Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Painting on Train Trestle

A couple weeks ago, this pretty painting popped up on the train trestle that is on my walk to work.  I can't tell if it is a decal or a painting, but I'm thinking it is a decal.  Either way, it makes the ugly trestle a lot nicer to look at at 7:45am.

Pretty Things Thursday: Painting on Train Trestle

I think the E stamp is the artist's signature.  Anyone know who it is?

On an unrelated note, today is my birthday!  I turn 28 on the 28th, which is pretty fun.  Someone's getting old!  Project Runway returns tonight.  What a great birthday present!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Look 6557 Muslin Take 2

I took my muslin of New Look 6557 to sewing class on Wednesday and my instructor helped me take it in.  Now it actually fits!

New Look 6557 Muslin Take 2

Looks much better, no?  I didn't iron up the hem, but just know that it will end at my knees instead of mid-calf like it is now.  I cut out all of the fabric and lining pieces on Sunday, so I'm all ready to start sewing on Wednesday at class.  I hope this dress goes together faster than my Passport!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lisette Passport Dress: Almost Finished

In last week's sewing class I finished up everything for my Passport dress except for the hem.  Yesterday, I tried it on and realized it gapes in the front and the back by the neckline.  What the!

Sure, it looks great from far away, but even from there you can see a wrinkle in the front neckline.

Despite making sure my muslin fit like a glove before I cut out my fabric and lining, the back is baggy.
Lisette Passport Dress

 Here's a look at exactly how much the dress is gaping.  It gapes equally in the front and the back, but I didn't think including a shot of the front would be very ladylike.

Lisette Passport Dress

Nick suggested that I try pinching the straps up and that seemed to help matters.  I'm going to leave it as is and take it to sewing this week and see what my instructor suggests.  This dress is taking way longer than I wanted/expected!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Notecards

When I left my first job, my boss and a co-worker gave me these pretty notecards (along with a scarf) as a going away gift.  It’s been almost 6 years, and I think I’ve used maybe one or two cards.  They’re just too pretty to use! 


I think what really gets me though is the box.  It’s been sitting on my desk all of these years, just looking pretty.


Now that I think about it, there is fabric in my stash that falls into this category.  Do you have anything that is just too pretty to use?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Look 6557 Muslin

I had intended to finish up my Passport dress this weekend, but I ran into a snag.  My sewing instructor and I decided to add a full lining to the dress instead of using the facings that the pattern called for, which has sufficiently confused me.  I have the lining and the outside fabric attached, but I’m confused about how I finish the sleeves.  I decided to put the Passport aside until sewing class tonight and sewed up a muslin of New Look 6557 instead.

New Look 6557 Muslin

As you can see, it is quite large.  My measurements were all over the place with this one, so I decided to use a combination of my bust and waist measurements when choosing the size to cut out.  I chose a size 12, which called for a slightly smaller waist than I have, but a slightly larger bust.  I’m not sure if I chose the wrong size or if there is a lot more ease built into the pattern than I thought, but the result is very loose in the bust and waist areas.  I’m going to bring it with me to class tonight to figure out if I should take in the size 12 or if I should just whip up a new muslin in a size 10.  Either way, I'm going to take the length up a bit, most likely so it hits right at my knees. 

The good news is that the dress went together really easily, it’s flattering, and I get to wear a regular bra with it.  Hurray on all accounts!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ms. Bunny of the Ryan Berkley Quartet

Since I love the Ryan Berkley designs for Sublime Stitching so much, I decided to stitch up one of each animal to hang over the nightstand in our bedroom.  The first design that I tackled is Ms. Bunny, who is looking very pretty in her ruffled blouse and string of pearls.

Ms. Bunny Embroidery

I plan on stretching the embroideries over canvas so the frames can act as frames, rather than framing them in embroidery hoops like I normally do.

