Friday, February 17, 2012

Wall Art for Baby: Jazz Style

Choosing wall art for a baby nursery is one of the best things about decorating a room for a new arrival. Oopsy Daisy added 170 new pieces to their portfolio recently, including this rather fabulous series of canvas art featuring musical animals. New Zealand-based artist Ellen Giggenbach created the original collages using shapes cut from rare and vintage papers, in the style of mid-century folk art. How delicious in a baby nursery! I think Laura Petrie would approve. They do look like something that would have hung in the Van Dyke family rumpus room, no?

They make me think of jazz album art from the 1940s and 50s. And make me want to spray lacquer my bob and wear skinny black pants with flats. Such a glorious time for design. 

Book illustrations:

(Uber Sax by Joe McLean)

Percussion Puppy is my absolute favourite. I can't resist a dog in a bow tie. 

All new Oopsy Daisy wall art designs are available to order in the shop, daddy-o.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Peel & Place Wall Stickers for Kids' Rooms

Decorating a baby nursery isn't in my future, but it might be in yours. Oopsy Daisy's new Peel & Place Wall Stickers were instant love for me. Could be because we are busy planning some spring renovations chez moi, and my kids are off and running planning re-dos of their bedrooms. We hit The Bunkhouse on Avenue Road over the weekend, checking out some loft and trundle beds in the hopes of maximizing two very petite rooms, but the furniture is just the beginning. It's really all about the theme, don't you know. I'm trying to sell Henry on the Woodsy Arbor pictured above. I am crazy about it. He's humouring me, but I think his heart lies here or here. I suppose we could do an outer space hockey theme. Who's to say there's anything wrong with that?

These wall stickers are no mere vinyl peel-and-stick decals. They are fabric-based, which gives them a nice texture, heft and above all, AMAZING colour. Too bad the company images are on the low res side, because these stickers are quite incredible in person. They are also GRANDE. Like five feet tall grande. So for a hundred bucks you've got your room pretty much covered. Did I mention that each set also comes with a complete alphabet and number set so you can personalize to your liking. And of course they are built to be moved around, so kids can create one scene on Monday and switch it up on Tuesday. Or once the lights are out and parents are watching TV.

All the wall sticker styles are now in the shop, if you'd like to take a closer look.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

feb 14

Remember this? These mason jar luminaries could not have been faster or more simple to make. As the early evening turned into night, the luminaries got even more glow-y:

Dinner, even pancakes with powdered sugar, is made special by candlelight. Happy Feb 14th.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tutorial: Patchwork Tissue Holder

Tissue holders are an excellent project for beginner sewers. They're quick (around 30 minutes the first time), they do not require large investments in fabric and other than sewing a straight line there are no special sewing skills involved. And they turn out impressively cute, don't you think? 

There are many tutorials out there for a basic one-fabric pouch. This is for a patchwork-style and it is made using four different fabrics. Let's get started.

Fabric scraps measuring 16" by 14" in total
Sewing machine, thread to match fabric
Tape measure or ruler
Cardboard or cardstock for template
Sharp scissors for cutting fabric, or rotary cutter and ruler
Tailor's chalk or washable fabric pen to trace template onto fabric

1. ASSEMBLE and iron your fabric. I used four different patterns, plus a solid linen for the lining. In total you need enough fabric to piece together two sections, each measuring 6" by 7.5". This project is perfect for teensy scraps, like these 6" by 6" samples I had on hand.

2. TAKE two fabric pieces and stack them, right sides together. This means the two "nice" sides face each other. Make a simple running stitch down one side to join them. Remember to back up your stitches at the top and bottom of the fabric so it does not come apart. (I see I made a mistake in labelling this photo: it is the right side that is sewn together, not the left.)

3. Press open the seams with a hot iron. There is a saying in sewing "If you don't have time to press, you don't have time to sew." A good press really does make all the difference in keeping your project straight, tidy and well-shaped. 

4. REPEAT steps 2 & 3 with the other two fabric pieces. And press the seam open. Here is an example of pressed (left) and unpressed seams. the Unpressed seam is bunchy and will result in an uneven design in the next steps. 

5. YOU now have two strips of fabric, which need to be sewn together. Line them up, right sides facing and sew a straight line down the right side. Press the seam to one side. You should have something that looks like this:

6. TRACE and cut out a template measuring 6 by 7.5". You can skip this step and trace directly onto your fabric, but it is useful to have a template on hand if you will make this more than once.

