Monday, May 30, 2011

Pretty Things

So many pretty things coming this way lately. Last weekend, at my boys' school fair, I scored some yarn at the silent auction.

I don't usually bid on auction items, silent or otherwise. This yarn, organically grown and dyed using natural dyes (onion skins for the yellow, indigo for the blues) at Shalom Orchard, was valued at $90 with a suggested minimum bid of $40. I can't buy $90 worth of yarn on a whim, no matter how pretty, so I walked on by. Later in the day I checked back and saw there was only one bid, for $10. (It's supposed to be a fundraiser, not a yard sale, but what can you do? The mitts I donated went for $6--somebody actually wrote down the auction-wide minimum bid of $2. You try not to be insulted, I guess.) At any rate, I couldn't let this yarn go for $2.50/skein, so I wrote down the suggested minimum, and nobody bid more. It's beautiful yarn, four 4-oz skeins of sportweight. That's got to be enough for a sweater, I'd think. Anyone know how many yards 4 ounces of sportweight is?

Things are a-blooming here. Check out this iris!

The kids and I went outside to draw and paint them, of course.

My niece was a little bummed that she wasn't eligible to try to win the giveaway book, so I made a few more in a different color. This gives me more practice, plus I'm interested in how the books hold up and under what sort of use.

One is for my niece, another for her mom (my sister), and the third, I think, will be a teacher gift.

Finally, last week (maybe?) I made a couple more cuffs.

I bought four fat quarters of coordinating fabrics (I have blue and green in this swirly print, too, and I can't wait to embroider it with some ocean-inspired doodles). The freehand on the purple was embroidered with some shiny rayon floss (you'll have to scroll down; it's listed alphabetically). As is my habit, I went ahead and worked with it and then Googled it, finding out how difficult it's supposed to be. Well, it's not the same as cotton, but it wasn't that hard. I knotted the ends and dabbed the knots with some tacky glue before I sewed it all together.

I used normal grey/silver cotton floss on the red and purple one. I was experimenting to see if there was a huge difference. It's not huge, but I do like the shiny rayon. I used the machine to sew these together, also an experiment. I still like doing it by hand, especially for the final closure. I was going to use buttons and a loop on these, and thought the loop would be more durable if sewn with the machine, but I like the snaps much better and I'd rather sew the loop by hand anyway, so I have more control over its length and placement.

June has exploded a bit on me, looks like, but I hope and plan to carve out some space to make more pretty things. How about you?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Girl's Curtains

A while ago, Bells mentioned she hoped I'd show the girl's room once it was painted purple. Here you go!

This is only a small portion of the room, but the colors are pretty true. We've always let our kids pick out their own wall colors from paint chips--even at age two--and none of them have ever gone wrong. It's a deliciously girlishly colored room. The evening my husband got the color on the walls, I walked in and it hit me that we have a GIRL. I knew this--she's been around 2 1/2 years, after all--but now we have a room that shouts out girl. Fun!

You can also see her curtains in this photo, those purple curtains covered with tools. (We have a girl with two older brothers. See the tool box in the cube shelves, too? It's on its third kid.) These curtains gave me a hard time. The construction is simple--a rectangle of pattern fabric and a rectangle of muslin, sewn together, with a casing at the top. A whole bunch of straight lines. It was cutting such large pieces of fabric that nearly did me in.

Since the window is about 44" across, I simply cut selvage to selvage (although I had to trim the muslin later since it was a couple inches wider). So each curtain was about 44" by 70". My table isn't 70" long. I had to measure to a yard, fold over, measure again from the first point, and try to cut straight. I think I botched it a little. Luckily such simple curtains can absorb some mistakes, and unless I took them down and pointed out each place where it's not quite even, nobody in this house is going to notice. Still--as I worked with these, I just kept thinking that it's a good thing I don't need to make curtains, even ridiculously simple ones, to earn a livelihood. I also thought that I probably wouldn't be machine quilting anything more than a doll quilt anytime soon--not that I've even started quilting, but it's good to feel inadequate before you even start, no?

So, does anyone have any tips on cutting and sewing large pieces of fabric? Meanwhile, I'm not displeased with these curtains (and I'm quite pleased they're finished), and my daughter is tickled pink purple with them. It would be good to know better for next time, though.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giveaway Day Winner!

