There is something to be said for perseverance and determination.  I had to have a lot of it while working on this project, that is for sure.  The idea is simple enough and the tutorial was clear and simple to follow.  The problem is me.  I cannot sew in a straight line.  When taking on a task which requires one to sew about 100 consecutive straight lines, this is an issue.  I also cannot cut in a straight line.  More of the same problem.

On with my story.

I saw this tutorial on Made for a faux chenille blanket and liked it, but had no real reason to make it.  Enter about-to-be-baby-boy.  Then I was so sure I *had* to make one for him.  I didn’t start sewing until after the other two kids were born, so I was really excited to pick a project for this one.

Ella helped me to choose the fabric.  It is not something I would normally choose, but the main print with lime and white on the cobalt background caught my eye (how could it not?).  I gathered my supplies and started to sew… and sew… and sew.  The monotony was actually kind of soothing.  I sewed as I looked out over the lake this summer.  The lines are a bit wonky, but the overall effect is pretty nifty.  Then I started to cut and before I knew what happened, I had cut a HUGE hole in the fabric.  Well, Dana had a hole, too, and fixed it, so I pressed on… and cut about 10 more of various sizes.  But I was determined to finish the doggone thing.

Finally, today, after much heartache, I finished it.

I made some makeshift patches for the larger holes and will patch the smaller ones as they become problematic.  I just couldn’t leave it unfinished.  The “back”, which is the side with the elephants, is not the prettiest thing ever, but the front is pretty nifty looking.

I am not a fan of the white bias tape, but this was no time to learn a new skill and make my own.  Not great, not the worst thing ever.  I conquered.

Here is one of the big projects that I have been working on. It is pretty much finished now, save one minor maintenance issue.  You may remember a diaper bag set that I made for a dear friend about a year ago that I posted about here.  It was one of my first sewing projects ever and I am happy (for me… sad for her, really) to say that my sewing skills have improved quite a bit since then.  Still rough, but better.

I was very happy to be able to make a diaper bag for my own baby.  The ones we have used in the past are either dirty and worn out or just the bags that are supplied from the formula companies.  Yes, they work fine, but have little in the way of personal style.  The good thing is that after using all of them, I had some clear ideas as to what I wanted.

This time around, I really wanted a simple messenger bag design with few bells and whistles.  The pockets always look like a good idea, but I find that they get in the way and collect junk more than anything.  I toyed with making the lining waterproof, but really, that just makes it harder for me to clean.  I constructed this bag and know I can just throw it in the wash without it falling apart (I hope), and I would rather do that than just wipe part of it down.

I also knew I wanted quiet but not “blah” colors.  I have never been a frou-frou baby bag person.  The baby is not carrying the bag, so let’s keep away from embroidered blocks that spell “BABY” and pictures of Pooh.  I looked and looked in JoAnn fabrics and found most of the material to be the opposite of what I was looking for.  Then, hidden underneath other quilting cottons, I saw this alphabet print and let out a little “whoop!”.  Just what I was looking for.

The next challenge was finding the contrasting print… also hidden.  The plaid is perfect and was the only fabric I found that had just the right tones of green and blue.  For the outer fabric, I used gabardine, I think.  I don’t remember for sure what I ended up grabbing.

The strap is fixed, but if it ends up being too long, I can shorten it permanently.  I just really dislike bags that hang on one arm.   The inside has 2 small pockets, one for my keys and one for my phone.  Anything else will pack in nicely and stay put well enough.  (Those size “N” diapers get me every time… they are SO teensy!)

And, of course, any respectable diaper bag also has a changing pad (based on this tutorial).

I may have put the strap on backwards.  Oh well.  It does not matter to me enough to tear the whole thing apart.  The inside is the alphabet print.

I have made peace (for the most part) with bias tape.  Yeah!  It is kind of fun now.