7. POSITION your template and trace it onto fabric. Play around with the orientation and positioning of the template until you find a combination that you like. Centred will result in a symmetrical finished design. Here, I used an off-centre design.

8. CUT out your fabric and lining to the template size. I like to use a rotary cutter, which is like a pizza cutter for fabric. Very sharp! You must use a special ruler and cutting mat, but totally worth the $30  investment if you are planning to take up sewing. 

I used a natural linen for the lining. Needs a good iron!

9. SEW the lining and patchwork fabric, right sides facing. Sew the two 6" sides. Leave the 7" edges open. You will be left with a tube of fabric with two finished (sewn) edges and two raw (unfinished edges). Clip those threads nice and close.

This is what you should have:

10. TURN the fabric side out. Press flat. Turn your fabric so the finished edges are at the top and bottom and the patchwork is facing up. Fold the top and bottom toward the centre. I like a slight overlap (1/8") so the finished product doesn't gape open. Press lightly. 

11. CUT a 1.5" piece of colour-coordinated ribbon or twill tape. Fold in half. Again, this step is not required. It is not functional, just a decorative touch. 

Place the cut edge of the folded ribbon along the cut edge of one of the sides. Make sure the loop end is facing toward the centre of your fabric.

12. FOLD the finished edges to meet at the centre. Make sure the ribbon doesn't shift!

13. SEW the two unfinished edges. I use a scant seam allowance - just the width of the presser foot. If your seam allowance is too big the tissue pouch will be bulky and bunchy. Finish the raw edge with a zigzag stitch, or trim with pinking shears to prevent unravelling. Make it tidy by clipping errant threads. Carefully clip each of the four corners on a diagonal (take care to not cut into your stitches). This will make your corners nice and sharp in the final step.

14. TURN your tissue pouch right sides out. Use a knitting needle or chopstick (something pointy but not too sharp) to push out the corners. Don't push too hard or you might poke a hole through the stitching.

If there is one thing I learned from Project Runway, it is the value of a good pressing. Use your iron to stretch and pull the fabric into shape, if necessary. Add your tissue pack and you're done.

Here is the reverse side:

And here are two others, made for a friend:

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Two good things to come from having a head cold are not being able to smell the cantaloupe peels in the green bin and guiltlessly eating ice cream for dinner. And maybe lunch. I do enjoy the traditional chicken soup when I'm unwell, but for real comfort I turn to great bowls of ice cream. So there I am with a raging head cold, an ice cream moustache, and toting not a chic little tissue pouch in my bag, but a full-sized box of aloe-infused Kleenex. The other good thing about having a cold: people tend to give you a wide berth.

In any case, my cold is on the wane and I needed to do something about the state of my tissue-toting. I have not made one of these tissue pouches  in years. Once upon a time they were my go-to just because gift for friends, teachers and anyone with the sniffles. It felt really good to blow the dust off the Janome and get down to business. But like I said, it's been a while, and it took me three attempts to get it straight. Be not discouraged, new sewers! Everyone has a blooper reel of projects. May I present the evidence:

Exhibit A: Faulty pattern layout and poor fabric selection. Repeat after me: Large scale prints do not work on small scale projects. Also, bad crooked sewing. Also bad crooked cutting. 

Exhibit B: Same problem with the print selection. Lining choice good in theory, but not good in this design. 

Exhibit C: Seams do not line up, and I punched through the stitching when I was poking the corners out. Otherwise, this is looking better:

Finally, on the fourth try, perfection:

I have put together a tutorial, if you're interested in giving these a try. I promise they will make anyone with the sniffles feel loved. Click here for the tutorial. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

two Valentine ideas

I thought these two ideas were perfectly lovely, and eminently do-able in the course of an hour. I don't know about you, but I just don't have a full afternoon or, heavens, an entire weekend to give over to a craft project. If I did, I would surely make this heart-shaped wreath. But after learning that it involved some 12 hours (twelve!) of cutting and assembling felt circles I decided it was best to admire from afar.

This candle, however, could not be easier. Wrap a Mason jar with a pair of paper doilies, tie with twine - embroidery floss would work nicely too - and tuck a heart-shaped cut out from a book. So much more romantic if it highlights a passage from Wuthering Heights (I have never gotten over Heathcliff) but more likely I will tear a page from a textbook that should have been thrift-shopped long ago. We are hosting a Valentine's potluck and I think six or so of these will be perfect as a centrepiece. Thanks to Creature Comforts for the idea and video tutorial.