What a lot of fun I had participating in Sew, Mama, Sew's May Giveaway Day! I really enjoyed your comments and reading about what inspires folks--everything from autumn leaves to laundry on the line to all the ways people showcase their projects on the Internet. And your enthusiasm for my little book really made me smile. I wish I had a bunch of them to give away, but there's only one, and it will be on its way to Emily from The Handmade Experiment as soon as I can get myself and my toddler to the post office.

I think I'll try my best to participate in the next Giveaway Day, too. I tried to get to as many blogs as possible and was just in awe of the creative people out there and the things they were willing to give away. I was lucky enough to win something, too--Gina's denim bag with the wax crayon-resist turtle patch. When I entered I followed all her links back to see how she'd done it--it's a really neat process, and I'm trying to figure out how I can try it with my kids without burning anyone!

So thank you again for entering, and I hope you won something somewhere, and if not, I hope you found some interesting new blogs to follow (I know I did!) and enjoyed Giveaway Day. And thank you to Sew, Mama, Sew for throwing the party and inviting us all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Giveaway: Win This Book!

Sew, Mama, Sew's May Giveaway Day is here! Welcome to those of you visiting for the first time!

Here at Salamander Dreams, I'm offering a handmade book--one that can be used over and over. Did you ever get a beautiful blank book and feel like you didn't want to actually use it? I've solved this problem by giving this book pockets instead of pages.

This is an accordion-style book with six pockets. You could put anything you want in those pockets--photos, coupons, receipts--but I admit I've been thinking of it as an inspiration book. Tuck those random things you find into the pockets, so you remember that exact color blue you saw in the magazine when you're standing in front of bolts of fabric at the quilt store. Or tuck a bit of your yarn so you can match buttons. I don't know about you, but I have a few too many notebooks lying around, yet still, I tend to write things down (an idea for a project, yardage needed for a sweater) on random bits of paper. The solution? Pockets. (Well, I suppose the solution for lots of people is an iPhone, but my phone only makes calls, plus I like pretty paper!)

Normally, accordion books open out like, well, an accordion, but I've given this one a delicate ribbon binding, so it opens like a typical book.

And, of course, one ribbon on each side extends so you can tie it shut. The book is made with paper-wrapped book board and bookbinding paste. It's meant to be used, but I don't know how it will survive if it lives in the bottom of your bag. (It wouldn't hold up living the bottom of my bag, but I have three children and my bag is approaching that of Mary Poppins.) The book measures 5 1/4 inches wide by 6 1/4 inches tall, with pages measuring 5 1/2 inches by 5 inches, with 3-inch deep pockets.

I will ship internationally! For a chance to win, leave a comment here by 9 pm EST Wednesday, May 25. If you'd like, tell me something that inspires you. (I love color! Very inspiring.) Make sure you leave a way for me to email you. If your email address isn't part of your sign-in (for instance, your Blogger profile), please leave it in your comment. I'll also announce the winner Thursday so check back in case I have trouble contacting you. The winner will be chosen randomly, and nobody related to me is eligible (but if you're my sister, I'll make you a book anyway!).

If you like what you see, I hope you consider following me here or on Twitter. It's not a requirement to enter this giveway, but when I decide to start making so many books I need to sell some, you'll be the first to know. Good luck! And thanks for visiting.


**comments are now closed!**

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sneak Peek

Don't forget, Sew, Mama, Sew's May Giveaway Day is this upcoming Monday, May 23! At last count well over 300 shops and blogs are participating, including me. Here's a sneak peek of what I'll be giving away.

So don't forget to stop by on Monday for your chance to win!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

DIY: Rainbow Beanbags

This isn't a tutorial in the sense of providing you with step-by-step instructions with pictures, but truly, if you can sew, this is an easy and oh-so-fun project. The inspiration for these is a little backwards; I wasn't looking for something to decorate beanbags with, but instead a way for my daughter to carry around the set of Rainbow Girls with her. Wendi suggested beanbags.

The first step, of course, was to embroider the girls. I put them all on one piece of muslin.
When they were done, I ironed the muslin and cut the girls out. I wasn't being exact here--they're different sizes. I just went for the girl plus a bit of border. Then I snipped the corners of each rectangle (again, not being terribly exact) and folded the raw edges to the back. Snipping the corners makes it look like an envelope fold, sort of. I ironed those down.