This may seem obvious to veterans of embroidery, but a row of French knots turns out much neater if you insert the needle from the same direction every time.  I realized this halfway through the string and ended up cutting out and starting over so the string would be uniform.  I’m glad I did.

Ms. Bunny Embroidery

Next up is Ms. Kitty!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fight to the Death!

On Friday, I was lucky enough to be working from home, and since the weather was nice I had the windows and our sliding glass door open.  Around 9:00am, I heard something thump against our patio table and when I looked outside, I saw a giant insect buzzing around our umbrella.  I didn’t see anything on the table, but I did see this giant bug laying dead on one of our chairs.


I’m not an insect expert, but after consulting with Nick (who hadn’t left for work yet, that lucky duck), we decided it was some kind of cicada.  Then we saw this guy, who must have plummeted to his death after I saw him in the umbrella.

Cicada Killer

I thought he was a Cicada Killer.  What an obvious name!  But Nick informs me that he is just a carpenter bee.  We are familiar with cicada killers though, as they have been burrowing in our front yard for the past few years.  They are horrifyingly large but are pretty harmless to humans since they don’t sting.  Anyway, I placed my lens cap next to the bee so you can get an idea of how big he is. 

Cicada Killer

This year we have noticed swarms of Cicada Killers near the path that runs through our neighborhood, and behind our house.  Thankfully the path is enough distance from our house or I’d be afraid to go outside.  They are very intimidating!

The cicada is pretty large itself.  Here’s a lens cap comparison.


The cicada had some pretty neato wings and markings on his back.  I was too chicken to flip him over, but you can get the idea.


You won’t be surprised that I left both parties in their final resting places because I was afraid to pick them up (even when knowing that both were dead).  Yesterday when we went to get our bikes out of the shed (also on our deck), Nick and I noticed that the cicada was gone.  I guess one of our neighborhood Cicada Killers must have spotted him and had a nice feast.  The fallen bee remains on the deck.  I’m hoping that something comes by and eats him too, otherwise Nick is going to have to dispose of him.  Just thinking about picking him up in a paper towel gives me the willies. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Nerding Out on Harry Potter

In honor of the final Harry Potter film being released this week, I share with you my letter of acceptance to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

You read that correctly.  A couple of birthdays ago—only two days before Harry’s birthday, I might add, we are fellow Leos—I  received a package from Hogwart’s with the attached envelope.

Hogwarts Letter Envelope

You see that Harry and I have more in common, as his original letter was addressed to The Cupboard under the Stairs, and mine was addressed to The Couch in the Living Room, where I am found during much of the time that I’m in the house.  Otherwise, I’m in my sewing chair.  Look how exact Nick, I mean, Hogwarts, made my envelope to Harry’s!

Upon opening the envelope, which was sealed in wax (!), I found this letter from Professor Minerva McGonagall.

Hogwarts Acceptance Letter

It says: “We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  

Please find enclosed all necessary books and equipment for the coming term, compliments of a few faculty members and housemates.

Yours sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall”

When I opened the box, I found a bunch of individually wrapped supplies for five of my classes at Hogwarts!

Course Letters

If you haven’t realized by now, Nick and I are extremely nerdy, and Nick puts tons of effort into my birthday and Christmas gifts each year.  In fact, he puts tons of effort into any gift that he gets me any time of the year.  He is definitely the best.

My supplies were for Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, Muggle Studies, Potions, and, of course, Defense Against the Dark Arts.  To my delight, I got a letter from Neville, Hagrid, Professor Slughorn, Hermoine, and Harry himself! 

Wasn’t that an awesome birthday gift?  It was like a gift in a gift.

Now that we’re sadly at the end of the Harry Potter movie series, I have decided that Luna and Neville are my favorite characters.  Even though we’ve only known Luna for a few books/movies, I love that she does her own thing and doesn’t really care what others think about her.  For instance, how awesome is this hat?

She also has great style.  Check out this coat (and the glasses, obvs)!