Do you love this or do you LOVE this? Another use for that moldering Econ 101 book, and a fine project for little hands to work on. See Rebecca Cooper for the details.

So cute in a kid's room.

From the Idea Room.

kitchen sink crafting

My crafting never, ever looks like it does in the magazines. It's a fairly chaotic affair with lots of running up and down the stairs for missing supplies. Despite having dedicated the largest, brightest room in the basement for play and craft we still end up at the dining table. My solution is a tray and a few small boxes. I load everything up that I think we might need, cart the supplies upstairs on a tray, plunk the tray down in the middle of the table and let them figure it out. Yesterday it was Valentine cards for the Grandmothers. I grabbed red card stock, some craft punches, ribbon remnants, floral scrapbooking embellishments, rub-on alphabet transfers, corrugated cardboard, glue and a stapler.

Stella and I worked on this design together. I love the grungy look. Here's what we did: Cut cardstock to card size (4.25" by 5.5". Score and fold the card. Cut a cardboard shape and peel off the outer layer to reveal some of the corrugated interior. We had a tag-shaped paper punch, and to that we applied the "love" with the alphabet transfers. I've had them forever (8 years!) so I was really glad to be able to use them for something. You could also use an alphabet stamp or very tidy handwriting. We used double-stick tape to attach everything to the cardboard and then stapled that to the cardstock.

Henry worked on this. The kid loves glitter and glue in equal measure. The bird is a Martha Stewart craft punch glued to a metal ring. The idea, which is explained in the interior, is to use it as a key ring charm. This card started out intended for a Grandma but in the end he decided it was better suited for his paramour across the street. He's offering this heartfelt greeting along with a week-old flower taken from a birthday bouquet headed to the green bin.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No-Sew Tutorial: Fabric Push Pins

A cute & quick project for the non-crafter. Even if everything you have made until now has turned out wonky, glue-y and hopelessly homemade I promise these fabric push pins are absolutely fail-proof and will turn out perfect every time. They are rather addictive to make, and once you get going you may find it hard to stop. A set of 12, nicely packaged, would be a very sweet and cheerful teacher gift. But they are so inexpensive you may find yourself making them for everyone you know.

Materials & Supplies:
Sharp scissors
Glue gun
Fabric scraps.
Solids or very small prints work best, since you're covering a tiny area. Avoid stretchy or bulky fabrics like velvets, corduroy. A basic cotton or linen is easiest to work with.
Thumb tacks Everyday tacks are OK but since you'll be at the fabric store anyway, pick up a set of Quilter's Tacks or Upholstery Tacks. They are more substantial than ordinary thumb tacks and make a nicer finished product. I was able to buy these brass tacks from Fabricland for .20 a piece. A box of Quilter's Tacks (which I prefer) is $2.30 for 24.
Covered button kit. I used size 24. Make sure you buy metal buttons. Plastic won't work - you'll see why further down. The kit comes with four buttons and the little doo-dad to apply the fabric:

STEP ONE: Remove the button shank:

This is a fussy step, but don't get frustrated. I used a small pair of jewellery pliers to wiggle the shank until it came loose, but you could use any pliers or scissors. Just be careful: the edges of the metal disc can be sharp. Don't worry if the disc becomes dented in the process; you'll smooth it out in the next step.

Printed on the back of the button kit is a circle template. You will need this to cut the right amount of fabric to cover the metal button. Cut out the template, then cut out your fabric.

Lay your fabric circle, pattern side facing down, over the opening of the button maker. Place the metal dome over the fabric and push the dome inside so the fabric is flush and flat on the bottom.

Tuck the fabric inside the button maker:

Place the flat metal disc (the one you removed the shank from earlier) on top of the fabric.

Use the blue tool from the kit to press down firmly and evenly. The idea here is to trap the tucked fabric between the two metal pieces. You'll want to make sure the disc is flat and snug with no loose fabric visible. You'll be left with a taut and perfect fabric-covered button.

Press on the bottom of the button maker to pop out your button:

Fire up your glue gun and add a daub of glue to the head of the tack. Press the tack evenly to the back of the button. Done!

Once you already own the button making kit, replacement buttons are $2 for six. I'm looking at ways to package these to make them appealingly gifty. Will post any ideas later in the week.