December 30, 2011

Quilt progress!!!

No photos to share at the moment but I did want to pop in and report that I have finished the hand-quilting portion of my quilt vision!

I was originally only going to do like 6 of the squares, one per column or something like that. But then I was working on it during our 6-hour car drive and having a giant quilt all wadded up in your lap doesn't exactly help you see the big picture. I had already done several before I realized I was doing more than I had originally planned. So at that point, I figured I needed to finish what I started. So all the magenta squares feature some sort of hand-quilting experiment. I don't think my speed rivals that of an expert quilter but I am definitely a more confident stitcher now. And, like I originally envisioned when I decorated for Christmas, I have basically spent the last 3 days hanging around the house, quilting, while the kids play and the laundry tumbles about. It has been a very peaceful recovery from the hectic holiday travels.

Now I am off to learn how to make and attach binding. I am always a bit nervous for the next brand-new step with this project. Wish me luck!

December 28, 2011

sweet treats

Last year I participated in a cookie exchange and gave away adorable little boxes of the type of seasonal delights that one only bothers to make this time of year. This year I wasn't so much in the mood for cookie making and tried to think of an alternative. My husband, chef of the house, suggested chai tea mix. Since that is something I love to indulge my sweet tooth with during our cold winters, I thought this was a splendid idea!

He very efficiently got his part – making a zillion batches of the mix – done the very next weekend, which was still in November. So I have no one to blame but myself for completing this project at the very last minute!

To add a festive touch to the jars, I traced a circle of scrap fabric to place over the lids. I was going to glue it down but found holding a finger on top of the fabric while screwing the ring in place was all that was necessary. My favorite fabric was the fleece. It didn't wrinkle and puffed up nicely. A very cozy look. That would be my recommendation.

I also designed a tag on the computer (the graphic designer in me couldn't help myself). I used a star-shaped paper punch and a bit of ribbon. I discovered tying it to the ring instead of looping it around the jar was more secure and used less ribbon. Perfect!

We've been having fun giving them to friends and to the people who help make our lives run smoothly. I like to honor people who provide us with services – the cashier who greets us by name every Friday at the grocery store, our mail delivery lady, the young men who deliver our newspaper, the employees who pick up our garbage and recycling, our favorite librarians, and even our doctor and dentist.

December 26, 2011

first real snow of the season

We had our first real snowfall mid-December but it didn't last long. Here's hoping we enjoyed a white Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

December 23, 2011

quick cushion update

This fabric was originally purchased for curtains in my older daughter's room. I purposely bought extra so we could cover the cushions of her desk chair. All this was happening, oh, in the spring sometime. My mother-in-law made the curtains for me since I was about to have a baby and really wasn't going to get them done. And then I had said baby. And then the fabric sat in a closet.

Fast forward seven months and that baby needs a Christmas stocking. I want to use the fabric because it is a nice heavy home decorating weight. But it certainly doesn't seem fair to chop into the fabric intended for child one's room for child two. So, at least in my mind, the chair has to be done before the stocking gets started.

Here's a sampling of photos from this Saturday afternoon project. I am not making it a tutorial because I am not an expert and even consulted a YouTube video for some advice on the corners. It's not perfect but it is done. The original chair fabric is underneath. This new stuff is stapled on top. So it would be easy to undo or redo as the room gets changed.

The "before" shot. You will notice it is not made pretty for the blog. Just real kid clutter and kid tools and an excess of kleenex removed from the original box.

Staple gun and hammer to attach fabric to bottom cushion. You can see that my dear husband got involved in the craft action.

A pinned sleeve for the back cushion. I ran downstairs to my machine and sewed it and it fit perfectly. I was impressed with myself.

And the finished product.

As for the stocking? Well, you know, about that Christmas train wreck...

December 21, 2011

finishing touches

Motivated by a couple of meals I was hosting, I had to finish my decorating and clear off the dining room table. As a general rule, your house tends to look more festive without half empty decoration bins all over the place.