Neville I have loved since the very first book/film when he had trouble keeping track of Trevor, his pet toad.  He has great faces.  One of my favorites of all time is his adorable look of shock when Dumbledore awards him house points for trying to get Harry, Ron, and Hermoine to stay in their dorm where they belong in the first book/movie.

Image Source

He has a great sense of humor too.  In the first book/film, Neville’s broom goes nuts and he ends up hanging off of a gargoyle on the side of Hogwarts.  In the second book/film, Cornish Pixies hang Neville on a chandelier.  He then says the choice line, “Why is it always me?”  HA!  I think my very favorite Neville line is from the Goblet of Fire, when, after partying late into the night, he arrives back at the dorms when everyone else is asleep.  Harry wakes up when Neville gets in, and Neville says, “I just got in.  Me!”  Aw Neville, we love you.  That movie also has the great Neville line, “Oh my god, I killed Harry Potter!”  He’s the best.  And he gets pretty badass in the last few movies.  I'm excited to see him wielding the Sword of Gryffindor in the last one!

Image Source

I could clearly nerd out with Harry Potter for hours, but I’ll stop there in case (horrors upon horrors) some of you aren't Harry Potter fans.  Who is your favorite Harry Potter character?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Keeping Track of Projects

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem when it comes to planning sewing projects with respect to how much time I actually have to complete them.  I want to do about a million projects and only have nights and weekends to complete them and other obligations/social engagements, along with the life duties that come with being an adult.  In short (and I know I’ve said it before): working full time stinks.

My mental to-do list was getting pretty long and I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed at how long it will probably take me to get to everything.  I was also starting to forget some of the projects that I really wanted to complete.  I needed a solution!

A little while ago, Tilly did a study on improving your productivity in regards to sewing, which she dubbed the Sewing Productivity ProjectCasey, one of my other fav bloggers, shared her strategy: keeping a spreadsheet.  This seemed brilliant to me, but it took me a couple of months to get around to making one of my own. 

A couple of weeks ago, I created a simple spreadsheet on my lunch break that listed out what projects I had floating around in my brain.  I kept the spreadsheet simple and created columns for Project Title, Type of Project (sewing, knitting, embroidery, etc.), Pattern Name/Number, Fabric, Completed Date, and Notes.  After I got down all of the projects that I want to complete (eeks, 37!), I decided I needed some reassuring and added in all of the projects that I have already completed this year (a satisfying 17).  In-progress projects are listed at the top of the spreadsheet and are highlighted light purple.  Completed projects are listed at the bottom of the spreadsheet and are highlighted dark purple.  To-be-completed projects are in the middle and are loosely ordered by preference.  Here’s an idea of what it looks like.  I moved my completed projects in the middle so you could actually see them—otherwise they’d be off the page because I have so many projects in the pipeline!

Since creating it, this spreadsheet has kept me sane and on track.  This comes at no surprise to me because at work I have a spreadsheet for everything and I love to-do lists, especially when I get to cross an item off of a to-do list. I’m thinking that this spreadsheet is here to stay.  It also helps me keep track of projects that I need to complete further in the future, like Christmas presents that I want to make for friends and family (that’s right, I am crazy enough to have a few planned already).  I have a few projects that I need to complete before going on vacation in August, and a few projects that I need to do a little prep work on so I can work on them while on the road, so the spreadsheet is a nice reminder that I don’t really have any time to be lazy.

The spreadsheet is also helping me prioritize which projects get completed first.  In a moment of craziness, I registered for Gertie’s new online course through Craftsy.  When I started sewing, one of the first sewing blogs that I found was Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing.  I have been hooked ever since!  When she announced that she was coming out with an online course complete with instruction videos to make a vintage style dress, I was excited.  Then when she said that her readers were being offered 50% off the price, I jumped at the chance to learn through Gertie’s expertise, and registered for the course. 