Then, just for the fun of it, I also made the burp cloths (based on this tutorial).  They don’t match exactly, which is fine.  I actually chose them separately, and must have been in a blue and green mood that day.  (My camera really disagrees with the color choices, doesn’t it?  I can’t seem to edit them to the right tones.)

These are a super first sewing project.  They are easy and functional and allow for some fun decision-making.

Here is the whole set.

The final, special touch – I used the letters from the alphabet print to personalize the bag for the little guy.  Now we are ready to go!

It may not be original, but this is what I have been up to.  This and spending time with our family of 4 before we are a family of 5.  The baby is due in 2 weeks and I have been crafting… and will keep doing so.  Hopefully I will get around to finishing – and posting – what I have been working on.

I made my Abby tote over the weekend.  The kids are starting to have long periods of time where they can play together (fairly) unsupervised.  Meaning, I can be in the next room typing this post or in the same room sewing and they can manage not to scream at each other, break anything or injure themselves. Brilliant.  Sunday morning was one of those brilliant times and since the pieces for my tote were already cut, I was able to sew the entire thing while they played.

But I have not yet had a chance to take nice pictures.  She is so pretty, I just can’t bear to take icky pictures.  So you will have to wait.

This week is a busy one.  I work a little more than usual and we are finally taking a road trip to meet my new niece and nephew this weekend.  I also need to make another trip to the grocery store and a trip to Target.  Not that you need to know that, but it is a busy week… just thinking it all through.   And wondering when I will take pictures of my new bag.

And now both kids are screaming (literally) and fighting over glow bracelets that my eldest pilfered from a stash in the closet.  So much for blissful quiet.  Sheesh.  I almost sat still long enough to feel the baby kick.

So I finally have the itch to sew again.  I think the warm-ish weather is getting to me.  Problem is, getting to the fabric store is not that easy.  My son is loud and my daughter is talkative, interrupting my train of thought (such as it is) as I ruminate on fabric choices and pace about.  I decided to try Haberman Fabrics in nearby Royal Oak, just to see what they were all about.  Besides, I have an Abby tote waiting to be made and I wanted something special.

The fact that my 4-y-o gasped as we walked in the door should have warned me.  It is a beautiful store with amazing fabrics.  Lots of eye candy.  Not much regular cotton fabric.  I found some that was okay, then spotted a small display off to the side that looked promising.  Clearly I am new to this, because when I saw that the prints were Liberty of London, I got really excited instead of walking away.  I perused, found my soulmate, lifted the fabric to see the price and let out a gasp of my own.  $50.00 a yard was NOT what I was expecting!  I am still in shock.

Guess I am just a JoAnn Fabrics girl after all.  That is sad, because the drive, the pondering and oh.my.gosh. the wait to have my fabric cut is not something to look forward to.  But I will persevere because that bag needs to be made, my friends.  And Ella has put in a request for the baby brother who is on the way.  A “blanket with real (as opposed to panda or polar) bears and a blue background”.   Guess we will be making our way out to the store again soon.

** This post linked to Made By You Monday at Skip to My Lou! ****

We had Ella’s rainbow-themed 4th birthday party yesterday.  I LOVE that she chose the theme of rainbows over her original theme of (gag) Disney Princesses.  I have had quite enough of the princesses.  The change came after I spotted a rainbow-striped polo dress in Carter’s one day and knew Ella would flip over it.  Sure enough, she loved it and when I suggested a rainbow party, she never looked back.

It is still quite cold here in Michigan, so we had to add a layer of clothing under the birthday dress so Ella was warm enough for school. She didn't mind one bit!

