Easter Crafts in Progress

I am going for a 99% homemade Easter this year. That means saving cash and making each gift meaningful, since I’m taking the time to create it. I was able to make everything this year with stuff I already had: fabric Auntie Grace bought for us last summer, stuffing from an old pillow that had become lumpy, card stock and a laser printer, even an old pair of boxer shorts.

First, I used Martha Stewart’s templates to make this hen and chick. For the chick, I just printed the pdf at 100% and forwent adding the comb and wattle. For the larger hen I printed the pdf at 200%, which as you can see not just doubles the size but actually appears much larger. I had to sew everything by hand since I don’t have my machine out of storage yet. That made the process much, much longer than it needed to be, but it’s still an unbelievably simple project I highly recommend.


{The wing is made with said boxers on the outside and yellow felt underneath}

{Yes, I sewed the wattle a little too far to the end of the beak. It now looks like a tongue sticking out, which is what I’ll say it is from now on.}


{I’ll take more flattering pictures tomorrow, with the daylight and the *real* camera.}

For us adults, I have printed out this vintage-looking bunny basket pattern from the awesome Toymaker site (have a look around there if you’ve never been). A few store-bought chocolates or jelly beans and we’re set.

Oh, and how sweet is this pinwheel? Jax is big into paper these days (crunching it up and tearing it to shreds), so it could be a hit if I don’t mind it getting destroyed.

Hand-Made Gifts

We have received some beautiful hand-made gifts from friends and family. I just had to share some of these!

First, this darling little gnome that my sister, Monica made (she also made the “J” memory box):

Monica used these instructions from Craftster user Julieko to make this toy. She used all recycled materials: the towel and felt were scraps she had on-hand.

Our friend Bess made us some cute burp cloths and a bib, both using vintage fabrics. I love, love, love the style!

The terrycloth backing is complete with a personalized label:

Bess’s work always looks so amazinging and professional! The accompanying card was embroidered and says “bébé.” So cute.

One of my mom’s friends made this retro cowboy picture frame. It’s proudly on display next to the cowboy boots my dad got for Baby J:

The “Paris” bear on the left was Seth’s first gift to the baby.

Finally, this diaper bag isn’t hand-made, but I wanted to include a picture of it (and that French “Welcome Baby” bag from Fragonard in Paris). My mom got it for me, along with a matching laptop case. Can’t forget that I’ll need to have baby stuff and dissertation stuff with me!

Warm Biscuit Fabrics: Cheerful Vintage

Fabric: Aqua Passion VineFabric: Aqua PrimroseGrandma Betty??s Aqua Rose

If you haven’t checked out Warm Biscuit‘s offerings in fabric, you’re missing out on a fun and nostalgic trip through color and design. I just love these happy patterns and am inspired to plot another try at quilting.

If you’re not in the mood to sew, however, Warm Biscuit also sells ready-to-love bedding, toys, and other gifts for children.

Fabric: Grandma Betty??s Pink Floral StripeFabric: Pink Passion FlowerFabric: Posy

P.S. I have many more ski photos to share, but have to find a place to which to transfer them from my camera – my hard-drive has seen skinnier days!

Marie Claire Idées Spring Issue

We are back from a wonderful trip in Barcelona, and I have a lot of blogging to do about that. But first, look what came in the mail today! Probably one of the best ever issues of my favorite magazine, Marie Claire Idées.

Marie Claire Idées Spring Cover

Why is this one so awesome? For starters, there is a whole section on crafts inspired by cabbage and broccoli. Who would’ve thought of that? A crochet cabbage purse? Awesome.

Marie Claire Idées Spring 1

French samplers always seem to look cooler than the ones I grew up with. While I am not as ready as my friend Julie is to take on one of these, I do think the cross-stitch looks chic, and quite lovely over the beige fabric.

Marie Claire Idées Spring ABC

Maybe I’m getting a little excited for nothing big, but as some of you know, I have been collecting teacups from all over the world for the last 15 years. This issue devotes eight pages to English teacup-inspired crafts, from candelabras to mosaic dressers to a lamp made of stacked teacups and pots. Heaven!

Marie Claire Idées Spring Teacups

As always, the photography is very inspiring and makes me want to paint the walls pink and embroider every cloth in sight. I’m looking forward to reading the article on organic and natural cosmetics, as well as turning your kitchen “green” (literally and figuratively), with lots of crafts using recyclables. But first, I should really get back into organizing my Barcelona photos!

Vintage Crafts: Winter Edition

 Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p1
As you may remember, I have a stack of old craft magazines that date from the 19th century to the 1950s, thanks to a friend of mine saving them from a garbage pile. Last May this post featured the June 1949 issue of Mon Ouvrage. Now that there’s a chill in the air, I thought I’d share with you one of the winter editions. Today, excerpts from the January 1950 issue.

While some of the crafts and decorating projects are so dated they’re kitschy, I find that others are still useful and could be updated in today’s materials and colors. The caplet, especially, is tempting me at the moment.

