medicine pouch. Then I had a vague memory of making something similar with my kids many years ago. But I didn't know much about the history of medicine pouches then and we weren't sure what to put inside our tiny pouches.

After reading about pouches and looking at patterns and pouches for sale, I decided to just try to make one. I looked for some vinyl at home, but wasn't having any luck. I ended up with a scrap of felt cut into a rectangle, rounded the bottom corners and quickly sewed around the edges.  Then I made slits to lace boondoggle through in order to cinch it up. I sent my example into school and the teacher loved it!

After doing more research and purchasing a few supplies, I made a classroom set of medicine pouches and one out of leather to show a slightly more authentic pouch.

The pouches are very simply to cut and sew. Then I made slits and used 32" of hemp cording with tape on the ends. Glue could probably be used as well to stiffen the ends and keep them from fraying. I started the lacing in the center, but it could be started at one side seam instead. After going around the top edge, I added beads to each side before knotting the pieces together. The beads are painted wooden beads that were very inexpensive.

In addition to the pouches, I wanted to make a cradle board with a doll.  I used more of the leather scrap and some wood we had. I even learned about bending a Popsicle stick for the top part of the cradle board. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Blueberry Zucchini Muffins

This recipe is a work in progress. Since I received the recipe from a neighbor with 3 eggs and 1 cup of oil, I've been trying different adaptations.

2 eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or 2TB yogurt and 1 ripe banana)
1-1.5 TB oil
2 tsp vanilla 
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini

3 cups flour (1 cup wheat, 2 cups all purpose)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda (need more, heaping tsp? For 1 cup yogurt)
1-2tsp cinnamon
2 cups blueberries

Often I felt I needed to add 1/8 cup of milk or water to the batter at the end. 

Struessel on top of muffins for added texture and sweetness. A small mixture of butter/oil, brown sugar and oats. 

For loaves, she said 350 degrees for 50 minutes, yields 2 loaf pans

For muffins, I gave done 375 degrees for 18 minutes, yields 24 muffins

I don't have a picture because they all get eaten quickly. My son has enjoyed the denser adaptations with the one cup of yogurt. The banana variation was lighter and had a better muffin dome.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kindergarten Rest Mat

For kindergarten, one item requested for school is a towel for rest time. I asked my daughter if she wanted to bring a towel or a blanket. She suggested a blanket with fabric of things she likes.  I loved the idea and started looking through my fabric stash.  I found quite a few, but also wanted to buy some new prints such as Barbie and more princess. Many of the prints have additional meaning or were used in other projects.

I started cutting the prints into strips of at least 5.5" long and 2-3" wide. Once assembled, I cut them down to 5". I thought of this design as wonky coins, but then made them into a rectangle not just stacked. I had turquoise for the background and borders. My goal was to make it the same size as a small beach towel. Once I put together the strips, I saw I had extra space at the top and bottom. My kids suggested making the top bigger and appliquéing Kessa's name at the top. 

I loved putting the prints together and working on this quilt. I haven't done much sewing lately and it was great to get into a new project. I decided to do wavy lines across the quilt and like the effect. I was careful to go around the princess' faces and other prints I fussy cut. 

For the binding, I used 2.5" strips for the binding and think I should experiment with 2.25" the next time I make a quilt. Part of the problem with this one was I was sewing on the binding with a sore wrist and didn't stay at 1/4" perfectly. My wrist started hurting during the quilting of the wavy lines. 

For the most part, this was a one day project. Those are my favorite kind of days. This day was unique in that I had plans for three parts of the day and everything was canceled. And somehow the kids didn't need me much either. I had done most of the cutting a different day and I finished up the binding the next morning.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ice cream cake again

It was birthday time again and somehow my daughter isn't a fan of cake and requested an ice cream cake again.  We used vanilla and chocolate ice cream with a cookie and magic shell base and middle.  I decided to try chocolate whipped cream frosting and used 1/4 cup of cocoa.  Instead of decorating with whipped cream, I used buttercream and it went very well and was easier than the stabilized whipped cream I used last year.