Meanwhile, I cut two 5-inch squares for each beanbag. Then I pinned my girls onto the right side of one square--these are the fronts of my beanbags.
I zigzagged around each muslin rectangle to sew them together. Again, I didn't measure or stress about placement here. I just eyeballed it. Here's the main thing you should remember when sewing for kids: they're not judgmental.

Once I had my fronts, I sewed the two sides of each beanbag together, right sides facing, using a smallish straight stitch (between 1 and 2). I left a hole for turning and filling at the bottom of each one, roughly as big as that edge of the muslin rectangle. I used about a quarter-inch seam allowance. Then I turned everything right-side out pressed the raw edges of the opening flat.

Then... time to fill! These are my daughter's beanbags, so of course I invited her to help fill them.

The openings were smallish, so we began with a scoop and funnel, but the beans got stuck in the funnel, so we just used spoons. G, at 2 1/2, was quite adept with the spoon and was able to fill them with no problems. I used just under two one-pound bags of black beans to fill all six beanbags.

(There was a bit of a gap between getting the bags ready to fill and actually filling them because I put the beans in the freezer for three days, on the counter for two, and in the freezer again for three, because have you ever seen a bag of dry beans infested with pantry moths? I have. It's horrifying. The freezer-counter-freezer treatment may not actually accomplish anything, but it makes me feel like I've tried. The beanbags will probably periodically get a time-out in the freezer, just because.)

Once the bags were full, I sewed the opening shut with my machine. Partly this is because G wanted to play with them right away, and it's quicker than slip-stitching them shut by hand, and partly because I think it's a little stronger for beanbags that are meant to be played with. Slip-stitching would have been less visible, for sure, but as I said, kids aren't judgmental.

They fit so nicely in the hand. G decided when each bag was full enough, so some are fuller than others. (The fuller ones, by the way, take a little maneuvering to sew with the machine, but it's completely do-able.)

As soon as they were done, we played.

"This is fun!" says G. Indeed it is.

I didn't make these as a teaching tool--G already knows her colors--but you certainly could. Or you could put numbers on them. Or shapes. Or embroider something else. A set of beanbags is a fine present for a little person you love.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I'm trying to figure out how to make my sewn cuffs adjustable. Suppose, for instance, I wanted to give one as a gift? I know my wrists are small--every time I get a watch we're either taking out links or adding holes, depending on what kind of watch band it is--so I can't really go by my wrist alone. My first thought was to use an elastic loop, like I did for my daughter's, and more than one button.

I think it looks pretty cute, and it works, but as far as utility goes, I like the snaps better. Not that it's relevant to the fit, but here's a closer look...

The fabric itself has the purple starburst pattern, and I went over it with embroidery floss. Anyway, my 6yo son likes the buttons. He thinks they look nice, so they serve two purposes. (I think they look nice too.) My husband and older son like the snaps, and they both suggested just putting two snap bottoms on, so the cuff can be snapped either smaller or larger. I'll probably try that next.

But I was wondering... what do you think? Multiple buttons, multiple snaps, or something else I haven't thought of?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

DIY: Pretend Parchment

Earlier this month, I took my kids to a pirate encampment (a historical re-enactment of one, anyway) and to see a rare Dunlap Broadside Declaration of Independence, all in one week. (I know, awesome mom, right?!) My almost-7yo son has drawn treasure maps before, so it was no surprise when he began drawing some more earlier this week, pretending to be a pirate. He put his map in his treasure box, because, as he reminded me, the pirates had told him that one of the first things pirates went for when they took over a ship were maps and charts, because those were truly valuable at sea. Quoting The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence, he rolled up his map and said, "You never, ever fold parchment."

The next day, while he was at school, I decided he needed some paper that looked like parchment. This is how I did it.

I grabbed a couple large sheets of drawing paper and tore off the edges. Then I crumpled them up, uncrumpled them, and put them in my roasting pan.

I poured a cup of cold coffee into the pan and made sure the paper was submerged. You could also use tea.

I left it there for a bit--maybe fifteen minutes? Long enough to wash the lunch dishes, make some more coffee (for drinking), and finish reading the paper. Periodically my daughter or I would tilt the pan, and I flipped the papers over once. After a bit, I dumped the coffee and ran some water over the paper, mainly to wash away any sediment (that coffee had been in the fridge longer than I can remember). Then I set the papers out on a cooling rack to dry.

