Friday, December 24, 2010

A Scrappy Gift

Let's answer my previous question: "Now what to do with the leftover fabric..." The answer seemed pretty simple: a flannel baby blanket and a couple of burp rags!

About 6 weeks ago a new little baby girl was added to our family. Well, not our immediate family. I did not have any sort of secret pregnancy. This little beauty is actually my new little niece on my husband's side of the family. It worked out just perfectly to use my leftover girly fabric for a Christmas gift for this new little girl! I also really like the idea of combining four fabrics into one blanket.

So here is what I did with my scraps.

First of all, I wanted to make a full sized fitted sheet for my girls. I did my best to measure and cut the twin sized fitted sheets apart. (That was a headache since the fitted sheets had elastic all the way around and not just on the corners.) Then I sewed them together. Yes, with a sewing machine. And can you believe it? I even managed to do this sewing all by myself, without my mother's supervision.

With that project finished, I still had several flannel scraps left. Time to make a flannel baby blanket.

I used a self-healing cutting mat and a rotary fabric cutter to trim all the fabric scraps straight and to correct widths. My goal was for all the strips to produce an approximately 36" by 36" two sided flannel blanket. After cutting, I sewed all the strips together and then ironed the hems flat. Now I had an approximate 6 foot by 3 foot piece of fabric. I folded it in half (ugly side out) and sewed the three edges, leaving a six inch gap. Next I turned it right side out and ironed the edges. Finally, I sewed the edges all the way around, closing my six inch gap. VoilĂ , it's done!

For the flannel burp rags, I made two different sizes (only because my last scraps of pink fabric were so narrow). I cut the pink fabric and corresponding prints 7" by 16". The green fabric combos I cut 10" by 17". Then I followed the same process I used to make the flannel blanket. Overall, they were pretty quick and easy. Absolute perfection was not my goal with these. The way I figure, they are just going to collect spit up, right? 

Now, I have a great gift for my niece (that basically cost me nothing since all the fabric was scraps) and one more sewing project under my belt. I love that Christmas gifts inspire and motivate me to new levels of creativity.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Quilts

I have always enjoyed artsy craftsy projects, but sewing has never been one of my fortes. Many people have asked me if I sew and my response has always been, "I only sew buttons." Give me a needle and some thread and watch me stick a button back on a shirt. There have also been the occasional hems that needed fixing. For those, I either take them over to my mom to fix or do a hack job myself. And when I say hack job, I really do mean a serious hack job. I only fix hems that will not be visible.

In light of my sewing inexperience, you may wonder: Why did I decide to sew quilts for my girls for Christmas? There is just something about a nice, cozy flannel quilt. My husband and I have one on our bed and thoroughly enjoy it every winter.

Ayla's Quilt (Her favorite color is currently pink.)
Right now our girls share a loft full sized bed. At times they (ahem) need to be separated so that they will actually sleep at night. This is part of the reason our girls do not sleep in regular sheets and covers. They have a fitted sheet and then individual blankets. Mostly, they sleep with fleece blankets. The fact that they sleep with a purely synthetic fabric has bothered me for a while, but a few weeks ago my husband said that they needed better blankets. At that point, I made up my mind to make them quilts for Christmas.

I knew the basics and set out to buy twin sized flannel sheet sets to use for the fabric. (That was quite an adventure all by itself!) After finding a sheet set for each of them, I went to Joann Fabric and Crafts to find some flannel for the backing, yarn to use to tie the quilts and matching thread. (Yes, these are just tied together quilts. Nothing fancy here!)

Next stop: my mom's house. (No, I did not do this project all by myself.) At my mom's house we laid out the fabric, the cotton quilt batting my mom had, and the flat sheet. After pinning it in place, I sewed in the yarn and my mom followed behind, cutting and tying the yarn. Next, I cut off the extra batting and trimmed the fabric to the right size. Then I ironed over the edge of the fabric, getting it ready to sew.

Kylie's Quilt (Her favorite color is currently green.)
After folding over the fabric and pinning it in place, I headed to my mom's intimidating sewing machine. (Intimidating because of my lack of experience, not because of the sewing machine itself.) After my mom helped me get all set up, I started sewing away. Maybe sewing through two layers of flannel plus quilt batting wasn't the best beginners project, but I eventually got the hang of it. (Honestly, I was afraid I might give up in frustration and, in tears, ask my mom to finish for me.) Once the edges were finished, I sat back down with my mom and we pinned the corners. Lastly, I sewed the corners. Done! Yay! On to the next quilt.... (The second quilt went much quicker than the first one.)