Image Source

Having only (almost) sewn one dress before, I think this course is a little above my skill level.  But 50% off?  Who could resist?  The dress, which she calls the Bombshell Dress, is all of the way at the bottom of my spreadsheet waiting for me to get a few dresses under my belt before I attempt to follow along.  I’m thinking that this might be a fun project to complete while I’m off for Christmas week.

In the meantime, I plan on finally finishing my Crepe dress and also trying out the new Sewaholic pattern, the Lonsdale dress

Tasia from Sewaholic is planning a sew-along for the Lonsdale starting August 1st, but since I have so many other projects going on I won’t be able to participate.  Thankfully all of the posts will be waiting for me when I’m back from vacation and ready to get sewing!  One of these days I’ll actually participate in one of Tasia’s sew-alongs while it happens. 

But before I get to the Crepe and Lonsdale, I need to put the finishing touches on my Passport dress.  And I’m whipping up a New Look 6557 (view E) to wear to a wedding that is at the tail end of our Great Western Adventure

Image Source

It’s going to be a busy month!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Velvet Jewelry Pouches

My pal Sarah is getting married in September and she’s giving her bridesmaids jewelry as a gift.  She asked me to whip up some jewelry pouches to give them and of course I said yes!  And of course it took me months to get around to making them.  Unfortunately, black velvet isn't the easiest fabric to photograph and I ended up with the worst photos yet taken on my camera.  You'll have to use your imagination a bit.


On Sunday, with a Harry Potter marathon on in the background, I was determined to make the pouches.  A few weeks back and armed with a 50% coupon, I picked up some black velvet at Joann.  A jewelry pouch is easy enough to sew, but I used the Purl Bee jewelry pouch pattern for guidance.  The only issue I ran into was that the velvet shifted a bit, but since I was sewing jewelry pouches and not a fancy garment, you can’t tell the difference.  I ran into trouble when the trim that I bought for the cinching strings wouldn’t weave nicely through the pouches.  It was close to closing time at Joann, so I took to my embroidery floss stash and improvised.


After weaving the floss through the pouches, it looked a little sad just hanging next to the pretty velvet, so I added some braiding on the ends to fancy things up a bit.  It still doesn’t look as nice as I had imagined the fancy trim to look, but it does the job.  And best of all, the bride was happy.  High fiving a million angels!


I admit that I am the worst when it comes to completing projects for friends.  I have one more time-sensitive project that I promised for a friend, which I hope to at least start this weekend thanks to a 50% off coupon that I got in my email from Joann.  Wish me luck!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mr. Fox and Mr. Bird Embroidered Tea Towels

Remember when I started embroidering Mr. Fox and Mr. Bird on tea towels to give to our friends as a housewarming gift?  I finished them weeks ago but we hadn't gotten a chance to give them the towels until this past weekend.  I can finally share them with you!  Aren't they so dapper?

Here's how they look hanging on the oven door handle.  I kinda wanted to keep them for ourselves!

Now for some closeups.  I separated the floss down to three strands so I could work in the details.  I've never separated floss before, so this was a fun exercise in working with thinner stranded floss.  I loved it actually.  When I went back to working with six strands for the praying mantis, the design felt very bulky.  I'm not sure if this is going to alter how I embroider in the future, but it's nice to know how to stitch a more delicate line.

And here's Mr. Bird.  I love the shading on his head.  Who knew this kind of artwork could be achieved from embroidery?

I will be whipping up a Mr. Fox and Mr. Bird (and Ms. Bunny and Ms. Kitty from the Ryan Berkley designs) for our very own!  Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Magazine Page Crafted Items

Back in late 2009, our household was faced with two issues: 1) Nick had no where to put his new wedding ring when he wasn't wearing it, and 2) Nick had no place to put his wallet and keys, aka his effects, when he came home from work.  I used Christmas and the 2009 City Paper Primer as a way to solve both of these issues.