I tried to hurry this part up by using a blow dryer, but my daughter (she's two) was terrified by the noise. So we let them dry naturally. By the time my boys were home from school, I needed my counter space, so I ironed them on the "paper" setting. (Just kidding. I think it was the polyester setting. Not too hot, in other words.)

And here is the finished parchment.

Doesn't it look nice and old? Makes a good map:

Make sure you roll it, not fold it. My son tied his map with twine.

Ahoy, mateys! There's treasure about. Happy Pirating!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Custom Commissioned Ort Jar Label

My, that does sound impressive, doesn't it? A couple of months ago, I used a stamp I'd carved to make a label for the pickle jar which has been holding my DPNs for years now. I learned the process from Print Workshop by Christine Schmidt, and once I knew it worked, my boys and I labeled every jar we could in our art studio. So my sister's recent request for a labeled jar in which to keep her orts wasn't completely out of left field, although I wasn't quite sure what an ort was. In this case, an ort is "the snippet of thread left over in the needle after finishing a section of embroidery."

And this would be a dressed-up jar in which to keep your orts.

I just realized Blogger lost an entire post, in which I mentioned I'm participated in Sew, Mama, Sew's May Giveaway Day. Thanks a lot, Blogger! I'll work on re-creating it... maybe?   Here it is!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

(Re-Post) Procurement of Supplies

For a while I had a string of jobs that all contained "procurement of supplies" within the long, open-ended job description. Honestly, isn't that such a fun duty? That's what my daughter and I set out to do today. Her room is ready for curtains, but the local stores have a limited selection and a high price, so I decided we needed to head to the cavernous fabric store about 45 minutes north of here, where cotton fabric is just $5/yard ($2 in the bargain loft). My daughter found purple fabric all right. It's not quite what I'd have chosen, but it's not my room, and I do think kids ought to have control over these sorts of choices.
It's covered with tools. She's ecstatic.

This store doesn't offer fat quarters, but with prices like that, it's cheap enough to gather up your own. Mindful of time and budget, though, I didn't. I simply went for a yard of this:
As you can tell from the buttons, I have plans for it. I was only going to get a half yard, but at the last minute I decided, Oh heck with that extra $2.50. Let's get a whole yard. (That stop by the button section cost me an extra $10, by the way. I didn't photograph the silver skull & crossbones buttons I got for my sons, or the five button cards my daughter just had to have. Letters, numbers, ducks, ladybugs, and fish, all terribly cute.)

Since we were already up near the city, we swung by Utrecht. I order most of my art supplies online or pick up what I can at craft and hobby stores, because the actual art supply stores (there are three of them) are all in the city, 45 minutes away by car and with challenging parking situations. It's not always easy to get to one of them. But I wanted some paper for bookbinding, and that's the sort of thing you really need to buy in person. See?
That charcoal one is actually for my daughter. I'm not sure what she plans to do with it, but she'll let me know.

I was super lucky and found free, one-hour parking right across the street from the art store, and right next to a hardware store that's been there for nearly 100 years. Do hardware stores draw you in? Especially independent ones? I checked with my daughter and she agreed we should go look (after putting the carefully rolled-up paper in the car). We ended up with a plastic funnel and an aluminum scoop for the sandbox, some nightlight bulbs (seems like we go through those like water here), some foam-tipped paintbrushes (which may have a date with that charcoal paper tomorrow; we'll see), and some free stuff.
That piece of fabric over on the left is a sample--this hardware store also does interior decoration, apparently, not just paint and wallpaper but fabric, too. I have something very specific in mind for that piece. The other two books--books--of sample fabrics were also free. I asked if they ever sold the sample books when they were done with them, and I was told exactly where I could find the discards and that I could have whatever I wanted. They just give them away! (Did you know this??) I'm not sure what I'm going to do with those sample books, but I'm sure my kids and I will come up with something. They're heavyweight, with some sort of backing--I don't know if that's because it's all upholstery fabric or because samples are always reinforced--whatever the reason, it definitely expands the possibilities of what we might do with them. I'm so glad I asked.
Also? Now that I've procured some supplies, I'm signing up to participate in Sew, Mama, Sew's May Giveaway Day. I just haven't decided yet if I'll be using that pink fabric or some of that paper to make my giveaway...