Now, their Christmas presents are done. They are wrapped in boxes and under the tree. I can't wait to see their faces when they open the gifts. Hopefully, they love these blankets and use them for many years.

Now what to do with the leftover fabric...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

O Christmas Tree

One of my favorite Christmas traditions has always been the Christmas tree. What's not to love? There is such novelty in bringing part of nature indoors. The process of decorating the tree is always a special family time.

As a child, I think I anticipated getting the tree even more than receiving gifts or most any other part of Christmas. Each year we rode in my dad's truck to the Christmas tree farm and proceeded to spend as much time as necessary finding the perfect Christmas tree. It had to be just the right height and just the right denseness. Sometimes the hunt took quite some time, but it was always worth the effort. One year it was so snowy we had to shake the snow off of each Christmas tree just so we could see the shape of the tree.

My brother and I in front of our Christmas tree in 1989.
After the perfect tree was selected, cut down and purchased, we came home to begin the decorating process. (My parents must have labored to set up our Christmas tree, but my childhood memory excludes this part of the Christmas tree routine)

While breathing deeply of the incredible fragrance of the fresh cut Christmas tree, we opened the box of Christmas lights and began the process of finding the 3 lights on every strand that were either loose or burned out, causing the majority of the rest of the lights on the strand to not work either. Our living room had strand upon strand of white lights stretched out, ready to be checked. In my memory, this was just all part of the fun. Christmas music was playing on the overhead speaker and our family was together working on this project. Ah, the memories.

After giving up on a few strands of lights, we ended up with enough strands to adequately light the Christmas tree. With Christmas music still playing, my brother and I sat back and watch my parents transform the evergreen tree to an object of light and beauty.

Once lights were on the tree and the angel was placed on top, my brother and I could join in the decorating fun. Out came the Christmas ornaments. We covered the tree with our favorites. (My favorites were of course placed where I could see them best as a child. So what if the ornaments were not evenly distributed over the whole tree.)

After bows and candy canes were placed on the tree, we all sat back and admired our handiwork. We of course had the best smelling and most beautiful tree. (Sorry if you thought otherwise.) I always felt so sorry for those poor people who had artificial trees and didn't get to experience the tree hunt and amazing smell of the fresh tree.

Now, 20 years later, I am married and have children of my own. For nine years my husband and I carried on the Christmas tree tradition in our own home. We have trudged out in cold sunny weather, on rainy days and maybe even a little snow over the years.

My kids began to form memories of their own of what a Christmas tree should look like and smell like. They fondly remembered the process, just like I did as a child.

Then, to my nostalgic childhood memories, I began to add adulthood memories of Christmas tree frustration. One year, our tree would not stay standing. I think it fell over 3 times. Then there is the year that fairly early on I forgot to water the tree. By Christmas it was no longer green. It looked more like kindling. Instead of a beautiful Christmas tree, we had a decorated dead tree and I was afraid to even turn on the lights in fear it might just burst into flames.

As an adult the Christmas tree process became something I almost dreaded. What if it was pouring down rain on the day we went to hunt for the tree? How many times will we have to trim the base of the tree and slam it into the stand so it stick and stays? It seems like no matter how many times we try to twist the little things on the stand that holds the tree in place, it still leans one direction or another. And then there is the problem of remembering to water the tree. It needs to be watered just about twice a day. And if you forget to water it? It's toast! Don't even get me started on the lights. After we get the all working and the lights on the tree, it always seems like half a strand decides to stop working. And then when it is time to take the tree down, you may as well just TRY to get needles all over the house. It always happens anyway. Oh my.

This year, I changed things. No more hassle! After my final hunt for the perfect tree with realistic looking needles, I settled on a Fresh Cut Grand artificial tree. Yes, our family has gone artificial. Those of you who know me well are probably still in shock, but it is true.

After we set up the tree, I had that momentary realization that I hadn't watered the tree yet. But, no more tree watering for me.

My kids were less than thrilled about the thought of an artificial tree. My 6 1/2 year old daughter was devastated that our tree will not smell good. But now that the tree is set up, she seems to be fine. In fact, while we were listening to Christmas music and decorating the artificial tree as a family, she said "We have the best family ever." Yes, that is how Christmas tree decorating should feel to a child.