Magazine Page Crafted Items

I decided to decorate a box with magazine reeds to hold Nick's effects.  I picked up a simple wooden box from Michael's, and, using this tutorial, I made a bunch of reeds from magazine pages, hot glued them to the top of the box, trimmed them down, and then Mod Podged the reeds to harden them and set them in place.  It was pretty easy, it just took awhile.  Both items were made using the pages of the City Paper Primer.  I chose mostly white pages for the box so it would look uniform and so you could tell that it was made from magazine pages.  See that yellow double dot shape to the right?  That is part of one of my favorite things ever, the SEPTA map.

Magazine Reed Box

The ring box was pretty easy too.  I can't find the original tutorial I used, but it was something like this.  I remember having to ad lib when I was creating the lid, but I figured as long as it was slightly wider than the base, all would go well.  The only issue that I ran into is that over time, some of the paper gets snagged when you put the lid on. 

Magazine Page Ring Box

For the ring box, I chose pages that were either full color or had large illustrations on them.  On the side of the lid, you can see a couple of skyscrapers and Ben Franklin Parkway, which leads up to one of our favorite places, the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Magazine Page Ring Box

These gifts went over very well with Nick and he was glad to finally have a special place to put his things.  They were not only easy and cheap to make, but they're pretty fun to look at too!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yellow Gingham Pendrell

On Thursday and Friday nights last week, I put together my second Pendrell.  This time, I used view C, and cut out the size smaller than the first one.  The smaller size worked out perfectly.  I finally have a wearable Pendrell!

I was rushing to finish it so I could wear it with my Ginger on a trip to NYC this past Sunday.  I ended up not wearing it because I initially thought it didn't look right with my Ginger, but upon second thought I think it looks pretty good!

I had originally ordered this fabric online to make napkins, but when it arrived in the mail I thought it was too thin to be useful as a napkin.  It's thin enough that I need to wear a tank top underneath it and while I'm not thrilled about being able to see the tank through the blouse, it's still wearable.  Actually, the tank that I have on in these pictures adds a neat effect.  It kinda reminds me of the Colette Macaron in a way.

The Pendrell is quick and easy to put together and the look is very flattering.  I don't think I can wear mine when it's not tucked in though.  I need waist definition, and when untucked the blouse is a bit too baggy for my shape.

Doesn't this combination just beg to be taken on a picnic?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Delaware Canal Towpath Bike Ride

On Saturday, Nick and I took our 2nd annual Delaware Canal towpath bike ride.  We park in Washington Crossing on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware, cross over the bridge into New Jersey and ride north on the towpath, formally called Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park.

Here's the Pennsylvania side:

And here's the New Jersey side.  Don't be fooled: they were equally as sunny. 

Last year we only rode up to Lambertville, NJ/New Hope, PA, which is about a 7 mile ride from where we start.  This year we decided to ride up to Stockton, NJ, which is about 4 miles past Lambertville, and then cross over into Pennsylvania there.  This worked out perfectly so we could have lunch at one of our favorite places for a summer meal, Dilly's Corner, which is right on the corner after crossing over the bridge into Pennsylvania.  Once we were finished feasting, we headed south on the Delaware Canal State Park towpath.

All told, we biked 21 miles.  It took us a little over 3 hours since we were going at a leisurely pace and because I kept stopping to take pictures.  We ran into tons of wildlife and beautiful scenery.  I love that we can bike on two separate paths so we don't have to see the same things twice.  The paths are mostly quiet and peaceful, but it was nice to see so many other people enjoying the parks and the nice weather.

You may be shocked to learn that the original purpose of the canals was not so Pennsylvanians and New Jerseyites had a nice place to run and bike.  The canals were built in the early 1800s to transport coal to Philadelphia, New York, and the eastern seaboard.  At one point, we came across this sign.  Don't be fooled: we are about 70 miles from NYC!  I'm glad the Parks & Rec department has a sense of humor.

The point of the sign was to share what used to happen on the canals before they were used for recreation.  See how the barges got from the canals to the river?  Mules pulled the barges along the same paths that we run and bike on today.