In years past, I have displayed these sparkly curlicues and red berries in a vase. This year I was just going to toss them back in the closet when my eyes landed upon my fern. Why not? I jazzed it right up. Who says evergreens have all the fun at Christmastime?

I topped my table with this new-to-me antique glass dish and filled it with antique bulbs, limiting the colors to red and silver. I love the way the circles in the design of the glass and the ornaments echo each other. Perfect!

December 19, 2011

decorating with Christmas cards

Dear readers, I have been dealing with what my husband has been referring to as my "Christmas train wreck." As in all those crazy tasks and crafts and such that I happily assumed would be easy to check off my list piling up into a wreck! I think I am going to have to do my Christmas cards in August next year or something. I definitely don't have it all under control this time around! Hence, the lack of attention to this blog. I've had some stuff cooking though so you can look forward to some posts this week.

I know decorating with greeting cards is a topic I have covered on this blog before but I can't help but show you what I artfully arranged this year. I think being a graphic designer and a fan of art in general makes me especially attuned to the cards I love. So I keep them from year to year for displaying and use in crafting.

This year, I have several themed areas in the living room. For example, I have a red snowman plate (so appropriate near my red couch!). He's friendly and cheerful so I arranged some equally fun snowman-themed cards near him.

I grouped these two bright, graphic cards near a family photo. (Here's a great tutorial from Maker Mama for making those paper balls if you are so inspired!)

What belongs with the book Mary: Images of the Holy Mother? Cards featuring depictions of Mary of course!

This year I tried my largest nativity set on my white shelves instead of on a table. I actually think it's a nice (safe!) spot for it. The pieces spread across several shelves. I filled in the edges with appropriate Christmas card art. Above, a gathering of stars and angels.

December 14, 2011

A shout out to CraftSanity!

 My sister got me the latest issue of CraftSanity Magazine for my birthday! Woo hoo! I could tell what it was so I did not wait until my official birthday to open it. Hope that's ok, sister!

I was so thrilled to finally have an issue in my itching hands. Of course I have a few other projects to tie up before I start anything fresh but man how inspiring it it to read interviews with crafty people and see pictures of gorgeous projects.

I am a super fan of Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, the woman behind the CraftSanity empire (podcast, magazine, etsy shop, blog). I met her once upon an ArtPrize when I registered her to vote. She asked me if I did anything crafty and I kind of stumbled and mumbled something about "scrapbooking, sometimes."

It was a turning point in my artistic life. Why the heck wasn't I doing crafty things? I was certainly interested in them. From then on I have been on a quest to do the things I love to do. That sounds like a simple idea but I think a lot of us actually struggle to make that happen. "Too busy" is often the excuse. Well, if we are too busy to do the things we are passionate about then it is high time to examine what we are too busy doing!

There. There's my rant for the week. Check out CraftSanity for yourself. I think you'll become a super fan too!

December 5, 2011

love this poster

Have any of my fellow Grand Rapidians seen this promotion lately? I love the colors, I love the illustrations, I love the layering, I love the playful typography. Woo hoo for good design. And for shopping local – my mom and I hit up the UICA Artist's Market, the shops at MoDiv, and a few more on Cherry Street on Saturday. We never made it to the mall and that was perfectly fine.

December 2, 2011

a seasonal mantel

I was wandering my favorite blogs when I saw this entry on a beautiful and creative driftwood Christmas tree from Paint Cut Paste. I saw that cool old wood panel propped up on the mantel and was kind of jealous. "I want a distressed cupboard door" was a thought that actually crossed my mind! Then I remembered my stack of old paned windows. And then I was struck with a Christmas mantel vision!

First step: Prepping the window.
They were already painted white but some spots sported avacado of another decade and other spots were bare wood. I was mildly concerned that there might be some lead-based paint peeking out so I decided to paint the whole thing with a nice thick coat of white paint. I was kind of impatient to get the vision underway so I painted one side, flipped it over, balanced it on old flowerpots, and painted the other side and the edges.