Each issue of Mon Ouvrage usually has 24 pages, but unfortunately the middle section of this particular issue is missing. Judging by the page just before the missing ones, my guess is that it was about lingerie. Not the most charming of styles anyway, so no matter!

If you’d like me to send you the full-size scan of any of these pages, just let me know by e-mail or in the comments section.

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p2
Going on a ski trip? Don’t forget to make your own sleeping bag first.

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p3
Decorating project: a modern living room!

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p4
This is the caplet pattern I’m talking about. Without that ribbon and a little less baggy, and this could be the perfect cover-up for a holiday party. Here’s a close-up:

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p4 Detail

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p7

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p16
An embroidered collar.

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p18
Ski Sweaters (from the cover)

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p22
Knit dresses for girls

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p24
Detail from the back cover: embroidered coasters

Better Than Bunnies: Handmade Gifts

Christmas Story Bunny

Remember the bunny costume Ralphie’s aunt so lovingly imposed on him? This is the image many people picture when thinking about handmade gifts. So now that I’ve pledged to have a 100% handmade holiday season, how can I avoid being that relative?

I’ve spent a bit of this chilly Sunday gleaning my favorite crafty sites for some tutorials and simple gift ideas for everyone on my list. Here goes…

For Crafty Hipsters
Star-Shaped Books Tutorial on Craftster ~a little paper book you make yourself that folds out into a star; a great stocking stuffer for anyone, really, just pick graphics and papers that correspond to the receiver. I will be making dozens of these with my leftover papers.
Coffee and Hand Warmer ~think tea cozy for your coffee mug. Keeps coffee hot and hands from being scalded.
Funky Travel Bag ~tutorial for a travel bag that could also be used for groceries or as a gym bag.
Thin Credit Card Wallets ~who uses checkbooks anymore? cut out the bulk and try out this little sewing project.
Crafty Tool Belt ~for fixing, gardening, and general DIY

Heather Bailey’s Headbands ~a sweet and stylish accessory for girls aged 4-104
Felted Gifts out of Old Sweaters ~make stuffed things or wearables out of sweaters you no longer wear by felting them in the washing machine
Mittens ~these are still one of my quickest “wow” projects, but still require a few hours to make one pair.

Rock Candy ~make the candy to give away, or create a do-it-yourself kit for a kid to make it on their own.
Candied Citrus Peels ~winter is actually citrus season, so enjoy your Florida oranges and save the peels!
Peppermint Marshmallows ~Heather Bailey tried it using this recipe.
Recipes in a Jar ~They look cool if you layer the ingredients and make a cute little label to go along. If you live abroad, give a recipe for a cultural favorite, like pancake mix, chocolate chip cookies, or muffins.

For the Wee Ones
Homemade Playdough ~the smell that I will forever associate with my childhood. It’s simple and children will have fun helping. The cooked version will last the longest.
Basic Bib ~get festive with fabrics to make it fun.
“Taggie” Blanket ~little ribbons for little fingers to play with.

And Others
Felt Bird Ornament ~birds are popping up allover in fabric and graphic arts. This pattern has the look of a Scandinavian Christmas. Leave out the embroidery and opt for a simple embellishment (one bead eye?) and they should be quick.
Beaded Snowflake Ornaments ~see my (as mlle_rachelmarie) 2003 version on page 3 of this link.
Circuit Board Art ~for the geeks on your list (or if you are the geek in the family), make shapes or get creative to make lampshades and coasters.
Knit Dishclothes ~this reminds one of housework (such a downer), but you can make them fun by knitting a shape into the cloth. Just chart it out on graph paper and switch from knit to purl (or purl to knit) to create a bump for every square. Your pattern can range from the sweet to the obscene, but it’s always subtle.
Washclothes ~Similar to the dishclothes, but for exfoliating properties, my favorite pattern is just using a simple basket weave stitch and two strands of cotton yarn.
Snowman Pencils ~they look cooler than they sound, I promise.
DIY Digital Photo Frame ~a project only the ultimate crafter should take on. Have an extra old laptop laying around?

Marie Claire Idées Craft Fair

This past weekend was the craft fair hosted by my favorite quarterly magazine, Marie Claire Idées, and held at the Louvre. I went on Sunday with my friend Julie (of Knit-in-Public Day fame).

Marie Claire Idées Sign

We didn’t attend any of the instructional sessions, but that was okay, since you could pick up directions for the “before and after” projects.

Marie Claire Idées Avant/Apres

The exhibition halls were divided according to type of craft: yarn&fabric, home decorating, paper… My favorite section was the yarn& fabric one, with all of the soft yarns, pattern ideas, and quilting fabrics. The prices were a little shocking, however. Four euros for a piece of fabric measuring only 50x50cm (that’s only 1/4 of a square meter!). Luckily, I found a 2? bin and found some prints I liked for my next quilting project; what that project will be is still a mystery to me. What is sure is that I will be finding the rest of the necessary material in the States or in second-hand shops!