There are a bunch of locks along the canals as well.   The old hardware is fun to look at, but they too once served a purpose in transporting barges up and down the canals.

Every so often, the canals have boards that are great at illustrating how business used to run back in the 1800s.  This illustration explains how the locks work much better than anything I could describe.

Our ride wasn't just a history lesson though.  We also ran into some pretty wildlife and chowed down on some delicious food! 

Shortly after starting out ride on the Jersey side, we ran into this Great Blue Heron.

He flew away so quickly that I didn't have a chance to turn my camera!  Check out those wings!

On both sides of the Delaware, we ran into families of sunbathing turtles.  They'll find any branch or rock that is protruding from the water and lay on it to bask in the sunlight.  That is, until they realize that we are looking at them.  This family stayed put long enough to get a few shots in, but once they caught on to us they jumped, one by one, into the canal.

After riding 11 miles, Nick and I were sufficiently hungry to feast at Dilly's.  My parents have been taking me here since I was a kid, and I've been taking Nick for the past few years.  The food is pretty simple, but it's the atmosphere that makes Dilly's a fun place to eat.  That green bridge in the background is the bridge that we crossed over on from Stockton, NJ.

Yep, that's the whole thing!  The parking lot is always packed and hard to navigate, so we were happy that we only had our bikes with us this time.

After placing your order, you are given a playing card.  When your food is ready, they call out your card to let you know.   That's me on the right in my very patriotic bike riding outfit!

I grabbed a table while Nick waited for our food.  They have a small indoor eating space, but most everyone eats outside in this covered patio, or in the garden that is right behind it (which is where I'm sitting).

I was pretty famished by the time our food made it to me.  It was as delicious as it looks.

After fueling up, we were ready to head south on the Pennsylvania side.  A few miles south of New Hope is the Revolutionary War memorial that I mentioned yesterday.  The best thing about this memorial is that it appears to be in the middle of nowhere and only accessible by the tow path.  I was sad to learn this year that there is a small park and a parking lot about a quarter of a mile from the memorial.  I guess it's a good thing that it's easily accessible so more people can visit it, but there was something special about the memorial when I thought it was hidden.

Still, it's a pretty cool memorial.  A stone wall surrounds a wide lawn, a flag pole, and a line of graves of unknown soldiers.

Around the bottom of the flagpole are plaques for the first states.  Delaware was the first state, but Pennsylvania was a close second, forming five days afterward on December 12, 1787.

The plaque in front of the graves explains that it is "In memory of many unknown soldiers of the Continental Army who died from sickness and exposure while encamped in these fields before the Battle of Trenton and were buried at this spot on Christmas Day 1776." 

Each grave had a flag and a Revolutionary War medal.

Just a few feet beyond this line of graves is a hill that descends down to the Delaware River.  A couple of women talking quietly on a bench were the only other people around while we were there, and it was very peaceful.  It was interesting to think that, besides the fact that it was colder and probably had more trees, the scene today is probably pretty much the same as it was when the soldiers were there over 200 years ago.  We like visiting this memorial each Fourth of July to pay respect to the soldiers who fought to form our country, especially the many unknown men and boys who died doing so.

The second half of the PA canal leg was pretty shady and our butts were starting to hurt, so we kept pedaling instead of stopping a lot to take pictures.  But I had to stop when we saw this mama duck leading her babies along the canal.  It was pretty shady, but you get the idea.  (I really need to learn how to work the manual settings on my camera!)  The babies were mostly staying close behind her, but every now and then one would get distracted and try to investigate something.  The mama duck would quack and the baby would scurry back to get in line with the others.  Then another baby would get distracted and repeat the whole scenario.  It was pretty hilarious to watch.

After we got home from our bike ride, we quickly changed into our bathing suits and took a dip in our neighborhood pool.  After a week full of sunny days in the high 80s, the water was just warm enough to be comfortable but just cool enough to be refreshing.  What a perfect end to our day!