Second step: Perfecting the window
Lucky for me, my husband peeled off the tape and scraped off any "oops" spots with a razor blade. I didn't ask him to do this, he just did. He's nice like that.

Third step: Hang the wreath
All I did was take a single piece of ribbon and staple gun it to the back of the window frame. I think a thicker ribbon might be nicer but I did not already have the classic Christmas red in that width.

Final step: Tah-dah!
I especially like how the pinecone swag matches the browns in the wreath details. Lovely!

PS I just updated my "favorites" section with all the craft blogs I am currently subscribed too. Take a peek. Maybe you'll find a new favorite of your own!

November 30, 2011

old wreath given new life

This old autumn-themed grapevine wreath was easily upcycled into something fresh. I just stripped off the flowers and leaves (they were glued on) and snipped the wires holding on the corn. The vines offered easy places to tuck in evergreen branches and holly. I didn't even have to use wire or glue myself, which will make it all the easier to use this base again.

Let this be inspiration for an old wreath that might be hiding in your basement or garage!

I hung it outside on the garden gate. Now just picture a light coating of snow frosting it…

November 28, 2011

fresh and fancy

Thanksgiving is when I like to kick off my holiday decorating by clipping evergreen branches for a session of wreath-making. My Grandma Helen first started me on this tradition. That and a community ed class on wreath-making I took as a teenager. Yes, I was that kind of teenager – arranging dried flowers along with a bunch of ladies at least twice my age. Sometimes I have to laugh at myself.

Anyway, it has become my own personal tradition to make a Christmas wreath with fresh greens. I posted more of a step-by-step process last year for those who are interested. A nice wire base, green floral wire, layers of greens (Christmas tree leftovers put to good use!), and patience are all it takes.

I created 3 wreaths this year. A small one for a decorating vision I have for the mantel. A large one for the front door. And I upcycled a autumn-themed grapevine wreath for my garden gate.

The "before:" metal bases, old autumn grapevine wreath, floral wire, wire cutters, and a tool for trimming all the greenery.

My 3-year-old daughter joins me for some "arting" (as she calls it).

An in-progress photo taken by said daughter. Now she's my co-blogger!

The small wreath. I added fall treasures at the base to serve as the bow. There are dried alliums and bee balm, twisting seed pods, and dried fern babies. I am loving the texture. This wreath will be indoors so I know these more fragile elements will survive the season.

The large wreath for my front door. I used what was left of the Arborvitae branches (I love them for the contrast of shapes since they don't really have needles) with the holly to accent the bottom. There are spruce branches as the first layer and then some softer, longer-needled evergreens on top of that.

November 25, 2011

moss & magenta

I am always thinking in terms of color combinations. On the walk home from my daughter's dance class I spied this gorgeous moss at the base of a neighbor's tree. My mind automatically paired it with the bright pink of a late-blooming rose in a nearby garden. Lovely together don't you think?

November 23, 2011

fabric scraps & homemade birthday cards

Usually I craft my greeting cards with cut paper. This time I used fabric scraps. How lovely! I especially like the fact that the edges are fraying a bit. And that the fabric I used on the card is the very same fabric my dear friend and I have used for crafting and creating together. How very fitting.

November 21, 2011

Autumn pastels

I think of creamy yellows and soft pinks as belonging in spring. But autumn offers surprises too!

November 18, 2011

all knotted up

This blog tells no lies. I first bought fabric for this quilt in July 2010. So it has been over a year that this beast has been under construction. I am proud to report that it is fully knotted and I have moved on to my hand-quilting experiment. I was highly tempted to skip the hand-quilting but there is something so wonderfully appealing to having it cozy on my lap while I work with needle and thread. I plan to hand-quilt one block per row to add texture and mostly because I want to try it.