I decorated the kitchen the night before her actual birthday using the tried and true Martha Stewart tissue paper flowers using rainbow colors, and I made a simple banner to hang in the kitchen and later at the party.  These banners had always mystified me for some reason, until a friend told me how she makes hers.  I used scrapbook cardstock, a small decorative bucket to make the circles and my printer for the letters.  It was SO easy.  When it came time to string it up, I used a barbeque fork to make the holes because I didn’t have a hole punch and it worked perfectly.  Ribbon would have looked better, but that’s a LOT of ribbon.  I used twine and once it was all together, I don’t think it mattered much.  Ella loved the banner and informed her not-yet-two-year-old brother that if he happened to forget that it was her birthday, he could just reference the banner.  Nice.  Nothing like some fresh four-year-old sass to start the poor guys’ day.

...mangled curtains courtesy of my children...

The cupcakes were my favorite element of the party and were honestly the most time-consuming.  But for a small-ish family party, it was worth the effort, especially when I saw the smile on Ella’s face when she saw the inside of her cupcake.  I saw the recipe on The Girl Who Ate Everything (I will add recipes at the end of the post).  I loved how vibrant and happy they looked.  Rather than use standard cake mix only and canned frosting (which I have been disliking more and more each time I eat it) I used the modified cake and frosting recipes The Girl posted.  They were a huge hit and the coconut extract in the frosting not only added to the fun feel of the rainbows, but it had everyone guessing and raving.  I will use that frosting recipe for a very, very long time.

I will pause here and say my cupcake frosting skills are seriously lacking.  It kind of put a damper on things to have flat looking cupcakes.  Beth… please help me!

Another favorite element for me was the rainbow fruit platter with “cloud” fruit dip.  Ella has loved fruit from the time she was in the womb and having fresh fruit really brightened up the dinner menu (broccoli cheese soup and hot sandwiches).  I used strawberries, mandarin oranges (“not the ones with the yucky white stuff” per request of the birthday girl), pineapple, kiwi, blueberries and grapes.  They were arranged in a rainbow pattern on a platter and the idea was to have the fruit dip placed as a cloud, but the fruit took up all of the space.

I also made rainbow pudding, an idea I saw here just in time to whip some up for the party.  I wanted to use smaller cups but didn’t have enough time to search for them, so I made a double recipe of vanilla pudding, tinted it in 6 colors and layered it up in the glasses.  They were WAY too big for the kids, but still looked cute and the kids got a kick out of them.

Ella had a wonderful time and I think everyone else did, too.  She may be my only girl, so I had an extra fun time making everything bright and fun for her.

Now… planning begins for Benjamin’s birthday party, which is at the end of next month.

***  Recipes ***

Modified White Cake Adapted from Our Best Bites

1 White Cake Mix

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients until incorporated (about 30 seconds), then beat on medium high speed for 3 minutes.

To make a rainbow, divide the batter into bowls equaling the number of colors you plan to use.  Tint the batter.  Line cupcake tins. I had 6 colors and used a healthy teaspoon of each color for each cupcake.  I started with violet and worked my way up to red, smoothing each color out after adding it.

Bake according to directions on the cake mix box.

Frosting From The Girl Who Ate Everything

3 sticks butter

6 cups powdered sugar

5 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

dash of salt

Mix butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.  Add coconut extract, vanilla extract and salt and combine well.  Gradually add milk (you may not need it all) and mix 2-3 minutes until fluffy.

“Cloud” fruit dip

1 large container marshmallow fluff

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

Put fluff and cream cheese into a bowl and mix until well blended.  Chill until ready to serve.

 

I have not been here much lately, but I will certainly be back soon.  Preparations are underway for Ella’s big rainbow-themed birthday party later today!  I may have bitten off a little more than I should try and chew.  I *may* be a little cranky and testy.  But I will blame that on being pregnant.  May as well get some mileage of out that excuse while I can.  ( :

And I have to tell you… I have just purchased my first pattern ever.  It is for the new Abby Bag from V and Co.  It was love at first sight and while I love to make up my own stuff too, I need to leave the big time creativity to someone else right now and Vanessa is my girl.  If you order before Monday, the pattern is discounted.  Gotta love that.  Can’t wait to get moving on my Abby Bag and have a cute accessory for spring and summer!