In French, quilts are called “patchworks,” and why not? They’ve chosen the name for the piecing instead of the quilting, which is usually what we picture when we think of quilts anyway. The patchwork/quilting stands at the fair were beautiful. I particularly appreciated the “Frenchness” of the majority of the quilt designs. One vendor was selling directions for making a quilt out of your own family heirlooms: Grandma’s monogrammed napkins, your aunt’s antique curtains, redwork embroidery, Mom’s red-striped tea towels (and you know how much I love those!) Mostly in red and ivory patterns, it was definitely a French-country look. Sophisticated but slightly rustic. Definitely timeless. Check out this article about French quilting traditions. I’m only sorry I didn’t take pictures of what I’m talking about.

The popular yarn company Phildar was well-represented with their own knitting bar (which reminded me of so many knitting cafés in New York City) and a whole wall of gimmicky yarns with hot-pink fur-like fringe, curly queues, etc. Not my usual cup of tea, but it had a lot of people excited about crafting, so what’s the harm?

Marie Claire Idées Knit Bar

I was determined to find some yarn for my own mittens and purchase it from one of the other vendors, but in the end, Phildar had a color that matched my coat the best. So in spite of quite a rude sales associate and my best intentions, I came home with two skeins of almost 100% acrylic Phildar yarn called “Wilky.” Boo.

Wilky Yarn
Wilky Yarn, in “Naturel” (photo from Phildar’s website)

The mittens are knitting up nicely, however, thanks to a combo of “Wilky” and some left over camel hair yarn from my stash. The wool mittens I made for Seth last year were a tad itchy, so this time I am not such a purist. More to come about that project!

The Quilt That Arrived on the Other Side of the World

La Poste came through after all. The quilt I made has officially arrived in Hong Kong. I have realized I didn’t post a few of the pictures I took of the whole finished product, so here are a few:

What a crazy pattern this was, but so much fun!

Quilt on Chair
I’m proud of two things in this photo: the other is the geranium plant in our window box that I revived. It’s still in full bloom!

Quilt on Chair 2
This is what the quilt looks like on our bedroom chair. Those geraniums were a little late to catch up.

We went to Hong Kong in August (the hottest month) 2003. It was our first stop on a trans-mongolian rail (and plane) trip. The whole itinerary was New York – Los Angeles – Hong Kong – Beijing – Ulan Baatar (Mongolia) – Irkutsk (Russia) – Moscow – St. Petersburg – Paris – New York. Whew! I’ll have to write more about that later. In the mean time, here are some photos of the magical place to which the psychedelic quilt has just arrived.

Victoria Peak Top
The top of Victoria Peak. Who knew there was so much nature just minutes from the city center?

Buddhist Spot Victoria Peak
A Buddhist Spot on Victoria Peak

Hong Kong Escalator
The long series of outdoor escalators we very much appreciated in the heat.

Hong Kong Nightlife
Hong Kong Night Life

Junk Boat Rachel
Riding a Junk Boat on the South China Sea

South China Sea Beach
We anchored and swam to this beach. Paradise.

South China Sea Sunset
Sunset on the South China Sea. Sweet dreams!

Baby Toys

Baby Toy Close

I’ve successfully completed my first stuffed knitting project: two stuffed animals with fabric bodies.

My friend, Julie, found the pattern in a magazine, and it was really quite easy to follow. The head is knit in two halves, and the other parts are simple and quick rounded rectangles in moss stitch. The pattern’s version of the ears were a bit too pointed, resembling a pig more than a cat, which is what the animal is supposed to be (I think!), so for the second (yellow) one, I improvised. This was also my first try at making pompoms. Very easy!

Baby Toy Parts

The most difficult part was getting the faces right. I wanted them to have sleeping eyes, but simple slits made them look mad. I curved them a bit and added eye lashes, to make them more peaceful and friendly.

In all, these probably took just a couple of hours each, so it’s really not too big of an undertaking. I think I’m going to move on to grown-up crafts for a while, though!

Baby Toys Finished

Quilt Ties

Quilt Tie

The backing is on, the batting is in, and now I am on to tying up this quilt!

Monica and Tonya agree that ties are the quickest solution for keeping a quilt in place. It’s better to use wool yarn than cotton or polyester. I learned that cotton will unravel easily and knots will come undone. Polyester is a harsher fiber and so we avoided that Although they may loosen over time, the wool is still the best bet. Besides, this is a fun blanket which should be used and loved, not a perfectly-quilted wall hanging!

I think the bright-red backing fabric is so cheerful and I just love how the little notches of white come through from the ties.

Quilt Backing

Once I finish the ties, I will sew up the last seam (we attached the backing pillowcase-style, without any binding) and ship this thing off. This was a wonderful project, and a very fun introduction to quilting! Thanks again to Monica and Tonya!!