Or at least that is what I thought. Turns out my hand-sewing and hand-quilting skills are a bit lacking. So it started out very slooooowly.  Then when I was searching for instructions on what to do with the end knot I found this great series of videos on YouTube. One of which shows a way to do the stitches which is not only faster but also more quality. Wow! Amazing what a little proper instruction will do! I must confess I am not following her instructions exactly considering I do not have a variety of quality thimbles (so fancy!) but I am indeed doing 3 to 5 stitches at a time and they are much smaller and tidier than my clumsy up and down produced. Once again this quilt has forced me to learn something new, which quite delights me.

November 16, 2011


I saw this article in the Sunday newspaper recently. Plus, these cube ones popped up in a JoAnn's ad. I once saved these cushion making instructions from the blog Living with Punks. And a quick peek at pinterest shows a whole world of flexible seating options.

These appeal to me for several reasons. One, you can pick your own fabric. I never seem to like the colors and patterns that I can find in stores so making my own is often the best route to go. Two, these are super kid-friendly. They can be stacked and rolled and moved. Three, they're flexible. They can be tables, chairs, doll beds, or cat perches. I can just imagine these soft and friendly poufs floating about my house as needed. Perhaps a stack in my freshened sunroom?

Notice I said poufs with an "s." As in multiple. I always dream big don't I?

November 14, 2011

On the road

The past few weekends have been full of family functions and travels and I just haven't been making time for art, hence the recent lack of posts. I am going to try to get back on track this week.

I love funky typography. Travel is always a good time to spy new signs of interest. Like this number 2.

Black, white, blue, green seemed to be the color theme. I do love these tennies.

October 31, 2011

easy Halloween decor

I suppose this post might have been more timely on October 1 than it is on October 31 but I could think of no better way to celebrate the day than with a little Halloween festivity!

My mom sends us lovely laser-cut or layered paper greeting card creations for Halloween (among other holidays). I stash them away in the Halloween bin and pull them out every year. Display groups of cards on shelves, end tables, or your mantle for easy and instant Halloween flavor.

When your kiddos begin to acquire a collection of Halloween-themed toys and books, consider stashing those away too and pulling them out only once a year. Despite having only experienced 3 Halloweens, my daughter has quite a heap of these seasonal, and often noisy, toys. This year I piled them up in a simple wooden tray and left it out on an end table. All visiting children have found them and enjoyed them easily. And tossing them right back in the tray makes for quick clean up. I've also stacked our Halloween-themed picture books on the coffee table.

Do you have cute bags for collecting candy? Loop them over a doorknob for a quick and easy decoration.

And lastly, I will share a slightly craftier idea. As a graphic designer, I get catalogs of stock images in the mail. I saved a Halloween-themed catalog that featured illustrations. Using the creatures I found in there, some thrifted black frames, and some extra photo frames I already had, I put together some Halloween portraits that are easy to add around the house or mingle amidst the usual family pics.

Stash away these ideas along with any Halloween-themed objects you or your little ones might acquire, and enjoy some quick decorating come next October!

October 28, 2011

creative color combinations

At a neighborhood park there are some picnic tables that were painted by children once upon a time. The paint has since begun to fade and to peel so the abstract art left behind can be admired for the creative color combinations alone. Take one of these images and be inspired to make a quilt or decorate a room or get crafty in some other way.

October 26, 2011


Dear IKEA,

Can you please offer this super comfy overstuffed chair perfect for cozying up in for long sessions of reading, journaling, or just watching the backyard wildlife –

– in this fabulous, cheerful, awesome pink?

My sunroom thanks you.

An IKEA fan,

PS Dear blog readers do you think it is possible for modern square loveseat and comfy overstuffed chair to coexist in the same room? Or is that just strange?

October 24, 2011

a fall walk

Fresh air for my girls and me. Peace and quiet back home for Dad. Playground time for the 3-year-old. Photography time for myself. A good use of a sunny Sunday.