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Category Archives: Craft:along 2009

Changing It Up a Bit

Were it not for the stack of strips I had left over after completing the patchwork for my kitchen wallhangings [which I totally can’t wait to share, and will as soon as they’re ready to hang], I probably would not have been motivated enough to complete a second CRAFT:along challenge this month. Given the state of my scrap bin (overflowing), I had plenty of incentive.

The problem, Friends, is that I have a drawer filled with placemats, from a couple of years ago when I decided to spruce up the table with new linens. And they’re perfectly nice; I still like them well enough. They’re headed for the donation bag, though, because they haven’t seen the light of day in months, so the full drawer isn’t even the issue.

The problem? Placemats. . .not really for me. I’m not a fan.

“So why the drawer-full?”, you may rightly wonder. Well, as it’s been pointed out, they pop up in just about every sewing book in some form or another. And they’re a great way to use up remnants. And they do dress up a table.

But, they annoy me. They butt up against one another on my narrow table, and then there’s no room for a runner. For that matter, there’s no room to put the food anywhere but on the far end of the table, or on the section in the center where the placemats meet. We can’t have that, now, can we? I don’t know why—we  just can’t.

Yet, a table without any linens looks a little sad and naked, don’t you think? At least that’s my view, but even my husband disagrees with this idea, so it’s hardly universal. We were at Pottery Barn last month, where we spotted a harvest table similar to our own, beautifully set. I think it had chargers under the plates, and a floral/candle arrangement down the center.

Me: Oh! Look at that! OK, what do you think of the way that table is set?

Him: Um, looks nice, I guess.

Me: Okaay. . .but do you like that particular setting? Or do you prefer traditional placemats? Or maybe those runners that go across the table, with another one running its length? I like that, too.

Him: Hmm. Well, I actually think that the food should be the focal point of the table.

Me: Fair enough, but what do you think about that type of arrangement in the center?

Him: [pauses to think] When I look at that arrangement, I wonder where the food is going to go.

To sum up, he doesn’t care one way or another about placemats or the lack thereof, which is good, considering they’ve been missing (as I’ve said) for months.

Still, that charger idea got me thinking. What if the placemat were round, instead of rectangular? (Not a new idea, to be sure, but not one I’d actually considered piecing together.)

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If it was just slightly larger than the plate, it would add some personality and polish to the table, and still leave plenty of room for the star of the show.

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Huzzah! Patchwork chargers!

[Yes, once again, I had to take these shots in the cave that is my kitchen, and the light today is even more dim than usual.]

Despite the slight ripple around the edges, I am very happy with these here mats. I had toyed with the idea of binding the edges with bias tape, but let’s face it: they probably still would have been a little wavy. Besides, I didn’t want the binding eating into the patchwork. As it is, I was struggling with the math. “What size square will I need to allow for this size of circle? Plus the seam allowance. . .and you need to allow for the quilting. . .musn’t be skimpy. . . .” Oh, and let me tell you: I was struggling even where there wasn’t a problem. Needless to say, it was late in the evening when I hatched this brilliant plan, so I set it down on paper right away. I wanted the stripes to be diagonal, so I was trying to figure out how to piece the strips together correctly. I had all kinds of drafts and notes—I was just shy of drawing complicated charts and graphs—when it occurred to me that (are you ahead of me?) it was a circle. If I wanted diagonal stripes, simply turn the circle, and they would be diagonal. Feeling conventional? Want to go with a straight vertical look? Turn it again!

Like magic.

Seriously, if I could only remember to confine creative endeavors to the early morning hours, I would save myself so much time and pain.

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Craft:along – August: Crackle-ackin’

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The ginger spa cookies were a big hit in this household. Our Chief Taster pronounced them even better than the classic molasses version, but I think this is cookie blasphemy. A close second? I’ll give them that. They totally win the Snappy seal of approval in the ease of preparation category, though. I had them on my to-do list all last week, and finally got motivated right before it was time to start dinner on Saturday. You would think this would be a mistake, but not with these babies. The whole operation took less than an hour.

Now, since we’re on the subject of making things snappy (as always, of course), you of the particularly keen eye may notice that my new best friend, the Jar o’ Tea, is sporting an accessory in the photo above. That, my friends, is a Jar o’ Tea Sleeve (patent pending). And you, too, can have one of your very own, in two quick and easy steps:

  1. Find an old crew sock, preferably clean, and cut off the top four inches or so of the ribbed portion.
  2. Fold in half, and pull it over the top and around your jar.

Voila! You may still drop your jar and risk having it shatter all over your floor, but it’s much less likely.

 Sometimes, taking the time to whip up something that’s functional and still attractive is well worth it. There are other times, though, when you just want to avert potential disaster and move on to other things. This, clearly, was one of those times.  

And, with that, I feel I have officially taken the crafting bar, lowered it, and then lowered it yet again.

Craft:along March – Part II

You may or may not have noticed that my quilts tend to be on the low end of the quilting spectrum. That is to say that the actual quilting is a little sparse, or spread out, or both. And why is that? Because I am both impatient and lacking in upper body strength, qualities which are darn near requirements if you’re going to quilt on a regular old sewing machine.

That is, unless you’re making teeny tiny quilts, like these here Crooked Coasters:

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Though I love a good coaster, I was pretty sure that we were full up on ’em around here, and didn’t plan on going the extra mile for this month’s :along.

Oh, but hang on! Let’s not forget the sore thumb sticking out on my bedside table, in the newly spruced (but yet to be decorated) master bedroom:

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Yep. Withered up subscription postcard. That’s what passes for class in this place. And I actually had “coasters for master bedroom” on my ’09 project list, but I was almost embarassed to carve time out to whip some up. Why it seemed more ridiculous than the other fifty things I choose to waste my time on, I do not know, but there you go.

As it turned out, it was neither a waste of time (because these are super super easy and quick), nor of resources (look how nice and tiny they are!). Plus, the wavy quilting is kind of fun, and I really like the way it looks on such a small scale. Also, I loved squeezing out yet another project from the rapidly diminishing square of Forest fabric.

And, come on—doesn’t this look much better?

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In fact, I loved it so much that I made some more for the living room:

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You can’t tell, but the outer blocks are beautiful burgundy shot cotton, which I didn’t want to cut into but, hey, I decided to throw caution to the wind and spare the 5 1/2″ strip that this set required. Oh, I know how to live on the edge, I tell ya!

[By the way, I did modify the pattern slightly from the original by sizing them down about an inch and a half. Also, I sandwiched the batting in and sewed it to the top and bottom before turning it inside out. I just find it easier this way than trying to stuff it in and get it to lie straight, especially since I’m always too stingy with the space opening I allow for turning.]

Craft:along: Secret Ingredient Pizza

[OK, right off the bat, let me go ahead and tell you that I didn’t even use the 5-minute pizza dough recipe for this month’s Craft:along. I did, however, use a 5-minute dough, and did make a pizza, so please consider me along, if you will. Oh, and I think you all know what dough I used. Yes, the bucket o’dough.]

Takeout Friday has been a long-standing tradition in my family as far back as I can remember, and you’d better believe that I’ve done my best to keep the torch lit with my own little family, here. Mama is tired of meal-planning and cooking by Friday night. We also celebrate a little something called Friday Frelaxing night in this household, so named by Joey, who considers it a treat to “frelax” in our bed on Friday night, playing video games and having his bedtime story. He’s a cheap date, and that’s the way we like it. (We don’t know why he adds the “f”. He also likes “froasting” marshmallows. We will be very sad when this little quirk of his disappears.)

Now we’ve kicked it up a notch by introducing homemade pizza to the equation.

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Since there are only two pizza places near our house, and neither is very good, and we disagree on which of these too not-very-good places is the lesser of two evils, homemade pizza has been a cause for great celebration. In the past, I’ve made pizza for us from time to time, but it’s always been something of a big to-do. Now that I have my bucket o’ dough at the ready, it’s a snap. I even bought real toppings, like pepperoni, and sauce specifically labelled for pizzas, to kick it up a notch (because I don’t have an awesome homemade sauce on hand. We  are also completely lacking in awesome dough twirling skills. My dad was the only one who knew how to do that, but the first and last time he shared this skill with us, the dough ended up in the trash. Literally. Went up in the air, we oohed and aahed, and then watched it land squarely in the garbage. I just roll it out on the sheet….)

Best of all, the three of us finally have a pizza we can agree on. And the secret ingredient? Ah, yes: The secret ingredient is thrift. All I have to say is, “And do you know how much this pizza cost?”, and a very tasty pizza becomes the stuff of legend.

Oh, we know how to have a good time around here.

Craft:along 2009: Lemon Drop Cookies

As usual, I was extremely excited to hear about this year’s ~along, and I was not disappointed. Not only was I happy about the free-ness of it all, but I’d already printed a copy of the Lemon Drop Cookies recipe that I came across here, and was just waiting for an excuse to try it out. Perfecto!

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Given my love of all things lemon-y, it’s no surprise that I love these cookies. Kevin rated them as “exceptional”, and the boy has been eating them at a rapid rate. (Given the fact that he doesn’t really like cookies, it’s a safe bet that he agrees with his parents on this one.) My intention was to share these, but it looks like I’ll have to make another batch in order to do so. One dozen had to be tossed, because I underbaked them a little and they were then sub-par, and I rolled them a bit on the large side. So we only ate two dozen of these over the weekend, not four, which proves that we’re not complete pigs. Or maybe not. Whatever—they’re really good!

Oink!